Word of the Day: 2/29/16 – 3/4/16

Happy Leap Day! Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, taking one more day for a vacation, or simply basking in this February extension by relaxing on the couch with a book, I hope you enjoy this week’s words, which also kick off March for us. Here is what you can expect:

“If you’ve ever felt exhausted after traveling, know that it’s in the word itself. The word ‘travel’ is ultimately the same word as ‘travail’.

Imagine the era when travel time was measured in months; there were no in-boat movies during the trip, and no Holiday Inns waiting at the destination. That’s if you reach the destination at all. Travel could be torture (travel/travail are from Latin trepaliare: to torture).

Yet travel can be rewarding. It enriches us, broadening our outlook. Words also travel, hopping across continents, across languages, enriching our vocabulary.

This week we’ll see five words that have traveled far and wide to reach us.”

Have a great week!

personalty (PUHR-suh-nuhl-tee) 

noun: personal property: movable property, as contrasted with real estate

From Anglo-French personalté, from Latin personalitas, from persona (mask, person), from Etruscan phersu, from Greek prosopa (face, mask). Earliest documented use: 1528

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“If the trustee had done his duty there would have been no land, there would have been a fund of personalty.”
F.W. Maitland; Equity; Cambridge University Press; 2011.

truchman (TRUHCH-muhn)

noun: an interpreter

From Latin turchemannus, from Arabic tarjuman, from Aramaic turgemana, from Akkadian targumanu (interpreter). Earliest documented use: 1485

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“From there Gaveston appears to the audience as a kind of presenter of a comedy, like Hieronimo a truchman to this political masque.”
Michael Hattaway; Elizabethan Popular Theatre; Routledge; 1982

popinjay (POP-in-jay)

noun: someone who indulges in vain and empty chatter

Via French and Spanish from Arabic babbaga (parrot). The last syllable changed to jay because some thought the word referred to that bird instead of a parrot. Earliest documented use: 1322

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“If the polls are to be believed, an intellectually unserious popinjay born on third base tops the field of candidates for the Republican nomination for president.”
Tony Norman; Trump’s Delusions Will Catch up to Him; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania); Jul 21, 2015.

arsenious (ahr-SEE-nee-uhs)

adjective: relating to or containing arsenic (especially when trivalent)

From Old French arsenic, from Latin arsenicum, from Greek arsenikon (yellow orpiment), from Arabic zarnik, from Persian zar (gold). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine), which also gave us yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, gloaming, melancholy, and choleric. Earliest documented use: 1818

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The next time you’re having a bad day, pause for a moment to be grateful: that you weren’t born in the Victorian age and consequently are not likely to be in danger of being poisoned by arsenic. Come, come, you might be thinking. This is a slender reason to be cheerful — who’s to say that anyone would wish to slip a splash of arsenious acid into my cup of tea?”
Rebecca Armstrong; Victorian Lives of Poison, Passion, and Peril; The Independent (London, UK); Mar 19, 2010.

“The institute detected an arsenious substance in some of the samples that was later found to be white arsenic.”
Arsenic at Hayashi House ‘Highly toxic’; The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo, Japan); Oct 20, 1998.

brio (BREE-oh)

noun: vigor or vivacity

From Italian brio (liveliness), from Spanish brio (spirit), from Celtic brigos (strength). Earliest documented use: 1731

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Ms. Woodward … was all sparkling energy and springing brio, with wonderfully pliant, strong feet.”
Alastair Macaulay; New York City Ballet Introduces Its Future with a Flurry of Nutcracker Debuts; The New York Times; Dec 28, 2015.

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