Word of the Day : October 24, 2013


noun sin-TIL-uh


: a very small amount : spark, trace


"Nobody but the cast and crew has even a scintilla of an idea of how things will actually end, but that hasn't stopped people from speculating, including us." - From an article by Tom Mendelsohn in The Independent (London), September 26, 2013

"Hunters say the wolves are depleting the native elk populations; ranchers fret their livestock is at risk. Both claims have a scintilla of truth in them, but are mostly overblown." - From an article by Mike Di Paola in Salon, September 3, 2013

Did You Know?

"Scintilla" comes directly from Latin, where it carries the meaning of "spark"-that is, a bright flash such as you might see from a burning ember. In English, however, our use of "scintilla" is restricted to the figurative sense of "spark"-a hint or trace of something that barely suggests its presence. Latin "scintilla" is related to the verb "scintillare," which means "to sparkle" and is responsible for our verb "scintillate" ("to sparkle or gleam," literally or figuratively). In an odd twist, "scintilla" underwent a transposition of the "c" and the "t" (a linguistic phenomenon known as metathesis) to create the Vulgar Latin form "stincilla," which is believed to be an ancestor of our word "stencil."

Name That Synonym

Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "scintilla": sig_n. The answer is …


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!