Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, November 13, 2021

brackish

[ brak-ish ]

adjective

somewhat salty or briny, as the water in an estuary or salt marsh.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of brackish?

Brackish “somewhat salty or briny” derives by way of the adjective brack “salty” from Dutch brak, which may be connected to Middle Dutch brak “worthless.” While freshwater has a relatively low sodium chloride content and seawater is far saltier, brackish water occurs where these two salt concentrations mix and merge, producing an environment between the two extremes. Because brackish water is too salty to be used for drinking or farming, the Middle Dutch definition of “worthless” surely applies. Note that brackish also contains the suffix -ish, which in this context indicates “somewhat” or “rather”; while brack is “salty,” brackish is salty to less than the full extent. Brackish was first recorded in English in the 1530s.

how is brackish used?

For decades, if you ordered oysters on the half-shell on the eastern Gulf coast, they most likely came from Apalachicola Bay—an estuary in north Florida where freshwater rivers meet the Gulf of Mexico, creating the perfect brackish mix for growing plump, salty oysters. But in recent years, they’re hard to come by.

Debbie Elliott, “Florida Closes Iconic Apalachicola Oyster Fishery,” NPR, July 22, 2020

Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years, Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe are brackish with the salt of human tears! Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow claspest the limits of mortality!

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Time," Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1824

Listen to the word of the day

brackish

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Word of the day

Friday, November 12, 2021

dojo

[ doh-joh ]

noun

a school or practice hall where karate, judo, or other martial arts are taught.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of dojo?

Dojo “a school or practice hall where martial arts are taught” is a direct borrowing from Japanese dōjō “drill hall, Buddhist seminary.” Dōjō, in turn, follows a familiar trajectory from Middle Chinese, which is the source of hundreds of words that were exported to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam; dōjō derives from a Middle Chinese compound literally translated as “way place” or “place of the ways” (compare Mandarin dàochǎng), which originated as a transliteration of Sanskrit bodhi-maṇḍa “seat of wisdom.” This Sanskrit term is one of numerous Buddhism-related words that traveled across Asia and became part of the Japanese language, as we learned in the recent Word of the Day podcast about satori. Dojo was first recorded in English in the early 1940s.

how is dojo used?

On Wednesday, as preparations continued for the start of the Olympic judo competition on Saturday, buses arrived at regular intervals to disgorge groups of competitors in front of a set of unremarkable doors. Once they removed their shoes and took a few steps inside, however, it quickly became clear that they were entering a special place. Soon they fanned out across several floors and limbered up inside spartan dojos infused with a fragrance emanating from the pinewood walls.

Tariq Panja, “‘It’s Like Mecca for Judo,’” The New York Times, July 22, 2021

The four-time Venezuelan youth karate champion [Ricardo Perez] was upset when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of international tournaments in El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico that he had been preparing for. But his family quickly turned the home into a full-time karate gym, or “dojo”, rearranging furniture to leave a tatami mat in the center of their living space where he works out and also leads classes via Zoom for children and other youth athletes.

Manaure Quintero, “In quarantined Venezuela, karate champion takes training to living room,” Reuters, May 15, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

dojo

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Word of the day

Thursday, November 11, 2021

curlicue

[ kur-li-kyoo ]

noun

an ornamental, fancy curl or twist, as in a signature.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of curlicue?

Curlicue “an ornamental, fancy curl or twist” is a compound of the adjective curly and the noun cue. Curly, from the verb curl, appears in Middle English as crulled “curled” and is either derived from or related to Middle Dutch crul “curl,” of Germanic origin and related to the name of the rolled pastry cruller. The -ru- of crul became the -ur- of curl as the result of metathesis, a linguistic phenomenon in which sounds switch places. Metathesis is also responsible for creating third, thirteen, and thirty from Old English thridda, thrēotēne, and thrītig. The cue part of curlicue is most likely from French queue “tail,” via Old French from Latin cauda or cōda “tail,” which we discussed in the recent Word of the Day podcast about codicil. Alternatively, this cue could be in reference to the letter Q and its easily identifiable loops when written in cursive. Curlicue was first recorded in English circa 1840.

how is curlicue used?

Armenia is one of the few countries in the world with its own alphabet—invented in the fifth century by St. Mesrop Mashtots, an Armenian linguist. The curved letters are full of loops and curlicues, reminiscent of Ethiopia’s Amharic, … although researchers say there is no connection.

Malaka Gharib, “Why Writing The Word ‘Freedom’ Is More Powerful Than Typing It,” NPR, July 3, 2018

The book is also very much a celebration of Cass [Elliott]’s beauty and her music, which often intertwine visually by way of [Pénélope] Bagieu’s curlicue lines and handwritten text, as when the familiar lyrics “Allll the leaves are brown … ” swirl together with cigarette smoke.

Meg Lemke, "Dream a Little Dream of Me: An Interview with Pénélope Bagieu," Paris Review, March 28, 2017

Listen to the word of the day

curlicue

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.