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today's word: candent.


candent (KAN-duhnt) adjective

  1. Glowing.

  2. Impassioned.

[From Latin candent-, stemp of candens, present participle of candere
(to shine or glow). Ultimately from Indo-European root kand- (to shine).
Other words from the same root are candle, incandescent, incense, candid,
candida, and candidate (in reference to white togas worn by Romans seeking

today's word: irrefragable.

A.Word.A.Day--irrefragable .

irrefragable (i-REF-ruh-guh-buhl) adjective

  Impossible to refute or dispute; incontrovertible.

[From Late Latin irrefragabilis, from Latin in- (not) + refragari
(to oppose).  Ultimately from Indo-European root bhreg- (to break)
that's also the progenitor of words such as break, breach, fraction,
fragile, fractal, infringe, and suffrage. Suffrage? Remember,
a broken piece of tile was used as a ballot in earlier times.]

today's word: devoir


devoir (duh-VWAR) noun

  1. Duty; responsibility.

  2. An act of respect or courtesy.

[From Middle English devoir (duty), from Old French, from Latin debere
(to owe). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghebh- (to give or receive)
that is also the forefather of such words as give, have, endeavor, handle,
able, and duty.]

today's word: hibernaculum


hibernaculum (hi-buhr-NAK-yuh-luhm) noun, also hibernacle

  1. Winter quarters of a hibernating animal.

  2. The protective covering of an animal or plant bud that
      protects it during its dormant stage in the winter.

[From Latin hibernaculum (winter residence), from hibernare (to spend
the winter). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghei- (winter) that is
the ancestor of words such as, chimera (literally a lamb that is one
winter, or one year old) and the Himalayas, from Sanskrit him (snow) +
alaya (abode).]

today's word: guinea pig.

A.Word.A.Day--guinea pig

guinea pig (GIN-ee pig) noun

1. A small rodent of the genus Cavia.

2. Someone or something used as a subject of experimentation.

[Sense 2 from the fact the guinea pigs were formerly used for

A guinea pig is neither from Guinea (West Africa) nor is it a pig. Rather it's a rodent from South America. Why that name? There's no consensus on how Guinea came into its name though a guinea pig does
appear to squeal like a pig.

today's word: stool pigeon.

A.Word.A.Day--stool pigeon.
stool pigeon (stool PIJ-uhn) noun

1. A person who works as a decoy or informer, especially for the police.

2. A pigeon used as a decoy.

[Of uncertain origin: apparently from the former practice of tying decoy pigeons to a stool; possibly from French estale or estal which referred to a pigeon used to entice a hawk into a net.]

today's word: kilkenny cats.

A.Word.A.Day--Kilkenny cats

Kilkenny cats (kil-KEN-ee kats) noun

People who fight relentlessly till their end.

[From a pair of proverbial cats in Kilkenny, Ireland, who fought till only their tails were left.]

According to a story, some people in the town of Kilkenny in Ireland enjoyed tying the tails of two cats and watching them fight till only their tale was left behind. Most likely the story is a parable of a contest between Kilkenny and Irishtown, two municipalities which fought about their boundaries till little more than their tails were left. Here is a popular limerick (another word that takes its origins from the name of an Irish town) about the cats:

"There wanst was two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they scratched and they bit
'Til instead of two cats there weren't any."

today's word: running dog.

A.Word.A.Day--running dog.

running dog (RUN-ing dog) noun

  A servile follower; lackey.

[From Chinese zougou, from zou (running) + gou (dog), apparently as
an allusion to a dog running to follow his or her master's commands.
This term was employed in Chinese Communist terminology to refer
to someone who was subservient to counter-revolutionary interest.]

today's word: polyglot.


polyglot (POL-ee-glot) adjective

  1. Conversant in many languages.

  2. Composed of or having several languages.
      (as in a book, a population, etc.)

  3. Encompassing diversity (as in culture or origin).


  1. One who is competent in many languages.

  2. A book having the same text in several languages.