*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.
abibliophobia \eh-bi-bli-ee-FO-bee-yeh\ (noun) – The morbid fear of running out of reading material.
"Jamie is such an abibliophobe that he never leaves the house without several magazines and a few books under his arm."
Today’s is likely a fun word created for amusement more than linguistic use. However, it is constructed well and has survived and is flourishing. From the Greek a "not" + bibli-(on) "book" + o, a connector + phob(os) "fear" + ia, a nominal suffix. "Biblion" referred to a small book or scroll or section of a larger work, a biblos.
abjure \ab-JOOR\ (verb tr.) –
1 : To renounce under oath; forswear.
2 : To recant solemnly; repudiate.
3 : To give up (an action or practice, for example); abstain from.
"Barbara abjured from telling her best friend of her husband’s affair after he abjured from ever engaging in such behavior again."
Middle English abjuren, from Old French abjurer, from Latin abiurare : ab-, away + iurare, to swear.
ablution \uh-BLOO-shun\ (noun) –
1 : The act of washing or cleansing; specifically, the washing of the body, or some part of it (as in a religious rite).
2 : The water used in cleansing.
"He went straight to the loo to begin his usual ablutions, soaping his cheeks and neck." — Brooks Hansen, ‘Perlman’s Ordeal’
Ablution comes from Latin ablutio, from abluere, "to wash, to remove by washing, to wash away," from ab-, "away from" + luere, "to wash."
abominate \uh-BOM-uh-nayt\ (transitive verb) – To hate in the highest degree; to detest intensely; to loathe; to abhor.
"I despise and abominate him, because he is a man without honor; he knows that I do not love him, and yet he insists upon marrying me." — Louise Muhlbach, ‘Old Fritz and the New Era’
Abominate comes from Latin abominari, "to deprecate as a bad omen, to hate, to detest," from ab- + omen, "an omen."
abscond \ab-SKOND\ (intransitive verb) – To depart secretly; to steal away and hide oneself — used especially of persons who withdraw to avoid arrest or prosecution.
"They abscond with millions, yes? They abscond with millions, and before the police can intercede, they have passed it out in the slums." — Stephen Hunter, ‘Havana’
Abscond comes from Latin abscondere, "to conceal," from ab-, abs-, "away" + condere, "to put, to place."
Absquatulate \ahb-SQWAH-chu-leyt\ (verb) –
1 : To depart, abscond, take off; to die.
2 : To argue.
"David seems to have absquatulated with my date while I was in the bathroom; would you like to dance?"
Today’s word is not one you would want to use on a job interview or in a PhD dissertation. It is a word created for humorous effect, not for clarity of communication. The origin of this word is difficult. The Latin prefix ab- means "away (from)" and the suffix means simply "do something." The stem is a combination of "squat" and the diminutive ul "a little." Put them all together and you don’t have much. Some wags would have the word originally mean "take off and squat somewhere." However, the 19th century America produced a lot of fake Latin words, including "argufy," "citify," "uppity," "high-faluting," and so on, and today’s is simply another one of these. Plainness is a specialty of the US; we don’t appreciate fanciness in word or deed except to bear the brunt of jokes.
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 coffee." — Carola Dunn, ‘A Mourning Wedding’
Abstemious comes from Latin abstemius, from ab-, abs-, "away from" + the root of temetum, "intoxicating drink."
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 dynastic claim for the French crown had been only the bald excuse for his arrant imperialism." — Louis Aushincloss, ‘East Side Story’
Abstruse comes from Latin abstrusus, past participle of abstrudere, "to push away from any place, to hide," from ab-, abs-, "away from" + trudere, "to push, to thrust."
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.
accede \ak-SEED\ (intransitive verb) – 1 – To agree or assent; to give in to a request or demand. 2 – To become a party to an agreement, treaty, convention, etc. 3 – To attain an office or rank; to enter upon the duties of an office.
"He has but to raise a brow and all accede to his wishes; Gilles d’ Argent alone rules Hawkwatch Castle." — Cindy Harris, ‘A Man of Steel’
Accede derives from Latin accedere, "to approach, to accede," from ad-, "toward, to" + cedere, "to move, to yield."
acclamation \ak-luh-MAY-shuhn\ (noun) –
1 : An oral vote where a vote of approval is expressed by cheers, shouts or applause rather than by ballot.
2 : A loud and enthusiastic expression of approval, welcome, etc.
"The process by which we select the president has changed dramatically since the small group of Revolutionary War veterans decided on George Washington and picked him by acclamation."
>From Latin acclamation, stem of acclamatio, from acclamatus, past participle of acclamare (to shout at), from ad- + clamare (to shout). Other words derived from the same root are clamor, acclaim, reclaim.
acquiesce \ak-wee-ES\ (intransitive verb) – To accept or consent passively or without objection — usually used with ‘in’ or ‘to’.
"At the same time, sellers might acquiesce to mafia involvement in their business as a way of ensuring payment for goods: if the buyer defaults, the mafioso will collect." — Louis S. Warren, ‘The Hunter’s Game’
Acquiesce comes from Latin acquiescere, "to give oneself to rest, hence to find one’s rest or peace (in something)," from ad, "to" + quiescere, "to rest, to be or keep quiet."
acrid \AK-rid\ (adjective) –
1 : Sharp and harsh, or bitter to the taste or smell; pungent.
2 : Caustic in language or tone; bitter.
"It sizzled and sparked, and sent its acrid odor up everyone’s nostrils; Jennifer thought of hellfire." — Richard Janssen, ‘The Evil I Do’
Acrid comes from Latin acer, "sharp."
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.
aculeate \eh-KYU-lee-yeht\ (adjective) – Having a stinger, like a bee or wasp, or sharp prickles, like a rose or thistle.
"Jacob Thistledown has aculeate tongue capable of inflicting considerable mental pain if roiled."
Today’s word is an adaptation of Latin aculeatus "thorny, stickly" from aculeus "a sting," a diminutive of acus "needle." The root for "sharp," *ak-, in Proto-Indo-European has survived in hundreds of words, including "acrid," "acid," "acme," and "acne." The last two come from Greek akme "point." "Acrobat" comes from Greek akros "high, topmost" + bat- "walk." In Old Norse the same root turned up as eggja "to incite, goad" which was borrowed by English as the verb egg "to encourage, goad." It edged its way in English to "edge."
acuity \uh-KYOO-uh-tee\ (noun) – Acuteness of perception or vision; sharpness.
"Horses tend to shy a lot because the construction of their eyes is optimized for a near 360-degree field of view, useful for spotting danger, but the price the horse pays for that is relatively poor acuity and some out-of-focus spots that can cause objects within the field of view to suddenly sail into sharp focus." — Stephen Budiansky, ‘If a Lion Could Talk’
Acuity comes from Latin acutus, "sharpened, pointed, acute," past participle of acuere, "to sharpen."
acumen \AE-kyu-mehn\ (noun) – Sharpness of perception, keenness of mind, precise insightfulness.
"Kay is not only intelligent and well-educated; her acumen leads us through the murkiest problems quickly and surely."
Today’s word comes from Latin acumen "acuteness, keenness" from acuere "to sharpen," akin to acus "needle." The past participle of this verb, "acutus," came to English as "acute." The Greek word for "needle" is very similar, "akis." The Greek words akme "point" and akros "topmost," from which we get "acrobat," come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, *ak- "sharp." It also turns up in Greek oxus "sour," found in our own sweet "oxygen." In the Germanic languages, this root became English "edge" and in Old Norse eggja "to goad, incite." Old English borrowed the Norse word as the verb "egg (on)," which is totally unrelated to the noun "egg."
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").
admonition \ad-muh-NISH-uhn\ (noun) –
1 Gentle or friendly reproof.
2 : Counseling against a fault or oversight; friendly caution or warning.
"While Mike meant the comment on the smell of Frank’s breath to be nothing more than a simple admonition, Frank took considerably more meaning to it, and it eventually destroyed their friendship."
Admonition derives from Latin admonitio, admonition-, from admonitus, past participle of admonere, to remind, or warn, strongly, from ad- (here used intensively) + monere, to remind, to warn.
adrenalize \a-DREEN-uh-lyz\ (verb) – To excite and stir to action.
"After his girlfriend, his latest ‘true love,’ dumped him, Frank watched his roommate’s spirits sink so low that he was convinced that nothing would adrenalize him, not even tickets to see his favorite band."
From adrenaline, a hormone produced by adrenal glands (above the kidneys), secreted when a person is excited. From Latin renes, kidney.
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."
adventitious \aed-ven-TI-shehs\ (adjective) –
1 : An extraneous part of a system found in an unusual place, as adventitious roots growing from the trunk of a tree;
2 : added extraneously, not inherent or natural, out of place.
"Margaret arrived in a matching skirt and sweater outfit, leather pumps, and an adventitious yellow purse that raised more than one eyebrow."
Latin adventicius "foreign" from adventus "arrival" the past participle of advenire "to arrive, come to" based on ad "(up) to" + venire "to come." This word is visible in English "advent," "adventure," "souvenir," and others. "Venire" goes back to Proto-Indo-European *gwem- "go, come." In Germanic, the [g] became [k] and the [w] disappeared by regular processes, leading to English "come" and German "kommen." Today’s word resembles "adventurous" and you might be tempted to confuse the two. Although both derive from the same source, the two words are distinct. The adverb for today’s word is "adventitiously" and the noun is "adventitiousness."
aesthete \ES-theet\ (noun) – One having or affecting great sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature.
"Steve was an aesthete with a connoisseur’s eye for anything designed with a modern twist or a contemporary bent."
Aesthete is from Greek aisthetes, "one who perceives," from aisthanesthai, "to perceive."
affable \AF-uh-buhl\ (adjective) –
1 : Easy to speak to; receiving others kindly and conversing with them in a free and friendly manner.
2 : Gracious; benign.
"An affable, gregarious sort, Jason was everyone’s best friend, even while he plotted to betray them to their worst enemies."
Affable is from Latin affabilis, from affari, "to speak to," from ad-, "to" + fari, "to speak."
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.
affray \uh-FRAY\ (noun) – A tumultuous assault or quarrel; a brawl.
"While everyone knew that Ken and Sandy were going through a contentious divorce, nobody was prepared for the affray that played itself out in the courtroom on that day."
Affray comes from Old French esfrei, from esfreer, "to disquiet, to frighten."
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."
aggrandize \uh-GRAN-dyz; AG-ruhn-dyz\ (transitive verb) –
1 : To make great or greater; to enlarge; to increase.
2 : To make great or greater in power, rank, reputation, or wealth; — applied to persons, countries, etc.
3 : To make appear great or greater; to exalt.
"He only wanted to aggrandize and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite so easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Miss somebody else with twenty, or with ten." – Jane Austen, ‘Emma’
Aggrandize comes from French agrandir, from Old French, from a-, "to" (from Latin ad-) + grandir, "to grow larger," from Latin grandire, from grandis, "large."
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.
agog \uh-GOG\ (adjective) – Full of excitement or interest; in eager desire; eager, keen.
"He was now so interested, quite so privately agog, about it, that he had already an eye to the fun it would be to open up to her afterwards." — Henry James, ‘The Ambassadors’
Agog derives from Middle French en gogues, "in mirth; lively."
agon \AH-gahn; ah-GOHN\ (noun) – A struggle or contest; conflict; especially between the protagonist and antagonist in a literary work.
"Conflicts about moral claims are part of what it means to be human, and a political ideal stripped of sentimentality and the utopian temptation is one committed to the notion that political life is a permanent agon between clashing, even incompatible goods." — Jean Bethke Elshtain, ‘Real Politics’
Agon comes from Greek agon , "a struggle or contest." It is related to agony.
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" comprising kata "down, against" + agoreuein "to speak in public." The original root (e)ger-, lost its initial vowel in Latin and Germanic…
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.
alfresco \al-FRES-koh\ (adverb) – In the open air; outdoors.
(adjective) – Taking place or located in the open air; outdoor.
"I thought an alfresco picnic would be fun, and the weather is supposed to be rather nice, later, for March; we can wrap up warm and sit on the beach." — Tess Stimson, ‘The Adultry Club’
Alfresco is from the Italian al fresco, "in the fresh (air)," from al, "in the" (a, "to, in" + il, "the") + fresco, "fresh."
algorithm \AL-guh-RITH-uhm\ (noun) – A step-by-step procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of steps that often involves repetition of an operation.
"Their latest innovation involved some kind of complex algorithm that made the eyes of anyone with an IQ of less than 200 glaze over with incomprehension but was reckoned by the company to be a surefire thing." — John Connolly, ‘The Killing Kind’
Algorithm is an alteration of algorism, possibly influenced by arithmetic. It comes to us from the Arabic name of a ninth century Persian mathematician and textbook author, via Old French and Medieval Latin: Muhammad ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi was from the Khwarizm region, an area south of the Aral Sea. Al-Khwarizmi wrote a book titled Kitab al jabr wa’l-muqabala ("Rules of restoring and equating") which is the source of the word algebra.
allege \eh-LEJ\ (verb) – To assert as true; to assert without providing proof.
"The suspected perpetrator of what police allege to be a crime has been suspended from the force pending further investigation."
Middle English "alleggen" from Old French alegier "to vindicate, justify." The history of today’s word is interesting because the form of the word derives from Latin allegare but the meaning comes from from esligier "to pay a fine, justify oneself" from Late Latin *exlitigare "to legally clear" from ex "out (of)" + litigare "to sue." "Allegare" went on through French to become English "allay." Apparently the two were confused at some point and the prefix ex- was replaced by ad- (an-, am-, al-, ar-). The past participle, "alleged," is used so much more frequently than the verb that it has become an adjective unto itself meaning, "accused without proof." Even with this innovation, however, the word is often misused, especially in the media. While Nick Dalolli might be an alleged burglar, he did not commit an alleged burglarythe burglary must be conclusively proven if Nick is a suspect. The adverb "allegedly" never works. "Gertrude allegedly trained the suicide newts" does not mean that Gertrude trained the newts in an alleged manner but "It is alleged that Gertrude trained the newts." So that is what you should say. The noun, of course, is "allegation."
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."
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 nose. No?" — Donald G. McNeil Jr., ‘Pucker Up, Sweetie, and Tilt Right’
Amative comes from Medieval Latin amativus , "capable of love," from the past participle of Latin amare , "to love."
ambiguity \am-bi-GYOO-i-tee\ (noun) –
1 : Doubtfulness or uncertainty as regards interpretation.
2 : Something of doubtful meaning.
"Although expressed confidently, there was a certain ambiguity to Jeanne’s comments, as if she had been told to believe them but couldn’t quite bring herself to."
From Latin ambiguus, uncertain, from ambigere, to go about : ambi-, around + agere, to drive.
ambit \AM-bit\ (noun) –
1 : Circuit or compass.
2 : The boundaries or limits of a district or place.
3 : An area in which something acts, operates, or has power or control; extent; sphere; scope.
"We know each other very well on a narrow ambit… But that narrow ambit on which you know each other well might have given you some sidelight on Gideon Summerfield." — Jill Paton Walsh, ‘A Piece of Justice’
Ambit is from Latin ambitus, "circuit," from ambire, "to go around," from amb-, "about, around" + ire, "to go."
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
ameliorate \a-MEL-yuh-rayt, uh-MEE-lee-\ (verb tr., intr.) – To make or grow better; to improve; also meliorate.
"After an extended hospital stay, the tedium, discomfort, and confinement of Susan’s extended illness was ameliorated by the warm, familiar surroundings of her room at home along with her compassionate and loving family."
Alteration of meliorate, from Late Latin melioratus, past participle of meliorare, from Latin melior (better).
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."
amphiboly \aem-FI-beh-li\ (noun) –
1 : A phrase that is ambiguous because of its syntactic structure;
2 : any ambivalent or ambiguous phrase.
Groucho Marx was the master of amphibolies, ambivalence, and equivocation such as, "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know."
Today’s is another word borrowed via French from Late Latin, this time from amphibolus "ambiguous." The Latin word is Greek amphibolos "doubtful," thinly disguised. It is the adjective from amphiballein "to throw on either side," based on amphi- "both" + ballein "to throw." "Ballein" comes from Proto-Indo-European *gwel- "to throw, pierce," the stem underlying Old English cwellan and cyllan "to kill." The first of these is today’s "quell" while the last is "kill." Greek ballizein "to dance," the origin of English "ball," the dance, derives from the same stem. Despite the meaning of the original stem and the fact that one can throw both types of ball, the word for the ball you throw and catch is unrelated.
amuck \eh-MEHK\ (adjective) – In a highly frenzied, violent state, hence (by amelioration or semantic weakening) out of control.
"To Vladimir, 2000’s election quagmire in Florida reflected the democratic process gone amuck."
This is a folk etymology of the original Malay word amok "a violent frenzy." Folk etymology is the reconstruction of a borrowed word so that it resembles more a native word. In this case, the familiar word "muck" replaced "mok" resulting in a more "English" term "amuck," similar to adverb-adjectives like "aboard," "aglow," "adrift."
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).
anile \AN-yl, AY-nyl\ (adjective) – Of or like an old woman.
"Thirty-year-old Margaret was constantly cursing her prematurely anile bones, which kept her from doing many physical activites which she had previously taken great pleasure in."
>From Latin anilis, from anus old woman.
animadversion \ an-uh-mad-VUHR-zhuhn \ (noun) –
1 : Harsh criticism or disapproval.
2 : Remarks by way of criticism and usually of censure — often used with ‘on’.
"It is unfortunate, therefore, that Stephen Holmes mars his otherwise helpful Anatomy of Antiliberalism with a few stray animadversions on libertarianism." — Hayward, Steven, ‘Political Liberalism’
Animadversion is from Latin animadversio, animadversion- , from animadversus , past participle of animadvertere , "to turn the mind toward," from animus , "mind, spirit" + advertere , "to turn toward," from ad , "toward" + vertere , "to turn."
anodyne \AE-neh-din\ (adjective) – Alleviating or reducing pain; soothing or comforting.
"There is nothing so anodyne as one of mama’s apple pies after traveling for weeks and eating at diners and fast-food joints."
Today’s word originated in Greek anodynos "free from pain," based on an-"without" + odyne "pain." "Odyne" is related to English "eat;" both originate in Proto-Indo-European od-/ed- "bite." In Germanic languages the [d] became [t], which changed to [ss] in German (as in Wasser "water"), so we are not surprised to find essen "to eat" in German. German fressen "to feed, devour" also goes back to Proto-Germanic fra- "completely" + etan "to eat up," which we inherited as fret "to wear or be eaten away, to worry."
antediluvian \an-tih-duh-LOO-vee-uhn\ (adjective) –
1 : Of or relating to the period before the Biblical flood.
2 : Antiquated; from or belonging to a much earlier time.
(noun) – 1 : One who lived before the Biblical flood. 2 : A very old (or old-fashioned) person.
"The company’s antediuluvian management team seemed unable to comprehend the simple fact that a lack of Web presence in the Internet age was akin to suicide, the first step on the downroad slope to bankruptcy."
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’
Aplomb is from the French word meaning "perpendicularity, equilibrium, steadiness, assurance," from the Old French phrase a plomb , from a , "according to" (from Latin ad ) + plomb , "lead weight" (from Latin plumbum , "lead").
apocryphal \uh-POK-ruh-fuhl\ (adjective) –
1 : (Bible) Pertaining to the Apocrypha.
2 : Not canonical. Hence: Of doubtful authority or authenticity; equivocal; fictitious; spurious; false.
"’Apocryphal!’ exclaimed Rowland; ‘on what authority do you believe that the Canticle of Canticles is a divinely inspired book, and on what do you reject the book of Machabees? Tell me, dear miss, if you please, who was the first person to discover that these books were apocryphal, after they had been admitted as canonical for twelve hundred years at least?" — Charles Constantine Pise, ‘A North American Tale’
Apocryphal ultimately derives from Greek apokruphos, "hidden (hence, spurious)," from apokruptein, "to hide away," from apo-, "away, from" + kruptein, "to hide."
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."
apotropaic \ae-peh-treh-PEY-ik\ (adjective) – Having the power or designed to ward off evil, as an apotropaic symbol or talisman.
"Lydia was fond of wearing apotropaic ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and a collars that rose to her chin."
From Greek "apotropaios," the adjective of the verb apotrepein "to ward off" comprising apo- "off, away" + trepein "to turn." The Proto-Indo-European root was trep- "to turn" with o-grade derivative tropos "turn, direction, way" and trope "turning, change." The latter was borrowed by English meaning a figure (turn) of speech. The same root apparently underlies French trouver "to find, invent" and "troubadour," referring to the wandering minstrels originating in Southern France in the Middle Ages and known for their inventive songs.
apparatchik \uh-pah-RAH-chik\ (noun) – Member of the (Soviet) bureaucracy; now extended to apply to any inflexible organisation man, particularly in a political party.
"Fed up with the usual assortment of apparatchiks and yes-men he was typically faced with, Mel decided to search outside of the regular pool in an attempt to find an assistant who would actually have new, useful ideas for his department."
From Russian apparat (apparatus, the government machine or structure) + chik (agent). Apparatchik is always used pejoratively. It suggests a bureaucrat who willingly follows and implements the party line, either in a spirit of blind obedience or one of cynical ambition.
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."
approbation \ap-ruh-BAY-shuhn\ (noun) –
1 : The act of approving; formal or official approval.
2 : Praise; commendation.
"The candidate’s speech struck a responsive chord among the crowd of well-wishers and won him much approbation."
Approbation is from Latin approbatio, from approbare, "to approve or cause to be approved," from ap- (for ad-), used intensively + probare, "to make or find good," from probus, "good, excellent, fine."
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).