High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Anodyne

Posted by kazvorpal on January 10, 2013


Anodyne

Something that reduces pain or ailment, especially as an analogy

Examples:

It excites in him the gratifying reflection that his country has been the first to prove to the world two truths, the most salutary to human society, that man can govern himself, and that religious freedom is the most effectual anodyne against religious dissension
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jacob De La Motta (1820)

The heart asks pleasure first,
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
Emily Dickinson, Poems (1891)

Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Etymology:

From the Greek anodynos, an = without, dyne = pain. May come from the same word as a root that means “to eat”. Like dining on your pain.

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Oleaginous

Posted by kazvorpal on January 13, 2011


Mad Man Mooney, used car salesman, oleaginous in spirit and person

Oleaginous

Oily in nature, either literally, or as an obsequious or manipulative personality

Example:

This is English at its very best. Easing is not one of the great events of life; it does not call for Beethoven; it is not an idea to get drunk on, to wallow in, to engage in multiple oleaginous syllabification until it becomes a pompous ass of a word like “facilitate.”
— Russel Baker, So This is Depravity (1981)

On the wooden desk above this coop sits a grinning young butcher, showing off the flesh and organs of recently chopped-up chicken, still oleaginous with a coating of dark blood.
— Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008)

Disraeli once described the manner of Bishop Wilberforce as “unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous.” And the good prelate was ever afterward known as Soapy Sam. For every man there is something in the vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to find it.
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1906)

Etymology:

Olea ultimately comes from the same Latin word as both “olive” and “oil”.

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Cynosure

Posted by kazvorpal on January 11, 2011


Cynosure

Something bright that attracts the eyes, (therefore) something that serves as a beacon, guide

Examples:

Yes, we have throned Him in our minds and hearts — the cynosure of our wandering thoughts — the monarch of our warmest affections, hopes, desires.
— Richard Fuller, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

The age demanded a hero, Lawrence qualified, and the 20th century then got what it deserved: a loner, an ascetic, a man who might have been happier as a medieval monk than as the public cynosure he became
— Paul Gray, in The Hero Our Century Deserved, about T.E. Lawrence (1989)

Meadows trim, with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
Towers and balements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The cynosure of neighboring eyes.
— John Milton, L’Allegro (1631)

Etymology:

  • Greek: Cyno means “dog”, oura is “tail”. referring to the tail of the Little Dipper, which contains Polaris, the star used to navigate in the northern hemisphere

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Nefandous

Posted by kazvorpal on January 7, 2011


Chthulu, on the Nefandous Southpark

Nefandous

Unspeakable.

A most severe pejorative

Examples:

Then the earth
In birth nefandous Coeus life produced
And Iapetus and Typhoeus dire
And that bad brotherhood which joined in league
To abolish heaven
— Dante Alighieri, Inferno (1308)

Only the bricks of the chimney, the stones of the cellar, some mineral and metallic litter here and there, and the rim of that nefandous well.
— H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour out of Space (1927)

No Topsman to your Tarpeia! This thing, Mister Abby, is nefand.
—  James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

Etymology:

  • In Latin, ne = not, fandus = to speak

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Brobdingnagian

Posted by kazvorpal on January 5, 2011


 

 

We couldn’t find a pic from the Jack Black movie that didn’t involve Lilliputians

Brobdingnagian

Truly colossal, enormous beyond normal bounds.

Wednesday is the day we try to pick a fun word. Thank Jonathan Swift for this one, via Gulliver’s Travels. It’s the opposite of Lilliputian.

Examples:

Sheldon:       This isn’t a desk, this is a Brobdingnagian monstrosity!
Kuthrapali: Is that an American idiom for “Giant, big-assed desk?”
Sheldon:      It’s actually British.
— Big Bang Theory, Brobdingnagian Monstrosity (2010)

I want you to understand something, Luthor. Although my distaste for you as a human being is Brobdingnagian, what I’m about to do isn’t personal.
— Question, Question Authority, The Justice League (2006)

We have the first rule of thumb: what has never been known to occur probably can’t. Then an application: Brobdingnagian and Lilliputian people have never been known to occur, so they can’t.
— Dennis Des Chene, Physiologia, Natural Philosophy in Late Aristotelian and Cartesian Thought (1996)

He has the wit to insist on his tininess. He makes the most of his inches by clothing himself in a Brobdingnagian dress-coat, a Brobdingnagian waistcoat, a Brobdingnagian shirt front, Brobdingnagian trousers, and Brobdingnagian boots.
— James Douglas, Adventures in London (1909)

Etymology:

  • Brobdingnag is the (fictional) nation of gigantic people that Gulliver visits in Jonathan Swift’s book, Gulliver’s Travels.

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Penury

Posted by kazvorpal on January 3, 2011


Penury

Being very poor; poverty.

Often hyperbolic or poetic in use

Examples:

The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III, sc. i

It is beyond belief that we know so little about how people get rich or poor, about how it is they come to dwell in comfort and health or die in penury and disease.
— Benoît Mandelbrot, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets (2004)

That sovereign of insufferables, Oscar Wilde has ensued with his opulence of twaddle and his penury of sense. He has mounted his hind legs and blown crass vapidities through the bowel of his neck, to the capital edification of circumjacent fools and foolesses, fooling with their foolers. He has tossed off the top of his head and uttered himself in copious overflows of ghastly bosh. The ineffable dunce has nothing to say and says it—says it with a liberal embellishment of bad delivery, embroidering it with reasonless vulgarities of attitude, gesture and attire.
— Ambrose Bierce, Wasp, 1882

The price of contributing to the greatest literature the world has ever seen is often struggle and penury: art is still too often its own reward. It is salutary sometimes to think of the early deaths of Keats, Shelley, Byron, Chatterton, Dylan Thomas, of the Grub Street struggles of Dr. Johnson, the despair of Gissing and Francis Thompson.
— Anthony Burgess, English Literature: A Survey for Students (1958)

I wanted to see if the sky would fall: you see writers are routinely schooled by their peers that maximal copyright is the only thing that stands between us and penury
— Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Etymology:

Penuria is Latin for “want or need”. Same origin as “paena”, “barely or almost”, like “paena insula”, “almost an island”…now peninsula.

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Dolorous

Posted by kazvorpal on August 6, 2010


Dolorous

Deeply sorrowful, or causing great sadness

Dolor is its own legitimate word, for sadness or pain, even physical pain

Examples:

With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread—
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of
dolorous pitch
Thomas Hood, Song of the Shirt

He is not violent, nor tormented by immeasurable and dolorous conceptions; his painting is healthy, exempt from morbid questionings and from painful complications; he paints incessantly, without turmoil of the brain and without passion during his whole life.
Hippolyte Taine, writing about Renaissance artist, Titian

From time to time Sancho gave forth profound sighs and dolorous groans; and on Don Quixote asking him the cause of is sore anguish, he answered that from the end of his backbone to the nape of his neck he was aching, so that it drove him out of his senses.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha

Etymology:

Dolor is Latin for “pain, painful”

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Malamanteau

Posted by kazvorpal on July 29, 2010


Malamanteau

A neologism for a portmanteau created by incorrectly combining a malapropism with a neologism.

It is itself a portmanteau of “malapropism” and “portmanteau”

Examples:

Malamanteau is a cromulent word
Randall Munroe, (∞)

Etymology:

Mala is Greek for “bad”, manteau is French for “cloak” (same origin as the word mantle)

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Ablution

Posted by kazvorpal on July 26, 2010


Ablution

Cleansing with water, literally or metaphorically

This word was often used when the purification achieved had a religious backing, as in Islam and Christianity, but when Christian purification spread to the 19th century Victorian obsession with cleanliness, this word went with it.

Examples:

Bright star! would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure
ablution round earth’s human shores.
John Keats, Bright Star (1819)

If his ankles be weak, let them every morning be bathed, after the completion of his morning’s ablution, for five minutes each time, with bay salt and water…
— Pye Henry Chavasse, “Advice to a mother on the management of her children” (1868)

In the center of the court is a large fountain, and a small stream surrounds the piazzas, where the Moors perform the ceremony of ablution.
— John Pinkerton, Voyages and Travels (1814)

Etymology:

From the Latin Ab (off) and luere (wash), related to another less-used English word for washing, “lave

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Fillip

Posted by kazvorpal on July 23, 2010


Fillip

v. To flick one’s finger (or the act of doing so), by bracing it against and snapping it away from the thumb, often euphemism or simile for encouragement

This may be a dismissive gesture, be used to indicate a direction, or to discard probuscine effluvium

Examples:

If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle.
— Falstaff, Henry IV part 2, by William Shakespeare (1599)

Eat, drink, and love; the rest’s not worth a fillip.
Lord Byron, Sardanapalus (1821)

Faithful horoscope-watching, practiced daily, provides just the sort of small but warm and infinitely reassuring fillip that gets matters off to a spirited start.
— Shana Alexander, “A delicious appeal to unreason” (2005)

Etymology: Appearing in the 15th century, it seems simply to remind one of the sound that the gesture would make

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Evanescent

Posted by kazvorpal on July 22, 2010


Evanescent

adj. Something that is disappearing, or that only happens for moments; ephemeral

Yes, it sounds like the name of that band…but many people don’t know what the actual word means.

Examples:

Human life, with all its unreal ills and transitory hopes, is as a dream, which departs before the dawn, leaving no trace of its evanescent lines.
Percy Shelley, Essay on Christianity (1859)

It was a dark world; it was full of preventable disorder, preventable diseases, and preventable pain of harshness and stupid unpremeditated cruelties; but yet, it may be even by virtue of the general darkness, there were moments of a rare and evanescent beauty that seems no longer possible in my experience.
H. G. Wells, In the Days of the Comet (1906)

He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.
James Joyce, Stephen Hero (1944)

Our knowledge of physics only takes us back so far. Before this instant of cosmic time, all the laws of physics or chemistry are as evanescent as rings of smoke.
Joseph Silk, The Infinite Cosmos (2006)

Etymology: Easier than it sounds: Latin, “ex” (out of) and vanescere, which also forms the word “vanish”

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Heliolatry

Posted by kazvorpal on July 16, 2010


Heliolatry

n. Worship of the sun, whether real or metaphorical

Sun-worship was ancient in Peru, but it was the Incas who made it the great state religion, and their heliolatry was organized for political ends.
— Rushton M. Dorman, “The Origin of Primitive Superstitions”

I remember hearing stories in college about Ibiza, where big-breasted women laid out naked practicing heliolatry on the beaches, and E pills were as abundant as hard candy in an old folks’ home.
— Chris Baker

I am certain that if our preparations for greeting the returning sun were seen by other people, either civilised or savage, we would be thought disciples of heliolatry.
— Frederick Albert Cook, Through the first Antarctic night

Etymology: Helios was the Greek god of the sun (Apollo the god of light, not the sun, although his worship became so popular that it eventually adopted many of the stories that originated with Helios, including that of the sun being a chariot he drove)

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Osculation

Posted by kazvorpal on July 13, 2010


Osculation

v. To kiss, or come into contact with something or someone in a way that could be referred to as kissing by simile

This may not be the most romantic way to say “kiss”, but it’s certainly among the most interesting

All animals copulate but only humans osculate. Parakeets rub beaks? Sure they do, but only little old ladies who murder schoolchildren with knitting needles to steal their lunch money so that they can buy fresh kidneys to feed overweight kitty cats would place bird billing in the realm of the true kiss.
Tom Robbins, Wild Ducks Flying Backward (2005)

He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.
— James Joyce, Ulysses (1923)

According to a famous Yale professor
Osculation
is a sensation that is nice”
— Dean Martin, Tonda Wanda Hoy (1951)

Greetings, Gate. Let’s osculate.
— Daffy Duck, The Wise Quacking Duck (1943)

Etymology: From the Latin osculum, literally “little mouth”

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Senescence

Posted by kazvorpal on October 24, 2009


Grasping ElderlySenescence

adj. Growing old; decaying with the lapse of time.

It is by a blend of lively curiosity and intelligent selfishness that the artists who wish to mature late, who feel too old to die, the Goethes, Tolstoys, Voltaires, Titians and Verdis, reach a fruitful senescence.
Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise (1938)

Senescence begins
And middle age ends
The day your descendents
Outnumber your friends.

Ogden Nash, Crossing The Border

Etymology
Latin senescere, easy to remember as the same origin as senile and senator.

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Desideratum

Posted by kazvorpal on October 16, 2009


My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon around you but by the time I'm through I lose my desideratum. -- Fiona Apple

My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon around you but by the time I'm through I lose my desideratum. -- Fiona Apple

Desideratum

n. Something that is wished for, or considered desirable.

My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon around you but by the time I’m through I lose my desideratum.
Fiona Apple, To Your Love (1999)

A presumption of equality may be contrary to present fact, and yet not contrary to a desideratum. We are not as a fact all equally fit to live, equally responsible, or equally deserving of the protection of the law: but it will hardly be doubted that it would be desirable if we were.
William Ernest Hocking, Present Status of the Philosophy of Law and of Rights (1926)

Etymology
From Latin, desidaratus, same origin as the word “desire”.

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Concupiscence

Posted by kazvorpal on October 10, 2009


Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, an allegorical painting by Agnolo Bronzino (1545)

Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, an allegorical painting by Agnolo Bronzino (1545)

Concupiscence

Any ardent desire, but especially sexual desire; lust.

Good men seek it by the natural means of the virtues; evil men, however, try to achieve the same goal by a variety of concupiscences, and that is surely an unnatural way of seeking the good. Don’t you agree?
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Under a forehead roughly comparable to that of the Javanese or the Piltdown man are visible a pair of tiny pig eyes, lit up alternately by greed and concupiscence.
S. J. Perelman, The Best of S. J. Perelman, Introduction (1947)

Like the use of the word ‘concupiscence‘ in an earlier age to describe sexual desire, the use of the word ‘pollution’ to describe essential aspects of the productive activities of an industrial society represents an attempt to defame an entirely proper human capacity by means of using an evil sounding name for it.
George Reisman, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (1996)

Etymology
Neoclassical euphemism, adopted from Latin concupiscens, very desirous: com; an intensifier, and cupere, meaning “to long for”. Easy to remember, because Cupid comes from the same root.

Note
With the rise of sexual repression in Christianity, this word sometimes took on a pejorative connotation as a sexual euphamism, but is originally a poetic term for desire in general.

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