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.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

asunder

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
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.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

leitmotif

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, October 02, 2020

élan

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

noun

dash; impetuous ardor: to dance with great élan.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

élan

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
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.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

finagle

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

susurration

[ soo-suh-rey-shuhn ]

noun

a soft murmur; whisper.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

susurration

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

argy-bargy

[ ahr-gee-bahr-gee ]

noun

Chiefly British.

a vigorous discussion or dispute.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of argy-bargy?

Argy-bargy, “a vigorous discussion, dispute,” appears in print in 1887, just 15 years after its “original,” argle-bargle. The argle of argle-bargle is a variant of argue. Yet another variant, argue-bargue, which gives away the entire etymology, appears in 1906. Argle entered English towards the end of the 16th century; its offspring all date from the second half of the 19th century.

how is argy-bargy used?

There appears to have ensued more than two decades of argy-bargy over where the new hall should be located, during which time the merchants would meet at the Chamber of Commerce premises.

Nuala Naughton, Glasgow's East End, 2014

On the international scene, he can only be reassured by the strident argy-bargy between Moscow and Peking, despite some pundits’ predictions that the U.S. stand in Viet Nam could only induce harmony between the two great Communist powers.

"The War: The Greatest Drama," Time, April 1, 1966

Listen to the word of the day

argy-bargy

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, September 28, 2020

avow

[ uh-vou ]

verb (used with object)

to declare frankly or openly; own; acknowledge; confess; admit: He avowed himself an opponent of all alliances.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of avow?

Avow, “to declare openly, acknowledge, admit,” has always had a formal air, a solemnity about it. It comes from Middle English avouen, advouen, awouen, from Old French avo(u)er, a regular phonetic development of Latin advocāre “to call upon, summon (assistance), convoke” (whose past participle advocātus is the source of the English verb and noun advocate). Advocāre is composed of the overworked preposition and prefix ad, ad- “to, toward” and the verb vocāre “to call,” a derivative of the noun vox, stem vōc- “voice, human voice.” Avow entered English in the 13th century.

how is avow used?

Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write?

Rainer Maria Rilke, "The First Letter: February 17, 1903," Letters to a Young Poet,?translated by Joan M. Burnham, 2000

Scott achieved fame (and a baronetcy) as a poet, but he did not avow authorship of his novels until relatively late in his career.

David Lodge, "Dickens Our Contemporary," The Atlantic, May 2020

Listen to the word of the day

avow

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
色色影院-色色影院app下载