• coruscate •
Pronunciation: ko-rês-kayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive
Meaning: Sparkle, glitter, flash repeatedly.
Notes: Today's word was borrowed from Latin and came with all the Latinate accessories, including a noun, coruscation, and an adjective, coruscant "sparkly, glittering". In addition you may use the participle, coruscating, as an adjective: coruscatingly witty.
In Play: Anything sparkly coruscates: "All the houses on my street will coruscate with holiday decorations by Christmastide. Each will have a coruscating Christmas tree in the living room." The coruscation may be tiny: "The ground was covered with a lovely coruscant snow." We may also use this word metaphorically: "The Greek comedic playwright, Hilarius, was known to have had a coruscating wit."
Word History: Today's Good Word is niggardly with its past. We know it comes from Latin, where coruscatus "quivered; sparkled" is the past participle of coruscare, which initially meant "to vibrate, quiver". We know the verb was based on coruscus "quivering", which was applied to lightning, and this no doubt led to the association with light. There are a few instances of this word in Latin literature used in the sense of "thrusting with the horns". We could speculate on this basis that the root's origin lies in cornu "horn", the reference being to an animal shaking its prey on its horns. We would, of course, have to explain the fate of the N in cornu, so this explanation must remain entirely a speculation. (A veritable cornucopia of gratitude to Paula Whitaker and C. John Graham for suggesting today's mysterious Good Word.)