Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day
Wednesday, June 1st derring-do Swashbuckling Word of the Day:
Though it's taken some twists and turns in interpretation, the roots of this word are roughly and appropriately "daring to do"; it refers, often humorously, to feats requiring courage and daring.

Thursday, June 2nd pot-au-feu Warm Meal Word of the Day:
This loan from French is a good response to the question "what's for dinner," since its literal meaning is only "pot on the fire." In practice, it designates a stew, and joins the list of dishes whose names are drawn from their cooking vessels or implements. Hot pot is surely a relative!
Friday, June 3rd exorbitant Way Out There Word of the Day:
English has a number of ways to suggest that something has gone beyond normal bounds, and exorbitant is a favorite. Orbit (Latin: "track, course") is the root, a word we normally associate with celestial business; perhaps exorbitant was in mind when astronomical first gained a foothold as meaning "great in magnitude."
Saturday, June 4th saccade The Eyes Have It Word of the Day:
This noun from a French word for "jerk" (the verb) refers to various kinds of short, quick movement, and specifically the quick, unconscious movements that the eyes make in response to stimuli as a means of alerting to brain about where to direct its focus.
Sunday, June 5th crescendo Play it Louder Word of the Day:
This Italian loan, originally a music direction, now does triple service in English as a noun, adjective and verb. Core meaning: a gradual increase in volume. Usage mavens lecture regularly that it doesn't mean "climax," but apparently to little purpose: statistically its most typical usage is as the object of "reach."
Monday, June 6th secede Stepping Out Word of the Day:
Its Latin roots might suggest that this word only means "go away" but it has acquired the specific meaning of withdrawing — especially from an organization or federation. It's a good example of why English has spelling bees: the letter 'e' represents three different sounds in it, while 's' and 'c' represent the same sound.
Tuesday, June 7th ecstasy Beside Yourself Word of the Day:
It seems that bliss may be too much to bear because we abandon ourselves when we experience it — or so etymology would have us believe. This word comes from Greek roots that mean "stand outside." Perhaps this provides license to disclaim responsibility for the state.
Wednesday, June 8th celluloid See You at the Movies Word of the Day:
It started out as a durable substance made from plant fiber (cellulose), but since it proved so suitable for cinema film, it has now come to stand for the thing of which it is a part. The root, cellule, is a diminutive of cell.
Thursday, June 9th obbligato Now Hear This Word of the Day:
You're not off the mark if you see "oblige" in this word, an Italian import that refers to a part of a musical work that is indispensable in performance. The word is a favorite of music critics, who often employ it in other more technical meanings.
Friday, June 10th bellwether Rings a Bell Word of the Day:
This noun from Middle English eventually became more than the sum of its parts. Originally (and still) referring to a sheep that leads the flock (and wears a bell), it can also mean a leader of any kind, or a thing that indicates a trend. The wether part (= "ram") is still a word unto itself but not much used outside of animal husbandry.
Saturday, June 11th zealot Fever Pitch Word of the Day:
This word with Greek roots (related to "zeal") labels one whose enthusiasm is a little over the top. The agentive suffix, from Greek -otes, does not make it into English in many other words, but also appears in pilot.
Sunday, June 12th epilation Hair Razing Word of the Day:
This noun doesn't give too many clues as to its meaning, unless you're already familiar with depilatory and know that it's got something to do with hair. The tell-tale sequence common to both words, -pil-, is from Latin for "hair." Epilation is the loss or intentional removal of hair.
Monday, June 13th frumpy So Not Me Word of the Day:
On the list of adjectives to avoid in describing oneself, frumpy is pretty close to the top. It's a derivative of frump, a designation for a dull, unattractive, or old-fashioned person. Keeping company with it are frowzy, dowdy, and slovenly: all four are words of Germanic origin.
Tuesday, June 14th hierarchy From on High Word of the Day:
This noun referring to organization by levels is now so much in the mainstream vocabulary of English that we forget that it once meant "rule by priests" and fits the pattern of other "rule by _______" words such as monarchy, oligarchy, and patriarchy. The hier- part ("priest") also appears in hieroglyph and hieratic.
Wednesday, June 15th taciturn Wordless Word of the Day:
This Latinate adjective is a dignified way of characterizing someone who is reserved or not inclined to talk. A related adjective, tacit, also carries the idea of the absence of speech, characterizing things that are understood without being spoken. Shakespeare would surely have made good use of it, but unfortunately it did not make an appearance in English till the mid-18th century.
Thursday, June 16th rhyme Go with the Flow Word of the Day:
If you're wondering why this word is not more sensibly spelled rime, as it was in Middle English, blame rhythm: a word of Greek origin that influenced rhyme's spelling shift. Etymologists differ about whether the ultimate root of both words is Greek rhein, "flow," which is definitely the source of rhythm.
Friday, June 17th brackish Reduced Salt Word of the Day:
Where the waters of the sea meet the waters of the land you get a mixture of fresh and marine. And since it exists, English has a word floating around for it somewhere. Water that is slightly salty is called brackish, such as the water found in river estuaries. Brackish is from an obsolete Dutch word brac, "salty."
Saturday, June 18th placable If You Please Word of the Day:
This adjective rolls off the tongue more easily than any of its synonyms, all meaning (more or less) easy to please. It shares an ancestor with please, and a distant cousinship with pleasure.
Sunday, June 19th bric-a-brac Random Stuff Word of the Day:
Besides being way easier to spell than tchotchke, this noun has the virtue of being a mass noun in a synonym set of count nouns, all designating tawdry trinkets. It comes to English unchanged from French, where it meant (originally) "at random"
Monday, June 20th derangement Out of Line Word of the Day:
This is perhaps the most genteel of English words labeling an absence of mental order, and is derived from equally genteel roots that mean simply "out of line." It has several technical, and non-value-laden uses in medicine and other fields.
Tuesday, June 21st semaphore Send a Message Word of the Day:
The components of this word mean "sign" (sema; also seen in semantic), and "carry" (-phor; also seen in metaphor). The carrier of signs in this case is a system for communicating over distance using a visual signals.
Wednesday, June 22nd currier Good Old Days Word of the Day:
This profession and its underlying verb curry ("incorporate fat into leather") are not much in fashion these days since we have machines and chemicals for all that. You're excused for having visions of Americana drift before your eyes when you see this word: it's the influence of Nathaniel Currier, 19th century lithographer who was half the team of Currier & Ives.
Thursday, June 23rd caribou Scratching Around Word of the Day:
Keep this one handy if asked to produce a word from the Native American language Micmac — it's about the only one there is in English. The word, referring to the North American reindeer, means "snow shoveler" in the original, from the animal's habit of shifting snow to find food.
Friday, June 24th brindle Mark of Distinction Word of the Day:
This adjective of limited application (to the fur of animals) refers to streaks of color against another color. Its origins are obscure but it probably shares an ancestor with branded and a distant relationship with burn.
Saturday, June 25th calico Whole Cloth Word of the Day:
If it's simple cotton cloth, heavier than muslin, and brightly colored, you can probably call it calico. It's one of a small but select group of designations for fabric that are derived from their place of origin — in this case, Calicut, on the Kerala coast of India.
Sunday, June 26th bolo It's a Look Word of the Day:
This sine qua non accessory of the total Western outfit is the official neckwear of two Western U.S. states — Arizona and New Mexico. The name is from bola or boleadora, a weapon consisting of cords with weights on the ends that is thrown at an animal to entangle it.
Monday, June 27th laconic To the Point Word of the Day:
English has a few ways of characterizing briefness in speech; laconic is a good choice if you want to be sure that no slight is intended. The Greek origins of the word are from a place in ancient Sparta, Laconia, where the locals got their messages across with few words.
Tuesday, June 28th homogeneous All the Same Word of the Day:
The Greek roots of this adjective mean "of the same kind" and that pretty much sums it up. Click on the prons while you're here, to fix in memory that this word sounds just like its spelled — though many accept the spelling homogenous, along with its pronunciation, as being all the same.
Wednesday, June 29th pied-à-terre Home Away from Home Word of the Day:
This borrowing from French, literally "foot on ground," designates a small second home. Dictionaries are in general content to stop their explanation of the word's origins by simply translating it — as if this were sufficient to explain how it inherited this meaning! On the other hand, it would hardly be a home if you didn't have your foot on the ground there some time.
Thursday, June 30th decennary Gimme Ten Word of the Day:
This noun for a period of ten years gets way less air time than its synonym decade, but has a slight edge in being able to fill an adjective slot when required: decennary periods, reviews, surveys, and the like.
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