カテゴリ:MW( 64 )

gadfly • \GAD-flye\

1 : any of various flies (as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock
*2 : a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism

Example Sentence:
Robert, the self-appointed gadfly of the local paper, would write a scathing letter to the editor whenever he felt the news coverage had been inadequate or inaccurate.

Did you know?
The history of "gadfly" starts with "gad," which now means "chisel" but which formerly could designate a spike, spear, or rod for goading cattle. Late in the 16th century, "gad" was joined with "fly" to designate any of several insects that aggravate livestock. Before too long, we began applying "gadfly" to people who annoy or provoke others. One of history's most famous gadflies was the philosopher Socrates, who was known for his constant questioning of his fellow Athenians' ethics, misconceptions, and assumptions. In his Apology, Plato describes Socrates' characterization of Athens as a large and sluggish horse and of Socrates himself as the fly that bites and rouses it. Many translations use "gadfly" in this portion of the Apology, and Socrates is sometimes referred to as the "gadfly of Athens."
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-29 21:50 | MW

sitzmark • \SITS-mark\

: a depression left in the snow by a skier falling backward

Example Sentence:
Proper skiing etiquette dictates that a skier who falls in the middle of a trail should smooth over his or her sitzmark so it won't pose a hazard to other skiers.

Did you know?
On the slopes, do you zip down the mountain leaving other skiers in your wake? Or are you more likely to leave a trail of sitzmarks behind you? If the latter is true, you may want to give your backside a break and plop down into a comfy chair in the ski lodge instead of plunking back onto the snow. Either way, you'll find yourself sitting on your derriere, a fact you can use to remember "sitzmark." It is most likely a creation made in English from the German verb "sitzen," meaning "to sit," plus the English noun "mark," as in "impression."
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-29 21:49 | MW

nebula • \NEB-yuh-luh\

*1 : any of numerous clouds of gas or dust in interstellar space

2 : galaxy; especially : a galaxy other than the Milky Way

Example Sentence:
The brilliant colors of the nebula were visible through the telescope.

Did you know?
The history of today's word is not lost in the mists of time, although its history does get misty at points. "Nebula" comes to us from Latin, where it meant "mist" or "cloud." In its earliest English uses in the 1600s, "nebula" referred to a cloudy speck or film on the eye that caused vision problems. It was first applied to great interstellar clouds of gas and dust in the early 1700s. The adjective "nebulous" comes from the same Latin root as "nebula," but the first uses of "nebulous" don't appear in English until the late 1700s, well after the discovery of interstellar nebulae.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-29 21:48 | MW

haplology • \hap-LAH-luh-jee\

: contraction of a word by omission of one or more similar sounds or syllables

Example Sentence:
Johnny's teacher, determined to stomp out any instances of haplology in her classroom, corrected him every time he pronounced "probably" as "problee."

Did you know?
Try to say "pierced-ear earrings" three times fast. That exercise will demonstrate why haplology happens: sometimes it's just easier to drop a syllable and leave yourself with something that's easier to say (such as "pierced earrings"). American philologist Maurice Bloomfield recognized the tendency to drop one of a pair of similar syllables a little over a hundred years ago. He has been credited with joining the combining form "hapl-" or "haplo-" (meaning "single") with "-logy" (meaning "oral or written expression") to create "haplology" as a name for the phenomenon. Haplology is quite common in English, and often the contracted forms it generates spread into the written language. In fact, haplology played a role in naming the nation that is the cradle of English: "England" was condensed via haplology from "Engla land."
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-14 01:51 | MW

scission • \SIZH-un\

*1 : a division or split in a group or union : schism
2 : an action or process of cutting, dividing, or splitting : the state of being cut, divided, or split

Example Sentence:
Despite the bitter scissions that divided their party, the Republicans dominated the state's political scene throughout the 1990s.

Did you know?
You may suspect that a connection exists between "scission" and "scissors," but, actually, their etymologies are sharply divided. "Scission" traces to the Latin verb "scindere" ("to split" or "to cut"). "Scissors," on the other hand, comes from an entirely separate Latin verb that also means "to cut" -- "caedere." The Middle English word for the cutting instrument was "cisours" or "sisoures," which comes from Middle French "cisoires." An "sc" spelling appeared only in the 16th century when, apparently, the word for the cutting instrument was mistakenly taken to have derived, like "scission," from "scindere."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-12 18:17 | MW

luminary • \LOO-muh-nair-ee\

*1 : a person of prominence or brilliant achievement

2 : a body that gives light; especially : one of the celestial bodies

Example Sentence:
The front of the science building is engraved with the names of luminaries from various scientific disciplines.

Did you know?
Allow us to shed some light on "luminary." It came to English by way of Anglo-French and Late Latin, and it traces back to the Latin word "lumen," meaning "light." Other "lumen" descendants in English include "illuminate" (to light up), "luminous" (emitting light) and "phillumenist" (one who collects matchbooks or matchbox labels). "Luminary" has been shining its light in English since the 15th century.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-12 18:16 | MW

pamphleteer • \pam-fluh-TEER\

*1 : to write and publish pamphlets

2 : to engage in partisan arguments indirectly in writings

Example Sentence:
Though he is remembered today for his novels and essays, George Orwell was also known to pamphleteer for causes important to him.

Did you know?
Pamphlets, unbound printed publications with no covers or with paper covers, are published about all kinds of subjects, but our word "pamphlet" traces back to one particular document. It derives from the title of a short Latin love poem of the 12th century: Pamphilus, seu De Amore, which can be translated as "Pamphilus, or On Love." The name Pamphilus referred to a Greek god whose name means "loved by all." Following from this, the original pamphlets were short handwritten poems, tracts, or treatises, often consisting of several pages bound together. "Pamphleteer," which can be both a noun and a verb, combines "pamphlet" with the "-eer" suffix found in such words as "engineer" and "puppeteer."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-12 18:12 | MW

cohort • \KOH-hort\

1 a : one of 10 divisions of an ancient Roman legion
*b : band, group
c : a group of individuals having a statistical factor (as age or class membership) in common in a demographic study

2 : companion, colleague

Example Sentence:
"A cohort of chambermaids would descend twice daily with mops, brooms, and fresh towels in tow." (Doone Beale, Gourmet, April 1989)

Did you know?
In ancient times, a cohort was a military unit, one of ten divisions in a Roman legion. The term passed into English via French in the 15th century, when it was used in translations and writings about Roman history. Once "cohort" became established in our language, its meaning was extended, first to refer to any body of troops, then to any group of individuals with something in common, and later to a single companion. Some usage commentators have objected to this last sense because it can be hard to tell whether the plural refers to different individuals or different groups. The "companion" sense is well established in standard use, however, and its meaning is clear enough in such sentences as "her cohorts came along with her to the game."

*Indicates the sense illustrated by the example sentence.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-03 02:25 | MW

assuage • \uh-SWAYJ\

*1 : to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses) : ease

2 : pacify, quiet

3 : to put an end to by satisfying : appease, quench

Example Sentence:
After her son's first fender bender, Patty tried to assuage his feelings of humiliation by sharing tales of her own misadventures behind the wheel.

Did you know?
Scholars assume that the word "assuage" derives from "assuaviare," a Vulgar Latin term that combines the prefix "ad-" ("to" or "toward") and the Latin "suavis," meaning "sweet," "pleasant," or "agreeable."("Suavis" is also the source of the adjective "suave.") To "assuage" is to sweeten or make agreeable or tolerable, and it is far from the only English word for relieving or softening something difficult. Others include "allay," "alleviate," and "mitigate." "Allay" implies an effective calming or soothing of fears or alarms, while "alleviate" implies temporary or partial lessening of pain or distress. "Mitigate" suggests moderating or countering the force or intensity of something painful.

*Indicates the sense illustrated by the example sentence.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-02 00:43 | MW

jehu • \JEE-hyoo\

: a driver of a coach or cab

Example Sentence:
The jehu who picked us up from the hotel got us to the airport in plenty of time, but his reckless driving gave us more of an adventure than we would have liked.

Did you know?
Today's word comes from the name of a notoriously speedy chariot driver. Originally a commander of chariots for Ahab, king of Israel, Jehu later led a revolt against the throne and became king himself. In the Bible, it is noted of Jehu that "he drives furiously" (II Kings 9:20). In the 17th century, English speakers began using "jehu" as a generic term meaning "coachman" or, specifically, "a fast or reckless coachman." Today, we are more likely to use the word in reference to reckless cabdrivers. The phrase "drives like Jehu" is encountered occasionally, too.
[PR]
by scummy | 2008-02-01 03:58 | MW

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