Have you been keeping up with Word Genius? As the autumn chill set in, we learned an adjective to describe something open to different interpretations and an Irish slang word for a good time. We also covered how to address a particularly important person and learned a word that means projecting backwards — the perfect way to begin looking back at the year as it concludes (phew!). Refresh your memory of the origins, the “did you knows,” and the weird truths behind every word that entered your inbox in November 2020.
November 1, 2020 — Legerity
What does it mean? Legerity can either mean “lightness in movement or action” or “lack of weight or weightiness; lightness of touch or feeling.”
Where does it come from? Legerity developed from the French word légèreté, which means thoughtlessness. While it is good to be lighthearted, it is important to pay attention to the time, place, and occasion, so you are not considered thoughtless.
Did you know? To feel a sense of legerity, you might consider seeking out a zero-gravity experience. There are many different opportunities to simulate weightlessness — NASA uses a Boeing turbojet nicknamed the “Vomit Comet” to train astronauts to adjust to the physical rigors of space.
November 2, 2020 — Andragogy
What does it mean? Andragogy can either mean “the method and practice of teaching adult learners” or “adult education.”
Where does it come from? This noun was created in the 1920s by combining the word "andro" (man) and "pedagogy" (the practice of teaching) — meaning that andragogy directly translates to "the practice of teaching man."
Did you know? No matter how old humans get, we never stop learning. Some ways for adult learners to engage in andragogy is by auditing a college class, picking up a new hobby, or attempting to learn a new language.
November 3, 2020 — Centenary
What does it mean? The hundredth anniversary of a significant event; a centennial.
Where does it come from? Centenary can be used as both an adjective and a noun. It comes from the Latin words centenarius and centum, which mean "denoting a hundred" and "a hundred," respectively.
Did you know? Places or events are not the only subjects of a hundred-year anniversary — people celebrating their hundredth birthday are observing a centenary of their own.
November 4, 2020 — Bonhomie
What does it mean? Cheerful friendliness; geniality.
Where does it come from? Bonhomie comes from the French word bonhomme, which translates to "good fellow." The next time you join in a rendition of "He's a Jolly Good Fellow," you might try to switch up the lyrics to "He's a Jolly Bonhomie."
Did you know? If you would like to have more bonhomie in social settings, try to genuinely be interested in other people and what they have to say. Approach conversations with a smile and engage in active listening — people will consider you a friendly face in no time.
November 5, 2020 — Quotidian
What does it mean? Quotidian can either mean “of or occurring every day” or “ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane.”
Where does it come from? Quotidian originated from the Latin word cotidie, or "daily," before further developing through Old French and Middle English. If you're talking about your daily tasks, you might refer to them as your quotidian tasks.
Did you know? Do most tasks feel quotidian to you? Try gamifying your to-do list. By keeping a bullet journal or using an app to map your day, you can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
November 6, 2020 — Edify
What does it mean? To instruct or improve (someone) morally or intellectually.
Where does it come from? Edify came from the Latin words aedis (dwelling) and facere (make), which means building a structure. Your moral structure may not be a physical building, but it's no less sturdy.
Did you know? A priest's sermon attempts to edify an audience, usually by instilling moral practices into a religious congregation. However, anyone trying to instill a moral or intellectual concept is practicing edification.
November 7, 2020 — Juvenilia
What does it mean? Works produced by an author or artist while still young.
Where does it come from? This word originated as a plural to the Latin word juvenilis, which translates to juvenile. If you practiced a hobby as a teen, you probably have juvenilia of your own.
Did you know? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart produced amazing juvenilia during his younger years. He began composing music at age five; by the time he was 12 years old, he had composed whole symphonies and performed in front of royalty.
November 8, 2020 — Puerperal
What does it mean? During or relating to the period of about six weeks after childbirth during which the mother's reproductive organs return to their original nonpregnant condition.
Where does it come from? Puerperal comes from the Latin words puer (child) and para (bearing) — translating to "woman who has given birth."
Did you know? The puerperal period, or six weeks following childbirth, is important for both parents to bond with their baby and recover. For this reason, many countries offer paid maternal and paternal leave for a minimum of six weeks. Some countries, such as New Zealand, offer 18 weeks or more.
November 9, 2020 — Opuscule
What does it mean? A small or minor literary or musical work.
Where does it come from? This noun originally comes from the Latin word opusculum, a diminutive of the word that means "work." If you are working on a project, no matter how big or small it is, you might refer to it as your opus.
Did you know? A magnum opus is the complete opposite of an opuscule work. It refers to the most important work of an artist's career, often one that they are most recognized for.
November 10, 2020 — Terraqueous
What does it mean? Consisting or formed of land and water.
Where does it come from? Terraqueous originated as a combination of two Latin words: terra (land) and aqueous (of or like water). A rocky beach, for example, is terraqueous terrain, because it is made up of land and tidepools.
Did you know? Terraqueous features are an important component of Japanese gardens. These gardens are traditionally supposed to represent the ultimate beauty of nature, and often include combinations of land and water — such as a waterfall and small hills.
November 11, 2020 — Irenic
What does it mean? Aiming or aimed at peace.
Where does it come from? Irenic originated from the Greek word eirēnē, which means "peace." If you use this word, you are describing something truly serene.
Did you know? If you are trying to make your home environment more irenic, look into feng shui. This ancient Chinese practice aims at improving energy flow through small changes — such as making sure the path to your front door is always clear.
November 12, 2020 — Terpsichorean
What does it mean? Relating to dancing.
Where does it come from? Terpsichorean — which can be used as either an adjective or a noun — originated from the Greek word terpsichore. Terpsichore translates to "a love of music and dancing," and referred to the Greek muse of the same name.
Did you know? Lace up your dancing shoes, because dancing is good for your physical and mental well-being. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute found that dancing reduces stress and tension, and also helps prevent heart disease.
November 13, 2020 — Matronymic
What does it mean? Denoting or relating to a name derived from the name of a mother or female ancestor.
Where does it come from? If you are familiar with the word "maternal," you already know part of this word. The Latin word mater, or mother, forms the first half of matronymic, while nym is the Latin word for name.
Did you know? Curious about family history? While this tradition is evolving, many women changed their maiden names when they were married, making it difficult for their descendants to trace their maternal side. Tracing matronymic lines is a helpful alternative; look into birth and marriage certificates for last names and clues into where to look next.
November 14, 2020 — Duende
What does it mean? Duende can either mean “a quality of passion and inspiration” or (in the folklore of Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines), “a supernatural being or spirit resembling a pixie or imp.”
Where does it come from? This word comes from the Spanish phrase dueño de casa, or "owner of the house." The current meaning of passion and inspiration makes sense if you have decorated your home with love.
Did you know? The duende, a mythological figure in Hispanic, Latino, and Filipino lore, is a mischievous figure who lives in people's houses — similar to the European brownie. Its full name means "the master of the house," which already signals trouble for the unfortunate houseowner harboring one of these.
November 15, 2020 — Nisus
What does it mean? Nisus can either mean “effort, endeavor” or “impulse, tendency.”
Where does it come from? Nisus comes from the Latin words nīsus (effort) and nītī (to strive). If someone uses this word to describe you, take it as the highest compliment — they're recognizing that you are working hard to achieve your goals.
Did you know? The word nisus was originally published in Philosophical Transactions from The Royal Society of London. It makes sense that a noun for effort and endeavor comes from the world's first and longest-running scientific journal, launched in 1665.
November 16, 2020 — Littérateur
What does it mean? A person who is interested in and knowledgeable about literature.
Where does it come from? We've held onto the French spelling for this word describing a lover of literature, but it can be traced back farther to Latin. In Latin, littera means letter of the alphabet, but in the plural it gains the meaning of literature or culture.
Did you know? A littérateur is someone knowledgeable about literature. If you want to find someone who loves literature, however, you would look for a bibliophile. They just might be one and the same!
November 17, 2020 — Prospicience
What does it mean? Prospicience can either mean “the action of looking forward” or “foresight.”
Where does it come from? This word originates from the Latin word prōspicientia, which both describes the act of looking forward and divine providence.
Did you know? Meteorologists are masters of prospicience — especially when people rely on them to report weather conditions for travel, traffic, and daily life. Through satellites and other technology, meteorologists use weather data to generate a forecast model. These forecast models help meteorologists predict future weather conditions.
November 18, 2020 — Chrestomathy
What does it mean? A selection of passages from an author or authors, designed to help in learning a language.
Where does it come from? Chrestomathy can be traced back to the Greek words khrēstos, which means "useful," and matheia, which means "learning."
Did you know? Fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones is well known for her series of books featuring Chrestomanci, a charming and magical man with nine lives. His name translates to useful divination, which is a bit more magical than a "chrestomathy," or a useful tool for learning.
November 19, 2020 — Disquisition
What does it mean? A long or elaborate essay or discussion on a particular subject.
Where does it come from? While disquisition developed in French, it originally comes from the Latin words disquisito (investigation) and quaerere (to seek).
Did you know? True Crime is having a moment in pop culture. This genre is finding new life on podcasts and TV series on streaming services, mediums that allow for a complete disquisition of a particular case or famous figure.
November 20, 2020 — Diegesis
What does it mean? A narrative or plot, typically in a film.
Where does it come from? Diegesis originates from the Greek word diēgēsis, which means "narrative." Digesting a good diegesis is a pleasurable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Did you know? Do you ever feel a rush of satisfaction when you finish a particularly good book? There's an explanation for that feeling — when you hear a good story, your brain releases feel-good chemicals in the pleasure centers of your brain. Consuming a good diegesis can be similar to consuming a delicious sandwich (and just as satisfying).
November 21, 2020 — Ratiocinate
What does it mean? Ratiocinate can either mean “form judgments by a process of logic” or, simply, to “reason.”
Where did it come from? This verb comes from the Latin word ratiocinat, which means "deliberated; calculated."
Did you know? To ratiocinate, you must develop your critical and logical thinking skills. One way to do that is building your vocabulary and discovering the meaning behind words — which means you are practicing ratiocination right now.
November 22, 2020 — Personage
What does it mean? Personage can either mean “a person (used to express importance or elevated status)” or “a character in a play or other work.”
Where does it come from? "Personage" developed in Old Middle English by way of Old French, but it can be traced back to the Latin word personagium, which means "effigy." Then the word became infused with the meanings of "honorable" and "eminent" — making the word a "personage" of its own.
Did you know? TIME magazine chooses the most Influential Person of the Year. While the general reader's poll has some influence on the selection, the final list of personages is handpicked and evaluated by TIME editors.
November 23, 2020 — Multivocal
What does it mean? Having or open to many different meanings, interpretations, or applications.
Where does it come from? Multivocal developed from the Latin word multivocus (expressed by many words) by way of poet, critic, and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Did you know? If you encounter a word that is multivocal, you are looking at a homonym. Homonyms are often spelled and pronounced alike, but have different meanings — such as aunt and ant, byte and bite, and flow and floe.
November 24, 2020 — Retroject
What does it mean? To project backwards.
Where does it come from? Retroject originated in the mid-19th century from the combination of the Latin words retro (backwards) and project (to throw forth). It's a bit of an oxymoron, but we'll allow it.
Did you know? Have you heard of the psychological term "projection"? It means to attribute your feelings or opinions onto someone else. "Retroject" means to apply current beliefs or learnings onto the past.
November 25, 2020 — Anomalous
What does it mean? Deviating from what is standard, normal, or expected.
Where does it come from? Anomalous comes from the Greek word anōmalos, which translates to "not even."
Did you know? An "anomaly" is the noun form of the adjective "anomalous." If you call something "an anomaly" it implies that it's out of the norm. To dig a little deeper, use the adjective to describe exactly WHAT is anomalous. Is it the color? The way it makes you feel? Use your words.
November 26, 2020 — Craic
What does it mean? Craic can either mean an “enjoyable social activity” or “a good time.”
Where does it come from? Craic is an Irish Gaelic word that developed in the 1970s. It originated from the English and Scots word crack (which is often used to indicate having a good time).
Did you know? While you'll hear mostly English in Ireland, a lot of people also speak Irish, or Gaelic. Craic means a good time, but you might also hear fáilte, or welcome, grá, for love, and saoirse, for freedom. Fair warning: Don't try to pronounce any of these words with English phonetics.
November 27, 2020 — Sapid
What does it mean? Sapid can either mean “having a strong, pleasant taste” or, when referring to talk or writing, “pleasant or interesting.”
Where does it come from? Sapid originated from the Latin word sapidus, from the verb sapere, which means "to taste."
Did you know? Here's a memory trick: syrup is made from the sap of a tree. It has a strong, pleasant taste, which is the exact definition of the adjective "sapid." If you're using the adjective to describe pleasant words, they're pretty sweet, too.
November 28, 2020 — Dulcify
What does it mean? Dulcify can either mean to “sweeten” or to “calm or soothe.”
Where does it come from? This verb comes from the Latin words dulcinficare (to sweeten) and dulcis (sweet). This allows it to be used to indicate sweetness of all kinds — whether dulcet tones or a dulce de leche.
Did you know? Dulcify is a word with a double meaning — it can mean to sweeten, but used in context with a person, it can mean soothing or calming them down. This means that you can dulcify a friend, but you can also dulcify your coffee, too.
November 29, 2020 — Emulous
What does it mean? Emulous can either mean “seeking to emulate someone or something” or “motivated by a spirit of rivalry.”
Where does it come from? Emulous comes from the Latin word aemulus (rival) via Late Middle English, but the idea of it as a description of emulating another person developed over the 16th century.
Did you know? The Beatles might be one of the most imitated bands in music history. If you're a fan of The Eagles, The Beach Boys, Heart, Billy Joel, The Mamas and The Papas, KISS, Bruce Springsteen, even Nirvana — they've all claimed to be emulous of The Beatles.
November 30, 2020 — Apogee
What does it mean? Apogee means the highest point in the development of something; a climax or culmination. Or if you’re an astronomer, you can use the word to refer to the point in the orbit of the moon or a satellite at which it is furthest from the earth.
Where does it come from? While apogee developed through French (apogée) and Latin (apogaeum), the noun's root is from Greek — specifically the Greek word apogaion, or "distance from the earth."
Did you know? Part of what makes humans love storytelling so much is reaching the climax, the most exciting point of the story — which can also be called the apogee of the story.