Thursday, March 31, 2011


puissance [ˈpyuəsəns] n.

1.) Power, strength, force, might; influence.
2.) The persons in whom power is vested.
3.) In show-jumping, a competition testing a horse's ability to jump large obstacles (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from poissant, powerful, present participle of pooir, to be able.

"We know no time when we were not as now,
Know none before us, self-begot, self-raised
By our own quick'ning power when fatal course
Had circled his full orb, the birth mature
Of this our native Heav'n, ethereal sons.
Our puissance is our own."
(Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667)

(The Fall of Lucifer, Edward Burne-Jones, 1894)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


aleatory [ˈeɪliəˌtɔri, -ˌtoʊri, ˈæli-] a.

1.) Dependent on the throw of a die; hence, dependent on uncertain contingencies (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Latin aleatorius, from aleator, gambler, from alea, game of chance, die.

"Danger, enterprise, hope, the novel, the aleatory, are dearer to man than regular meals" (Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Day After Tomorrow", 1887).

Edit: In response to a few comments about the Stevenson quote not being helpful, I found another one. It was actually fairly difficult to find a quote using "aleatory" from an author 1) who is well-known and 2) who writes in English: the two restrictions I've set with respect to the quotes. I chose "aleatory" for MA because it is widely used by Continental philosophers and literary theorists. But (out of context, at least) their quotes were usually just gibberish.

"The 'hard' Darwinians are thus fully aware of how evolutionary adaptation only uses (chooses from) multiple variations which emerge in a contingent aleatory way, with no purpose" (The Parallax View, Slavoj Zizek, 2006).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


hale [heɪl] a.

1.) Sound; entire; healthy; robust; not impaired; as, a hale body.

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hal.

hale v. t.

1.) To pull; to drag; to haul (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English halen, to pull, drag, from Old French haler, of Germanic origin.

"Between two corporate tents is the serendipitous snout of the 'Sertoma Mobile Hearing Test Trailer,' inside which a woman with a receding hairline scores me overdecibeled but aurally hale" ("Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All", David Foster Wallace, 1993).

Monday, March 28, 2011


antinomy [ænˈtɪnəmi] n.

1.) Opposition of one law or rule to another law or rule.
2.) An opposing law or rule of any kind.
3.) (Metaph.) A contradiction or incompatibility of thought or language; -- in the Kantian philosophy, such a contradiction as arises from the attempt to apply to the ideas of the reason, relations or attributes which are appropriate only to the facts or the concepts of experience (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin antinomia, from Greek antinomia : anti-, opposite + nomos, law.

"But it is so characteristic of paradoxes at their most vivid and of antinomies at their most virulent that perhaps self-application, rather than antinomy or paradox as such, is what wants closer scrutiny and deeper understanding" (Theories and Things, W. V. O. Quine, 1986).

Sunday, March 27, 2011


militate [ˈmɪlɪˌteɪt] v.t., usually followed by "against" or "with"

1.) To have force or influence; bring about an effect or a change (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Latin militare, militat-, to serve as a soldier, from miles, milit- soldier.

"Oh, Mr. Lydgate, you know well what your advantages are. You know that our young men here cannot cope with you. Where you frequent a house it may militate very much against a girl's making a desirable settlement in life, and prevent her from accepting offers even if they are made" (Middlemarch, George Eliot, 1874).

Saturday, March 26, 2011


evince [ɪˈvɪns] v.t.

1.) To show in a clear manner; to prove beyond any reasonable doubt; to manifest; to make evident; to bring to light; to evidence.
2.) [Obs.] To conquer; to subdue (GNU International Collaborative Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin evincere vanquish completely, prevail, succeed in proving; e out + vincere to vanquish.

"The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so many of the gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evinced in his behalf, were all favourable to the growth and development of those softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in the bosom of Mr. Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined to centre in one lovely object" (The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Charles Dickens, 1837).

Friday, March 25, 2011


aver [əˈvɜr] v.t.

1.) To assert as a fact; to state positively, affirm.
2.) [Law] To prove or justify a plea; to offer to justify an exception pleaded; to make an averment.
3.) [Obs.] To declare true, assert the truth of (a statement).
4.) [Obs.] To prove true, confirm, verify.
5.) [Arch.] To assert the existence or occurrence of (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English averren, from Old French averer, from Vulgar Latin advrre : Latin ad- + Latin vrus, true.

"That is truth, pardy, said Dixon, and, or I err, a pregnant word. Which hearing young Stephen was a marvellous glad man and he averred that he who stealeth from the poor lendeth to the Lord for he was of a wild manner when he was drunken and that he was now in that taking it appeared eftsoons" (Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922).


Well, that's week one for MA. Thanks to all my followers, and thanks for the comments!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


reprobate [rɛprəˌbeɪt] a.

1.) Abandoned to punishment; hence, morally abandoned and lost; given up to vice; depraved.
2.) Of or pertaining to one who is given up to wickedness; as, reprobate conduct.

reprobate [rɛprəˌbeɪt] n.

1.) One morally abandoned and lost.

reprobate [rɛprəˌbeɪt] v.t.

1.) To disapprove with detestation or marks of extreme dislike; to condemn as unworthy; to disallow; to reject.
2.) To abandon to punishment without hope of pardon (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin reprobatus, past participle of reprobare, to disapprove or condemn.

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus, ~55).

(Hel, Jheronimus Bosch, ~1500)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


bruit [brut] n.

1.) Report; rumor; fame.
2.) [Med.] An abnormal sound of several kinds, heard on ausculation.

bruit v.t.

1.) To report; to noise abroad(GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Old English brut, noise, from Late Latin brugitus, rugire to roar; perhaps influence by the source of "bray".

"Ham. I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
King. Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply.
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come.
This gentle and unforc'd accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart; in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the King's rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away" (Hamlet, William Shakespeare, ~1600)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


plangently [ˈplændʒəntlɪ] adv.

1.) In a way that beats strongly or distressingly on the mind or feelings (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin plangens, plangent- present participle of plangere, to strike, lament.

"If Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood possessed only the wisdom found also in Freud, then we could cease calling it "the Great Ode." Wordsworth too saw repetition or second chance as essential for development, and his ode admits that we can redirect our needs by substitution or sublimation. But the ode plangently also awakens into failure, and into the creative mind's protest against time's tyranny" (The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, Harold Bloom, 1973).

Monday, March 21, 2011


equivocation [ɪˌkwɪvəˈkeɪʃən] n.

1. [Obs.] The using (a word) in more than one sense; ambiguity or uncertainty of meaning in words; also, misapprehension arising from the ambiguity of terms.
2. [Logic.] As the equivalent of Gr. ὁμωνυμία: The fallacy which is committed when a term has different senses in the different members of a syllogism.
3. The use of words or expressions that are susceptible of a double signification, with a view to mislead; especially the expression of a virtual falsehood in the form of a proposition which (in order to satisfy the speaker's conscience) is verbally true (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English equivocaten, from Medieval Latin aequivocare, aequivocat-, from Late Latin aequivocus, equivocal.

"Pemulis tells Lord he cannot believe his fucking eyes. He tells Lord how dare he don the dreaded red beanie over such an obvious instance of map-not-territory equivocationary horseshit as Ingersoll's trying to foist" (Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace, 1996).

Sunday, March 20, 2011


adumbrate [əˈdʌmbreɪt] v.t.

1.) To represent the shadow of (anything), to draw or figure in outline; to outline; to sketch; to give a faint indication of.
2.) Fig. To represent a substance by its ‘shadow’ or emblem; to shadow forth, to typify; hence, to foreshadow, prefigure, as ‘coming events cast their shadows before.’
3.) To overshadow; to shade, obscure (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Latin adumbrāt-, participle stem of adumbrāre, to overshadow, to shade, to shadow out; from ad, to + umbrāre, to shade.

"Her plentious haire in curled billowes swims
On her bright shoulder: her harmonious lims
Sustainde no more but a most subtile vaile
That hung on them, as it durst not assaile
Their different concord: for the weakest ayre
Could raise it swelling from her bewties fayre:
Nor did it cover, but adumbrate onelie
Her most heart-piercing parts, that a blest eie
Might see (as it did shadow) fearfullie,
All that all-love-deserving Paradise:
It was as blew as the most freezing skies,
Neere the Seas hew, for thence her Goddesse came:
On it a skarfe she wore of wondrous frame;
In midst whereof she wrought a virgins face,
From whose each cheeke a fine blush did chace
Two crimson flames, that did two waies extend,
Spreading the ample skarfe to either end,
Which figur'd the division of her minde,
Whiles yet she rested bashfully inclinde,
And stood not resolute to wed Leander."
(Hero and Leander, Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman, 1598)

(Hero en Leander, Nicolas Régnier, 1626)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

point d'appui

point d'appui [Fr. pwaN' dapwi] — n.

1.) A foundation, a base.
2.) The base or rallying point for a military unit.

Etymology — Modern French: literally, point of support.

"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time" (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854).