Pronounced: uh-rek-suh-JEN-ik, adj

Notes: I saw “rex” in the word and thought it may have to do with kings or royalty (I was wrong; besides, this word does not come from Latin)

Yesterday’s word

The word pridian means “of or relating to a previous day or to yesterday; also: former”.

Background / Comments

For such a useful word, it isn’t used much at all. It comes from Latin pri- (before) and dies (day). It’s really a pity that such a useful word never really caught on.

First usage

While it was certainly used in 1840, and seems to have been around for a few hundred years, the actual date of the first usage is hard to determine.


Pronounced: PRIH-dee-uhn, adj

Notes: This word is seldom used, which is a shame as it’s a useful word

Yesterday’s word

The word spitfire refers to “someone high-spirited, quick-tempered, and outspoken”

Background / Comments

This word came from the combination of spit and fire.

First usage

This word showed up in the early 1600s

Rejected word

I decided against zero-sum, because I know what it refers to: note that this word is often misapplied; true zero-sum instances are rare.


Pronounced: SPIT-fire, noun

Notes: This word is lowercase, and thus NOT the British fighter aircraft associated with World War II (actually, it existed before the war, and remained in use afterwards). Anyway, that is not this word.

Yesterday’s word

The word haptic means

  • relating to or based on the sense of touch
  • characterized by a predilection for the sense of touch
Background / Comments

This word comes from Greek haptesthai (to touch), and the first meaning was around first (see below). Later, psychologists began to divide people into ‘visual’ and ‘haptic’ personalities and the second meaning arose (this division is uncommon today).

First usage

The first meaning is from the late 1800s; the second meaning comes from the mid-1900s


Pronounced: HAP-tik, adj

Notes: I didn’t know this word when I first ran across it, but I think I’ve run across it since

Yesterday’s word

The word gage has quite a variety of origins (and thus meanings):

  1. As a verb, “to offer something as a guarantee of good faith”. As a noun, is “a pledge; something offered as a guarantee” or “something thrown down as a symbol of a challenge to fight” (such a gauntlet)
  2. As a verb, “to measure of estimate”. As a noun “an instrument or criterion for measuring or testing” or “the thickness or size of something” — such as the diameter of a gun barrel or thickness of wire or sheet metal. This is the meaning I’m familiar with, but I’m used to the spelling ‘gauge’
  3. Any of the varieties of plum, such as the greengage
Background / Comments
  1. This comes from Old French (gage or guage) by way of Germanic origin. The Germanic ‘w’ sound became ‘g’ or ‘hu’ in some French dialects
  2. This comes from Old French gauge (note that different spelling from #1); possibly of unknown origin
  3. This is named after William Gage, the botanist who brought it to England from France
First usage
  1. This word originated in the 1300s
  2. This word is from the mid-1400s
  3. This word came into being in the early 1700s.


Pronounced: gayj, noun/verb

Notes: This is another word that has multiple origins and meanings. One of the meanings I didn’t know that I knew (more tomorrow).

Yesterday’s word

The word retronym means “a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the original meaning of the noun”. For example, in the pre-digital days, a ‘camera’ always had film, but when digital cameras became common, the retronym ‘film camera’ came into being. Other retronyms are ‘desktop computer’ and ‘bricks-and-morter store’.

Background / Comments

This word is American is origin: the word retro- combined with -nym. Credit for the word is given to Frank Mankiewicz.

First usage

The word seems to have come into use around 1980


Pronounced: REH-troh-nim, noun

Notes: This is a fairly modern word to describe a relatively modern situation

Yesterday’s word

The word rummy means, as a noun, “any of various card games in which the objective is to make sets or sequences of three or more cards”. As an adjective, it can mean

  • a drunkard
  • odd or unconventional
Background / Comments

The first adjective definition (drunkard) comes from ‘rum’. I think this word may be used in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; I also think I’ve run across it in a book somewhere. I also knew the noun (the card name). Its origin is unknown. The last adjective meaning (odd) is the one I didn’t remember, but as I write this, I seem to recall reading the phrase “a rum go” (an odd situation). The origin of this usage is also unknown.

First usage

The noun origin was seen in the early 1900s; the adjectives came into English in the mid-1800s, with the second one earlier than the first.


Pronounced: RUH-me, adj/noun

Notes: This was a marginal case: this word has multiple meanings and origins (as has been the case lately); I knew two of the three, but the third one I did not know. One of the meanings has a tie-in to a well-known movie.

Yesterday’s word

The word chinoiserie is “a style in art (as in decoration) reflecting Chinese qualities or motifs; also an object or decoration in this style.

Background / Comments

I should have noticed China in the beginning of the word, but so many English words use “sino-” for Chinese things that I never thought about it. This word came straight to English from French: the French word chinois means “Chinese”. The first major example of chinoiserie was a pleasure house build for the mistress of King Louis XIV in 1670. It was called the Trianon de Procelaine and was erected at Versailles. Our word outlasted the structure, which was destroyed 17 years later. The 1930s saw a brief revival of chinoiserie.

First usage

The word is from the late 1600s.


Pronounced: sheen-WAHZ-ree, noun

Notes: You may recognize part of the word

Yesterday’s word

The word mizzle means, as a noun, “fine rain or drizzle’. As a verb, it means

  • to rain in fine drops
  • to leave suddenly
  • to confuse
Background / Comments

The rain meaning comes from Middle English misellen (to drizzle). Its root word is the Indo-European word ‘meigh-‘, from which we also get mist, thrush, and mistletoe. The origin of the ‘leave suddenly’ and ‘confuse’ meanings are unknown.

First usage

The ‘rain’ meaning goes back to the mid-1400s. The ‘leave suddenly’ meaning began to be used in the mid-1700s. The ‘confusion’ meaning dates back to the late 1500s.


Pronounced: MIZ-uhl, noun/verb

Notes: This is another word with multiple origins and meanings

Yesterday’s word

The word hoick means “to move or pull abruptly: yank”

Background / Comments

It is thought that this word is an alteration of the verb hike, which is itself akin to hitch. Although the word can be used for any type of abrupt pulling movement, it is commonly used for the sudden pulling back on the joystick of an airplane or a rough, jerky movement when rowing or a jerky, elevated shot in cricket. In fox hunting, “hoicks” is used to call attention to a hound that has picked up the scent and to bring the pack together.

First usage

The word came into usage in the late 1800s


Pronounced: hoik, verb

Notes: I don’t think I’ve run across this word, but it does sound a bit familiar

Yesterday’s word

The word raddle means, as a noun, “red ocher”; it’s used for marking animals or coloring. As a verb, it has the following meanings

  • To mark or paint with red ocher
  • To twist together or interweave
  • To beat or to cause to have a worn-out appearance
Background / Comments

The ‘red ocher’ meaning is a variant of ruddle from rud (red). It’s root word is reudh (red) and is the root for red, rouge, ruby, ruddy, robust, russet and more. The ‘twist together’ meaning comes from English dialect raddle (stick interwoven with others in a fence). It’s root is reidh (to ride) and is the root for ride, raid, road, and raiment. There is no known origin for the third meaning.

First usage

Because there are different origins, there are different dates; the red ocher noun/verb is the oldest, coming into English in the mid-1300s. The twist meaning showed up in the mid-1400s. The final verb came into usage in the late 1600s.