Word of the Day Roundup: January 2021

12 min read

Happy New Year! Have you been keeping up with Word Genius? We greeted 2021 with a noun describing a lucky find and an adjective for things conducive to health and well-being. We also learned a word for something that causes happiness — like a new Word Genius article to peruse, for example. Refresh your memory of the origins, the “did you knows,” and the interesting truths behind every word that entered your inbox in January 2021.

January 1, 2021 — Menology

What does it mean? An ecclesiastical calendar of the months, especially a calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church containing biographies of the saints in the order of the dates on which they are commemorated.

Where does it come from? This noun comes from the Greek word mēnologion — which can be broken down further into the words mēn (month) and logos (account).

Did you know? Calendars come in all different shapes and forms, from breathtaking art prints to a simple desk flip calendar. Switch up your way of tracking the days this year and try a menology. Don't worry, your digital calendars will still be there.

January 2, 2021 — Sanative

What does it mean? Conducive to physical or spiritual health and well-being; healing.

Where does it come from? Sanative developed through the Old French word sanatif and the late Latin word sanativus, but its origins lie in the Latin word sanare — which means "to cure."

Did you know? On the subject of well-being...While it can be tempting to pursue many different goals, hobbies, and aspirations during the new year, be careful to avoid burnout. Try to schedule in some regular sanative time for yourself. Your future self will thank you!

January 3, 2021 — Majuscule

What does it mean? Majuscule can either mean “large lettering, either capital or uncial, in which all the letters are the same height” or “a large letter.”

Where does it come from? This noun developed in French, but originally comes from the Latin word majuscula, which means a "somewhat greater letter."

Did you know? When print shops used individual metal type, letters were kept in separate cases. Smaller letters were kept in a case on a lower shelf for easy access, creating "lowercase" letters. The larger letters, the majuscule, were kept on the upper shelf.

January 4, 2021 — Quisquous

What does it mean? Difficult to deal with or settle; perplexing; (of a person) of dubious character.

Where does it come from? While we know that quisquous is a Scottish word that first came into use around the 17th century, its exact origins are uncertain. It could possibly originate from the Latin word quisquis, which means "whoever."

Did you know? Quisquous characters have long been referred to as tricksters in mythology; the coyote (Indigenous cultures), the fox (East Asian cultures), Anansi (the spider god of West Africa), and Loki (Norse god) are all viewed as tricksters.

January 5, 2021 — Trouvaille

What does it mean? A lucky find.

Where does it come from? Trouvaille developed in French from the word trouver (to find).

Did you know? You've probably heard of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but a trouvaille describes the opposite. A trouvaille is a lucky find — like when you happen upon your keys in the freezer after giving up on finding them.

January 6, 2021 — Bijou

What does it mean? (Especially of a residence or business establishment) small and elegant.

Where does it come from? This adjective comes from the French words bizou (finger ring) and biz (finger).

Did you know? Familiar with the tiny house trend? Many tiny house owners seek a bijou residence — small, but easily cared for, blending elegance with self-sufficiency.

January 7, 2021 — Eudaemonic

What does it mean? Conducive to happiness.

Where does it come from? Eudaemonic developed from the Greek words eudaimonikos and eudaimōn, which both mean "happy."

Did you know? The Latin root "eu," found in eudaemonic, means "well" or "good." It makes up many different words that describe pleasant things, such as "euphoria" (intense happiness) and "euphony" (a pleasant sound).

January 8, 2021 — Preprandial

What does it mean? Preprandial can either mean “done or taken before dinner or lunch” or “(medicine) occurring or done before a meal.”

Where does it come from? Preprandial developed twofold in Latin from the words pre (before) and prandium (a meal).

Did you know? Looking for some preprandial practices? Try to drink a glass of water before you eat dinner. Drinking water during your meal can dilute your digestive enzymes and make it hard for your body to break down your food.

January 9, 2021 — Skeuomorph

What does it mean? Skeuomorph can either mean “an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artifact made from another material” or “(computing) An element of a graphical user interface which mimics a physical object.”

Where does it come from? Skeuomorph originated from the Greek words skeuos (container, implement) and morphē (form).

Did you know? Apple has incorporated skeuomorphs into much of the iPhone design. Your note-taking app is represented by a skeuomorph of a notepad, and the timer is a skeuomorph of a clock. This design element is everywhere!

January 10, 2021 — Badinage

What does it mean? Humorous or witty conversation.

Where does it come from? The word badinage has a rich genealogy — it is thought to have developed from the French word badiner (to joke), which came from the word badin (fool), which is an evolution of the word badar (gape).

Did you know? If you're trying to incorporate badinage into your conversations, first establish a rapport with your audience. Empathy is just as valuable as wit.

January 11, 2021 — Ailurophile

What does it mean? A cat lover.

Where does it come from? Ailurophile developed in Greek, specifically from a combination of the Greek word ailuros (cat) and phile (a love or fondness for something).

Did you know? If you would like to indicate your identity based on your love for something, you can follow this pattern: use its Greek or Latin name + the suffix "phile." Some examples include ailurophile (cat lover), bibliophile (book lover), and Anglophile (a lover of England and English culture).

January 12, 2021 — Tohubohu

What does it mean? A state of chaos; utter confusion.

Where does it come from? This word developed from the Hebrew word tōhū wa-ḇōhū, which translates to "emptiness and desolation." Tohubohu is also found in the Bible, used in context to mean "without form and void."

Did you know? In a modern sense, tohubohu refers to a state of chaos. Originally, however, it meant something very different. The Hebrew phrase "tōhū wa-ḇōhū" refers to the world just before the creation of light. In this context, it means a lightless, endless void.

January 13, 2021 — Boîte

What does it mean? A small restaurant or nightclub.

Where does it come from? Boîte means "box" in French. This word's origins and how it became widely used to describe restaurants and nightclubs is, unfortunately, unknown.

Did you know? Not every restaurant is a boîte. If a restaurant is small and has a vibrant nightlife, then it is considered a boîte.

January 14, 2021 — Demiurgic

What does it mean? Describing a powerful creative force or being.

Where does it come from? Demiurgic is thought to have originated from the Greek word dēmiourgós, or "skilled worker."

Did you know? While demiurgic describes a powerful creative force or state of being, a demiurge is a creative entity — such as an artisan or craftsman. One notable demiurge is the Greek god Hephaestus, who was a talented blacksmith known as the god of the forge.

January 15, 2021 — Maecenatism

What does it mean? Patronage.

Where does it come from? This word originates from the classical Latin word maecēnāt, which means a patron of the arts.

Did you know? The word maecenatism comes from the ancient Roman diplomat Gaius Maecenas. Besides being well-known as a counselor to Emperor Augustus, Maecenas was famous for patronizing the arts — specifically literature and poetry.

January 16, 2021 — Anagnorisis

What does it mean? The point in a play, novel, etc., in which a principal character recognizes or discovers another character's true identity or the true nature of their own circumstances.

Where does it come from? This word aims to make everything crystal clear: it originated from the Greek words ana (back) and gnorisis (to make known), which when combined literally means "recognition."

Did you know? The anagnorisis is important in many different stories — and some reveals are particularly surprising. One of the most famous examples was The Empire Strikes Back, when audiences were shocked to find out that (spoiler alert!) Darth Vader was actually Luke Skywalker's father.

January 17, 2021 — Holus-Bolus

What does it mean? All at once.

Where does it come from? Holus-bolus possibly originated as a pseudo-Latin rhyme based on the phrase "whole bolus" (all at once), but might also come from the Greek word hólos bôlos (clump of earth).

Did you know? When it seems like everything is happening holus-bolus (all at once), it might seem bad to procrastinate. However, sometimes taking a step back from something overwhelming is exactly what you need to figure out a different approach.

January 18, 2021 — Mansuetude

What does it mean? Meekness; gentleness.

Where does it come from? Mansuetude developed through Late Middle English and Old French, but originated from the Latin words mansuetudo (gentle, tame) and the combination of the words manus (hand) + suetus (accustomed).

Did you know? Adopting a pet is exciting, and you might want to spend a lot of time playing with your adoptee immediately. However, experts advise mansuetude; give your new pet some room to explore and be gentle. As they get used to their surroundings, they'll warm up to you.

January 19, 2021 — Felicitous

What does it mean? Felicitous can either mean “well-chosen or suited to the circumstances” or “pleasing and fortunate.”

Where does it come from? This word is thought to have developed from the word felicity, which has Latin origins (the words felix and felicitas, which both mean "happy").

Did you know? A truly felicitous occurrence is winning the lottery. Only 1 in 14 million people ever draw the correct numbers to win the lottery, making it a real stroke of luck to actually win a huge amount of money.

January 20, 2021 — Estaminet

What does it mean? A small cafe in France that sells alcoholic drinks.

Where does it come from? Estaminet developed from the Walloon-French words stamine and stamo, which both refer to a pole or a shed used to restrain cows. However, it also has roots in the German word stam (stem).

Did you know? Plan a visit to an estaminet during a trip to France, and know that you're the latest in a long line of folks who love the atmosphere of a cozy French cafe. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Picasso were all patrons of estaminets in their day.

January 21, 2021 — Sprezzatura

What does it mean? Studied carelessness, especially as a characteristic quality or style of art or literature.

Where did it come from? This word has Italian origins, and was first coined by Italian aristocrat Baldassare Castiglione in the early 1500s. Castiglione intended to encourage other aristocrats to remain composed and carefree even in the most pressing situations.

Did you know? While many people claim to work in a careless sprezzatura style, not everyone can be the next Picasso or Jackson Pollack. It takes hard work to imbue a childlike doodle with intention.

January 22, 2021 — Icarian

What does it mean? Relating to or characteristic of Icarus, especially in being excessively ambitious.

Where does it come from? The word Icarian developed in Latin, but finds its origins in the Greek myth of Icarus. In the myth, Icarus and his father fled imprisonment using giant wings made of feathers and wax, but Icarus' disobedience leads to his wings melting and his doom. Icarian likely developed as a way to quickly and easily reference this myth.

Did you know? Icarus and his tragic end  endures in popular culture. Literary characters and conversational turns-of-phrase embody key elements of his story, ensuring Icarian legend lives — and soars — on.

January 23, 2021 — Afflatus

What does it mean? (Formal) A divine creative impulse or inspiration.

Where does it come from? This noun developed from the Latin word afflare, which can be broken down into the words ad (to) and flare (to blow).

Did you know? The word afflatus was given the breath of life — literally. Afflatus comes from the Latin words for "to breathe on" and "to blow." Some artists describe inspiration as feeling like it was blown into them, which is probably where this connection was forged.

January 24, 2021 — Eupeptic

What does it mean? Relating to or having good digestion or a consequent air of healthy good spirits.

Where does it come from? Eupeptic originated from the Greek words eu (well, easily) and peptein, (to digest), which when combined form the word eupeptos (helping digestion).

Did you know? Does eupeptic sounds familiar? It's because it shares the same roots with the word pepsin, a substance that helps digestion. That's also where Pepto Bismol, a stomach-soothing medication, gets its name.

January 25, 2021 — Dido

What does it mean? A mischievous trick or prank.

Where does it come from? Aside from the mythological ties to Queen Dido of Carthage, we know that the definition of dido as a trick came into use somewhere in the 19th century, but how it acquired that connotation is a bit of a mystery.

Did you know?There's a story in which Dido, later queen of Carthage, first bargained with natives for the land that made up the great city. She asked for only as much territory as she could surround with the hide of a bull. Dido then cut up the bull’s hide into strips she could use to enclose a greater portion of land than her hosts expected — hence the term “to cut didoes.”

January 26, 2021 — Pollicitation

What does it mean? Pollicitation can either mean “the action of promising; a promise; a document conveying a promise” or “also Civil Law: a promise not yet formally accepted, and therefore in certain cases revocable.

Where does it come from? While this noun developed in Late Middle English, it finds its roots in Latin — specifically the classical Latin word pollicitātiō (a promise).

Did you know? Have you ever wondered where the pinky promise, a childhood form of pollicitation, came from? Perhaps the first pinky promises were made by Japanese schoolchildren and called yubikiri, or "finger cut-off." The unbreakable oath has been adopted by children worldwide.

January 27, 2021 — Adumbrate

What does it mean? Adumbrate can either mean to “report or represent in outline” or to “foreshadow or symbolize.”

Where does it come from? Adumbrate developed from the Latin word adumbrat (shaded), which is composed of the intensifier "ad" and the word umbrare (to cast a shadow).

Did you know? Mystery writers know how to adumbrate. Foreshadowing is a storytelling technique where audiences are provided with clues to the future of the story. Particularly observant audience members can figure out plot twists from even the smallest hints.

January 28, 2021 — Orchidaceous

What does it mean? Flashy, showy, as if an orchid.

Where does it come from? Orchidaceous originated from the modern Latin word "Orchidaceae," the term for plants of the orchid variety.

Did you know? Orchidaceous is a poetic adjective to describe something with flashy beauty, just like the orchid flower. If you're thinking of picking up an orchid for the first time, try caring for a Phalaenopsis (moth orchid). They're considered the perfect beginner's plant.

January 29, 2021 — Toxophilite

What does it mean? A student or lover of archery.

Where does it come from? This word developed from the 15th century term toxophilus (the title of a treatise on archery), but is originally derived from a combination of the Greek words toxon (bow) and philos (loving).

Did you know? Archery is one of the world's safest sports — even more so than golfing and bowling, both relatively safe hobbies. Only one out of every 2,000 toxophilites are injured during the sport.

January 30, 2021 —  Salmagundi

What does it mean? Salmagundi can either mean “a dish of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, and seasoning” or “a general mixture; a miscellaneous collection.”

Where does it come from? Salmagundi originated from the French word salmigondis (potluck, hodgepodge). However, the exact time period and context this word developed from is a mystery.

Did you know? The Salmagundi Club of Greenwich Village, NYC is a fine arts center with a rich history of famous patrons (such as honorary member Winston Churchill). Its most interesting quality, however, is its name's origin: salmagundi, a stew served by the group since its founding in 1871.

January 31, 2021 — Nictate

What does it mean? Blink.

Where does it come from? Nictate, an alternate word for "blink," developed trifold in Latin — from nictat, (blinked), the verb nictare (to blink), and the medieval Latin word nictitate.

Did you know? The ability to nictate is automatic, but there are always people out there who want to test the extent of the human body — such as how long you can go without blinking. The current world record stands at 40 minutes and 59 seconds.

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