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librate

Nov. 16th, 2018 | 08:01 am

librate (LAI-brait) - v., to oscillate (like the beam of a ballance); to remain poised or balanced.


In astronomy, a libration is a wobble, as by our moon, in the apparent position of something, caused by its orbit being not actually circular. The root for these is Latin lībrāre, to balance/make level/bring to equilibrium, from lībra, ballance scale -- and yes the zodiac sign carrying scales is the same root. A .gif of the moon librating:

libration of the moon
Thanks, WikiMedia!

---L.

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hebetate

Nov. 15th, 2018 | 08:06 am

hebetate (HEB-i-tait) - v.t., to make dull or blunt.


Generally mental dullness. The even rarer form inhebetate, which is what I had in my queue, means to make something dull as in either not sharp or not interesting, but hebetate apparently cannot act on physical sharpness. The form I know better is hebetude, mental dullness/lethargy, thanks to growing up rereading The Space Child's Mother Goose. At the root of all of these is Latin hebes, dull/blunt.

---L.

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belvedere

Nov. 14th, 2018 | 07:50 am

belvedere (BEL-vi-deer, bel-vi-DEER) - n., a roofed structure or a roofed feature of a building (such as a turret) situated so as to command a wide view.


Something that gives a "fine view," as it literally means in Italian. Here's one in Italy:

Belvedere in Garda, Italy
Thanks, WikiMedia!

---L.

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orfe

Nov. 13th, 2018 | 09:42 am

orfe (AWRF) - n., a slender freshwater Eurasian fish, Leuciscus idus, kept as an ornamental and aquarium fish.


Also, and apparently more commonly, called ide (pronounced AID). Two ornamental varieties are common, the silver orfe and golden orfe -- you get to guess what colors they are. The name has gone through a bit of a journey -- we got it from German orfe/orf, which got it from either via French orphe or directly from Old High German orvo, which got it from Latin orphus (where it was the name of a different fish, the gilt-head bream), which in turn got it from Ancient Greek orphós, which was yet another fish, the sea perch. Woofs. Here, have a pretty:

Orfe glittery in water
Thanks, WikiMedia!

---L.

Crossposts: https://prettygoodword.dreamwidth.org/742290.html
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erg

Nov. 12th, 2018 | 07:40 am

I've been doing a lot of long words lately, so how about a short one to start off the week?


erg (ERG) - n., a large desert region of sand dunes with little or no vegetation.


Especially in the Sahara, but not limited to there. The kind of landscape you think of when you hear desert, with a shifting sea of dunes. Technically this is erg2, where erg1 is the unit of energy. Given the Saharan specificity, it may not be surprising that it comes (via French) from Maghrebi Arabic ʾerg, corresponding to Standard Arabic ʾirq, vein, referring to the veinlike appearance of the dunes).

sand dunes in Morroco
Thanks, WikiMedia!

---L.

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ochlophobia

Nov. 9th, 2018 | 07:53 am

ochlophobia (ok-luh-FOH-bee-uh) - n, a morbid fear of crowds or mobs.


Especially mob-like crowds. Coined, like most phobias, from Greek roots ókhlos, crowd + phobos, fear.

---L.

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ooglification

Nov. 8th, 2018 | 08:01 am

ooglification (oog-li-fi-KAY-shuhn) - n., the supposed linguistic process whereby a word is made slangier by replacing a vowel with -oo-.


The word was made up as a satire by linguistics professor Roger Wescott in a 1977 article "Ooglification in American English Slang," but has been cited by non-linguists since as if it's a real thing. It's true that cigaroot is slangier than cigarette and Scandihoovian is slangier than Scandinavian, but there's no real process here. The form of the word came from Wescott's supposed type-example for the process, oogly from ugly. For more info, see here and there.

---L.

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mythomaniac

Nov. 7th, 2018 | 08:45 am

mythomaniac (mith-uh-MAY-nee-ak) - n., someone who lies or exaggerates to an abnormal degree.


A pathological liar, or someone with Munchausen syndrome. This is not nearly as old a word as many believe -- it was coined in this sense (there's an earlier one of someone obsessed with myths, which lived and died in the 19th century) around 1910 from mythomania, itself coined in 1909 from Greek myth, in the sense of a false story + Latin root -mania.

---L.

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biennial / biannual

Nov. 6th, 2018 | 08:38 am

biennial (bai-EN-ee-uhl) - adj., happening every two years; lasting two years.

biannual (bai-AN-yoo-uhl) - adj., happening twice a year; happening every two years.


And yes, this is confusing -- and getting confused is how the second became a synonym for the first. The mnemonic I use is that plants that live two years are only called biennials, not biannuals (just as many-season plants are perennials, not perannuals) -- so that's the one to use for every two years. If you want to avoid the confusing word entirely, you can use semiannual. Both are from Latin roots bi-, two/twice + annus, year, where the different spelling come about because biennial was put together in Latin, which has some vowel change rules when it comes to stems, and biannual was put together in English, which doesn't.

---L.

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amatorculist

Nov. 5th, 2018 | 08:42 am

amatorculist (ay-muh-TOR-kyu-list, which is yes a hard stress to place) - n., an insignificant, hypocritical, or lousy lover.


So in order, the one who doesn't have a chance, the trifler with affections, or the bad in bed. This is an old one, which seems to have survived (barely) because it's in Johnson's dictionary. This is a Latin stem, amator, lover + -cul, Latin diminutive suffix + -ist, English suffix of person doing the stem.

---L.

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