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Dec. 2nd, 2016 | 08:05 am

hemione - n., the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus).

More commonly called onager. The Mongolian subspecies is also called chigetai or dziggetai (from Mongolian chikitei, literally, with ears/eared -- which, indeed, is a notable feature of asses). Onager is ultimately, via Latin and Anglo-Norman French, from ancient Greek ónagros, wild ass, from ónos, ass + ágrios, wild, while hemione itself is directly from ancient Greek hēmíonos, half ass/mule -- apparently because it more closely resembles a mule than the African "true" ass does? Whatevs.

And that's the last aminal for now -- back next week with the usual unsorted vocabulary heap.


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Dec. 1st, 2016 | 08:07 am

1word1day: steenbok

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Nov. 30th, 2016 | 08:20 am

wisent (VEE-suhnt) - n., the European bison (Bison bonasus).

Not to be confused with the auroch, which is a wild ox whose domesticated form is the cow. This bison is smaller and slightly more gracile than the American bison (Bison bison), and can be seen in many a cave painting. There are about 4500 wisent still living in the wild, with the largest populations in Poland and Belarus. The word is from German, from Old High German wisant, from Proto-Germanic *wisundaz, cognate of Greek bísōn, from which we get the bison form.


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Nov. 29th, 2016 | 08:01 am

manul (MAN-uhl) - n., a small, long-haired wild cat (Otocolobus manul, formerly Felix manul) of the grasslands and montaine steppes of central Asia.

Also more frequently called Pallas's cat. Manul is adopted from Mongolian manuul.


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Nov. 28th, 2016 | 10:47 am

Theme week: aminals! (Or so the resident preschooler sometimes still calls them.)

potoroo (poh-tuh-ROO) - n., any of several small, ratlike kangaroos (genus Potorous) of Australia.

Cute, too. Etymology is uncertain -- almost certainly an Aboriginal language, probably Dharug, which was spoken in the Sydney-to-Port Jackson area.


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Nov. 23rd, 2016 | 08:00 am

stiver (STAI-ver) - n., a former small Dutch coin worth one-twentieth of a guilder; the smallest possible amount.

As in "not worth a stiver" and "she put a stiver's worth of work into cleaning up her room." This is the c. 1502 Anglicization of Dutch stuiver, formerly Middle Dutch stuyver, cognate of Middle Low German stüver.

Admin note: off for the Stateside holiday -- back next week.


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Nov. 22nd, 2016 | 08:02 am

coelostat (SEE-loh-stat) - n., an astronomic device with an adjustable mirror driven by a clock that can track a celestial body and reflect its light into a fixed instrument.

Most ground-based solar telescopes (formerly called heliostats) are coelostats. Coined from Latin coelestis, sky, alteration of caelestis/caelum, sky/heavens + -stat, root meaning an instrument or agent that keeps something (specified) stable or stationary, from Greek statis, that which stops or makes steady.


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Nov. 21st, 2016 | 08:13 am

fylfot (FIL-fot) - n., a swastika.

Supposedly, anyway, when used as a decorative device, but this sense is only attested in a single, damaged c.1500 manuscript, and there it may refer to any sort of device used to fill the bottom (foot) of a design. The OED notes that "it is even possible that it may have been a mere nonce-word." Other potential etymologies were then devised by 19th century heraldry, which started using the word especially for a swastika rotating anticlockwise with outer arms shorter than the inner ones.


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Nov. 18th, 2016 | 08:38 am

entomophobia (ent-toh-moh-FOH-bee-uh) - n., abnormal fear of insects.

Or of one or more classes of insects -- apiphobia (fear of bees) and myrmecophobia (ants) are types of entomophobia. This is not a condition of the household preschooler, who despite repeated owie encounters with buggies, including two times straying into a fire-ant nest, remains fascinated and attracted by insects and arachnids. From Greek roots, natch -- éntoma, insects, noun use of neuter plural of éntomos, notched, verbid of entémnein, to cut in/up. So ... the Greeks thought of bugs as critters that chew things up? Huh.


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Nov. 11th, 2016 | 07:51 am

eneolithic (ee-nee-oh-LITH-ik) - adj., of or pertaining to the Copper Age, between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

Sometimes more specifically used only of the Near East and eastern Europe. A time when copper was being worked and used alongside stone tools, before peoples had learned to add a little arsenic or tin to it to make bronze. Also called chalcolithic, to avoid it being read as e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic" -- both terms mean literally "copper-stone," with eneo- coming from Latin aeneus, genitive of aes, copper (or sometimes bronze), and chalco- coming from Greek khalkós, copper. (-lithic, of course, is from Greek lithos, stone.)

Admin note: Posting may be light next week due to external obligations.


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