lackaday \LAEK-eh-dey\ (adverb) - An archaic interjection used to express disapproval or regret.
"We got James's grades in the mail this afternoon. Lackaday, but that boy is lackadaisical about his studies."
Shortened from "alack the day," where "alack" was used to express alarm or disapproval. "Alack" is a form of "alas," which comes from ...Read more
landloper \LAND-lo-puhr\ (noun) - A wanderer; vagabond; vagrant ; also landlouper and landleaper
"Through a series of games and dreamlike fantasies, the dynamic of the lead character's struggle between good and evil established him as both an intellectual landloper and a truth-seeker."
From Dutch landlooper (landrunner), from land + lopen (to ...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 unaware of his feelings...Read more
sartorial \sah(r)-TOR-i-yehl\ (adjective) - Related to tailors and tailoring and, more broadly, to clothes.
"Molly couldn't imagine even the Duke of Wales bedecked in more sartorial splendor than Thomas wore that evening."
From Medieval Latin sartorius, pertaining to a sartor "clothes mender or tailor" (in classical Latin "a hoer, ...Read more
nympholepsy \NIM-feh-lep-see\ (noun) - Frenzied emotions resulting from being captured by nymphs or, for weaker souls, simply seeing them. Hence, emotional anxiety brought on by attempts to attain the unattainable.
"Years of work on his electric fork left Jennings in a state of nympholeptic angst that no psychiatrist could dissipate."
gauntlet /GANT-let/ (noun) - 1 : The glove of a suit of armor. 2 : Two lines of tormentors with flailing sticks between which someone must run as punishment or initiation.
"To get to Maude's wonderful dinner we had to run the gauntlet of Harrison's horrid before-dinner puns."
The first of today's words comes from French gantelet "glove," a ...Read more
preponderate \prih-PON-duh-rayt\ (intransitive verb) - 1 : To exceed in weight. 2 : To incline or descend, as the scale of a balance; to be weighed down. 3 : To exceed in influence, power, importance, number, amount, etc.
"As John was quick to point out, random acts of kindness still tended to preponderate over acts of incivility or nastiness."...Read more
voraginous \veh-RAE-ji-nehs\ (adjective) - 1 : Of, related to, or resembling a gorge, chasm, or abyss; 2 : voracious, ravenous: capable of ingesting as much as a chasm or abyss.
"Neil woke in the morning to discover that his car had vanished in a voraginous sinkhole that had opened up in his back yard."
The noun which gave us today's word, "...Read more
fillip \FI-lip\ (noun) - 1 : A flick of the finger, a snap made by compressing a finger behind the thumb, then releasing it so that it pops outward to strike against something; 2 : anything small and minor, either trivial, as a broken fingernail, or considerable, as a garnish or embellishment of something larger.
"Alan's love life isn't worth a...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 "lagune" and ...Read more
semitic \seh-MI-tik\ (adjective) - Pertaining to the Semites: the Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Assyrian peoples. Also pertaining to an Afro-Asiatic family of languages that includes Hebrew, Aramaic and modern Syriac, Amharic, Tigre, and others, all clearly sharing a common stock and origin.
"The on-going Middle Eastern conflict could ...Read more
During a recent NFL playoff game, veteran NBC sportscaster Al Michaels reported that an official's placement of the football had been "very fortuitous" for the Philadelphia Eagles because it had given them a first down.
For linguistic purists watching the telecast -- and yes, some of them do follow football -- Michaels' use of "fortuitous" to...Read more
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
quintessence \kwin-TES-ehns\ (noun) - The purest essence of something. Originally it was, earth, air, fire, and water, Aristotle's fifth element (thus "fifth essence;" see Etymology) of which the heavenly bodies were made and which was latent in all earthly things.
"Sally is the quintessence of a soccer mom; she takes her team out for ice ...Read more
lycanthropy \lI-KAEN-therh-pi\ (noun) - The supposed power of certain human beings to convert themselves into wolves; the belief in such power; the delusion that one has become a wolf. In other words, today's word is the scientific term for "werewolf."
"Convinced he was infected with lycanthropy, Lawrence's behavior became increasingly odd as ...Read more
arcane \ahr-KEYN\ (adjective) - Known or understood by only a few.
"Lydia's knowledge of arcane economic principles occasionally pays off."
Latin arcanus "shut up, closed" hence "secret" from arca "a chest, box", as in Ark (Arc) of the Covenant. Unrelated to arcade, which derives from Latin arcus "arch".
usufruct \YU-seh-frehkt or YU-zyu-frehkt\ (noun) - A usufruct is the right of using and receiving profits (the fruits) from a property that belongs to someone else.
"Albert married Angela in hopes of getting his hands on her ranch. He soon discovered, however, that her father had astutely gauged her ability to choose a spouse and left her a ...Read more
austral \A-strehl\ (adjective) - Of, pertaining to, or coming from the south.
"My cousin from Georgia speaks with a quaint austral accent"
A word for "southern" on a somewhat higher plane: "austral winds", "austral climes", "austral gravitation". From the Latin auster "south", as in Australia but not Austria (from German Osterreich "the ...Read more
agora \AEH-geh-reh\ (noun) - A meeting place or marketplace.
"Jenny agreed that the university was the town's intellectual agora, while her house was neighborhood's the social agora."
From Greek agora "marketplace," the noun from ageirein "to assemble." The Greek word also underlies "category" from Greek kategorein "to accuse, predicate" ...Read more
A vivid passage from Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," refreshed my appreciation for the intense power of concrete details in writing. It describes Obama's girlhood experience as she rode the bus each morning through downtown Chicago en route from her South Side neighborhood to an elite magnet school:
"Through the window, I watched men and...Read more