Archive for category Watchword of the Day

More on flags

flag half mast

Today’s Watchword of the Day continues this week’s flag theme and actually includes three separate but related words that all deal with vertically hoisting the flag up and down the pole.  By the way, did you know that when raising a flag to half-staff (same as half-mast), you first raise the flag to the top of the pole, then lower it either to two-thirds of its normal height or by the width of the flag?  And, when lowering a flag flying at half-staff, you once again raise it to the top of the pole before lowering.

dipping n. a form of saluting with a flag by lowering it almost to the ground, then raising it back up a flagstaff to its original position.

strike vi. to lower a flag as a sign of surrender.

trailing n. an uncommon method of flag saluting whereby the flag is lowered to lightly touch the ground, then immediately hoisted back up the staff.


, , ,

Leave a comment


cantonIn today’s Watchword of the Day, following this week’s flag theme, comes the word that can be used to describe the particular area of design in many flags, including the U.S. national flag, and the flags of Australia, New Zealand, and the People’s Republic of China.  (The picture at right is the Royal Air Force ensign of India.)

canton n. the upper corner of a flag adjacent to the staff; typically where a special design, such as a union, is placed.

, , ,

Leave a comment


Courtesy Flag2Continuing with this week’s theme of flags is today’s entry (actually, Tuesday’s entry – I have been experiencing some technical difficulties).

courtesy n. a small version of a host country’s national or maritime flag, flown as a sign of respect by a foreign ship while cruising in the host country’s waters; typically flown from the foremasthead of multi-masted ships, or from the starboard spreader of single-masted ships, or from the bow staff of ships with no mast.

, , ,

Leave a comment


gonfalonI thought I would try something different.  Each day this week, I will be posting a Watchword of the Day that pertains to a selected subject.  This week’s subject is flags. In future weeks, I would like to post words that pertain to subjects that you, the reader, request.  So that’s an open invitation for you to make your requests – first come, first served.  It can be anything at all, such as “words relating to horse colors,” or “words ending in ‘ism’,” or “old Hebraic measurement words.” The more arcane, the better.  I’ll see what I can come up with.

gonfalon n. a flag or banner hung from a horizontal bar, often accompanied by streamers and tails.

, , ,

Leave a comment

white feather

white-featherwhite feather n. a mark or symbol of cowardice; this term is derived from the superstition that a gamecock having a white feather in its  plumage indicates a poor fighter.

, ,

Leave a comment


hebdomad n. 1. the number seven.  2. a group of seven.  3. seven consecutive days; a week.

sevenIt’s been a long hebdomad. From the Greek root hebdomos, which means seventh, comes a nice substitute word for week, or the number seven.  The Romans incorporated the word into the term dies hebdomadis, meaning day of the week, but later dropped the use of hebdomas as a week for the term septimana, which gives us September, the seventh Roman month.

Some related words include hebdomadal – as a noun, a weekly publication, or as an adjective, something lasting one week or occurring weekly.  From the Roman Catholic religion we also get hebdomadary, a church or monastery member appointed to sing the chapter Mass and lead in the recitations for one week.  Back in the mid-19th century, the powers that be at Oxford University formed the Hebdomadal Council, a group that provided financial and managerial oversight to the university until its dissolution in 2000.  What’s interesting is that this group met regularly during the school term, not every week, as the name implies, but every two weeks.  Perhaps the Oxford dons needed a short reminder course in Greek.

, , , ,

Leave a comment


From Middle English we get the word salutare, meaning greeting. A short etymological jump away came salutation, a greeting found in a letter or a speech.  This time of year we will witness salutations all across our nation’s schools from salutatorians, those runner-up students who will be giving their salutatorian addresses during countless high school graduation ceremonies.  These words all carry a secondary, underlying meaning that conveys the idea of respect; in fact, salutation can also mean a bow used as a gesture of greeting.  A close cousin to salutation is salute, which carries the idea of respect and greeting even further.

With the rise of monasteries as places of refuge where monks were cloistered from the laity, there arose a need for a special room within a monastery where monks and non-clerics could meet.  These rooms represented a place where the temporal and the spiritual could practically and symbolically greet one another while retaining the respect accorded to the position of the clerics at the time.  Thus came into being the salutatorium.

salutatorium n. a room in a monastery or church used for receptions and audiences between clerics and the laity; used especially for almsgiving.

, , ,

Leave a comment