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.
"'He's carrying on his father's trade, for what he has just dispensed to us is very like a nostrum,' said Stanislas, assuming one of his most provocative poses. 'If I ...Read more
abstemious \ab-STEE-mee-uhs\ (adjective) - 1 : Sparing in eating and drinking; temperate; abstinent. 2 : Sparingly used or consumed; used with temperance or moderation. 3 : Marked by or spent in abstinence.
"Lucy had suddenly realized she was ravenous and, most unlike her usual abstemious self, had taken two sausages to go with her toast and ...Read more
risible \RIZ-uh-buhl\ (adjective) - 1 : Capable of laughing; disposed to laugh. 2 : Exciting or provoking laughter; worthy of laughter; laughable; amusing. 3 : Relating to, connected with, or used in laughter; as, "risible muscles."
"The subject of these remarks was a slumbering figure, so muffled in shawl and cloak, that it would have been ...Read more
discomfit \dis-KUHM-fit; dis-kuhm-FIT\ (transitive verb) - 1 : To make uneasy or perplexed, or to put into a state of embarrassment; to disconcert; to upset. 2 : To thwart; to frustrate the plans of. 3 : (Archaic). To defeat in battle.
"A boy who can dodge over the roofs of Lahore city on a moonlight night, using every little patch and corner ...Read more
recherche \ruh-sher-SHAY\ (adjective) - 1 : Uncommon; exotic; rare. 2 : Exquisite; choice. 3 : Excessively refined; affected. 4 : Pretentious; overblown.
"She was mocking the pretensions of the cookery writer who insists on recherche ingredients not because of their qualities but their snob value." -- Angela Carter, "Shaking a Leg"
Recherche ...Read more
malversation \mal-vur-SAY-shun\ (noun) - Misconduct, corruption, or extortion in public office.
"...Lord St. Vincent... hated Pitt and his administration (and) was working to impeach Lord Melville for malversation of the secret funds and to get him out of the Admiralty." -- Patrick O'Brian, "Post Captain"
Malversation comes, via French, from ...Read more
moil \MOYL\ (intransitive verb) - 1 : To work with painful effort; to labor; to toil; to drudge. 2 : To churn or swirl about continuously.
(noun) - 1 : Toil; hard work; drudgery. 2 : Confusion; turmoil.
"Why should he toil and moil, and be at so much trouble to pick himself up out the mud, when, in a little while hence, the strong arm of his ...Read more
perfervid \puhr-FUR-vid\ (adjective) - Ardent; impassioned; marked by exaggerated or overwrought emotion.
"To court their own discomfiture by love is a common instinct with certain perfervid women, whose temerity in this respect resembles that of the daring aristocrats who, previous to the French Revolution, patronised and coquetted with the ...Read more
raiment \RAY-ment\ (noun) - Clothing in general; garments; -- usually singular in form, with a collective sense.
"When he saw the doctor coming, it was as if from a very long distance, and his white coat shone like the illumined raiment of an angel." -- Niall Williams, "As It Is In Heaven"
Raiment is from Middle English rayment, short for ...Read more
solecism \SOL-uh-siz-uhm\ (noun) - 1 : A nonstandard usage or grammatical construction; also, a minor blunder in speech. 2 : A breach of good manners or etiquette. 3 : Any inconsistency, mistake, or impropriety.
"In the grammar of their life the honeymoon was an embarrassing solecism, a misplaced modifier or dangling participle remembered ...Read more
germane \juhr-MAYN\ (adjective) - Appropriate or fitting; relevant.
"...Chloe was abroad until you - you assumed the authority to have her recalled. There is no way she can provide any information germane to your inquiry." -- Clare Curzon, "Body of a Woman"
Germane comes from Middle English germain, literally, "having the same parents," ...Read more
brackish \BRAK-ish\ (adjective) - 1 : Somewhat salty. 2 : Distasteful; unpalatable.
"As my body grew steadily larger, my craving for cheese continued and my desire for stronger and more brackish cheeses increased." -- J. Angelica, "Fermentation"
Brackish derives from Dutch brak, "salty." It is especially used to describe a mixture of seawater ...Read more
forgo \for-GO\ (transitive verb) - To abstain from; to do without. Inflected forms: forwent, forgone, forgoing, forgoes.
"Having decided to forgo the healing silence of Zen koans in her solitude, she was reading Ann Landers when Jill came in." -- Beth Gutcheon, "Five Fortunes"
Forgo derives from Old English forgan, "to go without, to forgo," ...Read more
The long winter afternoons and evenings of January invite contemplation, self-reflection, and the occasional glass of wine. So, after raising my wine glass to the New Year, here are my 10 linguistic resolutions for 2017.
--I will choose the specific word over the general word. The verb in this column's first sentence, for instance, was ...Read more
languor \LANG-guhr; LANG-uhr\ (noun) - 1 : Mental or physical weariness or fatigue. 2 : Listless indolence, especially the indolence of one who is satiated by a life of luxury or pleasure. 3 : A heaviness or oppressive stillness of the air.
"She had been particularly unwell, however, suffering from headache to a degree, which made her aunt ...Read more
pulchritude \PUL-kruh-tood; -tyood\ (noun) - That quality of appearance which pleases the eye; beauty; comeliness; grace; loveliness.
"The epitome of feminine pulchritude among the Sara of Chad was the wearing of lip plates, inserted during childhood." -- A. Adu Boahen, "The Horizon History of Africa"
Pulchritude comes from Latin pulchritudo, ...Read more
censure \SEN-shur\ (noun) - 1 : The act of blaming or finding fault with and condemning as wrong; reprehension; blame. 2 : An official reprimand or expression of disapproval.
(transitive verb) - 1 : To find fault with and condemn as wrong; to blame; to criticize severely. 2 : To express official disapproval of.
"That the Church, therefore, had...Read more
carom \KAIR-uhm\ (noun) - 1 : A rebound following a collision; a glancing off. 2 : A shot in billiards in which the cue ball successively strikes two other balls on the table.
(intransitive verb) - 1 : To strike and rebound; to glance. 2 : To make a carom.
(transitive verb) - 1 : To make (an object) bounce off something; to cause to carom.
vertiginous \vur-TIJ-uh-nuhs\ (adjective) - 1 : Affected with vertigo; giddy; dizzy. 2 : Causing or tending to cause dizziness. 3 : Turning round; whirling; revolving. 4 : Inclined to change quickly or frequently; inconstant.
"Would she have prevented him from ever scaling his vertiginous Peak? - or would she, otherwise, have been able to ...Read more
lucubration \loo-kyoo-BRAY-shun; loo-kuh-\ (noun) - 1. The act of studying by candlelight; nocturnal study; meditation. 2 : That which is composed by night; that which is produced by meditation in retirement; hence (loosely) any literary composition.
"Jean-Jacques' famous letter to Hume is, on the face of it, the lucubration of a monomaniac. It...Read more