Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

finito

[ fi-nee-toh ]

adjective

Informal.

finished; ended.

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What is the origin of finito?

When the ball drops at midnight on December 31, you can say the year is finito. It’s “finished; ended.” It’s done. Over with. Finito is an informal adjective borrowed directly from the past participle of Italian finire, from Latin fīnīre “to end, finish, limit,” source (via French) of English finish. Latin fīnīre is based on the noun fīnis “end, utmost limit, highest post,” ultimate source of such English words as fine, final, and finite. In French, Latin fīnis became fin “end.” Viewers of French cinema may recognize this term as displayed at the conclusion of a film: Fin, “The End.” Finito entered English in the mid-1900s.

how is finito used?

It’s done. Over. Finished. Finito.

Herbert Muschamp, "Puppet Regime," New York Times, October 10, 2004

The experiment was done. Lesson learned. Finito.

Gregory Spatz, "Any Landlord's Dream," New England Review, Vol. 26, No. 3, 2005

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Word of the day

Monday, December 30, 2019

retrospection

[ re-truh-spek-shuhn ]

noun

the action, process, or faculty of looking back on things past.

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What is the origin of retrospection?

Retrospection, and the slightly earlier noun retrospect, are based on retrospect-, past participle stem of New Latin retrōspicere “to look,” based on Latin adverb retrō “backward, back, behind” and specere “to look (at).” Retrospection, then, is the act of looking back, as many do when reflecting at the end of the year. The stem retrospect– may be partly based on (pro)spect, from Latin prōspectus “outlook, view,” composed of prō “before, in front of, for” and the same specere. Latin specere is the ultimate source of many English words involving various senses of “looking”: aspect, circumspect, expect, inspect, introspect, spectacular, and suspect, among many others. Retrospection entered English in the early 1600s.

how is retrospection used?

Every separate day in the year is a gift presented to only one man—the happiest one … and it often happens that he recognizes his day only in retrospection

Vladimir Nabokov, "The Potato Elf," A Russian Beauty and Other Stories, 1973

He was roused from the reverie of retrospection and regret produced by it …

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

Word of the day

Sunday, December 29, 2019

gawsy

[ gaw-see ]

adjective

Scot. and North England.

(of people) well-dressed and of cheerful appearance.

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What is the origin of gawsy?

Gawsy is an adjective found in Scottish and Northern English dialect between the early 1700 and 1900s. When describing people, gawsy means “well-dressed and of cheerful appearance,” as in “The gawsy, outgoing couple lit up the room when they arrived at the party.” When describing things, gawsy means “large and handsome,” as in “The festivities were hosted in a glittering, gawsy ballroom.” The origin of gawsy is obscure. The word is perhaps a variant of gaudy “brilliantly or excessively showy,” and may feature the suffix –sy, which can form adjectives that imply that the given quality is an affectation, as seen in artsy or folksy. Gawsy may also be connected to the obsolete verb gawe “to gape, stare” and Scottish adjective gash “shrewd; well-dressed; neat; imposing.”

how is gawsy used?

Mrs M’Vicar … was withal a gawsy and furthy woman, taking great pleasure in hospitality, and every sort of kindliness and discretion.

John Galt, Annals of the Parish, 1821

He comes steppin’ muckle and braw and gawsy up to the door …

S. R. Crockett, The Dark o' the Moon, 1902

Word of the day

Saturday, December 28, 2019

réchauffé

[ French rey-shoh-fey ]

noun

a warmed-up dish of food.

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What is the origin of réchauffé?

Réchauffé is “a warmed-up dish of food,” as made from leftovers. Figuratively, réchauffé can mean “anything old or stale brought into service again,” like a rehashed idea. It comes directly from French réchauffé “reheated.” Réchauffé is the past participle of réchauffer “to warm up, reheat,” composed of r(e)– “again” and échauffer “to overheat.” échauffer is related to Middle French, Old French chaufer (modern French chauffer) “to warm,” ultimately from Latin cal(e)facere “to make hot,” equivalent to cale– (stem of calēre “to be hot”) and facere “to make.” Middle French chaufer is the source of English chafe “to wear or abrade by rubbing,” originally “to warm, heat.” The historic sense of chafe survives, to return to the culinary realm, in chafing dish, a device that consists of a metal dish with a lamp or heating appliance beneath it, used for cooking food or keeping it hot at the table. Réchauffé entered English at the end of the 1700s.

how is réchauffé used?

Spry hints at the humble origins of the dish, noting that ”Now, more commonly, this dish is a rechauffe”—reheated leftovers ….

Janet Bukovinsky, "Weekend Lunch: The New Formality," New York Times Magazine, October 26, 1986

The most artistic réchauffé will lose its charm if repeated too often …

Arthur Robert Kenny-Herbert, Culinary Jottings, 5th ed., 1885

Word of the day

Friday, December 27, 2019

shilly-shally

[ shil-ee-shal-ee ]

verb (used without object)

to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.

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What is the origin of shilly-shally?

We have no need to shilly-shally in giving the origin of this amusing term. It develops from the expression to stand shill I, shall I, a playful variation of the repeated question, shall I? shall I?—which a wishy-washy person would struggle to answer. Shilly-shally is modeled after another so-called reduplication (and near synonym), dilly-dally “to loiter or vacillate.” English is fond of such reduplications, or words formed by repeating a word or syllable. Many reduplications are exact, such as boo-boo. Others rhyme, like razzle-dazzle. Shilly-shally follows a pattern known as ablaut reduplication, in which vowels predictably alternate: chitchat, mishmash, and zigzag are other common examples. Entering English at the end of the 1600s, shilly-shally can also be a noun meaning “irresolution; hesitation; vacillation,” an adjective, “irresolute; undecided; vacillating,” and an adverb, “irresolutely.”

how is shilly-shally used?

Experience had taught him that where evil is concerned, it was better to be frank than to shilly-shally.

Anthony C. Winkler, The Family Mansion, 2013

I made my choice and stood by it. But you?shilly-shally?between both sides.

Ann Rinaldi, Finishing Becca, 1994

Word of the day

Thursday, December 26, 2019

ephemeral

[ ih-fem-er-uhl ]

adjective

lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood.

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What is the origin of ephemeral?

Something ephemeral lasts only a very short time. It derives from Greek eph?meros “short-lived, lasting but a day.” Eph?meros is ultimately based on the preposition and adverb epí “upon, up to, during,” among many other senses, and the noun hēméra “day.” In English, ephemeral originally described fevers that spanned just a day, and evolved to refer to organisms (and other things) not long for this world, including flowers or insects—like the mayfly, which is classified as an ephemerid and shuffles off this mortal coil within two days. Eph?meros is also the source of the English plural noun ephemera (singular ephemeron) “items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, especially pamphlets, notices, tickets, etc.” Ephemeral has not proved as much in English, entering in the late 1500s.

how is ephemeral used?

In this country, man’s work seems ephemeral, his influence transitory. Summer scorches the heath. Winter brings a pale damp light.

Hilary Mantel, A Change of Climate, 1994

It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life.

Katy Waldman, "Is the Internet Making Writing Better?" The New Yorker, July 26, 2019

Word of the day

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

big-hearted

[ big-hahr-tid ]

adjective

generous; kind.

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What is the origin of big-hearted?

Big-hearted “generous; kind” certainly wears its heart on its sleeve, etymologically speaking. It’s a straightforward compound of big “magnanimous; generous; kindly” and hearted “having a specified kind of heart.” While big-hearted is found in English in the 1700s in the sense of “courageous,” the word heart, as regarded as the center of a person’s emotion and disposition, reaches well back into Old English. Hearted is used in combination with other adjectives to describe various temperaments: cold-hearted, fainthearted, hardhearted, and lighthearted are some other common examples.

how is big-hearted used?

The varied gifts were ranged about the foot of the bed, the golf stockings bulging with sweets were hung at its head, and the big-hearted donors retired ….

John Kendrick Bangs, "The House of Seven Santas," The Little Book of Christmas, 1912

For his part, the Badger left him in no doubt that a small effort now, and a big-hearted gesture, would make all the difference to the life of Toad, of the River Bank and of them all.

William Horwood, The Willows at Christmas, 1999

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