Month: June 2015

Gossamer

gossamer • \GAH-suh-mer\ • adjective
: extremely light, delicate, or tenuous

Examples:
Except for a few gossamer clouds, the sky was clear and blue.

“On two screens, she watched herself spin in a green field, gossamer wings floating off her body.” — Melena Ryzik, New York Times, March 3, 2015

Did you know?
In the days of Middle English, a period of mild weather in late autumn or early winter was sometimes called a gossomer, literally “goose summer.” People may have chosen that name for a late-season warm spell because October and November were the months when people felt that geese were at their best for eating. Gossomer was also used in Middle English as a word for filmy cobwebs floating through the air in calm, clear weather, apparently because somebody thought the webs looked like the down of a goose. This sense eventually inspired the adjective gossamer, which means “light, delicate, or tenuous”—just like cobwebs or goose down.

Inculcate

inculcate • \in-KUL-kayt\ • verb
: to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions

Examples:

“When Duke went to seven Final Fours over a nine-year span from 1986 through 1994, the Blue Devils were invariably led by juniors and seniors inculcated in how Krzyzewski wanted the game played.” — Barry Jacobs, Charlotte (North Carolina) News & Observer, April 10, 2015

Did you know?
Inculcate derives from the past participle of the Latin verb inculcare, meaning “to tread on.” In Latin, inculcare possesses both literal and figurative meanings, referring to either the act of walking over something or to that of impressing something upon the mind, often by way of steady repetition. It is the figurative sense that survives with inculcate, which was first used in English in the 16th century. Inculcare was formed in Latin by combining the prefix in- with calcare, meaning “to trample,” and ultimately derives from the noun calx, meaning “heel.” In normal usage inculcate is typically followed by the prepositions in or into, with the object of the preposition being the person or thing receiving the instruction.

Bellwether

bellwether • \BEL-WEH-ther\  • noun one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends 
Citation:
“Plus, on an increasingly divided council, and in a new district elections system inviting wholesale change,Godden’s race could be a bellwether for how incumbents are faring this election year.” — Heidi Groover, the stranger, May 13, 2015

Did you know?
We usually think of sheep more as followers than leaders, but in a flock one sheep must lead the way. Long ago, it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle (meaning “bell”) and wether (a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been castrated). It eventually followed that bellwether would come to refer to someone who takes initiative or who actively establishes a trend that is taken up by others. This usage first appeared in English in the 13th century.

Obtain

June 09, 2015

obtain • \ub-TAYN\  • verb
1 : to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort
 2 : to be generally recognized or established : prevail 

Example:

“Business owners and musical acts that want to participate in the series can sign up online and skip the trip to City Hall to pay fees and obtain acoustic entertainment licenses….” — Steve Annear, BostonGlobe, April 28, 2015

Did you know?
Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning “to take hold of.” Obtinēre was itself formed by the combination of ob-, meaning “in the way,” and the verb tenēre, meaning “to hold.” In its earliest uses, obtain often implied a conquest or a successful victory in battle, but it is now used for any attainment through planned action or effort. The verb tenēre has incontestably prevailed in the English language, providing us with such common words as abstaincontaindetain,sustain, and, perhaps less obviously, the adjectives tenable and tenacious.