Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 22, 2018 is:
lugubrious \loo-GOO-bree-us\ adjective
1 : mournful; especially : exaggeratedly or affectedly mournful
2 : dismal
"Most of the interviewees talk in the lugubrious tones of the defeated. We all know the story ends badly." — Bing West, The New York Post, 19 Sept. 2017
"In the new movie, Liam Neeson plays Felt with a kind of lugubrious sincerity. He's an unhappy man, beset by professional and personal woes, and he makes his secret alliance with Woodward for reasons that are both admirable and vengeful." — Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2017
Did you know?
"It is a consolation to the wretched to have companions in misery," wrote Publilius Syrus in the first century B.C.E. Perhaps this explains why lugubrious is so woeful—it's all alone. Sure, we can dress up lugubrious with suffixes to form lugubriously or lugubriousness, but the word remains essentially an only child—the sole surviving English offspring of its Latin ancestors. This wasn't always the case, though. Lugubrious once had a linguistic living relative in luctual, an adjective meaning sad or sorrowful. Like lugubrious, luctual traced ultimately to the Latin verb lugēre, meaning "to mourn." Luctual, however, faded into obsolescence long ago, leaving lugubrious to carry on the family's mournful mission all alone.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 21, 2018 is:
cadre \KAD-ray\ noun
1 : a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others; broadly : a group of people having some unifying relationship
2 : a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
3 : a member of a cadre
4 : frame, framework
"As an articulate woman proposing solutions to the ills of society, Lucy was no lone figure on the city's political landscape. Still, within a public arena of competing ideas and legislative initiatives, she occupied a prominent niche—a revolutionary cadre of one—and fought to stay in the headlines and on the front page." — Jacqueline Jones, Goddess of Anarchy, 2017
"As Jon Gruden continues to build his coaching staff, his latest hire fits right in with the cadre of football minds with whom Gruden has had extensive experience. He has hired long time draft prep training specialist, Tom Shaw as the team's strength coach." — Pro Football Weekly, 15 Feb. 2018
To understand cadre, we must first square our understanding of the word's Latin roots. Cadre traces to the Latin quadrum, meaning "square." Squares can make good frameworks—a fact that makes it easier to understand why first French speakers and later English speakers used cadre as a word meaning "framework." If you think of a core group of officers in a regiment as the framework that holds things together for the unit, you'll understand how the "personnel" sense of cadre developed. Military leaders and their troops are well-trained and work together as a unified team, which may explain why cadre is now sometimes used more generally to refer to any group of people who have some kind of unifying characteristic, even if they aren't leaders.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 20, 2018 is:
yegg \YEG\ noun
: one that breaks open safes to steal : safecracker; also : robber
"Last Friday night while Sonoma peacefully slept a gang of yeggs, evidently professionals for they wore gloves to conceal all fingerprints, hammered away at the big safe of the Napa Milling Company, broke it open and escaped with $153 in cash, an account book and checks totaling $215." — The Sonoma (California) Index-Tribune, 6 Sept. 1935
"The cops grabbed him and another yegg for a Philadelphia store burglary." — James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto, NYPD: A City and Its Police, 2000
Safecracker first appeared in print in English around 1873, but English speakers evidently felt that they needed a more colorful word for this rather colorful profession. No one is quite sure where yegg came from. Its earliest known use in print is from a 1901 New York Times article. This same article also includes the first known print use of the variant yeggmen. Yegg has always been less common than safecracker, but it still turns up once in a while.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 19, 2018 is:
hachure \ha-SHUR\ verb
: to denote surfaces in relief (as on a map) by shading with short lines drawn in the direction of slope
"Topographic surveys were done for the first time with compasses…. And mapmakers developed new methods for depicting terrain. One method, called hachuring, used lines to indicate the direction and steepness of a slope." — Greg Miller, National Geographic, 16 Sept. 2016
"Lava flows that filled in much of the Yellowstone caldera are shown in this geologic map of the Yellowstone-Teton region. Rock units are colored by age and composition. Boundaries of the Yellowstone and Island Park calderas are hachured." — Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel, Windows into the Earth: The Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, 2000
Hachuring is an old map-drawing technique that was largely replaced in later years by the use of contour lines, or lines that connect points of similar elevation. The word hachure, which can also be a noun referring to one of the short lines used in hachuring, comes from the French hacher, meaning "to chop up" or "hash." This French word is also the source of the verbs hash, which can mean "to chop (food, such as meat and potatoes) into small pieces," among other meanings, and hatch, meaning "to inlay with narrow bands of distinguishable material" and "to mark (something, such as a drawing or engraving) with fine closely spaced lines."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 18, 2018 is:
farce \FAHRSS\ noun
1 : a savory stuffing : forcemeat
2 : a light dramatic composition marked by broadly satirical comedy and improbable plot
3 : the broad humor characteristic of farce
4 : an empty or patently ridiculous act, proceeding, or situation
"The company's guarantee is a farce," Jay complained. "The replacement they sent broke even more quickly than the original."
"Congress approved the funding with few reservations, and years passed before lawmakers seemed to comprehend their role in the farce." — Mark Mazzetti, The Atlantic, 27 Jan. 2018
When farce first appeared in English, it had to do with cookery, not comedy. In the 14th century, English adopted farce from Middle French with its original meaning of "forcemeat" or "stuffing." The comedic sense of farce in English dates from the 16th century, when English imported the word again, this time to refer to a kind of knockabout comedy already popular in France. This dramatic genre had its origins in the 13th-century practice of augmenting, or "stuffing," Latin church texts with explanatory phrases. By the 15th century, a similar practice had arisen of inserting unscripted buffoonery into religious plays. Such farces—which included clowning, acrobatics, reversal of social roles, and indecency—soon developed into a distinct dramatic genre and spread rapidly in various forms throughout Europe.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 17, 2018 is:
uncanny \un-KAN-ee\ adjective
1 : seeming to have a supernatural character or origin : eerie, mysterious
2 : being beyond what is normal or expected : suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers
Our waiter had an uncanny resemblance to the creepy villain in the film we had just seen.
"One of the premier shape-shifters of his generation of actors, able to convincingly play an uncanny variety of characters, Paul Dano would seem to have slipped easily into yet another role: that of accomplished director." — Kenneth Turan, The Portland Press Herald, 28 Jan. 2018
Weird and eerie are synonyms of uncanny, but there are subtle differences in the meanings of the three words. Weird may be used to describe something that is generally strange or out of the ordinary. Eerie suggests an uneasy or fearful consciousness that some kind of mysterious and malign powers are at work, while uncanny, which debuted in the 18th century, implies disquieting strangeness or mysteriousness. English also has a word canny, but canny and uncanny should not be interpreted as opposites. Canny, which first appeared in English in the 16th century, means "clever," "shrewd," or "prudent," as in "a canny lawyer" or "a canny investment."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 16, 2018 is:
anent \uh-NENT\ preposition
: about, concerning
"Whatever the case, the undertaking was soon abandoned in disappointment and apparently with strong feelings anent the region itself." — Wesley Frank Craven, The Southern Colonies in the 17th Century, 1970
"The Act had been a sensible idea. Its absence would be noted. Not least among minority communities who welcomed the protection available from Section Six of the Act anent Online communications." — Brian Taylor, BBC.com, 25 Jan. 2018
Anent looks like a rather old-fashioned word, and it is, in fact, very old: an earlier sense of the word can be found in Beowulf, from approximately 800 C.E. Anent was at one point almost obsolete—it had nearly died out by the 17th century—but it was revived in the 19th century. Various usage commentators have decried anent as "affected" and "archaic." The former complaint seems like a harsh judgment, and the latter is untrue: although anent is rarely heard in speech, examples of current use can easily be found in written sources, especially in Scottish English. Once a favored preposition in Scots law, it turns up today in the occasional letter to the editor ("Anent your article on…"). Dead words do occasionally rise from the grave, and anent is one of them.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 15, 2018 is:
telegenic \tel-uh-JEN-ik\ adjective
: well-suited to the medium of television; especially : having an appearance and manner that are markedly attractive to television viewers
The future looks promising for this charismatic and telegenic young politician.
"[Shaun] White is a telegenic guy; he's been a corporate-sponsored snowboarder since the tender age of 7, and won gold medals in both 2006 and 2010." — Sonia Saraiya, Variety, 18 Feb. 2018
Telegenic debuted in the 1930s, an offspring of television and photogenic, meaning "suitable for being photographed especially because of visual appeal." The word photogenic had other, more technical meanings before it developed that one in the early decades of the 20th century, but the modern meaning led to the sense of -genic that interests us here: "suitable for production or reproduction by a given medium." That sense is found in today's word, telegenic, as well as its synonym, videogenic. Telegenic may seem like a word that would primarily be used of people, but there is evidence for telegenic describing events (such as popular sports), objects, and responses. Occasionally, one even sees reference to a telegenic attitude or other intangible.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 14, 2018 is:
invigilate \in-VIJ-uh-layt\ verb
1 : to keep watch; especially : to supervise students at an examination
2 : supervise, monitor
Professors will take turns invigilating exams during the finals period.
"Since I have so often been asked about the mechanics of the job [of restaurant reviewer], it seems worth mentioning a few here…. In places designed for group eating, I often made up a group, though I tended to invigilate what was ordered: duplicate orders were banned and no one got to say, 'I think I'll have a steak.'" — Peter Calder, The New Zealand Herald, 24 Dec. 2017
Keep your eyes open and you're sure to spot a few relatives of today's word. Invigilate is a descendant of the Latin verb vigilare, meaning "to stay awake." As you may have guessed, vigilare is the ancestor of our adjective vigilant ("alertly watchful"), and it also gives us reveille ("a signal to wake up in the morning," via French réveillez) and surveillance ("close watch, supervision," via French surveiller). Invigilate has been a member of the English language since the mid-16th century.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 13, 2018 is:
laudable \LAW-duh-bul\ adjective
: worthy of praise : commendable
Thanks to the laudable efforts of dozens of volunteers, the town's Winter Carnival was an enjoyable event for everyone.
"Exposing your children to art and culture during Miami Art Week is a laudable idea. Letting a pack of 6-year-olds run around through the crowded aisles of Art Miami is something entirely different." — Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald, 11 Dec. 2017
Both laudable and laudatory derive ultimately from Latin laud- or laus, meaning "praise." Laudable and laudatory differ in meaning, however, and usage commentators warn against using them interchangeably. Laudable means "deserving praise" or "praiseworthy," as in "laudable efforts to help the disadvantaged." Laudatory means "giving praise" or "expressing praise," as in "a laudatory book review." People occasionally use laudatory in place of laudable, but this use is not considered standard.