Recently, Merriam Webster's Word of the Day was circumlocution:
1: the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea
2: evasion in speech
Although M-W's definition specifies "the use of an unnecessarily large number of words," there are some situations where it is helpful...or even holy.
For the longest time I've avoided any expression that includes the word "fate" because I thought the concept of fate was tied to the pagan idea of “the fates”: the three robed women called "moirai" (apportioners) who wove the destiny of everyone.
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 8th was a related word, fatidic:
: of or relating to prophecy
It's been a while since there has been a Word of the Day that has really caught my attention and connected with Scripture in a meaningful way but September 24th was just such a day. The Merriam Webster word for that day was teleological.
: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature
Along with this definition they provided the following explanation...
Teleological (which comes to us by way of New Latin from the Greek root tele-, telos, meaning "end or purpose") and its close relative teleology both entered English in the 18th century, followed by teleologist in the 19th century. Teleology has the basic meaning of "the study of ends or purposes." A teleologist attempts to understand the purpose of something by looking at its results. A teleological philosopher might argue that we should judge whether an act is good or bad by seeing if it produces a good or bad result, and a teleological explanation of evolutionary changes claims that all such changes occur for a definite purpose.
Did you notice the meaning of the Greek word telos? It means "end or purpose" as in a goal or objective... not an ending or ceasing.
Today’s Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster is hagiography.
It means (1) a biography of saints or venerated persons; (2) an idealizing or idolizing biography.
Their “Did You Know” section on the word caught my eye:
Like "biography" and "autograph," the word "hagiography" has to do with the written word. The combining form "-graphy" comes from Greek "graphein," meaning "to write." "Hagio-" comes from a Greek word that means "saintly" or "holy." This origin is seen in "Hagiographa," the Greek designation of the Ketuvim, the third division of the Hebrew Bible. Our English word "hagiography," though it can refer to biography of actual saints, is these days more often applied to biography that treats ordinary human subjects as if they were saints.
The Ketuvim is labeled Hagiographa in Greek but it also means a biography of saints (or holy ones).
When we consider the whole of Scripture as "The Word" and the Word is G-d (John 1:1) then Scripture is His story: the story of the Messiah, the Word made flesh, and His creation of and interaction with humanity.
All of Scripture is a "biography" of sorts of the truly Holy One.
My daughter’s cry pierced the darkened hallway.
"Daddy, don’t leave!"
I turned back to her room and sat back down on her bed. "What’s wrong, sweetie?"
"I can’t go to sleep if you aren’t here."
Joyful tears well up in my eyes as I remember that moment from a decade ago. It seems like only yesterday. It was the day that the Lord taught me the meaning of the word "abide".
Continuing in the "wayyy back" theme from the last Word for Thought, I reached into the Merriam-Webster email archives from September 25, 2009. Yes, yes, I know. I need to stay a bit more up to date. :)
The M-W Word of the day was utile and it was defined as
They also provided details regarding the origin of the word:
The Merriam Webster Word of the Day for September 21, 2009 was laodicean.
For those of you who are acquainted with Scripture this may sound familiar. This word comes from the name Laodicea which is one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. The Laodicean believers were known for their lukewarm behavior. In fact, that is the modern meaning of this word:
lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics
In fact, M-W refers to Scripture in their etymology of the word:
For grins, I went to Webster's 1828 dictionary to look up the words liberalism and conservatism after writing recent Word For Thought articles about them. His 1828 dictionary is much more reflective of Webster's Christian character than modern dictionaries that carry his name. I found these insights (the emphasis is mine):
Liberal (Liberalism was not present)
Previously in the Words For Thought series we examined the word "liberalism". Now let's take a look at conservatism. Here is what Merriam-Webster has to say about it:
1 capitalized a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party b : the Conservative party 2 a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage) 3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change
Anyone who frequents this blog knows about the "Words For Thought" series where I examine words, their meanings, and their use in a Scriptural context.
Two of the words that I found to be rather interesting lately are liberalism and conservativism. They don't always mean what we think they mean. This article (and the next few that follow it) will examine these words. Let's start with...
1 : the quality or state of being liberal 2 aoften capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class) d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for September 16th, 2009 was pink.
First: I know... I know. I'm WAYYY behind if I am pulling up a WotD from 2009. :)
Second: no... this word does not refer to the color. It's a verb:
1 a : to perforate in an ornamental pattern b : to cut a saw-toothed edge on 2 a : pierce, stab b : to wound by irony, criticism, or ridicule
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for August 1st 2007 was the adjective august.
marked by majestic dignity or grandeur
They provided this insightful bit of information about the origins of the word:
"August" comes from the Latin word "augustus," meaning "consecrated" or "venerable," which in turn is related to the Latin "augur," meaning "consecrated by augury" or "auspicious." In 8 B.C. the Roman Senate honored Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, by changing the name of their month "Sextilis" to "Augustus." Middle English speakers inherited the name of the month of August, but it wasn't until the mid-1600s that "august" came to be used generically in English, more or less as "augustus" was in Latin, to refer to someone with imperial qualities.
Even more so than our last "Word for Thought", copacetic, the origins of the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for March 26th are Hebraic. The word was shibboleth.
1 : catchword, slogan 2 : a widely held belief or truism 3 : a custom or usage regarded as distinctive of a particular group
Whoah, dude! The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for March 23rd was, like, wayyy cool. It was, uh... uh...
Oh, yeah... copacetic! \koh-puh-SET-ik\
That means "very satisfactory", dude. Sweeeet.
OK, yes, the word is often associated with "dudes" from the valley because of its prevalent use during various movies of the 80's and early 90's but its use in America goes back to the 1920's and the early jazz era.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for March 4th was licit.
conforming to the requirements of the law : not forbidden by law : permissible
In their "Did you know?" section they provided this:
"Licit" is far less common than its antonym "illicit," but you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the former is the older of the two. Not by much, though: the first known use of "licit" in print is from 1483, whereas "illicit" shows up in print for the first time in 1506. For some reason "illicit" took off while "licit" just plodded along. When "licit" appears these days it often modifies "drugs" or "crops." Meanwhile, "illicit" shows up before words like "thrill" and "passion" (as well as "gambling," "relationship," "activities," and, of course, "drugs" and "crops.") The Latin word "licitus," meaning "lawful," is the root of the pair; "licitus" itself is from "lic?re," meaning "to be permitted."
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for February 25th was proscribe.
1 : outlaw 2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful
They provided this information regarding the origins of the word:
"Proscribe" and "prescribe" each have a Latin-derived prefix that means "before" attached to the verb "scribe" (from "scribere," meaning "to write"). Yet the two words have very distinct, often nearly opposite meanings. Why? In a way, you could say it's the law. In the 15th and 16th centuries both words had legal implications. To "proscribe" was to publish the name of a person who had been condemned, outlawed, or banished. To "prescribe" meant "to lay down a rule," including legal rules or orders.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for February 23rd was logomachy. (loh-GAH-muh-kee)
1 : a dispute over or about words 2 : a controversy marked by verbiage
They provided this background on the word:
It doesn't take much to start people arguing about words, but there's no quarrel about the origin of "logomachy." It comes from the Greek roots "logos," meaning "word" or "speech," and "machesthai," meaning "to fight," and it entered English in the mid-1500s. If you're a word enthusiast, you probably know that "logos" is the root of many English words ("monologue," "neologism," "logic," and most words ending in "-logy," for example), but what about other derivatives of "machesthai"? Actually, this is a tough one even for word whizzes. Only a few very rare English words come from "machesthai." Here are two of them: "heresimach" ("an active opponent of heresy and heretics") and "naumachia" ("an ancient Roman spectacle representing a naval battle").
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for February 22nd was thaumaturgy.
the performance of miracles; specifically : magic
The words origins:
The magic of "thaumaturgy" is miraculous. The word, from a Greek word meaning "miracle working," is applicable to any performance of miracles, especially by incantation. It can also be used of things that merely seem miraculous and unexplainable, like the thaumaturgy of a motion picture's illusions (aka "movie magic"), or the thaumaturgy at work in an athletic team's "miracle" comeback. In addition to "thaumaturgy," we also have "thaumaturge" and "thaumaturgist," both of which mean "a performer of miracles" or "a magician," and the adjective "thaumaturgic," meaning "performing miracles" or "of, relating to, or dependent on thaumaturgy."
Some of you may be thinking... "Magic!? Why is he bringing up magic in regards to Scripture?".
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for March 29th was uxorial.
of, relating to, or characteristic of a wife
The origins of the word:
With help from "-ial," "-ious," and "-icide," the Latin word "uxor," meaning "wife," has given us the English words "uxorial," "uxorious" (meaning "excessively fond of or submissive to a wife"), and "uxoricide" ("murder of a wife by her husband" or "a wife murderer"). Do we have equivalent "husband" words? Well, sort of. "Maritus" means "husband" in Latin, so "marital" can mean "of or relating to a husband and his role in marriage" (although "maritus" also means "married," and the "of or relating to marriage or the married state" sense of "marital" is far more common). And while "mariticide" is "spouse killing," it can also be specifically "husband-killing."
1 : a deduction from the gross weight of a substance and its container made in allowance for the weight of the container; also : the weight of the container 2 : counterweight
Before charging us for the blueberries we'd picked, the attendant at Annie's Fields deducted the tare from the weight of the filled buckets.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for February 3rd was elicit.
They provided the following definition:
1 : to draw forth or bring out (something latent or potential) 2 : to call forth or draw out (as information or a response)
They also provided the following background on the word:
"Elicit" derives from the past participle of the Latin verb "elicere," formed by combining the prefix "e-" with the verb "lacere," meaning "to entice by charm or attraction." It is not related to its near-homophone, the adjective "illicit" — that word, meaning "unlawful," traces back to another Latin verb, "lic?re," meaning "to be permitted." Nor is "elicit" related to the verb "solicit," even though it sounds like it should be. "Solicit" derives from Latin "sollicitare" ("to disturb"), formed by combining the adjective "sollus," meaning "whole," with the past participle of the verb "ci?re," meaning "to move."
"To entice by charm or attraction"... hmmm.
Isn't that what is happening in many mainstream churches today?
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for September 15th was sternutation. MW defined the word as such:
the act, fact, or noise of sneezing
Here is the information they provided regarding the origin of the word:
"Sternutation" comes from Latin and is a descendant of the verb "sternuere," meaning "to sneeze." One of the earliest known English uses occurred in a 16th-century edition of a book on midwifery, in a passage about infants suffering from frequent "sternutation and sneesynge." The term has long been used in serious medical contexts, but also on occasion for humorous effect. In 1850, for example, author Grace Greenwood observed that U.S. senators from opposing political parties would often come together to share snuff: "And all three forget their sectional differences in a delightful concert of sternutation. No business is too grave, no speaker too eloquent, to be 'sneezed at.'"
You may be thinking something like "OK, let's see this guy pull something out of Scripture about sneezing." Well, actually, Scripture does have a very specific reference to sneezing. It is found in 2 Kings in the story of Elisha and the Shunnamite woman's son.
With the launch of the site in mid-December, holidays, travelling to visit family, and getting back into the swing of work I have been slow to catch up on my "Words For Thought" articles. Monday, January 18th had a rather interesting word so I decided to write on it before catching up on the other 50+ words in the queue. So here is the MW word of the day:
noetic (noh ET ik)
of, relating to, or based on the intellect
One of the earliest words that I was considering for a "Words For Thought" article was philosophy.
Rather than using Merriam Webster I had searched for this word on the Online Etymology Dictionary and found this:
philosophy from O.Fr. filosofie (12c.), from L. philosophia, from Gk. philosophia "love of knowledge, wisdom," from philo- "loving" + sophia "knowledge, wisdom," from sophis "wise, learned."
Meaning "system a person forms for conduct of life" is attested from 1771. Philosophize is attested from 1594.
On September 8th the Merriam Webster Word of the Day was irenic.
favoring, conducive to, or operating towards peace, moderation, or conciliation
In typical Word of the Day fashion, M-W provided this etymology:
In Greek mythology, Eirene was one of the Horae, the goddesses of the seasons and natural order; in the Iliad the Horae are the custodians of the gates of Olympus. According to Hesiod, the Horae were the daughters of Zeus and a Titaness named Themis, and their names indicate their function and relation to human life. Eirene was the goddess of peace. Her name is also the Greek word for "peace," and it gave rise to "irenic" and other peaceable terms including "irenics" (a theological term for advocacy of Christian unity), "Irena" (the genus name of two species of birds found in southern Asia and the Philippines), and the name "Irene." [emphasis added]
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for August 29th was defile. The surprise definition:
to march off in a line
Here is what M-W provided on this word:
The "defile" that means "to contaminate," a homograph of today's Word of the Day, dates back to the 14th century and is derived from the Old French verb "defouler," meaning "to trample on" or "mistreat." Today's word, on the other hand, arrived in English in the early 18th century. It is also from French, but is derived from the verb "défiler," formed by combining "de-" with "filer" ("to move in a column"). "Défiler" is also the source of the English noun "defile," which means "narrow passage or gorge."
On August 3rd the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day was levigate. They provided this definition:
1 : polish, smooth 2 a : to grind to a fine smooth powder while in moist condition b : to separate (fine powder) from coarser material by suspending in a liquid
They also provided this background information on the word:
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 16th was abstemious.
marked by restraint especially in the consumption of food or alcohol; also : reflecting such restraint
M-W provided the following additional information about the word:
"Abstemious" and "abstain" look alike, and both have meanings involving self-restraint or self-denial. So they must both come from the same root, right? Yes and no. Both get their start from the Latin prefix "abs-," meaning "from" or "away," but "abstain" traces to "abs-" plus the Latin verb "ten?re" (meaning "to hold"), while "abstemious" gets its "-temious" from a suffix akin to the Latin noun "temetum," meaning "intoxicating drink."
In regards to abstaining from food a few passages come to mind.
I have posted a number of articles under the category of "Words for Thought". Part of the purpose in writing those articles is to share interesting insights into words that are often unusual. Today I would like to focus on words from a different perspective: words that are common in our society but that we often use without fully considering the meaning of what we are saying. The first article of this type was posted last August. I guess it's time for an update. Next up: gangsta...
I recently heard one of my professional colleagues describe herself (in a facetious manner) as "gangsta". The quote: "I am so gangsta!"
I had not heard that expression so I looked it up and came across this description of "gangsta rap":
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for July 27th was quaff.
to drink deeply
In addition to the definition they provided this:
Nowadays, "quaff" has an old-fashioned, literary sound to it. For more contemporary words that suggest drinking a lot of something, especially in big gulps and in large quantity, you might try "drain," "pound," or "slug." If you are a daintier drinker, you might say that you prefer to "sip," "imbibe" or "partake in" the beverage of your choice. "Quaff" is by no means the oldest of these terms — earliest evidence of it in use is from the early 1500s, whereas "sip" dates to the 14th century — but it is the only one with the mysterious "origin unknown" etymology.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for July 27th was verbatim. This is their definition:
in the exact words : word for word
This was the additional information they provided on the word:
Latin has a phrase for "exactly as written": "verbatim ac litteratim," which literally means "word for word and letter for letter." Like the "verbatim" in that Latin phrase, the English "verbatim" means "word for word." As you may have noticed, there's a "verb" in "verbatim" — and that's no mere coincidence. Both "verb" and "verbatim" are derived from the Latin word for "word," which is "verbum." Other common English words that share this root include "adverb," "proverb," and "verbose." Even the word "word" itself is related. "Verbatim" can also be an adjective meaning "being in or following the exact words" (as in "a verbatim report") and a rarer noun referring to an account, translation, or report that follows the original word for word.
An interesting anecdote came to mind when I saw this word.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for July 21st was nyctalopia. Though it might seem so, this word isn't weird compared to the previous word for thought.
M-W provided this definition:
reduced visual capacity in faint light (as at night) : night blindness
This was the additional information they provided in the "Did you know?" section:
"Nyctalopia" comes to us from the Latin word "nyctalops," which means "suffering from night blindness." It is ultimately derived from the Greek word "nyktalops," which was formed by combining the word for "night" ("nyx") with the words for "blind" and "eye" ("alaos" and "?ps," respectively). English speakers have been using "nyctalopia" to refer to reduced vision in faint light or at night since the 17th century. We added the somewhat more pedestrian "night blindness" to the lexicon in the 18th century.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for July 7th was diurnal.
Here is the definition:
1 : recurring every day 2 : of, relating to, or occurring in the daytime
Here are a few passages that come to mind:
Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. - Proverbs 27:1
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for June 25th was desolate.
1 : devoid of inhabitants and visitors : deserted 2 : joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one 3 a : showing the effects of abandonment and neglect : dilapidated *b : barren, lifeless c : devoid of warmth, comfort, or hope : gloomy
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for June 24th was cavalcade.
1 (a) : a procession of riders or carriages (b) : a procession of vehicles or ships 2 : a dramatic sequence or procession : series
Modern American presidents often travel in a cavalcade of Chevy Suburbans.
Messiah was in a cavalcade... twice. No presidents or Suburbans were present, of course. :)
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for June 17th was preeminent. They provided this definition:
having paramount rank, dignity, or importance : outstanding, supreme
G-d is supreme (Revelation 5:13). All believers would agree upon this... but who among believers is preeminent? The Catholic church says Peter is preeminent. Others say Paul since he wrote much of the New Testament. The disciples had this same question:
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for May 26th was obnubilate.
If you would like you can subscribe to the Word of the Day.
Pronounced \ahb-NOO-buh-layt\ the word is a verb that means "to becloud, obscure".
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for October 17th, 2008 was genius. (Yes, I am a bit behind schedule in my writing. :) )
1 : a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude 2 : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity 3 : a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; especially : a person with a very high IQ
The Merriam-Webster word of the day for March 26 was dross.
1 : the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal 2 : waste or foreign matter : impurity 3 : something that is base, trivial, or inferior
The history of the word they provided included this:
"Dross" has been a part of the English language since Anglo-Saxon times; one 19th-century book on Old English vocabulary dates it back to 1050 A.D. Its Old English ancestors are related to Germanic and Scandinavian words for "dregs" (as in "the dregs of the coffee") — and, like "dregs," "dross" is a word for the less-than-desirable parts of something. Over the years, the relative worthlessness of dross has often been set in contrast to the value of gold, as for example in British poet Christina Rossetti's "The Lowest Room": "Besides, those days were golden days, / Whilst these are days of dross" (1875).
The Merriam-Webster Word of the day for May 20th was deasil. Note that it is deasil and not diesel (the fuel).
Deasil means clockwise. M-W says...
According to an old custom, you can bring someone good fortune by walking around the person clockwise three times while carrying a torch or candle. In Scottish Gaelic, the word "deiseil" is used for the direction one walks in such a luck-bringing ritual. English speakers modified the spelling to "deasil," and have used the word to describe clockwise motion in a variety of rituals.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for Monday, May 11th was whinge.
to complain fretfully : whine
In their "Did you know?" section, M-W provided the following:
"Whinge" isn't just a spelling variant of "whine." "Whinge" and "whine" are actually entirely different words with separate histories. "Whine" traces to an Old English verb, "hwinan," which means "to make a humming or whirring sound." When "hwinan" became "whinen"in Middle English, it meant "to wail distressfully"; "whine" didn't acquire its "complain" sense until the 16th century. "Whinge," on the other hand, comes from a different Old English verb, "hwinsian," which means "to wail or moan discontentedly." "Whinge" retains that original sense today, though nowadays it puts less emphasis on the sound of the complaining and more on the discontentment behind the complaint.
This brings to mind an admonition from Scripture:
The Merriam-Webster's word of the day for February 23rd was exorbitant. M-W defined the word as follows:
The Merriam-Webster word of the day for February 24th 2009 is onerous.
1 : involving, imposing, or constituting a burden : troublesome2 : having legal obligations that outweigh the advantages
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 was cognate.
1 : of the same or similar nature 2 : related; especially : related by descent from the same ancestral language
This brings to mind one of the very first word studies I ever did. I was using Vine's Expository Dictionary [ed- the paper version... not online. I don't think there was an "online" back then. :) ]
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for Thursday, January 29th was indubitable.
This takes me back to childhood memories of the Three Stooges (who were Jewish!) and their statements using "indubitably". :)
M-W provides this definition:
too evident to be doubted : unquestionable
The Merriam-Webster word of the day for Wednesday, January 28th was primogeniture.
M-W provided the following definition:
1 : the state of being the firstborn of the children of the same parents 2 : an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son
This brings to mind a passage from Colossians:
Unless you are already familiar with the term you might be upset if you heard someone use Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 24th to describe Messiah.
The word is cynosure and M-W provides the following definition:
1 : the northern constellation Ursa Minor; also : North Star2 : one that serves to direct or guide3 : a center of attraction or attention
The Merriam-Webster word of the day for January 22nd was reconcile. Here is the definition:
1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony b : settle, resolve 2 : to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant 3 a : to check (a financial account) against another for accuracy b : to account for
Some very obvious references can be made with Scripture. Here is the etymology:
After a long break from words that brought anything Scriptural to mind...
The Merriam-Webster word of the day for January 21st was "palatable". These meanings were given:
1 : agreeable to the palate or taste2 : agreeable or acceptable to the mind
Merriam-Webster's word of the day for Tuesday 8/26/2008 is sophistry:
1 : subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation 2 : an argument apparently correct in form but actually invalid; especially : such an argument used to deceive
"An argument used to deceive. " Hmmm... that got me to thinking of the words of the serpent in the Garden:
"Hath God said...?"