January word of the days

    Posted in : Writings:
  • On : Jan 31, 2006

The Word of the Day for January 1 is:

epicure \EP-ih-kyur\ noun
: one with sensitive and discriminating tastes especially in food or wine

Example sentence:
“Griffin considered himself something of an epicure, with an ability to taste and smell that was the functional equivalent of perfect-pitch.” (Terence Monmaney, Discover, September 1987)

Did you know?
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 341-270 B.C., believed that the best life was one of simple pleasures in which a person lived with a tranquil mind and freedom from pain. When “epicure” entered English in the 16th century, it referred to someone who followed the philosophy of Epicurus. But over time people came to believe that the philosopher actually encouraged his followers to pursue material and sensual gratification, so the term was soon applied to anyone devoted to materialistic self-indulgence; it later came to be used for one who loves good food and wine.

The Word of the Day for January 2 is:

seneschal \SEN-uh-shul\ noun
: an agent or steward in charge of a lord’s estate in feudal times

Example sentence:
The king’s seneschal grew nervous awaiting his master’s return, even though he knew he had prepared the palace to perfection.

Did you know?
In the days of knights and fair damsels, the seneschal was the principal administrator in a noble household. French nobility held the office in high regard in medieval times, and it was from the French that English speakers borrowed the term (although it is of Germanic origin) in the 14th century. For a time, “seneschal” was also used to refer to a governor or judicial officer, but that sense is now rare except in places such as the island of Sark in the English Channel, where the title is still used. Elsewhere, the importance of seneschals at court gradually declined, and now both the office and most references to the office are limited to historical contexts.

The Word of the Day for January 3 is:

wheedle \WEE-dul\ verb
*1 : to influence or entice by soft words or flattery
2 : to gain or get by coaxing or flattering
3 : to use soft words or flattery

Example sentence:
Steve hates shopping, but his wife wheedled him into going to the mall.

Did you know?
“Wheedle” has been a part of the English lexicon since the mid-17th century, though no one is quite sure how the word made its way into English. (It has been suggested that the term may have derived from an Old English word that meant “to beg,” but this is far from certain.) Once established in the language, however, “wheedle” became a favorite of some of the language’s most illustrious writers. “Wheedle” and related forms appear in the writings of Wordsworth, Dickens, Kipling, Dryden, Swift, Scott, Tennyson, and Pope, among others.

orthography \or-THAH-gruh-fee\ noun
1 *a : the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage b : the representation of the sounds of a language by written or printed symbols
2 : a part of language study that deals with letters and spelling

Example sentence:
English orthography was not yet regularized in medieval times, so words often had many different spellings.

Did you know?
“It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word!” That quote, ascribed to Andrew Jackson, might have been the motto of early English spelling. The concept of orthography (a term that derives from the Greek words “orthos,” meaning “right or true,” and “graphein,” meaning “to write”) was not something that really concerned people until the introduction of the printing press in England in the second half of the 15th century. From then on, English spelling became progressively more uniform and has remained fairly stable since the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (with the notable exception of certain spelling reforms, such as changing “musick” to “music,” that were championed by Noah Webster).

The Word of the Day for January 5 is:

emeritus \ih-MEH-ruh-tus\ adjective
: retired with an honorary title from an office or position

Example sentence:
Although he is retiring from the newspaper, Mr. Richardson will remain as editor emeritus, and his name will still appear on the masthead.

Did you know?
In Latin, “emeritus” was used to describe soldiers who had completed their duty. It is the past participle of the verb “emereri,” meaning “to serve out one’s term,” from the prefix “e-” (meaning “out”) and “merÄ“re” (“to earn, deserve, or serve”). (“MerÄ“re” also gives us our English word “merit.”) Beginning in the late 18th century, English speakers began using “emeritus” as an adjective to refer to professors who had retired from office. The word eventually became applied to other professions where a retired member may continue to hold a title in an honorary capacity. In many titles, “emeritus” is used postpositively, which means that it comes after the noun it modifies instead of before it, as in our example sentence.

The Word of the Day for January 6 is:

tin-pot \TIN-POT\ adjective
: two-bit, small-time

Example sentence:
Petty despots and tin-pot dictators often pay lip service to democratic ideals to give their regimes an aura of legitimacy.

Did you know?
Tin has never commanded as much respect as some other metals. As a reflection of this, its name has long been used in terms denoting the tawdry or petty. “Tin-pot” has been used for minor or insignificant things or people since the early 1800s. “Tinhorn” has named fakes or frauds (especially gamblers) since the 1880s, and “tin lizzie” has been a nickname for an inexpensive car since Ford introduced the Model T. Another example is “tin pan” (as in “Tin Pan Alley”), which referred to the tinny sound of pianos pounded furiously by musicians plugging tunes to producers.

The Word of the Day for January 7 is:

behemoth \bih-HEE-muth\ noun
1 often capitalized : a mighty animal described in Job 40:15-24 as an example of the power of God
*2 : something of monstrous size, power, or appearance

Example sentence:
Suddenly a behemoth of a truck, honking madly and going at least 80 mph, bore down on me from out of the blue.

Did you know?
The original “behemoth” was biblical; it designated a mysterious river-dwelling beast in the Book of Job. Based on that description, scholars have concluded that the biblical behemoth was probably inspired by a hippopotamus, but details about the creature’s exact nature were vague. The word first passed from the Hebrew into Late Latin, where, according to English poet and monk John Lydgate, writing in 1430, it “playne expresse[d] a beast rude full of cursednesse.” In English, “behemoth” was eventually applied more generally to anything large and powerful.

The Word of the Day for January 8 is:

contretemps \KAHN-truh-tahng (the “ng” is not actually pronounced, but the preceding vowel is pronounced nasally)\ noun
*1 : an inopportune or embarrassing occurrence or situation
2 : dispute, argument

Example sentence:
Jacqueline found herself in the middle of an embarrassing contretemps when her client suddenly changed his story and, ignoring her advice, spoke to reporters.

Did you know?
In the 1600s, “contretemps,” which we borrowed from the French, referred to a thrust or pass made at the wrong time or at an inopportune moment in fencing. In the 1700s, dancers began using the word for steps danced on unaccented beats. Both of those meanings are in keeping with the French roots “contre-” (meaning “counter”) and “temps” (meaning “time”), which underlie the modern English term. “Contretemps” was being used in English to refer to any embarrassing or unexpected mishap—something out of step or rhythm with social conventions—as long ago as 1769. The “dispute” or “argument” sense came about in the mid-20th century.

The Word of the Day for January 9 is:

umbrage \UM-brij\ noun
1 : shade, shadow
2 : shady branches : foliage
3 a : an indistinct indication : vague suggestion : hint b : a reason for doubt : suspicion
*4 : a feeling of pique or resentment at some often fancied slight or insult

Example sentence:
“He’s not willing to pay for the A-list players we need to win a championship,” said one player of the team’s owner, who, not surprisingly, took umbrage at the statement.

Did you know?
“Deare amber lockes gave umbrage to her face.” This line from a poem by William Drummond, published in 1616, uses “umbrage” in its original sense of “shade, shadow,” a meaning shared by its Latin source, “umbra.” (“Umbella,” the diminutive form of “umbra,” means “a sunshade or parasol” in Latin and is an ancestor of our word “umbrella.”) Beginning in the early 17th century, “umbrage” was also used to mean “a shadowy suggestion or semblance of something,” as when Shakespeare, in Hamlet, wrote, “His semblable is his mirror, and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more.” In the same century, “umbrage” took on the pejorative senses “a shadow of suspicion cast on someone” and “displeasure, offense”; the latter is commonly used today in the phrases “give umbrage” or “take umbrage.”

The Word of the Day for January 10 is:

redound \ri-DOWND (“OW” as in “down”)\ verb
*1 : to have an effect
2 : to become transferred or added : accrue

Example sentence:
“[George] Washington was convinced that treating other nations equally and fairly would ultimately redound to the well-being of the United States.” (Jay Tolson, U.S. News & World Report, September 22, 2003)

Did you know?
Although it looks and sounds like a number of similar words (including “rebound,” “resound,” “abound,” and “redundant”), “redound” is a distinct term. It developed from the Middle French “redunder,” which in turn came from the Latin “redundare,” meaning “to overflow.” In its earliest known English uses in the late 1300s, “redound” meant “to overflow” or “to abound,” but those senses are now considered archaic. In current use, “redound” is often followed by “to,” and the effect can be positive (as in our example sentence) or negative (“[It] probably would have redounded strongly to my disadvantage if I had pursued to completion my resolution. . . .” – Joseph Heller, God Knows).

The Word of the Day for January 11 is:

ebullient \ih-BULL-yunt\ adjective
1 : boiling, agitated
*2 : having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm : exuberant

Example sentence:
Students found Mr. Brennan’s science class to be a challenge, but his ebullient style made his lectures very entertaining.

Did you know?
Someone who is ebullient is bubbling over with enthusiasm, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the adjective “ebullient” derives from the Latin verb “ebullire,” which means “to bubble out.” (The stem “bullire” is an ancestor of our word “boil” and derives from “bulla,” the Latin word for “bubble.”) In its earliest known uses in English in the late 1500s, “ebullient” was used in the sense of “boiling” or “bubbling” that might have described a pot simmering on the stove. Only later did the word’s meaning broaden to encompass emotional agitation in addition to the tempestuous roiling of a boiling liquid.

The Word of the Day for January 12 is:

vicious circle \VISH-us-SER-kul\ noun
1 : an argument or definition that assumes as true something that is to be proven or defined
*2 : a chain of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new problem that aggravates the original difficulty

Example sentence:
Lower profits lead to spending cuts, which cause falling sales, in a vicious circle.

Did you know?
“Vicious circle” originally referred to a circular argument, that is, an argument that assumes the conclusion as one of its premises. That sense was first documented around the end of the 18th century. Approximately 50 years later, “vicious circle” acquired the now more common “chain of events” sense as people began to think of the circle as a metaphorical circle rather than a circular argument. Today, “vicious cycle” is a common variant for the “chain of events” sense. “Vicious spiral,” in which the ill effects are cumulative as well as self-aggravating, puts in an occasional appearance as well.

The Word of the Day for January 13 is:

bombinate \BAHM-buh-nayt\ verb
: buzz, drone

Example sentence:
Mr. Carter bombinated on, seemingly oblivious to the frequency of yawning and watch-checking in the audience.

Did you know?
“Bombinate” sounds like it should be the province of bombastic blowhards who bound up and bombard you with droning blather at parties—and it is. The word derives from the Greek “bombos,” a term that probably originated as an imitation of a deep, hollow sound (the kind we would likely refer to as “booming” nowadays). Latin speakers rendered the original Greek form as “bombus,” and that root gave forth a veritable din of raucous English offspring, including not only “bombinate,” but also “bomb,” “bombard,” “bombilate” (which means the same thing as “bombinate”), and “bound” (“to leap”). However, the Latin “bombus” is not a direct ancestor of “bombastic,” which traces to “bombyx,” a Greek name for the silkworm.

The Word of the Day for January 14 is:

polymath \PAH-lee-math\ noun
: a person of encyclopedic learning

Example sentence:
A voracious reader, Uncle James was a polymath who could discourse on subjects ranging from Portuguese cooking to ancient military history.

Did you know?
The know-it-alls in the crowd probably already know that “polymath” derives from the Greek “polymathes,” which means “very learned.” The root “poly-,” meaning “many,” can be found in a great number of English words including “polygon” and “polysyllabic.” The second half of “polymathes” derives from the Greek verb “manthanein,” which means “to learn” and which is also the source for the English word “mathematics.” “Manthanein” is also the parent of “chrestomathy,” referring to a selection of passages that help a person learn a language or to a volume of passages or stories that provide a sample of an author’s work, and “philomath,” a word (found in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged) for those of us who might not know everything but who enjoy learning nonetheless

The Word of the Day for January 15 is:

sartorial \sar-TOR-ee-ul\ adjective
: of or relating to a tailor or tailored clothes; broadly : of or relating to clothes

Example sentence:
“Far be it from me to criticize your sartorial choices,” said Helen, laughing, “but do you really think that shirt goes with those pants?”

Did you know?
It’s easy to uncover the root of “sartorial.” Just strip off the suffix “-ial” and you discover the Latin noun “sartor,” meaning “tailor” (literally, “one who patches or mends”). Sartorial splendor has been the stuff of voguish magazines for years, and even “sartor” itself has occasionally proven fashionable, as it did in 1843, when Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of “coats whose memory turns the sartor pale,” or in the 1870 title The Sartor, or British journal of cutting, clothing, and fashion. “Sartorial” has been in style with English speakers since at least 1823.

The Word of the Day for January 16 is:

officinal \uh-FISS-uh-nul\ adjective
: tending or used to cure disease or relieve pain : medicinal

Example sentence:
The officinal properties of the ginkgo tree, long accepted by traditional herbalists, have been the subject of modern scientific study.

Did you know?
“Officinal” is a word applied in medicine to plants and herbs that are used in medicinal preparations. In the 19th century, it was the standard word used by the United States Pharmacopeia to refer to the drugs, chemicals, and medicinal preparations that they recognized, but in 1893 it was replaced by “official” in this context. Despite this supersession, you still can find a healthy dose of “officinal” in the pharmaceutical field, where it is used today as a word describing preparations that are regularly kept in stock at pharmacies. “Officinal” was derived from the Medieval Latin noun “officina,” a word for the storeroom of a monastery in which provisions and medicines were kept. In Latin, “officina” means “workshop,” as in “laboratory.”

The Word of the Day for January 17 is:

arbiter \AHR-buh-ter\ noun
1 : a person with power to decide a dispute : judge
*2 : a person or agency whose judgment or opinion is considered authoritative

Example sentence:
Rather than looking to famous fashion designers as arbiters of style, Amy prefers to make up her own mind about what is hip.

Did you know?
There’s no disputing it—”arbiter” and “arbitrator” are synonyms. But judging by usage, “arbitrator” has been appointed the preferred term for legal situations and is the one more likely to be used in the sense “a person chosen by two parties in a dispute to decide their differences.” “Arbiter” is the more literary of the two and is identical to the Latin “arbiter” (meaning “judge”), the grandparent of both terms. “Arbitrator” and “arbiter” each came to us via Anglo-French; first we picked up “arbiter” in the late 14th century, and “arbitrator” followed less than four decades later. And in case you were wondering—yes, the Latin “arbiter” is also an ancestor of “arbitrary” and “arbitrate.”

The Word of the Day for January 18 is:

splenetic \splih-NET-ik\ adjective
: marked by bad temper, malevolence, or spite

Example sentence:
Phil’s review of the book was written with a harsh, splenetic tone that did little to conceal his preexisting grudge against the author.

Did you know?
In early Western physiology, a person’s physical qualities and mental disposition were believed to be determined by the proportion of four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. The last of these, associated with feelings of intense sadness, was believed to be secreted by the spleen. This now-discredited association explains how, in the mid-16th century, use of “splenetic” (deriving from the Late Latin “spleneticus” and the Latin “splen,” meaning “spleen”) came to mean “given to melancholy” as well as “of or relating to the spleen.” In later years, the meaning of “splenetic” shifted to refer more to feelings of ill humor or malevolence, and eventually the “melancholy” sense fell out of use.

The Word of the Day for January 19 is:

evitable \EV-uh-tuh-bul\ adjective
: capable of being avoided

Example sentence:
“Books, journals, conventions, and electronic networks have made provincial isolation easily evitable.” (James Sledd, English Journal, November 1994)

Did you know?
T.S. Eliot once gave a lecture in which he spoke about “the disintegration of the intellect” in 19th century Europe, saying, “The ‘disintegration’ of which I speak may be evitable or inevitable, good or bad; to draw its optimistic or pessimistic conclusions is an occupation for prophets . . . of whom I am not one” (quoted in The New York Times, May 23, 1994). “Evitable,” though not common, has been in English since the beginning of the 16th century; it’s often found paired with its opposite, “inevitable,” as in Eliot’s passage or in a book review by Peter Hebblethwaite (Manchester Guardian Weekly, May 4, 1986): “In a work covering such a vast historical ground . . . some mistakes were no doubt inevitable. But others were evitable.” Both words were borrowed from similar Latin adjectives, which in turn are based on the verb “evitare,” which means “to avoid.”

The Word of the Day for January 20 is:

stymie \STYE-mee\ verb
: to present an obstacle to : stand in the way of

Example sentence:
Alan’s attempts to keep the apartment neat and clean were stymied by his roommates’ sloppy habits.

Did you know?
Golf was being played in Scotland as early as the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the sport really caught on in England and North America. It was also in the 19th century that the word “stymie” entered English as a noun referring to a golfing situation in which one player’s ball lies between another ball and the hole on the putting green, thereby blocking the line of play. Later, “stymie” came to be used as a verb meaning “to bring into the position of, or impede by, a stymie.” By the early 20th century, the verb was being applied in similarly vexing non-golf contexts.

The Word of the Day for January 21 is:

pugnacious \pug-NAY-shus\ adjective
: having a quarrelsome or combative nature : truculent

Example sentence:
“Keep your pugnacious pooch away from my Snoodles!” Mrs. Slater shouted, and I thought, “How ironic that such a quarrelsome old lady thinks my docile dog wants to pick a fight.”

Did you know?
Pugnacious individuals are apt to cry, “Put up your dukes!” When they do, they’re packing an etymological punch. “Pugnacious” comes from the Latin verb “pugnare” (meaning “to fight”), which in turn comes from the Latin word for “fist,” “pugnus.” Another Latin word related to “pugnus” is “pugil,” meaning “boxer.” “Pugil” is the source of our word “pugilist,” which means “fighter” and is used especially of professional boxers.

The Word of the Day for January 22 is:

consummate \KAHN-suh-mut\ adjective
1 : complete in every detail : perfect
2 : extremely skilled and accomplished
*3 : of the highest degree

Example sentence:
It was only due to Blanford’s consummate negotiating skills that a major crisis was avoided.

Did you know?
“Consummate,” which derives from the Latin verb “consummare” (meaning “to sum up, finish”), has been used as an adjective in English since at least 1527. Some usage commentators feel the word is overused and others think it should be limited to the “perfect” sense (as in “a consummate little model of a clipper ship”), but neither of those positions is more than an opinion. All of the senses of the word are well-established and have served careful writers well for many, many years.

The Word of the Day for January 23 is:

inimical \in-NIM-ih-kul\ adjective
1 : being adverse often by reason of hostility or malevolence
2 a : having the disposition of an enemy : hostile *b : reflecting or indicating hostility : unfriendly

Example sentence:
When he called the company’s help line, Jared was startled by the cold, inimical voice of the customer service representative.

Did you know?
In “inimical,” one finds both a friend and an enemy. The word descends from Latin “inimicus,” which combines “amicus,” meaning “friend,” with the negative prefix “in-,” meaning “not.” In current English, “inimical” rarely describes a person, however. Instead, it is generally used to describe forces, concepts, or situations that are in some way harmful or hostile. For example, high inflation may be called inimical to economic growth. “Inimicus” is also an ancestor of “enemy,” whereas “amicus” gave us the much more congenial “amicable” (meaning “friendly” or “peaceful”) and “amiable” (meaning “agreeable” or “friendly”).

The Word of the Day for January 24 is:

vaunted \VAWN-tud\ adjective
: highly or widely praised or boasted about

Example sentence:
For all her vaunted writing talent, Pauline has yet to find a publisher for her book.

Did you know?
It’s fine to express pride in your accomplishments, but synonyms such as “boast,” “brag,” “vaunt,” and “crow” may suggest you’ve overdone it. “Boast,” for instance, implies ostentation and exaggeration (“he boasts of every trivial success”), although it can connote justifiable pride (“the town boasts an excellent museum”). “Crow” is ideal for exultant boasting or bragging (“they crowed about winning the championship”). “Vaunt” usually imparts less crudity or naïveté than “brag” and more pomp and bombast than “boast” (“the promotional flier vaunts the natural beauty of the area”).

The Word of the Day for January 25 is:

deuteragonist \doo-tuh-RAG-uh-nist\ noun
1 : the actor taking the part of second importance in a classical Greek drama
*2 : a person who serves as a foil to another

Example sentence:
“She cut such an extraordinary figure that it was easy to overlook the fact that she was . . . a deuteragonist rather than a main player.” (Jonathan Meades, The [London] Times, September 2, 2000)

Did you know?
In the early days of Greek drama the idea of having a dialogue between two characters was conceived, and the players were designated “protagōnistÄ“s” and “deuteragōnistÄ“s”—first actor and second actor. The deuteragonist’s role was to highlight or emphasize, by contrast, opposing traits in the protagonist’s character. The word “agōnistÄ“s” itself, though in this context meaning “actor,” originated as a word for a person competing at games. The combining form “deutero-,” meaning “second,” also shows up in “Deuteronomy,” the name of the fifth book of the Old Testament. Consisting of a farewell address by Moses to the Israelites in which he reiterates laws he had communicated to them previously, it is thus his “second stating” of the law.

The Word of the Day for January 26 is:

ossify \AH-suh-fye\ verb
1 : to become or change into bone or bony tissue
*2 : to become or make hardened or set in one’s ways

Example sentence:
Harold was open to new ideas in his youth, but his mind has ossified as the years have passed and he’s now an inflexible curmudgeon.

Did you know?
Initially, the skeletons of mammals consist mainly of soft cartilage that gradually transforms into hard bone as an individual matures. Since the late 17th century, English speakers have referred to this bone-building process as “ossification.” Linguistic research suggests that usage of the verb “ossify” solidified soon after the noun appeared. English speakers began to use “ossification” and “ossify” for more figurative types of hardening (such as that of the heart, mind, or soul) in the 19th century. “Ossify” and “ossification” both descend from the Latin root “os,” meaning “bone.” “Os” is also an English word that appears in scientific contexts as a synonym of “bone,” and the Latin term is an ancestor of the word “osseous,” which means “consisting of or resembling bone.”

The Word of the Day for January 27 is:

homage \AH-mij\ noun
1 a : a feudal ceremony by which a man acknowledges himself the vassal of a lord b : the relationship between a feudal lord and his vassal c : an act done or payment made in meeting the obligations of vassalage
2 a : expression of high regard : respect *b : something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another : tribute

Example sentence:
Elizabeth Catlett’s 1968 sculpture of a woman with a defiantly raised fist is called “Homage to My Young Black Sisters,” but it is a tribute to all womanhood.

Did you know?
The root of “homage” is “homo-,” the Latin root meaning “man.” In medieval times, a king’s male subject could officially become the king’s “man” by publicly announcing allegiance to the monarch in a formal ceremony. In that ritual, known as “homage,” the subject knelt and placed his hands between those of his lord, symbolically surrendering himself and putting himself at the lord’s disposal and under his jurisdiction. A bond was thus forged between the two; the vassal’s part was to revere and serve his lord, and the lord’s role was to protect the vassal and his family. Over time, “homage” was extended from the ceremony to the acts of duty and respect done for the lord, and eventually to any respectful act or tribute.

The Word of the Day for January 28 is:

controvertible \KAHN-truh-ver-tuh-bul\ adjective
: capable of being disputed or opposed by reason

Example sentence:
You cannot justify your actions with such controvertible evidence.

Did you know?
If you’re familiar with “incontrovertible,” you may have wondered about the existence of “controvertible.” Both words are direct descendants of “controvert” (“to dispute or oppose by reasoning”), which dates back to 1584 in English and itself derives from “controversy.” “Controvertible” was documented in print as early as 1614, and “incontrovertible” (which, as you might suspect, was formed by adding the negative prefix “in-“) turned up around thirty years later. “Controversy” comes to us (through Anglo-French) from the Latin “controversus,” meaning “disputable,” and can ultimately be traced back to the Latin “contro-” (“against”) and “versus,” the past participle of “vertere” (“to turn”).

The Word of the Day for January 29 is:

persiflage \PER-suh-flahzh\ noun
: frivolous bantering talk : light raillery

Example sentence:
When the cooking segment ran short, Greta and her cohost turned to persiflage to fill up the time left until the commercial break.

Did you know?
Unwanted persiflage on television might provoke an impatient audience to hiss or boo, but from an etymological standpoint, no other reaction could be more appropriate. English speakers picked up “persiflage” from French in the 18th century. Its ancestor is the French verb “persifler,” which means “to banter,” and which was formed from the prefix “per-,” meaning “thoroughly,” plus “siffler,” meaning “to whistle, hiss, or boo.” “Siffler” in turn derived from the Latin verb “sibilare,” meaning “to whistle or hiss.” By the way, “sibilare” is also the source of “sibilant,” a word linguists use to describe sounds like “s” or the sound “sh” in “sash.” That Latin root also underlies the verb “sibilate,” meaning “to hiss” or “to pronounce with or utter an initial sibilant.”

The Word of the Day for January 30 is:

obliterate \uh-BLIT-uh-rayt\ verb
1 a : to remove utterly from recognition or memory *b : to remove from existence : destroy utterly all trace, indication, or significance of c : to cause to disappear (as a bodily part or a scar) or collapse (as a duct conveying body fluid)
2 : to make undecipherable or imperceptible by obscuring or wearing away
3 : to deface (a postage or revenue stamp) especially with a set of ink lines so as to invalidate for reuse : cancel

Example sentence:
To obliterate all thoughts of the blizzard outside, Terry lit a scented candle, put on some Vivaldi, and sat in front of the fire with her spring catalogs.

Did you know?
Far from being removed from existence, “obliterate” is thriving in our language today with various senses that it has acquired over the years. True to its Latin source, “oblitteratus,” it began in the mid-16th century as a word for removing something from memory. Soon after, English speakers began to use it for the specific act of blotting out or obscuring anything written. Eventually (by the late 18th century), its meaning was generalized to removing anything from existence. In the meantime, another sense had developed. In the late 17th century, physicians began using “obliterate” for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue. Its final stamp on the English lexicon was delivered in the mid-19th century: “to cancel a postage or revenue stamp.”

The Word of the Day for January 31 is:

druthers \DRUH-therz (“th” as in “then”)\ noun, dialect
: free choice : preference

Example sentence:
If Hugh had his druthers, he’d be riding in a mountain bike race this weekend instead of helping out at his dad’s garage.

Did you know?
“Druther” is an alteration of “would rather.” “Any way you druther have it, that is the way I druther have it,” says Huck to Tom in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, Detective. This example of metanalysis (the shifting of a sound from one constituent of a phrase to another) had likely been around for some time in everyday speech when Twain put those words in Huck’s mouth. By then, in fact, “druthers” had already become a plural noun, so Tom could reply, “There ain’t any druthers about it, Huck Finn; nobody said anything about druthers.” “Druthers” is essentially a dialectal term and it tends to suggest an informality of tone, but in current use it doesn’t necessarily suggest a lack of sophistication or education.