Sunday, December 23rd
Shadow of Doubt Word of the Day:
Today's adjective is sometimes used to characterize something as generally known or assumed, and sometimes used to cast doubt on some claim or opinion. Both uses are legitimate, based on the word's history, which is all about people's perceptions: it's from Latin putare, "think, consider, reckon." The same root appears in depute, dispute, impute, and repute.
Monday, December 24th
All Downhill Word of the Day:
Their distinct uses may have resulted in completely separate storage compartments in your mind, but you might want to consider throwing today's word skid into the same box as ski because they have a common ancestor, an Old Norse word that meant "stick of wood." Skids, in the sense of "supporting beam," came along first. English did not find an opportunity to import ski till nearly a century after skid came along, in the 17th century.
Tuesday, December 25th
Smooth Sailing Word of the Day:
Those who associate today's word with the long-running Western television series are getting a big long in tooth now, but bonanza lives on to characterize any source of sudden and great wealth. The word is from Spanish and originated in mining, to refer to a rich vein of ore. The Spanish meaning is "calm sea," a condition generally regarded as favorable.
Wednesday, December 26th
Food for Thought Word of the Day:
Today's 14th-century verb plopped into English from French along with its noun purveyor. In modern usage the noun outnumbers the verb by about five to one. Purvey has a common history with provide and provision, which may explain why purveyor has the specific sense of a seller of provisions. Interestingly, today "information" is one of the most likely objects of purvey, suggesting that we moderns view information as something consumable and requiring regular replenishing.
Thursday, December 27th
Best Deal Word of the Day:
The closest relative of today's noun in English is one that opens a window on its meaning: an optimist is one who expects or looks for the optimum outcome. The common ancestor of both words is Latin optimum, "best." On the other end of the scale there is pessimist, from Latin pessimus, "worst" -- a word that hasn't found a home in English in any other form.
Friday, December 28th
Going in Style Word of the Day:
Styles have been around since the 14th century, but they didn't team up with the even older suffix -ize until the turn of the 20th century, when stylize came into being with a specific meaning: conform to a particular style. Today we see the word mainly as a participial adjective to characterize artistic expressions that depart from naturalism.
Saturday, December 29th
Leave Your Mark Word of the Day:
Today's word, a noun of Greek origin, has not been idle during its 400-year sojourn in English, having picked up many specific meanings. Its most common meaning is the figurative one, "a mark of disgrace," but it also has particular meanings in medicine, zoology, and botany. The original meaning was "a mark left by branding."