Have you been keeping up with Word Genius? As we moved into Black History Month, we learned a noun for a person who archives historical events and a noun for a cultural group in the Southern United States. We also learned a word for love letters, perfect for February, the month of love. Refresh your memory of the origins, the “did you knows,” and the interesting truths behind every word that entered your inbox in February 2021.
February 1, 2021 — Redivivus
What does it mean? Come back to life; reborn.
Where does it come from? Redivivus developed from the Latin words re (again) and vivus (living), literally meaning "to be reborn."
Did you know? If the adjective "redivivus" applies to you, maybe you have been reincarnated — people who are reincarnated have experienced a past life before the one they currently live in. Some Asian religions, such as Buddhism, believe that people can reincarnate as a non-human life form, such as an insect or an animal.
February 2, 2021 — Glyptic
What does it mean? Of or concerning carving or engraving.
Where does it come from? Glyptic originated in both French (glyptique) and Greek (gluptikos). However, it is thought that these words originally developed from the Greek words gluptēs and gluphein (which mean "carver" and "carve," respectively).
Did you know? Are you just getting into a glyptic hobby but don't know where to start? Whittling is the act of carving objects or figures out of a small piece of wood, and is a surprisingly easy pastime to pick up. All you need is a softwood (easier to carve with), a knife, and patience to begin your first glyptic wooden creation.
February 3, 2021 — Annalist
What does it mean? A person who writes annals.
Where does it come from? This noun is borrowed from French, but originally comes from the Latin words annales (yearly books) and annus (year).
Did you know? Black History Month, recognized in the United States since 1976, relies on annalists to assemble a cultural history of African-Americans. The month celebrates the importance of Black people in America's development and culture.
February 4, 2021 — Burgher
What does it mean? A citizen of a town or city, typically a member of the wealthy bourgeoisie.
Where does it come from? Burgher developed from the Middle English word burgh (town) and the Dutch words burger (citizen) and burg (castle). The word "borough" (which describes a town or district) originated from these same roots.
Did you know? There's a difference between being a citizen and being a resident. If you are a citizen (burgher) of a town, then you have met the requirements to perform certain actions, like voting and running for office. A resident, on the other hand, simply resides in a particular area — they may not be a burgher.
February 5, 2021 — Quiddity
What does it mean? Quiddity can either mean “the inherent nature or essence of someone or something” or “a distinctive feature; a peculiarity.”
Where does it come from? Quiddity is a Middle English word, but originally developed in Latin from the words quidditas and quid (which both mean "what").
Did you know? Taking a personality test today might mean completing a career assessment or seeing if you share a particular quiddity with a friend. The first personality tests were created during WWI, when psychologists tried to assess the mental hardiness of U.S. Army recruits.
February 6, 2021 — Falstaffian
What does it mean? Relating to or resembling Shakespeare's character Sir John Falstaff in being fat, jolly, and debauched.
Where does it come from? The word Falstaffian developed from William Shakespeare's character Sir John Falstaff. In transition from a proper noun to adjective, the word has come to describe people similar to Falstaff (rotund and jolly).
Did you know? William Shakespeare's character Sir John Falstaff appears in a grand total of three plays — Henry IV, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff was predominantly used by the Bard as comic relief, though he does show brief depth of character.
February 7, 2021 — Rupestrian
What does it mean? (Of art) done on rock or cave walls.
Where does it come from? Rupestris developed from the modern Latin words rupes (rock) and rupestris (found on rocks).
Did you know? The Dabous giraffes, rupestrian art thought to be created between 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, are the carvings of two life-sized giraffes found at the Western Air Mountains in Niger. Scientists believe that these carvings were done using tools made from petrified wood, and they are remarkably lifelike in appearance.
February 8, 2021 — Gelid
What does it mean? Icy; extremely cold.
Where does it come from? Gelid developed from the Latin words gelidus and gelus, which mean "frost or intense cold."
Did you know? You might find yourself shivering in gelid weather. When the body shivers, your skin tightens and your muscles shake — a response that is supposed to help generate heat in chilly situations. You can think of this as the opposite of sweating, a bodily function that attempts to cool the body's temperature when hot.
February 9, 2021 — Paladin
What does it mean? Paladin can either mean “any of the twelve peers of Charlemagne's court, of whom the Count Palatine was the chief” or “a knight renowned for heroism and chivalry.”
Where does it come from? This word developed from a trifecta of romance languages. The Latin word palatinus (officer of the palace) developed into the Italian word paladino, and eventually evolved into the French term we still use today, paladin.
Did you know? Paladins feature heavily in the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. These knights are expected to adhere to a particularly strict code of conduct of doing good. If you find yourself rolling the dice for your paladin to make a choice, know that it will be a Lawful Good one — no thievery or trickery here.
February 10, 2021 — Cosmopolis
What does it mean? A city inhabited by people from many different countries.
Where does it come from? This noun originated from the combination of the Greek words kosmos (world) + polis (city), creating cosmopolis (city of the world). A cosmopolis is a city that represents people from many different countries, meaning that it is a city that represents a sample of the kosmos.
Did you know? If you're looking for a true cosmopolis, look no further than New York City. Home to around 8.6 million people, New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world; citizens and residents speak around 800 different languages. If you want to pinpoint the most diverse borough, Queens is your best bet.
February 11, 2021 — Fey
What does it mean? Fey can either mean “giving an impression of vague unworldliness” or “having supernatural powers of clairvoyance.”
Where does it come from? While fey comes from the Middle English word fǣge (fated to die soon), it has Germanic origins, specifically developing from the word feige (cowardly).
Did you know? The word fey is often used as another term for fairies — mythical and magical beings found in European folk mythology. While modern takes on fairies usually describe them as benevolent (if a bit mischievous), people of the Old World had all sorts of wards to keep fairies away, including iron, church bells, four leaf clovers, and even wearing clothing inside out.
February 12, 2021 — Epergne
What does it mean? An ornamental centerpiece for a dining table, typically used for holding fruit or flowers.
Where does it come from? Epergne is thought to have originated from the French word épargne (saving, economy).
Did you know? We can thank ancient Rome and Greece for the tradition of an epergne on the dining table. Centerpieces used local plants and animals to reflect seasons and themes. It dropped out of style in the English Middle Ages when diners preferred to focus on the most important part of the table — the food — but the epergne returned to fashion with a flourish in the 17th century under French influence.
February 13, 2021 — Gallinaceous
What does it mean? Relating to birds of an order (Galliformes) which includes domestic poultry and game birds.
Where does it come from? While the word gallinaceous is used to describe a specific class of domesticated fowl, which includes turkeys and quail, it finds its origins in Latin words for chicken, such as gallina (hen), gallus (cockerel), and the broad term gallinaceus.
Did you know? People might not think much of chickens, but chickens think a lot about them. According to scientific studies, these gallinaceous birds can recognize over a hundred individual faces, engage in complex communication, and even dream.
February 14, 2021 — Billet-doux
What does it mean? A love letter.
Where does it come from? Billet-doux developed in French, and translates simply to "sweet note." If you've ever slipped a crush a love letter, then you were handing them a billet-doux.
Did you know? Love letters are not just for plot twists in Regency dramas — they also have their place in the White House. Several U.S. Presidents were known for penning billets-doux to their wives and significant others, including John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan.
February 15, 2021 — Stochastic
What does it mean? Randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.
Where does it come from? This adjective originated from the Greek words stokhastikos and stokhazesthai, which both mean to aim at, guess. They evolved in turn from the word stokhos (aim).
Did you know? Have you ever wondered how poll numbers and surveys displayed on the news are collected? Statisticians collect and analyze stochastic data so that ordinary people can understand the facts and figures that make up daily life. For example — did you know that one-third of American adults still sleep with a comfort object? If you did, thank a statistician.
February 16, 2021 — Transmogrify
What does it mean? Transform in a surprising or magical manner.
Where does it come from? While researchers place the origins of this word somewhere in the mid 17th century, how "transmogrify" evolved is a bit of a mystery. It could possibly have developed from the Latin verb transformare (to change form), the same root found in the word "transform."
Did you know? While change is an inevitable part of our lives, it can be scary. If you're having trouble dealing with the things that have been recently transmogrified in your life, scientists suggest retaining some of your familiar routines until you adjust.
February 17, 2021 — Hinterland
What does it mean? Hinterland can either mean “the often uncharted areas beyond a coastal district or a river's banks” or “an area lying beyond what is visible or known.”
Where does it come from? Hinterland originated in German from a combination of the words hinter (behind) and land.
Did you know? Hinterland was first featured in the 1888 book Handbook of Commercial Geography, and was used to describe the country beyond a coastal town or settlement. Eventually, the term evolved throughout the 20th century to describe areas considered largely unsettled, as well as directional areas.
February 18, 2021 — Pukka
What does it mean? Pukka can either mean the British informal term for “genuine” or “of or appropriate to high or respectable society.”
Where does it come from? Pukka developed from the Hindi and Urdu word pakka. Pakka means "cooked, ripe, or substantial," but can also mean "solid" — which is likely how, over time, it came to mean "genuine."
Did you know? While pukka is now regarded as casual British slang, the word originated in the languages Hindi and Urdu. The word pakka meant "solid," and its use slowly evolved towards something being genuine or honest. An American example would be the use of the phrase, "the real McCoy."
February 19, 2021 — Chinwag
What does it mean? A chat.
Where does it come from? The word chinwag was made from the combination of "chin" + "wag," which is likely a humorous way of describing the movement your chin makes when you're having a vigorous chat.
Did you know? Why is it so satisfying to have a good chinwag? Contrary to beliefs about gossiping, the practice might not be as negative as it seems. In fact, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar argues that gossiping developed as a way to disseminate important information amongst a social network.
February 20, 2021 — Aposematic
What does it mean? (Of coloration or markings) serving to warn or repel predators.
Where does it come from? Aposematic finds its origins in Greek — specifically, a combination of the Greek words apo (away from) and sēma (sign). Even the roots of this word are warning you to stay back.
Did you know? “Red touches yellow, deadly fellow; red touches black, you're all right Jack." This phrase was coined to describe the difference between the deadly coral snake and the king snake. The latter reptile is nonvenomous; instead, it has an aposematic pattern meant to fool predators into believing it is a coral snake. Remembering the rhyme may just help you avoid a deadly bite — or avoid disturbing an innocent snake.
February 21, 2021 — Labile
What does it mean? Labile can either mean “(technical) liable to change; easily altered” or “of or characterized by emotions that are easily aroused or freely expressed, and that tend to alter quickly and spontaneously; emotionally unstable.”
Where does it come from? Labile developed in Middle English, but its roots are found in the Latin words labilis and labi (to fall).
Did you know? While we should aim for stability in most aspects of daily life, some things are just labile in nature — such as the stock market, blood pressure, and body temperature.
February 22, 2021 — Forsooth
What does it mean? Indeed (often used ironically or to express surprise or indignation)
Where does it come from? This word developed from the Old English word forsoth, which likely comes from a combination of the words "for" and "sooth" (truth).
Did you know? When used in Old English, forsooth meant "in truth" or "indeed," however, the term has since developed into an exclamation of disbelief. You're now more likely to find this word used more satirically than seriously.
February 23, 2021 — Hew
What does it mean? Hew can either mean to “chop or cut (something, especially wood or coal) with an axe, pick, or other tool” or “make or shape (something) by cutting or chopping a material such as wood or stone.”
Where does it come from? While hew developed from the English word "hēawan," it finds its origins in German (houwen) and Dutch (hauen). Each of these words refers to the act of chopping, cutting, and shaping wood and other hard materials.
Did you know? Totem poles, traditional sculptures made by Indigeneous people of the northern United States and Canada, are used to denote territory and represent historical events. Totems are hewn from cedar trees, and take around six to nine months to complete.
February 24, 2021 — Gullah
What does it mean? Gullah can either mean “A member of a Black cultural community living on the coast of South Carolina and nearby islands” or “the Creole language of the Gullah, having an English base with elements from various West African languages. It has about 125,000 speakers.”
Where does it come from? This word is thought to have originated from a shortening of Angola, a group of people originally from Sierra Leone and Liberia. By Angola possibly being shortened to "Gola," the word Gullah might have slowly developed over time.
Did you know? The Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, officially designated by the U.S. Congress in 2006, is a National Heritage Area celebrating the cultures and lives of the Gullah people of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Visitors can learn more about the rich African heritage of the Gullah people, sample delicious foods, and participate in a multitude of cultural events, including historical tours, arts and crafts, and music.
February 25, 2021 — Accouchement
What does it mean? The process of giving birth to a baby.
Where does it come from? Accouchement originated as the French word accoucher, which means "to act like a midwife." This word, in turn, developed from the Latin words a (to) + coucher (put to bed).
Did you know? While accouchement seems like a solitary effort, women rarely go through this process alone. A person in labor is often accompanied by their obstetrician, doula, or midwife throughout the process of childbirth — along with a team of supportive nurses.
February 26, 2021 — Charivari
What does it mean? Charivari can either mean “(historical) a noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage or mock an unpopular person” or “a series of discordant noises.”
Where does it come from? While we know that the current form of charivari developed in French, the word's origins are unknown. Some lexicographers speculate that it came from the Greek word karēbaría (headache), working on the idea that a mock serenade would leave onlookers' heads throbbing.
Did you know? Charivari (the mock serenade) has an interesting history. While neighbors parading through the streets banging pots and pans and making a racket might be to celebrate a happy occasion like a wedding, a mock serenade might also be directed towards an unpopular person. The name of this procession varies depending on area, and is sometimes spelled "shivaree" or "chivaree."
February 27, 2021 — Peripeteia
What does it mean? A sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, especially in reference to fictional narrative.
Where does it come from? This word developed from Greek, specifically from the combination of the words peri (around) + piptein (to fall), which together created “peripeteia” (sudden change).
Did you know? Studies have shown that human beings are psychologically attuned to root for the underdog — even perceiving the underdog as being more attractive, warmer, and more desirable. This might explain why we are so thrilled when the underdog experiences peripeteia, whether that moment is winning a big game or receiving a promotion after hardship.
February 28, 2021 — Loggia
What does it mean? Loggia can either mean “a gallery or room with one or more open sides, especially one that forms part of a house and has one side open to the garden” or “an open-sided extension to a house.”
Where does it come from? Loggia developed from the Italian word lodge (a small house).
Did you know? People most commonly encounter a loggia in a museum, palace, or another grand, important building. Loggia in public spaces are characterized by large arches and natural lighting — they can be found in warmer environments that allow open-air spaces.