Tag Archives: phonetics

‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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glamour

      MEANING   an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing     ORIGIN   It was originally a Scottish alteration of grammar. The noun grammar is from Old French forms such as gramaire (modern French grammaire), from Latin grammatica (ars), from Greek γραμματική (τέχνη) (= grammatike (tekhne)), […]

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mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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malapropism

malapropism

        MEANING   the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, especially when creating a ridiculous effect     ORIGIN   The word malapropos means, as an adverb, in an inopportune or inappropriate way, and, as an adjective, inopportune or inappropriate. It is from the French locution […]

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to sit below the salt

to sit below the salt

  The Salt-cellars are of singular form and rich workmanship. The most noticeable is—the Golden Salt-cellar of State, which is of pure gold, richly adorned with jewels, and grotesque figures in chased work. Its form is castellated : and the receptacles for the salt are formed by the removal of the tops of the turrets. […]

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caprice

caprice

  Audrey (1888), by Philip Richard Morris (The weekly newspaper Graphic commissioned twenty-one studies of Shakespeare’s heroines, which were exhibited in London in 1888.)       MEANING   a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour     ORIGIN   Via French, the English word caprice is from Italian capriccio, which, composed of […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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boutique

boutique

  image: Salle 103 – Latin (Collège de Vinci – Belfort – France)         MEANINGS OF BOUTIQUE   a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories a business serving a sophisticated or specialised clientele     ORIGIN   In the second half of the 18th century, English borrowed the French noun boutique […]

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glabella

glabella

  title page of A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge (1598)       MEANING   anatomy: the smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows     ORIGIN   This noun is a specific application of the Latin adjective glabella, feminine of glabellus, diminutive of glaber/glabr-, meaning […]

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the dog’s letter

the dog’s letter

  Daß Narrenschyff ad Narragoniam by Sebastian Brant       The dog’s letter is a name for the letter R, from its resemblance in sound to the snarl of a dog. It was so named after Latin canina litera, used by the Roman poet Persius (Aulus Persius Flaccus – 34-62) in his first Satire: […]

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