Y is for…

YetiWell, September is in full swing. School is in session. And before long, the leaves here in Ottawa will put on the best show of the autumn. Then winter will be back. I’m not sure how I feel about that, so to distract myself, I’d like to offer the next instalment in my Vocabulary Series. Astoundingly, we are at the second last letter of the alphabet, the yummy letter Y.

This time, I’ve chosen three nouns with diverse origins. The first I chose because its original meaning is quite different from how we think of it today.

Yacht (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1550s as yeaghe, meaning a light, fast-sailing ship. Comes from the Norwegian or early Dutch jaght, which both come from the Middle Low German jacht, meaning to chase or hunt. It’s a short form of jachtschip, which was used to describe a fast pirate ship, and literally means a ship for chasing. Jacht comes from jagen, meaning to chase or hunt, which in turn comes from the Old High German jagon, which comes from the Proto-Germanic yago–, which can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root yek–, all meaning to hunt.

Definition:   A light sailing boat; a power-driven boat equipped for sailing or cruising.

Example:   “Oh no! Captain Evilbeard and his dread pirate yacht are gaining on us.”

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My second word choice is something I eat regularly. But I knew nothing about its origins before today.

Yogurt (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1620s. The English is a mispronunciation of the original Turkish word yogurt, in which the g is soft and would sound more like a w in English. The root yog means to condense, and it is related to the words yogun, meaning intense, yogush, meaning liquefy, and yogur, meaning knead.

Definition:   A semi-solid and somewhat sour food made from milk fermented by added bacteria. Also spelled yoghurt and yoghourt.

Example:   “Captain, if we throw the barrels of yogurt overboard, we might be able to outrun him. But then we’ll be out of breakfast foods.”

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And I couldn’t pass up my final word choice. I find it fascinating how we have embellished its original meaning.

Yeti (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in 1937. Comes from the Tibetan yeh-teh, meaning small manlike animal.

Definition:   A hairy manlike or bearlike creature said to live in the highest part of the Himalayas. Also known as an abominable snowman.

Example:   No one knew for sure, but legend has it that the yeti fell in love with Evilbeard’s beard. Whatever its motivation, the yeti saved the lives of our entire crew that day.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit: InsignificantYeti @ deviantART

W is for…

Wizard-warlockHappy July, my dear readers! If you celebrated your country’s birthday or independence or something similar in the last week or so, I hope you had a great time. My Canada Day celebrations began with a tornado warning and ended with fireworks, which I think sums up my country pretty nicely. Wild and beautiful.

Okay, so it’s time for the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. Today, I warmly welcome the wise and the whatnot to allow the letter W to wash over your wonderfully whimsical selves.

This first word is a verb that makes me think of soft summer days at the beach.

Waft (verb)

Etymology:   First appears around 1500, meaning to move gently through the air. Likely comes from the Middle Dutch/Middle Low German word wachten, meaning to guard. It might also be related to the Scottish/Northern English word waff, meaning to make something move to and fro.

Definition:  To float or glide gently through the air (can also refer to scents).

Example:   Wanda the werepup wept as she watched her balloon waft away on the warm summer breeze.

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My second word choice started out with one meaning and evolved to mean something a little different but a whole lot more interesting!

Warlock (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1680s in Scotland, meaning the male equivalent of a witch. Comes from the Old English word wærloga, meaning traitor, liar, enemy, or devil. Wærloga comes from wær, which refers to faith and fidelity or an agreement or covenant, and in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic wera– and the Proto-Indo-European wereo-, meaning true or trustworthy. Loga comes from the early Old English word leogan, meaning to lie. Its use to describe someone in league with the devil dates to around 1300, while its use to describe a male witch or sorcerer appears in the 1560s.

Definition:   A man who practices witchcraft; a wizard or sorcerer.

Example:  The kindly neighbourhood warlock took pity on Wanda; with a wave of his wand, Wanda’s wayward balloon was returned to her waiting hands.

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And my final word choice is one that is loaded with meaning, both socially and politically. I was pleasantly surprised to discover its innocuous origins.

Wife (noun)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English word wif, meaning woman, female, lady, and occasionally wife. Wif comes from the Proto-Germanic wiban, a word with unknown origins that also means woman. A number of other old European languages have similar words for woman (Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch wiif, Old High German wib, and the German Weib). One possible Proto-Indo-European root is weip-, meaning to twist, turn, or wrap, which could suggest a veiled person.

Wif evolved into wifman, which is where the modern English word woman comes from. The modern meaning to refer to a female spouse started to emerge in Old English, but the original meaning is still preserved in a number of other words, like midwife and fishwife—and also in expressions like old wives’ tale.

Definition:   A married woman, especially in relation to her spouse.

Example:  Once Wanda’s balloon was securely tied to her wrist, the warlock’s wife whisked Wanda home.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Image credit:  Guro deviantART

V is for…

Vampire_Zuko_for_Leo_by_Depsycho

Holy moly! Can you believe it’s nearly June? Wasn’t I complaining about the snow and the cold not that long ago? Well, I’m not complaining now. My garden is in full swing and I’m off to Toronto next week to attend the annual Editors’ Association of Canada conference.

Today, I’d like to bring you the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. I’m going to visit upon you a veritable variety of vexing and vainglorious vocabulary beginning with the letter V.

This first word is a fabulous verb that conjures visions of indecisive sea anemones. It kind of sounds like the action it describes, don’t you think?

Vacillate (verb)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1590s, meaning to sway unsteadily. Comes from the Latin word vacillatus, which is the past participle of vacillare, meaning to sway to and fro or to hesitate. Its more modern meaning to describe an inability to make up one’s mind was first documented in the 1620s.

Definition:    To waver between two different opinions, options, or actions; to be indecisive; to sway unsteadily.

Example:   Viktor vacillated; he didn’t know if he should pursue the voluptuous blonde running down the hill or her vainglorious lover, who was heading for the forest. He flipped a coin.

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This next word is one of my favourite adjectives, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also makes a great insult!

Vacuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1640s, meaning empty. Comes from the Latin word vacuus, meaning empty, void, or free, which is related to the word vacare, meaning to be empty. Vacare likely comes from a translation of the Greek word kenon, which means that which is empty. Its more modern meaning to describe a person was first seen in the 1840s.

Definition:   Unintelligent or expressionless; lacking substance or content; empty.

Example:   With a disappointed sigh, Viktor cornered his dinner. The young man’s vacuous gaze meant Viktor was in for an especially bland meal.

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Seeing as we’re at the letter V, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you about the origins of the words that describes one of my favourite monsters. Careful—the bonus word this week wants to suck your blood!

Vampire (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1700s, referring to a spectral being in a human body who leaves the grave at night to drink the blood of the living while they sleep. Comes from the French word vampire, or the German Vampir, which is seen in 1732 in an account regarding Hungarian vampires. The French and German words come from the Hungarian vampir, which comes from the Old Church Slavonic word opiri. Similar words can be seen in the Bulgarian vapir and Ukranian uper. Franc Miklošič, an expert on Slavic languages, believed that the origins of vampire can be traced to the Kazan Tatar word, ubyr, meaning witch. However, Max Vasmer, who was an expert in the etymology of Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, and Turkic languages, disagreed.

The meaning that describes a person who preys on others—especially emotionally or psychologically—was first recorded in 1741.

Definition:   A reanimated corpse that leaves its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with abnormally long and pointed canine teeth; a person who preys ruthlessly on others.

Example:   As the sun began to rise, Viktor wished he wasn’t a vampire. He really missed eating pesto and sleeping in a bed.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Linking up with this weekend’s moonshine
grid, over at yeah write.

Hey, if you’ve got a blog post that’s burning
a hole in your virtual pocket, you should
link up too!
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Image credit: Depsycho @ deviantART

T is for…

throne-2

Welcome, dear readers, to the 20th letter of my Vocabulary Series! I can’t believe we are so close to the end of the alphabet. Today, I thought I would tell you about some terrifically tasty words beginning with the letter T.

The first word I chose in celebration of one of my favourite shows, Games of Thrones, which aired one of its best episodes ever last night. (There are no spoilers below, in case you were wondering.) Anyway, this word is synonymous with kings from any number of domains.

Throne (noun)

Etymology:  First appears around 1200 as trone, meaning the seat of God or a saint in heaven. By 1300, it was used to describe a seat occupied by a sovereign. It comes from the Old French trone (compare to the modern French trône), which, in turn, comes from the Latin thronus, which comes from the Greek thronos, both meaning elevated seat or chair. Thronos came from the Proto-Indo-European root dher-, meaning to hold firmly or support. In English, the classical “h” starts to appear in throne in the late 1300s. Its humorous use to describe a toilet was first recorded in 1922.

Definition:  An ornate, often raised, ceremonial chair occupied by a monarch, bishop, or similar; the position, office, or power of a sovereign.

Example:  Kevin was having a blast as the newly appointed King of the Fire-Worshippers until he realized his throne was conveniently perched at the edge of a volcano.

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This next word I chose because I love the way it sounds just like it should.

Taut (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the mid-1200s as tohte, meaning stretched or pulled tight. It may come from the Old English tog-, the past participle stem of teon, meaning to pull or drag, which comes from the Proto-Germanic tugn, which comes from Proto-Indo-European root deuk-, both meaning to lead.

Definition:  Stretched or pulled tight; not slack; tense.

Example:  Kevin dangled over the mouth of the volcano, clinging to the taut rope and wondering why he hadn’t listened to his mother.

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The bonus word this week is another adjective. I can’t read—or say—this one without giggling, which might be a reflection on my maturity, but if you’ve ever read two pages of a romance novel you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Turgid (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the early 1600s. Comes from the Latin word turgidus, meaning swollen, inflated, or distended. Turgidus comes from turgere, meaning to swell, and is of unknown origin. Its figurative use in prose is first recorded in 1725.

Definition:  Swollen and distended or congested; (of language) pompous or bombastic.

Example:  Reverend Blaze touched his turgid members reassuringly. “The swelling should go down once the sacrifice is complete.”

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Iron Throne image credit: HBO

S is for…

squirrel

Well, dear readers, April is finally here. Unfortunately, my backyard is still covered in snow. So, in an attempt to cheer myself up I thought I’d focus on my Vocabulary Series and bring you some of the best words beginning with the letter S.

I think this was the toughest choice yet. There are so many superb and scintillating choices. Words like scissors, snuggle, soap, slither, and squalid, just to name a few. After much agonizing, I managed to select three scrumptious words for you.

The first word I chose is a great adjective, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also sounds a lot like the behaviour it’s used to describe.

Salacious (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the 1660s. Comes from the Latin word salax (from the genitive form salacis), meaning lustful. Likely originated from the Latin salire, meaning to leap, as in a male animal leaping on a female in a sexual advance.

Definition:  Lustful or lecherous; having undue or indecent interest in sexual matters; tending to cause sexual desire.

Example:  Buffy stared at Angel, a salacious look in her eyes. As he moped about his vampire nature, she thought about getting him out of his shirt.

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This next word I chose especially for one of my friends. You know who you are. This animal is disliked by some, but I love watching them frolic in my backyard and figure out new ways to get at my squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Squirrel (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in the early 1300s. Comes from the Anglo-French esquirel, which came from the Old French escurueil, meaning squirrel or squirrel fur. This, in turn, came from the Vulgar Latin scuriolus, which is a variant of the Latin scurius, both meaning squirrel. (Squirrels belong to the Family Sciuridae.) The Latin came from the Greek skiouros, which literally means “shadow-tailed” and is a combination of skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. Oura comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ors, meaning buttocks or backside.

As a side note, the Old English word for squirrel was acweorna, which became aquerne in Middle English, before it was replaced with squirrel. Is it just me or does acweorna sound kind of like acorn?

Definition:  Any of a variety of slender, agile, arboreal or ground-dwelling rodent with a long bushy tail and furry coat, typically feeding on nuts and seeds.

Example:  Fortunately, the vampire squirrel was only interested in sucking the life out of acorns, and the occasional tomato.

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The bonus word this week is something we couldn’t live without. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to say!

Synapse (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in English in 1899, from medical Latin. It was introduced by English physiologist Sir Michael Foster at the suggestion of the classical scholar, Arthur Woollgar Verral. Comes from the Greek synapsis, meaning conjunction, which comes from synaptein, meaning to join or bind together. Synaptein combines syn-, meaning together, and haptein, meaning to fasten.

Definition:  A junction between two nerve cells (neurons), consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass.

Example:  They waited for Igor’s synapses to start firing. It was a long wait.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Linking up with the Moonshine grid over at yeah write.

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Image credit: Joanna RedesiukPhotoxpress.com

 

R is for…

Coati by Adrian Ratter

Welcome back, dear readers, to the latest post in my Vocabulary Series. Today, I’m going to tackle the letter R, which is rife with regal renegades and raunchy representatives. In fact, there are so many fantastic words beginning with R, it was a serious challenge to narrow it down to three.

The first word I chose is one of my favourite adjectives. Just the sound of it can conjure up an image of the type of person it’s meant to describe.

Recalcitrant (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in English in 1823. Comes from the French word, récalcitrant, which means “kicking back” and is the past participle of recalcitrare, meaning to kick back or be inaccessible. It was formed by adding the French prefix re-, meaning back, to the Latin word calcitrare, meaning to kick. Calcitrare comes from the Latin calx, which means heel.

Definition:   Possessing an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline; difficult to manage.

Example:   Timmy couldn’t believe he’d drawn the short straw again; he was still recovering from the last time he’d had to ask the recalcitrant ogre to move.

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This next word describes an animal native to North America. Often considered to be a pest, these animals are dextrous scavengers who sometimes wash their food before eating it, which is pretty cool.

Raccoon (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in English around 1600, sometimes as arocoun. Comes from the word arahkun, from the Powhatan subgroup of the Algonquian language. Arahkun came from the word arahkunem, meaning “he scratches with his hands.” Interestingly, in Norwegian, the word for raccoon is vaskebjørn, meaning wash-bear.

Definition:   A greyish-brown nocturnal North America mammal with a ringed tail and black mask-like markings around the eyes.

Genus is Procyon; family is Procyonidae (the raccoon family). There are two species, including the common raccoon (P. lotor), which is often seen in urban areas throughout North America. The raccoon family also includes the coati, kinkajou, cacomistle, and olingo.

Example:   Timmy watched the raccoon steal the sleeping ogre’s lunch then run up the nearest tree just as the ogre opened its eyes. Oh crap, thought Timmy.

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The bonus word this week is something I would be absolutely thrilled to see at the moment.

Rain (noun)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English word regn, meaning rain, which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic regna– (which you can see in the Old Saxon regan, Old Frisian rein, Middle Dutch reghen, Dutch regen, German regen, Old Norse regn, Gothic rign). Early origins are uncertain, but regna– may come from the presumed Proto-Indo-European root reg-, meaning moist or wet, which might also be the source of the Latin word rigare, meaning to moisten or wet.

Definition:   Condensed moisture from the atmosphere falling visibly in separate drops.

Example:   Timmy breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the rain falling outside; the construction site shut down when it rained.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Image credit: Baby Coati by Adrian Ratter