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Cuvantul zilei - Word of the day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 1, 2019 is:

handsel • \HAN-sul\  • noun

1 : a gift made as a token of good wishes or luck especially at the beginning of a new year

2 : something received first (as in a day of trading) and taken to be a token of good luck

3 a : a first installment

b : a token or sample of what is to come : earnest, foretaste


Celebrating the New Year in the Scottish tradition, Jessica gave out a handsel of one silver dollar coin to each of her nieces and nephews.

"The lads, dressed like their fathers, seemed uncomfortable in their new clothes (many that day had received the handsel of their first pair of boots); and beside them, speaking not a word, wearing the white gown of their first communion lengthened for the occasion, were some … girls of fourteen or sixteen…." — Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, 1856

Did you know?

According to an old custom in the British Isles, the first Monday of the New Year is Handsel Monday, a day to give a small gift or good luck charm to children or to those who have served you well. As long ago as the 13th century, English speakers were using the ancestor of handsel in the context of omens and luck, eventually leading to the meaning of a good luck charm given to one at the start of some new situation or condition. By the 18th century, traders were using handsel for the first cash they earned in the morning—to them, an omen of good things to follow. Nowadays, it can also be used for something that gives a taste of things to come.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 31, 2018 is:

hark back • \HAHRK-BAK\  • verb

1 : to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance

2 : to go back to something as an origin or source


"In Tea With The Dames, [Maggie Smith is] joined by fellow dames Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins; the women hark back on their early roles on stage and screen, talk about their ex-husbands and marriages…." — Hunter Harris, The New York Magazine, 26 Sept. 2018

"To stay connected with senior executives, she made heavy use of WhatsApp's group-chat function and called her group Table Talk, an effort to hark back to those early days at her kitchen table." — Sarah Ellison, Vanity Fair, March 2018

Did you know?

Hark, a very old word meaning "to listen," was used as a cry in hunting. The master of the hunt might cry "Hark! Forward!" or "Hark! Back!" The cries became set phrases, both as nouns and verbs. Thus, a "hark back" was a retracing of a route by dogs and hunters, and to "hark back" was to turn back along the path. From its use in hunting, the verb soon acquired its current figurative meanings. In time, the variants "hearken back" and "harken back" were called, and—like harkhearken and harken can mean "to listen." Harken, itself, is now used alone to mean "hark back."

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 30, 2018 is:

obdurate • \AHB-duh-rut\  • adjective

1 a : stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing

b : hardened in feelings

2 : resistant to persuasion or softening influences


Obdurate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made it difficult for the state legislature to get anything done this term.

"The emigrants were strong-willed and obdurate. Their dreams were based as much on imagination as on the writings and maps of land speculators and entrepreneurs." — Edward Cuddihy, The Buffalo (New York) News, 1 Oct. 2017

Did you know?

When you are confronted with someone obdurate, you may end up feeling dour. During the encounter, you may find that you need to be durable to keep your sanity intact. Maybe you will find such situations less stressful in the future if you can face them knowing that the words obdurate, dour, and durable are etymological kissing cousins. All of those words trace back to the Latin adjective durus, which means "hard." This adjective can still be found in dura mater, the name for the tough fibrous material that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, which comes from a Medieval Latin phrase meaning, literally, "hard mother."

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 29, 2018 is:

fulcrum • \FULL-krum\  • noun

1 a : prop; specifically : the support about which a lever turns

b : one that supplies capability for action

2 : a part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support


"Normally, bending involves using the hip as a fulcrum, and erector spinae muscles to support our trunk. When Jackson leaned over, he transferred the fulcrum to the ankle, with the calf and Achilles tendon under strain." — Jake Rossen, Mental Floss, 22 May 2018

"In 2014, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a nonbinding opinion advising that bag bans are legal if they are not aimed at 'solid waste management.' That murky phrase, which appears in the Texas Health and Safety Code, has become the fulcrum for debate on the issue." — Emma Platoff, The Texas Tribune, 22 June 2018

Did you know?

Fulcrum, a word that means "bedpost" in Latin, derives from the verb fulcire, which means "to prop." When the word fulcrum was used in the 17th century, it referred to the point on which a lever or similar device (such as the oar of a boat) is supported. It did not take long for the word to develop a figurative sense referring to something used as a spur or justification to support a certain action. In zoology, fulcrum can also refer to a part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support, such as the joint supporting a bird's wing.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 28, 2018 is:

canorous • \kuh-NOR-us\  • adjective

: pleasant sounding : melodious


"His artistry, technical proficiency, and canorous melodies have an introspective yet uplifting feeling by virtue of the beauty and honesty that so naturally accompany the acoustic guitar." — Kevin Gillies, Noozhawk (Santa Barbara, California), 26 Nov. 2018

"There is an element of truth to that, but Zephyr—such a canorous hippie-child name—sang a populist tune not found in any Beltway progressive songbook." — Bill Kauffman, American Conservative, 1 Nov. 2014

Did you know?

In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), the author Thomas de Quincey describes a manservant who, after accidentally letting a loaded trunk fall down a flight of stairs, "sang out a long, loud, and canorous peal of laughter." Canorous typically describes things, such as church choirs or birds in the spring, that are a pleasure to listen to. It derives from the Latin verb canere ("to sing"), a root it shares with a number of words that evoke what is sweet to the ear, such as chant, canticle ("a song"), cantor ("a leader of a choir"), carmen ("a song, poem, or incantation"), and even accent.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 27, 2018 is:

enervate • \EN-er-vayt\  • verb

1 : to reduce the mental or moral vigor of

2 : to lessen the vitality or strength of


Dehydration and prolonged exposure to the sun had enervated the shipwrecked crew, leaving them almost too weak to hail the passing vessel.

"In contrast, there was dignity in the Joad family (of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath). When the Dust Bowl smothered Oklahoma, the Joads were not enervated, they moved west in search of work." — George Will, The Washington Post, 7 Dec. 2016

Did you know?

Enervate is a word that some people use without really knowing what it means. They seem to believe that because enervate looks a little bit like energize and invigorate it must share their meaning—but it is actually their antonym. Enervate comes from the Latin enervatus,the past participle of the verb enervare, which literally means "to remove the sinews of," but is also used figuratively in the sense of "to weaken." The Latin enervare was formed from the prefix e-, meaning "out of," and nervus, meaning "sinew or nerve." So etymologically, at least, someone who is enervated is "out of nerve."

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 26, 2018 is:

utmost • \UT-mohst\  • adjective

1 : situated at the farthest or most distant point : extreme

2 : of the greatest or highest degree, quantity, number, or amount


"The refuge, which is bordered by the Centennial Mountains and Continental Divide to the south and the Gravelly Mountains to the north, is also home to the utmost point of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers." — Kelley Christensen, The Montana Standard, 25 Nov. 2013

"The Richmond football team is one of eight 4AA squads with a bye this week, but head coach Bryan Till is still preaching … that keeping a sense of urgency is of the utmost importance." — Leon Hargrove Jr., The Richmond County (North Carolina) Daily Journal, 15 Nov. 2018

Did you know?

Utmost traces back to the Old English ūtmest, a superlative adjective formed from the adverb ūt, meaning "out." Ūtmest eventually evolved into utmost, perhaps influenced by the spelling of the word most. Not surprisingly, the earlier sense of utmost carries the same meaning as outermost. The second sense of utmost, meaning "of the greatest or highest degree," first appeared in English in the 14th century. A related word is utter, meaning "absolute" or "total," as in the phrase "utter chaos"; it comes from Old English utera, meaning "outer," and ultimately from ūt.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 25, 2018 is:

benison • \BEN-uh-sun\  • noun

: blessing, benediction


"I offer thanks for the little things and the big things, everyday benisons and once-in-a-blue-moon moments of grace." — Kati Schardl, The Tallahassee (Florida) Democrat, 17 Nov. 2017

"In the second half of the second act, the show shrinks and darkens as Hamilton's life does. The last song, describing the 50-year widowhood of Eliza, gives an unexpected benison." — Richard Brookhiser, The National Review, 6 Apr. 2015

Did you know?

Benison and its synonym benediction share more than a common meaning; the two words come from the same root, the Latin benedicere, meaning "to bless." (Benedicere comes from the Latin bene dicere—"to speak well of"—a combination of the Latin bene, meaning "well," and dicere, "to say.") Of the two words, benediction is more common today, but benison has a longer history in English. Records show that benison has been used in our language since the 13th century, whereas benediction didn't appear in print until the 15th century.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 24, 2018 is:

grinch • \GRINCH\  • noun

: one who spoils the pleasure of others : killjoy, spoilsport


"Chalk it up to a weary world eager for uplifting entertainment, the surprise of a diamond-in-the-rough performer or simply the sheer delight of watching Britain's Got Talent judge and notorious grinch Simon Cowell grow a heart right before the audience's eyes." — Michelle Tauber et al., People, 4 May 2009

"Not content with banning Christmas in 2016, the country's supreme grinch, Kim Jong Un, went further by prohibiting gatherings that involve alcohol and singing, according to South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS)." — John Onyanga-Omara, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), 20 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

When Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote the children's book How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1957, he probably had no idea that grinch would soon enter the general lexicon of English. Like Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge (whose name has become synonymous with miser), the Grinch changes his ways by the story's end, but it's the unreformed character who "hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!" who sticks in our minds. The ill-natured Grinch, with his heart "two sizes too small," provides us with a lively symbol of someone we love to hate, and his name has thus come to refer to any disgruntled grump who ruins the pleasure of others.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 23, 2018 is:

assuage • \uh-SWAYJ\  • verb

1 : to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses) : ease

2 : to make quiet : pacify

3 : to put an end to by satisfying : appease, quench


"Prince wrote often and eagerly about the idea of sanctuary—places where his spiritual anxieties were assuaged." — Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 25 June 2018

"The interview offers a rare glimpse of what Charles might be like as king, and is perhaps an effort to assuage critics who have worried that he would diverge from British monarchs, who are bound by tradition to reign, not rule, over their subjects." — Palko Karasz, The New York Times, 8 Nov. 2018

Did you know?

Scholars assume that the word assuage derives from assuaviare, a Vulgar Latin term that combines the prefix ad- ("to" or "toward") and the Latin suavis, meaning "sweet," "pleasant," or "agreeable." (Suavis is also the source of the adjective suave.) To assuage is to sweeten or make agreeable or tolerable, and it is far from the only English word for relieving or softening something difficult. Others include allay, alleviate, and mitigate. Allay implies an effective calming or soothing of fears or alarms, while alleviate implies temporary or partial lessening of pain or distress. Mitigate suggests moderating or countering the force or intensity of something painful.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 22, 2018 is:

compendious • \kum-PEN-dee-us\  • adjective

: marked by brief expression of a comprehensive matter : concise and comprehensive


Noah Webster's style of defining for the first American dictionary was compendious.

"For the past few years his writing has been an elegant and compendious ongoing exploration of Britain's social history through its council estates." — Lynsey Hanley, The Guardian, 19 Apr. 2018

Did you know?

Compendious is applied to things that are brief in statement or expression, but oftentimes the brevity is chock-full of meaning. Its synonyms run the gamut, giving us concise, terse, succinct, pithy, laconic, and summary. Concise simply suggests the removal of all that is superfluous or elaborative ("a concise description"). Terse implies pointed conciseness ("a terse reply"). Succinct implies the greatest possible compression ("a succinct letter of resignation"). Pithy adds the implication of richness of meaning or substance ("pithy one-liners"). Laconic implies brevity to the point of seeming rude or indifferent ("a laconic stranger"). Summary suggests the stating of main points with no elaboration ("a summary listing of the year's main events").

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 21, 2018 is:

solstice • \SAHL-stiss\  • noun

1 : either of the two points on the ecliptic at which its distance from the celestial equator is greatest

2 : the time of the sun's passing one such point on the ecliptic which occurs about June 21 to begin summer in the northern hemisphere and about December 21 to begin winter in the northern hemisphere


People all over the world have observed celebrations linked to the summer and winter solstices since ancient times.

"The Earth wobbles on its axis once every 27,000 years…. This alters the relationship between the solstices and the distance from the Earth to the Sun." — Steven A. Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, The Chippewa Herald, 8 Oct. 2018

Did you know?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice usually occurs on June 20 or 21 and the winter solstice on December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, the solstices are exactly the opposite. For several days around the time of the solstices, the sun's appearance on the horizon at sunrise and sunset seems to occur at the same spot, before it starts drifting to the north or south again. Solstice gets its shine from sol, the Latin word for "sun." The ancients added sol to -stit- (a participial stem of sistere, which means "to stand still") and came up with solstitium. Middle English speakers shortened solstitium to solstice in the 14th century.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 20, 2018 is:

frenetic • \frih-NET-ik\  • adjective

: marked by excitement, disorder, or anxiety-driven activity : frenzied, frantic


"For Youse and the roughly 90 employees who work at the store, the 5-mile move capped more than a half-year of planning, followed by a frenetic two days in which everything from the one store was transferred to the other." — Chad Umble,, 22 Oct. 2018

"During his years as a sports broadcaster in Chicago, Adam Harris realized his volunteer work as a youth baseball coach often would provide a welcome break from the frenetic world of media." — Karen Ann Cullotta, The Chicago Tribune, 18 Oct. 2018

Did you know?

When life gets frenetic, things can seem absolutely insane—at least that seems to be what folks in the Middle Ages thought. Frenetik, in Middle English, meant "insane." When the word no longer denoted stark raving madness, it conjured up fanatical zealots. Today, its seriousness has been downgraded to something more akin to "hectic." But if you trace frenetic back through Anglo-French and Latin, you'll find that it comes from Greek phrenitis, a term describing an inflammation of the brain. Phren, the Greek word for "mind," is a root you will recognize in schizophrenic. As for frenzied and frantic, they're not only synonyms of frenetic but relatives as well. Frantic comes from frenetik, and frenzied traces back to phrenitis.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 19, 2018 is:

tchotchke • \CHAHCH-kuh\  • noun

: knickknack, trinket


"How someone organizes their desk can tell you a lot about how they get work done. That's why we're stepping into the offices of enviably creative (and productive) people to look at what's on their desks—pens and notebooks and gadgets, but also décor and tchotchkes." — Deva Pardue and Maxine Builder, The New York Magazine, 10 Sept. 2018

"… a review from WireCutter … called it the best 3D pen of the lot. While we're debating whether any home needs the flood of tchotchkes that will inevitably pour forth as a result of this gadget, the idea of drawing something into existence is pretty appealing." — Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Forbes, 1 Nov. 2018

Did you know?

Just as trinkets can dress up your shelves or coffee table, many words for "miscellaneous objects" or "nondescript junk" decorate our language. Knickknack, doodad, gewgaw, and whatnot are some of the more common ones. While many such words are of unknown origin, we know that tchotchke comes from the Yiddish tshatshke of the same meaning, and ultimately from a now-obsolete Polish word, czaczko. Tchotchke is a pretty popular word these days, but it wasn't commonly used in English until the 1970s.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 18, 2018 is:

millefleur • \meel-FLER\  • adjective

: having an allover pattern of small flowers and plants


The museum's collection includes several medieval tapestries with millefleur designs.

"An early 16th century millefleurs tapestry is a charmer, with children playing amidst the birds and animals and the thousand flowers of the style's name." — Sherry Lucas, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), 29 Sept. 2002

Did you know?

Millefleur (which can also be spelled millefleurs) came directly from French into English in the 17th century as a word for a perfume distilled from several different kinds of flowers. The literal meaning of mille fleurs in French is "a thousand flowers," so it is easy to see how millefleur came to be applied to patterns or backgrounds of many tiny flowers or plants. A similarly colorful extension of "a thousand flowers" can be seen in the word millefiori. That term, which refers to ornamental glass characterized by multicolored flower-like designs, comes from mille fiori, the Italian phrase meaning "a thousand flowers."

Justice is the 2018 Merriam-Webster Word of the Year. In this special episode, editors Peter Sokolowski and Emily Brewster discuss the the decision-making process, the year's other top words, and the meaning of justice in 2018. With special host Ilan Stavans, from In Contrast (New England Public Radio).

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 17, 2018 is:

epitome • \ih-PIT-uh-mee\  • noun

1 : a typical or ideal example : embodiment

2 a : a summary of a written work

b : a brief presentation or statement of something

3 : brief or miniature form — usually used with in


The cabin we rented was the epitome of country charm: wide pine floors, simple sturdy furniture, and clean linen curtains billowing in the breeze of the open windows.

"I really want to make movies about tangible, complicated love, and I think the epitome of love is family love." — Jeremiah Zagar, quoted in The New York Magazine, 23 Aug. 2018

Did you know?

Epitome first appeared in print in 1520, when it was used to mean "summary." If someone asks you to summarize a long paper, you effectively cut it up, mentioning only the most important ideas in your synopsis, and the etymology of epitome reflects this process. The word descends from Greek epitemnein, meaning "to cut short," which in turn was formed from the prefix epi- and the verb temnein, which means "to cut." Your summary probably also presents all the key points of the original work, which may explain why epitome eventually came to be used for any person or object that is a clear or good example of an abstraction.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 16, 2018 is:

vitiate • \VISH-ee-ayt\  • verb

1 : to make faulty or defective : impair

2 : to debase in moral or aesthetic status

3 : to make ineffective


Some feared that the superintendent's decision to reinstate the students would vitiate the authority of the principal who suspended them in the first place.

"Convected heating essentially is the heating of the air itself and it warms the walls and furnishings only slightly, as turning on and off a convector heater will show. However it may also be argued that this essentially vitiates the recycled air, causes dryness and often physical discomfort." — James Le Fanu, The Telegraph (UK), 18 Mar. 2016

Did you know?

Here's one for word puzzle lovers—and anyone allured by alliteration. The sentence "Vivian vituperated the vicious villain for valuing vice over virtue" contains three words that derive from the same Latin source as vitiate. Can you identify all three? If you picked vituperate (a verb meaning "to scold"), vicious, and vice, your puzzle prowess is beyond reproach. Like vitiate, all three descend from the Latin noun vitium, meaning "fault" or "vice."

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 15, 2018 is:

nidus • \NYE-dus\  • noun

1 : a nest or breeding place; especially : a place or substance in an animal or plant where bacteria or other organisms lodge and multiply

2 : a place where something originates, develops, or is located


The neighborhood had long been a nidus of crime and vice, but community policing and other interventions have done much to reduce the crime rate in recent years.

"Ancient cities grew up along navigable rivers—think Cairo, Rome, Paris and London. In the 19th century, railroad stations were the nidus for Chicago, Denver, and Sacramento." — Alison Stuebe, The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), 20 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

Nidus literally means "nest" in Latin, and some of its relatives in English suggest this connection in a straightforward way. For example, we have nidification for the process of building a nest, and nidicolous, meaning "reared in a nest." But nidus itself, when used as an English word, is apt to refer to a place where bacteria lodge and multiply. Consequently, the extended use of nidus in English often has a negative connotation referring to a source of undesirable opinions or behaviors.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 14, 2018 is:

zibeline • \ZIB-uh-leen\  • noun

: a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair, alpaca, or camel's hair


"It's a simple, elegant design: high-collar, buttons, long sleeves, with lace and a sheer bodice. Its fabric catches the light very delicately—Bridges found the thick zibeline in London." — Hunter Harris, Vulture, 5 Jan. 2018

"The second gown is a more structured design of either silk zibeline or silk taffeta, with hand-embroidered silk thread and Swarovski crystals in three different sizes." — Joyce Chen, The Knot, 7 May 2018

Did you know?

Though zibeline is woven from the hair of alpacas, camels, or Angora goats, its name actually traces back to a Slavic word for the sable, a small mammal related to the weasel. The Slavic term was adopted into Old Italian, and from there it passed to Middle French, then on to English in the late 1500s. English zibeline originally referred to the sable or its fur, but in the 19th century it developed a second sense, applying to a soft, smooth, slightly furry material woven from a mixture of animal hairs. It's especially suited to women's suits and coats, or, as a fashion columnist in the December 6, 1894 issue of Vogue observed, "Zibeline ... makes an exceedingly pretty, warm theatre cloak, not too fine to be crushed into the small one-chair space."

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