Sunday, December 1st
Heavenly Word of the Day:
No dependable reports come back about what heaven is like, but it's nice to think of it as a sweet spot, and English has a handful of adjectives for making that characterization. One is elysian, often capitalized, which is inspired by Elysium, the abode of the blessed after death in classical mythology.
Monday, December 2nd
Location, Location, Location Word of the Day:
Words ending in graphy are nearly always about the production of things that you can read or look at. Words beginning in topo- are all about places and locales. What's the upshot? Topography is the mapping or charting of features of a locality. In usage it differs from cartography in being specifically concerned with terrain, as opposed to man-made features of the landscape.
Tuesday, December 3rd
Oh, Deer! Word of the Day:
English likes to separate the names of animals from the fleshy bits of them that we feast on, with a typical distinction providing a Latinate word for the meat, a Germanic one for the animal. So it is with deer, those skittish ruminants that when killed and butchered, give us venison. The noun is from a Latin verb that means "hunt" and that also gives us the low-frequency word venery — the art or practice of hunting.
Wednesday, December 4th
Slightly Different Word of the Day:
Humans love distinctions, and so words that designate them are also a beloved little corner of the language. Nuance is one such word, a noun denoting a subtle difference. It came to English from French in the 18th century. Clever folks in the late 19th century decided that it was time to verb nuance (meaning: impart nuances to) and today nuanced things are all the rage — especially understanding, approaches, and performances.
Thursday, December 5th
High and Dry Word of the Day:
Ordinary birds have nests, but if you're a bird of prey you get a special moniker for the crib, and that word is aerie, also spelled aery, eyry, and eyrie. Birds with aeries typically build them very high, such as on clifftops, and aerie denotes more generally any very high nesting place or abode. The origins of the word aren't entirely clear but are probably from Latin. Acre may be a distant relative.
Friday, December 6th
Well I Swear! Word of the Day:
The -jury part of today's word is from the same source as the word jury but it's pretty hard to get at the meaning by composition. Jury is ultimately from a Latin verb that means "swear," and the per- bit, in this case, means "beyond the limits." So perjury is beyond the limits of swearing, when the swearing is the kind where you're supposed to be telling the truth under oath.
Saturday, December 7th
Step Lively Word of the Day:
Think about it: have you ever seen an octogenarian scamper? Probably not, because today's verb characterizes movement as nimble, quick, and playful. The subjects of scamper are usually children or animals. Scamper doesn't have a very Latin look and that's because its root, probably Latin excampare, spent quite a lot of time in Dutch before arriving in English.