Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
Words at Play

Urbane, "Incisive" & Other Good Things to Be

Urbane, "Incisive" & Other Good Things to Be


Definition:

notably polite or polished in manner

Example:

"Inside the narrow dining room is a mix of rustic and urbane, with dish towels for napkins, brick walls hung with abstract paintings and light bulbs hooded by vaguely laboratorial shades." - Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, October 31, 2013

About the Word:

Would you rather be urbane or suave? Here's the difference: urbane typically suggests composed cultivation and wide social experience, while suave tends to emphasize smooth frictionless dealings.

Urbane and urban both come from the Latin urbanus, meaning "of the city; refined."

Definition:

very clear and direct : able to explain difficult ideas clearly and confidently

Example:

"This is beginning to resemble Jorge Luis Borges' incisive line about the 1982 [Falklands] war - two bald men fighting over a comb." - Ben Winkley, Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2013

About the Word:

The incisive person cuts through things and gets to the point. The original meaning of incisive, from around 1600, was "having a cutting edge or piercing point." Incisive and the cutting incisor teeth are related.

Definition:

having or showing perception, comprehension, or shrewdness especially in practical matters

Example:

"Advocates have waged savvy campaigns, gaining footholds by legalising marijuana for medical purposes (so far in 20 states and Washington, DC) and presenting a clean-cut, besuited image worlds away from the tie-dyed stereotypes." - The Economist, January 11, 2014

About the Word:

Savvy emerged in the late 1700s as a verb ("Do you savvy?" means "Do you understand?") and a noun ("political savvy" means "political know-how"). It took more than a century to develop into an adjective used to describe people. Like savant, it comes from the Latin sapere, "to be wise."

Definition:

having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions

Example:

"[New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh] McDaniels, a native of Ohio, is praised as a sagacious play-caller and offensive mind and warrants a second turn as a head coach at 37." - The Sports XChange, Hartford Courant, December 31, 2013

About the Word:

The earliest, 17th century sense of sagacious was applied to people (or animals): "quick or keen in sense perceptions." Over time, the meaning of the word shifted and became high praise for the human intellect.

Definition:

feeling no fear : very bold or brave

Example:

"Before the Plunge, the Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Department won the tug-of-war. The intrepid firefighters then donned cold-water rescue gear to clear off the ice and stand by in the freezing water while the bathers did their thing." - Kathryn Spira, The Leader-Herald (Gloversville, NY), January 12, 2014

About the Word:

Intrepid shares an ancestor with trepidation (from the Latin word trepidare, "to tremble") - but the in- prefix negates the trembling and fear.

Definition:

having or showing a generous and kind nature

Example:

"John F. Kennedy was also famously magnanimous to his political opponents, slow to anger and unfailingly easy going." - Roger Stone, HuffingtonPost.com, January 10, 2014

About the Word:

A magnanimous person shows great spirit, and the word itself refers to those qualities: magnanimous comes from the Latin magnus, "great" + animus, "spirit."

Definition:

having great charm or appeal

Example:

"Peter O'Toole, the charismatic, devil-may-care film actor who brought charm, wit and intelligence to the roles he played on the screen, as well as to his daily persona and often dissolute public life..." - Robert Simonson, Playbill.com, December 15, 2013

About the Word:

Charismatic has a religious meaning as well. As a noun, "charismatic" refers to a member of a group or movement that stresses the seeking of direct divine inspiration and charisms. A charism is an extraordinary power (e.g. healing) given to a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church. Charismatic healing is often called "faith healing."

The secular and religious senses of charismatic both come from the Greek charis, meaning "grace."

Definition:

feeling or showing concern for someone who is sick, hurt, poor, etc.

Example:

"New research out of the Wharton School and George Mason University shows that workplaces with 'compassionate love' lead to less absenteeism and higher job satisfaction among employees." - Adam Vaccaro, Inc.com, January 9, 2014

About the Word:

The original meaning of "passion" referred to the sufferings of Jesus ("the Passion of Christ"), and compassionate once meant "calling forth pity." Nowadays, compassionate implies tenderness and understanding, and a desire to aid and spare another.

Definition:

able to work or continue for a very long time without becoming tired : tireless

Example:

"Yet through indefatigable large-heartedness and real talk with students, young teacher eventually makes astonishing progress with these overlooked kids in the face of an unsupportive bureaucracy." - Joshua John Mackin, TheAtlantic.com, January 1, 2014

About the Word:

The grandeur of this word has long been recognized (and enhanced) by the British Royal Navy, which used the word indefatigable to name a class of battle cruisers in World War I.

Valiant
Up Next
top-10-sophisticated-insults

A List We Hope You Don't Find Insipid

Definition:

having or showing courage : very brave or courageous

Example:

"The valiant Nelson Mandela." - a tweet by Ian McKellen, December 5, 2013

About the Word:

Hal Foster's classic comic strip Prince Valiant (in full, Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur) rightly suggests that valiant might be an old word. Valiant dates to the days of Middle English and has its origins in a Latin word meaning "to be strong."




Seen and Heard