Posts tagged ‘Online Etymology Dictionary’

Word Nerd Wednesday: An Epic Rant


I promised an epic rant, and here it is, fellow Word Nerds. I was on Facebook yesterday for just a few minutes, and not once, not twice, but THREE times did a post refer to its topic as “epic.”

I don’t even remember what they were specifically. (You’d think I’d remember, if truly they were epic, wouldn’t you?) But I’ve recently seen epic dance moves, epic failures, epic pranks, epic comebacks, epic this, epic that.

Apparently we have an epic amount of epic things happening in this epic period of our epic history.

It’s all about social media. (Social media is so easy to blame, yes? So easy to forget that if the enemy is social media, the enemy is…us!)

Remember when everything was “cool?” (Back before everything was “hot.”) Our clothes were cool. Our music was cool. Our friends were cool. Even our schools were cool, right? Meanwhile, our parents rolled their eyes and wondered if we’d lost our vocabulary.

Think about it. Everything on social media is cool, or the poster wouldn’t bother to post it. So how do you set your cool post apart from the others?

You need something bigger than cool. Bigger than hot.

You need epic.

Here’s the problem: Does anyone even know what epic means? Epic comes from the Greek, epikos/epos meaning “word, story, poem.” Yep. Like the Odyssey, or Beowulf. The Online Etymology Dictionary adds: “Extended sense of ‘grand, heroic’ first recorded in English 1731.”

Is a dance move, or a prank really grand or heroic? Adventurous on the scale of Odysseus or Frodo Baggins or, even the Revolutionary War?

There’s the crux of my rant.

If everything is labeled epic, where do we go from here? What’s bigger than “epic?”

If we overuse a word, doesn’t it lose its meaning?

Oh, let’s use epic, but let’s use it for epic things!

Here’s the definition from Daniel Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
EP’IC, a. [L. epicus; Gr. a song, or to speak.] Narrative; containing narration; rehearsing. An epic poem, otherwise called heroic, is a poem which narrates a story, real or fictitious or both, representing, in an elevated style, some signal action or series of actions and events, usually the achievements of some distinguished hero, and intended to form the morals and affect the mind with the love of virtue. The matter of the poem includes the action of the fable, the incidents, episodes, characters, morals and machinery. The form includes the manner of narration, the discourses introduced, descriptions, sentiments, style, versification, figures and other ornaments. The end is to improve the morals, and inspire a love of virtue, bravery and illustrious actions.

[epic. 2014. In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.        Retrieved April 2, 2014, from

Let’s keep epic epic!

Fight on, fellow Word Nerds, fight on!

And, please share in the comments words that you see overused.



(N.B.: I followed through with the epikos spelling of the Greek root word, simply because the Greek language does not have a letter c. Webster used an Americanized version. Also, though Webster does not list the use of epic as an adjective, it is listed as such in my Webster’s New World College Dictionary: “having the nature of an epic poem…heroic; grand; majestic; imposing”)

Word Nerd: Apologies + New Generational Word Battle


Great discussion on “I’m Sorry” vs. “My Bad” last week! Thanks so much, everyone.

Here’s my Word Nerd take on it.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “Sorry” comes from the Old English sarig, “distressed, grieved, full of sorrow.” The Dutch version is zerig, “full of sores.”


I might be distressed and full of sorrow if I truly offend or injure someone. But in the case of a minor bump in a crowd, an unintentional mix-up, or something that was out of my control, not so much. Probably not even if I accidentally bat a ball into your window, though I will want to take responsibility and fix the window.

Tossing off a “Sorry” in a situation where there was offense or injury is not a good idea. A true, look-you-in-the-eyes “I’m sorry” is. However, I plan on leaving “I’m sorry, but …” out of my vocabulary.

If I’ve done something intentionally (hope I’ve matured beyond this at this point in my life!) or especially egregious, I’ll go for a “Please forgive me.” Following up with a sincere discussion about what I’m seeking forgiveness for.

Now, onto “My Bad.” Don’t go hang out on with children, but I found their definition of the term very amusing and quite telling:

A way of admitting a mistake, and apologizing for that mistake, without actually apologizing. The best definition I ever read of this, now paraphrased:

“I did something bad, and I recognize that I did something bad, but there is nothing that can be done for it now, and there is technically no reason to apologize for that error, so let’s just assume that I won’t do it again, get over it, and move on with our lives.”

Ruder than apologizing, but with the same meaning: a flippant apology.

As much as I despise “My bad,” maybe we do have a place for it in our society. Just for the little unintentional bumps and bruises of real life, situations that call for an apology without delving into unnecessary sorrow and issues of forgiveness. It’s the “flippant” part of “my bad” that bugs me, so maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to use “my bad” without getting flippant? And, might I suggest a sense of humor in these situations? Non-flippant, of course. I’m gonna try it!

Or will I sound like a 40-something trying to sound like a teenager?

So … the generational word battle for next week?

“No, thanks” versus “I’m good.”

“Would you like a soda?”

“No, thanks.”

“Would you like a soda?”

“I’m good.”

Weigh in below!



Word Nerd Wednesday: How many can you make?

So, to follow up on last week’s challenge to use the word bombastic correctly in a sentence…

Bombastic comes from the French bombace, (“cotton, cotton padding”) which comes from the Latin and Greek words bombyx, “silk.”

How’re your sentences doing now? 😀

Seriously, the Online Etymology Dictionary points out that it is the term for the stuffing used in upholstery and clothing, but has been extended to mean pompous speech. I daresay, stuffy speech, yes?

Yes, I know! With b-o-m-b at the start of the word, it ought to mean explosive, angry speech. Alas, bomb as an explosive device comes from the Latin bombus, “a deep hollow sound, a buzzing or booming sound.” No relation to the derivation of bombastic.

So, now, how’d your sentence do?  (In some of your sentences, you could’ve been using the word either as angry speech or pompous speech…your call!)


Here is a list of prefixes, roots, and suffixes. I want you to make as long a list of real words as you can from this list, separately or in combination. No fair using different forms of the same word, such as bombast, bombastic, bombastically.

phon (sound)

graph (writing)

dict (say, speak)

gen (birth, produce)

photo (light)

hydro (water)

thermo (heat)

re (again)

pater (father)

pro (before/in favor of)

in (not)

in (in)

ab/abs/a (apart/away from)

bene (well, favorable)

arch (first, chief)




The Thinker




[Thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary for teaching me about bombastic, and to the Michigan State GRE study helps website for the simple and concise list from which I chose these roots, prefixes and suffixes.]



Word Nerd Poll: NERD

This week, y’all get to vote on the etymology of a very important word.

Cover of "If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss...

Cover of If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss)


‘Cuz there’s two very, very different options (other dictionaries say something to the effect of “uncertain American origin”). Therefore, YOU get to choose!

Here’s what the Online Etymology Dictionary says:

<<nerd (n.) 1951, U.S. student slang, probably an alteration of 1940s slang nert “stupid or crazy person,” itself an alteration of nut. The word turns up in a Dr. Seuss book from 1950 (“If I Ran the Zoo”), which may have contributed to its rise.>>


And here is what the Webster’s New World  College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) says about nerd:

<<[[? Rhyming slang for TURD]] a person regarded as socially dull, unsophisticated, awkward,  etc., specif. as from being preoccupied with schoolwork, an intellectual hobby, etc.>>

This terribly important decision about this terribly burning issue counts as this week’s WORD NERD CHALLENGE. Vote early, vote often, in this very first Word Nerd poll. Tune in on Friday for the results, too.





Word Nerd: An Algebra Story

The Online Etymology Dictionary did my work for me today, fellow Word Nerds. I wanted to check out the history of the word algebra. More than just etymology, the OED provided the story of the history of algebra itself. Here’s what it had to say:

1550s, from Medieval Latin algebra, from Arabic al jebr “reunion of broken parts,” as in computation, used 9c. by Baghdad mathematician Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi as the title of his famous treatise on equations (“Kitab al-Jabr w’al-Muqabala” “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West. The accent shifted 17c. from second syllable to first. The word was used in English 15c.-16c. to mean “bone-setting,” probably from Arab medical men in Spain.

(Here’s a link to a more extensive history of algebra, from the Brussels Journal website)

Algebra Equation

Anyone who’s ever taught algebra to a teenager can appreciate the use of the word for “bone-setting.” It’s as painful as a broken bone at times, no matter how much you love the budding mathematician. Kidding. Just kidding.

Anyone who’s ever solved an algebra problem can appreciate the meaning “reunion of broken parts.”

Which reminds me of a true story about a “broken” basketball team in need of reunion.

When my daughter was little, her homeschool math curriculum required her to answer problems like:

                                                  5 + x = 7

It was supposed to be a very early precursor to algebra. but she didn’t get it. Didn’t get it at all.

Then one day, she had a junior league basketball game, and I got lost finding the backwoods elementary school where it was being held. She was beside herself, but we got there just after the game started and all was fine.

That’s when it came to me. The next time we worked on math, I told her the equal sign is a referee. The two teams are on the opposite side of the equal sign. They are supposed to have the same number of teammates, but look…the team on the left side has some team members who are late!

She got it.

She finally got it.



Word Nerd: Poetry Month

It’s a little late in the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. Nevertheless, the Word Nerd inside of me is begging to come out and explore the word poetry.

Simply enough, it comes from the Greek poiein, “to make, create, compose.” One of those words that just rings with the simple, vibrant clarity of truth. We are, after all, made in the very image of the Creator of the Universe, yes?

When we create, we are fulfilling our God-given design. May all we do be as a sweet-sounding poem in the ears of God!

God must like poetry…the largest book of the Bible is filled with song and poetry. Not to mention the poetry riffled throughout the rest of the Bible.

But wait! There’s more!

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.

See that word, workmanship? In the original Greek, it is the word poiema. Yep. Creativity and work are both embedded in the idea of poiein.

Yes, you are–I am–a poem written by the Creator.

Not some hasty glitter-and-glue project.

Not some clay slap-dashed into a shape of some kind.

No. We are each a poem written by the Creator.

May it be even so!

Love and blessings,


WORD NERD CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: Find the etymology of the word work, and please, let me hear your discoveries!

I leave you with a poem celebrating America, written by Walt Witman, from the National Poetry Foundation website

By Walt Whitman 1819–1892 Walt Whitman

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
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Some Use Words and Clay:

Short Story: God’s Gift of Music:

Word Nerd: Passion Week

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( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Passion Week.It’s the most important time of the year in the Christian life, in which we remember and honor the Passion of Jesus on the cross, then celebrate his resurrection.

So, follow me, today, Fellow Word Nerds! We shall explore passion!

Passion comes from the Latin passio/pati, “suffer, endure” (noun and verb forms). It took the French route to the English language, and was specifically about Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

Too often, I diminish the suffering Jesus endured. I’d like to think it’s because the suffering is too much for me to comprehend. But in reality, my very human brain reasons, “Well, He was God. He could handle it, no biggie. Besides He rose again three days later.”

True, but it totally misses the suffering that was inflicted on Jesus’ human body, the suffering he endured.

And minimizes my sin that imposed that suffering on him. Not Roman/Jewish politics of the day, but MY SIN. The sin that, without Jesus’ suffering, keeps me separated from God.

All worthy thoughts to bring me to thankfulness and worship. However, the really interesting stuff started happening when I looked up passion in Noah Webster‘s 1828 Dictionary online.

The first definition in 1828: “The impression or effect of an external agent upon a body; that which is
suffered or received.” Wow. What a perfect description for what Jesus went through. The cross was imposed on His body by the external agent of the Romans, at the behest of Jewish leaders.

Just remember, He ALLOWED it to be imposed on him. In John 6:51, Jesus proclaims, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

In John 10:17, He said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again.”

See it? He GAVE his life.

Webster’s third definition of passion in 1828? “Suffering; emphatically, the last suffering of the Savior.”


That definition is listed as “archaic” in the 2006 Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

I have no words to say how passionate I feel about that fact.



WORD NERD CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: Take a trip over to the Online Etymology Dictionary and discover the Greek root for suffering and think of three words that use that Greek root. (NOT the Latin passio/pati where we get passion, but the Greek root.) Hint: It is not the word path, as in a bike path. But it’s nearby in the dictionary. Very near. Very, very near.

I can also recommend (for adults and older children only) a viewing of Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ.