potentate \POH-tuhn-tayt\, noun:
One who possesses great power or sway; a ruler, sovereign, or monarch.
The shah of Persia, although he had to acknowledge that the sultan was a worthy rival, still considered himself a mighty potentate, as did the sultan himself.
-- Olivier Bernier, The World in 1800
How can he run the operation, an industry potentate wonders, "when the operations people don't report to him?"
-- "Michael Mouse", Time, August 28, 1995
After the capture of Tunis, the Emperor passed through Paris with the consent of his brother-in-law, King Francis, who wanted to present him with something worthy of so great a potentate.
-- Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography
Potentate derives from Late Latin potentatus, "a powerful person," from Latin potentatus, "power, especially political power; supremacy," from potens, "able, powerful," from posse, "to be able." It is related to potent, "powerful," and potential, "having possibility or capability."
Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for potentate
GRE word study for the visual learner - picture dictionary of GRE words. Click on the alphabetical list to see the complete list of words.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Dictionary.com/Word of the Day Archive/potentate
The Word of the Day for June 07, 2008 is:
nimiety • \nih-MYE-uh-tee\ • noun
: excess, redundancy
"To avoid receiving a nimiety of kitchenware," advised the bridal guide, "be sure to register for a wide range of gifts for your guests to choose from."
Did you know?
There's no scarcity of English words used for too much of a good thing -- words like "overkill," "plethora," "superfluity," "surfeit," "surplus," and "preponderance," to name a few. In fact, you might just feel that "nimiety" itself is a bit superfluous. And it's true -- we've never used the word excessively, though it has been part of our language for nearly 450 years. (We borrowed it from Late Latin "nimietas," a noun taken, in turn, from the Latin adjective "nimius," meaning "excessive.") Superfluous or not, "nimiety" still turns up occasionally. For example, in his 1991 book Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction, about "the habitual longing to purchase, read, store, admire and consume books in excess," author Tom Raabe blames one bookstore's "nimiety of overstuffed chairs" for exacerbating this condition.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The Straight Dope Mailbag: What's the origin of "hors d'oeuvres"?
Quoting William and Mary Morris' Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins: The French phrase hors d'oeuvres literally means "outside the works." Originally it was an architectural term referring to an outbuilding not incorporated into the architect's main design. The phrase was borrowed by France's culinary experts to indicate appetizers customarily served apart from the main course of a dinner. Thus hors d'oeuvres are, quite literally, outside the main design of the meal. Vraiment, c'est simple, n'est-ce-pas?
The Word of the Day for June 02, 2008 is:
hors de combat • \or-duh-kohng-BAH (the "ng" is not pronounced, but the preceding vowel is nasalized)\ • adjective or adverb
: out of combat : disabled
With their best pitcher hors de combat with a shoulder injury, the team faced a bleak season.
Did you know?
We picked up "hors de combat" directly from French back in the mid-18th century. Benjamin Franklin put the term to use in a 1776 letter, observing that an "arrow sticking in any part of a man puts him hors du [sic] combat till it is extracted." But you don't have to use the word as literally as Franklin did. "Combat" can refer to any fight or contest, not just fighting in a war. A politician who's out of the running in a political race could be declared "hors de combat," for example. But the adjective (or adverb) need not refer only to humans or animals: if you own a car, chances are your vehicle has been hors de combat at least once.