undervote \EHN-dehr-vot\ (noun) - A ballot missing one or more votes for specific offices that (usually) do not invalidate voting for other offices on the same ballot.
"In the election of 2000, the Gore campaign argued that many intended votes were not counted because of mechanical failure and were hence erroneously included ...Read more
eke \eek (verb) - To increase, supplement, to fill out; to barely gain even through hard work. ("Eke" is eke an archaic adverb meaning "also.")
"After dating her for seven years, Johnson could eke very little joy out of Gladys' marriage to his erstwhile friend, Jennings."
Old English ecan from Old Germanic *aukjan, related...Read more
atrabilious \ae-treh-BI-li-ehs\ (adjective) - Peevishly gloomy; melancholic in the original sense of the word and exhibiting a proclivity for hypochondria.
"Don't waste your jokes on Jacobsen, as that atrabilious old goat has no sense of humor."
The medieval assumption was that a superfluity of black bile (atrabile) caused ...Read more
immanent \I-meh-nehnt\ (adjective) - 1 : Permanently in-dwelling, inherent. 2 : Mental, subjective, residing in the mind only. Antonym: transcendent "beyond human knowledge."
"Steven felt that he might be guilty of an immanent affection for his best friend's wife, Sallie, as he was certain that his affection's target was ...Read more
unique \yu-NEEK\ (adjective) - Sole, one of a kind, without equal or match.
"Going out with Mary Ellen to the county sausage-eating contest was an almost unique experience in my life."
Today's word comes to us, as so many others, from Latin "unicus" via Old French. The underlying root is oi-no- from which English "one" is ...Read more
lacuna \leh-KU-neh\ (noun) - A cavity or hollow; a hiatus or gap left by a missing part.
"Every mention my friend Jason made of his political campaign last fall resulted in a lengthy lacuna in the conversation at the New Year's Eve party."
From Latin lacuna "pool, pond, cavity, gap" from lacus "lake." "Lacuna" became French "...Read more
snollygoster \SNA-li-gah-stehr\ (noun) - (Regional slang) An unscrupulous but shrewd person; a hob-goblin that preys on naughty boys, girls and poultry (sometimes called a "snallygaster").
"Horace hired some snollygoster to put siding on his house and now it's falling off and Horace can't find him anywhere."
In some areas of ...Read more
meshuga \meh-SHU-geh\ (adjective) - (Affectionate) Crazy, nutty, absent-minded.
"You can't parachute from the roof with an umbrella! Where did you get a meshuga idea like that?!"
Yiddish "meshuge" from Hebrew mesuggah "maddened, crazed" participle of suggah "to be mad, crazy." The noun is meshugaas "craziness" and a crazy ...Read more
Show TimePhil Harvey
Starvation & freezing temperatures aren't as deadly as profit-hungry producers and fellow competitors. Future viewing audiences have become entirely dependent on sensation to escape their workaday lives. Now, TV execs have created the ultimate reality show: Seven misfits, each bearing the...
maven \MEY-vn\ (noun) - An expert or connoisseur; someone with profound knowledge of a subject.
"Hesh was the local maven of 60's era music, with an extensive record library and reference books."
Yiddish "meyvn" from Hebrew meebin "expert," active participle of heebin "to understand," derived stem of the radical bn "discern, ...Read more
segue \SEG-way\ (verb) - To proceed without pause from one musical piece to another; to make a transition without interruption.
"From a critique of Kant's categorical imperative Ramsey segued into a story about his last trout-fishing trip, leaving most of us behind and a bit befuddled."
Today's word was lifted directly from ...Read more
iconoclast \eye-KAHN-eh-klaest\ (noun) - Someone who attacks or violates cherished beliefs and institutions; someone who destroys sacred images.
"Igor Stravinsky was an iconoclastic composer and Pablo Picasso, an artistic iconoclast, as both broke cherished ideals of what art and music were supposed to be in order to blaze new...Read more
exergy \EK-sehr-jee\ (noun) - Potential energy to do work; the useful capacity of an energy source to perform work.
"Anita has enough exergy to fill two positions like the one she currently occupies."
A recent neologism by analogy with "energy," from Greek energeia, the noun from energos "active." Today's word would be based ...Read more
sisyphean \sis-seh-FEE-ehn\ (adjective) - Endlessly laborious and futile; also, related to Sisyphus, as "the Sisyphean story."
"Pleasing everyone in the office was a Sisyphean task that Courtney no longer took seriously."
Greek "Sisupheios" from Sisuphos "Sisyphus," the eponym of today's word. For Sisyphus's misdeeds, Zeus ...Read more
chaste \cheyst\ (adjective) - Morally pure, decent and modest; celibate, virginal; pure or austere in design.
"Hillbourne strove to chasten his mind with scotch and classical music when he sat down to work on his novel."
From Old French "chaste," descended from Latin castigare, derived from castus "pure." The PIE root, kes- "...Read more
abeyance \eh-BEY-ehnts\ (noun) - Suspension, temporary inactivity; also, a lapse in succession between political leaders or a legal condition of non-ownership, when ownership of an estate has not been assigned.
"The executive board meeting was left in abeyance when the police arrested the chairman."
This word comes to us most...Read more
oeuvre \OO-vreh\ (noun) - A creative work or body of creative work.
"The complete oeuvre of Picasso spans many periods and schools of art."
Today's word was borrowed so recently from French, we have not yet resolved its pronunciation in English. It devolved from Latin opera "works," the plural of "opus." Sanskrit apas "work" ...Read more
misoneism \mi-seh-NEE-i-zehm\ (noun) - Fear of novelty, newness or innovation.
"Never one to embrace electronic communications, Eric was the sort of misoneist who still only has snail mail."
From Italian misoneismo from Greek miso- "hatred" + neos "new." The Greek stem miso- is found in several English words, including ...Read more
martinet \mar-tehn-ET\ (noun) - An unreasonably harsh and unyielding disciplinarian; an extreme stickler for detail and form.
"Elliot is such a martinet in the office you could cut the tension with a knife."
The eponym of today's word is Jean Martinet, 17th century French army officer and Inspector-General of the Infantry ...Read more
ascetic \eh-SE-tik\ (noun) - Someone who, for spiritual reasons, rejects material comforts in favor of an austere life of abstinence and self-denial, usually as a hermit.
"Genius is always ascetic; and piety and love. Appetite shows to the finer souls as a disease." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from the first sermon of his essays
I love palindromes! Or, to put that another way, "Sem ord nil ape. Voli!"
What's a palindrome?
Though the word "palindrome" sounds as if it might refer to a sports arena where good friends race bicycles, "palindrome" actually denotes any word, phrase or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.
"Palindrome" derives from the Greek ...Read more