Word of the Day : September 27, 2010


adjective rek-tuh-LINN-ee-er


1 : moving in or forming a straight line

2 : characterized by straight lines

Did You Know?

Today’s word has a straightforward line of descent. It comes from the Late Latin "rectilineus," which itself comes from the Latin words "rectus" ("straight") and "linea" ("line"). A lesser-known variant, "rectilineal," derives from the same Late Latin "rectilineus" and employs the "-al" suffix rather than "-ar." The grammarian H. W. Fowler dictated in 1926 that "there is no objection to either [variant] in itself, but '-ar' is so much commoner that, as there is no difference of meaning, '-al' should be abandoned as a needless variant." "Rectilineal" still turns up occasionally in spite of the redundancy, but "rectilinear" is by far the more common choice.

Quick Quiz: What 5-letter verb descends from "linea" and means "to bring into line"? The answer is ...


Maps of rectilinear states like Colorado and Utah are much easier to draw freehand than those of states with jagged outlines.

"The four-story structure extends the original 1907 Beaux Arts building's low profile but dispenses with the neo-Classical columns, capitals, entablatures and whatnot in favor of severe, rectilinear blocks: a central glass atrium -- 12,184 square feet under a 63-foot ceiling -- flanked by granite and glass pavilions containing 53 galleries." -- From an article by Ken Johnson in The New York Times, September 12, 2010


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