Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day
Monday, August 1st cantaloupe Nice Slice Word of the Day:
Hats off to the coiner of the informal variant of this word, lope, for solving the troublesome spelling problem: who can remember that it's an 'a' after the 't' and that the last syllable has the pointless 'u'? The jury has long been out on the word's origins, but it's thought to be a place where the melon cultivated: Cantaluppi in Italy, or Cantaloup in France.
Tuesday, August 2nd seraglio A Women's Space Word of the Day:
Thanks to Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, this word will always retain a slot in English — despite its being merely an Italian loan from an originally Turkish word meaning "(Muslim) women's quarters.
Wednesday, August 3rd Main Street Streets Away Word of the Day:
The workout that the media have given this compound should entitle it to overtime pay. It makes a pretty good contrast with Wall Street and seems to overlap more and more with British High Street, despite some areas of meaning that remain distinct. Usage goes back to the 19th century, but Sinclair Lewis's 1920 novel of the same name is what really gave Main Street legs.
Thursday, August 4th balalaika Strings Attached Word of the Day:
This Russian stringed instrument, a sort of guitar cognate, hasn't had a good workout in the public eye since Doctor Zhivago, but a Google image search will fix it in your mind. The Russian origins of the word are misty, but may be related to a verb that means "chatter."
Friday, August 5th cachexia Totally Wasted Word of the Day:
This sounds like something nasty to have, and it is: disease-related wasting of the body. The Greek roots mean "bad" (as in cacophony, kakistocracy, and cacography) and "condition" (as in anorexia, dyslexia, and pyrexia).
Saturday, August 6th poteen Private Affair Word of the Day:
Funny how the same substance can have different names, depending on whether the law smiles on it or not. Poteen is privately (and illegally) distilled whisky in Ireland, corresponding more or less to moonshine in US English. The word is Irish, natch, but related to English "pot" with a diminutive suffix on the end.
Sunday, August 7th sagacity Wise Up Word of the Day:
Wisdom and good judgment often seem in shorter supply than the words to describe them, such as this one, ultimately from a Latin root meaning "seek." It would be a pretty good guess to think it was related to sage ("wise person"), but in fact the latter, though also going back to Latin, is separately derived via French.
Monday, August 8th rescission Null and Void Word of the Day:
The beauty of this word, the verbal noun of rescind, is that as many as three different spellings appear in dictionaries, increasing the changes that you'll get away with the first one that you guess. The one here is most popular (and the only acceptable one in UK English), but American dictionaries have both recission and recision.
Tuesday, August 9th solleret Shoes Make the Man Word of the Day:
What would a coat of armor be without something to protect the feet? That's where sollerets come in, the steel-and-mail foot coverings for the complete knight. If you dimly perceive sole in this word you're on the right track: sandal is also a relative; all three words have a common Latin ancestor.
Wednesday, August 10th déjà vu Been There, Done That Word of the Day:
Why do the French get to name so many cool things? Economy of syllables, perhaps. This one means "already seen" and designates the eerie experience of suddenly feeling you're not doing something for the first time. The phrase entered English in the early 20th century.
Thursday, August 11th terpsichorean Shall We Dance? Word of the Day:
This adjective has no obvious handles unless you're clued up on Greek mythology, specifically on Terpsichore, the totally cool Muse whose brief was dancing. The last part of her name is also seen in choreography.
Friday, August 12th buckaroo Tall in the Saddle Word of the Day:
Though no doubt eschewed by real cowboys, this American coinage has pretty good credentials, being derived, by sound and spelling assimilation, from Spanish vaquero, "cowboy." The vaq- part, ultimately from Latin vacca, "cow," also turns up, by a different route, in vaccine.
Saturday, August 13th sprachgefühl Way with Words Word of the Day:
Chances are you've got it or you wouldn't be here: sprachgefühl is an intuitive understanding of language, what you might call a "good feel" for it. It's a German import with English cognates: sprach ("language," cognate with English "speech") and gefühl ("feeling").
Sunday, August 14th clabber Gone Sour Word of the Day:
This noun for naturally clotted milk has all but vanished from modern English — perhaps a victim of home refrigerators and supermarket shopping. It's the only English descendant of Irish claba, "thick." The milk part, Irish bainne, was present in an earlier form of the term, bonnie-clabber.
Monday, August 15th minuend Subject to Depletion Word of the Day:
The root -min- is a pretty dependable form in English for indicating "less" (think diminish, minor, minute), and so it is here: minuend is a number that another is subtracted from in order to yield a remainder.
Tuesday, August 16th usury Through the Roof Word of the Day:
It's a good time for literacy of all words related to interest (the kind that lenders charge and borrowers pay). This noun from Latin is related to use, perhaps most closely in the sense "use or manipulate to one's advantage," and refers to an exorbitant rate of interest or the act of charging one.
Wednesday, August 17th outré Way Out There Word of the Day:
If life weren't so bizarre we wouldn't need so many words to describe things that are out of the ordinary, as this French adjective does. At first glance it might seem to be related to other or outer, but in fact its nearest relative is Latin (and English) ultra.
Thursday, August 18th burgeon Blossom Forth Word of the Day:
These days the present participle of this verb (burgeoning) is the hands-down favorite form, outnumbering use of the finite verb by a whopping five to one. The basic idea is "grow quickly" and originally applied only to plants. It's now a fixed favorite in journalism, to refer to anything that is increasing rapidly.
Friday, August 19th prescience Already Knew That Word of the Day:
The temptation to pronounce this PREE SIGH-unce should be avoided, as this would be wrong, but semantically it's a pretty good way to slice the word: pre = before, science = knowing. It means knowledge of things before they occur.
Saturday, August 20th steadfast Glued to the Spot Word of the Day:
Of the many adjectives that mean, roughly "unswerving," this one wins in the Most Venerable category, being more or less unchanged from Old English. The stead-part, meaning "place," appears in a handful of English words (bedstead, farmstead, instead) and the -fast part ("firmly fixed"), an adjective in its own right, has cognates in several other Germanic languages.
Sunday, August 21st carioca Fly Me Down to Rio Word of the Day:
Take your pick: it's a native of  Rio de Janeiro, or ballroom dance (the second inspired by the first). What you probably wouldn't guess is that the roots of carioca, in Tupi, mean "white house," thus providing a rather obscure lexical connection with another city whose names (Casablanca, or Dar-el-bida) also mean "white house."

Monday, August 22nd wincey From Whole Cloth Word of the Day:
You'd be excused for thinking this word meant "given to wincing," but in fact it refers to a fabric woven of wool and linen (or wool and cotton). The name is a mash-up of linsey-woolsey, another fancifully named fabric inspired by the names "linen" and "wool."
Tuesday, August 23rd janissary Follow Me Word of the Day:
It's great to have a platoon of them, but even one or two is a big help: a janissary is a loyal follower or supporter. The word is originally Turkish, and made stops in Italian and French before landing in English. In the original it breaks down to "new soldier."
Wednesday, August 24th cantata In Full Voice Word of the Day:
You've probably at least got a notion that this is a classical music form; a little mental rummaging will assure you that human voices are required. The root is Latin cantare ("sing"), which finds its way into many other English voice-related words: cant, cantor, recant, chant, and enchant.
Thursday, August 25th saponaceous Tiny Bubbles Word of the Day:
It's not often that you need an alternative for "soapy," but why not keep this one in store for when you do? The root is Latin and appears in the words for "soap" in several European languages (savon, sapone, jabón). English soap, despite containing two likely consonants, is separately derived.
Friday, August 26th lugubrious My Pillow's Never Dry Word of the Day:
Mourning is generally a respectable thing but when it becomes excessive it invites derision — and the use of this perfectly suited adjective. The root is Latin lugere, "mourn," which has no other relatives in contemporary English.
Saturday, August 27th desperado Out Riding Fences Word of the Day:
If you have an association for this noun other than the 1973 Eagles' hit song, chances are that it comes from snippets of dialog from Western movies. Though desperado has the look and feel of Spanish, it can only claim descent from pseudo-Spanish by the lights of most dictionaries, as (in the words of the OED) "a sonorous refashioning, after Spanish words ending in ?ado."
Sunday, August 28th galosh It Takes Two Word of the Day:
Here's one of those words whose singular is so rarely heard that it falls oddly on the ear: galoshes nearly always travel in pairs and talk about one of them probably indicates an unfortunate separation from its mate. Galosh comes to English via French, with somewhat misty origins beyond that.
Monday, August 29th mahimahi Big Fish Word of the Day:
This noun meaning a food fish is as much fun to type as it is to say. It's a direct Hawaiian import. Why the word is a reduplicative form (meaning "strong-strong" according to one source) awaits precise explanation; reduplication is a feature in many Austronesian languages  to express plurality, frequency, or augmentation.
Tuesday, August 30th facula Bright Spot Word of the Day:
Though the sun appears as one big beaming ball of brightness, it has spots that are resplendent among others, and these are called faculae. The roots are Latin and mean "little torch." The diminutive suffix "-ule" appears in many words, such as capsule, nodule, globule.
Wednesday, August 31st vassal At Your Service Word of the Day:
These folks disappeared with the feudal system, in which they had the use of land in exchange for homage, fealty, or service. These days the word is used, somewhat disparagingly, to label a subordinate. Vassal is immediately from French and Latin but more remotely from Celtic languages, perhaps reflecting the geography of feudalism.
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