A towhead is a person with very light, blond or yellow-colored hair. The adjective form is towheaded, and either word may be hyphenated as in tow-head and tow-headed. Towhead is first seen in 1830. Tow is another word for flax, jute or hemp that is ready for spinning. Flax and hemp that is prepared for spinning is light-colored, hence a person with hair that is exceedingly light-colored or yellow would be a towhead. The word tow meaning fiber ready to spin appears in the fourteenth century, … [Read more...]


Groupthink is decision-making made as a group. Groupthink ideas are formed in an atmosphere that encourages conformity and harmony, and discourages creativity and personal responsibility. Groupthink is a psychological and sociological phenomenon, groupthink rarely yields the best solution to a problem as the desire to keep the group cohesive is more important than the impetus to create an elegant solution. Irving Janis conducted the first studies on groupthink, highlighting the groupthink … [Read more...]


Gestalt is a composition of elements that can only be appreciated as a whole rather than as a sum of its parts. The plural forms are gestalts and less frequently, gestalten. The noun forms are gestaltism and gestaltist. Gestaltqualität was introduced as a philosophy by Christian von Ehrenfels in 1890, in 1922 the German word gestalt, which means shape, form, figure, appearance, was absorbed into English. Gestalt psychotherapy, which stresses personal responsibility and experiencing the present … [Read more...]

Intermural, intramural and extramural

Intramural means operating within the walls of a single institution or community. In North America, intramural sports are competitions arranged within one school or institution. Intramural may also refer to a normal course of study at a university. In biology, intramural means within the walls of a body cavity or organ. Intramural is an adjective, the adverb form is intramurally. Extramural means operating outside the walls, extramural sports would involve competitions with teams outside of … [Read more...]

Minuet vs minute

A minuet is a ballroom dance with short, dainty steps. The minuet is a dignified dance for a group of couples, first popular in seventeenth century France. Music for this dance is also called a minuet, often part of a sonata, symphony or suite. The beat is in 3/4 time. Minuet comes from the French word menuet, meaning fine, delicate, small, narrow. Minute has two meanings. 1.) When the accent is on the second syllable, miNUTE, it functions as an adjective meaning small, tiny, insignificant. … [Read more...]

Fiscal vs physical

Fiscal is an adjective that means relating to the public treasury or government revenue. In North America, fiscal also means of or relating to matters of finance, a fiscal year is an accounting year. Some companies choose to have their fiscal years begin and end on dates other than the calendar year, for tax purposes. The United States government's fiscal year is currently October through September. Fiscal comes the Middle French fiscal, from the Late Latin fiscalis meaning of or belonging to … [Read more...]

Competence and competency

Competence describes a person's capability to do something adequately, or a person's mental capacity to understand the proceedings of a trial. Competence is the noun form of competent, which is an adjective. Competency describes a person's capability to do something adequately, or a person's mental capacity to understand the proceedings of a trial. Competency is an alternate noun form of competent, which is an adjective. In effect, competence and competency are interchangeable, though … [Read more...]

Resign vs re-sign

Resign, used as a transitive verb, means to give up or relinquish something. Resign, used as an intransitive verb means to leave a position or job. In chess, when one resigns, one ends the game by conceding defeat. To be resigned means to accept the inevitable. Related words are resigns, resigned, resigning, resigner and resignation. Resign appears in the English language in the late fourteenth century with the meaning give up, surrender, abandon, submit, relinquish, coming from the Latin … [Read more...]


A jinx is an object or a person that is believed to bring bad luck. A jinx may also refer to an unfortunate spell of bad luck. As a transitive verb, jinx means to bring bad luck or cast a nasty spell. The word jinx first appeared in the United States in the early twentieth century as sports slang, it was originally spelled jinks. At that time, jinx referred to anything which brought bad luck to a baseball player. The word spread into standard American English. Many believe that the word … [Read more...]

Arc vs arch

An arc is a curved shape or the curving path of a moving object. In mathematics, an arc is part of a circle's circumference. An arc is also a sparking discharge conducted from one electrode to another. The verb forms of arc are arcs, arced and arcing. Arcked and arcking are technically correct forms, but rarely used. Arc comes from the Old French arc meaning bowed or curved. An arch is a curved structure that spans an opening and usually supports a bridge or roof.  An arch may also be a … [Read more...]

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