Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

capacious

[ kuh-pey-shuhs ]

adjective

capable of holding much; spacious or roomy.

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What is the origin of capacious?

The English adjective capacious comes straight from Latin capāc-, the stem of the adjective capax “able to take, take in, contain,” a derivative of the verb capere “to take, catch, seize.” The Latin suffix –ax (stem –āc-) is not very common; it forms adjectives denoting ability or behavior from verbs and some nouns, such as mendax (stem mendāc-) “untruthful, lying” (English mendacious), formed from the noun mendum “blemish, fault, error.” The English element –ious is a variant of the adjective suffix –ous, which comes via Middle English and Old French from the Latin adjective suffix –ōsus. Capacious entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is capacious used?

With its high ceiling and muted lighting, the capacious lobby of the Hotel Okura’s main building seemed like a huge, stylish cave.

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, 2011

this is a vision of a 21st-century city remade with public health in mind, achieving the neat trick of being both more populated and more capacious.

Derek Thompson, "Great Ready for the Great Urban Comeback," The Atlantic, October 2020

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Word of the day

Monday, October 05, 2020

ecoanxiety

[ ek-oh-ang-zahy-i-tee, ee-koh‐ ]

noun

Psychiatry.

anxiety caused by a dread of environmental perils, especially climate change, and a feeling of helplessness over the potential consequences for those living now and even more so for those of later generations.

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What is the origin of ecoanxiety?

Ecoanxiety, “anxiety caused by a dread of environmental perils, especially climate change,” is a compound of the now common combining form eco– “pertaining to ecology or the environment” and anxiety. The combining form eco– comes via Latin oeco-, eco– from Greek o?kos “house” and oikía “house, dwelling.” An early occurrence in Greek of the combining form oik-, oiko– is in the noun oikonomía “management of a household or family, thrift” (source of English economy, which appears in English in the mid-15th century). Another early compound of oik-, oiko– occurs in () oikouménē () “(the) inhabited (earth),” English ecumenic(al). The noun ecology is composed of Greek elements, but oikología does not occur in Greek: English ecology comes from German Oecologie (1866; the word is now spelled ?kologie) “the branch of biology dealing with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment,” its meaning in English.

how is ecoanxiety used?

Long before eco-anxiety became a national ailment this year, a strong environmental ethic seemed to come naturally to people in Anne Arundel.

Lisa Leff, "Ecology Carries Clout in Anne Arundel," Washington Post, August 5, 1990

I know those feelings. Eco-anxiety. Doing something is about the only thing that helps, in my experience.

Varda Burstyn, Water Inc., 2005

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Word of the day

Sunday, October 04, 2020

asunder

[ uh-suhn-der ]

adverb, adjective

into separate parts; in or into pieces: Lightning split the old oak tree asunder.

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What is the origin of asunder?

Asunder, “into separate parts or pieces; widely separated,” comes from Middle English asonder, asondre, osonder (with still more variant spellings), from Old English on sundrum, on sundran, on sundron “separately, separated from one another, apart,” a prepositional phrase meaning literally “in separate (positions),” from the adverb sundor, which has cognate forms in all the Germanic languages, e.g., German sonder “without” (preposition) and Gothic sundro (adverb) “alone, aside, apart.” Sundor and its Germanic relatives come from a Proto-Indo-European root sen-, sen?- “separate, apart,” which appears in Latin as sine (preposition) “without,” as in the Medieval Latin phrase (beneficium) sine cūrā “(benefice) without care (of parishioners),” source of English sinecure. Asunder dates from the Old English period.

how is asunder used?

You don’t enter the school by being strangely keen on chess. … You need to be a mutant, and your gift must be funkily unique to you. Helplessly shooting blood-red beams of flame out of your eyes that rip through the lawn and split a tree asunder: that’s the kind of talent that gets you enrolled …

Anthony Lane, "Apocalypse Now: Bryan Singer's New 'X-Men' Movie," The New Yorker, May 27, 2016

two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

W.E.B. Du Bois, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

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Word of the day

Saturday, October 03, 2020

leitmotif

[ lahyt-moh-teef ]

noun

a unifying or dominant motif; a recurrent theme: A leitmotif in science fiction is the evolving relationship between humans and machines.

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What is the origin of leitmotif?

The English noun leitmotif, also spelled leitmotiv, “leading motive, guiding motive, a recurring theme associated with a particular person, place, or event,” comes from the German noun Leitmotif and is especially associated with Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (the Ring Cycle), but the term antedates Wagner, and Wagner himself never used it. German Leitmotif is a compound of the verb leiten “to guide, lead” (cognate with the English verb lead) and the noun Motiv, a German borrowing from French motif. Leitmotif entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is leitmotif used?

Two weeks before Christmas, on one of those balmy, pale-gold afternoons that pass for winter in Northern California, a handful of Silicon Valley’s most prominent executives and financiers held a secret meeting whose leitmotif was that rarest of concepts in the world of business: guilt.

"Fear and Trembling in Silicon Valley," Wired, March 1, 2000

So the leitmotif of the inevitability of change and loss in the 10 items of grandfatherly wisdom I wanted to share with him is now something he is experiencing palpably.

Charles Johnson, "Charles Johnson on What We Learn From Impermanence," Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020

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Word of the day

Friday, October 02, 2020

élan

[ ey-lahn, ey-lan; French ey-lahn ]

noun

dash; impetuous ardor: to dance with great élan.

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What is the origin of élan?

The still unnaturalized French noun élan, “dash, impetuous ardor,” originally applied to a military charge or rush. élan comes from Old and Middle French eslan “a rush,” from the verb eslancer “to throw or cast a lance or dart.” Eslancer in turn comes from the Latin preposition and prefix ex, ex- “out, out of, from” and the noun lancea “light spear for throwing,” possibly a Gaulish or Spanish loanword in Latin. élan entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is élan used?

He then launched into the Gigue of Bach’s C-major Suite—robust, driving music that Ma brought off with his usual precision and élan.

Alex Ross, "Yo-Yo Ma's Days of Action," The New Yorker, December 10, 2008

With a certain élan, the?San Francisco Chronicle?has taken to publishing letters from readers who remark the diminishing pleasure or usefulness of the?San Francisco Chronicle.

Richard Rodriguez, "Final Edition," Harper's Magazine, November 2009

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Word of the day

Thursday, October 01, 2020

finagle

[ fi-ney-guhl ]

verb (used with object)

to get or achieve (something) by guile, trickery, or manipulation: to finagle an assignment to the Membership Committee.

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What is the origin of finagle?

Finagle (or fenagle), “to cheat or swindle a person,” is in origin an American slang word. Finagle is probably a variant of fainaigue, a British dialect term with two meanings: “to shirk work or responsibility” and “to renege at a card game,” that is, to play a card that is not of the suit led when one can follow suit” (this to a layman sounds an awful lot like cheating). A citation from 1839 from Herefordshire (a county in West England) reads, “If two men are heaving a heavy weight, and one of them pretends to be putting out his strength, though in reality leaving all the strain on the other, he is said to feneague [sic].” Fainaigue (feneague) and finagle (fenagle) have no agreed etymology. Finagle entered English in the mid-1920s.

how is finagle used?

Meng?pleaded guilty last year?to using his position in China to finagle more than $2 million in bribes between 2005 and 2017.

Colin Dwyer, "Former Interpol President Sentenced To Prison In China For Corruption," NPR, January 21, 2020

in order to provide its citizens tests for a pandemic disease, the wealthiest and most powerful nation had to desperately finagle the services of volunteer coders at Google.

, "I Don't Know Who Needs to Hear This, but Brands Can't Save You," New York Times, March 18, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

susurration

[ soo-suh-rey-shuhn ]

noun

a soft murmur; whisper.

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What is the origin of susurration?

Susurration, “a murmur, whisper,” ultimately comes from the Latin noun susurrātiō (inflectional stem susurrātiōn-), “a murmur, whisper, soft rustling,” a derivative of susurrāt(us), the past participle of the verb susurrāre. Unsurprisingly, susurrāre (and all its derivatives) is onomatopoeic not only in Latin, but also in other Indo-European languages, from the Proto-Indo-European root swer-, swor-, sw?– “to buzz, hum.” The same root supplies the name of small animals: for instance, the root variant swor– is the source of Latin sōrex (stem sōric-) “shrew, shrew mouse,” Greek hyrax (stem hyrak-) “shrew, shrew mouse, hyrax” and Greek hyron “beehive, swarm (of bees).” The Germanic form swar– (from swor-) supplies English swirl and swarm, Old Norse svarmr “uproar, tumult,” and German schwirren “to buzz (of an insect), whirr (of an arrow).” Susurration entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is susurration used?

It must be the whisper of time as it bends over the horizon, a susurration of mortality none can escape.

Dominique Browning, "Interiors," New York Times, December 6, 2013

Leaving the hotel and taking a stroll, I was reminded that the town’s homey otherness is heightened at night. … The susurrations of palms … caress the ear.

Thomas Swick, "A Susurration of Palms," Oxford American, March 28, 2017

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