salutary \SAL-yuh-ter-ee\ (adjective) - 1 : Producing or contributing to a beneficial effect; beneficial; advantageous. 2 : Wholesome; healthful; promoting health.
"Though their presence was often exasperating to the enthusiasts, it was salutary, for it was a guarantee against extravagance and against tyranny." -- Olaf Stapledon, 'Last and ...Read more
remunerate \rih-MYOO-nuh-rate\ (transitive verb) - 1 : To pay an equivalent to for any service, loss, or expense; to recompense. 2 : To compensate for; to make payment for.
"She would remunerate me handsomely; since yesterday's pay scales seem quaint today, and today's are likely to seem quaint tomorrow, I'll put my remuneration in terms of ...Read more
aplomb \uh-PLOM\ (noun) - Assurance of manner or of action; self-possession; confidence; coolness.
"His initial broadcasting success was due at least as much to his considerable professional aplomb as it was to his father's broadcasting connections." -- John A. Jackson, 'American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire' ...Read more
unguent \UNG-gwuhnt\ (noun) - A salve for sores, burns, or the like; an ointment.
"Mara quickly smoothed a sweet smelling unguent over Tallis' burns and his pain from them was much lessened."
Unguent comes from Latin unguentum, from unguere, "to anoint."
fossick \FA-sik\ (verb) - 1 : To search for gold in a disorganized manner, especially in abandoned mines. 2 : To fossick about: to rummage around for something, to nose about.
"Jason's dog was wont to spend his days fossicking about the yard searching for the bones of past years as if, in reclaiming them, he could reclaim the happier days ...Read more
beacon \BEE-kuhn\ (noun) - 1 : A signaling or guiding device, such as a lighthouse, located on a coast. 2 : A radio transmitter that emits a characteristic guidance signal for aircraft. 3 : A source of guidance or inspiration. 4 : A signal fire, especially one used to warn of an enemy's approach.
(verb tr.) - To provide with or shine as a ...Read more
punctilious \puhnk-TIL-ee-uhs\ (adjective) - Strictly attentive to the details of form in action or conduct; precise; exact in the smallest particulars.
"He was neat and punctilious, and his character was reflected in a neat and punctilious office. Pens and papers were laid out on his desk with geometric precision." -- Anne Perry, 'Thou Shalt ...Read more
clarion \KLAIR-ee-uhn\ (noun) - 1 : A kind of trumpet having a clear and shrill note. 2 : The sound of this instrument or a sound similar to it.
(adjective) - 1 : Sounding like the clarion; loud and clear.
"His voice and laugh, which perpetually re-echoed through the Custom-House, had nothing of the tremulous quaver and cackle of an old man's ...Read more
bushwa \BUSH-wa\ (noun) - Nonsense or bull.
"The tone of Peterson's remarks suggested some sort of bushwa that the company had never before moved social policy along by taking into account changing social mores."
Of uncertain origin. Perhaps a mispronunciation of bourgeois.
amative \AM-uh-tiv\ (adjective) - Pertaining to or disposed to love, especially sexual love; full of love; amorous.
"Theoretically, any given left-kisser should meet more right-kissers and, over an amative lifetime, or even good year in junior high, be subtly pressured to shift to the right in order to land a wet one -- or just avoid a broken ...Read more
onus \OH-nuhs\ (noun) - 1 : A burden; an obligation; a disagreeable necessity. 2 : a: A stigma. b: Blame. 3 : The burden of proof.
"The engineer was not as much fun to be with as he once was, and she thought that it might be the terrible onus of repairing the engines that weighed upon him." -- Michael Flynn, 'The Wreck of the River of Stars
abstruse \ab-STROOS; uhb-\ (adjective) - Difficult to comprehend or understand.
"When Tony Gate's critical sire had come up from Boston to watch his boy play Fluellen at a rehearsal and had taken him and Ronny out for supper, he offered the argument that the play contained Shakespeare's hidden pacifism and that King Henry's seizin on an abtruse...Read more
excursus \ ik-SKUR-sus \ (noun) - 1 : A dissertation that is appended to a work and that contains a more extended exposition of some important point or topic. 2 : A digression.
"Sometimes, however, Mr. Honan's historical digressions wander far away from Jane Austen's concerns. An excursus on George III's insanity has precious little to do with...Read more
pseudophake \S(Y)U-deh-feyk\ (noun) - A person who has had the natural lenses of his/her eyes replaced with artificial ones.
"I'm sorry to have to say this, but Grandpa has been living the life of a complete pseudophake for five years."
This piece of medical jargon is a back-formation from the adjective "pseudophakic," meaning "pertaining ...Read more
wake \WEYK\ (verb) - 1 : To regain or cause someone to regain consciousness from sleep; 2 : to become aware of something previously ignored.
"By the time Lemmy awoke to the changes of the 60s, it was the mid 70s and he was still ironing creases in his jeans."
Today's word comes from Old English wacan, "to wake up" and wacian "to be awake, ...Read more
bagatelle \bag-uh-TEL\ (noun) - 1 : A trifle; a thing of little or no importance. 2 : A short, light musical or literary piece. 3 : A game played with a cue and balls on an oblong table having cups or arches at one end.
"My wife and I have naturally simple tastes, and we used to play bagatelle in the evening. When the new servant saw us at it ...Read more
fallible \FAL-uh-bul\ (adjective) - 1 : Liable to make a mistake. 2 : Liable to be inaccurate or erroneous.
"You are human and fallible... The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted." -- Charlotte Bronte, "Jane Eyre'
Fallible derives from Medieval Latin fallibilis, from ...Read more
"Physician, heal thyself!"
When I see that subject line in my email inbox, I know exactly what's coming: a message from an eagle-eyed reader noting a typo or other error in my column.
Can you spot my mistakes?
No. 1: Someone watching cows chewing their cud was reminded of a person mulling over an idea.
No. 2: The little flash of light that...Read more
mountebank \MOUN-tuh-bank\ (noun) - 1 : A peddler of quack medicine, who stands on a platform to appeal to the audience. 2 : A charlatan; a boastful pretender to knowledge or a skill.
"I am God's mountebank, doing God's precious business in my own way. But God's precious business cannot be carried on, even by a mountebank, without money..." -- ...Read more
Cockaigne \kah-KAYN\ (noun) - An imaginary land of ease and luxury.
"While analogues exist between the literary genre and other utopic forms, Utopian literature is not: myth, fantasy, folktale, Cockaigne or Earthly Paradise..." -- Alexandra Aldridge, 'The Scientific World in Dystopia'
Cockaigne comes from Middle English cokaygne, from Middle ...Read more