abecedarian \ ay-bee-see-DAIR-ee-uhn \ (noun) -
1 : One who is learning the alphabet; hence, a beginner.
2 : One engaged in teaching the alphabet. (adjective) -
1 : Pertaining to the letters of the alphabet.
2 : Arranged alphabetically.
3 : Rudimentary; elementary.
"The approach may seem abecedarian today, but his was among the first endeavors of the sort." -- Jennifer Liese, 'ArtForum' Abecedarian derives from Latin abecedarius, from the first four letters of the alphabet.
aberrant \a-BERR-unt; AB-ur-unt\ (adjective) - Markedly different from an accepted norm; Deviating from the ordinary or natural type; abnormal.
"Another factor the court had to consider was whether the crime was part of a single period of aberrant behavior." -- Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, 'Sullivan's Evidence'
That which is aberrant is literally that which "wanders away from" what is accepted, ordinary, normal, natural, etc., aberrant being from Latin aberro, aberrare, to wander off, to lose one's way, from ab, away from + erro, errare, to wander.
abulia \uh-BOO-lee-uh; uh-BYOO-\ (noun) -
Loss or impairment of the ability to act or to make decisions.
"The frequency and intensity of Franklin's attacks of abulia corresponded directly with the significance and import of the decision he was preparing to make."
Abulia derives from Greek a-, "without" + boule, "will." The adjective form is abulic.
actuate \AK-choo-ayt\ (verb tr.) -
1 : To put into motion or action.
2 : To move to action.
'While all agreed that the plan was valid, none could figure out a way to gracefully actuate it.'
Medieval Latin actuare, actuat-, from Latin actus, act, from agere, act-, to drive, do.
adage \AD-ij\ (noun) -
An old saying, which has obtained credit by long use; a proverb.
"We may find out too late the wisdom of the adage that cautions us to be careful what we wish for lest we get it."
Adage derives from the Latin adagium (akin to aio, "I say").
adumbrate \AD-uhm-brayt; uh-DUHM-\ (transitive verb) -
1 : To give a sketchy or slight representation of; to outline.
2 : To foreshadow in a vague way.
3 : To suggest, indicate, or disclose partially.
4 : To cast a shadow over; to shade; to obscure.
"To create her three-dimensional composition, Freida variedly manipulated floor and ceiling planes so as to adumbrate virtual spaces."
Adumbrate derives from Latin adumbrare, "to sketch" (literally, "to shade towards," hence "to foreshadow or prefigure"), from ad-, "towards" + umbrare, "to shade," from umbra, "shadow."
afflatus \uh-FLAY-tuhs\ (noun) - A divine imparting of knowledge; inspiration.
"The miraculous spring that nourished the poet's afflatus seems out of reach of today's writers, whose desperate yearning for inspiration only indicates the coming of an 'age of exhaustion.'"
Afflatus is from Latin afflatus, past participle of afflare, "to blow at or breathe on," from ad-, "at" + flare, "to puff, to blow." Other words with the same root include deflate (de-, "out of" + flare); inflate (in-, "into" + flare); souffle, the "puffed up" dish (from French souffler, "to puff," from Latin sufflare, "to blow from below," hence "to blow up, to puff up," from sub-, "below" + flare); and flatulent.
aficionado \uh-fish-ee-uh-NAH-doh\ (noun) -
An enthusiastic admirer; a fan.
"He cautiously descended a dark, narrow stairway to a cool room with a smooth floor and every sort of treasure an art aficionado could imagine." -- Tamara Sneed, 'All the Man I Need'
Aficionado derives from Spanish aficionar, "to induce a liking for," from afición, "a liking for."
aggress \uh-GRES\ (intransitive verb) - To commit the first act of hostility or offense; to make an attack.
"No, sir. We know they exist, of course, because we trade with them for chairs and bottles, and we know there are tmes we face away from certain places because they might be there and if we don't see them, we won't aggress because we have the non-aggression agreement with them." -- Sherri S. Tepper, 'The Visitor'
Aggress is from French agresser, from Latin aggredi, aggress-, "to approach, to approach aggressively, to attack," from ad-, "to" + gradi, "to step, to walk."
agitprop \AJ-it-prop\ (noun) -
Propaganda, especially pro-communist political propaganda disseminated through literature, drama, music, or art.
"Fed up with the agitprop over the war, Phineas made up a stencil and went out spray-painting it over any and all pro-war posters he could find."
Agitprop comes from Russian, from agitatsiya, "agitation" + propaganda.
agrestic \uh-GRES-tik\ (adjective) -
Pertaining to fields or the country; rural; rustic.
"Perry's agrestic visions of a cozy little house in the country with minimal amenities allowing the two of them to partake in the pleasures of 'roughing it' were soon supplanted by the realities of the awesome amount of toil required of such an endeavor."
Agrestic is from agrestis, from ager, "field." It is related to agriculture.
ahimsa \uh-HIM-sah\ (noun) - The principle of noninjury to living beings.
'As Lindsey's conception of ahimsa went on maturing, she elected to become a vegetarian so that she would not contribute to the suffering of farm animals.'
Sanskrit ahimsa : a-, not + himsa, injury (from himsati, he injures).
albatross \AL-buh-tros\ (noun) plural albatross or albatrosses
1 : Any of several large, web-footed birds constituting the family Diomedeidae, chiefly of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and having a hooked beak and long, narrow wings.
2 : A constant, worrisome burden. An obstacle to success.
'Getting the albatross that is Jacobs off of the company's proverbial neck would make the company more attractive to future investors.'
Probably alteration (influenced by Latin albus, white), of alcatras, pelican, from Portuguese, or Spanish alcatraz, from Arabic al-gattas : al, the + gattas, white-tailed sea eagle. Sense 2, after the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which the mariner killed and had to wear around his neck as a penance.
alpenglow \AL-puhn-gloh\ (noun) -
A reddish glow seen near sunset or sunrise on the summits of mountains.
"I had seen light similar to this in Switzerland, where it was known as alpenglow. But this was no ordinary alpenglow." -- Paul Watkins, 'The Ice Soldier'
Alpenglow is a partial translation of German Alpenglühen, from Alpen, "Alps" + glühen, "to glow."
ambrosia \am-BROE-zhuh, -ZHEE-uh\ (noun)
1 : Greek Mythology. Roman Mythology. The food of the gods, thought to confer immortality.
2 : Something with an especially delicious flavor or fragrance.
3 : A dessert containing primarily oranges and flaked coconut.
'While many would have called the sandwich a simple ham and cheese on rye to Frank, locked up these many years, it was pure ambrosia.'
Latin, from Greek, from ambrotos, immortal, immortalizing : a-, not + -mbrotos, mortal
amity \AM-uh-tee\ (noun) -
Friendship; friendly relations, especially between nations.
"This amity, begun at this time and place, was not an amity that polluted their souls; but an amity made up of a chain of suitable inclinations and virtues..." -- Izaak Walton, 'Lives of John Donne, Henry Wotton, Rich'd Hooker, George Herbert, AC'
Amity comes from Old French-Medieval French amistié, amisté, ultimately from Latin amicus, "friendly, a friend," from amare, "to love."
anachronism \uh-NAK-ruh-niz-uhm\ (noun) -
1 : The error of placing a person, object, custom, or event in the wrong historical period.
2 : A person, thing, or practice that does not belong in a time period.
'The historical drama, set in the seventeenth century, was utterly spoiled for Terry due to the many anachronisms present in both the decor and costumes.'
From French anachronisme, from Latin anachronismus, from Greek anakhronismos, from ana-, (backwards) + khronos (time).
apogee \AP-uh-jee\ (noun) -
1 : The point in the orbit of the moon or of an artificial satellite that is at the greatest distance from the center of the earth.
2 : The farthest or highest point; culmination.
"He had suggested that perhaps a human life was a simple parabola in which one never knew when the apogee -- the highest, most sublime point -- had been." -- Dan Simmons, 'A Winter Haunting'
Apogee is derived from Greek apogaion, from apogaios, "situated (far) away from the earth," from apo-, "away from" + gaia, "earth."
apostasy \uh-POS-tuh-see\ (noun) - Total desertion or departure from one's faith, principles, or party.
"I understand apostasy, in the sense of abandonment of established policy or of doctrine -- and I must tell you that I cannot see how anyone could Pelagius or abandoning Christianity or its teachings -- but I don't understand the meaning of heresy." -- Jack Whyte, 'The Eagles' Brood'
Apostasy is derived from Greek apostasis, "a standing away from, a defection, a revolt," from aphistanai, "to stand off or away from, to revolt," from apo-, "from, away from" + histanai, "to stand."
apparition \ap-uh-RISH-uhn\ (noun) -
1 : A ghost; a specter; a phantom.
2 : The thing appearing; the sudden or unexpected appearance of something or somebody.
3 : The act of becoming visible; appearance.
4 : (Astronomy) The first appearance of a star or other luminary after having been invisible or obscured; -- opposed to occultation.
"Buddy was convinced that he was visited by an apparition of his favorite cat, Fluffy, although most presumed that it was merely a hypnogogic illusion."
Apparition derives from Latin apparitio, from apparere, from ad-, "to" + parere, "to be visible, to appear."
appurtenance \uh-PUR-tn-un(t)s\ (noun)
1 : An adjunct; an accessory; something added to another, more important thing.
2 : [Plural]. Accessory objects; gear; apparatus.
3 : [Law]. An incidental right attached to a principal property right for purposes such as passage of title, conveyance, or inheritance.
"Except as an appurtenance of the machine, he did not exist, and I slowly began to realize that in all the months since my arrival he had been simply that..." - Robert Penn Warren, 'A Place to Come to'
Appurtenance is derived from the present participle of Late Latin appertinere, "to belong to," from Latin ad- + pertinere, "to relate to, to belong to," from per-, "through" + tenere, "to hold."
asseverate \uh-SEV-uh-rayt\ (transitive verb) -
To affirm or declare positively or earnestly.
"Lance's teacher was quick to asseverate that, in spite of his poor classroom behavior, he writes with perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar."
Asseverate comes from Latin asseverare, "to assert seriously or earnestly," from ad- + severus, "severe, serious."
atelier \at-l-YAY\ (noun) -
A workshop; a studio.
"Philip's atelier was the headquarters of a lively little cottage industry in the creation of costume uniforms."
Atelier comes from French, from Old French astelier, "carpenter's shop," from astele, "splinter," from Late Latin astella, alteration of Latin astula, itself an alteration of assula, "a shaving, a chip," diminutive of assis, "board."
augury \AW-gyuh-ree\ (noun) -
1 : The art or practice of foretelling events; divination.
2 : An omen; prediction; prognostication; indication of the future.
"Pauline's new work is a bleak monument to a conflict that is remembered now mainly as an augury of World War II."
Augury is from Latin augurium, from augur, a soothsayer.
autocrat \AW-tuh-krat\ (noun) - An absolute monarch who rules with unlimited authority; by extension, any person with undisputed authority in a relationship or situation.
"I wound up by telling him he was an autocrat; which disturbed his graven serenity. Autocrat and autocracy were not pleasant- sounding words just then." -- James B. Connolly, 'The U-Boat Hunters'
Autocrat is from Greek autokrates, "ruling by oneself," from auto-, "self" + -krates, "ruling," from kratos, "strength, power, rule, dominion."
avatar \AV-uh-tar\ (noun) -
1 : The incarnation of a deity -- chiefly associated in Hinduism with the incarnations of Vishnu.
2 : An embodiment, as of a quality, concept, philosophy, or tradition; an archetype.
3 : A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity.
"While presenting himself as simply a new manager, everyone knew that Hank was there as an avatar for the company bigwigs and would act as a hatchet man should the need arise."
Avatar is from Sanskrit avatara, "descent" (of a deity from heaven), from avatarati, "he descends," from ava-, "down" + tarati, "he crosses, he passes over."
aver \uh-VUR\ (transitive verb) -
1 : To affirm with confidence; to declare in a positive manner, as in confidence of asserting the truth.
2 : (Law) To assert, claim, or declare as a fact.
"Between us and the bottom of the sea was less than an inch of wood. And yet, I aver it, and I aver it again, I was unafraid." -- Jack London, The Sea-Wolf
Aver is from Old French-Medieval French averer, from Medieval Latin adverare, to confirm as authentic, from Latin ad-, ad- + Medieval Latin verare, from Latin verus, true. Other words deriving from verus are very, which sometimes has the sense of "true"; verify, to prove the truth of; and verdict, a decision or judgment, literally a "true-saying" (verus + dictum, saying).