Thursday, July 30, 2015

Word of the day: pelagic

The word of the day is pelagic:

  1. of or pertaining to the open seas or oceans.
  2. living or growing at or near the surface of the ocean, far from land, as certain organisms.
"pertaining to the sea," 1656, from L. pelagicus, from Gk. pelagikos, from pelagos "sea," from PIE *p(e)lag- "to spread out" (cf. Gk. plagos "side," L. plaga "hunting net, curtain, region"), from base *pele- "spread out, flat" (see plane (1)).


"Between August and October, hunting can be poor as seals reduce ice surface time.  Additionally, in about two-thirds of the polar bear range, seals become largely pelagic as ice retreats from the continental shelf."

- J. P. Whiteman et al., "Summer declines in activity and body temperature offer polar bears limited energy savings", Science 349:6245 (17 July 2015)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Word of the day: wattled

The word of the day is wattled:


  1. Often, wattles. a number of rods or stakes interwoven with twigs or tree branches for making fences, walls, etc.
  2. wattles, a number of poles laid on a roof to hold thatch
  1. adjective
  1. built or roofed with wattle or wattles.
"stakes interlaced with twigs and forming the framework of the wall of a building," O.E. watol "hurdle," in plural "twigs, thatching, tiles," related to weĆ°el "bandage," of unknown origin. Surviving in wattle-and-daub "building material for huts, etc." (1808).

"In Chapter 4, titled "Yugao," Genji comes across a run-down house, the abode of a young woman he is about to seduce.  Waley describes the entrance like this; 'There was a wattled fence over which some ivy-like creeper spread its cool green leaves, and among the leaves were white flowers with petals half-unfolded like the lips of people smiling at their own thoughts.'"

 - Ian Buruma, "The Sensualist: What makes 'The Tale of Genji' so seductive", 20 July 2015 The New Yorker

Friday, July 17, 2015

Word of the day: lugubrious

The word of the day is lugubrious:

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner

c.1600, from L. lugubris "mournful, pertaining to mourning," from lugere "to mourn," from PIE base *leug- "to break, to cause pain" (cf. Gk. lygros "mournful, sad," Skt. rujati "breaks, torments," Lettish lauzit "to break the heart").

"Suci ate with what seemed to me to be lugubrious determination."

 - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History

Word of the day: estivate

The word of the day is estivate:
  1. to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.
  2. Zoology. to spend a hot, dry season in an inactive, dormant state, as certain reptiles, snails, insects, and small mammals.

"Everywhere on the surface of the earth temperatures fluctuate.  They fluctuate from day to night and from season to season.  Even in the tropics, where the difference between winter and summer is minimal, temperatures can vary significantly between the rainy and the dry seasons.  Organisms have developed all sorts of ways of dealing with these variations.  They hibernate or estivate or migrate."

 - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Word of the day: bolster

The word of the day is bolster:

  1. long, often cylindrical, cushion orpillow for bed, sofa, etc.
  2. anything resembling this in form or inuse as support.
  3. any pillow, cushion, or pad.
O.E. bolster "bolster, cushion, something stuffed so that it swells up," especially "long, stuffed pillow," from P.Gmc. *bolkhstraz (cf. O.N. bolstr, Dan., Swed., Du. bolster, Ger. polster), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell" (see belly). The verb in the figurative sense is from c.1500, on the notion of "to support with a bolster, prop up." (

"On the Great Barrier Reef, the sea cucumbers are the size of bolster cushions."

 - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History

Word of the day: limpet

The word of the day is limpet:

  1. any of various marine gastropods with a low conical shell open beneath, often browsing on rocks at the shoreline and adhering when disturbed. 
O.E. lempedu, from M.L. lampreda"limpet" (see lamprey) (

"The limpet Patella caerula is shaped like a Chinese straw hat."

 - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Word of the day: viscus

The word of the day is viscus: 

— noun

  1. singular of viscera.


— plural noun, singular vis·cus .

  1. Anatomy, Zoology the organs in thecavities of the body, especially thosein the abdominal cavity.
  2. (not used scientifically) the intestines; bowels.
"inner organs of the body," 1651, from L.viscera, pl. of viscus "internal organ," ofunknown origin.(

"Lamarck, according to Cuvier, was a fantasist.  Like the 'enchanted palaces of our old romances,' his theories were built on 'imaginary foundations,' so that while they might 'amuse the imagination of a poet,' they could not 'for a moment bear the examination of anyone who has dissected a hand, a viscus, or even a feather.'"

 - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History

Word of the day: ceria

The word of the day is ceria:

a white-to-yellow, heavy powder,cerium dioxide, CeO 2 , usually derived from cerium nitrate by decomposition with heat: used chiefly in ceramics, glass polishing, and decolorizing (

"CMP [chemical mechanical planarization] slurries are waterborne formulations of abrasives and chemicals.  The abrasives are normally particles of ceria, alumina, or colloidal or fumed silica."

 - Alexander Trullo et al., "Chip polishing shines bright", 6 July 2015 Chemical & Engineering News

Friday, July 10, 2015

Word of the day: juke

The word of the day is juke:

to make a move intended to deceive (an opponent) (

"He juked past her and back through the door the other way."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Word of the day: craquelure

The word of the day is craquelure:

a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish. (

"The walls of the top-floor workshop began filling up with old books—reference books, botanicals, atlases, huge black split-spined grimoires, the leather all craquelured like desert hardpan, in tall wobbly stacks that swayed worryingly if you brushed against them."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Word of the day: plus fours

The word of the day is plus fours:

long, baggy knickers for men, introduced before World War I and worn until the 1930s for sports activities, especially golf (

"On the minus side he was unbelievably affected: he was black and from Cleveland but dressed in Scottish tweeds and smoked a fat Turk's-head pipe.  He was the first person Quentin had ever seen in real life wearing plus fours."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Word of the day: noodge

The word of the day is noodge:

to annoy with persistent complaints, criticisms, or pleas; nag (

"He'd found a topic for his independent research project, anyway, Dean Fogg could stop noodging him about that."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Word of the day: gramarye

The word of the day is gramarye:

occult learning; magic (

"It was a long way from running a secret magical kingdom, but then again Fillory had never really needed him that badly, had it.  Fillory pretty much ran itself.  Whereas these kids, floundering as they were in the choppy, frigid waters of introductory gramarye, would have been lost without him."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land