Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day
Friday, October 1st corrugated All Wrinkly Word of the Day:
You probably think of cardboard or metal as a companion to this word, which originally meant "wrinkled," but now is used more narrowly to describe regular, parallel wrinkles or grooves. Its lone relative in modern English is the technical and literary term rugose, which still means "wrinkled."
Saturday, October 2nd dragoman Found in Translation Word of the Day:
It's just a coincidence that this word, designating an interpreter from Middle Eastern languages, appears to be a compound of drago (whatever that is) and man. The roots are ultimately in Semitic languages, from a verb that means "translate." You can pluralize it as either dragomans or dragomen.
Sunday, October 3rd phlebotomy Bloodletting Word of the Day:
If you don't swoon at the sight of blood, this discipline might be the career choice for you: the practice of opening veins for the purpose of extracting blood. These days, it's mostly blood donors and patients who are on the business end of the needle. The word is from Greek roots for "vein" and "cutting."
Monday, October 4th aide-de-camp Right-hand Man of the Day:
This French word for a military assistant gets a fair amount of work as a general term for an assistant to a powerful person in any organization. Listen to and practice the pronunciation, so as not to commit the gaffe of pronouncing the final syllable as /kamp/!
Tuesday, October 5th guffaw Funny Ha-Ha Word of the Day:
Originally Scots, this word denoting a hearty laugh is like some other words that designate laughter: it's an imitation of the sound of it. Ha-ha, te-hee, and Yo-ho-ho are in the same club.
Wednesday, October 6th caoutchouc Bounces Back Word of the Day:
Don't let the peculiar spelling throw you off: it's only two syllables and not that hard to say. Happily, however, this word from an Amazonian Indian language has many easier synonyms, such as India rubber and gum elastic.
Thursday, October 7th lacrimation Too Many Teardrops Word of the Day:
If you want to talk technical about crying, this is the way to go: it simply means the production or shedding of tears. Relatives in English include lachrymose, "given to crying," and lacrimator, a substance such as teargas.
Friday, October 8th appellant Next Level Up Word of the Day:
You'll know it if you are one: a party that appeals a decision to a higher court. Note that the spelling is -ant, just as it is in defendant, which is what you might have been the first time around, and the court involved is an appellate one, with the same spelling pattern.
Saturday, October 9th quixotic Tilting at Windmills Word of the Day:
If you read the book this one will present no problems. If not, it's based on the character Don Quixote, who took a somewhat adventurous and romantic view of consensus reality. The disparity in pronunciation between the two words obscures their connection in speech.
Sunday, October 10th nomenclature Name That Thing Word of the Day:
This word, denoting a system of naming things, wins a small award in English for being the only word ending in -clature, despite its being derived from fairly ordinary Latin roots. The nomen part is related to name, noun, and nominative; the -clature part is related to claim, clear, and council.
Monday, October 11th parthenogenesis Look Mom No Dad Word of the Day:
It's all the rage today, as scientists discover more and more animals that can reproduce from the female without help from the male. The roots are Greek, and mean essentially "maiden borne."
Tuesday, October 12th congeneric Cuz They're Cousins Word of the Day:
This adjective is handy shorthand for describing a close genetic relationship: instead of saying, e.g., "rodents of the same genus," you can say "congeneric rodents," thereby saving yourself one syllable, and gaining widespread admiration for you erudition.
Wednesday, October 13th lavender Sweet Smell of Spelling Success Word of the Day:
Resist the temptation to spell the name of this aromatic shrub with two as rather than two es, but blame calendar if you do. Both words are confusing, since they end with the same sounds. Here's a mnemonic: lavender is a flower; a calendar is a list of days.
Thursday, October 14th commodious Room For All Word of the Day:
This rather formal adjective characterizes a place, usually an indoor one, with ample room. Its opposite, incommodious, is mainly used disparagingly. The nearest cognate in English, commode, derives from an earlier meaning of the word: "convenient."
Friday, October 15th dulcimer Sounds Sweet Word of the Day:
Your inventory of stringed-instrument words should include this one, a trapezoidal-shaped folk instrument with a fretted fingerboard. The dulc- part of the word is from the Latin for "sweet."
Saturday, October 16th vermicelli Diet of Worms Word of the Day:
Italian pasta terminology is nothing if not descriptive, and so with this word for thin spaghetti, which means "little worms." A related, but much less appetizing word in English is vermiform, "resembling a worm."
Sunday, October 17th pince-nez The Better to See You With Word of the Day:
The most fun about this word, from French for "pinch nose," is pronouncing it in a highly affected way. It denotes a pair of eyeglasses without earpieces that get their grip by spring action on the schnozzle.
Monday, October 18th fermium Can't Stay Long Word of the Day:
The -ium ending may clue you up that we're in element territory, and so we are. This one is chemical element no. 100, is a short-lived radioactive by-product of thermonuclear reactions, and is named, appropriately enough, after a pioneer of research in that field: Enrico Fermi.
Tuesday, October 19th propaganda Spread the Word Word of the Day:
This word's closest relative in English, propagate, gives a clue to its meaning: literature that is spread with the intention of persuading. The Latinate look of the word is due to the fact that it's a direct loan: from Congregatio de propaganda fide ("Congregation for propagating the faith"), a proselytizing organization set up by Pope Gregory XV in the 17th century.
Wednesday, October 20th no-see-um Twice Bitten Word of the Day:
Folk etymologies that derive this word from actual American Indian speech are spurious, but interestingly, the small biting creature so designated has a proper name that is in fact derived from native language: punkie, a more formal word for a small biting midge, has its roots in the language of Delaware Munsee Indians.
Thursday, October 21st minuscule Pint-Sized Word of the Day:
The pronunciation of this adjective denoting something small, along with interference from the prefix mini-, often result in the misspelling miniscule. Remember that the word is related to minus and starts out the same way in order to safeguard yourself against the inexcusable.
Friday, October 22nd raiment Clothes Call Word of the Day:
In choosing among old-fashioned words for clothing, English offers garb, apparel, and this word, which dates back to Middle English. An early form of the word, arrayment, gives a clue about its relatives.
Saturday, October 23rd embalm Preserve Word of the Day:
The -balm part of this word is the same balm that appears in balmy and in the names of various plants. The common element is that of making something smell good, and nowhere is that more desirable than where decaying organic matter is concerned: hence the contemporary meaning, preserve (a corpse) from decay.
Sunday, October 24th episcopal Hey Look Me Over Word of the Day:
The pronunciation of this adjective conceals two interesting bits of its history: first of all, that it shares an etymon with bishop, and secondly, that it comes from a Greek word meaning "overseer": epi- = "over" and -scopos = "see." These days it means "governed by bishops."
Monday, October 25th decedent Not So Quick Word of the Day:
Every language has a number of ways to avoid saying "the dead guy," and English enjoys two that come from the same root: deceased, a formal and impersonal way of designating one recently departed, and decedent, the version preferred when a lawyer is in the room. Both words are from Latin decedere, to die.
Tuesday, October 26th ormolu Good as Gold Word of the Day:
This one qualifies as a value-added word: the French roots mean "ground gold" but the word denotes a gold-colored alloy of copper and zinc. The "grinding" part goes back ultimately to Latin molere and appears in many English words, such as meal, mill, and molar.
Wednesday, October 27th cochineal Red All Over Word of the Day:
It's not wrong to see red when you see this word, which denotes either a widely-used, bright red pigment, or the scale insect that produces the pigment. The word is from Spanish via French but its ultimate origins are obscure.
Thursday, October 28th vignette Through the Grapevine Word of the Day:
The winding path taken by this word from its original meaning ("small vine") to its most popular current meaning ("brief description") could probably fill out a lengthy essay. The common element running through all its meanings, past and contemporary, is a smallish thing that represents, usually in an artful way, a larger thing.
Friday, October 29th prolix Wordy Word of the Day:
In the spectrum of English words that mean "long-winded," this adjective is on the polite and somewhat abstract end. It usually describes writing, and sometimes speech, that is way longer than it needs to be. The -lix part is related to both liquor and liquid, and shares the idea of "flowing."
Saturday, October 30th leprechaun Small is Beautiful Word of the Day:
You don't have to be in Ireland to see one of these, but it helps. The word is from Old Irish roots than mean "small body" and denotes a small, mischievous human-like creature undocumented by science.
Sunday, October 31st krummhorn Curve-throwing Word of the Day:
If period instruments are your bag you'll know about this one, a Renaissance woodwind with a curving tube. The krumm- part means "curve" in German and is related to a less common word that has made it into English, krummholz: a high-altitude, stunted forest.
previous next
day view week view month view