\ˈbä-fən\ A scientist, especially one engaged in research, often technological or military research. A person who has extensive skill or knowledge in a particular field. Informal someone who is considered to be very clever, often to the exclusion of all non-academic interests. Chiefly British slang.
/ˈdævɪt ˈdeɪ-/ A crane that projects over the side of a ship or a hatchway, fitted with a tackle for suspending or lowering equipment. Used to hoist boats, anchors, and cargo. Usually one of a pair.
\ˈsī-ən\ A detached living portion of a plant, a young shoot, twig or bud, esp. one joined to a stock in grafting, or for rooting. A descendant, child; especially a descendant of a wealthy, aristocratic, or influential family. Note: One definition said a “notable” family, but I reject the idea that notable is equivalent to wealthy or aristocratic. Also, super interesting to me...
\ˈcham(p)-fər, ˈcham-pər\ v. To cut off the edge or corner of; bevel. To cut a groove in; flute. n. A flat surface made by cutting off the edge or corner of a block of wood or other material. A furrow or groove, as in a column.
\mȯ-ˈrā, mwä-\ An irregular wavy finish on a fabric, a fabric having a wavy watered appearance. A ripple pattern on a stamp. In physics, an independent interference pattern, usually shimmering, seen when two geometrically regular patterns (two sets of parallel lines, two halftone screens, two grids) are laid over each other, especially at an acute angle. Archaic: A watered mohair
\ˌi-ni-ˈlək-tə-bəl\ Unable to be resisted, changed or avoided. Inescapable, inevitable: “the ineluctable facts”.
\dis-ˈjəŋ(k)t\ Characterized by separation. Not united or joined. Discontinuous. Music: Relating to progression by intervals larger than major seconds. Note: the musical definition makes me think of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, although that’s not where I read the word.
/haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho-/ A bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc. A technical name for goose flesh. Note: McPhee, of course.
/sûrkm-vlt/ To surround with or as if with a rampart. Any of approximately 12 large papillae near the back of the tongue each of which is surrounded with a marginal sulcus and supplied with taste buds responsive especially to bitter flavors. Note: from McPhee, also.
/ˈswivit/ A fluster or panic. A state of extreme agitation . Extreme distress or discomposure. Note: From John McPhee in the New Yorker who simultaneously inspires and terrifies me as a writer.
\im-ˈpȯr-chə-nət, -tyu̇-nət\ Persistent, esp. to the point of annoyance or intrusion. Troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand. Pressingly entreating. Note: two definitions gave the example of “importunate creditors”, another of “importunate job seeker.” A pressingly entreating job seeker and a creditor persistent to the point of intrusion seem...
/märˈmôrēəl/ Made of, relating to, or suggestive of marble or a marble statue especially in coldness or aloofness. Resembling marble, as in smoothness, whiteness, or hardness. Note: This word makes me think of nursing, maybe because it reminds of mammary. Obviously unrelated though.
\ˈbə-krəm\ A stiff-finished heavily sized fabric of cotton or linen used for interlinings in garments, for stiffening in millinery, and in bookbinding. Modern buckrams have been stiffened by soaking in a substance, usually now pyroxylin, to fill the gaps between the fibres. Archaic : stiffness, rigidity
\ˈe-pə-ˌsēn\ Having but one form to indicate either sex. Belonging to, or partaking of the characteristics of, both sexes. Lack of gender distinction, lacking characteristics of either sex. Encompasses concepts of effeminacy, androgyny and/or asexuality. In linguistics, the adjective “epicene” is used to describe a word that has only one form for both male and female referents, like...
\mə-ˌchi-kə-ˈlā-shən\ A floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement or parapet, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The word derives from the Old French word machecol, mentioned in Medieval Latin as machecollum and ultimately from Old French macher ‘crush’, ‘wound’ and col...
ple-nə-pə-ˈten(t)-sh(ə-)rē, -shē-ˌer-ē\ Invested with or conferring full power or authority. A diplomatic agent, such as an ambassador, fully authorized to represent his or her government or to transact business. Note: this word cropped up in The West Wing. Not embarrassed.
\si-ˈne-sən(t)s\ The state of being old : the process of becoming old. The growth phase in a plant or plant part (as a leaf) from full maturity to death. Note: It’s weird that the first two definitions feel depressing and sad, but the last one about the plant feels natural and hopeful and happy.
/ˈkrepəˌtāt/ Make a crackling sound: “the night crepitates with a whistling cacophony”; “crepitating electricity”. Crackle. Note: This word will come in handy, for the times that my brain is intensely firing.
\ˈglȯ-kəs\ Of a pale yellow-green color. Of a light bluish-gray or bluish-white color. Having a powdery or waxy coating that gives a frosted appearance and tends to rub off Note: This definition is annoyingly confusing to me, because yellow-green and bluish-white are not that close. Not close enough, if you’re using a precision word like glaucous. Or maybe it’s just not a precision...
\ˈsinərəs\ Consisting of or resembling ashes. A light bluish gray to light gray that is redder and darker than skimmed-milk white and very slightly redder than glaucous gray.
After moulting, an arthropod is described as teneral, a callow; it is “fresh”, pale and soft-bodied. In this state the insect is soft, and has not fully attained its mature coloring. Within one or two hours, the cuticle hardens and darkens following a tanning process similar to that of the tanning of leather. It is during this short phase that the animal expands, since growth is...
\si-ˈzyu̇r-ə, -ˈzhu̇r-\ A pause in a line of verse dictated by sense or natural speech rhythm rather than by metrics. A pause or interruption, as in conversation. A break, an interruption. A pause marking a rhythmic point of division in a melody.
\ˌȯ-skəl-ˈtā-shən\ The act of listening to sounds arising within organs (as the lungs) as an aid to diagnosis and treatment. Note: following on yesterday’s definition. Sometimes one word leads to another word.
To spread news of; repeat. Also any of several generally abnormal sounds heard on auscultation. A rumor. A din; a clamor. In french, literally noise.
/ˈvəlˌpīn/ Of or relating to a fox or foxes. Crafty; cunning: “Karl gave a vulpine smile”. Synonyms are sly, foxy, wily, artful, crafty, tricky. Note: I wonder if some lefty dictionary editor came up with that example sentence, but Karl Rove does have a legit vulpine smile.
\ˌes-kə-ˈtä-lə-jē\ A branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind. A belief concerning the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind; particularly Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming. Per OED, it’s “the department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and...
\ˈrau̇n-də-ˌlā\ A song or poem with a refrain recurring frequently or at fixed intervals. What we called a round, as kids. A dance in a circle; round dance.
-ˌlap-ˈser-ē-ən\ Of, relating to, or characteristic of the time or state after the fall of humankind described in the Bible. Note: so basically, now until the rapture, if you go in for that sort of thing.
\ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\ A worker or performer of wonders, miracles or magic feats. Magician. One who practices thaumaturgy, the capability of a saint to work miracles. Sometimes translated into English as wonderworking.
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“Just to be clear I don’t want to get out without a broken heart. I intend to leave this life so shattered there’s gonna have to be a thousand separate heavens for all of my flying parts.” . from an amazing Andrea Gibson poem.
/ˈkôfəl/ A line of animals or slaves fastened or driven along together. Note: one of the most mild-sounding hideous words I’ve heard in a long time. Opposite of onomatopoeic. From a Smithsonian Magazine article on Bryan Stevenson and the fight against mass incarceration.
To spend the summer, usually at one special or particular place. To pass the summer in a state of torpor. Note: I would like to estivate somewhere, please. From a New Yorker article on Bergdorfs.
/ˈpro͝orēənt/ Having, encouraging, or arousing an excessive, immoderate or unwholesome interest, particularly in sexual matters. Note: This word will come in handy. I always thought it meant something like prudish, but it really doesn’t. From Lucky Peach magazine.
/bə-ˈthe-tik/ Anticlimax. The sudden, unexpected, abrupt, or unintended appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style, maybe producing a ludicrous effect. Exceptional commonplaceness. Triteness. Banality. Note: Weirdly, I think I always thought this word had something to do with pathetic. Which it does, in a way, since pathetic comes from pathos and bathetic comes from...
/prīˈapik/ Of, relating to, or resembling a phallus. Relating to or preoccupied with virility, male sexuality and sexual activity. Note: No shocker there. From Lucky Peach magazine.
/k -thûr n s/ A grave, formal, elevated and tragic style of acting. Also, a buskin worn by actors of classical tragedy. Related, a buskin is a high thick-soled laced boot worn by actors in Greek and Roman tragic drama. From The Lazarus Project, by Aleksander Hemon.
/än-tə-ˈlä-ji-kəl/ Related to ontology, the study of the nature of existence, reality and being. Pertains to questions of what exists, or can be said to exist. From The Lazarus Project, by Aleksander Hemon.
/sämnēəl/ Related to sleep or dreams. From The Lazarus Project, by Aleksander Hemon.
/ˌek-sə-ˈjē-səs/ Explanation. Critical examination of a text, particularly the Bible or other religious texts. From The Lazarus Project, by Aleksander Hemon.
The New Yorker: The Case of the Missing O.E.D.... →
newyorker: An article… in the Guardian—excerpted on Gawker and many other places, and widely retweeted—highlighted the claim that Robert Burchfield, the editor of the four-volume “Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary” published from 1972 to 1986, “covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins.” This claim is completely bogus… Jesse Sheidlower...
/ˈpitēəs/ Deserving or arousing pity. Of a kind to move to pity or compassion. Note: This is one of those words where I feel as if I know what it means, but if I thought about it carefully, I realized I wasn’t sure what the difference was between piteous and pitiful. As it turns out, it seems to be in the valence of the word. Pitiful seems negative, piteous less so. From The Lazarus...
/ˈōSHēˌōs/ Serving no practical purpose, producing no result. Indolent; idle. Being at leisure Note: this seems to me to have a pejorative connotation. But I think things that serve no practical purpose and produce no result can be incredibly valuable. We don’t have enough of those things, sometimes. There’s a lot to be said for leisure, at least as a counterpoint to vigorous,...
\kə-ˈmen(t)-səl\ Living on or within another organism, and deriving benefit without harming or benefiting the host. A parasite that causes no harm to the host. An organism participating in a symbiotic relationship in which one species derives some benefit while the other is unaffected. From a (fascinating) New Yorker article on bacteria and the human microbiome.
\sə-ˈlü-brē-əs\ Favorable to, conducive to, or promoting health or well-being. From dinner conversation.
\ə-ˈsē-dē-ə\ Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui. A state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression. From a NYT article on mattresses.
\ten-ˈden(t)-shəs\ Marked by a tendency in favor of a particular point of view, or by a strong implicit point of view. Biased, partisan. From China Miéville’s Embassytown.