Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day
Tuesday, April 1st Tomfoolery You Must Be Joking Word of the Day:
It's a day for hijinks, and a good day to salute (and practice!) Tomfoolery. If there was an original Tom he's now safely anonymous in the mists of time. He was cited in the Middle Ages as Tom Fool, and occasionally rose to the dignity of Thomas Fatuus.
Wednesday, April 2nd omnifarious Something for Everyone Word of the Day:
This handy adjective means "of all kinds or varieties." You might recognize the omni- from other words that have the notion of "all" or "every." the -farious part is the same one you see in multifarious, an adjective that is more common and has roughly the same meaning.
Thursday, April 3rd radius Halfway There Word of the Day:
This noun didn't get applied to the distance halfway across a circle till the 17th century but it's got the credentials: it was the word used in Latin for the spoke of a wheel, which is pretty close to being the same thing. Ray has the same ancestor.
Friday, April 4th crustacean Very Well Protected Word of the Day:
If you think of a crust as being a little like a shell, you're on the right track: crustaceans are essentially critters that have shells. Our word crust, despite looking very Old Englishy, is from Latin crusta, "shell or crust."
Saturday, April 5th minaret I See the Light Word of the Day:
This word, of Arabic origin, traveled through Turkish, Italian, and French before settling down in English to denote the tower of a mosque from which the faithful are called to prayer. The Arabic original meant "lighthouse," from a root that means "fire" or "light."
Sunday, April 6th Weltschmerz What a World! Word of the Day:
Life got you down? If it comes from reflecting on the state of the world, at least you can give your ailment this name, a word on indefinite loan in English from German. Its components mean "world pain" and both have cognates in English: welt = world, schmerz = smart (the verb).
Monday, April 7th precocious Somethin' from the Oven Word of the Day:
This word started out referring to plants that matured early but since people do that as well, it was only a matter of time before the word got its more usual meaning: to characterize someone developed beyond their years in some capacity. The Latin roots, curiously enough, mean "pre-cooked."
Tuesday, April 8th rampage Run Riot Word of the Day:
Most folks agree that this word has sound sense: it sounds like what it is, a bout of violent, destructive behavior. Curious then that its origins are somewhat obscure. It was a verb before it was a noun, and is probably related to the verb ramp, from which we also get rampant.
Wednesday, April 9th susurrus Whispering Campaign Word of the Day:
If you can get past the tricky spelling, this onomatopoetic word from Latin is a natural when you need to denote rustling or a whispering sound. Poets have a heyday with it, including Duncan Campbell Scott's "hear as now I hear/The thrill of life beat up the planet's margin/And break in the clear susurrus of deep joy."
Thursday, April 10th bougainvillea In the Pink Word of the Day:
The name of this colorful South American vine defies good spelling sense, but all is forgiven when you see it — and a Google image search works if you don't live semitropically. The name is from the plant's "discoverer," Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a Frenchman who found the plant growing in Brazil.
Friday, April 11th vice versa Turnabout Word of the Day:
Do the world a favor and memorize the spelling of this useful Latin phrase. Because of its pronunciation it is doomed to constant misspelling as visa versa. The vice part is the same one you see in vice president: it means "in place of." The versa part is from a verb that means "turn." The long-handed English equivalent is "the other way around."
Saturday, April 12th Granola Food for Thought Word of the Day:
It might conjure visions of hippies and love-beads, but this word was actually coined as a trademark (now lapsed) in the 19th century. The -ola part is seen in many product names: Victrola, Shinola, Crayola. We salute it today, the day on which ancient Romans began Cerealia, their festival in honor of agricultural goddess Ceres.
Sunday, April 13th paella Test Your Metal Word of the Day:
This Spanish dish of saffroned rice, usually with seafood and chicken thrown in, is ultimately from a Latin word for pan, and thus joins a number of foods in which a required cooking utensil forms part of the name of the dish: hotpot, hoecake, and spoon bread, to name a few.
Monday, April 14th Weltanschauung Welcome to my Worldview Word of the Day:
When world view doesn't quite have the punch you're looking for, you can up the stakes by using this German equivalent: harder to spell, trickier to pronounce correctly, but sure to make your audience sit up and take notice. Both parts have cognates in English: welt/world, schauen (the root verb)/show.
Tuesday, April 15th amanuensis Lend a Hand Word of the Day:
If you can't afford to pay him or her any more, you might flatter your stenographer by assigning this title: it denotes a person who takes dictation. The -manu- part, from Latin for "hand," appears in a couple of dozen other English words including mandate, manner, manual, and mortmain.
Wednesday, April 16th oeil de boeuf Don't Be Cowed Word of the Day:
The spelling and pronunciation of this loanword from French are both formidable, but we haven't got a good native equivalent term to describe a circular or oval-shaped window. Literally it's "ox's eye."
Thursday, April 17th obeisance Whatever You Say Word of the Day:
The fact that this word starts out sounding like obey is a good clue: both obey and obeisance go back to the same root. Obeisance is the act of showing deference or submission by slightly bowing, though it's often used to denote hierarchical relationships in the absence of any such outward behavior.
Friday, April 18th gouache Where There's Water Word of the Day:
This word for a technique of watercolor painting looks and sounds French and so it is, but its ancestor is Italian guazzo, "place where there is water," and if you hear an echo of Latin for water, aqua, you're right.
Saturday, April 19th budgerigar Bird Word of the Day:
This small and colorful bird of Australian origin is popular wherever birds are caged. This proper name for it, however, has never quite caught on with Americans, who tend to designate the bird by its more general family name, parakeet.
Sunday, April 20th alchemy Old Gold Word of the Day:
Like many English words beginning with al-, this one's from Arabic, borrowed with the definite article al- intact. It denotes a medieval science concerned with transmuting base metals into gold. It's the forerunner of modern chemistry, and also the source of the word chemistry.
Monday, April 21st scythe Clean-cut Word of the Day:
This very old English word, first appearing before the year 800, has always designated a hand-held cutting tool. It's the most common of a small handful of English words that it both rhymes and shares a partial spelling with: kythe, stythe, tythe, and place name Hythe.
Tuesday, April 22nd torrid Get it While it's Hot Word of the Day:
Most folks recognize this word as a slightly elegant way of saying "too hot." Less well known is the fact that torrid has several tamer relatives in English: terrace, thirst, toast, and torrent. They all go back to Latin torrere, "burn."
Wednesday, April 23rd Firedrake Here Be Dragons Word of the Day:
English has all but forgotten this word, a synonym for dragon (the fire-breathing kind), with which it shares an etymon. We salute it today, the feast St. George (alleged slayer of said beast), who after all these years is still the patron saint of cities and countries around the world.
Thursday, April 24th quarantine Work the Numbers Word of the Day:
If you were told that this word is based on a number and then instructed to let your mind run in a Romance direction, you'd probably get it: quarantine is from an older Italian word for 40: the number of days that were thought suitable for isolating infectious types.
Friday, April 25th meronym Partly True Word of the Day:
Words ending in -nym are all treasures for word lovers because they refer to classes of words with particular qualities. Meronyms (from Greek meros, "part") denote words that are a part of another thing: as "sleeve" and "cuff" are meronyms of "shirt."
Saturday, April 26th lutetium We'll Always Have Paris Word of the Day:
The names of chemical elements often have colorful histories, and this one's no exception: it's a rare metal whose discoverer, a French scientist, used the Latin name for Paris, Lutetia, to honor the discovery.
Sunday, April 27th loquacious Blue Streak Word of the Day:
The letter combos -loq- and -loc- in English words usually signal something about talking (thanks to Latin loqui), and so with this adjective that means "talkative." Its dozens of cousins include locution, colloquy, grandiloquent, ventriloquism, and obloquy.
Monday, April 28th Caesura Mind the Gap Word of the Day:
If you want to get all literary about it, you can refer to a gap (in conversation, for example), as a caesura. The word has more technical but related meanings in prosody. The root is from a Latin verb that means "cut."
Tuesday, April 29th nasturtium The Nose Knows Word of the Day:
This familiar garden flower with an elegant name also denotes a genus of plants that include the cresses. A possible etymology is from Latin words for "nose" and "twist," with reference to the pungent smell of these plants — but not everyone buys into this origin.
Wednesday, April 30th bodkin Get the Point Word of the Day:
This old noun of obscure origin designates a number of things, all with a sharp point: a hairpin, a punching tool, and a dagger are among the meanings it enjoys. The -kin ending, suggestive of diminutives in German, is a red herring; the word may be from Celtic languages.
previous next
day view week view month view