Word of the Day

Saturday, November 07, 2020

ex libris

[ eks -lee-bris, lahy- ]

an inscription in or on a book, to indicate the owner; bookplate.

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What is the origin of ex libris?

Ex libris is a Latin prepositional phrase meaning “out of, from the books (of).” The phrase is composed of the preposition ex “out, out of” (it governs the ablative case), and librīs, the ablative plural of liber (stem libr-) “book,” whose original Latin meaning was and always remained “inner bark of a tree, rind, bast.” Liber comes from an unrecorded Latin luber or lubros, from lubh-, one of the variants of the Proto-Indo-European root leubh-, loubh– (also leub-, leup-) “to peel, peel off.” Leubh– regularly becomes laub– in the Germanic languages, as in Gothic laufs, Old English lēaf “leaf” (from Germanic laufaz). Loubh– forms Lithuanian lubà “board” and lúobas “bark,” and Albanian lab? “rind, cork.” The Latin preposition ex comes from Proto-Indo-European eghs “out, out of,” becoming Greek ex, Old Irish ess-, ass-, Welsh eh-, Gaulish ex– (Gaulish is an extinct Celtic language of ancient Gaul), and Old Prussian es(teinu) “from (now on).” Ex libris entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is ex libris used?

[Bookstores] do sell objects imbued with history: a former owner’s ex libris, an inscribed dedication from an unknown well-wisher, an occasional sales receipt used as a bookmark.

Michael Williams, "Like Baseball Cards, but for Funerals," The Atlantic, February 4, 2016

What interested me wasn’t the title or the author but the ex-libris pasted to the inside cover. It incorporated a coat of arms, a motto … and a name engraved beneath in a heavy Gothic script: Anton Schwarz von Steiner.

Ross King, Ex Libris, 1998

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Friday, November 06, 2020

garboil

[ gahr-boil ]

noun

Archaic.

confusion.

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What is the origin of garboil?

Garboil is the perfect word: it sounds exactly like its meaning, “confusion.” Garboil comes via Middle French garbouille (16th century) “confused mess,” whose further etymology is uncertain. Italian has garbuglio, charbuglio (15th century) “confused mess,” but etymologists are not convinced. Past that lies confusion: garboil has been associated with garble “to confuse, jumble”; no one is happy with that, either. Garboil entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is garboil used?

Assuring your grace, that being this country in such garboil as it is, I would be loath to adventure to go to my Lord of Angus with any conduct that he would appoint me, unless the king’s pleasure be that I shall so do.

Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord of Suffolk, November 29, 1543, in Letters and Negotiations of Sir Ralph Sadler, 1720

The trolley officials of the Auburn & Syracuse Electric R. R. and the motormen and the conductors are still in a garboil over the final settlement of a wage increase demand despite the fact that several conferences have been held between them but each with little success …

"Officials and Carmen Still Clinch," The Cayuga Chief, April 23, 1920

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Thursday, November 05, 2020

perfervid

[ per-fur-vid ]

adjective

very fervent; extremely ardent; impassioned.

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What is the origin of perfervid?

The English adjective perfervid comes from New Latin perfervidus. Perfervidus does not in fact occur in earlier Latin even though it is formed perfectly properly: The usual Latin adjective, not common, is praefervidus. The root word of perfervidus (and praefervidus) is the adjective fervidus, which by itself already means “scalding hot, burning” even without a prefix. Fervidus is a derivative of the verb fervēre “to boil,” a Latin derivative of the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root bh(e)reu-, bh(e)ru “to boil, bubble.” This root also has a reduced form bher– that is extended by a w-suffix, thus bherw-, the exact source of fervēre. The variant bherw– is also the source of Middle Irish berbaim “I cook, boil,” Welsh berwi “to seethe, simmer.” The prefixes prae– and per– are frequently used as intensifiers of adjectives and verbs: Latin has percārus “very dear,” performāre “to form thoroughly,” and praeclārus “very famous.” Greek offers the spectacular example in the proper name Periklês “very famous,” from the preposition, adverb, and intensive prefix peri, and –klês, from –kléēs, from –kléwēs, a derivative of the noun kléos, also kléwos “glory.” Perfervid entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is perfervid used?

The fate of The Thorn Birds will certainly not hang on literary merit. With the broadest strokes and the most perfervid prose, the novel traces three generations of the Cleary family ….

Paul Gray, "Shaking the Money Tree," Time, May 9, 1977

But you have to watch Eileen. She sees things through the haze of a rather perfervid imagination. She sees this house, I’m sure, as it ought to be and Mrs. Wardell as a sort of Gainsborough duchess. She won’t see the show-off. The bad proportions of the hall. The excess of. glass in the chandelier.

Louis Auchincloss, The Great World and Timothy Colt, 1956

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

tarriance

[ tar-ee-uhns ]

noun

Archaic.

delay.

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What is the origin of tarriance?

Tarriance “delay,” a derivative of the fairly common verb tarry and the familiar noun suffix –ance, first appears in Middle English in the first half of the 15th century. In case you were longing for the Middle Ages, when everything was slow, easy, and laid-back, one of the first citations of tarriance comes from the Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls (1430) and reads “William shall paye to..Robt..without tariance..x li,” i.e., ten pounds, a very considerable sum. Tarriance in the sense of “temporary stay, sojourn” does not appear till the first half of the 16th century.

how is tarriance used?

Come, answer not, but to it presently; I am impatient of my tarriance.

William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1623

After much tarriance, much debate, / The good gods leave them to their fate.

Susan Coolidge, "The Legend of Kintu," Verses, 1880

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

public-spirited

[ puhb-lik-spir-i-tid ]

adjective

having or showing an unselfish interest in the public welfare.

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What is the origin of public-spirited?

Public-spirited first appears about 1646, right in the middle of the first (of three) English Civil Wars. The term has been used by many esteemed writers including Edmund Burke, Charles Dickens, and the admirable Jane Addams, who founded Hull House in Chicago (1899) and won the Nobel Peace Prize (1931).

how is public-spirited used?

Through the efforts of public-spirited citizens a medical clinic and a Psychopathic Institute have become associated with the Juvenile Court of Chicago ….

Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House, 1910

The hopes of the decade that had begun with John Kennedy’s call for a mix of public-spirited idealism and Cold War realism unraveled as the year wore on.

Jon Meacham, "What the Tumultuous Year 1968 Can Teach Us About Today," New York Times, October 24, 2020

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Monday, November 02, 2020

leviathan

[ li-vahy-uh-thuhn ]

noun

anything of immense size and power.

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What is the origin of leviathan?

“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?” asks God of Job (Job 41). Leviathan first appears in Middle English in John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible (ca. 1382). Leviathan comes from the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible, prepared by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.), from Hebrew liwyāthān, a kind of serpent or sea serpent or dragon of enormous size, possibly derived from the Semitic root lwy “to twist, encircle” (its etymology is uncertain). The most famous application of Leviathan is Thomas Hobbes’ book on politics, Leviathan (1651): Hobbes applied Leviathan to the state, omnipotent, totalitarian, and characterized by vast coercive machinery.

how is leviathan used?

It’s ironic that Microsoft has come to be viewed as an underdog rather than a leviathan. But recent opinion suggests that that is the case …

Benjamin Carlson, "Is Microsoft Winning the Long War with Apple for Techie Hearts?," The Atlantic, September 23, 2009

While much of North America has been sweltering through a summer of record heat, a group of Canadian scientists have been rafting across the Arctic Ocean on a leviathan of floating ice.

John F. Burns, "On an Island of Ice, in an Arctic Odyssey," New York Times, August 21, 1988

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Sunday, November 01, 2020

agonist

[ ag-uh-nist ]

noun

a person who is torn by inner conflict.

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What is the origin of agonist?

The English noun agonist comes from the rare Late Latin noun agōnista, “an athlete or combatant for a prize in the games,” a word used once by St. Augustine in a sermon. Latin agōnista betrays its Greek origin with its –ista agent suffix (borrowed from Greek -ist?s). In Greek, agōnist?s means “a combatant, contestant (in athletic games), a champion, a pleader or public speaker,” which covers a lot of territory when you consider the roles that competitive athletic games and public speaking (including criminal and civil trials) occupied in ancient Greek life. Agōnist?s is a derivative of the noun agōnía, one of whose many meanings is “mental or spiritual anguish, agony,” which influenced one of the English meanings of agonist but doesn’t occur in Greek agōnist?s. Agonist entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is agonist used?

There was a fissure in him from the start; the dream and the business did not march together; his will was not always the servant of his intelligence; he was an agonist, a self- tormentor, who ran to meet suffering halfway.

John Buchan, Memory Hold-the-Door, 1940

He was an agonist. He would argue one way; he would argue another; he just didn’t want to see bigotry thrive or watch a man die.

Jill Lepore, "Objection," The New Yorker, May 16, 2011

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