We all know that infants don’t actually speak with an accent because they don’t really speak at all. But for a long time scientists presumed that infants’ brains could not process sounds at all. Professor Patricia Kuhl, the director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Learning at the University of Washington, wanted to test this notion. CONTINUE READING »
Recently we asked members of the Dictionary.com Facebook page a simple question: What was the last word you looked up, what was the specific issue you were trying to solve, and what were the circumstances? The results floored us. At last count, more than 450 people shared their stories. Here are a few examples:
- “Looked up “enure/inure” for supervisor as he was unsure of meaning and I had never heard of the word.”
- “Wanderlust. I used it in conversation and the person I was with had never heard it. I decided best to check I had the meaning right!”
- “Dawdle: looking for another way to say futz.”
Now we would like to hear from you. In the comments below, tell us the most recent word you searched for, what was the piece of information that you were trying to answer, and what were you doing at the time?
You may have read the news about the discovery of a new species of monkey in Africa, known as the Lesula, or Cercopithecus lomamiensis. The announcement of any new species is thrilling, and Lesula is only the second new primate species to be identified in the past 28 years. When something as rare and significant as this occurs, we immediately turn to where nature meets the dictionary: its name.
When an animal is verified by the scientific community as a new species, who decides its name? And what does the name mean? CONTINUE READING »
During the election season the words left and right denote political affiliation more than spatial direction. But where do these associations come from?
The left hand has long been associated with deviance. The word “sinister” originally meant “to the left” in Latin. The word “left” comes from the Old English word lyft, which literally meant “weak, foolish.” CONTINUE READING »
Can you imagine a world in which the sounds of G and C were both represented by the letter C? Try to imacine it.
Believe it or not, for much of their history, the sounds of C and G were represented by the same symbol. Eventually, however, both sounds received their own differentiated symbols. CONTINUE READING »