Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 1, 2019 is:

luftmensch • LOOFT-mensh (the “OO” is as in “foot”)  • noun

: an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income


“People like Luftmenschen, and they’ve liked them for a long time. The image of Thales, called the world’s first philosopher, cannot be proven, but it’s comforting to think that intellectuals have their heads in the clouds and stumble into the well before their feet.” — Susan Neiman, Einstein for the 21st Century, 2008

“Initially, antihero Shmuel Ash seems to be one of [Israeli writer, Amos] Oz’s more familiar types, a luftmensch, concerned with intellectual pursuits, sharing many of the dysfunctional and antiheroic qualities of his predecessors….” — Ranen Omer-Sherman, The Forward, 7 Nov. 2016

Did you know?

Are you one of those people who always seem to have their head in the clouds? Do you have trouble getting down to the lowly business of earning a living? If so, you may deserve to be labeled a luftmensch. That airy appellation is an adaptation of the Yiddish luftmentsh, which breaks down into luft (a Germanic root meaning “air” that is also related to the English words loft and lofty) plus mentsh, meaning “human being.” One of the earliest known uses of luftmensch in English prose is found in Israel Zangwill’s 1907 story collection Ghetto Comedies, in which he writes, “The word ‘Luftmensch’ flew into Barstein’s mind. Nehemiah was not an earth-man…. He was an air-man, floating on facile wings.” The plural form of the noun is luftmenschen.

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