Wordnik word of the day: ultroneous

Today’s word of the day is ultroneous, meaning “spontaneous” or “voluntary,” and described by William Ballantyne Hodgson as “not recognised by Johnson, and little needed by the English tongue.” It’s from the same Latin root ultro- as ultromotivity, capability of spontaneous movement. Eleanor Agnes Moore has a deliciously dreadful poem titled “Ultroneus” in her Poems of Endowment on The Realities of Life:

          While the influence is morally, physically and refining,
          Yet by softening and cheering expressions made,
          Intellect may be developed and the power of thought strengthened.
          When the part of ultroneous is retained to be used at times.

Eleanor Agnes Moore

Eleanor Agnes Moore

Wordnik word of the day: witticaster

Today’s word of the day is witticaster, “an inferior or pretended wit; a witling.” In other words, someone who thinks they’re funny even though they’re not. The word is formed by a combination of witty + -aster, the latter part a suffix that indicates approximation, rough similarity, or pretended resemblance. You may have seen it in poetaster, “a petty poet: a feeble rimester, or a writer of indifferent verses,” but it also occurs in a number of less common words. A philsophaster is “a pretender to philosophical knowledge; an incompetent philosopher.” A criticaster is “an inferior or incompetent critic; a petty censurer.” A grammaticaster is “a petty or pitiful grammarian; one who insists upon the minutest grammatical niceties.” A politicaster is “a petty politician; a pretender to political knowledge or influence.” A medicaster is “a pretender to medical knowledge or skill; an ignorant doctor.” A theologaster is “a quack in theology; a shallow or pretended theologian.” Of a slightly different nature—referring to something other than a person—are parasitaster, “an insignificant parasite,” oleaster, a type of wild tree that looks like a type of cultivated olive tree but isn’t, and verticillaster, a flowering part of a plant that looks whorl-like but isn’t a true whorl.

Wordnik word of the day: latration

Today’s word of the day is the noun latration, which is “barking,” usually of a dog. It’s a rare word but one used with distinction in this most apt description of political argument: “porcine squealing, answered always by counter-latration.” The verb, latrate, and its synonyms allatrate and oblatrate, come to us from the Latin latratus, the past participle of latrare, ‘to bark.’ Latrant, of course, is “barking or clamoring noisily” as used in Matthew Green’s The Spleen in 1737: “Whose latrant stomachs oft molest / The deep-laid plans their dreams suggest.”