16 Latin Question Words Hiding in the English Language

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iStock

Latin is ubiquitous in English. As Dictionary.com observes, “About 80 percent of the entries in any English dictionary are borrowed, mainly from Latin.” That even includes some of ancient Rome’s most nut-and-bolts words, like quid, “what,” quis, “who,” and the ubi in ubiquitous, meaning “where.” Here are 16 English words constructed from some of the most basic building blocks of the Latin language.

1. QUALITY

Quality derives from the Latin qualitas, “character” or “essential nature.” The great Roman statesman Cicero coined it, on the basis of qualis (“of what kind”), to translate a word the Greek philosopher Plato himself created: poiotes, “suchness.”

2. QUANTITY

A quantity is the “amount” of something, just like its Latin root, quantitas. This word is formed from quantus, “how much,” also the source of quantum.

3. QUIDDITY

No, this word doesn’t size up your Quidditch skills. It literally means “whatness,” formed from the Latin quid, or “what.” Quiddity was introduced as a philosophical term in the Middle Ages for “what makes a thing what it is.” In the 16th century, English writers apparently mocked scholars’ overuse of the term, turning it into a term for a quibble.

4. QUIBBLE

Speaking of quibbles, the earliest sense of quibble, recorded in the 1610s, is as a “pun” or “play on words.” The word not long after took on its modern sense of an “objection to a trivial matter.” Quibble appears to be a diminutive form of the older quib, “an evasion of a point at issue.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) suggests quib comes from the Latin quibus (“by what things”), a form of quid (“what”), “a word of frequent occurrence in legal documents and hence associated with the length and unnecessary complexity of legal documents.”

5. QUIP

Originally a “sarcastic remark” before softening to a “witticism,” quip might be from the Latin quippe, apparently used much like “Oh really?” Quippe is also based on quid (“what”), the neuter form of quis (“who”).

6. QUIDNUNC

A quidnunc is a fancy word for a “gossiper.” It’s from the Latin quid nunc, literally “what now,” which clever English speakers adopted for the incessant questioning of a nosy person.

7. QUID

We’ve seen Latin’s quid (“what”) already in a number of words. It may also be responsible for the British slang quid, or “one pound sterling,” used much as the American English buck. One of the leading explanations is that quid is shortened from the Latin expression quid pro quo, “one thing for another,” or an exchange, hence its application to money.

8. QUANDARY

The origin of quandary is, well, quite a quandary. A number of etymologists have proposed quandary as a quasi-Latin expression for some kind of dilemma of donation: quantum dare (“How much to give?”), quando dare (“When to give?”), or quam dare (“How to give?”).

9. CUE

The Latin quando (“when”) may also be the source of cue, which signals an actor to begin their lines. A 1553 letter, among other examples in the 16th and 17th centuries, refers to a Q marked in actor’s text of a play, which has been explained as an abbreviation for a Latin word such as quando, or “when” the actor should start.

10. QUOTIENT

In mathematics, a quotient is what you get when you divide. The word is from the Latin quotiens, “how many times,” i.e., how many times one number goes into another.

11. QUOTE

The base of Latin’s quotiens is quot, “how many.” From this, Medieval Latin formed a verb, quotare, “to mark chapters” or “mark a book with numbers.” This is also what quote first meant when it was borrowed into English in the late 14th century. It evolved to “reproduce a passage from a book” to “give as a reference, support, or source” to “repeat or copy out exact words.”

12. QUOTIDIAN

Quot also shows up in quotidian, which is something “happening every day,” hence “ordinary.” It’s from the Latin quotidianus, which joined quot (“how many”) and dies (“day”).

13. QUORUM

A quorum is the minimum number of people who must be present at an assembly, a word we typically hear in the context of legislatures. It literally means “of whom” in Latin, and was originally used by 15th-century commissions in official language appointing select justices of the peace, who had to be present for a court session to be considered valid.

14. UBIQUITY

Latin roots have been ubiquitous in this post, or “everywhere.” Ubiquity was coined—on the model of Latin’s ubique, “anywhere” or “everywhere”—in the 16th century for a Christian theological doctrine that held God as omnipresent.

15. HIDALGO

So far, most of the words haven’t been hiding their “who” and “what” Latin roots. Not so for the final two. Hidalgo, a Spanish term for a “gentleman” and the name of a state in Mexico, is contracted from hijo de algo, “son of something” (think, a real someone). The algo comes from Latin’s aliquis, “anyone” or “someone,” which quis we previously saw in quip.

16. KICKSHAW

Finally, and most surprisingly, we have kickshaw, a “fancy but unsubstantial food dish.” This lively word is from the French quelque chose, “a little something.” As the OED explains, a kickshaw, adopted in the late 16th century, “was ‘something’ French, not one of the known ‘substantial’ English dishes.” The quelque in quelque chose goes back to the Latin qualis—the same qualis, to bring things full circle, we saw in quality.

7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

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Eldest vs. Oldest: What's the Difference Between These Two Age-Related Adjectives?

Danny DeVito will help illustrate our point.
Danny DeVito will help illustrate our point.
Stuart C. Wilson, Getty Images

When it comes to adjectives related to age, choosing between eldest and oldest can cause some people to grow a few premature gray hairs. The words seem interchangeable and their preferred usage is unclear. Why say oldest person alive and not eldest person alive? What’s the difference between the two?

According to Merriam-Webster, the most significant distinction is that eldest and elder are only ever used to refer to people. An antique can’t be the eldest in a collection, only the oldest. But your older sister could be the eldest among your siblings.

Eldest is most often used in the context of people who are related either as family or as part of a group for comparison purposes. It also doesn’t necessarily have to refer to age. If someone joins a chess club in their 80s, they might be the oldest person in the group, but that doesn’t mean they’re the eldest. That would describe the member of the group who’s been there the longest, even if that person is in their 30s.

To justify our use of actor Danny DeVito in the image above, we could say that, at age 75, DeVito is the oldest cast member of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but not the eldest. He joined the show in season 2.

Oldest can certainly refer to people, but it’s best to opt for eldest when comparing people within a social or familial community. And remember that elder can also be used as a noun, while older cannot. You would respect the elders in your family, not the olders.

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