Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word



Jul 8, 2019
This week’s theme
Words that aren’t what they appear to be

This week’s words

Happy by Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams - Happy (4 min.)

Previous week’s theme
Whose what?
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
with Anu Garg

Greenland is not all that green (more than 80% is covered in ice). Iceland is not all that icy (about 11% is glaciers). And Ireland is not full of irate people.

What’s going on here?

Iceland is pretty straightforward. It was named by a Viking named Flóki Vilgerðarson who saw a fjord full of icebergs and thought that’s all there was to it. At least he didn’t name the place in vanity and display it in ugly golden letters.

Greenland was named for marketing reasons. Erik the Red, banished for dispatching some of his fellow citizens to Valhalla, landed here and thought the name Greenland would attract more settlers. It’s not known if he tried another name in A/B testing before going with this choice. Incidentally, his father was banished from Norway for the same extracurricular activity a few decades earlier and reached Iceland. Erik the Red followed in his father’s footsteps, so to speak, and was banished from Iceland and reached Greenland. Fortunately, his son Leif Erikson picked up different hobbies.

The name Ireland is ultimately from the Indo-European root peiə- (to be fat or to swell), suggesting abundance and prosperity. The word ire (anger) is unrelated, but given the historical anti-Irish bigotry, it’s a model of restraint that Irish are not ire-ish.

This week’s words are somewhat like these place names. You can’t tell what’s really going on there just by looking at the spelling of the words.



adjective: Relating to or conducive to happiness.

From Greek eudaimonia (happiness), from eudaimon (having a good genius, happy), from eu- (good) + daimon (spirit, fate, fortune). Earliest documented use: 1832.

This is a happy word; nothing demonic about it, except in the etymology.

“The air conditioning didn’t reach back here and the heat was breathtaking, lapping at my face the way would a eudemonic dog.”
Leon Rooke; Swinging Through Dixie; Biblioasis; 2016.

“[Gordon Brown] does not understand that an educational system can be a eudaemonic triumph even if it encourages disciplines that add not a penny to national output.”
Boris Johnson; The Pursuit of Happiness; The Spectator (London, UK); May 23, 2007.

See more usage examples of eudemonic in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Anyone entrusted with power will abuse it if not also animated with the love of truth and virtue, no matter whether he be a prince, or one of the people. -Jean de la Fontaine, poet and fabulist (8 Jul 1621-1695)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith