Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day
Friday, July 1st acaricide Might Be Dead Word of the Day:
Whenever you see -icide at the end of a word (from Latin for "cut") there's a good chance that killing is involved, but in this case the victim is an acarid — otherwise known as a mite or tick: acaricide is a substance that does these critters in.
Saturday, July 2nd caseous Cheesy Word of the Day:
This adjective is a favorite of anatomists, pathologists, and medical examiners — so it's a little surprising to learn that its most literal meaning is cheesy (from Latin caseus, "cheese"). It describes damaged tissue that has an appearance reminiscent of cheese. The related noun is caseation.
Sunday, July 3rd ottoman Put Your Feet Up Word of the Day:
This word may conjure anything from a vast empire to a footstool — it's all the same word, ultimately from the Arabic personal name Othman (which loses a lot, soundwise, in translation). The puffy footstools were allegedly originally a component of said empire's comforts.
Monday, July 4th tuxedo Wolf in Man's Clothing Word of the Day:
It's not prom night without one of these formal jackets, which take their name from Tuxedo Park, New York, near New York City. The place name tuxedo, according to one line of etymological inquiry, is from an Algonquian word for wolf.
Tuesday, July 5th cotillion Shall We Dance? Word of the Day:
This sort of dance is rare in our current post-disco era, but there was a time when the cotillion — a formal dance with fixed steps and figures — was pretty high on the list of fun things to do. The word is from an Old French word for petticoat, in turn a diminutive of coat.
Wednesday, July 6th vol-au-vent Keep it Light Word of the Day:
French has lent us this not completely naturalized culinary term for a light pastry, usually filled with meat. The literal translation is "flight in the wind," suggesting that you could down a few before starting to feel stuffed.
Thursday, July 7th earmark Mine All Mine Word of the Day:
This noun and verb gets its current meaning of money set aside for a purpose (or the act of doing this) from its original meaning: a mark on an animal's ear indicating ownership.
Friday, July 8th lotic All Wet Word of the Day:
This adjective is half of a pair that pretty much sum up life in the water. Lotic characterizes organisms that live in moving water. Its partner, lentic, covers those who prefer their water to be still. The two words' Latin roots mean "wash" and "slow," respectively.
Saturday, July 9th horizon Defining Line Word of the Day:
The connection between this noun and its related adjective horizontal is remarkably often overlooked because of the difference in pronunciation stress. True to its origins, horizon is from a Greek word that means "define," the idea here being the line that defines the border of land and sky. Aphorism is an even more disguised relative.
Sunday, July 10th nemesis Serves You Right Word of the Day:
Back in the day (that would be about 500 BCE) there was a god for just about everything, including Nemesis, (actually, a goddess), whose brief was retributive justice. These days she's reduced to a common noun, to label one that inflicts vengeance, or more tamely, an opponent that cannot be overcome.
Monday, July 11th meticulous Control Freak Word of the Day:
Sometimes being very careful about details (which is what meticulous means) is a Good Thing, but the word's roots perhaps suggest how meticulous types can get on one's nerves: metus is Latin for "fear"; the meaning arose in association with the sense of fear you get from not being able to keep your mitts on top of everything.
Tuesday, July 12th prerogative Me First Word of the Day:
This noun designating a privilege enjoyed by virtue of rank is rooted ultimately in a Latin participle that means "asked first." Loose pronunciation makes it a risk for misspelling: the first r sometimes falls between stools.
Wednesday, July 13th yearn Feel the Love Word of the Day:
As a testament to how long folks have been wanting things, this verb, which means "desire persistently," goes all the way back to Old English (before 900 CE), with cognates in Greek (meaning "rejoice"), and German and Sanskrit (meaning "desire").
Thursday, July 14th thither Been There Word of the Day:
It's too bad this venerable adverb has fallen from fashion because it is such fun (for native speakers, anyway) to pronounce. It means, in essence, "to that place," but these days its territory is pretty much taken over by there, just as its companions hither and whither have been supplanted by here and where.
Friday, July 15th polka dot The More the Merrier Word of the Day:
Lexicographers struggle for the form of words that will distinguish this sort of dot from just any random dot: it seems that a polka dot must be fixed in a pattern in the company of its clones to be so designated. As a noncount noun, it designates the pattern generally — consisting of (go figure) many dots!
Saturday, July 16th plus fours It's the Pants Word of the Day:
You might think it was some marketing whiz who settled on this designation for trousers that stop four inches below the knee: it's a much better idea than, say, minus twelves, or some such, using the ankle as the point of reference. The Oxford English Dictionary informs us, however, that "the name seems to have arisen among cloth-cutters working for the tailors who first made the garment."
Sunday, July 17th turgor Gee That's Swell Word of the Day:
This noun of Latin origin runs a very distant second place to its nearest relative (namely, turgid), mainly because its main meaning is technical: it refers to the normal state of rigidity and tension in living cells. The root is Latin turgere, "swell."
Monday, July 18th metabolize Everybody's Doin' It Word of the Day:
This verb, a back-formation from metabolism, is pretty much the sine qua non of being alive: it's everyone's 24/7 occupation. The Greek roots only mean "change" — which is the one thing that's inescapable while we go about this mortal coil.
Tuesday, July 19th culinary Fully Baked Word of the Day:
This adjective is about the only place to go if you want to combine formality with the idea of cooking. Its Latin origin has also bequeathed us kiln, by a different word route.
Wednesday, July 20th perfidy Not Always Faithful Word of the Day:
This one's definitely to be avoided if you want to keep your relations on an even keel — it's pretty much the same as treachery: deliberate breach of faith. The Latin root fides is also seen in fidelity and in the Marine Corps motto semper fidelis, "always faithful."
Thursday, July 21st captious It's Your Fault Word of the Day:
It's a pity that this adjective, quite fashionable in earlier centuries, is no longer in vogue, since it characterizes a frequently encountered human habit: fault-finding! It bears a relationship to capture and caption; all derive from Latin capere, "take, seize."
Friday, July 22nd umbo 'Round the Curves Word of the Day:
This noun for a convex or swelled shape is mostly bandied around by scientific types to label bone parts, though it's a good candidate for wider usage, being easy to spell and fun to say. It's a direct import from Latin, and is related to umbilicus.
Saturday, July 23rd crinoline Give Me a Stiff One Word of the Day:
Flimsiness is all the fashion today, so there's not much use for crinoline, a stiff fabric (once made from horse hair) or a petticoat made from the stuff. The word comes to us from the French, who coined it using Latin roots.
Sunday, July 24th ferritin Feel Stronger Fast Word of the Day:
The ferr- part of this word may clue you up that iron is involved (as it is in ferrous and ferric). The -in part is a pretty good clue that this is the name of a protein, and there you have it: ferritin is the body's main iron-storing protein.
Monday, July 25th forsooth I Kid You Not Word of the Day:
Even adverbs fall from fashion, as this one did, long ago — paving the way for its current use in mainly derisive or ironic statements. Etymologically it breaks down to mean "in truth" and its original job has fallen pretty much to the ubiquitous actually.
Tuesday, July 26th laird You Own It Word of the Day:
This Scots word is these days more often encountered as a surname but it originally referred to a property owner and is in fact only the Scots form of the word lord. Its derivatives (lairdess, lairdly, lairdocracy) are now all dead in the water, aside from rare appearances north of the border.
Wednesday, July 27th hustle Go Dutch Word of the Day:
This polysemous noun and verb, originally from Dutch, is a great example of a word that acquires new meanings by association with old ones. Its earliest verbal meaning, now obsolete, was "shake to and fro"; its latest noun meaning, a con game, dates from the mid-20th century.
Thursday, July 28th jeroboam I'll Drink to That Word of the Day:
It seems unholy that the same word should label both a Biblical king and a large wine bottle, but so it is. The latter meaning developed, allegedly, because said king was described as "a mighty man of valor." It's likely, however, that he was a Bad King, having led his people into sin.
Friday, July 29th habanera Cheek to Cheek Word of the Day:
Not too deeply disguised in this word for a type of ballroom dance is the place of its origin: Havana. The dance, and the music for it, was an early Cuban export, making the rounds of European capitals in the 19th century and even turning up in a famous aria in the opera Carmen.
Saturday, July 30th theophany Now You See Him Word of the Day:
It's the experience that many hope for but few achieve: the appearance of a deity to a person. The Greek roots mean "god" and "appearance" and occur individually in hundreds of other English words, such theology, theocracy, and monotheism (for the god part), and diaphanous, phantom, and sycophant (for the appearance part).
Sunday, July 31st quid pro quo Fair Trade Word of the Day:
It's a good idea to have this noun phrase ready to pull out of your useful Latin phrases box at any moment: the translation (and the meaning) is about the same: "something for something," or in other words, what is obtained as a result of giving up something.
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