Category: my word a day


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

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


“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.


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 


“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.


youthquake • \YOOTH-kwayk\  • noun
: a shift in cultural norms influenced by the values, tastes, and mores of young people

“One late afternoon in the summer of 2009, I was walking down Wythe Avenue, a thoroughfare in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood still lined with warehouses that were home to vintage clothing and indie-band practice spaces and peppered with a few bars and restaurants. At this point, Williamsburg had earned a reputation as the home of a global youthquake of fashion,music and culture.” — Anne Szustek, Business Insider,March 11, 2015

“There have been innumerable situations in which the senior employees of Don’s firm … have seemed …unwilling or unable to truly understand the changes the world was going through.… They tried to harness the energy of the youthquake of the ‘60s here and there, but the true import of all the cultural and social changes of the last decade more or less passed them by.” —Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post, April 27, 2015

Did you know?
The 1960s were a time of seismic social upheaval brought about by young people bent on shaking up the establishment. From politics to fashion to music, the ways of youth produced far-reaching cultural changes. Linguistically, the sixties saw the addition to English of such words as flower childpeacenikhippielove beads,trippyvibefreak-out, and love-in. Not surprisingly, they also saw the emergence of youthquake. Although commonly attributed to Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, an earlier use of youthquake in print comes from a 1966 article in McCall’s: “the youthquake, as some call it … has swept both sides of the Atlantic.”


clandestine • \klan-DES-tun\  • adjective
marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy :surreptitious 


Frida Kahlo met Jose Bartoli in New York while she wasrecuperating from spinal surgery stemming from a busaccident in her youth. Theirclandestine correspondence lasted for three yearsaided by friendsand Kahlo’s sisterCristina, who had introduced the pair.”

— Gotham NewsApril 24, 2015

Did you know?
In 1658, the English poet John Milton wrote of “clandestine Hostility cover’d over with the name of peace.” Over three and a half centuries later we use clandestine in much the same way. The word is often used as a synonym of secret and covert, and it is commonly applied to actions that involve secrecy maintained for an evilillicit, or unauthorized purpose. It comes to us by way of Middle French from Latinclandestinus, which is itself from clammeaningsecretly.”

Noblesse oblige

noblesse oblige • \noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH\  • noun
: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsiblebehavior associated with high rank or birth 

“And true to those sentiments of noblesse oblige, in 1957the Seiberling family turned the property over to a nonprofit trust.” — Steve Stephens, Columbus (Ohio)Dispatch, April 24, 2011


\FROO-gul\    adjective
Characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.
“Budgeting makes most people groan and it’s easy to understand why. The idea of reining it in and becoming frugal feels like the financial equivalent of forsaking steak for rice cakes (no offense to anyone who prefers rice cakes).” Anna B. Wroblewska, Motley Fool, January 5, 2015.