The Words of the Week - Feb. 3

Dictionary lookups from cyberspace, the environment, and entertainment
a marmot or groundhog stands on a field looking worried

’Groundhog day’

Groundhog day took place last week, as it does every year now, without fail.

Groundhog Day is here and the verdict is in! Winter is officially here to stay for another six weeks, according to Punxsutawney Phil.
— Kaleb A. Brown, -USA Today_, 2 Feb. 2023

We define Groundhog day first in the sense that relates to the day on which it occurs: “February 2 observed traditionally as a day that indicates six more weeks of winter if sunny or an early spring if cloudy.” However, we also provide a secondary definition, which is “a situation in which the same usually negative or monotonous experiences occur repeatedly or are felt to occur repeatedly with no change or correction.” The first sense has been in use since the late 19th century; the second sense emerged shortly after the release of the film Groundhog Day (1993), in which the main character is forced to relive the same day (February 2) until he learns certain life lessons.

’Bot’ & ‘API’

Bot has been in the news a considerable amount of late, and recent policy changes at Twitter have helped to keep the word (along with API) among our top lookups.

In the middle of the night, Twitter made an announcement that disappointed a wide range of developers whose research, bots, and apps depend on free access to the platform’s API to function. Twitter announced in a tweet that starting on February 9, Twitter “will no longer support free access to the Twitter API.”
— Ashley Belanger, ars Technica, 2 Feb, 2023

The relevant sense of bot here is “a computer program or character (as in a game) designed to mimic the actions of a person.” Bot also has a number of other meanings, including “a computer program that performs automatic repetitive task,” “a computer that has been infected with a bot and can be used for malicious purposes as part of a network of infected computers,” or simply “a robot.” The shortened sense of robot is the oldest of these senses, in use since the 1960s.

API is an abbreviation for application programming interface, a racy little entry that we define as “a set of rules that allows programmers to develop software for a particular operating system without having to be completely familiar with that operating system.”

’Induction heating’

A good deal of ink has been spilled (or whatever the cyber-equivalent of this is - many bytes have been coded?) in the past few months on the subject of stoves, both those that run on gas and those that run on electricity. Among those that eschew gas are ranges that rely on induction heating.

For smooth electric cooktops, DOE is clearly trying to nudge the industry towards induction, which is more efficient than traditional smooth cooktops that employ a heating element.
— Aaron Gordon, Vice, 2 Feb. 2023

Induction heating is “the heating of material by means of an electric current that is caused to flow through the material or its container by electromagnetic induction.” The sense of induction that is being used here is one that we define as “the process by which an electrical conductor becomes electrified when near a charged body, by which a magnetizable body becomes magnetized when in a magnetic field or in the magnetic flux set up by a magnetomotive force, or by which an electromotive force is produced in a circuit by varying the magnetic field linked with the circuit.”


Winningest popped up on our list of lookups spikes last week, after Beyoncé was referred to in this manner by a pair of writers from The New York Times.

Already the winningest woman in Grammy history, with 28 victories, Beyoncé has a field-leading nine nominations this year.
— Ben Sisario & Joe Coscarelli, The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2023

Winningest spikes in lookups periodically, when the word is used to describe someone of note; we assume that most readers are looking to see if it is a recognized word or not. It is, and we enter it as an adjective, meaning “having achieved the most wins.” It is the superlative form of winning, and was long thought to have been a recent addition to the English language; recent findings have shown that it has been in use for a considerable length of time.

In like manner, although nothing should be more welcome to mankinde, (because nothing more necessary) than the news of a Saviour for sinners … though applyed to them in the best and winningest matter, that humane abilities can attaine: Nature and Reason teach there is a God, and no miracle was ever wrought to convert Atheists.…
— John Gauden, A Defence by Way of Apology for the Ministry and Ministers of the Church of England, 1653

Although winningest has been in fairly consistent use since the middle of the 17th century, it has mostly carried a slightly different meaning than the one applied here to Beyoncé; it usually indicated that someone was the most winning in the sense of “pleasing or attractive to other people” rather than “victorious.”

'Force majeure'

A balloon from China that crossed into U.S. airspace sent searches spiking for force majeure.

"The airship is from China," a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure," the statement said.
Barron's, 3 Feb. 2023

Force majeure translates literally from French as superior force. In English, the term is often used in line with its literal French meaning, but it has other uses as well, including one that has roots in a principle of French law. In business circles, force majeure describes those uncontrollable events (such as war, labor stoppages, or extreme weather) that are not the fault of any party and that make it difficult or impossible to carry out normal business.

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Bibliognost’

Our word worth knowing this week is bibliognost, which means “one that has comprehensive knowledge of books and bibliography.”