High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary expansion’

Haptic

Posted by kazvorpal on January 14, 2011


This was going to be a caption about the haptic experience depicted above...but this editor is too distracted to remember what he was going to say

Haptic

Having to do with the sense of touch, as in haptic poetry

A search of Google Books will produce hundreds of engineering books using this word, and one may anticipate it becoming common in society, as technology becomes more touch-oriented.

Examples:

Does ontological chaos (whether acoustic, visual, or haptic in origin) actively nourish equivocal magic, or is magic uncertain because it is rarely, barely discernible behind the chaos of the everyday?
— Hugues Azèrad, Peter Collie, Twentieth-Century French Poetry: A Critical Anthology

Haptic displays can be considered to be devices which generate mechanical impedances.
— D. W. Weir and J. E. Colgate, “Stability of Haptic Displays

The haptic system is the perceptional system by which animals and men are literally in touch with the environment. When we say figuratively that a man is in touch with the environment by looking or listening, the metaphor is something to think about.
— James J Gibson, The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems

Etymology:

  • From the Greek hap (to grab), the same origin as “have”, and ticos, used to form an adjective from another part of speech

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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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Nabob

Posted by kazvorpal on January 13, 2011


Nabob

Wealthy, powerful or influential individual, usually of exaggerated self-importance

Examples:

In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club — the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.
— William Safire, written for a Spiro Agnew speech (1970)

We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them.
— Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (1979)

How can republican institutions, free schools, free churches, free social intercourse exist in a mingled community of nabobs and serfs; of the owners of twenty thousand acre manors with lordly palaces, and the occupants of narrow huts inhabited by “low white trash?”
— Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, to a meeting of the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress (1865)

Etymology:

  • Used in India and Pakistan, originally for governors imposed by the Mongol empire, this is related to the Arabic honorific, na’ib

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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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Aphorism

Posted by kazvorpal on January 10, 2011


Aphorism

A defining observation of the truth, always short

Examples:

The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other very well.
— Elias Canetti, The Human Province (1942–1972)

Santayana’s aphorism must be reversed: too often it is those who can remember the past who are condemned to repeat it.
— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy

The poem and the aphorism are Nietzsche’s two most vivid means of expression but they have a determinate relation to philosophy.
— Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and philosophy (1962)

Etymology:

  • Aphorismus, Latin for “to define”

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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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Hortatory

Posted by kazvorpal on January 4, 2011


Barry Goldwater, delivering a hortatory speech

Barry Goldwater, delivering a hortatory speech

Hortatory

adj. Giving exhortation or advice; encouraging; exhortatory; inciting; as, a hortatory speech.

Companion to the word “minatory”, which means to threaten instead of simply urging

Examples:

Considering the avowed purpose of his work, which is rather hortatory than historical, we are fortunate indeed to be given so much first-hand information by this embittered preacher.
— Nowell Myres, in Roman Britain and the English Settlements (1937) p. 329

The hortatory narrative was a peculiar species of literature which was frequently cultivated during our period. Stories of a purely fictitious character were composed which the author no doubt intended to be regarded as founded on fact, though at the same time the object in view was not so much to impart historical information, as to use these stories as a vehicle for conveying oral and religious lessons and exhortations.
— Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ

As I begin this hortatory address to you, ye men of Greece, I pray God that I may know what I ought to say to you, and that you, shaking off your habitual love of disputing, and being delivered from the error of your fathers, may now choose what is profitable
— Justin Martyr, Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks

Etymology:
15th century, neoclassical Latin, Hortati means “to exhort”, an intensified version of Horiri, “to urge”. Same origin as “exhortation”.

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Autodidact

Posted by kazvorpal on January 1, 2011


Leonardo da Vinci

Having taught himself more about the sciences than any teacher of his age already knew, Leonardo Da Vinci is a quintessential autodidacts.

Autodidact (plural: autodidacts)

n. A self-taught person; an automath.

We’re back! The High Vocabulary Word of the Day is starting a new year with 365 words, including a reformatting of some old ones.

Examples:

When it came to formal classes, I was a slacker. But I’ve always been a diligent autodidact and can teach myself virtually any subject — if I have a serious interest in it.
— Dean Koontz, “Q&A” column, Dean Koontz: The Official Website (16 June 2006)

He was the perfect autodidact. He wanted to know it all.
— Gore Vidal, “Edmund Wilson: This Critic and This Gin and These Shoes“, The New York Review of Books (1980-09-25)

I’ve also incorporated into my autodidacticism a distrust of schools as inefficient, repressive institutions. It’s part of my new “damn the man” persona!
— T. Rex, Dinosaur Comics

Public-library intellectuals, magpies of knowledge, like most autodidacts we were incapable of evaluating our sources.
— Edmund White, “My Women,” ‘The New Yorker‘ (2005-06-06)

Etymology

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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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