Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, March 17, 2022

felicitous

[ fi-lis-i-tuhs ] [ fɪˈlɪs ɪ təs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

well-suited for the occasion, as an action, manner, or expression; apt; appropriate.

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What is the origin of felicitous?

Felicitous “well-suited for the occasion,” based on the noun felicity “happiness; skillful faculty,” derives from Latin fēlīcitās “good luck, happiness.” Fēlīcitās comes from the adjective fēlīx (stem fēlīci-) “lucky, happy,” plus the noun-forming suffix -tās “-ness.” Fēlīx and its descendants in modern Romance languages show a common pattern, namely, that a word for “lucky” in a mother language eventually gains the additional sense of “happy,” and either the “happy” sense alone or, less often, both senses are preserved in a daughter language. We can see this tendency when we compare Latin fēlīx “lucky, happy” with Spanish feliz “happy” and Italian felice “happy, lucky” (though the “lucky” sense in Italian is only in certain contexts). A stronger example lies in the English language itself, in which happy derives from the noun hap “luck,” which is also the source of the verb happen. Felicitous was first recorded in English circa 1730.

how is felicitous used?

I have the desire in my photographs to link a still life to a landscape, so by photographing through the glass, I was able to render the water, and the sky, and the landscape as one scene. And I just tried to compose the fish into the landscape. So it’s a committed composition that the fish are swimming through and it’s just a matter of timing it and taking a number of frames of images. It was an idea that one of those frames would have the most felicitous composition, one that has the best relationship of the foreground to the background.

Sam Abell, as quoted in “Found: Reflections on a Japanese Fish Tank,” National Geographic, May 28, 2014

I have successfully made it to swimming holes that did, in fact, exist at the time of my arrival …. The swimming holes are what happen when the water pauses on its own and, entering into some felicitous arrangement with the rocks and soil, renders a space wide and deep enough to hold some stillness.

Jenny Odell, "The Magic of Swimming Holes," New York Times, August 17, 2019

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

bucchero

[ boo-kuh-roh, book-uh- ] [ ˈbu kəˌroʊ, ˈbʊk ə- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

an Etruscan black ceramic ware, often ornamented with incised geometrical patterns or figures carved in relief.

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What is the origin of bucchero?

Bucchero “an Etruscan black ceramic ware” is a borrowing from Italian, though its roots trace back much further. Prior to Italian, bucchero was adapted from Spanish búcaro and, earlier, Portuguese púcaro “clay vessel.” Before Portuguese, púcaro ultimately derives from Latin pōculum “goblet,” but between these two points, the word may have passed through Mozarabic, a variety of Romance once spoken in the south of Spain. Mozarabic was not a language but rather a continuum of dialects descended from Vulgar Latin that developed in the regions of Spain under Moorish control and that Arabic heavily influenced. In this way, Mozarabic was for centuries an intermediary that allowed for numerous terms of Arabic and Latin origin to enter (or, in the case of Latin, to reenter) the Spanish language. Bucchero was first recorded in the late 1880s.

how is bucchero used?

Many scholars believe that the earliest bucchero evolved slowly from a type of impasto pottery made by the latest potters of the Villanovan culture, in other words the people who became the Etruscans. Other experts have noted the strong similarities between certain metallic (and ivory) shapes that may have influenced the development of early bucchero.

Richard Daniel De Puma, “The Meanings of Bucchero,” The Etruscan World, 2013

Another stellar piece is a circa 550-500BC blackware bucchero kantharos from Etruria. Distinctly burnished, bucchero is considered the signature ceramic of the Etruscans and was mostly used by the elite class. The bucchero offered by Apollo Galleries has been held in several prestigious European collections and was also sold by Christie’s London, in 1998.

"London’s Apollo Galleries welcomes New Year with Jan. 16 Ancient Art & Antiquities Auction," Art Fix Daily, January 05, 2022

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

quagmire

[ kwag-mahyuhr, kwog- ] [ ˈkwægˌmaɪ<span class="superscript">ə</span>r, ˈkwɒg- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

an area of miry or boggy ground whose surface yields under the tread; a bog.

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What is the origin of quagmire?

Quagmire “an area of miry or boggy ground” is a compound of the nouns quag and mire, both of which are synonyms of quagmire itself. Mire has a clear and well-studied history; it derives from Old Norse mȳrr “bog” and is a doublet, one of a pair of words derived from the same source but through different routes, of moss (from Old English mēos)—much like fjord and the recent Word of the Day firth. The story of quag, though, is far more muddled. Quag appears to be related to its dialectal English synonyms quab and quaw, and all three may be of imitative origin or come from an uncertain Old English source meaning “to shake, tremble.” For the latter hypothesis, the most popular proposal is a connection between quag and the verb quake, as in earthquake and Quaker. Quagmire was first recorded in English in the 1570s.

how is quagmire used?

More than a thousand miles downstream from the Chinese dams, the Mekong Delta’s seemingly endless network of marshes, canals, and polders—tracts of reclaimed land—stretches to the South China Sea. The delta has long been a literal and metaphorical quagmire …. The mix of salt water and freshwater in the delta, and the centuries of human efforts to direct it, have resulted in a complex engineered landscape, one that is too often treated as separate from the rest of the Mekong.

Michelle Nijhuis, “Harnessing the Mekong or Killing It?” National Geographic, May 2015

The higher-than-usual temps are also keeping people off lake and river ice, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have warned people away from such bodies of water. This problem is not new, the Canadian Press points out. Supply trucks were stranded in 2010 … as winter roads thawed into muddy quagmires, prompting a few aboriginal chiefs to declare a state of emergency.

ICT staff, “Manitoba Aboriginals Roadless, on Thin Ice as Temps Soar,” Indian Country Today, January 7, 2012

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