Saturday, June 07, 2003

Word of the Day for Saturday June 7, 2003

fatuous \FACH-oo-uhs\, adjective:
1. Inanely foolish and unintelligent; stupid.
2. Illusory; delusive.

Publishers persist in the fatuous belief that a little
hocus-pocus in the front flap blurb will so dazzle readers
that they'll be too dazed to notice the quality of what's
on the pages inside.
--"A night in the city," [1]Irish Times, October 7, 1997

No enquiry, however fatuous or ill informed, failed to
receive his full attention, nor was any irrelevant personal
information treated as less than engrossing.
--Michael Palin, [2]Hemingway's Chair

A British first amendment would support religious freedom
by having nothing to do with Prince Charles's fatuous hope
to be the 'defender of all the faiths', but by
disestablishing the Church of England.
--Nick Cohen, "Damn them all," [3]The Observer, October 7,

Fatuous comes from Latin fatuus, "foolish, idiotic, silly."

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Word of the Day for Tuesday January 7, 2003

quidnunc \KWID-nuhngk\, noun:
One who is curious to know everything that passes; one who
knows or pretends to know all that is going on; a gossip; a

What a treasure-trove to these venerable quidnuncs, could
they have guessed the secret which Hepzibah and Clifford
were carrying along with them!
--Nathaniel Hawthorne, [1]The House of the Seven Gables

Some wretched intrigue which had puzzled two generations of
--L. Stephen, Hours in Library

Quidnunc comes from Latin quid nunc?, "what now?"

Word of the Day for Monday January 6, 2003

subaltern \suhb-OL-tuhrn; SUHB-uhl-tuhrn\, adjective:
1. Ranked or ranged below; subordinate; inferior.
2. (Chiefly British) Ranking as a junior officer; being below
the rank of captain.
3. (Logic) Asserting only a part of what is asserted in a
related proposition.

1. A person holding a subordinate position.
2. (Chiefly British) A commissioned military officer below the
rank of captain.
3. (Logic) A subaltern proposition.

Both the old and new elites, not the subaltern underclass
of workers and peasants, superimposed the fever chart of
the Russian Revolution on what they assumed to have been
the fever chart of the French Revolution with a view to
determining the degree to which the temperature curves of
the two revolutions diverged from each other.
--Arno J. Mayer, [1]The Furies

The letters are never those of a groveling subaltern to his
superior; they are rather like advisories from one soldier
to another.
--Christina Vella, [2]Intimate Enemies

One of their officers, a subaltern, observed to me that his
soldiers were infants that required constant attendance.
--Paul Leicester Ford, "Dr. Rush and General Washington,"
[3]The Atlantic, May 1895

Subaltern derives from Late Latin subalternus, "subordinate,"
from Latin sub-, "under" + Latin alternus, "alternate," from
alter, "other."

Word of the Day for Sunday January 5, 2003

nostrum \NOS-truhm\, noun:
1. A medicine of secret composition and unproven or dubious
effectiveness; a quack medicine.
2. A usually questionable remedy or scheme; a cure-all.

James is put to work at country fairs, promoting a quack
nostrum for pain relief.
--Patrick McGrath, "Heart of Ice," [1]New York Times, April
13, 1997

His hopeful message attracted an audience eager to believe
he had found the nostrum for all of society's ills.
--Warren Sloat, "Looking Back at 'Looking Backward': We
Have Seen the Future and It Didn't Work," [2]New York
Times, January 17, 1988

Old ladies were always offering her their advice,
recommending this or that nostrum.
--Charlotte Brontë, Shirley: A Tale

Nostrum comes from Latin nostrum (remedium), "our (remedy),"
from nos, "we."

Word of the Day for Saturday January 4, 2003

felicitous \fuh-LIS-uh-tuhs\, adjective:
1. Well suited or expressed; appropriate; apt.
2. Pleasant; delightful; marked by happiness or good fortune.

"We do this sort of thing most weekends anyway," said a
lean rebel with gunpowder smudges on his face and the
felicitous name of Troy Cool.
--Tony Horwitz, [1]Confederates in the Attic

I always have a pad of paper and a pencil within reach, to
catch on the wing this turn of phrase which strikes me as
felicitous, that idea which I hope to be able to examine
more closely in the light of day.
--Roger Martin du Gard, [2]Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort
(translated by Timothy Crouse)

Like all Islamic requirements, its observance helps assure
the giver of a better chance for a felicitous reward in the
--Jane I. Smith, [3]Islam in America

The dancing was lively and felicitous on Saturday night,
the ensemble bubbled along with a gentle energy and the
soloists brought real personality to their dancing.
--Debra Craine, "Living doll with a heart of fine Oaks,"
[4]Times (London), January 19, 2000

Felicitous is derived from Latin felicitas, "success,
happiness," from felix, "successful, happy."

Word of the Day for Tuesday December 31, 2002

complement \KOM-pluh-muhnt\, noun:
1. Something that fills up or completes.
2. The quantity or number required to make up a whole or to
make something complete.
3. One of two parts that complete a whole or mutually complete
each other; a counterpart.

transitive verb:
To supply what is lacking; to serve as a complement to; to

He was four years older than Lewis, whom he had once
commanded in the army; less formally educated, but with
more practical experience and a steadier yet more outgoing
personality -- a friend, but also a perfect complement in
both training and temperament to the man who was inviting
Clark to make history with him.
--Dayton Duncan, [1]Lewis & Clark

There was also a tennis court, a riding stable, a five-car
garage, and a full complement of servants.
--Carol Felsenthal, [2]Citizen Newhouse

The two points of view are not contradictory; they
complement each other.
--Feançoise Gilot, "The Maid Was Ugly, the Meals Were
Bad...," [3]New York Times, October 7, 1970

Smart, athletic, blond, with a "bubbly" -- that's the word
Ed uses to describe Sue when she's not around --
personality that complements his perpetually calm outlook.
--Martin Dugard, [4]Knockdown

The wine complemented the food perfectly.
--Mary Sheepshanks, [5]Picking Up the Pieces

Complement is from Latin complementum, from complere, "to fill
up," from com- (intensive prefix) + plere, "to fill."

Usage note: Complement and compliment ("an expression of
admiration or praise") are sometimes confused because they are
pronounced the same. A good way to remember which is which is
to make a connection between the spelling of complement and

Word of the Day for Monday December 30, 2002

quiddity \KWID-ih-tee\, noun:
1. The essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity of a thing.
2. A hairsplitting distinction; a trifling point; a quibble.
3. An eccentricity; an odd feature.

He wanted to capture not just live animals, but the
aliveness of animals in their natural state: their
wildness, their quiddity, the fox-ness of the fox and the
crow-ness of the crow
--Thomas Nye, quoted in "Ted Hughes, 68, a Symbolic Poet
And Sylvia Plath's Husband, Dies," [1]New York Times,
October 30, 1998

So far, I have tried to intimate, through meshed parallels
and contrasts, something of the nature, the quiddity, of
Japanese and of American literature.
--Ihab Hassan, "In the mirror of the sun: reflections on
Japanese and American literature, Basho to Cage," [2]World
Literature Today, March 1, 1995

Boswell set biography a new ambition: capturing the
copiousness and quiddity of a personality -- the self
peculiarly revealed in odd quirks and, especially, in
unpredictable, evanescent talk.
--John Mullan, "Dreaming up the Doctor," [3]The Guardian,
November 11, 2000

It is neither grammatical subtleties nor logical
quiddities, nor the witty contexture of choice words or
arguments and syllogisms, that will serve my turn.
--Michel de Montaigne, "Of Books"

She has looked after my interests with consummate skill,
dealt with my quiddities and constantly kept up my spirits.
--John Brewer, [4]The Pleasures of the Imagination

I began . . . to give some thought to the memoir I had
promised to write and wondered how I would go about it --
his freaks, quiddities, oddities, his eating, drinking,
shaving, dressing and playfully savaging his students.
--Saul Bellow, [5]Ravelstein

Quiddity comes from the scholastic Medieval Latin term
quidditas, "essence," from quid, "what."

Word of the Day for Sunday December 29, 2002

gewgaw \G(Y)OO-gaw\, noun:
A showy trifle; a trinket; a bauble.

Bidders paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthless
gewgaws--fake pearls, ashtrays, golf clubs--merely, one
supposes, because they were touched by the hand of this
celebrity of celebrities.
--Lawrence M. Friedman, [1]The Horizontal Society

At least, you're tempted until you discover that the price
of this gewgaw is $175.
--Walter Shapiro, "Earn exciting prizes from the
Republicans!" [2]USA Today, March 27, 2002

Walk into almost any department store, and there it is --
along with mounds of other gimmicky gadgets and garish
gewgaws that (no offense, Vanna) the world can live
--James A. Russell, "What the World Needs Now... Is Not
Another Gimmicky Gadget or Worthless Doohickey," [3]St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 1995

The origin of gewgaw is uncertain.

Word of the Day for Saturday December 28, 2002

pugilist \PYOO-juh-list\, noun:
One who fights with the fists; especially, a professional
prize fighter; a boxer.

I had escaped my years as a pugilist with few of the badges
that gave fellow-veterans of the ring the appearance of
ruffians--missing eyes, mashed noses, or suchlike
disfigurements--and had no more to show for my beatings
than some small scars about my face and a nose that bore
only the mild bumps and jagged edges that come with several
--David Liss, [1]A Conspiracy of Paper

Could it be that Podhoretz -- one of the famously embattled
members of the New York intellectual world, a political
pugilist who over the course of his life has perfected his
roundhouse right -- is going soft?
--Joseph Dorman, "Only in America," review of My Love
Affair With America: The Cautionary Tale of a Cheerful
Conservative, by Norman Podhoretz, [2]New York Times, July
16, 2000

Pugilist comes from Latin pugil, "a boxer," connected with
pugnus, "a fist." The adjective form is pugilistic. Pugilism
is another term for the sport of boxing.

Synonyms: brawler, boxer, bruiser. [3]Find more at

Word of the Day for Friday December 27, 2002

conurbation \kon-uhr-BAY-shuhn\, noun:
An aggregation or continuous network of urban communities.

To live there in that great smoking conurbation rumbling
with the constant thunder of locomotives, filled with the
moaning of train whistles coming down the Potomac Valley,
was beyond my most fevered hopes.
--Russell Baker, "Memoir of a Small-Town Boyhood," [1]New
York Times, September 12, 1982

Indeed the population in the greater London conurbation
grew by 125 per cent in the period 1861 to 1911 when the
population of England as a whole grew by 80 per cent.
--Terence Brown, The [2]Life of W. B. Yeats

Conurbation is from Latin con-, "with, together" + urbs,
"city" + the suffix [3]-ation.

Word of the Day for Wednesday December 25, 2002

jollification \jol-ih-fuh-KAY-shuhn\, noun:
Merrymaking; festivity; revelry.

Some inform; some prompt the conscience; some entertain,
while having more than jollification in mind.
--Stuart Klawans, "A Greek Bearing Gifts," [1]The Nation,
June 21, 1999

In July, expect the usual impertinent jollifications in Key
West: look-alike and Key-lime-pie-eating contests,
arm-wrestling tournaments.
--David Gates, "Resurrecting Papa," [2]Newsweek, April 12,

Jollification is from jolly (from Old French joli, jolif,
"joyful, merry") + Latin -ficare, combining form of facere,
"to make."

Word of the Day for Tuesday December 24, 2002

subfusc \sub-FUHSK\, adjective:
Dark or dull in color; drab, dusky.

Dark or dull clothing.

The tea-cosy, property of one Edmund Gravel -- "known as
the Recluse of Lower Spigot to everybody there and
elsewhere," as the book's first page informs us -- is
haunted by a six-legged emcee for various "subfusc but
transparent" ghosts.
--Emily Gordon, "The Doubtful Host," [1]Newsday, November
8, 1998

Her inscrutable figure -- imposing in designer subfusc,
slightly donnish, reminiscent of Vita Sackville-West, to
whom she was distantly related -- baffled and intrigued
--Yvonne Whiteman, "Obituary: Frances Lincoln,"
[2]Independent, March 6, 2001

Subfusc comes from Latin subfuscus, "brownish, dark," from
sub-, "under" + fuscus, "dark-colored."

Word of the Day for Monday December 23, 2002

robustious \roh-BUHS-chuhs\, adjective:
1. Boisterous; vigorous.
2. Coarse; rough; crude.

. . . the robustious romantic figure comparable to John
Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility--he comes in with dash,
then proves a temptation to the heroine but is an eventual
--Stanley Kauffmann, "Emma," [1]New Republic, August 19,

When the meaning of the disturbance became clear to him he
placed a hand beside his mouth and shouted: "Hey! Frank!"
in such a robustious voice that the feeble clamor of the
natives was drowned and silenced.
--O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings

Here he has seemingly swilled some of Falstaff's sack and
has had robustious, fiery fun.
--Stanley Kauffmann, "Star-Crossed Lovers," [2]New
Republic, January 4, 1999

Robustious derives from Latin robustus, "oaken, hence strong,
powerful, firm," from robur, "oak."

Word of the Day for Sunday December 22, 2002

descant \DES-kant\, noun:
1. (Music) (a) A melody or counterpoint sung above the plain
song of the tenor. (b) The upper voice in part music.
2. A discourse or discussion on a theme.

\DES-kant; des-KANT; dis-\, intransitive verb:
1. (a) To sing or play a descant. (b) To sing.
2. To comment freely; to discourse at length.

[T]hese to their nests,
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale;
She all night long her amorous descant sung.
--John Milton, [1]Paradise Lost

When they start on one of their polarised descants, whether
on state education, water rates, crime, the BBC or
whatever, they sound like a bumble bee and a wasp fighting
in a jam jar.
--Gillian Reynolds, "The biggest things to hit radio,"
[2]Daily Telegraph, May 14, 1999

Mr. Ackroyd's descant on "Great Expectations" is the work
of a master.
--Alison Lurie, "Hanging Out With Hogarth," [3]New York
Times, October 11, 1992

In a custom associated with Athenian gatherings but almost
certainly followed elsewhere as well, a myrtle branch was
passed around the room, and each of the assembled would
descant as the wine flowed.
--David Barber, "Children of Orpheus," [4]The Atlantic,
June 10, 1998

The police amusingly descant on these jottings: "I can't
believe he'd ever write a sentence like 'I shall be
compelled to take steps to silence you!'"
--Christopher Buckley, "The Chekhov of Coldsands-on-Sea,"
[5]New York Times, November 16, 1997

Descant is derived from Medieval Latin discantus, "a refrain,"
from Latin dis- + cantus, "song," from the past participle of
canere, "to sing."

Word of the Day for Saturday December 21, 2002

propinquity \pruh-PING-kwih-tee\, noun:
1. Nearness in place; proximity.
2. Nearness in time.
3. Nearness of relation; kinship.

Following the race he took umbrage at Stewart's rough
driving so early in the day, and the propinquity of the two
drivers' haulers allowed the Kid to express his displeasure
up close and personal.
--Mark Bechtel, "Getting Hot," [1]Sports Illustrated,
December 6, 2000

Technologically it is the top service among the women's
fighting forces, and it also has the appeal of propinquity
to gallant young airmen.
--"After Boadicea -- Women at War," [2]Time Europe, October
9, 1939

I was stunned by the propinquity of the events: I had never
been in the same room with anyone who was later murdered.
--Karla Jay, [3]Tales of the Lavender Menace

Schultz came by her position through propinquity: her
husband, older by 12 years, used to play music with De
Maiziere and afterward chat about politics.
--Johanna McGeary, "Challenge In the East," [4]Time,
November 8, 1990

Propinquity derives from Latin propinquitas, from propinquus,
"near, neighboring," from prope, "near."

Synonyms: proximity, vicinity, nearness. [5]Find more at

Word of the Day for Friday December 20, 2002

castigate \KAS-tuh-gayt\, transitive verb:
To punish severely; also, to chastise verbally; to rebuke; to
criticize severely.

It was not good enough to castigate him for his sins.
--Frank Deford, "Knight is too easy a target," [1]Sports
Illustrated, May 25, 2000

Out in the world they marvelled that they were found
acceptable to others, after years of being castigated as
unsatisfactory, disappointing.
--Anita Brookner, [2]Falling Slowly

Though castigated by the Catholic Church, illegitimacy was
scarcely an unusual feature of Austrian country life.
--Ian Kershaw, [3]Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris

For my lack of missionary zeal, I have been castigated by a
few militant atheists, who are irritated by my
disinclination to try persuading people to abandon their
faith that God exists (while some religious people regard
me as a militant atheist intent on promoting worship of
unspecified "secular idols").
--Wendy Kaminer, [4]Sleeping With Extra-Terrestrials

Castigate comes from Latin castigare, "to purify, to correct,
to punish," from castus, "pure."
Synonyms: punish, chastise, rebuke, reprove, reprimand.
[5]Find more at Thesaurus.com.

Word of the Day for Thursday December 19, 2002

officious \uh-FISH-uhs\, adjective:
Marked by excessive eagerness in offering services or advice
where they are neither requested nor needed; meddlesome.

Ian Holm plays a well-meaning but officious lawyer who
tries to make the grieving families sue for damages.
--John Simon, "Minus Four," [1]National Review, February 9,

The guy was an officious twerp, but Luke and Pete were
vagrants, and a railroad employee had the right to throw
them out.
--Ken Follett, [2]Code to Zero

"Why don't you mind your own business, ma'am?" roared
Bounderby. "How dare you go and poke your officious nose
into my family affairs?"
--Charles Dickens, [3]Hard Times

Officious comes from Latin officiosus, "obliging, dutiful,"
from officium, "dutiful action, sense of duty, official
employment," from opus, "a work, labor" + -ficere, combining
form of facere, "to do, to make." It is related to official,
"of or pertaining to an office or public trust."

Word of the Day for Wednesday December 18, 2002

lugubrious \lu-GOO-bree-uhs; -GYOO-\, adjective:
Mournful, often exaggeratedly or affectedly; woeful; gloomy.

Wilson adds a great deal of humor to a work that might
otherwise have seemed a little lugubrious.
--Robert Brustein, "Dreaming a Dream Play," [1]New
Republic, January 15, 2001

These days Yeltsin appears increasingly lugubrious; the
spring is missing from his step when he shuffles down the
long red carpet at the Kremlin, and there are embarrassing
pauses when he answers off-the-cuff questions.
--Kevin Fedarko, "Headache of State," [2]Time, April 4,

He was looking out at the green whorls of English fields
and English woods, at the enchanting chalky blue of the
English sky, and wondering if this tilled and agreeable
little country might not be just the place for a man to
revive himself, to shake off those morbid dawn vigils,
those nights when it seemed some demonic lapdog crouched on
his chest, panting into his face; those lugubrious moods
that had troubled him ever since Munich like a cough one
could never quite be rid of....
--Andrew Miller, [3]Casanova in Love

Lugubrious comes from Latin lugubris, from lugere, "to mourn."

Word of the Day for Tuesday December 17, 2002

succinct \suhk-SINGKT\, adjective:
Characterized by compressed precise expression with no wasted
words; brief; concise.

Susan was many things, and almost all of them wondrous, but
she was not succinct. I minded this less than I might have,
because I loved to listen to her talk.
--Robert B. Parker, [1]Sudden Mischief

Then Colin Powell stepped forward and gave the president
the most succinct national security briefing of Ronald
Reagan's entire presidency. "The world is quiet today, Mr.
President," said Powell.
--Michael Reagan with Jim Denney, [2]The City on a Hill

Succinct is from Latin succinctus, past participle of
succingere, "to gird below or from below, to tuck up," from
sub-, "below, under" + cingere, "to gird."
Synonyms: concise, brief, short, terse, to the point. [3]Find
more at Thesaurus.com.

Word of the Day for Monday December 16, 2002

callow \KAL-oh\, adjective:
Immature; lacking adult perception, experience, or judgment.

Those who in later years did me harm I describe as I knew
them then, and I beg any reader to remember that, although
I was hardly callow, I was not yet wise in the ways of the
--Iain Pears, [1]An Instance of the Fingerpost

George Black Jr was grateful that during his protracted
courtship of Betty, his future father-in-law 'bore my
callow unsophistication with benign indulgence'.
--Richard Siklos, [2]Shades of Black

They watched in awe as Revere, at first a callow and
unambitious youth, began to develop into a serious young
man dedicated to books and devoted to his father.
--Sherwin B. Nuland, "The Saint," [3]New Republic, December
13, 1999

Callow is from Old English calu, "featherless, bald."

Word of the Day for Sunday December 15, 2002

posit \POZ-it\, transitive verb:
1. To assume as real or conceded.
2. To propose as an explanation; to suggest.
3. To dispose or set firmly or fixedly.

It is not necessary to posit mysterious forces to explain
--Bruce Martin, "Coincidences: Remarkable or Random?"
[1]Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 1998

Among other things, the researchers posit that the behavior
of the muscles during laughter probably explains why
phrases like "weak with laughter" pops up in many different
--"How Muscles Can Go Weak With Laughter," [2]New York
Times, September 14, 1999

Some scientists subscribe to this "catastrophic" view of
evolutionary history and posit such events as meteoritic
collisions with earth, viral epidemics, and explosive
evolutionary changes as responsible for species extinctions
in the past.
--Noel T. Boaz, Ph.D., [3]Eco Homo

Posit is from Latin positus, past participle of ponere, "to
put, to place, to set."

Word of the Day for Saturday December 14, 2002

atelier \at-l-YAY\, noun:
A workshop; a studio.

A garage in [1]Montparnasse served as Leo's atelier, and
there he labored on his huge [2]triptychs, mixing his
paints in buckets and applying them with a kitchen mop.
--Mordecai Richler, [3]Barney's Version

After Groton, he would attend the Boston Museum of Fine
Arts School, then settle in Paris, rent an atelier and
--Benjamin Welles, [4]Sumner Welles: FDR's Global

His atelier was the headquarters of a lively little cottage
--Rollene W. Saal, "Listening for Voices That are Muted,"
[5]New York Times, January 25, 1987

Atelier comes from French, from Old French astelier,
"carpenter's shop," from astele, "splinter," from Late Latin
astella, alteration of Latin astula, itself an alteration of
assula, "a shaving, a chip," diminutive of assis, "board."

Word of the Day for Friday December 13, 2002

badinage \bad-n-AHZH\, noun:
Light, playful talk; banter.

Ken was determined to put the cares of the world behind him
and do what he loved best -- having a few celebrity friends
round and enjoying an evening of anecdote and badinage over
a bottle or two of vintage bubbly and some tasty cheese
--Bel Littlejohn, "My moustache man," [1]The Guardian,
March 24, 2000

The badinage was inconsequential, reduced to who knew whom
and wasn't the weather glorious in St. Tropez, or the
Bahamas, Hawaii, or Hong Kong?
--Robert Ludlum, [2]The Matarese Countdown

Badinage comes from French, from badiner, "to trifle, to
joke," badin, "playful, jocular."

Word of the Day for Tuesday December 10, 2002

cogent \KOH-juhnt\, adjective:
Having the power to compel conviction; appealing to the mind
or to reason; convincing.

One woman, Adrian Pomerantz, was so intelligent that the
professors always lit up when Adrian spoke; her eloquent,
cogent analyses forced them not to be lazy, not to repeat
--Meg Wolitzer, [1]Surrender, Dorothy

I suggested to the student that she take her refusal as the
theme of her term paper and ponder it as carefully as
possible. A few weeks later she submitted one of the most
cogent, intelligent papers I have read.
--Denis Donoghue, [2]The Practice of Reading

Cogent derives from Latin cogere, "to drive together, to
force," from co-, "with, together" + agere, "to drive."

Word of the Day for Sunday December 8, 2002

flippant \FLIP-uhnt\, adjective:
Lacking proper seriousness or respect; showing inappropriate
levity; pert.

In the mid-1950s we both wrote for the same weekly, where
her contributions were a good deal more serious and less
flippant than mine.
--Anthony Howard and Jason Cowley, "Decline and Fall,"
[1]New Statesman, March 13, 2000

The conversations had grown more adult over the years--she
was less flippant, at least.
--Sylvia Brownrigg, [2]The Metaphysical Touch

Flippant probably comes from flip. The noun form is flippancy.

Word of the Day for Saturday December 7, 2002

palindrome \PAL-in-drohm\, noun:
A word, phrase, sentence, or verse that reads the same
backward or forward.

A few examples:
* Madam, I'm Adam. (Adam's first words to Eve?)
* A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama! (The history of the
Panama Canal in brief.)
* Able was I ere I saw Elba. (Napoleon's lament.)
* Mom, Dad.

Palindrome comes from Greek palindromos, literally "running
back (again)," from palin, "back, again" + dromos, "running."

Word of the Day for Friday December 6, 2002

orotund \OR-uh-tuhnd\, adjective:
1. Characterized by fullness, clarity, strength, and
smoothness of sound.
2. Pompous; bombastic.

"I have been cursed to stalk the night through all
eternity," he went on, his voice orotund, carrying all
across the playground.
--Michael Chabon, [1]Werewolves in Their Youth

Just once he should resist citing Melville's orotund
pronouncement that "genius, all over the world, stands hand
in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle
--James Atlas, "The Great Reminiscer," [2]New York Times,
September 3, 1995

. . . a down-at-heel philosopher who no longer thinks but
gabs, the bore at the dinner table, growing more
self-absorbed and orotund and cynical with each glass of
--"Melting in Sri Lanka," [3]New York Times, March 29, 1987

Orotund derives from Latin ore rotundo, "with a round mouth,"
hence "clear, loud," from os, oris, "the mouth" + rotundus,
"round." It is related to oral.

Word of the Day for Tuesday December 3, 2002

parlous \PAR-luhs\, adjective:
Attended with peril; fraught with danger; hazardous.

It was a parlous time on the Continent, when Communists and
fascists vied brutally for supremacy.
--Howard Simons, "Shots Seen Round the World," [1]New York
Times, September 22, 1985

The Crisis left Indonesia's state finances in such a
parlous state that the government is now heavily exposed to
future risks.
--Penny Crisp and Jose Manuel Tesoro, "The Buck Stops
Here," [2]Asiaweek, July 7, 2000

Parlous derives from Old French perillous, perilleus, from
Latin periculosus, adjective form of periculum, "peril,
danger, hazard."

Word of the Day for Sunday December 1, 2002

meticulous \muh-TIK-yuh-luhs\, adjective:
Extremely or excessively careful about details.

How much work gets done in the fall perennial garden
depends somewhat on whether your gardening tendencies lean
toward the meticulous or toward the casual.
--Mary Robson, "Preparing for winter: What's to be done
with plants as they go dormant? " [1]The Seattle Times,
October 30, 2002

Whatever else he taught me about science, Schotté also
helped me understand that meticulous attention to detail
and patience are as important to problem solving as a grand
--David Kessler, [2]A Question of Intent: A Great American
Battle With a Deadly Industry

Roosevelt was often persuasive and sometimes eloquent,
displaying a power won in large part by his meticulous
involvement in the writing process.
--Carol Gelderman, [3]All the Presidents' Words: The Bully
Pulpit and the Creation of the Virtual Presidency

Meticulous ultimately derives from Latin meticulosus "fearful"
(from metus, "fear"). The present sense stems from French
méticuleux "overscrupulous." In present day English, the word
usually carries a more positive connotation and is synonymous
with precise and punctilious.

Word of the Day for Friday November 29, 2002

panacea \pan-uh-SEE-uh\, noun:
A remedy for all diseases, problems, or evils; a universal
medicine; a cure-all.

[T]echnology had become a panacea for the great economic,
social, and political challenges facing the nation as it
embarked on the path of modernization.
--Paul R. Josephson, [1]Red Atom: Russia's Nuclear Power
Program From Stalin to Today

He considered education "the great panacea" and insisted
that access to knowledge was the key to all social
--Diane Ravitch, [2]Left Back: A Century of Failed School

I do not want to overstate the benefits of dialogue. Though
I believe it sometimes has almost magical properties, it is
not a panacea for all the problems that ail us.
--Daniel Yankelovich, [3]The Magic of Dialogue:
Transforming Conflict Into Cooperation

Panacea derives from Greek panakeia, from panakes,
all-healing, from pan-, all + akos, cure.

Word of the Day for Thursday November 28, 2002

repast \rih-PAST\, noun:
Something taken as food; a meal.

This repast could scarcely have been digested before a
"tea" of fresh bread, butter, cheese, cold meat, and cake
was served at half past six.
--Joan Druett, [1]Hen Frigates

On June 1, 1563, in Basel, Thomas sat down to a meal,
probably the evening repast.
--Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, [2]The Beggar and the Professor
(translated by Arthur Goldhammer)

When staying with friends in American in 1949, the
philosopher demanded bread and cheese at all meals. Every
time the dull repast was laid before him, he would exclaim,
as if for the first time, "Hot diggetty!", a phrase he had
picked up from the movies.
--Bee Wilson, "Stomach tracts," [3]New Statesman, January
8, 1999

Repast comes from Old French repaistre, "to feed," from Latin
re- + pascere, "to feed." It is related to pasture, "the grass
grown for the feeding of grazing animals, or the land used for

As a verb it means "to take food; to feast."

Word of the Day for Tuesday November 26, 2002

practicable \PRAK-tik-uh-buhl\, adjective:
1. Capable of being done, accomplished, or put into practice;
feasible; as, "a practicable method; a practicable aim."
2. Capable of being used; usable.

The authors give easy-to-follow instructions on coping with
a whole ham leg, and so many ways to cook with it that the
project even seems practicable.
--Corby Kummer, "Ham & Beans to the Rescue," [1]The
Atlantic, February 16, 2000

It was considered best to baptise the child on the same day
as its birth, if such haste were practicable, since an
infant unbaptised would be consigned to limbo after its
--Peter Ackroyd, [2]The Life of Thomas More

Contemporary wireless sets, dependent on sources of energy
too large and heavy to be useful militarily outside
warships, were not practicable tools of command in the
--John Keegan, [3]The First World War

Practicable derives from Late Latin practicare, "to act; to
practice," from practicus, from Greek praktikos, "able in; fit
for; doing; active," from prassein, "to do; to do habitually."

Word of the Day for Friday November 22, 2002

hale \HAYL\, adjective:
Free from disease and weakening conditions; healthy.

Uncle Charles was a hale old man with a well tanned skin,
rugged features and white side whiskers.
--James Joyce, [1]A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The person whom the traveller had so abruptly encountered
was of this kind: bluff, hale, hearty, and in a green old
age: at peace with himself, and evidently disposed to be so
with all the world.
--Charles Dickens, [2]Barnaby Rudge

Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps,
though hale and [3]sinewy.
--Emily Brontë, [4]Wuthering Heights

With his florid cheek, his compact figure smartly arrayed
in a bright-buttoned blue coat, his brisk and vigorous
step, and his hale and hearty aspect, altogether he
seemed--not young, indeed--but a kind of new contrivance of
Mother Nature in the shape of man, whom age and infirmity
had no business to touch.
--Nathanial Hawthorne, [5]The Scarlet Letter

Does not everyone, including the hale and hearty, have the
right to choose the timing and manner of their own death?
--"Let death be my dominion," [6]The Economist, October 14,

Hale comes from Middle English hal, related to [7]whole. The
alliterative phrase hale and hearty is often applied to older
persons who retain the health and vigor of youth.

Synonyms: fit, healthy, robust, sound, well. [8]Find more at

Word of the Day for Thursday November 14, 2002

fealty \FEE-uhl-tee\, noun:
1. Fidelity to one's lord; the feudal obligation by which the
tenant or vassal was bound to be faithful to his lord.
2. The oath by which this obligation was assumed.
3. Fidelity; allegiance; faithfulness.

He was re-elected Governor in 1855, and his administration
of the State affairs, both in that and the preceding term
of office, was marked by a regard for the public interest
rather than party fealty.
--"Andrew Johnson Dead," [1]New York Times, August 1, 1875

Barbour believed Christian conservatives represented a
critical constituency, and he looked for opportunities to
display his fealty to them.
--Dan Balz and Ronald Brownstein, [2]Storming the Gates

The aristocratic O'Sullivans were enriched in return for
their promise of fealty to the mighty Democratic party and
its rising new leader.
--Edward L. Widmer, [3]Young America

Whether exploited by traditional religions or political
religions, psychological totalism -- the unquestioning
fealty to one God, one truth, and one right, embodied in
one faith, one cause, one party -- has everywhere provided
the tinder of persecution.
--Jack Beatty, "The Tyranny of Belief," [4]The Atlantic,
September 13, 2000

Fealty comes from Old French fealté, from Latin fidelitas,
"fidelity," from fidelis, "faithful," from fides, "faith,"
from fidere, "to trust."

Word of the Day for Wednesday November 13, 2002

impassive \im-PASS-iv\, adjective:
1. Devoid of or unsusceptible to emotion.
2. Showing no sign of emotion or feeling; expressionless.

As before, he seemed neither happy nor unhappy. Just
utterly impassive.
--Lesley Hazleton, [1]Driving To Detroit

Yet highway troopers, too, wore smoked glasses to mask
their emotions and thus look formidably impassive as they
delivered news as highly charged as jazz.
--Edward Hoagland, [2]Compass Points

He was a slight, kindly man, his impassive face sculpted
with deep furrows, who held himself very erect and had a
demeanor which suggested a degree of resigned boredom from
having taught the same unchanging discipline year after
year to each new class of medical students.
--Frances K. Conley, M.D., [3]Walking Out on the Boys

Still, he remained impassive and unexcited, even when
informed of the death of Helen Jewett.
--Patricia Cline Cohen, [4]The Murder of Helen Jewett

Impassive is derived from Latin in-, "not" + passivus,
"subject to emotion," from passus, past participle of pati,
"to suffer."

Word of the Day for Friday November 8, 2002

matutinal \muh-TOOT-nn-uhl\, adjective:
Relating to or occurring in the morning; early.

Get up early and wash your face in the matutinal May Day
dew; it will make your skin beautiful and your heart pure.
--Ray Murphy, "Hurray, Hurray the Month of May," [1]Boston
Globe, April 28, 1988

We had to rehearse at an hour at which no actor or actress
has been out of bed within the memory of man; and we
sardonically congratulated one another every morning on our
rosy matutinal looks and the improvement wrought by our
early rising in our health and characters.
--George Bernard Shaw, "The Author's Apology," [2]Mrs.
Warren's Profession

Even your average Chinese peasant will add a soupçon of
pork fat to her matutinal bowl of rice.
--Will Self, "Raw and cooked," [3]The Observer, April 21,

Harry Truman, was - like Winston Churchill - known to take
a matutinal shot of whisky. He did it after his regular
very vigorous early-morning walk.
--R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., "Plainly presidential," [4]The
Washington Times, January 18, 2002

Word of the Day for Wednesday November 6, 2002

circumambient \sur-kuhm-AM-bee-uhnt\, adjective:
Surrounding; being on all sides; encompassing.

The self owes its form and perhaps its very existence to
the circumambient social order.
--Rom Harre, Personal Being: A Theory for Individual

Facing reality, then, implies accepting one's essential
powerlessness, yielding or adjusting to circumambient
forces, taking solace in some local pattern or order that
one has created and to which one has become habituated.
--Yi-Fu Tuan, [1]Escapism

It's a voice that does something physical to me, that jumps
out of the circumambient air and seizes hold of me like a
thing that lives off the blood of other things.
--T.C. Boyle, [2]A Friend of the Earth

Romantic love... rarefies lust into an angelic standoff,
a fruitless longing without which our energizing
circumambient dreamland of song, film and fiction would be
bereft of its main topic.
--John Updike, "The Deadly Sins/Lust," [3]New York Times,
June 20, 1993

Circumambient is from Latin circum, "around, round about, on
all sides" + ambire, "to go around, to surround," from amb-,
"on both sides, around" + ire, "to go."

Word of the Day for Tuesday October 29, 2002

ersatz \AIR-sahts; UR-sats\, adjective:
Being a substitute or imitation, usually an inferior one.

Meanwhile, a poor copy was erected in the courtyard; many
an unsuspecting traveler paid homage to that ersatz
--Edith Pearlman, "Girl and Marble Boy," [1]The Atlantic,
December 29, 1999

All we can create in that way is an ersatz culture, the
synthetic product of those factories we call variously
universities, colleges or museums.
--Sir Herbert Read, The Philosophy of Modern Art

Then there was the sheaf of hostile letters larded with
ersatz sympathy, strained sarcasm or pure spite.
--"Time for GAA to become a persuader," [2]Irish Times,
Monday, April 13, 1998

Ersatz derives from German Ersatz, "a substitute."
Word of the Day for Sunday October 6, 2002:

chthonic (THONE-ik), adjective:
dwelling in or under the earth; also, pertaining to the

"Driven by dæmonic, chthonic Powers." --T.S. Eliot

"The chthonic divinity was essentially a god of the regions
under the earth; at first of the dark home of the seed,
later on of the still darker home of the dead." --C. F.

"The chthonic imagery of Norine's apartment, which..was
black as a coalhole and heated by the furnace of the
hostess' unslaked desires." --M. McCarthy

"Two great and contrasted forms of ritual: the Olympian and
the Chthonic, the one a ritual of cheerful character, the
other a ritual of gloom, and fostering superstition."

Chthonic comes from khthón, the Greek word for earth.
Word of the Day for Thursday October 3, 2002

venial \VEE-nee-uhl; VEEN-yuhl\, adjective:
Capable of being forgiven; not heinous; excusable; pardonable.

Look less severely on a venial error.
--Jean Racine, [1]Phaedra (translated by Robert Bruce

His mistake might in other circumstances have seemed a
venial one.
--Michael Knox Beran, [2]The Last Patrician

Committing adultery was a mortal sin, while eating meat on
Fridays was a venial sin.
--Sheryl McCarthy, "O'Connor Proposal for Meatless Day Is
Thoughtless," [3]Newsday, August 12, 1996

Venial comes from Latin venia, "grace, indulgence, favor." It
is not to be confused with venal, which means "capable of
being bought; salable; open to bribery," and comes from Latin
venum, "sale."

Word of the Day for Tuesday October 1, 2002

parsimonious \par-suh-MOH-nee-uhs\, adjective:
Sparing in expenditure; frugal to excess.

His mother became increasingly parsimonious over the years,
and even if there were a good doctor around she did not
like to pay one.
--Willard Sterne Randall, [1]George Washington: A Life

Lehmann was famously parsimonious, and used postwar
shortages as a cover for his economies.
--John Richardson, [2]The Sorcerer's Apprentice

He was extremely parsimonious with his words, parceling
them out softly in a deliberate monotone as if each were a
precious gem never to be squandered.
--Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, [3]Crystal Fire

Parsimonious is the adjective form of parsimony, from Latin
parsimonia, "thrift, parsimony," from parsus, past participle
of parcere, "to spare, to be sparing, to economize."

Word of the Day for Monday September 30, 2002

concatenation \kon-kat-uh-NAY-shuhn; kuhn-\, noun:
A series of links united; a series or order of things
depending on each other, as if linked together; a chain, a

But at this stage the accident appears to have been just
that, a dreadful concatenation of random events.
--"Dreadfully random," [1]The Guardian, March 1, 2001

She invested a variety of significances in the word
"there," a concatenation of linked associations with space,
time, and place too.
--Nuruddin Farah, [2]Secrets

To most people the point she plays most brilliantly is the
episode, which in the novel is merely one of the links in
the concatenation of the plot, but in the short story is
the form and substance, the very thing itself.
--Henry Dwight Sedgwick, "The Novels of Mrs. Wharton,"
[3]The Atlantic, August 1906

The process of fossilization and discovery is a
concatenation of chance built upon chance. It's amazing
that anything ever becomes a fossil at all.
--Henry Gee, [4]In Search of Deep Time

Concatenation is from Late Latin concatenatio, from
concatenare, "to chain together," from Latin con-, "with,
together" + catena, "a chain, a series."

I am not yet decided as to what shall go here as also how to go about it but one thing is sure, i want to make it something like online reference for words or atleast something nice like that say like dictionary.com reference....
So to begin with I shall copy paste the scores of words a day that are accumulated on my subscriptions account (taking a cue from Rishikesh's way...), maybe this is not entirely good idea but there's no other better way I could think of, so suggestions are welcomed...

Friday, May 30, 2003

Hi again the bloggers!

This was one of the tasks pending on my todo list from a real long time (atleast couple of years) to start archiving the words on my own url. Please feel free to start adding what u feel shall come here...

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