September 29, 2008

AFFLATUS – n. formal a divine creative impulse or inspiration.

Click on the word to check out the wikipedia reference for this one.  It even includes a reference to the aeolian harp, part of the previous word of the day.  What a coincidence!

A common usage of this word is in the phrase “the divine afflatus” (which seems a little redundant given the definition).  The ancient Greeks believed that the divine afflatus was behind most art and creation.  The Divine Afflatus is also a chapter in the book “Prejudices: Second Series” by H. L. Mencken.  In the chapter, Mencken argues for the existence and validity of the divine afflatus.  It is very well written.

I found a few bands called Afflatus but only one of them sounded any good.  You can listen to most of their CD, Autumn’s Urgency, here.  It’s like a rock, reggae mix.  Not bad.

A search for “afflatus” brought up a Time article from 1939 entitled “Mr. Bilbo’s Afflatus.”  It is completely unrelated to the word of the day but I found it fascinating and horrifying and I feel like it is important to be aware of those aspects of our history.  So I’m including it with today’s word of the day.



September 27, 2008

AEOLIAN  (US eolian) – adj. chiefly Geology relating to or arising from the action of the wind.

This word is derived from Aeolus, the name of the Greek god of the winds.









An aeolian harp is a musical instrument that is played by the wind.  Very fascinating.













Aeolian sandstone is sandstone produced by the movement of small grains of sand by the wind.










And check out this.  The Aeolian Ride.  Someone has a good imagination.


September 26, 2008

AEGIS – n. 1 the protection, backing, or support of someone. 2 (in classical art and mythology) an attribute of certain gods represented as a goatskin shield.

This one is typically used as part of the prepositional phrase “under the”.  For example, “Susie lived under the aegis of Tommy and his gang.”

Also, click on the word to get the wiki-rundown on the mythology attached to the word.  In Greek mythology, the aegis was Zeus’ shield that he would sometimes lend out to Athena.  Read all about it.

Here is a representation of the mythical aegis.


September 26, 2008

ADVENTITIOUS – adj. 1 happening according to chance. 2 coming from outside, not native. 3 Biology formed accidentally or in an unusual position. 4 Botany (of a root) growing directly from the stem or other upper part of a plant.

This seems like the kind of nerdy-sounding word that you might find greater opportunity to use in everyday conversation.  You’ve got a few different ways you could use it.  

Adventitious movements are often described as a characteristic of certain physical conditions.  One scholarly article defines adventitious movements as “involuntary movements that occur during voluntary movements”, such as those that often characterize individuals with autism or Huntington’s disease, among others.  The following is a short video about Huntington’s disease.  It discusses some of the difficulties of the disease and illustrates some of the adventitious movements characteristic of the disease.

An adventitious root looks like this: 


September 25, 2008

ADUMBRATE – v. formal 1 give a faint or general idea of. > foreshadow 2 overshadow.

As I researched this word a little bit I discovered that several dictionaries could not come to clear consensus on the precise definition of this word.  Oxford and Webster agree pretty well, but the Wordnet definition doesn’t really resemble the Oxford at all.  And the American Heritage and definitions include other meanings that Oxford doesn’t.  Interesting.  I think the word has developed some extra meaning in North America.

I’m sure you’ll find this fascinating.  Almost the only search results other than dictionary entries for this word were references to the computer game Everquest 2.  There is a quest in the game called The Mark of the Adumbrate.  Weird.


September 24, 2008

ADULTESCENT – n. informal a middle-aged person whose clothes, interests, and activities are typically associated with youth culture.

Webster named ‘adultescent’ 2004’s word of the year.  And according to this article as well, 2004 was the year of the adultescent.  And I think we would all agree that the adultescent has continued to proliferate since then.  The movie Failure to Launch is about an adultescent.  It was actually a fairly funny movie, too.  The guy’s dad has a room in his house which he has designated as his “naked room.”  Hilarious.


September 23, 2008

ADRET (A-dray) – n. Geography a mountain slope which faces the sun.  Compare with UBAC (YOO-bak) – n. Geography a mountain slope which receives little sunshine.

In this photo the adret would be the south-facing slope and the ubac would be the north-facing slope.

Latin “ad” phrases

September 22, 2008

Today is going to be a little different than most.  In the “ad-” section of the dictionary I came across quite a number of “ad” phrases coming from Latin and I think they’re interesting and they make you sound smarter if you know how to use them.  And since this is my word of the day and I can do whatever I want, I’m going to give you a list of such phrases from my dictionary and hopefully you can use them to sound smart some day soon.

And for your reference, the “ad” typically means “to” and what follows is a usually a noun.  eg. Ad Infinitum = to infinity

AD FIN (“at the end”) – adv. at or near the end of a piece of writing.

AD HOC (“to this”) – adj. & adv. formed, arranged, or done for a particular purpose only.

AD HOMINEM (“to the person”) – adv. & adj. 1 associated with a particular person. 2 (of an argument) personal rather than objective.

AD INFINITUM (“to infinity”) – adv. endlessly; forever.

AD INTERIM (“to meanwhile”) – adv. for the meantime.

AD LIB or AD LIBITUM (“according to pleasure”) – v. speak or perform in public without preparing in advance. – adv. & adj. 1 spoken without advance preparation. 2 Music with free rhythm and expression. 3 as much and as often as desired. – n. an ad-lib remark or speech.

AD LITEM (“for the lawsuit”) – adj. Law acting in a lawsuit on behalf of a child or an adult who cannot represent themself.

AD NAUSEAM (“to sickness”) – adv. to a tiresomely excessive degree.

AD PERSONAM (“to the person”) – adv. formal on an individual basis.

AD REM (“to the matter”) – adv. & adj. to the point.

AD VALOREM (“according to the value”) – adv. & adj. (of the levying of taxes or duties) in proportion to the value of the goods or transaction concerned.


September 21, 2008

ADJURE – v. formal solemnly urge to do something.

What a nice headlight.
What a nice headlight. sells custom motorcycle and street rod headlights.  If I was part of their marketing department, I might adjure you to purchase some nice headlights.





On a more serious note, this is a Baha’i prayer that uses our word of the day:

I adjure Thee by Thy might, O my God!

adjure Thee by Thy might, O my God!  Let no harm beset me in times of tests, and in moments of heedlessness guide my steps aright through Thine inspiration.  Thou art God, potent art Thou to do what Thou desirest. No one can withstand Thy Will or thwart Thy Purpose.

The Báb


September 18, 2008

ADDLE – v. [often used as adj. addled] 1 confuse. 2 (of an egg) become rotten, producing no chick. – adj. 1 unsound; muddled. 2 archaic (of an egg) rotten.   ORIGIN Middle English: from Old English adela ‘liquid filth’, of Germanic origin.

This word was interesting for so many reasons.  First, it’s just fun to say; “Addle”, “Addled”; try it!  Second, who knew it was a word for rotten eggs!  Third, I usually don’t include the origin portion, but look at this one; it comes from a word meaning ‘liquid filth’.

So, some stuff to go along with this word.  Here’s an article about addling wild goose eggs to control the goose population.  Very interesting, but not for goose lovers.  I didn’t know they did stuff like that.

Read this brief description of the Addled Parliament.

And I really wanted to link to the Nigel the Addled Weatherman videos on Youtube but I couldn’t access them at the time I was writing this.