### Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

#### By Merriam-Webster

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Jun 8, 2020

EB
Jan 17, 2019
Always something to learn, even if I generally knew the word.

Nov 25, 2018

Franz Lang
Nov 6, 2018
Very concise and includes interesting info like etymology or historical references.

David
Jul 11, 2018
a word a day is often interesting but would prefer more advanced words

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Free daily dose of word power from Merriam-Webster's experts

Episode Date
delve
00:01:53

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 18, 2020 is:

delve • \DELV\  • verb

1 :  to dig or labor with or as if with a spade

2 a : to make a careful or detailed search for information

b : to examine a subject in detail

Examples:

"'My brother and I,' said he, 'were, as you may imagine, much excited as to the treasure which my father had spoken of. For weeks and for months we dug and delved in every part of the garden, without discovering its whereabouts.'" — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four, 1890

"They'll soon release a second short, Climate Crisis, and Why We Should Panic. It will be voiced by Kiera Knightley, and delves into the cause of climate change and why governments must enter crisis mode to handle the issue." — Angie Martoccio, Rolling Stone, 13 Aug. 2020

Did you know?

We must dig deep into the English language's past to find the origins of delve. The verb traces to the early Old English word delfan and is related to the Old High German word telban, meaning "to dig." For centuries, there was only delving—no digging—because dig didn't exist until much later; it appears in early Middle English. Is the phrase "dig and delve" (as in the line "eleven, twelve, dig and delve," from the nursery rhyme that begins "one, two, buckle my shoe") redundant? Not necessarily. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in some local uses, dig was the term for working with a mattock (a tool similar to an adze or a pick), while delve was reserved for work done using a spade.

Sep 18, 2020
limpid
00:01:30

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 17, 2020 is:

1 a : marked by transparency : pellucid

b : clear and simple in style

2 : absolutely serene and untroubled

Examples:

"She leaned toward him, entreaty in her eyes, and as he looked at her delicate face and into her pure, limpid eyes, as of old he was struck with his own unworthiness." — Jack London, Martin Eden, 1909

"Last summer, the edges of the Greenland ice sheet experienced up to three extra months of melting weather. Limpid blue pools formed on its surface; floods of melt gushed off the edge of the continent…." — Madeleine Stone, National Geographic, 7 July 2020

Did you know?

Since around 1600, limpid has been used in English to describe things that have the soft clearness of pure water. The aquatic connection is not incidental; language scholars believe that limpid probably traces to lympha, a Latin word meaning "water." That same Latin root is also the source of the word lymph, the English name for the pale liquid that helps maintain the body's fluid balance and that removes bacteria from tissues.

Sep 17, 2020
cronyism
00:02:03

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 16, 2020 is:

cronyism • \KROH-nee-iz-um\  • noun

: partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications

Examples:

"From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the New Deal, America's national parties retained their incoherence because most of the important political power was at the state and local level…. Some states and cities were better governed than others, and there was plenty of cronyism and corruption throughout the country, but the stakes of national elections were lower than today." — Lee Drutman, The Cato Policy Report (The Cato Institute), July/August 2020

"Civil service regulations attempted to eliminate cronyism by setting strict rules governing hiring, firing and promotions within professional government services…. Under the system used in Idaho Falls, promotions rely heavily on scores from written, oral and other tests." — Bryan Clark, The Idaho Falls Post Register, 4 Apr. 2017

Did you know?

"Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him" (Ecclesiasticus 9:10). Practitioners of cronyism would probably agree. The word cronyism evolved in the 19th century as a spin-off of crony, meaning "friend" or "pal." Crony originated in England in the 17th century, perhaps as a play on the Greek word chronios, meaning "long-lasting," from chronos, meaning "time." Nineteenth-century cronyism was simply friendship, or the ability to make friends. The word didn't turn bad until the next century, when Americans starting using cronyism to refer to the act of playing political favorites.

Sep 16, 2020
Sisyphean
00:02:02

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 15, 2020 is:

: of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus; specifically : requiring continual and often ineffective effort

Examples:

"I felt stuck in a Sisyphean loop, writing the same press release over and over. Even more, I was tired of promoting other people's creations instead of creating something myself." — Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni, 2013

"In Beirut, balconies are the only spaces in public view that residents can ... make theirs. Furniture is displayed; a birdcage is suspended; plants are meticulously arranged and watered—and everything is kept clean, in a Sisyphean battle against the dust." — Bernardo Zacka, The New York Times, 9 May 2020

Did you know?

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who annoyed the gods with his trickery. As a consequence, he was condemned for eternity to roll a huge rock up a long, steep hill in the underworld, only to watch it roll back down. The story of Sisyphus is often told in conjunction with that of Tantalus, who was condemned to stand beneath fruit-laden boughs, up to his chin in water. Whenever he bent his head to drink, the water receded, and whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches moved beyond his grasp. Thus to tantalize is to tease or torment by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach—and something Sisyphean (or Sisyphian, pronounced \sih-SIFF-ee-un\) demands unending, thankless, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts.

Sep 15, 2020
purport
00:01:46

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 14, 2020 is:

purport • \per-PORT\  • verb

1 : to have the often specious appearance of being, intending, or claiming (something implied or inferred); also : claim

2 : intend, purpose

Examples:

"One study at M.I.T. purported to show that the subway was a superspreader early in the pandemic, but its methodology was widely disputed." — Christina Goldbaum, The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2020

"To support his applications, Hayford provided lenders with fraudulent payroll documentation purporting to establish payroll expenses that were, in fact, nonexistent." — editorial, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 7 Aug. 2020

Did you know?

The verb purport may be more familiar nowadays, but purport exists as a noun that passed into English from Anglo-French in the 15th century as a synonym of gist. Sir Walter Scott provides us with an example from his 19th-century novel Rob Roy: "I was a good deal mortified at the purport of this letter." Anglo-French also has the verb purporter (meaning both "to carry" and "to mean"), which combines the prefix pur- ("thoroughly") and the verb porter ("to carry"). In its original English use, the verb purport meant "to signify"; the "to profess or claim" sense familiar to modern English speakers didn't appear until the 17th century.

Sep 14, 2020
purport
00:01:46

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 14, 2020 is:

purport • \per-PORT\  • verb

1 : to have the often specious appearance of being, intending, or claiming (something implied or inferred); also : claim

2 : intend, purpose

Examples:

"One study at M.I.T. purported to show that the subway was a superspreader early in the pandemic, but its methodology was widely disputed." — Christina Goldbaum, The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2020

"To support his applications, Hayford provided lenders with fraudulent payroll documentation purporting to establish payroll expenses that were, in fact, nonexistent." — editorial, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 7 Aug. 2020

Did you know?

The verb purport may be more familiar nowadays, but purport exists as a noun that passed into English from Anglo-French in the 15th century as a synonym of gist. Sir Walter Scott provides us with an example from his 19th-century novel Rob Roy: "I was a good deal mortified at the purport of this letter." Anglo-French also has the verb purporter (meaning both "to carry" and "to mean"), which combines the prefix pur- ("thoroughly") and the verb porter ("to carry"). In its original English use, the verb purport meant "to signify"; the "to profess or claim" sense familiar to modern English speakers didn't appear until the 17th century.

Sep 14, 2020
verbiage
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 13, 2020 is:

verbiage • \VER-bee-ij\  • noun

1 : a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content

2 : manner of expressing oneself in words : diction

Examples:

"One resident … said during a virtual focus group that a lot of his community was concerned reading the changes of verbiage from 'flood control task force' to 'infrastructure resilience.'" — Paul Wedding, The Houston Chronicle, 31 Jul. 2020

"It was always G-rated trash talk—he is a devout Catholic, after all, and the strongest epithet he ever seemed to let loose was 'Shoot'…. And his verbiage was often misunderstood. To opposing fans he was a mouthy loose cannon. To those who knew and understood him, it was just his joy and exuberance spilling over." — Jim Alexander, The Daily News of Los Angeles, 10 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Verbiage descends from French verbier, meaning "to trill" or "to warble." The usual sense of the word implies an overabundance of possibly unnecessary words, much like the word wordiness. In other words, a writer with a fondness for verbiage might be accused of "wordiness." Some people think the phrase "excess verbiage" is redundant, but that's not necessarily true. Verbiage has a second sense meaning, simply, "wording," with no suggestion of excess. This second definition has sometimes been treated as an error by people who insist that verbiage must always imply excessiveness, but that sense is well-established and can be considered standard.

Sep 13, 2020
foment
00:01:39

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 12, 2020 is:

foment • \FOH-ment\  • verb

: to promote the growth or development of : rouse, incite

Examples:

Rumors that the will was a fake fomented a lot of bitterness between the two families.

"Last year, the country leaked personal information of an American official in Hong Kong, accusing her of fomenting unrest...." — Shibani Mahtani, The Washington Post, 22 May 2020

Did you know?

If you had sore muscles in the 1600s, your doctor might have advised you to foment the injury, perhaps with heated lotions or warm wax. Does this sound like an odd prescription? Not if you know that foment traces to the Latin verb fovēre, which means "to heat or warm" or "to soothe." The earliest documented English uses of foment appear in medical texts offering advice on how to soothe various aches and pains by the application of moist heat. In time, the idea of applying heat became a metaphor for stimulating or rousing to action. Foment then started being used in political contexts to mean "to stir up" or "to call to action."

Sep 12, 2020
ruddy
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 11, 2020 is:

1 : having a healthy reddish color

2 : red, reddish

3 British — used as an intensive

Examples:

"There was a stout man with a ruddy complexion, a merchant probably, half asleep." — Elif Shafak, The Architect’s Apprentice, 2014

"Lichen green and the reds of fired brick exude a splash of ruddy color on the exterior of Manchester State Park's enclosed picnic area…." — Bob Smith, The Kitsap Daily News, 5 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In Old English, there were two related words referring to red coloring: rēad and rudu. Rēad evolved into our present-day red. Rudu evolved into rud (a word now encountered only in dialect or archaic usage) and ruddy. Most often, ruddy is applied to the face when it has the red glow of good health or is red from a suffusion of blood from exercise or excitement. It is also used in the names of some birds, such as the American ruddy duck. In British English, ruddy is also used as a colorful euphemism for the sometimes offensive intensive bloody, as 20th-century English writer Sir Kingsley Amis illustrates in The Riverside Villas Murder: "Ruddy marvelous, the way these coppers' minds work.... I take a swing at Chris Inman in public means I probably done him in."

Sep 11, 2020
encumber
00:01:44

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2020 is:

encumber • \in-KUM-ber\  • verb

1 : weigh down, burden

2 : to impede or hamper the function or activity of : hinder

3 : to burden with a legal claim (such as a mortgage)

Examples:

"Those who do handle radioactive material must first don protective suits that are inherently cumbersome and are further encumbered by the air hoses needed to allow the wearer to breathe." — The Economist, 20 June 2019

"'The water reservoir is absolutely needed in Vernon Hills,' said David Brown, Vernon Hills' public works director/village engineer. While supportive, the village thinks there are 'some other viable locations in town,' he added. So does the park district, which owns the land but is encumbered by an easement…." — Mick Zawislak, The Chicago Daily Herald, 1 Aug. 2020

Did you know?

In Old French, the noun combre meant a defensive obstacle formed by felled trees with sharpened branches facing the enemy. Later, in Middle French, combre referred to a barrier, similar to a dam or weir, constructed in the bed of a river to hold back fish or protect the banks. That notion of holding back is what informs our verb encumber. One can be physically encumbered (as by a heavy load or severe weather) or figuratively (as by bureaucratic restrictions). Combre also gives us the adjectives cumbersome and cumbrous, both meaning "awkward or difficult to handle."

Sep 10, 2020
bunkum
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 9, 2020 is:

bunkum • \BUNG-kum\  • noun

: insincere or foolish talk : nonsense

Examples:

I hesitated to voice my opinions, fearful that my companions would deride my views as bunkum.

"Out on social media, people are reposting and retweeting and emailing myths, hurling them across the internet with the kind of speed attainable only by pure bunkum." — Heather Yakin, The Times Herald-Record, 17 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Some words in the English language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents' behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker's district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome "speech for Buncombe." His persistent—if insignificant—harangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.

Sep 09, 2020
impregnable
00:01:28

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 8, 2020 is:

1 : incapable of being taken by assault : unconquerable

2 : unassailable; also : impenetrable

Examples:

"The castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable…." — Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

"In his first months at Kryptos Logic, Hutchins got inside one massive botnet after another…. Even when his new colleagues at Kryptos believed that a botnet was impregnable, Hutchins would surprise them by coming up with a fresh sample of the bot's code…." — Andrew Greenberg, Wired, 12 May 2020

Did you know?

Impregnable is one of the many English words that bear a French ancestry, thanks to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It derives from the Middle French verb prendre, which means "to take or capture." Combining prendre with various prefixes has given our language many other words, too, including surprise, reprise, and enterprise. Remarkably, impregnable has a different origin from the similar-looking word pregnant; that word comes from a different Latin word, praegnas, meaning "carrying a fetus."

Sep 08, 2020
plaudit
00:01:25

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 7, 2020 is:

plaudit • \PLAW-dit\  • noun

1 : an act or round of applause

2 : enthusiastic approval — usually used in plural

Examples:

"For all of the accolades, and two Grammys she's won, this might be the song and album that finally earns McKenna the plaudits her vocals also richly deserve." — Jay N. Miller, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), 22 July 2020

"Long before he was collecting headlines and plaudits for his work, Babcock was quietly creating a functioning farm to give people in his South Dallas neighborhood a real hand in improving their lives, through working on the farm or from being nourished by its fruits." — editorial, The Dallas Morning News, 8 July 2020

Did you know?

You earn plaudits for your etymological knowledge if you can connect plaudit to words besides the familiar applaud and applause. A word coined by shortening Latin plaudite, meaning "applaud," plaudit had gained approval status in English by the first years of the 17th century. Latin plaudite is a form of the verb plaudere, meaning "to applaud"; plaudere, in turn, is ancestor to explode, plausible, and the archaic displode (a synonym of explode).

Sep 07, 2020
colloquial
00:02:01

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 6, 2020 is:

1 a : used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation; also : unacceptably informal

b : using conversational style

2 : of or relating to conversation : conversational

Examples:

The author can switch from formal academic language to a charmingly colloquial style, depending on the audience and subject of her writing.

"The [show's] dialogue is often colloquial and rapid-fire, however, and you may need to switch on the English subtitles fairly frequently. On the other hand, you'll know exactly how to say 'What an idiot!' in French after an episode or two." — Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times, 11 May 2020

Did you know?

The noun colloquy was first used in English to refer to a conversation or dialogue, and when the adjective colloquial was formed from colloquy it had a similar focus. Over time, however, colloquial developed a more specific meaning related to language that is most suited to informal conversation—and it ultimately garnered an additional, disparaging implication of a style that seems too informal for a situation. Colloquy and colloquial trace back to the Latin verb colloqui, meaning "to converse." Colloqui in turn was formed by combining the prefix com- ("with") and loqui ("to speak"). Other conversational descendants of loqui in English include circumlocution, eloquent, loquacious, soliloquy, and ventriloquism.

Sep 06, 2020
heyday
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 5, 2020 is:

heyday • \HAY-day\  • noun

: the period of one's greatest popularity, vigor, or prosperity

Examples:

"The theater engaged Mr. Leslie ‘Les' Jones to build and paint the sets. He was in his early sixties when I arrived—he'd been a legendary scene painter during the heyday of vaudeville." — Kate Bornstein, A Queer and Present Danger, 2012

"But there are few drive-in theaters left. They've dwindled to just a handful in the Twin Cities since their heyday in the 1950s and '60s. There are only six left in Minnesota." — Kathy Berdan, TwinCities.com (St. Paul, Minnesota), 26 July 2020

Did you know?

In its earliest appearances in English, in the 16th century, heyday was used as an interjection that expressed elation or wonder (similar to our word hey, from which it derives). Within a few decades, heyday was seeing use as a noun meaning "high spirits." This sense can be seen in Act III, scene 4 of Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark tells his mother, "You cannot call it love; for at your age / The heyday in the blood is tame…." The word's second syllable is not thought to be borne of the modern word day (or any of its ancestors), but in the 18th century the syllable's resemblance to that word likely influenced the development of the now-familiar use referring to the period when one's achievement or popularity has reached its zenith.

Sep 05, 2020
docile
00:01:49

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 4, 2020 is:

1 : easily taught

2 : easily led or managed : tractable

Examples:

"The zoo has one bearded dragon, dubbed Six because that number was painted on its back when it arrived…. Six is not on public exhibit but because it's friendly and docile, the bearded dragon is an ambassador in the zoo's Wild Connections animal encounter program." — Meg Jones, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 20 Feb. 2020

"I hate the idea that we have to be polite as women, or we have to be docile. It's good to be kind, of course, but that we have to be agreeable, and if we're anything else we're labeled difficult." — Elisabeth Moss, quoted in Elle, 8 July 2020

Did you know?

Docile students can make teaching a lot easier. Nowadays, calling students "docile" indicates they aren't trouble-makers; however, there's more than just good behavior connecting docility to teachability. The original meaning of docile is more to the point: "readily absorbing something taught." "The docile mind may soon thy precepts know," rendered Ben Jonson, for example, in a 17th-century translation of the Roman poet Horace. Docile comes from Latin docēre, which means "to teach." Other descendants of docēre include doctrine (which can mean "something that is taught"), document (an early meaning of which was "instruction"), and doctor and docent (both of which can refer to college teachers).

Sep 04, 2020
matriculate
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 3, 2020 is:

matriculate • \muh-TRIK-yuh-layt\  • verb

1 : to enroll as a member of a body and especially of a college or university

2 : to be enrolled at a college or university

Examples:

A spokesperson for the college said the school is expected to matriculate approximately 1,000 students for the fall semester.

"Vince Carter, the player who would come to be known as 'Half-Man, Half-Amazing,' matriculated at the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1995." — Ben Golliver, The Washington Post, 28 June 2020

Did you know?

Anybody who has had basic Latin knows that alma mater, a fancy term for the school you attended, comes from a phrase that means "fostering mother." If mater is mother, then matriculate probably has something to do with a school nurturing you just like good old mom, right? Not exactly. If you go back far enough, matriculate is distantly related to the Latin mater, but its maternal associations were lost long ago—even in terms of Latin history. It is more closely related to Late Latin matricula, which means "public roll or register." Matricula has more to do with being enrolled than being mothered, but it is the diminutive form of the Latin matrix, which in Late Latin was used in the sense of "list" or "register" and earlier referred to female animals kept for the purposes of breeding.

Sep 03, 2020
pediculous
00:01:47

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 2, 2020 is:

: infested with lice : lousy

Examples:

All of the campers in the cabin had to be checked for lice when one boy’s sleeping bag was discovered to be pediculous.

"They say pediculous humors and flyborne air are culprits of plague, so the townsmen make a pyre of flowers and brush, attar and spikenard, by way of purging the air of offense." — Fiona Maazel, Last Last Chance, 2008

Did you know?

Count on the English language's Latin lexical options to pretty up the unpleasant. You can have an entire conversation about lice and avoid the l-word entirely using pediculous and its relatives. None of the words (from pediculus, meaning "louse") is remotely common, but they're all available to you should you feel the need for them. There's pediculosis, meaning "infestation with lice," pedicular, "of or relating to lice," and pediculoid, "resembling or related to the common lice." Pediculid names a particular kind of louse—one of the family Pediculidae. And if you'd like to put an end to all of this you might require a pediculicide—defined as "an agent for destroying lice."

Sep 02, 2020
pediculous
00:01:47

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 2, 2020 is:

: infested with lice : lousy

Examples:

All of the campers in the cabin had to be checked for lice when one boy’s sleeping bag was discovered to be pediculous.

"They say pediculous humors and flyborne air are culprits of plague, so the townsmen make a pyre of flowers and brush, attar and spikenard, by way of purging the air of offense." — Fiona Maazel, Last Last Chance, 2008

Did you know?

Count on the English language's Latin lexical options to pretty up the unpleasant. You can have an entire conversation about lice and avoid the l-word entirely using pediculous and its relatives. None of the words (from pediculus, meaning "louse") is remotely common, but they're all available to you should you feel the need for them. There's pediculosis, meaning "infestation with lice," pedicular, "of or relating to lice," and pediculoid, "resembling or related to the common lice." Pediculid names a particular kind of louse—one of the family Pediculidae. And if you'd like to put an end to all of this you might require a pediculicide—defined as "an agent for destroying lice."

Sep 02, 2020
allusion
00:01:39

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 1, 2020 is:

allusion • \uh-LOO-zhun\  • noun

1 : an implied or indirect reference especially in literature; also : the use of such references

2 : the act of making an indirect reference to something : the act of alluding to something

Examples:

"The learning by rote and the endeavours to remember the complex prosodic structures of Shakespearean verses also stretch the muscles of the mind. The speeches are all dramatic, full of emotional appeal and inclusive of several allusions to Greco-Roman mythology. One thinks of these allusions and wonders about their meanings or metaphoric resonances." — Sophie Barry, Business World, 17 June 2020

"Other than a bunch of cryptic allusions to a masterplan scattered throughout the season, her plan was never made clear. It didn't help that she seemed to vacillate between cold-blooded killer and teary-eyed sentimentalist several times an episode." — Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone, 3 May 2020

Did you know?

Allusion was borrowed into English in the 16th century. It derives from the Latin verb alludere, meaning "to play with," "to jest," or "to refer to," as does its cousin allude, meaning "to make indirect reference" or "to refer." Alludere, in turn, derives from a combination of the prefix ad- ("to or toward") and ludere ("to play"). Ludere is a Latin word that English speakers have enjoyed playing with over the years, creating collude, delude, elude, and prelude, just to name a few.

Sep 01, 2020
longanimity
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 31, 2020 is:

longanimity • \long-guh-NIM-uh-tee\  • noun

: a disposition to bear injuries patiently : forbearance

Examples:

The fans continue to show their longanimity by coming back year after year to cheer on the perpetually losing team.

"Most of the conspirators were gentlemen in their early thirties and the majority had wild pasts. They were frustrated men of action, 'swordsmen' the priests called them, and 'they had not the patience and longanimity to expect the Providence of God.'" — Jessie Childs, God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England, 2014

Did you know?

Longanimity is a word with a long history. It came to English in the 15th century from the Late Latin adjective longanimis, meaning "patient" or "long-suffering." Longanimis, in turn, derives from the Latin combination of longus ("long") and animus ("soul"). Longus is related to English's long and is itself an ancestor to several other English words, including longevity ("long life"), elongate ("to make longer"), and prolong ("to lengthen in time"). Now used somewhat infrequently in English, longanimity stresses the character of one who, like the figure of Job in the Bible, endures prolonged suffering with extreme patience.

Aug 31, 2020
00:01:41

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 30, 2020 is:

Examples:

"Reiner had his car and was driving to Manhattan to drop the book off to his editor. Wouk cadged a ride in, and Reiner took him up on his polite offer to read it." — Frank Lovece, Newsday (Long Island, New York), 30 June 2020

"A friend ordered the Burrito Grande, easily the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen. I cadged a bite, and the flavors were delicate, but tasty, complemented by the creamy cheese sauce on top." — Leslye Gilchrist, The Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, 27 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

As long ago as the 1400s, peddlers traveled the British countryside, each with a packhorse or a horse and cart—first carrying produce from rural farms to town markets, then returning with small wares to sell to country folk. The Middle English name for such traders was cadgear; Scottish dialects rendered the term as cadger. Etymologists are pretty sure the verb cadge was created as a back-formation of cadger (which is to say, it was formed by removal of the "-er" suffix). At its most general, cadger meant "carrier," and the verb cadge meant "to carry." More specifically, the verb meant to go about as a cadger or peddler. By the 1800s, it was used when someone who posed as a peddler turned out to be more of a beggar, from which arose our present-day use.

Aug 30, 2020
asunder
00:01:25

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 29, 2020 is:

1 : into parts

2 : apart from each other

Examples:

"Though they sip their port in close contiguity, they are poles asunder in their minds and feelings." — Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1862

"Anna Andrews is the 'she' in the story…. As an adult, Anna's private life is in tatters, but at least she has a prestigious job as a BBC news anchor. In the space of 48 hours, even that's torn asunder." — Carole E. Barrowman, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 31 May 2020

Did you know?

Asunder can be traced back to the Old English word sundor, meaning "apart." It is a relative of the verb sunder, which means "to break apart" or "to become parted, disunited, or severed." The "into parts" sense of asunder is often used in the phrase "tear asunder," which can be used both literally and figuratively (as in "a family torn asunder by tragedy"). The "apart from each other" sense can be found in the phrase "poles asunder," used to describe two things that are as vastly far apart as the poles of the Earth.

Aug 29, 2020
undertaker
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 28, 2020 is:

undertaker • \UN-der-tay-ker\  • noun

1 : one who undertakes : one who takes the risk and management of business : entrepreneur

2 : one whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals

3 : an Englishman taking over forfeited lands in Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries

Examples:

The undertaker offered the family several choices of coffins for the burial service.

"The movement towards home-thrown funerals is being spearheaded by Heidi Boucher, a self-proclaimed home death-care guide. Boucher is what could best be described as half holistic hippie, and half 19th century undertaker." — Rob Hoffman, The Times Union (Albany, New York), 24 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

You may wonder how the word undertaker made the transition from "one who undertakes" to "one who makes a living in the funeral business." The latter meaning descends from the use of the word to mean "one who takes on business responsibilities." In the 18th century, a funeral-undertaker was someone who undertook, or managed, a funeral business. There were many undertakers in those days, undertaking all sorts of businesses, but as time went on undertaker became specifically identified with the profession of arranging burial. Today, funeral director is more commonly used, but undertaker still appears.

Aug 28, 2020
kindred
00:01:26

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 27, 2020 is:

1 : of a similar nature or character : like

2 : of the same ancestry

Examples:

"Osterholm over the last few decades has been part of expert panels addressing … infectious zoonotic viruses kindred to Covid-19 such as Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)." — Todd Wilkinson, The Mountain Journal (Bozeman, Montana), 12 Apr. 2020

"This study also highlights how identifying with the personality traits of a musician who feels like a kindred spirit can have positive psychological benefits for the listener.…" — Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today, 5 July 2020

Did you know?

If you believe that advice and relatives are inseparable, the etymology of kindred will prove you right. Kindred comes from a combination of kin and the Old English word ræden ("condition"), which itself comes from the verb rædan, meaning "to advise." Kindred entered English as a noun first during the Middle Ages. That noun, which can refer to a group of related individuals or to one's own relatives, gave rise to the adjective kindred in the 14th century.

Aug 27, 2020
testimonial
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 26, 2020 is:

testimonial • \tess-tuh-MOH-nee-ul\  • noun

1 a : a statement testifying to benefits received

b : a character reference : letter of recommendation

2 : an expression of appreciation : tribute

Examples:

"According to research from UPS, … 40% [of Millennials] refer to online reviews and testimonials before purchasing a product…." — Bill McLoughlin, Furniture Today, 9 Dec. 2019

"Members of the Emerson College Student Union rallied behind a pass/fail policy in a list of demands that included eight pages of student testimonials. Many described difficult home situations, illnesses, financial struggles, and general anxiety that impacts their academic performance." — Diti Kohli, The Boston Globe, 27 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

In 1639, Scottish poet William Drummond responded to the politics of his day with a facetious set of new laws, including one stipulating that "no man wear a ... periwig, unless he have a testimonial from a town-clerk, that he is either bald, sickly, or asham'd of white hairs." Testimonials take different forms, but always, like in Drummond's faux law, they provide affirmation or evidence. (Testimonial traces to Latin testimonium, meaning "evidence" or "witness.") In the 19th century, testimonial developed a new use, referring to a tribute—that is, a gift presented as a public expression of appreciation. Today, testimonial is most often used to refer to a statement that endorses a product or service.

Aug 26, 2020
requite
00:01:47

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 25, 2020 is:

requite • \rih-KWYTE\  • verb

1 a : to make return for : repay

b : to make retaliation for : avenge

2 : to make suitable return to for a benefit or service or for an injury

Examples:

"Before [Steve Junga] was The Blade's inimitable authority on high school sports, he was a 7-year-old on the East Side in love with the Tigers, who in 1968 requited him by rallying from a three-games-to-one deficit against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals to win the World Series." — David Briggs, The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), 7 Apr. 2020

"She watched as her son developed a real affection for basketball, even as the game didn't always requite his feelings (he didn't crack the varsity team in high school until he was a senior)." — Steve Hummer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 24 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

You might be familiar with the phrase "unrequited love." Love that has not been requited is love that has not been returned or paid back in kind, which brings us to the common denominator in the above definitions for requite—the idea of repayment, recompense, or retribution. The quite in requite is a now obsolete English verb meaning "to quit" or "to pay." (Quite is also related to the English verb quit, the oldest meanings of which include "to pay up" and "to set free.") Quiten, the Middle English source of quite, can be traced back through Anglo-French to Latin quietus, meaning "quiet" or "at rest," a word which is also an ancestor of the English word quiet.

Aug 25, 2020
estival
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 24, 2020 is:

: of or relating to the summer

Examples:

"Horror stories are far more estival than autumnal. Before I ever read [Stephen] King, I learned to love being scared at summer camp, where the older kids would tell us ghost stories by campfire and flashlight. Horror ripens when the pole is tilted toward the sun—when school is out, children are unsupervised, heat makes people crazy, unexplored woods begin to beckon…." — Jeva Lange, The Week, 10 July 2019

"As an estival nod, fresh summer daisies bedecked the tables that were covered with blue, white and red linens, the order of the French colors." — Nell Nolan, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 19 July 2016

Did you know?

Estival and festival look so much alike that you might think they're very closely related, but that isn't the case. Estival traces back to aestas, which is the Latin word for "summer" (and which also gave us estivate, a verb for spending the summer in a torpid state—a sort of hot-weather equivalent of hibernating). Festival also comes from Latin, but it has a different and unrelated root. It derives from festivus, a term that means "festive" or "merry." Festivus is also the ancestor of festive and festivity as well as the much rarer festivous (which also means "festive") and infestive ("not merry, mirthless").

Aug 24, 2020
forte
00:02:06

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2020 is:

forte • \FOR-tay\  • noun

1 : one's strong point

2 : the part of a sword or foil blade that is between the middle and the hilt and that is the strongest part of the blade

Examples:

"Fried chicken is its forte, including spicy and boneless versions.… Its other specialty is breakfast…." — Tristan Navera, The Columbus (Ohio) Business First, 14 July 2020

"After looking through the gaming options, we decided on Quick Draw—a game that gives one participant a word to draw, while the other callers try to guess what the word is. … And while it turns out that guessing a word based on a sketch is not my forte (I got maybe one right), I was amazed at how mesmerized my whole family was. — Becca Miller, Good Housekeeping, 24 June 2020

Did you know?

Forte derives from the sport of fencing. When English speakers borrowed the word from French in the 17th century, it referred to the strongest part of a sword blade, between the middle and the hilt. It is therefore unsurprising that forte eventually developed an extended metaphorical sense for a person's strong point. (Incidentally, forte has its counterpoint in the word foible, meaning both the weakest part of a sword blade and a person's weak point.) There is some controversy over how to correctly pronounce forte. Common choices in American English are "FOR-tay" and "for-TAY," but many usage commentators recommend rhyming it with fort. In French, it would be written le fort and pronounced more similar to English for. You can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All, however, are standard.

Aug 23, 2020
forte
00:02:06

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2020 is:

forte • \FOR-tay\  • noun

1 : one's strong point

2 : the part of a sword or foil blade that is between the middle and the hilt and that is the strongest part of the blade

Examples:

"Fried chicken is its forte, including spicy and boneless versions.… Its other specialty is breakfast…." — Tristan Navera, The Columbus (Ohio) Business First, 14 July 2020

"After looking through the gaming options, we decided on Quick Draw—a game that gives one participant a word to draw, while the other callers try to guess what the word is. … And while it turns out that guessing a word based on a sketch is not my forte (I got maybe one right), I was amazed at how mesmerized my whole family was. — Becca Miller, Good Housekeeping, 24 June 2020

Did you know?

Forte derives from the sport of fencing. When English speakers borrowed the word from French in the 17th century, it referred to the strongest part of a sword blade, between the middle and the hilt. It is therefore unsurprising that forte eventually developed an extended metaphorical sense for a person's strong point. (Incidentally, forte has its counterpoint in the word foible, meaning both the weakest part of a sword blade and a person's weak point.) There is some controversy over how to correctly pronounce forte. Common choices in American English are "FOR-tay" and "for-TAY," but many usage commentators recommend rhyming it with fort. In French, it would be written le fort and pronounced more similar to English for. You can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All, however, are standard.

Aug 23, 2020
parochial
00:02:06

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 22, 2020 is:

1 : of or relating to a church parish

2 : of or relating to a parish as a unit of local government

3 : confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish : limited in range or scope (as to a narrow area or region) : provincial, narrow

Examples:

The book is marred by the parochial viewpoint of its author, who fails to take into account the interplay between local and global economies.

"Her father, Joseph, a taxi driver who owned his cab, took a second job to pay tuition for the children to attend parochial school." — Melanie Burney, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 29 June 2020

Did you know?

In the Greek of the New Testament, the word paroikia means "temporary residence in a foreign land" and comes from the Greek word for "stranger": paroikos. Early Christians used this designation for their colonies because they considered heaven their real home. But temporary or not, these Christian colonies became more organized as time went on. Thus, in Late Latin, parochia became the designation for a group of Christians in a given area under the leadership of one pastor—what we came to call a parish in the 14th century. Both parish and its related adjective parochial were borrowed at that time directly from Anglo-French terms that had been derived from the Late Latin. We didn't begin to use parochial in its "narrow" sense until the mid-19th century.

Aug 22, 2020
exhort
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 21, 2020 is:

exhort • \ig-ZORT\  • verb

1 : to incite by argument or advice : urge strongly

2 : to give warnings or advice : make urgent appeals

Examples:

"You'd think it was easy, making a little cube with dots, but it's hard to make a die that isn't biased. The foreman would walk up and down exhorting us: 'The fate of honest men and women lies in your hands. A single crooked die can ruin a man for life.'" — Margot Livesey, Banishing Verona, 2004

"Teen-age activist Greta Thunberg told world political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday that their inaction on the climate crisis was 'fueling the flames by the hour.' The 17-year-old exhorted the World Economic Forum audience to 'act as if you loved your children above all else.'" — Vicky McKeever, CNBC.com, 23 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

Exhort is a 15th-century coinage. It derives from the Latin verb hortari, meaning "to incite," and it often implies the ardent urging or admonishing of an orator or preacher. English speakers apparently took to the root hort, fiddling around with different prefixes to create other words similar in meaning to exhort. They came up with adhort (meaning the same as exhort) and dehort (a word similar to exhort and adhort but with a more specific meaning of "to dissuade"). Adhort all but vanished after the 17th century. Dehort had a slightly better run than adhort, but it is now considered archaic.

Aug 21, 2020
ne plus ultra
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2020 is:

ne plus ultra • \nay-plus-UL-truh\  • noun

1 : the highest point capable of being attained : acme

2 : the most profound degree of a quality or state

Examples:

"To drummers in the '70s and '80s, [Neil] Peart was an Eddie Van Halen figure, someone whose pyrotechnic chops seemed to be the ne plus ultra." — Christopher R. Weingarten, The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2020

"The ne plus ultra of campaign trail restaurants, visited without fail election cycle after election cycle by Democrat, Republican, and third-party candidates alike, is the Red Arrow Diner, a century-old, 24-hour diner in Manchester, New Hampshire. A political consultant could not imagine a better stage for the practice of person-to-person politicking." — Gary He, Eater.com, 30 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

It is the height, the zenith, the ultimate, the crown, the pinnacle. It is the peak, the summit, the crest, the high-water mark. All these expressions, of course, mean "the highest point attainable." But ne plus ultra may top them all when it comes to expressing in a sophisticated way that something is the pink of perfection. It is said that the term's predecessor, non plus ultra, was inscribed on the Pillars of Hercules at the Strait of Gibraltar, which marked the western end of the classical world. The phrase served as a warning: "(Let there) not (be) more (sailing) beyond." The New Latin version ne plus ultra, meaning "(go) no more beyond," found its way into English in the early 1600s.

Aug 20, 2020
dulcet
00:01:47

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2020 is:

1 : sweet to the taste

2 : pleasing to the ear

3 : generally pleasing or agreeable

Examples:

"James Blake has long been one of our favorite live performers, bringing his gentle, dulcet tenor and aching emotion to each and every concert." — Patrick Ryan, USA Today, 10 Apr. 2020

"About six weeks after bottling, the stout proved to be great. It was full bodied and rich with a dark chocolate note, roasted flavors, tart and dulcet cherry flavors and a bit of tannins like you would find in a fine red wine." — Gordon Kendall, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times, 24 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Dulcet has many linguistic ancestors, including the Latin dulcis, Anglo-French douz, and Middle English doucet—all meaning "sweet." The dulcet dulcis has contributed many sweet terms to English. Among these are the musical direction dolce ("to be played sweetly, softly"), Dulciana (a type of pipe organ stop made up of flue pipes), dolcian (a small bassoon-like instrument used in the 16th and 17th centuries), and dulcimer (an American folk instrument). On a similar note, the word dulcify means "to make sweet," and the adjective doux, derived from Old French douz, is used in wine circles to describe champagne that is sweet.

Aug 19, 2020
00:01:43

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2020 is:

1 a : empty boasting

b : arrogant pretension : cockiness

2 : a person given to arrogant boasting : braggart

Examples:

"The musical numbers, all penned by Miranda, slide easily from the braggadocio of '90s rap to the lilt of Harlem jazz and beyond. Miraculously, nothing sounds excessively show-tuney." — Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 30 June 2020

"It's the first time in his life that Jack has hit anyone, but there are a lot of intangibles behind it (all those fake fights and phantom punches thrown, all that idle braggadocio from stunt men between takes), and with a beginner's luck it lands just right on the side of Petty's face…." — Daniel Pyne, Twentynine Palms, 2010

Did you know?

Though Braggadocio is not as well-known as other fictional characters like Pollyanna, the Grinch, or Scrooge, in lexicography he holds a special place next to them as one of the many characters whose name has become an established word in English. The English poet Edmund Spenser originally created Braggadocio as a personification of boasting in his epic poem The Faerie Queene. As early as 1594, about four years after the poem was published, English speakers began using the name as a general term for any blustering blowhard.

Aug 18, 2020
cognizable
00:01:43

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 17, 2020 is:

1 : capable of being judicially heard and determined

2 : capable of being known

Examples:

"The state also argued that the plaintiffs failed to show 'that they have suffered a cognizable burden to their right to vote' or that Florida’s election procedures are unconstitutional." — Dara Kam, The Naples (Florida) Daily News, 28 May 2020

"Meanwhile, the board majority appeared to be likewise deliberately or negligently unaware of state law, and operated outside of any cognizable board or committee procedure." — Marie-Louise Ramsdale, The Post & Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 21 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

It's easy to recognize the cogni- in cognizable and in other English words that have to do with knowing: cognitive, incognito, precognition, and recognition, for example. They're all from Latin cognōscere ("to get to know" or "to acquire knowledge of"). Cognizable was formed in the 17th century from the root of cognizance, which in English means "knowledge" or "awareness." Cognizance traces to cognōscere via Anglo-French conoisance and conoissant, meaning "aware" or "mindful." Cognizable was used in its legal sense almost from its introduction, and that meaning continues to be most common today.

Aug 17, 2020
inveigh
00:01:39

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 16, 2020 is:

inveigh • \in-VAY\  • verb

: to protest or complain bitterly or vehemently : rail

Examples:

"Wearing a blue suit, [Hannah] Gadsby begins by pointing to a prop dog made of crayons onstage, immediately making fun of herself, a notable shift since 'Nanette,' when she inveighed against self-deprecation." — Jason Zinoman, The New York Times¸ 26 May 2020

"I see their anger spiking in Facebook conversations and unfurling across Twitter threads. They inveigh against the new high-occupancy lanes on Interstate 15; against the paid parking at casinos…." — Geoff Carter, The Las Vegas Weekly, 27 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

You might complain or grumble about some wrong you see, or, for a stronger effect, you can inveigh against it. Inveigh comes from the Latin verb invehere, which joins the prefix in- with the verb vehere, meaning "to carry." Invehere literally means "to carry in," and when inveigh first appeared in English, it was also used to mean "to carry in" or "to introduce." Extended meanings of invehere, however, are "to force one's way into," "to attack," and "to assail with words," and that's where the current sense of inveigh comes from. A closely related word is invective, which means "insulting or abusive language." This word, too, ultimately comes from invehere.

Aug 16, 2020
subterfuge
00:01:33

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 15, 2020 is:

subterfuge • \SUB-ter-fyooj\  • noun

1 : deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade

2 : a deceptive device or stratagem

Examples:

"First, an antivirus product may upload the complete text of files flagged to the cloud, where it can be analyzed by separate tools…. Some malware can detect when a running process may examine it, and will then engage in subterfuge." — Macworld, 4 May 2020

"Shortly after sunset on Wednesday, President Donald Trump secretly boarded an undisclosed aircraft at an undisclosed airport in Florida and flew to Joint Base Andrews…. Air Force One, the plane Trump took from Washington, D.C., to Florida Tuesday evening, remained parked on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport as part of the subterfuge." — Christine Stapleton, The Palm Beach Post, 28 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Though subterfuge is a synonym of deception, fraud, double-dealing, and trickery, there's nothing tricky about the word's etymology. We borrowed the word and meaning from Late Latin subterfugium. That word contains the Latin prefix subter-, meaning "secretly," which derives from the adverb subter, meaning "underneath." The -fuge portion comes from the Latin verb fugere, which means "to flee" and which is also the source of words such as fugitive and refuge, among others.

Aug 15, 2020
quiescent
00:01:50

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 14, 2020 is:

1 : marked by inactivity or repose : tranquilly at rest

2 : causing no trouble or symptoms

Examples:

"'Inflation' means a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services, either at the consumer or producer level. It certainly is dormant or quiescent right now." — Edward Lotterman, The St. Paul (Minnesota) Press, 28 July 2019

"Since the sequencing of the human genome in 2000, cancer therapies have moved closer toward personalized medicine—tailoring treatments to an individual's genetic fingerprint or DNA—to help predict responses to therapy or to flag differences between aggressive and quiescent disease." — Susan Jenks, Florida Today (Brevard County, Florida), 1 Oct. 2015

Did you know?

Quiescent won't cause you any pain, and neither will its synonyms latent, dormant, and potential—at least not immediately. All four words mean "not now showing signs of activity or existence." Latent usually applies to something that has not yet come forth but may emerge and develop, as in "a latent talent for opera singing." Dormant implies a state of inactivity similar to sleep, as in "their passions lay dormant." Potentia­l applies to what may or may not come to be. "A potential disaster" is a typical example. Quiescent, which traces to Latin quiēscere (meaning "to rest" or "to be quiet"), often suggests a temporary cessation of activity, as in "a quiescent disease" or "a summer resort quiescent in wintertime."

Aug 14, 2020
catch-22
00:02:23

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 13, 2020 is:

catch-22 • \KATCH-twen-tee-TOO\  • noun

1 : a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule; also : the circumstance or rule that denies a solution

2 a : an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation

b : a measure or policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended

c : a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives

3 : a hidden difficulty or means of entrapment : catch

Examples:

Following her graduation from college, Kelsey struggled with the classic job-seeker's catch-22: how to acquire work experience in her chosen field without already having a job in that field.

"Yet this week France stood firm on its ban, which prohibits the wearing of clothing intended to hide the face in public spaces, despite the fact that masks are now being required on public transportation and in high schools…. The result is a Catch-22. Those who do not wear a mask can be fined, as can those who violate the face-covering law." — Lou Stoppard, The New York Times, 19 May 2020

Did you know?

Catch-22 originated as the title of a 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. (Heller had originally planned to title his novel Catch-18, but the publication of Leon Uris's Mila 18 persuaded him to change the number.) The novel's catch-22 was as follows: a combat pilot was crazy by definition (he would have to be crazy to fly combat missions) and since army regulations stipulated that insanity was justification for grounding, a pilot could avoid flight duty by simply asking, but if he asked, he was demonstrating his sanity (anyone who wanted to get out of combat must be sane) and had to keep flying. Catch-22 soon entered the language as the label for any irrational, circular, and impossible situation.

Aug 13, 2020
yaw
00:01:59

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 12, 2020 is:

yaw • \YAW\  • verb

1 a of a ship : to deviate erratically from a course (as when struck by a heavy sea); especially : to move from side to side

b of an airplane, spacecraft, or projectile : to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis

2 : to change from one to another repeatedly : alternate

Examples:

"A crane had been brought in to lift the submersible from the truck onto the raft.… Even with its heavy load the raft pitched and yawed as it was towed along." — Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos, Blue Gold, 2000

"All told, even as the U.S. GDP has grown, our air and water have become cleaner. And while policies yawed between Democratic and Republican administrations, the long-term trend has been toward stronger and better controls that have not, despite the dire warnings from the pro-business sector, crippled the economy." — editorial, The Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

In the heyday of large sailing ships, numerous nautical words appeared on the horizon. Yaw is one such word. Its origin isn't exactly known, but it began turning up in print in the 16th century, first as a noun (meaning "movement off course" or "side to side movement") and then as a verb. For centuries, it remained a sailing word—often alongside pitch ("to have the front end rise and fall")—with occasional extended use as a synonym of the verb alternate. When the era of airplane flight dawned, much of the vocabulary of sailing found new life in aeronautics, and "yawing" was no longer confined to the sea. Nowadays, yaw, pitch, and roll are just as likely to be used by pilots and rocket scientists to describe the motion of their crafts.

Aug 12, 2020
malaise
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 11, 2020 is:

malaise • \muh-LAYZ\  • noun

1 : an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness

2 : a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being

Examples:

"Nothing can make you forget the malaise of social distancing like the pain of being a teenager." — Ariel Shapiro, Forbes, 19 Apr. 2020

"While the bats' social distancing could possibly limit a pathogen's spread, Stockmaier doesn't think these isolating behaviours have evolved to protect other bats. Instead, he says they may be a consequence of the bats' malaise and lethargy from feeling ill." — Jake Buehler, New Scientist, 6 May 2020

Did you know?

Malaise, which ultimately traces back to Old French, has been part of English since the 18th century. One of its most notable uses, however, came in 1979—well, sort of. U.S. President Jimmy Carter never actually used the word in his July 15 televised address, but it became known as the "malaise speech" all the same. In the speech, Carter described the U.S. as a nation facing a "crisis of confidence" and rife with "paralysis and stagnation and drift." He spoke of a "national malaise" a few days later, and it's not hard to see why the "malaise" name stuck. The speech was praised by some and criticized by others, but whatever your politics, it remains a vivid illustration of the meaning of malaise.

Aug 11, 2020
vivacious
00:01:35

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 10, 2020 is:

: lively in temper, conduct, or spirit : sprightly

Examples:

The host was a vivacious woman with a knack for making people feel comfortable.

"Totoro, the story of two young girls and the wood spirits they befriend, is vivacious and warmhearted, trafficking in the everyday magic and fertile imagination of childhood." — Jason Bailey, The New York Times, 5 June 2020

Did you know?

It's no surprise that vivacious means "full of life," since it can be traced back to the Latin verb vivere, meaning "to live." The word was created around the mid-17th century using vivax, a vivere derivative meaning "long-lived, vigorous, or high-spirited." Other descendants of vivere in English include survive, revive, and victual—all of which came to life during the 15th century—and vivid and convivial, both of which surfaced around the same time as vivacious. Somewhat surprisingly, the word live is not related; it comes to us from the Old English word libban.

Aug 10, 2020
ferret
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 9, 2020 is:

ferret • \FAIR-ut\  • verb

1 : to hunt game with ferrets

2 : to drive out of a hiding place

3 : to find and bring to light by searching — usually used with out

Examples:

"Quarantining was invented during the first wave of bubonic plague in the 14th century, but it was deployed more systematically during the Great Plague [of London, 1665-1666]. Public servants called searchers ferreted out new cases of plague, and quarantined sick people along with everyone who shared their homes.'" — Annalee Newitz, The New York Times, 29 Mar. 2020

"For more than 40 years, journalist Robert Fisk has reported on some of the most violent and divisive conflicts in the world. Yung Chang's This Is Not a Movie captures Fisk in action—feet on the ground, notebook in hand, as he travels into landscapes devastated by war, ferreting out the facts and firing reports back home to reach an audience of millions." — Craig Thornton, WWNYtv.com (Watertown, New York), 29 June 2020

Did you know?

Since the 14th century, English speakers have used ferret as the name of a small domesticated animal of the weasel family. The word came to us by way of Anglo-French and can be traced back to Latin fur, meaning "thief." These days ferrets are often kept as pets, but previously they were used to hunt rabbits, rats, and other vermin, and to drive them from their underground burrows. By the 15th century, the verb ferret was being used of the action of hunting with ferrets. By the late 16th century, the verb had taken on figurative uses as well. Today, we most frequently encounter the verb ferret in the sense of "to find and bring to light by searching."

Aug 09, 2020
beholden
00:01:41

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 8, 2020 is:

: being under obligation for a favor or gift : indebted

Examples:

"When the Second Continental Congress ratified the final text of this Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it was launching into uncharted territory. They were creating a vision for a country that did not yet exist. As Ronald Reagan would later say, 'This idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.'" — Brad Wenstrup, The Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer, 4 July 2020

"Group sizes will remain beholden to the gatherings limits put in place by the governor's state of emergency order for managing the state's economy and government amid the COVID-19 pandemic." — Michael Frett, The St. Albans (Vermont) Messenger, 23 June 2020

Did you know?

Have you ever found yourself under obligation to someone else for a gift or favor? It's a common experience and, not surprisingly, many of the words describing this condition have been part of the English language for centuries. Beholden is recorded in the Middle-English Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Indebted, which entered English through Anglo-French, is older and still very much in use. Those who don't mind sounding like English speakers of yore have another synonym of beholden to choose from: a now-archaic sense of bounden. That word is today more often used with the meaning "made obligatory" or "binding," as in "our bounden duty."

Aug 08, 2020
midriff
00:01:59

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 7, 2020 is:

midriff • \MID-riff\  • noun

1 : the mid-region of the human torso : midsection

2 a : a section of a garment that covers the midriff

b : a garment that exposes the midriff

3 : a body partition of muscle and connective tissue; specifically : the partition separating the chest and abdominal cavities in mammals : diaphragm

Examples:

Even the store's winter line of clothing includes a number of midriff-baring tops, albeit paired with oversized cardigans or flannel shirts.

"I love printed shift dresses that just float over the midriff or little leather skirts to bring out your edgier side." — Aramide Esubi, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Midriff is now most commonly encountered in the mid-torso or clothing-related senses. These senses are relatively young, having appeared, respectively, in the early 19th and mid-20th centuries. For most of its history, however, midriff has been used to refer to the diaphragm (a large flat muscle separating the lungs from the stomach area). The diaphragm sense has been with us for more than 1,000 years, with the earliest known uses being found in Old English manuscripts such as Bald's Leechbook, a medical text that is believed to date back to the 9th century. The riff in midriff comes from Old English hrif ("belly, womb"). Hrif is akin to Old High German href ("womb") and probably also to Latin corpus ("body").

Aug 07, 2020
grubstake
00:02:05

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 6, 2020 is:

grubstake • \GRUB-stayk\  • verb

: to provide with material assistance (such as a loan) for launching an enterprise or for a person in difficult circumstances

Examples:

"Kimbro, on the other hand, traveled widely, still hoping to find the speculator who would grubstake him for the big attack on the hidden field. He would go anywhere, consult with anyone, and offer almost any kind of inducement: 'Let me have the money, less than a year, ten-percent interest, and I'll give you one-thirty-second of my participation.'" — James A. Michener, Texas, 1985

"When my entrepreneurial father had the bright idea to start a microfilm company, he asked my grandfather for financial help, only to be refused.… Eventually his brother, Frank, a doctor, grubstaked him for $500 to help start the company, a tidy sum in those days." — Phil Power, Bridge Magazine (Michigan), 28 Mar. 2020 Did you know? Grubstake is a linguistic nugget that was dug up during the famous California Gold Rush, which began in 1848. Sometime between the first stampede and the early 1860s, when the gold-seekers headed off to Montana, prospectors combined grub ("food") and stake, meaning "an interest or share in an undertaking." At first grubstake was a noun, referring to any kind of loan or provisions that could be finagled to make an undertaking possible (with the agreement that the "grubstaker" would get a cut of any profits). By the 1870s, grubstake was also showing up as a verb meaning "to give someone a grubstake," and, since at least 1900, shortly after the Klondike Gold Rush, it has been applied to other situations in which a generous benefactor comes through with the funds. Aug 06, 2020 demure 00:01:46 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 5, 2020 is: demure • \dih-MYOOR\ • adjective 1 : reserved, modest 2 : affectedly modest, reserved, or serious : coy Examples: "Her demure demeanor belies the inner Goth girl who once hung out with Mötley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne. She maintains art forms her first priority for being alive. The social distancing produced by the coronavirus is nothing new to her." — Kathaleen Roberts, The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, 21 June 2020 "While Amelia Bloomer's name became a punch line, Susan B. Anthony would be remembered for a much different fashion statement: a demure red shawl, one example of which survives in the Smithsonian." — ­ Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, The Atlantic, 12 June 2019 Did you know? In the nearly four centuries that demure has been in use, its meaning has only shifted slightly. While it began solely as a descriptive term for people of quiet modesty and sedate reserve—those who don't draw attention to themselves, whether because of a shy nature or determined self-control—it came to be applied also to those whose modesty and reservation is more affectation than sincere expression. While demure sounds French and entered the language at a time when the native tongue of England was borrowing many French words from the Normans who gained control of the country after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the etymological evidence requires that we exercise restraint: the word's origin remains obscure. Aug 05, 2020 aficionado 00:01:44 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 4, 2020 is: aficionado • \uh-fish-ee-uh-NAH-doh\ • noun : a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity : devotee Examples: Mickey's brother, an aficionado of jazz, was a regular at the downtown clubs and often bought new records on the day they were released. "But assessing the investment value of a vintage watch or a vintage car—a popular pastime among aficionados—can be a tricky business. Supply, or lack of it, often dictates which models appreciate, and which lose value." — Stephen Williams, The New York Times, 18 June 2020 Did you know? The affection an aficionado has for their favorite subject isn't merely emotional—it's also etymological. Back in the early 1800s, English borrowed aficionado from the past participle of the Spanish verb aficionar, which means "to inspire affection." That verb comes from the Spanish noun afición, meaning "affection." Both Spanish words trace to the Latin affectiō (which is also an ancestor of the English word affection). Affectiō, in turn, is from afficere ("to influence") and gave English speakers the noun and verb affect. Aug 04, 2020 risible 00:01:38 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 3, 2020 is: risible • \RIZZ-uh-bul\ • adjective 1 a : capable of laughing b : disposed to laugh 2 : arousing or provoking laughter; especially : laughable 3 : associated with, relating to, or used in laughter Examples: "When they arrived … they were treated to a sight that was as surreal as it was risible: Kamo Petrossian dressed in whites and sporting a captain's hat complete with gold braid and embroidered badge, strutting about the sun deck, clutching a champagne flute." — Peter Crawley, Mazzeri, 2013 "In the tradition of risible cable reality hits like Married at First Sight and 90 Day Fiancé, [Netflix's] new 'social experiment' Love Is Blind follows couples who've been thrust on the fast track to marriage. The twist is that they don't lay eyes on each other until they're engaged; each 'date' consists solely of a chat between one man and one woman lounging in separate 'pods.'" — Judy Berman, Time, 27 Feb. 2020 Did you know? If someone makes a ridiculous remark about your risible muscles, they are not necessarily deriding your physique. Risible can also mean "associated with laughter," so risible muscles can simply be the ones used for laughing. (You've also got a set of risorius muscles around your mouth that help you smile.) Next time you find something laughable, tip your hat to ridēre, the Latin verb meaning "to laugh" that gave us risible as well as ridiculous and deride. Aug 03, 2020 ombudsman 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 2, 2020 is: ombudsman • \AHM-boodz-mun\ • noun 1 : a government official (as in Sweden or New Zealand) appointed to receive and investigate complaints made by individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials 2 : one that investigates, reports on, and helps settle complaints Examples: "High-performing nursing homes usually have waiting lists, said Salli Pung, the state of Michigan's long-term care ombudsman." — Craig Mauger, The Detroit News, 26 June 2020 "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has named Jonathan Midgett as its consumer ombudsman, a new position that seeks to give consumers a greater voice and understanding of the agency and its activities." — Thomas Russell, Furniture Today, 16 June 2020 Did you know? Ombudsman was borrowed from Swedish, where it means "representative," and ultimately derives from the Old Norse words umboth ("commission") and mathr ("man"). Sweden became the first country to appoint an independent official known as an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government officials and agencies. Since then, other countries (such as Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand), as well as some U.S. states, have appointed similar officials. The word also designates a person who reviews complaints against an organization (such as a school or hospital) or to someone who enforces standards of journalistic ethics at a newspaper. Aug 02, 2020 hotdog 00:01:38 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 1, 2020 is: hotdog • \HAHT-dawg\ • verb : to perform in a conspicuous or often ostentatious manner; especially : to perform fancy stunts and maneuvers (as while surfing or skiing) Examples: The wide receiver hotdogged into the end zone after catching the touchdown pass. "When you're skating a four-and-a-half mile long trail, you don't need to worry about crowds. Nobody's coming along behind you, or hotdogging alongside." — Joyce Maynard, The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2020 Did you know? The verb hotdog first appeared in the latter half of the 20th century, and it was adopted from the use of the noun hot dog for someone who is very good at something. The noun was popularized around the turn of the 19th century along with the interjection hot dog to express approval or gratification. In time, the noun became mainly associated with people who showed off their skills in sports, from basketball to skiing, and the verb form came to be used for the spectacular acts of these show-offs. (As a side tidbit to chew on, the word for the frankfurter that might be eaten while watching athletes perform was also on the menu in the late 19th century.) Aug 01, 2020 rife 00:01:36 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 31, 2020 is: rife • \RYFE\ • adjective 1 : prevalent especially to an increasing degree 2 : abundant, common 3 : copiously supplied : abounding Examples: "Like most colleges and universities, ad schools have found themselves going virtual … because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, students soon graduating from these programs are facing a job market rife with layoffs, hiring freezes and canceled internships…." — Doug Zanger, Adweek, 8 June 2020 "Red-tailed hawks and some other raptors have learned that our highways are rife with rodents, so they perch on light poles, nearby trees or signs and wait to spot a meal." — Val Cunningham, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 9 June 2020 Did you know? English is rife with words that have Germanic connections, many of which have been handed down to us from Old English. Rife is one of those words. Not a whole lot has changed with rife in its long history. We continue to use the word for negative things, especially those that are widespread or prevalent. Examples are "shoplifting was rife" or "the city was rife with greed and corruption." Rumors and speculation are also frequently described as "rife." But rife can also be appropriately used for good or neutral things. For example, you might speak of the summer garden being "rife" with scents. Jul 31, 2020 catastrophe 00:01:53 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 30, 2020 is: catastrophe • \kuh-TASS-truh-fee\ • noun 1 : a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin 2 : utter failure : fiasco 3 a : a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth b : a violent usually destructive natural event (such as a supernova) 4 : the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy Examples: "We are a nation that's used to catastrophes. We deal with avalanches, earthquakes, eruptions, and so on." — Alma Möller, quoted in The New Yorker, 1 June 2020 "Be the challenge grave illness, divorce, a natural disaster or an economic meltdown, the rebound represents how we respond, how we stand strong in the face of catastrophe, how we refuse to give up." — Designers Today, 27 May 2020 Did you know? When English speakers first borrowed the Greek word katastrophē (from katastrephein, meaning "to overturn") as catastrophe in the 1500s, they used it for the conclusion or final event of a dramatic work, especially of a tragedy. In time, catastrophe came to be used more generally of any unhappy conclusion, or disastrous or ruinous end. By the mid-18th century, it was being used to denote truly devastating events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Finally, it came to be applied to things that are only figuratively catastrophic—burnt dinners, lost luggage, really bad movies, etc. Jul 30, 2020 pejorative 00:01:48 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 29, 2020 is: pejorative • \pih-JOR-uh-tiv\ • adjective : having negative connotations; especially : tending to disparage or belittle : depreciatory Examples: The captain has come under fire for making pejorative remarks about teammates. "There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. When I mention manipulation, this is not necessarily pejorative; it's a very common and fairly benign tactic." — Simon Sinek, Start with Why, 2009 Did you know? "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Parents have given that good advice for years, but unfortunately many people haven't heeded it. The word pejorative makes it clear that both English and Latin speakers have long known that disparaging words can make a bad situation worse. Pejorative derives from the Late Latin adjective pējōrātus, which in turn comes from the Latin verb pējōrāre, meaning "to make or become worse." Although pejorative words have probably always been part of English, the adjective pejorative has only been found in English texts since the late 1880s. Before then, English speakers could rely on older synonyms of pejorative such as derogatory and uncomplimentary to describe disparaging words. Jul 29, 2020 mesmerize 00:01:28 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2020 is: mesmerize • \MEZ-muh-ryze\ • verb 1 : to subject to mesmerism; also : hypnotize 2 : spellbind Examples: The crowd was mesmerized by the flawlessly synchronous movements of the acrobats. "Control is a coveted possession in Credulity, Ogden's illuminating recent study of American mesmerism. The mesmerists and skeptics she studies all seem to want it; at any rate, they want to consider themselves rational and self-possessed enough not to fall under anyone else’s. During this brief, strange moment between 1836 and the late 1850s, mesmerizing another person—or seeing someone get mesmerized, or denouncing mesmerists as charlatans—became a way of stockpiling control for one's own use." — Max Nelson, The New York Review of Books, 24 July 2019 Did you know? Experts can't agree on whether Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) was a quack or a genius, but all concede that the late 18th-century physician's name is the source of the word mesmerize. In his day, Mesmer was the toast of Paris, where he enjoyed the support of notables including Queen Marie Antoinette. He treated patients with a force he termed animal magnetism. Many believe that what he actually used was what we now call hypnotism. Mesmer's name was first applied to a technique for inducing hypnosis in 1784. Jul 28, 2020 anomaly 00:01:42 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2020 is: anomaly • \uh-NAH-muh-lee\ • noun 1 : something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified : something anomalous 2 : deviation from the common rule : irregularity 3 : the angular distance of a planet from its perihelion as seen from the sun Examples: "Thermal Scanning uses intelligent thermal technology and checks the temperature of everyone entering the premises and triggers necessary alarms in case of an anomaly in the temperature." — Business World, 12 June 2020 "[Rich] Wingo is also part of a statistical anomaly of sorts: He scored one point in his NFL career. He is one of four Packers to have scored a single point…." — Jim Owczarski, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 June 2020 Did you know? You might be familiar with the Greek word homos, which means "same." It is from this word that we get words like homonym, homogeneous, and homophone, all of which have to do with sameness or similarity. What does this have to do with anomaly? Although it's not obvious, homos is a part of the etymology of anomaly, too. Anomaly is a descendant of the Greek word anōmalos, which means "uneven" or "irregular." Anōmalos comes from the prefix a- (meaning "not") and the word homalos (meaning "even")—and homalos comes from homos. Jul 27, 2020 epistolary 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2020 is: epistolary • \ih-PIST-uh-lair-ee\ • adjective 1 : of, relating to, or suitable to a letter 2 : contained in or carried on by letters 3 : written in the form of a series of letters Examples: "Jonathan Franzen, with whom he had struck up an epistolary friendship, offered to get together that April when he was in Boston." — D. T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, 2012 "It is an epistolary novel, but spare, as opposed to an 18th-century novel like Clarissa, in which female characters write twice a day. Very few letters are exchanged between the friends; sometimes years pass in between." — Don Noble, The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News, 2 May 2020 Did you know? Epistolary was formed from the noun epistle, which refers to a composition written in the form of a letter to a particular person or group. In its original sense, epistle refers to one of the 21 letters (such as those from the apostle Paul) found in the New Testament. Epistle came to English in the 13th century, via Anglo-French and Latin, from the Greek noun epistolē, meaning "message" or "letter." Epistolē, in turn, came from the verb epistellein, meaning "to send to" or "to send from." Epistolary appeared in English four centuries after epistle and can be used to describe something related to or contained in a letter (as in "epistolary greetings") or composed of letters (as in "an epistolary novel"). Jul 26, 2020 noblesse oblige 00:01:36 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2020 is: noblesse oblige • \noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH\ • noun : the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth Examples: "Like many independent schools, Shipley cultivates a sense of noblesse oblige among its students—the notion that part of being educated in a privileged environment requires scholars to give back." — Alfred Lubrano, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 May 2020 "And, unlike the goal of simply becoming fabulously wealthy—which one could also accomplish by winning the lottery or marrying a nonroyal oil magnate—princesshood came with a sense of noblesse oblige. You would be doing it to inspire people. You would be your own act of charity." — Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2020 Did you know? In French, noblesse oblige means literally "nobility obligates." French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, noblesse oblige referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than others—due, for example, to high office or celebrity—to act respectably and responsibly. Jul 25, 2020 bowdlerize 00:01:58 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2020 is: bowdlerize • \BOHD-ler-ize\ • verb 1 literature : to expurgate (something, such as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar 2 : to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content Examples: "Certainly, there's no risk that all art will be bowdlerized into nice stories about people saving puppies, but it's not wrong to note a fading appetite for antiheroes and bad behavior." — Jonah E. Bromwich, The New York Times, 12 Mar. 2020 "Under his rule, career scientists are barred from speaking at conferences, websites are bowdlerized, and the respected National Climate Assessment is threatened by political appointees who want to soften its most dire conclusions." — Renée Loth, The Boston Globe, 25 Nov. 2019 Did you know? Few editors have achieved the notoriety of Thomas Bowdler. He was trained as a physician, but when illness prevented him from practicing medicine, he turned to warning Europeans about unsanitary conditions at French watering places. Bowdler then carried his quest for purification to literature, and in 1818 he published his Family Shakspeare [sic], a work in which he promised that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The sanitized volume was popular with the public of the day, but literary critics denounced his modifications of the words of the Bard. Bowdler applied his literary eraser broadly, and within 11 years of his death in 1825 the word bowdlerize was being used to refer to expurgating books or other texts. Jul 24, 2020 gyre 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2020 is: gyre • \JYRE\ • noun : a circular or spiral motion or form; especially : a giant circular oceanic surface current Examples: Sophia will be focusing her graduate studies on the effects of ocean gyres on North America's climate. "The exception has been the Weddell Sea … which retains much of its ice from year to year because of cold winds from the south and a circular current, or gyre, that keeps the ice from drifting into warmer waters that would cause it to melt more." — Henry Fountain, The New York Times, 17 June 2020 Did you know? William Butler Yeats opens his 1920 poem, "The Second Coming," with the following lines: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…." Often found in poetic or literary contexts as an alternative to the more familiar circle or spiral, gyre comes via the Latin gyrus from the Greek gyros, meaning "ring" or "circle." Gyre is also frequently encountered as an oceanographic term that refers to vast circular systems of ocean currents, such as the North Atlantic Gyre, a system of currents circling clockwise between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Gyre is also sometimes used of more localized vortices, such as those produced by whirlpools or tornadoes. Jul 23, 2020 requisite 00:01:48 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 22, 2020 is: requisite • \REK-wuh-zut\ • adjective : needed for a particular purpose : essential, necessary Examples: "Once the application process was formalized, the Institute received nearly two hundred applications from women all across the country; other women interested in applying had been turned away because they didn't have the requisite qualifications." — Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents, 2020 "More chile sauce, if you want a vinegary zing, is on the tables, along with the requisite paper towels. As for that stellar taco, it's made with the same flavorful carnitas with … a drizzle of avocado crema that sets off taste-tingling fireworks." — The Texas Monthly, 26 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Acquiring an understanding of where requisite comes from won't require a formal inquiry. Without question, the quest begins with Latin quaerere, which means "to ask" or "to seek." That word is ancestor to a number of English words, including acquire, require, inquiry, question, quest, and, of course, requisite. From quaerere came requirere, meaning "to ask again." Repeated requests can express a need, and the past participle of Latin requirere, which is requisitus, came to mean "needed" or "necessary." English acquired requisite when it was adopted into Middle English back in the 1400s. Jul 22, 2020 inculcate 00:01:36 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 21, 2020 is: inculcate • \in-KUL-kayt\ • verb : to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions Examples: "[Edgar Allan Poe] was in general not a didactic writer; in fact, he criticized stories and poems that sought to inculcate virtue and convey the truth." — Paul Lewis, The Baltimore Sun, 12 May 2020 "Dogs like routine.... They know when it is time for dinner, time for a walk. And if you have not inculcated these types of routines for them, some dogs will have anxiety when they are alone." — Dr. Terri Bright, quoted in The Boston Globe, 17 Apr. 2020 Did you know? Inculcate derives from the past participle of the Latin verb inculcare, meaning "to tread on." In Latin, inculcare possesses both literal and figurative meanings, referring to either the act of walking over something or to that of impressing something upon the mind, often by way of steady repetition. It is the figurative sense that survives with inculcate, which was first used in English in the 16th century. Inculcare was formed in Latin by combining the prefix in- with calcare, meaning "to trample," and ultimately derives from the noun calx, "heel." Jul 21, 2020 derelict 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2020 is: derelict • \DAIR-uh-likt\ • adjective 1 : abandoned especially by the owner or occupant; also : run-down 2 : lacking a sense of duty : negligent Examples: "On Tuesday, crews … were busy using excavators to tear down derelict buildings on the two sites to make way for future construction." — Bea Lewis, The New Hampshire Union Leader, 27 May 2020 "But the building suffered additional roof damage in late fall, triggering an emergency demolition that rocked the preservation community and prompted anger against derelict landlords. It also prompted renewed efforts by the city to crack down on absentee and neglectful landlords." — Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo (New York) News, 7 May 2020 Did you know? The Latin verb relinquere, meaning "to leave behind," left behind a few English derivatives, including derelict. Something derelict has been left behind, or at least appears that way. In another sense, someone who is derelict leaves behind or neglects their duties or obligations. Another descendant of relinquere is relinquish, meaning "to leave behind," "to give up," or "to release." Relic is another example of a word that ultimately comes from relinquere. Relics, in the original sense of the term, referred to things treasured for their association with a saint or martyr—that is, objects saints and martyrs had left behind. Relinquere also gives English its name for the containers or shrines which hold relics, reliquary. Jul 20, 2020 volte-face 00:02:03 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 19, 2020 is: volte-face • \vawlt-FAHSS\ • noun : a reversal in policy : about-face Examples: "... I should explain that, some years ago, I was dealt a very severe blow when my friend ... announced that she wanted no further contact with me. She and I had been extremely close for more than a year, and there had been no warning of this volte-face. I was bewildered." — Zoë Heller, What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, 2003 "After declaring optimistically, 'I think I have a lot to say that might be interesting to people,' she did an abrupt volte-face, switching to a low, confessional timbre: 'Who knows? Who knows, right, what I'm doing? I don't know. Maybe no one will be interested.'" — Caity Weaver, The New York Times, 28 May 2020 Did you know? Volte-face came to English by way of French from Italian voltafaccia, a combination of voltare, meaning "to turn," and faccia, "face." It has existed as an English noun since at least 1819. The corresponding English phrase "about face" saw use in a number of forms in the decades before that, including military commands such as "right about face" (that is, to turn 180 degrees to the right so as to face in the opposite direction); nevertheless, the standalone noun about-face (as in "After declining, he did an abrupt about-face and accepted the offer") is about as old as volte-face. Although foot soldiers have been stepping smartly to the command "About face! Forward march!" for centuries, about-face didn't appear in print as a figurative noun meaning "a reversal of attitude, behavior, or point of view" until the mid-1800s. Jul 19, 2020 jink 00:01:47 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2020 is: jink • \JINK\ • verb : to move quickly or unexpectedly with sudden turns and shifts (as in dodging) Examples: "Two fighters immediately launched missiles, and the American aircraft jinked up, then down to lose them." — Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising, 1986 "Indeed there have been enough moments where he has jinked away from opponents or worked half a yard with his lightning-quick feet to produce a plethora of YouTube compilations." — Alex Richards, The Mirror (UK), 2 June 2020 Did you know? Besides the fact that jink first appears in Scottish English, the exact origins of this shifty little word are unknown. What can be said with certainty is that the word has always expressed a quick or unexpected motion. For instance, in two poems from 1785, Robert Burns uses jink as a verb to indicate both the quick motion of a fiddler's elbow and the sudden disappearance of a cheat around a corner. In the 20th century, the verb caught on with air force pilots and rugby players, who began using it to describe their elusive maneuvers to dodge opponents and enemies. Jink can also be used as a noun meaning "a quick evasive turn" or, in its plural form, "pranks." The latter use was likely influenced by the term high jinks, which originally referred in the late 17th century to a Scottish drinking game and later came to refer to horseplay. Jul 18, 2020 mien 00:02:14 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 17, 2020 is: mien • \MEEN\ • noun 1 : air or bearing especially as expressive of attitude or personality : demeanor 2 : appearance, aspect Examples: The minister projected a stern and serious mien from the pulpit, but we found him to be friendly and welcoming when we spoke with him in the social hall after the service. "The band's synthetic sounds, automated rhythms and severe haircuts were a pointed contrast with the prevailing … rock music of the time, just as the group's rigorously Teutonic mien was a reaction to the hegemony of American culture in postwar Germany. Kraftwerk wanted to create its own culture." — Michael Azerrad, The New York Times, 8 May 2020 Did you know? Like its synonyms bearing and demeanor, mien means the outward manifestation of personality or attitude. Bearing is the most general, but it often implies characteristic posture, as in "a woman of regal bearing." Demeanor suggests attitude expressed through outward behavior in the presence of others—for example, "the manager's professional demeanor." Mien is a somewhat literary term referring to both bearing and demeanor. "A mien of supreme self-satisfaction" is a typical use. Mien and demeanor are also slinked through etymology. Mien arose through the shortening and alteration of the verb demean, which comes from the Anglo-French demener ("to conduct"), a combination of the de- prefix with mener ("to lead") that is also the root of demeanor. In this case, demean means "to conduct or behave (oneself) usually in a proper manner," not "to degrade." That other demean is a distinct word with a different etymology. Jul 17, 2020 callous 00:01:48 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 16, 2020 is: callous • \KAL-us\ • adjective 1 a : being hardened and thickened b : having calluses 2 a : feeling no emotion b : feeling or showing no sympathy for others : hard-hearted Examples: "[Noël Coward] deliberately made the characters callous and cynical. 'You can't sympathise with any of them,' he said. 'If there was heart [in the play] it would have been a sad story.'" — Lloyd Evans, The Spectator, 28 Mar. 2020 "Today we have been appalled by the sight of tens of thousands of irresponsible vacationers flocking to the coast, as if this was just another spring break week, with callous disregard for residents' health and safety." — Bruce Jones, quoted on OregonLive.com, 22 Mar. 2020 Did you know? A callus is a hard, thickened area of skin that develops usually from friction or irritation over time. Such a hardened area often leaves one less sensitive to the touch, so it's no surprise that the adjective callous, in addition to describing skin that is hard and thick, can also be used as a synonym for harsh or insensitive. Both callus and callous derive via Middle English from Latin. The figurative sense of callous entered English almost 300 years after the literal sense, and Robert Louis Stevenson used it aptly when he wrote, in Treasure Island, "But, indeed, from what I saw, all these buccaneers were as callous as the sea they sailed on." Jul 16, 2020 indite 00:01:39 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 15, 2020 is: indite • \in-DYTE\ • verb 1 : make up, compose 2 : to give literary or formal expression to 3 : to put down in writing Examples: "Meanwhile, the single gentleman, the Notary, and Mr Garland, repaired to a certain coffee-house, and from that place indited and sent a letter to Miss Sally Brass, requesting her … to favour an unknown friend who wished to consult her…." — Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840 "I could not bear the idea of his amusing himself over my secret thoughts and recollections; though, to be sure, he would find little good of himself therein indited…." — Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848 Did you know? Indite looks like a misspelling of its homophone indict, meaning "to charge with a crime," and that's no mere coincidence. Although the two verbs are distinct in current use, they are in fact related etymologically. Indite is the older of the two; it has been in the English language since the 1300s. Indict, which came about as an alteration of indite, appeared in the 16th century. Ultimately, both terms come from Latin indicere, meaning "to make known formally" or "to proclaim," which in turn comes from in- plus dīcere, meaning "to talk, speak, or say." Jul 15, 2020 tutelage 00:01:55 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 14, 2020 is: tutelage • \TOO-tuh-lij\ • noun 1 a : instruction especially of an individual b : a guiding influence 2 : the state of being under a guardian or tutor 3 a : an act or process of serving as guardian or protector : guardianship b : hegemony over a foreign territory: trusteeship Examples: Under the tutelage of her high school swim coach, Lynn has greatly improved her times at meets. "[Jarett Stidham] brings mobility to the position, something the Patriots haven't had with Tom Brady, and could surprise under the tutelage of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick." — C. J. Doon, The Baltimore Sun, 30 May 2020 Did you know? The Latin verb tueri means "to look at" or "to guard." When tutelage first began appearing in print in the early 1600s, it was used mainly in the protective sense of tueri, as writers described serfs and peasants of earlier eras as being "under the tutelage of their lord." Over time, however, the word's meaning shifted away from guardianship and toward instruction. This pattern of meaning can also be seen in the related nouns tutor, which shifted from "a guardian" to "a private teacher," and tuition, which now typically refers to the cost of instruction but which originally referred to the protection, care, or custody by a parent or guardian over a child or ward. Jul 14, 2020 parsimonious 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 13, 2020 is: parsimonious • \par-suh-MOH-nee-us\ • adjective 1 : exhibiting or marked by thrift or economy; especially : frugal to the point of stinginess Examples: "A Monopoly board sat on a makeshift table in the center of the room, with each player's signature token poised on the Go square: the racing car (Mark), the cannon (Steve), the top hat (me), and a shiny penny (Rob, appropriately enough, since he was known for his parsimonious ways when haggling over deals)." — John Walsh, The Providence Journal, 14 Sept. 2019 "Enter the men: Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner), one of France's greatest young dramatists; Alphonse Mucha (Matthew Saldivar), the Art Nouveau illustrator of Bernhardt's gorgeous posters; and Louis (Tony Carlin), a critic so parsimonious with praise I suppose it's only fair that he's given no surname." — Jesse Green, The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2018 Did you know? English isn't stingy when it comes to synonyms of parsimonious. Stingy, close, penurious, and miserly are a few terms that, like parsimonious, suggest an unwillingness to share with others. Stingy implies a marked lack of generosity, whereas close suggests keeping a tight grip on one's money and possessions. Penurious implies frugality that gives an appearance of actual poverty, and miserly suggests avariciousness and a morbid pleasure in hoarding. Parsimonious usually suggests an extreme frugality that borders on stinginess. Jul 13, 2020 frisson 00:01:56 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 12, 2020 is: frisson • \free-SAWN\ • noun : a brief moment of emotional excitement : shudder, thrill Examples: "There's that frisson of excitement when we get the text or the ring notifying us when dinner has arrived at our doorstep." — Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2020 "Will the Oscars be forced to make peace with Netflix and its ilk? Is moviegoing fated to become a quaint, niche pursuit, or one that involves a grave risk? I don't think I'm the only cinephile experiencing a frisson of dread." — A. O. Scott, The New York Times, 22 May 2020 Did you know? "I feel a shiver that's not from the cold as the band and the crowd go charging through the final notes.... That frisson, that exultant moment...." That's how writer Robert W. Stock characterized the culmination of a big piece at a concert in 1982. His use of the word shiver is apt given that frisson comes from the French word for "shiver." Frisson traces to Old French friçon, which in turn derives from frictio, Latin for "friction." What does friction—normally a heat generator—have to do with thrills and chills? Nothing, actually. The association came about because frictio (which derives from Latin fricare, meaning "to rub") was once mistakenly taken to be a derivative of frigēre, which means "to be cold." Jul 12, 2020 frisson 00:01:56 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 12, 2020 is: frisson • \free-SAWN\ • noun : a brief moment of emotional excitement : shudder, thrill Examples: "There's that frisson of excitement when we get the text or the ring notifying us when dinner has arrived at our doorstep." — Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2020 "Will the Oscars be forced to make peace with Netflix and its ilk? Is moviegoing fated to become a quaint, niche pursuit, or one that involves a grave risk? I don't think I'm the only cinephile experiencing a frisson of dread." — A. O. Scott, The New York Times, 22 May 2020 Did you know? "I feel a shiver that's not from the cold as the band and the crowd go charging through the final notes.... That frisson, that exultant moment...." That's how writer Robert W. Stock characterized the culmination of a big piece at a concert in 1982. His use of the word shiver is apt given that frisson comes from the French word for "shiver." Frisson traces to Old French friçon, which in turn derives from frictio, Latin for "friction." What does friction—normally a heat generator—have to do with thrills and chills? Nothing, actually. The association came about because frictio (which derives from Latin fricare, meaning "to rub") was once mistakenly taken to be a derivative of frigēre, which means "to be cold." Jul 12, 2020 confabulate 00:01:46 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 11, 2020 is: confabulate • \kun-FAB-yuh-layt\ • verb 1 : to talk informally : chat 2 : to hold a discussion : confer 3 : to fill in gaps in memory by fabrication Examples: Before accepting my offer to purchase their handmade quilt, Polly and Linda took a moment to confabulate. "The stories all share a common situation—the two couples in each story get together, get drunk, become hungry and confabulate—though the sharp divergence in the specifics of their conversations would leave readers with plenty to say." — Nicole Lamy, The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2018 Did you know? Confabulate is a fabulous word for making fantastic fabrications. Given the similarities in spelling and sound, you might guess that confabulate and fabulous come from the same root, and they do—the Latin fābula, which refers to a conversation or a story. Another fābula descendant that continues to tell tales in English is fable. All three words have long histories in English: fable first appears in writing in the 14th century, and fabulous follows in the 15th. Confabulate is a relative newcomer, appearing at the beginning of the 1600s. Jul 11, 2020 histrionic 00:01:42 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 10, 2020 is: histrionic • \his-tree-AH-nik\ • adjective 1 : deliberately affected : overly dramatic or emotional : theatrical 2 : of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater Examples: "How many water coolers, cocktail parties, and backyard barbecues have you been to where someone has exclaimed, usually in a flourish of histrionic frustration, that they wish they had their own island?" — Carmella DeCaria, The Westchester Magazine, 18 Jan. 2018 "The city's most extravagant and histrionic event of the fall, Theatre Bizarre, won't be taking place this October…. Typically taking over Detroit's Masonic Temple for two weekends just before Halloween, the indoor event includes hot-ticket masquerade balls, and a multi-floor spectacular that includes live music, burlesque, side show acts, food, drink and mandatory costumes—the more outrageous the better." — Melody Baetens, The Detroit News, 19 May 2020 Did you know? The term histrionic developed from histrio, Latin for "actor." Something that is histrionic tends to remind one of the high drama of stage and screen and is often stagy and over-the-top. It especially calls to mind the theatrical form known as the melodrama, where plot and physical action, not characterization, are emphasized. But something that is histrionic isn't always overdone; the word can also simply refer to an actor or describe something related to the theater. In that sense, it becomes a synonym of thespian. Jul 10, 2020 bromide 00:02:06 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 9, 2020 is: bromide • \BROH-myde\ • noun 1 : a binary compound of bromine with another element or a radical including some (such as potassium bromide) used as sedatives 2 a : a commonplace or tiresome person : bore b : a commonplace or hackneyed statement or notion Examples: "In many ways, he's an outlier on the self-help circuit. Thomas isn't selling shortcuts to success or feel-good bromides. He makes achievement sound grueling. His knack is for transforming those he meets—a CEO, an NBA All-Star, a guy manning the desk at a hotel—into the sort of person who loves digging deep and grinding hard." — Leslie Pariseau, GQ, 28 May 2020 "Currently, Virginia's leaders are engaged in a tax debate over standard deductions for the middle class. Studying that problem would be a bromide that induces inertia. What is needed is action." — L. Scott Lingamfelter, The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 20 Jan. 2019 Did you know? After bromine was discovered in the 1820s, chemists could not resist experimenting with the new element. It didn't take long before they found uses for its compounds, in particular potassium bromide. Potassium bromide started being used as a sedative to treat everything from epilepsy to sleeplessness, and by the 20th century, the word bromide was being used figuratively for anything or anyone that might put one to sleep because of commonness or just plain dullness. Today, bromides are no longer an ingredient in sedative preparations, but we can still feel the effects of figurative bromides as we encounter them in our daily routines. Jul 09, 2020 emulate 00:01:53 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 8, 2020 is: emulate • \EM-yuh-layt\ • verb 1 a : to strive to equal or excel b : imitate; especially : to imitate by means of hardware or software that permits programs written for one computer to be run on another computer 2 : to equal or approach equality with Examples: Younger children will often try to emulate the behavior of their older siblings. "As part of its subsequent push to emulate the West, Meiji-era Japan encouraged the production of domestic versions of that same whiskey. Japanese distillers often used sweet potatoes, which were abundant, but they produced a much different spirit than the barley, corn and rye used in Scotland and America." — Clay Risen, The New York Times, 29 May 2020 Did you know? If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then past speakers of English clearly had a great admiration for the Latin language. The verb emulate joined the ranks of Latin-derived English terms in the 16th century. It comes from aemulus, a Latin term for "rivaling" or "envious." Two related adjectives—emulate and emulous—appeared within a half-century of the verb emulate. Both mean "striving to emulate; marked by a desire to imitate or rival" or sometimes "jealous," but emulous is rare these days and the adjective emulate is obsolete. The latter did have a brief moment of glory, however, when William Shakespeare used it in Hamlet: "Our last king, Whose image even but now appear'd to us, Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride, Dar'd to the combat...." Jul 08, 2020 sound 00:02:04 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 7, 2020 is: sound • \SOWND\ • adjective 1 a : free from injury or disease b : free from flaw, defect, or decay 2 a : solid, firm b : stable; also : secure, reliable 3 : free from error, fallacy, or misapprehension 4 a : thorough b : deep and undisturbed c : hard, severe 5 : showing good judgment or sense Examples: The doctor's statement affirmed that the wealthy man was of sound mind when he decided to bequeath all of his money to the charitable foundation. "Social distancing, where people are advised to stay at least 6 feet apart, was sound advice when the idea was put forth during the pandemic's early days. It remains sound advice now, and will continue to be sound advice in the days ahead." — The Times, 7 May 2020 Did you know? English contains several sound homographs, all with distinct histories. For example, the sound that means "something heard" descends from Latin sonus ("sound"), whereas the sound that means "to measure the depth of water" traces to Middle French sonde ("sounding line"). Another sound, as in "of sound mind and body," is the contemporary form of Old English's gesund. Gesund is related to several words in other languages, such as Old Saxon gisund ("sound"), Old Frisian sund ("fresh, unharmed, healthy"), and Gothic swinths ("sound" or "healthy"). Another relative is Old High German's gisunt ("healthy"), which led to modern German's gesund, the root of gesundheit. Jul 07, 2020 legerdemain 00:01:47 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 6, 2020 is: legerdemain • \lej-er-duh-MAYN\ • noun 2 : a display of skill and adroitness Examples: "An example of Mr. Northam's political legerdemain is his tax proposal, which avoided the minefields of income or sales tax increases. Instead, he suggested hiking the gas tax while scrapping mandatory annual vehicle inspections and halving vehicle registration fees." — The Washington Post, editorial, 20 Dec. 2019 "One must find the resonance between ancient and contemporary, blending incongruous elements in a way that seems not only right but inevitable: telling the story of a founding father with hip-hop lyrics, as in 'Hamilton,' or presenting the myth of Theseus in the milieu of reality television as in 'The Hunger Games.' Kekla Magoon manages a similar feat of legerdemain in 'Shadows of Sherwood,' her compelling reboot of the Robin Hood myth." — Rick Riordan, The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2015 Did you know? In Middle French, folks who were clever enough to fool others with fast-fingered illusions were described as leger de main, literally "light of hand." English speakers condensed that phrase into a noun when they borrowed it in the 15th century and began using it as an alternative to the older sleight of hand. (That term for dexterity or skill in using one's hands makes use of sleight, an old word from Middle English that derives from an Old Norse word meaning "sly.") In modern times, a feat of legerdemain can even be accomplished without using your hands, as in, for example, "an impressive bit of financial legerdemain." Jul 06, 2020 deracinate 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 5, 2020 is: deracinate • \dee-RASS-uh-nayt\ • verb 1 : uproot 2 : to remove or separate from a native environment or culture; especially : to remove the racial or ethnic characteristics or influences from Examples: The old-fashioned gardening book recommended deracinating every other plant in the row to allow the survivors room to grow. "In many ways, the couple's self-removal befits the deracinated monarchy. Once upon a time, English monarchs were sovereign, supreme. The occasion of democratizing reforms such as the Magna Carta beginning in the late Middle Ages brought the English monarchy down, down, like glistering Phaethon, into 'the base court.'" — Grant Addison, The Examiner (Washington, DC), 9 Jan. 2020 Did you know? There is a hint about the roots of deracinate in its first definition. Deracinate was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Middle French and can be traced back to the Latin word radix, meaning "root." Although deracinate began life referring to literal plant roots, it quickly took on a second, metaphorical, meaning suggesting removal of anyone or anything from native roots or culture. Other offspring of radix include eradicate ("to pull up by the roots" or "to do away with as completely as if by pulling up by the roots") and radish (the name for a crisp, edible root). Though the second sense of deracinate mentions racial characteristics and influence, the words racial and race derive from razza, an Italian word of uncertain origin. Jul 05, 2020 deracinate 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 5, 2020 is: deracinate • \dee-RASS-uh-nayt\ • verb 1 : uproot 2 : to remove or separate from a native environment or culture; especially : to remove the racial or ethnic characteristics or influences from Examples: The old-fashioned gardening book recommended deracinating every other plant in the row to allow the survivors room to grow. "In many ways, the couple's self-removal befits the deracinated monarchy. Once upon a time, English monarchs were sovereign, supreme. The occasion of democratizing reforms such as the Magna Carta beginning in the late Middle Ages brought the English monarchy down, down, like glistering Phaethon, into 'the base court.'" — Grant Addison, The Examiner (Washington, DC), 9 Jan. 2020 Did you know? There is a hint about the roots of deracinate in its first definition. Deracinate was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Middle French and can be traced back to the Latin word radix, meaning "root." Although deracinate began life referring to literal plant roots, it quickly took on a second, metaphorical, meaning suggesting removal of anyone or anything from native roots or culture. Other offspring of radix include eradicate ("to pull up by the roots" or "to do away with as completely as if by pulling up by the roots") and radish (the name for a crisp, edible root). Though the second sense of deracinate mentions racial characteristics and influence, the words racial and race derive from razza, an Italian word of uncertain origin. Jul 05, 2020 aphelion 00:01:58 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 4, 2020 is: aphelion • \af-EEL-yun\ • noun : the point farthest from the sun in the path of an orbiting celestial body (such as a planet) Examples: "Our planet reaches aphelion only once a year, and the event typically falls approximately 14 days after the June solstice, which marks the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter for the Southern Hemisphere. Similarly, perihelion happens two weeks after the December solstice." — Hanneke Weitering, Space.com, 4 July 2019 "Currently about 34 AU from the Sun, Pluto is still slowly approaching its aphelion, the farthest point in its orbit from the Sun, where it will lie nearly 50 AU from our star." — Alison Klesman, Astronomy, 3 Apr. 2020 Did you know? Aphelion and perihelion are troublesome terms. Which one means a planet is nearest to the sun and which means it is farthest away? An etymology lesson may help you keep those words straight. Just remember that the "ap" of aphelion derives from a Latin prefix that means "away from" (the mnemonic "'A' for 'away'" can help too); peri-, on the other hand, means "near." And how are aphelion and perihelion related to the similar-looking astronomical pair apogee and perigee? Etymology explains again. The "helion" of aphelion and perihelion is based on the Greek word hēlios, meaning "sun," while the "gee" of apogee and perigee is based on gaia, meaning "earth." The first pair describes distance in relation to the sun, the second in relation to the Earth. Jul 04, 2020 stentorian 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 3, 2020 is: stentorian • \sten-TOR-ee-un\ • adjective : extremely loud Examples: "'Let it Be' … was uncannily similar to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' not only in sentiment, but even to its churchy flavor. 'They're both very gospely songs,' [David] Wills says. 'I think 1968 was a very turbulent year … and in 1969 there was this life-affirming achievement of going to the moon. So I think that was in the zeitgeist, those stentorian, stately gospel piano-based songs.'" — Jim Beckerman, NorthJersey.com, 14 May 2020 "'Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching,' I wrote in my first book…. Laughter has always been the best medicine; I wasn't exactly making any boldly original statement almost three decades ago. I wasn't expecting a MacArthur grant. But what I expected even less … was that the not-touching part of my line would eventually be part of a stentorian, global prescription to combat COVID-19." — Gina Barreca, The Bedford (Pennsylvania) Gazette, 23 Mar 2020 Did you know? The Greek herald Stentor was known for having a voice that came through loud and clear. In fact, in the Iliad, Homer described Stentor as a man whose voice was as loud as that of fifty men together. Stentor's powerful voice made him a natural choice for delivering announcements and proclamations to the assembled Greek army during the Trojan War, and it also made his name a byword for any person with a loud, strong voice. Both the noun stentor and the related adjective stentorian pay homage to the big-voiced warrior, and both have been making noise in English since the early 17th century. Jul 03, 2020 obtain 00:01:43 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 2, 2020 is: obtain • \ub-TAYN\ • verb 1 : to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort 2 : to be generally recognized or established : prevail Examples: The experiment was designed to obtain more accurate data about weather patterns. "By time of competition, [NHL deputy commissioner Bill] Daly said, the league will test players every night and obtain results by the time they report to the rink the next morning." — Matt Porter, The Boston Globe, 26 May 2020 Did you know? Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning "to hold on to, possess." Obtinēre was itself formed by the combination of ob-, meaning "in the way," and the verb tenēre, meaning "to hold." In its earliest uses, obtain often implied a conquest or a successful victory in battle, but it is now used for any attainment through planned action or effort. The verb tenēre has incontestably prevailed in the English language, providing us with such common words as abstain, contain, detain, sustain, and, perhaps less obviously, the adjectives tenable and tenacious. Jul 02, 2020 farrago 00:01:32 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 1, 2020 is: farrago • \fuh-RAH-goh\ • noun : a confused mixture : hodgepodge Examples: "Combining these plots is a terrible idea for multiple reasons. One is simply logistical; the fusion turns two improbable but engaging stories into a ludicrous farrago." — Laura Miller, Slate, 8 Nov. 2019 "Although it's hard to know anything for sure about North Korea, the fertilizer-plant photo suggests the reporting about Kim over the past few weeks was a farrago of misinformation, non-information, half speculation and outright guessing." — Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, 5 May 2020 Did you know? Farrago might seem an unlikely relative of farina (the name for the mealy breakfast cereal), but the two terms have their roots in the same Latin noun. Both derive from far, the Latin name for spelt (a type of grain). In Latin, farrago meant "mixed fodder"—cattle feed, that is. It was also used more generally to mean "mixture." When it was adopted into English in the early 1600s, farrago retained the "mixture" sense of its ancestor. Today, we often use it for a jumble or medley of disorganized, haphazard, or even nonsensical ideas or elements. Jul 01, 2020 louche 00:01:33 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 30, 2020 is: louche • \LOOSH\ • adjective : not reputable or decent Examples: "Here, he's just a dude, with an earring and a motorcycle, a dude who wears jeans to military court. Freeman's best when he's not trying to win re-election or standing at the Pearly Gates, when he's just a guy slouching in dungarees, looking a little louche." — Wesley Morris, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2020 "On 7 May, for one week only, it released a modern-dress version of Antony and Cleopatra set in a series of strategy rooms, conference centres and five-star hotel suites. The lovestruck Roman was played by a louche, gruff, brooding Ralph Fiennes." — Lloyd Evans, The Spectator (UK), 16 May 2020 Did you know? Louche ultimately comes from the Latin word luscus, meaning "blind in one eye" or "having poor sight." This Latin term gave rise to the French louche, meaning "squinting" or "cross-eyed." The French gave their term a figurative sense as well, taking that squinty look to mean "shady" or "devious." English speakers didn't see the need for the sight-impaired uses when they borrowed the term in the 19th century, but they kept the figurative one. The word is still quite visible today and is used to describe both people and things of questionable repute. Jun 30, 2020 parse 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 29, 2020 is: parse • \PARSS\ • verb 1 a : to divide (a sentence) into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other b : to describe (a word) grammatically by stating the part of speech and explaining the inflection and syntactical relationships 2 : to examine in a minute way : analyze critically 3 : to give a grammatical description of a word or a group of words 4 : to admit of being parsed Examples: The lawyer meticulously parsed the wording of the final contract to be sure that her client would get all that he was asking for. "AI technologies can be very useful when there's enormous amounts of data to parse, and that data is patterned in a way that is either already known or which the AI can discover." — Alexander García-Tobar, quoted in The San Francisco Business Times, 19 May 2020 Did you know? If parse brings up images of elementary school and learning the parts of speech, you've done your homework regarding this word. Parse comes from the first element of the Latin term for "part of speech," pars orationis. It's an old word that has been used since at least the mid-1500s, but it was not until the late 18th century that parse graduated to its extended, non-grammar-related sense of "to examine in a minute way; to analyze critically." Remember this extended sense, and you're really at the head of the class. Jun 29, 2020 argot 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 28, 2020 is: argot • \AHR-goh\ • noun : the language used by a particular type or group of people : an often more or less secret vocabulary and idiom peculiar to a particular group Examples: "Should all go well, after three weeks or more, the state would move on to phase two, which officials, creating a new virus-age argot, have labeled 'Cautious.'" — Matt Stout and Tim Logan, The Boston Globe, 18 May 2020 "The Universe, [Galileo] famously wrote, 'is written in the language of mathematics.' It was an argot that allowed him to break reliance on the Aristotelian cosmology prized by the Catholic Church, and to forge a new, quantitative study of nature." — Alison Abbott, Nature, 4 May 2020 Did you know? We borrowed argot from French in the early 1800s, although our language already had several words covering its meaning. There was jargon, the Anglo-French ancestor of which meant "twittering of birds"; it had been used for specialized (and often obscure or pretentious) vocabulary since the 1600s. There was also lingo, from the Latin word lingua, meaning "language"; that term had been in use for more than a century. English novelist and lawyer Henry Fielding used it of "court gibberish"—what we tend to call legalese. And speaking of legalese, the suffix -ese is a newer means of indicating arcane vocabulary. One of its very first applications at the turn of the 20th century was for "American 'golfese.'" Jun 28, 2020 incontrovertible 00:01:40 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 27, 2020 is: incontrovertible • \in-kahn-truh-VER-tuh-bul\ • adjective : not open to question : indisputable Examples: "'Why are you kids inside? It's nice outside.' It wasn't a question. It was a directive. Out the door, pronto. Further, to us kids, the logic seemed incontrovertible. Indeed, if the sun were shining, why wouldn't we be playing under it?" — Phil Luciano, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 12 May 2020 "And so while all this may just be temporary—and it may simply be that in our leisure and idleness we are hearing birdsong that always was there, and noticing wildlife that was just beyond our ken—it nonetheless is incontrovertible that there is a small but discernible uptick in our apprehension of nature, and of our appreciation of the natural world." — David M. Shribman, The Salem (Massachusetts) News, 16 May 2020 Did you know? If something is indisputable, it's incontrovertible. But if it is open to question, is it controvertible? It sure is. The antonyms controvertible and incontrovertible are both derivatives of the verb controvert (meaning "to dispute or oppose by reasoning"), which is itself a spin-off of controversy. And what is the source of all of these controversial terms? The Latin adjective controversus, which literally means "turned against." Jun 27, 2020 yokel 00:02:05 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 26, 2020 is: yokel • \YOH-kul\ • noun : a naive or gullible inhabitant of a rural area or small town Examples: Many of the town's residents felt that the documentary unfairly portrayed them as bumbling yokels. "Few would have predicted that the guys behind the frat-house anthem 'Fight for Your Right' would grow into alt-rock heroes, acclaimed for their innovative sampling and attention to musical craft. By the 2000s, the Beastie Boys were festival headliners, beloved by music fans of all stripes—from rock snobs to hip-hop heads to shirtless yokels." — Rafer Guzmán, Newsday (Long Island, New York), 24 Apr. 2020 Did you know? The origins of yokel are uncertain, but it might have come from the dialectal English word yokel used as the name for the green woodpecker (the nickname is of imitative origin). Other words for supposedly naive country folk are chawbacon (from chaw, meaning "chew," and bacon), hayseed (which has obvious connections to country life), and clodhopper (indicating a clumsy, heavy-footed rustic). But city slickers don't always have the last word: rural folk have had their share of labels for city-dwellers too. One simple example is the often disparaging use of the adjective citified. A more colorful (albeit historical) example is cockney, which literally means "cocks' egg," or more broadly "misshapen egg." In the past, this word often designated a spoiled or foppish townsman—as opposed to the sturdy countryman, that is. Jun 26, 2020 omnipotent 00:01:58 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 25, 2020 is: omnipotent • \ahm-NIP-uh-tunt\ • adjective 1 often capitalized Omnipotent : having absolute power over all : almighty 2 : having virtually unlimited authority or influence 3 obsolete : being notoriously without moderation : arrant Examples: "To the omnipotent leader, rules and norms are meant for everyone but them." — Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, The Harvard Business Review, 12 Apr. 2019 "This isn't the Jean-Luc [Picard] who went toe-to-toe with omnipotent beings, Klingons, Romulans, and the Borg. This is a man with no ship, no crew…, no purpose." — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 23 Jan. 2020 Did you know? The word omnipotent made its way into English through Anglo-French, but it ultimately derives from the Latin prefix omni-, meaning "all," and the word potens, meaning "potent." The omni- prefix has also given us similar words such as omniscient (meaning "all-knowing") and omnivorous (describing one that eats both plants and animals). Although omnipotent is most often used in general contexts to mean "having virtually unlimited authority or influence" (as in "an omnipotent warlord"), its original applications in English referred specifically to the power held by an almighty God. The word has been used as an English adjective since the 14th century, and since the 16th century it has also been used as a noun referring to one who is omnipotent. Jun 25, 2020 gourmand 00:01:51 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 24, 2020 is: gourmand • \GOOR-mahnd\ • noun 1 : one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking 2 : one who is heartily interested in good food and drink Examples: "Their love was a tale of two gourmands. 'Marty and I fell in love and we loved to eat. Marty knew every restaurant in New York that did second helpings, and we knew every restaurant in Queens that didn't charge for dessert.'" — Marisa Meltzer, This Is Big, 2020 "Chefs and restaurants in South Florida are gearing up to offer gourmands a foodie fix with live streaming and video channels with cooking tutorials, designed specifically for their culinary fans who can't leave home because of COVID-19." — Rod Stafford Hagwood, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 29 Apr. 2020 Did you know? "What God has plagu'd us with this gourmaund guest?" As this exasperated question from Alexander Pope's 18th-century translation of Homer's Odyssey suggests, being a gourmand is not always a good thing. When gourmand began appearing in English texts in the 15th century, it was a decidedly bad thing, a synonym of glutton that was reserved for a greedy eater who consumed well past satiation. That negative connotation mostly remained until English speakers borrowed the similar-sounding (and much more positive) gourmet from French in the 19th century. Since then, the meaning of gourmand has softened so that although it still isn't wholly flattering, it now suggests someone who likes good food in large quantities rather than a slobbering glutton. Jun 24, 2020 fraternize 00:01:55 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 23, 2020 is: fraternize • \FRAT-er-nyze\ • verb 1 : to associate or mingle as brothers or on fraternal terms 2 a : to associate on close terms with members of a hostile group especially when contrary to military orders b : to be friendly or amiable Examples: The boss warned that fraternizing with the junior employees could be a risky career move for a manager. "Today's social distancing orders make the commonplace themes of pre-COVID ads—singles fraternizing in crowded bars, teen potato chip parties, folks all feasting from a communal bucket of fried chicken—look like cautionary tales, the unwitting equivalent of a 'This is your brain on drugs' PSA." — Lorraine Ali, The Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2020 Did you know? Both fraternize and fraternal (meaning "of, relating to, or involving brothers") come to us, by way of Medieval Latin, from Latin frater, meaning "brother." Other frater descendants in English include friar, fraternity, and confraternity ("a society devoted especially to a religious or charitable cause"). Even brother itself shares a relationship with frater. These days, although fraternize can still refer to a brotherly association or simple friendliness, it often occurs in contexts, such as "fraternizing with the enemy," implying friendliness toward someone who would be better avoided. Jun 23, 2020 crux 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 22, 2020 is: crux • \KRUKS\ • noun 1 : a puzzling or difficult problem : an unsolved question 2 : an essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome 3 : a main or central feature (as of an argument) Examples: "Manipulation is a key trait of individuals with controlling personalities. Call it gaslighting, whitewashing, or rewriting the script: The crux of the matter is the manipulator's desire to control the narrative and either be the hero or the victim." — Kristy Lee Hochenberger, Psychology Today, 22 Feb. 2020 "[David] Leib [chair of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth College] said one of the challenges of combating COVID-19 in humans is the fact that viruses hijack our cells. 'This is really the crux of the reason why it has been so hard to develop antiviral drugs, because almost any drug that will stop viruses dead in [their] tracks will also stop our cells dead in their tracks,' he said." — Gabrielle Emanuel, WGBH.org, 27 Apr. 2020 Did you know? In Latin, crux referred literally to an instrument of torture, often a cross or stake, and figuratively to the torture and misery inflicted by means of such an instrument. Crux eventually developed the sense of "a puzzling or difficult problem"; that was the first meaning that was used when the word entered English in the early 18th century. Later, in the late 19th century, crux began to be used more specifically to refer to an essential point of a legal case that required resolution before the case as a whole could be resolved. Today, the verdict on crux is that it can be used to refer to any important part of a problem or argument, inside or outside of the courtroom. Jun 22, 2020 crux 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 22, 2020 is: crux • \KRUKS\ • noun 1 : a puzzling or difficult problem : an unsolved question 2 : an essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome 3 : a main or central feature (as of an argument) Examples: "Manipulation is a key trait of individuals with controlling personalities. Call it gaslighting, whitewashing, or rewriting the script: The crux of the matter is the manipulator's desire to control the narrative and either be the hero or the victim." — Kristy Lee Hochenberger, Psychology Today, 22 Feb. 2020 "[David] Leib [chair of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth College] said one of the challenges of combating COVID-19 in humans is the fact that viruses hijack our cells. 'This is really the crux of the reason why it has been so hard to develop antiviral drugs, because almost any drug that will stop viruses dead in [their] tracks will also stop our cells dead in their tracks,' he said." — Gabrielle Emanuel, WGBH.org, 27 Apr. 2020 Did you know? In Latin, crux referred literally to an instrument of torture, often a cross or stake, and figuratively to the torture and misery inflicted by means of such an instrument. Crux eventually developed the sense of "a puzzling or difficult problem"; that was the first meaning that was used when the word entered English in the early 18th century. Later, in the late 19th century, crux began to be used more specifically to refer to an essential point of a legal case that required resolution before the case as a whole could be resolved. Today, the verdict on crux is that it can be used to refer to any important part of a problem or argument, inside or outside of the courtroom. Jun 22, 2020 masterful 00:02:00 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 21, 2020 is: masterful • \MASS-ter-ful\ • adjective 1 a : inclined and usually competent to act as master b : suggestive of a domineering nature 2 : having or reflecting the power and skill of a master Examples: "But he hasn't stopped challenging himself or his players or opponents on the baseball field.... Maddon has earned a reputation as a bright and innovative tactician, but more as a masterful leader and developer of young players in particular." — Kirk Wessler, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 9 Oct. 2015 "'The Last Dance' surpassed Netflix's hit 'Tiger King' in global popularity after last week's two episodes (3 and 4).... [E]ven two decades after their masterful run, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are still so interesting." — Joe D’Amodio, SILive.com (Staten Island, New York), 3 May 2020 Did you know? Some commentators insist that masterful must only mean "domineering," reserving the "expert, skillful" sense for masterly. The distinction is a modern one. In earlier times, the terms were used interchangeably, with each having both the "domineering" and "expert" senses. The "domineering" sense of masterly fell into disuse around the 18th century, however, and in the 20th century the famous grammarian H. W. Fowler decided that masterful should be similarly limited to a single meaning. He summarily ruled that the "expert" definition of masterful was incorrect. Other usage writers followed his lead. But the "expert" meaning of masterful has continued to flourish in standard prose in spite of the disapproval, and, considering the sense's long history, it cannot really be called an error. Jun 21, 2020 masterful 00:02:00 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 21, 2020 is: masterful • \MASS-ter-ful\ • adjective 1 a : inclined and usually competent to act as master b : suggestive of a domineering nature 2 : having or reflecting the power and skill of a master Examples: "But he hasn't stopped challenging himself or his players or opponents on the baseball field.... Maddon has earned a reputation as a bright and innovative tactician, but more as a masterful leader and developer of young players in particular." — Kirk Wessler, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 9 Oct. 2015 "'The Last Dance' surpassed Netflix's hit 'Tiger King' in global popularity after last week's two episodes (3 and 4).... [E]ven two decades after their masterful run, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are still so interesting." — Joe D’Amodio, SILive.com (Staten Island, New York), 3 May 2020 Did you know? Some commentators insist that masterful must only mean "domineering," reserving the "expert, skillful" sense for masterly. The distinction is a modern one. In earlier times, the terms were used interchangeably, with each having both the "domineering" and "expert" senses. The "domineering" sense of masterly fell into disuse around the 18th century, however, and in the 20th century the famous grammarian H. W. Fowler decided that masterful should be similarly limited to a single meaning. He summarily ruled that the "expert" definition of masterful was incorrect. Other usage writers followed his lead. But the "expert" meaning of masterful has continued to flourish in standard prose in spite of the disapproval, and, considering the sense's long history, it cannot really be called an error. Jun 21, 2020 envisage 00:01:55 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 20, 2020 is: envisage • \in-VIZ-ij\ • verb 1 : to view or regard in a certain way 2 : to have a mental picture of especially in advance of realization Examples: In planning out their new patio, Betty and Sherman envisaged a place where they could grill food on the barbecue and invite friends over to relax. "The internet was envisaged as a decentralized global network, but in the past 25 years it has come to be controlled by a few, very powerful, centralized companies." — Mark van Rijmenam and Philippa Ryan, Blockchain, 2018 Did you know? Envisage has been part of the English language since the 17th century. It was sometimes used with the sense of "to meet squarely" or "to confront" (visage means "face" so the word suggests face-to-face encounters); however, that sense is now archaic and the word is primarily used in senses that involve having a particular conception or mental picture of something (visage also means "appearance" or "aspect"). In the early 20th century, some usage commentators began deriding envisage for reasons not entirely clear, declaring it "undesirable." Today, time and usage have won out, and envisage is widely used and accepted, though it is slightly formal in tone. Its near twin envision ("to picture to oneself"), which has been with us since the 19th century, is interchangeable with envisage in many contexts and is slightly less formal. Jun 20, 2020 stalwart 00:02:08 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 19, 2020 is: stalwart • \STAWL-wert\ • adjective : marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind, or spirit Examples: "Hubert and Phan—two defenders—stepped in … and played key roles in a stalwart defensive attack that gave up a mere 17 goals all season." — Chris Jackson, The Coppell (Texas) Gazette, 11 May 2020 "But female birds make stalwart mothers. After all, theirs is the job of nest making. For example, a female northern cardinal collects nesting material of twigs, leaves, grasses and sundry fibers. The bird chews on twigs with her beak to make them pliable. Her feet then shove the bendable twigs into an open cup shape wedged against a fork of limbs in a bush or tree. Finally, the bird carpets the nest interior with leaves and grasses." — Gary Clark, The Houston Chronicle, 8 May 2020 Did you know? Sometime in the 15th century, English speakers began to use stalwart in place of the older form stalworth. Although stalworth is now archaic, it laid the groundwork for today's meaning of stalwart. During the 12th century, forms of stalworth began to be used to describe strongly built people or animals (a meaning stalwart carries). It also came to be used as an adjective for people who showed bravery or courage (likewise a meaning passed on to stalwart). So, in a way, stalwart has been serviceable in keeping the spirit of stalworth alive. This character of stalwart is true to its roots. Stalworth came from the Old English word stǣlwierthe (meaning "serviceable"), which, in turn, is thought to come from terms meaning "foundation" and "worth." Jun 19, 2020 conflate 00:01:53 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 18, 2020 is: conflate • \kun-FLAYT\ • verb 1 a : to bring together : fuse b : confuse 2 : to combine (things, such as two readings of a text) into a composite whole Examples: "Some wonder if students are conflating a decision to put off school for a year, and maybe take a job, with the more formal process of an actual gap year—a planned experience that has career and academic benefits." — Bill Schackner, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11 May 2020 "Given its name, St. Thomas in Houston has on occasion been conflated with St. Thomas in Minnesota, which as one of the nation's most successful Division III programs is now trying to make the jump to NCAA Division I. St. Thomas in Houston has no such aspirations." — David Barron, The Houston Chronicle, 28 Apr. 2020 Did you know? We're not just blowing hot air when we tell you that conflate can actually be traced back to the same roots as the English verb blow. Conflate derives from conflatus, the past participle of the Latin verb conflare ("to blow together, to fuse"), which was formed by combining the prefix com-, meaning "with" or "together," with the Latin verb flare, which means "to blow" and is akin to English's blow. Other descendants of flare in English include afflatus ("a divine imparting of knowledge or power"), inflate, insufflation ("an act of blowing"), and flageolet (a kind of small flute—the flageolet referring to a green kidney bean is unrelated). Jun 18, 2020 harangue 00:01:54 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 17, 2020 is: harangue • \huh-RANG\ • noun 1 : a speech addressed to a public assembly 2 : a ranting speech or writing 3 : lecture Examples: The comedian's stand-up act included some delightfully incisive harangues against celebrity culture. "The loquacious 49ers' cornerback always has a thought, opinion, retort, reply, instinct or handy harangue regarding just about anything. That's why the cameras and notebooks are usually in heavy supply for Sherman, whose skill as a crafty defender is accentuated by his proficiency as one of the NFL's deepest thinkers." — Jarrett Bell, USA Today, 29 Jan. 2020 Did you know? In Old Italian, the noun aringo referred to a public assembly, the verb aringare meant "to speak in public," and the noun aringa referred to a public speech. Aringa was borrowed into Middle French as arenge, and it is from this form that we get our noun harangue, which made its first appearance in English in the 16th century. Perhaps due to the bombastic or exasperated nature of some public speeches, the term quickly developed an added sense referring to a speech or writing in the style of a rant (though the word rant is not etymologically related). There is also a verb harangue, which refers to the act of making such a speech. Jun 17, 2020 null 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 16, 2020 is: null • \NULL\ • adjective 1 : having no legal or binding force : invalid 2 : amounting to nothing : nil 3 : having no value : insignificant 4 a : having no elements b : having zero as a limit 5 : of, being, or relating to zero Examples: "If a teacher organization is found in contempt, any collective bargaining agreement they worked on would be rendered null and they would be barred from collecting dues." — Jesse Paul, The Denver Post, 23 Apr. 2018 "While negative and null results can often be overlooked—by authors and publishers alike—their publication is equally as important as positive outcomes and can help fill in critical gaps in the scientific record." — PLOS.org, 6 Apr. 2020 Did you know? English borrowed null from the Anglo-French nul, meaning "not any." That word, in turn, traces to the Latin word nullus, from ne-, meaning "not," and ullus, meaning "any." Null often pops up in legal and scientific contexts. It was originally used in Scottish law and still carries the meaning "having no legal or binding force." In mathematics, it is sometimes used to mean "containing nothing"; for example, the set of all whole numbers that are divisible by zero is the "null set" (that is, there are no numbers that fit that description). But null also has some more general uses. We often use it with the meaning "lacking meaning or value," as in "By the time I heard it, the news was null." Jun 16, 2020 bellwether 00:01:43 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 15, 2020 is: bellwether • \BEL-WEH-ther\ • noun : one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends Examples: "The tech giant has long been a bellwether for global industry, and investors will now hope that is still the case. Apple said on Thursday that its revenue rose nearly 1 percent to$58.3 billion in the first three months of the year…." — Jack Nicas, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2020

"That transition to natural gas as the bellwether of the state's energy portfolio has decreased emissions in the state nearly 90% since 1990 as natural gas production grew eleven-fold from 2010 to 2018." — Mike Butler, The Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 4 May 2020

Did you know?

We usually think of sheep more as followers than leaders, but in a flock one sheep must lead the way. Long ago, it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle (meaning "bell") and wether (a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been castrated). It eventually followed that bellwether would come to refer to someone who takes initiative or who actively establishes a trend that is taken up by others. This usage first appeared in English in the 15th century.

Jun 15, 2020
divagate
00:01:53

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 14, 2020 is:

divagate • \DYE-vuh-gayt\  • verb

: to wander or stray from a course or subject : diverge, digress

Examples:

The novel divagates and meanders through a labyrinth of subplots and asides.

"Having spirited us briskly through Manhattan, New Bedford and Nantucket, and having flushed Ahab from his lair on to the deck of the Pequod, Herman Melville divagates into a disquisition on whale taxonomies." — Stephen Phillips, The Spectator, 2 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Divagate hasn't wandered far in meaning from its Latin ancestors. It descends from the verb divagari, which comes from dis-, meaning "apart," and vagari, meaning "to wander." Vagari also gave us vagabond, meaning "a wanderer with no home," and extravagant, an early, now archaic, sense of which was "wandering away." Latin vagari is also probably the source of our noun vagary, which now usually means "whim or caprice" but originally meant "journey, excursion, or tour." Even the verb stray may have evolved from vagari, by way of Vulgar Latin extravagare. Today, divagate can suggest a wandering or straying that is literal (as in "the hikers divagated from the trail"), but it is more often used figuratively (as in "she divagated from the topic").

Jun 14, 2020
whodunit
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 13, 2020 is:

whodunit • \hoo-DUN-it\  • noun

: a detective story or mystery story

Examples:

"What made Broadchurch so inherently watchable was its odd-couple detectives: David Tennant's Hardy was as bitter and cantankerous as Olivia Colman's Miller was open and warm. The whodunit unfurled episode by episode, crossing off suspects who doubled as relatives and friends." — Gwen Inhat, The A.V. Club, 10 Apr. 2020

"For all the detective tales that dot television screens, the Agatha Christie-styled whodunit has gone curiously absent from movie theaters. The nostalgia-driven 'Murder on the Orient Express' (2017), popular as it was, didn't do much to dispel the idea that the genre has essentially moved into retirement, content to sit out its days in a warm puffy armchair, occasionally dusting itself off for a remake." — Jake Coyle, The Associated Press, 25 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In 1930, Donald Gordon, a book reviewer for News of Books, needed to come up with something to say about a rather unremarkable mystery novel called Half-Mast Murder. "A satisfactory whodunit," he wrote. The relatively new term (introduced only a year earlier) played fast and loose with spelling and grammar, but whodunit caught on anyway. Other writers tried respelling it who-done-it, and one even insisted on using whodidit, but those sanitized versions lacked the punch of the original and fell by the wayside. Whodunit became so popular that by 1939 at least one language pundit had declared it "already heavily overworked" and predicted it would "soon be dumped into the taboo bin." History has proven that prophecy false, and whodunit is still going strong.

Jun 13, 2020
fictitious
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 12, 2020 is:

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of fiction : imaginary

2 a : conventionally or hypothetically assumed or accepted

b of a name : false, assumed

3 : not genuinely felt

Examples:

"'Outbreak' follows a team of U.S. Army medical researchers as they struggle to contain a fictitious disease, dubbed the Motaba virus, that's quickly spreading in a California town. In the film, they're successful in halting it in its tracks." — Brent Lang, Variety, 15 Apr. 2020

"Forensic auditors released details of their findings at the last regular trustee meeting, noting that more than $14 million was mismanaged…. About$600,000 was spent on lavish travel by former administrators and on payments to what appears to be a fictitious vendor." — Eva-Marie Ayala, The Dallas Morning News, 1 May 2020

Did you know?

Fictitious is related to the Medieval Latin word fictīcius, meaning "artificial," "imaginary," "feigned," or "fraudulent." It was first used in English as an antonym for natural. For instance, a fake diamond would be referred to as a fictitious one. This use indicates the word's deeper Latin roots: fictīcius is from the Latin verb fingere, meaning "to mold, fashion, make a likeness of; pretend to be." Nowadays, fictitious is no longer used for physical things shaped by the human hand. Rather, it is typically used for imaginative creations or for feigned emotions.

Jun 12, 2020
vilipend
00:01:54

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 11, 2020 is:

vilipend • \VIL-uh-pend\  • verb

1 : to hold or treat as of little worth or account : contemn

2 : to express a low opinion of : disparage

Examples:

As a women's rights movement pioneer, Susan B. Anthony fought against the dicta of those who would vilipend women by treating them as second-class citizens.

"Most people who retire do so after having invested multiple years in employment…. Most are on fixed incomes with tight budgets, hoping for good health and years of stress-free happiness. To vilipend them about their choice of not working, even if they are healthy enough, is just not fair." — John F. Sauers, letter in The Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle, 26 June 2005

Did you know?

Vilipend first appeared in English in the 15th century and had its heyday during the 19th century—being found in the works of such well-known authors as Sir Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray, and George Meredith—but it fell into relative obscurity by the 20th century. The word comes to us through French from the Latin roots vilis, meaning "cheap" or "vile," and pendere, meaning "to weigh" or "to estimate." These roots work in tandem to form a meaning of "to deem to be of little worth." Each has contributed separately to some other common English words. Other vilis offspring include vile and vilify, while pendere has spawned such terms as append, expend, and dispense.

Jun 11, 2020
00:01:53

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 10, 2020 is:

1 : one of a class of lyric poets and poet-musicians often of knightly rank who flourished from the 11th to the end of the 13th century chiefly in the south of France and the north of Italy and whose major theme was courtly love

2 : a singer especially of folk songs

Examples:

"John Prine was a raspy-voiced heartland troubadour who wrote and performed songs about faded hopes, failing marriages, flies in the kitchen and the desperation of people just getting by. He was, as one of his songs put it, the bard of 'broken hearts and dirty windows.'" — Matt Schudel, The Independent (UK), 19 Apr. 2020

"With strict social distancing and isolation directives in place at care centers and assisted living facilities, Bressan has adopted the role of a wandering troubadour, offering songs both sacred and secular from outside the windows of patients like Sherry." — Jon Pompia, The Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain, 8 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

In the Middle Ages, troubadours were the shining knights of poetry (in fact, some were ranked as high as knights in the feudal class structure). Troubadours made chivalry a high art, writing poems and singing about chivalrous love, creating the mystique of refined damsels, and glorifying the gallant knight on his charger. Troubadour was a fitting name for such creative artists: it derives from an Old Occitan word meaning "to compose." In modern contexts, troubadour still refers to the song-meisters of the Middle Ages, but it has been extended to cover contemporary poet-musicians as well.

Jun 10, 2020
lissome
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 9, 2020 is:

1 a : easily flexed

b : characterized by easy flexibility and grace : lithe

2 : nimble

Examples:

"A couple of images haunt me from this 'West Side Story,' and both do come from video. One is of an anonymous, lissome figure, barely detectable as he or she dances at the end of a long, dark street. The other is of a television playing while Maria and Anita are arguing about a recent gang slaying." — Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2020

"The visiting Americans … look dazed, like astronauts observing lissome green Martian women in a ’50s sci-fi cheapie." — David Edelstein, Vulture, 23 Aug. 2019

Did you know?

Lissome (sometimes spelled lissom) is a gently altered form of its synonym, lithesome. While lissome tends to be the more popular choice these days, the two words have similar pasts. They both appeared in the 18th century, and they both trace back to the much older lithe, which first appeared in English during the 14th century and comes from an Old English word meaning "gentle." Lissome can also be an adverb meaning "in a supple or nimble manner," but this use is rare.

Jun 09, 2020
gest
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 8, 2020 is:

gest • \JEST\  • noun

1 : a tale of adventures; especially : a romance in verse

Examples:

"The best authentic source of Robin Hood stories is the late medieval poem A Gest of Robyn Hode…, a compilation of traditional ballads and stories." — Guy McDonald, England, 2003

"I was looking forward to this film [Onward] for the last month. My mom follows 'new' movie trailers and called me as soon as she saw this one. The gest was essentially an adventure about two brothers." — Andrew McManus, The Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, 11 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

"Let the Queen know of our gests," Antony instructs his men after a hard-won victory on the battlefield in William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Great deeds and heroic acts have been the stuff of gests since medieval days; in fact, the word is more often associated with knights and heroes of old than with modern adventurers. We may not be hearing about many 21st century gests, but we do frequently encounter other relatives of the word. Gest traces to Latin gestus, the past participle of the verb gerere, which means "to wage," "to bear," or "to carry," among other things. That Latin verb gave us stoutly enduring words like gesture, ingest, jest, register, and suggest.

Jun 08, 2020
00:01:54

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 7, 2020 is:

: to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.) : to plead in favor of

Examples:

"During quarantine, teachers are broadcasting lessons from their own homes and figuring out new remote-learning technology and platforms on the fly, all while continuing to educate and connect with our kids. Advocating for the children of the world is no easy task, so I wanted to show teachers a little extra love right now." — Reese Witherspoon, quoted in The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Apr. 2020

"As a journalist, [Zimbabwean Zororo] Makamba often used his platform to advocate for reform and transparency. In his online talk show, 'State of the Nation,' as well as appearances on other current affairs programs, Makamba argued for renewable energy, school reform, anti-corruption measures and youth empowerment." — Andrew R. Chow, Time, 3 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Benjamin Franklin may have been a great innovator in science and politics, but on the subject of advocate, he was against change. In 1789, he wrote a letter to his compatriot Noah Webster complaining about a "new word": the verb advocate. Like others of his day, Franklin knew advocate primarily as a noun meaning "one who pleads the cause of another," and he urged Webster to condemn the verb's use. In truth, the verb wasn't as new as Franklin assumed (etymologists have traced it back as far as 1599), though it was apparently surging in popularity in his day. Webster evidently did not heed Franklin's plea. His famous 1828 dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, entered both the noun and the verb senses of advocate.

Jun 07, 2020
capricious
00:01:36

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 6, 2020 is:

: governed or characterized by caprice : impulsiveunpredictable

Examples:

"Like all great children's writers, [Jacqueline] Wilson and [E.] Nesbit understood how strange and capricious children could be…." — Guy Lodge, Variety, 4 Apr. 2020

"[The television show] Succession doesn't just get the details right; mirroring the capricious world of media and its greedy overlords, it also makes sweeping plot turns that build to climaxes as bloody as Macbeth." — Laura Adamczyk, The A.V. Club, 11 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

The noun caprice, which first appeared in English in the mid-17th century, is a synonym of whim. Evidence shows that the adjective capricious debuted before caprice; both words are believed to derive, via French, from Italian capriccio, which originally referred not to a sudden desire but to a sudden shudder of fear. The origin of capriccio is uncertain, but the going theory has a certain charm. Capriccio is thought to perhaps be a compounding of Italian capo, meaning "head," and riccio, meaning "hedgehog," The image evoked in this "hedgehog head" mashup is of someone shuddering in fear to such a degree that their hair stands on end, like the spines of a hedgehog.

Jun 06, 2020
rendition
00:02:01

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 5, 2020 is:

rendition • \ren-DISH-un\  • noun

: the act or result of rendering something: such as

a : a performance or interpretation of something

b : depiction

c : translation

d : surrender; specifically, US law : the surrender by a state of a fugitive to another state charging the fugitive with a crime : interstate extradition

Examples:

"Still, Cosme is bound to offer the 'hood plenty of surprises, including a mescal-spiked, cactus-studded rendition of Manhattan clam chowder." — Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times, 2 Sept. 2014

"The best part is the vast majority of adults will love [Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse]. Most know who Spider-Man is. We've seen many different renditions of this superhero." — Andrew McManus, The Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, 27 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Rendition entered English in the early 17th century and can be traced to the Middle French word reddition and ultimately to the Latin verb reddere, meaning "to return." The English verb render is another descendant of reddere, so perhaps it is no surprise that rendition fundamentally means "the act or result of rendering." English speakers also once adopted reddition itself (meaning either "restitution, surrender" or "elucidation"), but that word has mostly dropped out of use. Incidentally, if you've guessed that surrender is also from the same word family, you may be right; surrender derives in part from the Anglo-French rendre, which likely influenced the alteration of reddition to rendition.

Jun 05, 2020
posture
00:01:51

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 4, 2020 is:

posture • \PAHSS-cher\  • verb

1 : to cause to assume a given posture : pose

2 : to assume a posture; especially : to strike a pose for effect

3 : to assume an artificial or pretended attitude : attitudinize

Examples:

"During the rut, grabbing a bite to eat was an afterthought for bucks, but right now and in the weeks to come, choosing a prime food source is key to their survival. Sure … bucks are still banging antlers and posturing to prove who's boss. But this is all happening at, or around, the best food sources in the area." — Scott Bestul, Field & Stream, 6 Jan. 2020

"It's also been assumed that a rift exists between Elway and Harris, but according to the player, that couldn't be further from the truth, despite the two being postured as adversaries over contracts and money." — Chad Jensen, Sports Illustrated, 11 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

The Latin verb ponere, meaning "to put" or "to place," had a role in putting quite a few English terms into place, including component, dispose, expose, impose, oppose, posit, position, positive, postpone, and, yes, posture. The past participle of ponerepositus—gave Latin the noun positura, which has the same meaning as the English noun posture. Positura passed through Italian and Middle French and was finally adopted by English speakers as posture in the late 16th century. The verb posture later developed from the noun, finding its place in English at around the midpoint of the 17th century.

Jun 04, 2020
compunction
00:01:41

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 3, 2020 is:

compunction • \kum-PUNK-shun\  • noun

1 a : anxiety arising from awareness of guilt

b : distress of mind over an anticipated action or result

2 : a twinge of misgiving : scruple

Examples:

"A big reason why Illinois' population continues to plummet is that college-age youth feel no compunction at all about heading out of state for college." — editorial board, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Feb. 2020

"Roses can get old and sick, and there are better varieties to try. I have no compunction ripping out a rose that no longer works for me." — Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

An old proverb says "a guilty conscience needs no accuser," and it's true that the sting of a guilty conscience—or a conscience that is provoked by the contemplation of doing something wrong—can prick very hard indeed. The sudden guilty "prickings" of compunction are reflected in the word's etymological history. Compunction comes (via Anglo-French compunction and Middle English compunccioun) from Latin compungere, which means "to prick hard" or "to sting." Compungere, in turn, derives from pungere, meaning "to prick," which is the ancestor of some other prickly words in English, such as puncture and even point.

Jun 03, 2020
eolian
00:01:39

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 2, 2020 is:

: borne, deposited, produced, or eroded by the wind

Examples:

The park is known for its eolian caves—chambers formed in sandstone cliffs by powerful winds.

"If an extremely tenuous atmosphere like that of Pluto can support the generation of bedforms from wind-driven sediment, what kind of eolian activity might we see on places like Io (a moon of Jupiter)…?" — Alexander Hayes, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2018

Did you know?

When Aeolus blew into town, things really got moving. He was the Greek god of the winds and the king of the floating island of Aeolia. In The Odyssey, Homer claims Aeolus helped Odysseus by giving him a favorable wind. Aeolus also gave English speakers a few terms based on his name, including the adjective eolian (also spelled aeolian), which is often used for wind-sculpted geological features such as caves and dunes, and aeolian harp, the name for an instrument that makes music when the wind blows across its strings.

Jun 02, 2020
stiction
00:01:38

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 1, 2020 is:

stiction • \STIK-shun\  • noun

: the force required to cause one body in contact with another to begin to move

Examples:

"Stiction is stationary friction. Starting the bolt turning takes more force than keeping it turning. The tighter the bolt, the more stiction can affect torque readings." — Jim Kerr, SRTForums.com, 4 Mar. 2004

"The theme of blue continues on the fork stanchions. The upside-down fork itself is the same Showa unit seen on the standard bike, but in this case the inner tubes feature a special nitride coating to help reduce stiction and provide a smoother stroke." — Zaran Mody, ZigWheels.com, 14 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Stiction has been a part of the English language since at least 1946, when it appeared in a journal of aeronautics. While stiction refers to the force needed to get an object to move from a position at rest, it is not related to the verb stick. The word is a blend word formed from the st- of static ("of or relating to bodies at rest") and the -iction of friction ("the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact"). So, basically, it means "static friction" (or to put it another way, "stationary friction").

Jun 01, 2020
palmy
00:01:19

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 31, 2020 is:

1 : marked by prosperity : flourishing

2 : abounding in or bearing palms

Examples:

"The new breed of the Silicon Valley lived for work. They were disciplined to the point of back spasms. They worked long hours and kept working on weekends. They became absorbed in their companies the way men once had in the palmy days of the automobile industry." — Tom Wolfe, Hooking Up, 2000

"In Beaufort Road was a house, occupied in its palmier days, by Mr Shorthouse, a manufacturer of acids...." — J.R.R. Tolkien, letter, July 1964

Did you know?

The palm branch has traditionally been used as a symbol of victory. It is no wonder then that the word palm came to mean "victory" or "triumph" in the late 14th century, thanks to the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer. Centuries later, William Shakespeare would employ palmy as a synonym for triumphant or flourishing in the tragedy Hamlet when the character Horatio speaks of the "palmy state of Rome / A little ere the mightiest Julius fell."

May 31, 2020
gamut
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 30, 2020 is:

gamut • \GAM-ut\  • noun

1 : the whole series of recognized musical notes

2 : an entire range or series

Examples:

"Possibly the most interesting man-made structural material is reinforced concrete…. It is economical, available almost everywhere, fire-resistant, and can be designed to be light-weight to reduce the dead load or to have a whole gamut of strengths to satisfy structural needs." — Mario Salvadori, Why Buildings Stand Up, 1990

"[Beverly] Long, whose previous novels run a limited gamut from romance to paranormal romance to romantic suspense, scores well in her transition to hard-boiled thriller." — Jay Strafford, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia), 21 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

To get the lowdown on gamut, we have to dive to the bottom of a musical scale to which the 11th-century musician and monk Guido of Arezzo applied his particular system of solmization—that is, of using syllables to denote the tones of a musical scale. Guido called the first line of his bass staff gamma and the first note in his scale ut, which meant that gamma ut was the term for a note written on the first staff line. In time, gamma ut underwent a shortening to gamut but climbed the scale of meaning. It expanded to cover all the notes of Guido's scale, then to cover all the notes in the range of an instrument, and, eventually, to cover an entire range of any sort.

May 30, 2020
assail
00:01:59

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 29, 2020 is:

assail • \uh-SAIL\  • verb

1 : to attack violently : assault

2 : to encounter, undertake, or confront energetically

3 : to oppose, challenge, or criticize harshly and forcefully

4 a : to trouble or afflict in a manner that threatens to overwhelm

b : to be perceived by (a person, a person's senses, etc.) in a strongly noticeable and usually unpleasant way

Examples:

Most worthwhile achievements require that one persevere even when assailed by doubts.

"What does it even mean to be good in a world as complex as ours, when great inequity remains unaddressed and often seems too daunting to assail, and when seemingly benign choices—which shoes to buy, which fruit to eat—can come with the moral baggage of large carbon footprints or the undercompensated labor of migrant workers?" — Nancy Kaffer, The Detroit (Michigan) Free Press, 9 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

Assail comes from an Anglo-French verb, assaillir, which itself traces back to the Latin verb assilire ("to leap upon"). Assilire combines the prefix ad- ("to, toward") with the Latin verb salire, meaning "to leap." (Salire is the root of a number of English words related to jumping or leaping, such as somersault and sally, as well as assault, a synonym of assail.) When assail was first used in the 13th century, it meant "to make a violent physical attack upon." By the early 15th century, English speakers were using the term to mean "to attack with words or arguments." Now the verb can refer to any kind of aggressive encounter, even if it is not necessarily violent or quarrelsome, as in "Upon entering the room, we were assailed by a horrible odor."

May 29, 2020
empirical
00:01:50

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 28, 2020 is:

1 : originating in or based on observation or experience

2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory

3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment

4 : of or relating to empiricism

Examples:

"'We have really good empirical research dating back to the 1980s demonstrating that kids who are restricted around treat foods often just want to eat them more,' said Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Rutgers University…." — Virginia Sole-Smith, The New York Times, 17 Apr. 2020

"Burger King's advertising has been telling us that the Impossible Whopper tastes just like a Whopper. And so, in the spirit of empirical science and discovery, I ventured to a Burger King this week to test the claim." — Eric Felten, The Examiner (Washington, DC), 31 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

When empirical first appeared as an adjective in English, it meant simply "in the manner of an empiric." An empiric was a member of an ancient sect of doctors who practiced medicine based exclusively on observation or experience as contrasted with those who relied on theory or philosophy. The name empiric derives from Latin empīricus, itself from Greek empeirikós, meaning "based on observation (of medical treatment), experienced." The root of the Greek word (-peiros) is a derivative of peîra, meaning "attempt, trial, test."

May 28, 2020
longueur
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 27, 2020 is:

longueur • \lawn-GUR\  • noun

: a dull and tedious passage or section (as of a book, play, or musical composition) — usually used in plural

Examples:

The otherwise crisp pacing of the movie is marred by some unnecessary longueurs that do little to advance the main story.

"Small, clever musicals are fragile things, though, and I don't want to oversell this one in praising it. 'Scotland, PA' still needs to cure a few structural hiccups (the first act seems to end twice) and to address its longueurs and lapses of logic." — Jesse Green, The New York Times, 23 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

You've probably come across long, tedious sections of books, plays, or musical works before, but perhaps you didn't know there was a word for them. English speakers began using the French borrowing longueur in the late 18th century. As in English, French longueurs are tedious passages, with longueur itself literally meaning "length." An early example of longueur used in an English text is from 18th-century writer Horace Walpole, who wrote in a letter, "Boswell's book is gossiping; . . . but there are woful longueurs, both about his hero and himself."

May 27, 2020
homonymous
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 26, 2020 is:

1 : ambiguous

2 : having the same designation

3 : of, relating to, or being homonyms

Examples:

"The Chelyabinsk meteorite became a media celebrity after the videos of its explosion in mid-air, occurring in February 2013 near the homonymous city, went viral on social networks." — Luca Maltagliati, Nature, 17 Feb. 2017

"Like the bird homonymous with his name, 'Cro' operates like he's under the cover of night. Though Cromartie's numerically best game came against Tulane this fall, in which the senior recorded six tackles and a sack, Downing tabbed South Florida and Connecticut as the raider's brightest." — Katherine Fominykh, The Capital Gazette (Annapolis, Maryland), 12 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

The "ambiguous" sense of homonymous refers mainly to words that have two or more meanings. Logicians and scientists who wanted to refer to (or complain about) such equivocal words chose a name for them based on Latin and Greek, from Greek hom- ("same") and onyma ("name"). In time, English speakers came up with another sense of homonymous referring to two things having the same name (Hawaii, the state, and Hawaii, the island, for example). Next came the use of homonymous to refer to homonyms, such as see and sea. There's also a zoological sense. Sheep and goats whose right horn spirals to the right and left horn spirals to the left are said to be homonymous.

May 26, 2020
instigate
00:01:44

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 25, 2020 is:

instigate • \IN-stuh-gayt\  • verb

: to goad or urge forward : provoke

Examples:

"The big thing about effective advertising is that it uses data effectively to instigate behavior." — Nicole Ortiz, Adweek, 14 Apr. 2020

"In his usual genuine and silly fashion, [Chris] Martin sincerely explained his intent for making the live video and instigating a new series of live Instagram performances. 'What would be nice would be to check in with some of you out there and see how you're doing…. I had an idea that we could call this thing "Together At Home." And who knows, maybe tomorrow someone else will take it over,' he said." — Sean Glaister, The Johns Hopkins (University) News-Letter, 6 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Instigate is often used as a synonym of incite (as in "hoodlums instigating violence"), but the two words differ slightly in their overall usage. Incite usually stresses an act of stirring something up that one did not necessarily initiate ("the court's decision incited riots"). Instigate implies responsibility for initiating or encouraging someone else's action and usually suggests dubious or underhanded intent ("he was charged with instigating a conspiracy"). Another similar word, foment, implies causing something by means of persistent goading ("the leader's speeches fomented a rebellion"). Deriving from the past participle of the Latin verb instigare, instigate stepped into English in the 16th century, after incite and ahead of foment.

May 25, 2020
xeriscape
00:01:50

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 24, 2020 is:

xeriscape • \ZEER-uh-skayp\  • noun

: a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (such as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation)

Examples:

After the severe drought led to local water restrictions, some residents began to look into xeriscape for more easily maintainable yards.

"This perennial has evergreen leaves from 2­-3 feet in length while the flower stalks can rise up to 5 feet with coral-colored tubular flowers. It's drought-resistant, and the flowers can attract hummingbirds. This one would be great for xeriscape or low-maintenance gardens." — Tom Ingram, The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 29 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Xēros is the Greek word for "dry" that is the base for a handful of English words related to mainly dry printing (xerography) and dry, or xerophilous, habitats and their plants. In the early 1980s, the Greek adjective was used to name a type of landscaping practiced primarily in the arid western regions of the United States. (The Water Department of Denver, Colorado, is credited with the coinage.) Xeriscape, as it is called, uses plants that require little water as well as techniques that efficiently use water and reduce evaporation.

May 24, 2020
shaggy-dog
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 23, 2020 is:

: of, relating to, or being a long-drawn-out circumstantial story concerning an inconsequential happening that impresses the teller as humorous or interesting but the hearer as boring and pointless; also : of, relating to, or being a similar humorous story whose humor lies in the pointlessness or irrelevance of the plot or punch line

Examples:

"Like most of Irving's other books, 'Owen Meany' is kind of a shaggy-dog story. It wanders all over the place and there are many seemingly loose ends." — Neil Gittleman, quoted in The Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, 13 Apr. 2020

"A shaggy-dog tale that treats crisscrossing forklift traffic as a sight worthy of the Blue Danube waltz, the German feature 'In the Aisles' mostly takes place in an anonymous, highway-side megastore…." — Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times, 13 June 2019

Did you know?

The origin of the adjective shaggy-dog isn't truly known, but lexicographer Eric Partridge rather believably tells us that it originated with a shaggy-dog story of the amusing sort that involves—of course!—a shaggy dog. Today, the word sometimes refers to a rambling story that impresses the teller as humorous or interesting but the hearer as boring and pointless, but it can also refer to a similar story (or movie or TV show) that is actually humorous and whose humor lies in its very pointlessness or irrelevance.

May 23, 2020
preen
00:01:59

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 22, 2020 is:

preen • \PREEN\  • verb

1 of a bird : to groom with the bill especially by rearranging the barbs and barbules of the feathers and by distributing oil from the uropygial gland

2 : to dress or smooth (oneself) up : primp

3 : to pride or congratulate (oneself) on an achievement

4 : to make oneself sleek

5 : to behave or speak with obvious pride or self-satisfaction

Examples:

"Adding a water source to your yard also will attract birds, providing not only drinking water for them but a place to wash their feathers and preen." — Joan Morris, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 13 Apr. 2020

"We keep tight control over our [Instagram] accounts' aesthetics, down to the color scheme…. A select few follow the lead of celebrities who log on to publicize their lavish lives to millions, turning Instagram into a place to preen and present a reality far above the mundane." — Diti Kohli, The Boston Globe, 8 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Preen hatched in 14th-century Middle English, and early on it displayed various spelling forms, including prenen, prayne, prene, and preyne. The word traces to Anglo-French puroindre, or proindre, linking pur-, meaning "thoroughly," with uindre, oindre, meaning "to anoint or rub." One of the first writers known to apply preen to the human act of primping was Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. Centuries later (sometime during the late 19th century), the prideful meaning of preen hatched, joining another bird-related word, plume, which was being used with the meaning "to pride or congratulate (oneself)" from the first half of the 17th century.

May 22, 2020
cowcatcher
00:01:37

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 21, 2020 is:

cowcatcher • \KOW-ketch-er\  • noun

: an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track

Examples:

For his entry in the town parade, John outfitted his black truck with a cowcatcher and smoke stack to resemble a 19th-century locomotive.

"Not in this show, unfortunately, is the amazing 'Galloping Goose,' which Springer photographed. Until the early 1950s its modified truck-boxcar mashup—with a cowcatcher in front—lumbered from Ridgway to Lizard Head Pass in Colorado." — Harriet Howard Heithaus, The Naples (Florida) Daily News, 17 June 2019

Did you know?

May 21, 2020
neoteric
00:01:37

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2020 is:

: recent in origin : modern

Examples:

"From the runways of Paris to the boutiques of New York to the time-sucking scroll of my social media-feeds, it seemed as if every few weeks I encountered some neoteric innovation that made me smirk or scratch my head, sometimes simultaneously." — Jacob Gallagher, The Wall Street Journal, 30 Dec. 2019

"The projects I have designed mirror the correlation between past and present, always celebrating the old and welcoming the neoteric. I am respectful of the strong impressive history and strive to elevate the level of what has been left behind in time." — Melinda Bell Dickey, quoted in The Danville (Virginia) Register & Bee, 15 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

An odd thing about neoteric is that this word for things that are modern and new is itself rather old. It's been part of English since at least 1596, and its roots go back even further—to ancient Greek. We adapted the word from Late Latin neōtericus, which also means "recent." Neōtericus in turn comes from Late Greek neōterikós and ultimately from Greek néos, meaning "new" or "young." As old as its roots are, however, neoteric itself entered English later than its synonyms modern (which appeared earlier in the 16th century) and newfangled (which has been with us since the 15th century).

May 20, 2020
disabuse
00:01:41

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2020 is:

disabuse • \diss-uh-BYOOZ\  • verb

: to free from error, misconception, or fallacy

Examples:

"While it's difficult to predict how the practice of hiring will evolve over time, one thing is clear: it is extremely difficult to disabuse people of their biases, especially when those biases become cultural norms." — Mark Travers, Forbes, 22 Mar. 2020

"[Anton] Chekhov has a way of disabusing us of our specialness, of making us realize that our problems are, in fact, just like everyone else's." — Megan O’Grady, The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

We know the verb abuse as a word meaning "to misuse," "to mistreat," or "to revile." But when disabuse first appeared in the early 17th century, there was a sense of abuse, now obsolete, that meant "to deceive." Sir Francis Bacon used that sense, for example, when he wrote in 1605, "You are much abused if you think your virtue can withstand the King's power." The prefix dis- has the sense of undoing the effect of a verb, so it's not surprising that disabuse means "to undeceive." English speakers didn't come up with the idea of joining dis- to abuse all on their own, however. It was the French who first appended their prefix dés- to their verb abuser. English disabuse is modeled after French désabuser.

May 19, 2020
exiguous
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2020 is:

Examples:

New computer equipment would be prohibitively expensive, given the rural school's exiguous resources.

"[Adam] Smith's death was the subject of rather little interest, in England and even in Scotland. The published obituaries were exiguous…." — Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments, 2001

Did you know?

Exiguous is so expansive sounding that you might expect it to mean "extensive" instead of "meager." Even a scanty glimpse at the word's etymology will disabuse you of that notion, however. Exiguous derives from the Latin exiguus, which has the same basic meaning as the modern English term. Exiguus, in turn, derives from the Latin verb exigere, which is variously translated as "to demand," "to drive out," or "to weigh or measure." The idea of weighing or measuring so precisely as to be parsimonious or petty gave exiguous its present sense of inadequacy. Just so we aren't accused of being skimpy with the details, we should also mention that exigere is the parent term underlying other English words including exact and exigent.

May 18, 2020
malapropism
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2020 is:

malapropism • \MAL-uh-prah-piz-um\  • noun

: the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context

Examples:

"A malapropism is using the wrong word, but one that sounds similar to the right word—like saying that medieval cathedrals are supported by flying buttocks. A good malapropism can throw you off, so that you scrape your head trying to figure out the error, and then having to think what the word should have been. (It's flying buttresses, by the way)." — Britt Hanson, The Tucson (Arizona) Weekly, 3 July 2014

"[Gilda Radner] brought a lot of charm and energy as a player [on Saturday Night Live]; from her impressions of Lucille Ball … to her unforgettable characters like … the malapropism-prone Emily Litella, the geeky Lisa Loopner and the letter-reading Roseanne Roseannadanna." — Paolo Alfar, Screen Rant, 10 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, was known for her verbal blunders. "He is the very pine-apple of politeness," she exclaimed, complimenting a courteous young man. Thinking of the geography of contiguous countries, she spoke of the "geometry" of "contagious countries," and she hoped that her daughter might "reprehend" the true meaning of what she was saying. She regretted that her "affluence" over her niece was small. The word malapropism derives from this blundering character's name, which Sheridan took from the French term mal à propos, meaning "inappropriate."

May 17, 2020
bodacious
00:01:44

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2020 is:

1 Southern & Midland : outright, unmistakable

3 : sexy, voluptuous

Examples:

"House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made a bodacious name for himself on several fronts. The California lawmaker has now set an all-time annual fundraising record for any Republican…." — Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times, 29 Jan. 2020

"The other period elements, as always, remain intact: jousting on horseback, outrageous cockney accents from bearded storytellers strumming lyres, and many bodacious, curvy bodices." — Phillip Valys, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Some of our readers may know bodacious as a word that figured prominently in the lingo of the 1989 film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Others may recall the term's frequent use in the long-running "Snuffy Smith" comic strip. Neither the creators of the comic strip nor the movie can claim to have coined bodacious, which began appearing in print during the 1800s, but both likely contributed to its popularity. The exact origin of the word is uncertain, but it was most likely influenced by bold and audacious, and it may be linked to boldacious, a term from British dialect meaning "brazen" or "impudent."

May 16, 2020
stymie
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2020 is:

stymie • \STYE-mee\  • verb

: to present an obstacle to : stand in the way of

Examples:

"Ventura County supervisors are reviving an effort to build a bicycle path for commuting and recreation in a railroad corridor that parallels Highway 126, a project that's been stymied in the past by agricultural interests who say it could jeopardize their crops." — Kathleen Wilson, The Ventura County (California) Star, 23 Mar. 2020

"A bout with polio when she was 18 months old has left her wheelchair bound, but it's clear … that it hasn't stymied her instinct for leadership. Heumann would go on to serve under Presidents Clinton and Obama as an advisor on disability rights…." — David Alm, Forbes, 26 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Golf was being played in Scotland as early as the 15th century, but it wasn't until the 19th century that the sport really caught on in England and North America. It was also in the 19th century that the word stymie entered English as a noun referring to a golfing situation in which one player's ball lies between another ball and the hole on the putting green, thereby blocking the line of play. Later, stymie came to be used as a verb meaning "to bring into the position of, or impede by, a stymie." By the early 20th century, the verb was being applied in similarly vexing non-golf contexts.

May 15, 2020
refulgence
00:01:48

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 14, 2020 is:

refulgence • \rih-FULL-junss\  • noun

: a radiant or resplendent quality or state : brilliance

Examples:

"Looking back, … I am inclined to date the burgeoning refulgence of our love to something more like the calendar equivalent of April." — Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22, 2010

"In reality, Poinsettia's bracts, like holly's berries, only said 'blood' to the very devout. Most people saw in their scarlet a warmth, cheeriness and opulence that made it the season's special hue…. In the centuries ahead, that refulgence would … make it the plant of the winter holidays for countless millions, whether Christian, secular or other." — Mark Griffiths, Country Life, 21 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

"The full bow of the crescent moon peeps above the plain and shoots its gleaming arrows far and wide, filling the earth with a faint refulgence, as the glow of a good man's deeds shines for a while upon his little world after his sun has set, lighting the fainthearted travellers who follow on towards a fuller dawn." So British author Sir Henry Rider Haggard described the light of the moon in King Solomon's Mines, published in 1885. Haggard's example reflects both the modern meaning and the history of refulgence. That word derives from Latin refulgēre, which means "to shine brightly" and which is itself a descendant of the verb fulgēre, meaning "to shine." Fulgēre also underlies effulgence, a shining synonym of refulgence.

May 14, 2020
truckle
00:01:35

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 7, 2020 is:

truckle • \TRUK-ul\  • verb

: to act in a subservient manner : submit

Examples:

"Walt Whitman became a pop star for reminding his countrymen of the duty never to truckle: 'Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men.'" — Virginia Heffernan, The Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2018

"More, though, than simply truckling to mass taste, [Gore] Vidal is clearly using the pulp format to figure out what he's good at (sardonic worldliness) and what he's not (romance). And through it all, he keeps the words flowing." — Louis Bayard, The New York Times, 12 Apr. 2015

Did you know?

When truckle was first used in English in the 15th century, it meant "small wheel" or "pulley." Such small wheels were often attached to the underside of low beds to allow them to be easily moved under high beds for storage. These beds came to be known as truckle beds (or trundle beds), and a verb truckle—meaning "to sleep in a truckle bed"—came into being. By the 17th century, the fact that truckle beds were pushed under larger standard beds had inspired a figurative sense of truckle: "to yield to the wishes of another" or "to bend obsequiously." The initial verb sense became obsolete; the newer sense is fairly rare but is still in use.

May 07, 2020
quintessence
00:01:54

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 6, 2020 is:

quintessence • \kwin-TESS-unss\  • noun

1 : the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies

2 : the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form

3 : the most typical example or representative

Examples:

Roasting marshmallows over an open fire and making s'mores is the quintessence of camping in the great outdoors.

"Native, which opened in 2016 and garnered the number 12 spot on this year's World's 50 Best Bars list, is discretely located above a Japanese noodle restaurant in a 200-year-old building. Shiny steel-and-glass skyscrapers, the quintessence of modernity, cast shadows on this historic structure." — Liza Weisstuch, The Daily Beast, 17 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Long ago, when people believed that the earth was made up of four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—they thought the stars and planets were made up of yet another element. In the Middle Ages, people called this element by its Medieval Latin name, quinta essentia, literally, "fifth essence." Our forebears believed the quinta essentia was essential to all kinds of matter, and if they could somehow isolate it, it would cure all disease. We have since given up on that idea, but we kept quintessence, the offspring of quinta essentia, as a word for the purest essence of a thing. Some modern physicists have given quintessence a new twist—they use it to refer to a form of the dark energy believed to make up almost 70 percent of the energy in the observable universe.

May 06, 2020
lorn
00:01:44

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 5, 2020 is:

: left alone and forlorn : desolate, forsaken

Examples:

"So the day passes, and it is evening. Rough and I have been to see a grave. It is a lorn place, and the wind has grown shrill, and we come home feeling rather desolate." — Rosa Mulholland, "Bracken Hollow" in Irish Monthly, February 1890

"Romantic poets had a particular fondness for the lone, lorn shore—while a string of impressionist painters expounded the moral usefulness of the beach…." — DJ Taylor, The Mail on Sunday (London), 19 July 1998

Did you know?

Lorn and forlorn are synonyms that mean "desolate" or "forsaken." The similarity in form and meaning of the two words is hardly a coincidence. Lorn comes down to us from loren, the Middle English past participle of the verb lesen ("to lose"), itself a descendant of the Old English lēosan. Similarly, forlorn comes from the Middle English forloren, a descendant of the Old English verb forlēosan, which also means "to lose." The for- in forlorn is an archaic prefix meaning, among other things, "completely," "excessively," or "to exhaustion." Nowadays, forlorn is considerably more common than lorn. Lorn does, however, appear as the second element in the compound lovelorn ("bereft of love or of a lover").

May 05, 2020
collimate
00:01:34

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 4, 2020 is:

collimate • \KAH-luh-mayt\  • verb

: to make parallel

Examples:

"Amazingly, some astrophysical jets—streams of charged particles collimated and accelerated over astronomical distances—also exhibit a helical structure." — Mario Livio, The Huffington Post, 6 Dec. 2017

"Multiple sessions will demonstrate how to set up different kinds of telescopes.… Another session will be held on collimating the reflector, which means aligning everything so it works well." — Rebecca Hazen, The Houston Chronicle, 1 Feb. 2018

Did you know?

One might expect a science-y word like collimate to have a straightforward etymology, but that's not the case. Collimate comes from Latin collimāre, a misreading of the Latin word collineāre, meaning "to direct in a straight line." The erroneous collimāre appeared in some editions of the works of ancient Roman statesman Cicero and scholar Aulus Gellius. The error was propagated by later writers—most notably by astronomers, such as Johannes Kepler, who wrote in Latin. And so it was the spelling collimate, rather than collineate, that passed into English in the 19th century as a verb meaning "to make (something, such as light rays) parallel."

May 04, 2020
politesse
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 3, 2020 is:

politesse • \pah-lih-TESS\  • noun

: formal politeness : decorousness

Examples:

"The politesse of good society and the politesse of the dueling ground were, as we shall see, cut out of the same cloth." — Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France, 1993

"Now it's true that no one should expect an American football coach to possess the politesse of a career diplomat. But c'mon. There is a place and time for righteous indignation, especially if you're, say, Bill Belichick and you've just lost the Super Bowl." — Lincoln Millstein, The New Haven (Connecticut) Register, 19 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Nowadays, no one refers to a "polite" looking glass or houses "polite" and in good repair, but polite (or polit or polyt, as it was spelled in Middle English) originally meant simply "polished" or "clean." By the early 1600s, polite was being used of polished and refined people, and politeness had been penned to name the shining quality of such people. Politesse (a French borrowing) debuted in the late 17th century. All three words stem from Latin polire, which means "to polish" (and which is, by way of the Anglo-French stem poliss-, an ancestor of the English polish). Today we tend to use politeness for everyday good manners and reserve politesse for more formal courtesies.

May 03, 2020
gratuitous
00:02:02

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 2, 2020 is:

1 : not called for by the circumstances : not necessary, appropriate, or justified : unwarranted

2 a : given unearned or without recompense

b : costing nothing : free

c law : not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration

Examples:

"The language of lawyers often disparagingly referred to as legalese is abstruse, verbose, rife with gratuitous Latin phrases, and designed to create a linguistic barrier between lawyers and non-lawyers." — Mark A. Cohen, Forbes, 3 Mar. 2020

"The responses are varied but reflect two main themes that have infiltrated design thinking globally: The first is how to create products that are meaningful and enduring as opposed to gratuitous and disposable; the second focuses on process over product…." — Stephen Todd, The Australian Financial Review, 7 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Like gratitude, grace, and congratulate, gratuitous is a descendant of the Latin word gratus, which means "pleasing" or "grateful." When gratuitous was first used in the 17th century, it meant "free" or "given without return benefit or compensation." The extended meaning "done without good reason" or "unwarranted" came about just a few decades later, perhaps from the belief held by some people that one should not give something without getting something in return. Today, that extended meaning is the more common sense, employed, for example, when graphic cruelty depicted in a work of fiction is described as "gratuitous violence," or when unkind words better left unsaid are described as "a gratuitous insult."

May 02, 2020
appellation
00:02:04

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 1, 2020 is:

appellation • \ap-uh-LAY-shun\  • noun

1 : an identifying name or title : designation

2 : a geographical name (as of a region, village, or vineyard) under which a winegrower is authorized to identify and market wine

3 archaic : the act of calling by a name

Examples:

"Mr. Bling is the preferred appellation of Mauricio Benitez, a Colombian artist who has made portraits of Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and several of the Kardashians and whose preferred medium is Swarovski crystals." — Amanda Whiting, The Washingtonian, 22 Dec. 2019

"The late Gary Andrus, founder of Pine Ridge, was wise enough over the years to purchase vineyards in several appellations of Napa Valley." — Tom Hyland, Forbes, 9 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Ask a Frenchman named Jacques his name, and you may very well get the reply, "Je m'appelle Jacques." The French verb appeler means "to call (by a name)," so Jacques' answer literally translates to "I call myself Jacques." Knowing the function of appeler makes it easy to remember that appellation refers to the name or title by which something is called or known. Appeler and appellation also share a common ancestor: Latin appellāre, meaning "to call upon, name, or designate," formed by combining the prefix ad- ("to") with another verb, pellere ("to beat against, push, or strike"). Appellāre is also the root of English's appeal (by way of Anglo-French and Middle English), as well as appellate, which is used to indicate a court where appeals are heard.

May 01, 2020
emblem
00:01:57

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 30, 2020 is:

emblem • \EM-blum\  • noun

1 : a picture with a motto or set of verses intended as a moral lesson

2 : an object or the figure of an object symbolizing and suggesting another object or an idea

3 a : a symbolic object used as a heraldic device

b : a device, symbol, or figure adopted and used as an identifying mark

Examples:

"The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience." — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

"The 1870 home was built by the city's first Presbyterian minister, Rev. Thomas Smith, who modeled it after his ancestral home in Scotland. A symbolic thistle—Scotland's national emblem—is sculpted onto the marble fireplace." — Sharon Roznik, The Reporter (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin), 18 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

Both emblem and its synonym symbol trace back to the Greek verb bállein, meaning "to throw." Emblem arose from embállein, meaning "to insert," while symbol comes from symbállein, Greek for "to throw together." Bállein is also an ancestor of the words parable (from parabállein, "to compare"), metabolism (from metabállein, "to change"), and problem (from probállein, "to throw forward"). Another, somewhat surprising, bállein descendant is devil, which comes from Greek diabolos, literally meaning "slanderer." Diabolos in turn comes from diabállein, meaning "to throw across" or "to slander."

Apr 30, 2020
disingenuous
00:01:33

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 29, 2020 is:

: lacking in candor; also : giving a false appearance of simple frankness : calculating

Examples:

"There are plenty of ways to be passive aggressive toward someone on their birthday, including … making a disingenuous comment about whatever he is doing for his special day when you know you aren't invited…." — Sylvan Lane, Mashable, 27 June 2014

"We talked to some behavioural experts to understand why a colleague may be acting 'fake,' and how to work with it…. If someone seems disingenuous, it tends to come from a sense of inadequacy, and understanding that is the first step on the road to acceptance." — Isabella Krebet, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 10 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

A disingenuous remark might contain some superficial truth, but it is delivered with the intent to deceive or to serve some hidden purpose. Its base word ingenuous (derived from a Latin adjective meaning "native" or "freeborn") can describe someone who, like a child, is innocent or lacking guile or craftiness. English speakers began frequently joining the negative prefix dis- with ingenuous to create disingenuous during the 17th century.

Apr 29, 2020
garnish
00:01:44

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 28, 2020 is:

garnish • \GAHR-nish\  • verb

1 a : decorate, embellish

b : to add decorative or savory touches to (food or drink)

2 : to equip with accessories : furnish

3 : garnishee

Examples:

"[Mariah] Carey pioneered featuring rappers on pop hits, and to date she has garnished 56 of her tracks with guest verses." — Billboard.com, 25 Apr. 2019

"Every day, problems that have fundamentally legal solutions—like a debt collector wrongfully garnishing hard-earned wages—derail the lives of people who are already struggling to make ends meet." — David Zapolsky, Fortune, 18 June 2019

Did you know?

Although we now mostly garnish food, the general application of the "decorate" meaning is older. The link between embellishing an object or space and adding a little parsley to a plate isn't too hard to see, but how does the verb's sense of "garnishee," which refers to the taking of debtors' wages, fit in? The answer lies in the word's Anglo-French root, garnir, which means "to give notice, warning, or legal summons" in addition to "to equip or decorate." Before wages were garnished, the debtor would be served with a legal summons or warning. The legal sense of garnish now chiefly implies the taking of the wages, but it is rooted in the action of furnishing the warning.

Apr 28, 2020
zephyr
00:01:36

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 27, 2020 is:

zephyr • \ZEFF-er\  • noun

1 a : a breeze from the west

b : a gentle breeze

2 : any of various lightweight fabrics and articles of clothing

Examples:

"There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds." — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

"Thrown properly, with as little spin as possible, the only forces acting on a knuckleball are gravity and wind. That means any last-second zephyr can knock a knuckler off its path and into the virtual 'box' of a strike zone." — J. P. Hoornstra, The Los Angeles Daily News, 20 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

For centuries, poets have eulogized Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind, and his "swete breeth" (in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer). Zephyrus, the personified west wind, eventually evolved into zephyr, a word for a breeze that is westerly or gentle, or both. Breezy zephyr blew into English with the help of poets and playwrights, including William Shakespeare, who used the word in his play Cymbeline: "Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet." Today, zephyr is also the sobriquet of a lightweight fabric and the clothing that is made from it.

Apr 27, 2020
promulgate
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 26, 2020 is:

promulgate • \PRAH-mul-gayt\  • verb

1 : to make (an idea, belief, etc.) known to many people by open declaration : proclaim

2 a : to make known or public the terms of (a proposed law)

b : to put (a law or rule) into action or force

Examples:

"Gov. John Bel Edwards signed two bills into law June 26 allowing alcohol delivery in Louisiana, but retailers and third-party delivery companies must first secure permits issued by ATC [Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control] to deliver the goods. The state agency is charged with promulgating the rules surrounding alcohol delivery." — Annie Ourso Landry, The Greater Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Business Report, 2 July 2019

"It was not until the 'common school' movement gathered momentum, in the eighteen-thirties and forties, that public education began, gradually, to take hold. The movement's ideals were most famously promulgated by the Massachusetts reformer Horace Mann, who believed that education could be 'the great equalizer of the conditions of men.'" — Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

The origin of promulgate is a bit murky, or perhaps we should say "milky." It comes from Latin promulgatus, which in turn derives from pro-, meaning "forward," and -mulgare, a form that is probably related to the verb mulgēre, meaning "to milk" or "to extract." Mulgēre is an ancestor of the English word emulsion ("mixture of mutually insoluble liquids"), and it is also related to the Old English word that became milk itself. Like its synonyms declare, announce, and proclaim, promulgate means "to make known publicly." It particularly implies the proclaiming of a dogma, doctrine, or law.

Apr 26, 2020
nabob
00:02:05

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 25, 2020 is:

nabob • \NAY-bahb\  • noun

1 : a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India

2 : a person of great wealth or prominence

Examples:

"The extreme concentration of wealth in the United States in the late 1800s and again in the 1920s were major contributors to recurrent economic slumps and market crashes…, climaxing with the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Those crises led to two congressional investigations early in the last century, in which lawmakers tried to hold the millionaire nabobs of those eras responsible." — Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec. 2019

"By day he would prowl the streets of the city on his bicycle photographing anonymous strangers whose style caught his eye. These he would print in his popular New York Times column On the Street. By night he would attend fancy fetes and snap photos of high-society nabobs in their finery for his feature Evening Hours." — Peter Keough, The Boston Globe, 20 June 2019

Did you know?

In India's Mogul Empire, founded in the 16th century, provincial governors carried the Urdu title of nawāb. In 1612, Captain Robert Coverte published a report of his "discovery" of "the Great Mogoll, a prince not till now knowne to our English nation." The Captain informed the English-speaking world that "An earle is called a Nawbob," thereby introducing the English version of the word. Nabob, as it thereafter came to be spelled, gained its extended sense of "a prominent person" in the 18th century, when it was applied sarcastically to British officials of the East India Company returning home after amassing great wealth in Asia. The word was perhaps most famously used by Vice President Spiro Agnew, in a 1970 speech written by William Safire, when he referred to critical members of the news media as "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Apr 25, 2020
arboreal
00:02:26

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 24, 2020 is:

1 : of or relating to a tree : resembling a tree

2 : inhabiting or frequenting trees

Examples:

"[The hammocks] are relatively indestructible, mimic the arboreal nests used by orangutans, and provide a resting area for the gibbons as they swing among the treetops." — Jim Redden, The Portland (Oregon) Tribune, 25 Aug. 2014

"In the wild, they're arboreal and live in tropical rainforests. And as their name implies, sloths move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that they have a metabolic rate of about 40 percent to 45 percent of 'what would be expected for their body weight,' according to zoo experts." — Dana Hedgpeth, The Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Arbor, the Latin word for "tree," has been a rich source of tree-related words in English, though a few are fairly rare. Some arbor descendants are generally synonymous with arboreal: arboraceous, arborary, arboreous, and arborous. Others are primarily synonymous with arboreal in the sense of "relating to or resembling a tree": arborescent, arboresque, arborical, and arboriform. And one, arboricole, is a synonym of arboreal in its sense of "inhabiting trees." The verb arborize means "to branch freely," and arborvitae is the name of a shrub that means literally "tree of life." There's also arboretum, a place where trees are cultivated, and arboriculture, the cultivation of trees. And we can't forget Arbor Day, which since 1872 has named a day set aside by various states (and the national government) for planting trees. Despite its spelling, however, the English word arbor, in the sense of a "bower," does not have its roots in the Latin arbor. Instead, it arises by way of the Anglo-French herbe from the Latin herba, meaning "herb" or "grass."

Apr 24, 2020
facilitate
00:01:35

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 23, 2020 is:

facilitate • \fuh-SIL-uh-tayt\  • verb

: to make easier : help bring about

Examples:

"The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 freed most of America's important waterways from private ownership and thereby facilitated the uninterrupted movement of American commerce." — Mark R. Brown, Cleveland.com, 11 Mar. 2020

"She imagined he was thinking a similar set of thoughts beside her, even if they too went unexpressed. Silence facilitated blame, she would decide later. In the absence of another person's account, the story you invented for yourself went unchallenged." — Laura van den Berg, The Third Hotel, 2018

Did you know?

As with so many English words, it's easy to find a Latin origin for facilitate. It traces back to the Latin adjective facilis, meaning "easy." Other descendants of facilis in English include facile ("easy to do"), facility ("the quality of being easily performed"), faculty ("ability"), and difficult (from dis- plus facilis, which equals "not easy"). Facilis in turn comes from facere, a Latin verb meaning "to make or do." Facere has played a role in the development of dozens of English words, ranging from affect to surfeit.

Apr 23, 2020
obstinate
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 22, 2020 is:

1 : perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion

2 : not easily subdued, remedied, or removed

Examples:

The project that had been the group's main focus for weeks was temporarily stymied by one member's obstinate refusal to compromise.

"With a permanent frown, Mr. Gnome has an obstinate attachment to the word no. 'Say hello to the readers, Mr. Gnome,' the narrator requests. 'No,' says Mr. Gnome, arms crossed in front of his belly." — Publisher's Weekly Review, 2 Mar. 2020

Did you know?

If you're obstinate, you're just plain stubborn. Obstinate, dogged, stubborn, and mulish all mean that someone is unwilling to change course or give up a belief or plan. Obstinate suggests an unreasonable persistence; it's often a negative word. Dogged implies that someone goes after something without ever tiring or quitting; it can be more positive. Stubborn indicates a resistance to change, which may or may not be admirable. Someone who displays a really unreasonable degree of stubbornness could accurately be described as mulish.

Apr 22, 2020
colloquy
00:01:24

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 21, 2020 is:

colloquy • \KAH-luh-kwee\  • noun

2 : a high-level serious discussion : conference

Examples:

The company's employees worried and speculated as the executive team remained closeted in an intense colloquy for the entire morning.

"He has a pitch-perfect ear for the cutesy euphemisms parents devise for their little kids ('Don't be a pane of glass') and for their snarky colloquies with precocious teenagers ('That's not the tone you take with your grandmother.' 'I'm not taking a tone, I'm making an argument.' 'Your argument has a tone')." — Rand Richards Cooper, The New York Times, 14 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Colloquy may make you think of colloquial, and there is indeed a connection between the two words. As a matter of fact, colloquy is the parent word from which colloquial was coined in the mid-18th century. Colloquy itself, though now the less common of the two words, has been a part of the English language since the 15th century. It is a descendant of Latin loquī, meaning "to speak." Other descendants of loquī in English include eloquent, loquacious, ventriloquism, and soliloquy, as well as elocution and interlocutor.

Apr 21, 2020
peccant
00:01:53

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 20, 2020 is:

1 : guilty of a moral offense : sinning

2 : violating a principle or rule : faulty

Examples:

"Cavil at Dylan Thomas's overdoings; praise this bit and dispraise that bit; but there he was, there he is, an emblem of poetry, which is Being itself…. And the world honored him for it, while chopping him to pieces…. It's the loony, peccant villagers of Under Milk Wood…. It’s Auntie Hannah in 'A Child's Christmas in Wales,' who liked port, and who stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush.'" — James Parker, The Atlantic, December 2014

"The book stands for all the right things, and is peccant only in two minor but irritating ways. That there are occasional errors—'deprecatingly' for 'depreciatingly,' 'a bookstore which' for 'a bookstore that,' a couple of faulty agreements and a captious attack on the useful word 'demythify'—is not so much Newman as human." — John Simon, Paradigms Lost, 1980

Did you know?

Peccant comes from the Latin verb peccare, which means "to sin," "to commit a fault," or "to stumble," and is related to the better-known English word peccadillo ("a slight offense"). Etymologists have suggested that peccare might be related to Latin ped- or pes, meaning "foot," by way of an unattested adjective, peccus, which may have been used to mean "having an injured foot" or "stumbling." Whether or not a connection truly exists between peccant and peccus, peccant itself involves stumbling of a figurative kind—making errors, for example, or falling into immoral, corrupt, or sinful behavior.

Apr 20, 2020
alienist
00:01:43

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2020 is:

alienist • \AY-lee-uh-nist\  • noun

Examples:

"Enter two protagonists, also historical figures. One is the novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, 'the most famous Spanish writer whom many English-speaking readers may not know by name or reputation.' The other is the eminent alienist (as psychiatrists were then called) Luis Simarro." — The Kirkus Reviews, 6 Mar. 2020

"Medical professionals (the kind known as 'alienists' in the 1930s) have tried to improve the level of sunshine in M. Kinsler's life with one miracle cure or another. There are anti-depressants, and mood elevators, and serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and all have side-effects." — Mark Kinsler, The Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle Gazette, 6 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Alienist looks and sounds like it should mean "someone who studies aliens," and in fact alienist and alien are related—both are ultimately derived from the Latin word alius, meaning "other." In the case of alienist, the etymological trail leads from Latin to the French noun aliéniste, which refers to a doctor who treats the mentally ill. Alienist first appeared in print in English about mid-19th century. It was preceded by the other alius descendants, alien (14th century) and alienate (used as a verb since the 15th century). Alienist is much rarer than psychiatrist these days, but at one time it was a common term.

Apr 19, 2020
alienist
00:01:43

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2020 is:

alienist • \AY-lee-uh-nist\  • noun

Examples:

"Enter two protagonists, also historical figures. One is the novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, 'the most famous Spanish writer whom many English-speaking readers may not know by name or reputation.' The other is the eminent alienist (as psychiatrists were then called) Luis Simarro." — The Kirkus Reviews, 6 Mar. 2020

"Medical professionals (the kind known as 'alienists' in the 1930s) have tried to improve the level of sunshine in M. Kinsler's life with one miracle cure or another. There are anti-depressants, and mood elevators, and serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and all have side-effects." — Mark Kinsler, The Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle Gazette, 6 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Alienist looks and sounds like it should mean "someone who studies aliens," and in fact alienist and alien are related—both are ultimately derived from the Latin word alius, meaning "other." In the case of alienist, the etymological trail leads from Latin to the French noun aliéniste, which refers to a doctor who treats the mentally ill. Alienist first appeared in print in English about mid-19th century. It was preceded by the other alius descendants, alien (14th century) and alienate (used as a verb since the 15th century). Alienist is much rarer than psychiatrist these days, but at one time it was a common term.

Apr 19, 2020
regurgitate
00:01:42

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 18, 2020 is:

regurgitate • \ree-GUR-juh-tayt\  • verb

1 : to become thrown or poured back

2 : to throw or pour back or out from or as if from a cavity

Examples:

"When [Kawhi] Leonard says, 'The youth is the future, and good education, they need it,' like he did Wednesday night in Phoenix, he's not just regurgitating a cliché. It's a sincere belief. After signing with the Clippers, the team's community relations team brought a number of service ideas to Leonard, with the team's superstar immediately zeroing in on efforts in public schools, in Moreno Valley, where he grew up, and in Los Angeles." — Dan Woike, The Los Angeles Times, 27 Feb. 2020

"Not only do wolves eat berries—something researchers were already aware of—but adult wolves also regurgitate them to feed their pups." — Pam Louwagie, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 22 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Something regurgitated has typically been taken in, at least partially digested, and then spit back out—either literally or figuratively. The word often appears in biological contexts (e.g., in describing how some birds feed their chicks by regurgitating incompletely digested food) or in references to ideas or information that has been acquired and restated. A student, for example, might be expected to learn information from a textbook or a teacher and then regurgitate it for a test. Regurgitate, which entered the English vocabulary in the latter half of the 16th century, is of Latin origin and traces back to the Latin word for "whirlpool," which is gurges.

Apr 18, 2020
vanilla
00:01:47

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 17, 2020 is:

1 : flavored with the extract of the vanilla bean

2 : lacking distinction : plain, ordinary, conventional

Examples:

"Training for sales, marketing and installation staff takes place in a series of small conference rooms on one side of the floor.… They're rather vanilla, but the company plans to enliven them by hiring graffiti artists to paint colorful murals on the parapet wall outside the windows." — Sandy Smith, Philadelphia Magazine, 14 Feb. 2019

"Joanna is frustrated that she's forbidden from sending more personal replies and breaks the rules at a certain point, with unexpected consequences. But apart from this tiny transgression, she's too vanilla to be a very compelling character." — Peter DeBruge, Variety, 20 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

How did vanilla get such a bad rap? The flavor with that name certainly has enough fans, with the bean of the Vanilla genus of orchids finding its way into products ranging from ice cream to coffee to perfumes to air fresheners. Vanilla's unfortunate reputation arose due to its being regarded as the "basic" flavor among ice-cream selections, particularly as more complex flavors emerged on the market. (Its somewhat beigey color probably didn't help.) From there, people began using the adjective to describe anything plain, ordinary, or conventional.

Apr 17, 2020
00:02:10

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 16, 2020 is:

1 : the symbolic staff of a herald; specifically : a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top

2 : a medical insignia bearing a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top:

a : one sometimes used to symbolize a physician but often considered to be an erroneous representation

b : the emblem of a medical corps or a department of the armed services (as of the United States Army)

Examples:

"The tattoo starts at Harry Crider's left shoulder…. It's a caduceus—a long staff, wrapped by intertwining snakes and topped with a pair of wings." — Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 20 Sept. 2019

"Symbols commonly associated with the medical or pharmaceutical professions would also be prohibited from being used by cultivation facilities or dispensaries under SB441. Items specifically mentioned include a cross of any color, a caduceus, 'or any symbol that is commonly associated with the practice of medicine, the practice of pharmacy, or health care in general.'" — Scott Liles, The Baxter Bulletin (Mountain Home, Arkansas), 28 Feb. 2019

Did you know?

The Greek god Hermes, who served as herald and messenger to the other gods, carried a winged staff entwined with two snakes. The staff of Aesculapius, the god of healing, had one snake and no wings. The word caduceus, from Latin, is a modification of Greek karykeion, from karyx, meaning "herald." Strictly speaking, caduceus should refer only to the staff of the herald-god Hermes (Mercury to the Romans), but in practice the word is often applied to the one-snake staff as well. You might logically expect the staff of Aesculapius to be the symbol of the medical profession—and indeed, that is the symbol used by the American Medical Association. But you will also quite frequently see the true caduceus used as a medical symbol.

Apr 16, 2020
deflagrate
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 15, 2020 is:

deflagrate • \DEF-luh-grayt\  • verb

1 : to burn rapidly with intense heat and sparks being given off

2 : to cause (something) to burn in such a manner

Examples:

Certain materials, such as black powder, will deflagrate rather than cause a violent explosion when they are ignited.

"Classification of substances by their sensitivity to impact and friction is particularly important for the handling of explosives. Some explosives are known to detonate on impact, whereas others will only deflagrate." — Jacqueline Akhavan, The Chemistry of Explosives, 2004

Did you know?

Deflagrate combines the Latin verb flagrare, meaning "to burn," with the Latin prefix de-, meaning "down" or "away." Flagrare is also an ancestor of such words as conflagration and flagrant and is distantly related to fulgent and flame. In the field of explosives, deflagrate is used to describe the burning of fuel accelerated by the expansion of gasses under the pressure of containment, which causes the containing vessel to break apart. In comparison, the term detonate (from the Latin tonare, meaning "to thunder") refers to an instant, violent explosion that results when shock waves pass through molecules and displace them at supersonic speed. Deflagrate has been making sparks in English since about 1727, and detonate burst onto the scene at around the same time.

Apr 15, 2020
umbra
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 14, 2020 is:

umbra • \UM-bruh\  • noun

1 a : a conical shadow excluding all light from a given source; specifically : the conical part of the shadow of a celestial body excluding all light from the primary source

b : the central dark part of a sunspot

Examples:

"Thus far, though, no one on the ISS has managed to 'thread the needle,' with a view passing through the narrow umbra of a total solar eclipse." — David Dickinson, Sky & Telescope, 4 Aug. 2017

"A penumbral lunar eclipse is scheduled for Friday (Jan. 10). No part of the moon enters Earth's much darker umbra, as happens during a partial or total lunar eclipse. But on Jan 10-11 (depending on your location), just about the best penumbral eclipse possible will occur." — Joe Rao, Space.com, 9 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

The Latin word umbra ("shade, shadow") has given English a range of words in addition to umbra itself. An umbrella can provide us with shade from the sun. So can an umbrageous tree. (In this case, umbrageous means "affording shade.") The connection to shade or shadow in other umbra words is less obvious. When we say someone takes umbrage, we mean they take offense, but in times past people used the word as a synonym of shade or shadow. These two senses of umbrage influenced umbrageous, which can mean "inclined to take offense easily" as well as "affording shade."

Apr 14, 2020
hypnagogic
00:02:03

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 13, 2020 is:

: of, relating to, or occurring in the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep

Examples:

"Many of us have experienced hypnagogic hallucinations, the often terrifying perceptions … that occur as we hover between sleep and wakefulness. Hallucinations tend to comprise shadowy figures nearby, often perceived as intruders." — Devon Frye, Psychology Today, 15 Aug. 2019

"Contrary to popular belief, clients don't usually lose consciousness and are in fact consciously aware throughout the hypnosis therapy session, although they may experience their attention drifts off as if in a hynagogic or dreamlike state." — Tim Dunton, quoted in The Express (UK), 16 July 2019

Did you know?

"The hypnagogic state is that heady lull between wakefulness and sleep when thoughts and images flutter, melt, and transform into wild things," wrote Boston Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid (October 1, 1998). Some scientists have attributed alien-abduction stories to this state, but for most people these "half-dreams" are entirely innocuous. Perhaps the most famous hypnagogic dream is that of the German chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz, who was inspired with the concept of the benzene ring by a vision of a snake biting its own tail. You're not dreaming if the Greek root hypn-, meaning "sleep," seems familiar—you've seen it in hypnotize. The root -agogic is from the Greek -agōgos, meaning "inducing," from agein meaning "to lead." We borrowed hypnagogic (also spelled hypnogogic) from French hypnagogique in the late 19th century.

Apr 13, 2020
hypnagogic
00:02:03

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 13, 2020 is:

: of, relating to, or occurring in the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep

Examples:

"Many of us have experienced hypnagogic hallucinations, the often terrifying perceptions … that occur as we hover between sleep and wakefulness. Hallucinations tend to comprise shadowy figures nearby, often perceived as intruders." — Devon Frye, Psychology Today, 15 Aug. 2019

"Contrary to popular belief, clients don't usually lose consciousness and are in fact consciously aware throughout the hypnosis therapy session, although they may experience their attention drifts off as if in a hynagogic or dreamlike state." — Tim Dunton, quoted in The Express (UK), 16 July 2019

Did you know?

"The hypnagogic state is that heady lull between wakefulness and sleep when thoughts and images flutter, melt, and transform into wild things," wrote Boston Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid (October 1, 1998). Some scientists have attributed alien-abduction stories to this state, but for most people these "half-dreams" are entirely innocuous. Perhaps the most famous hypnagogic dream is that of the German chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz, who was inspired with the concept of the benzene ring by a vision of a snake biting its own tail. You're not dreaming if the Greek root hypn-, meaning "sleep," seems familiar—you've seen it in hypnotize. The root -agogic is from the Greek -agōgos, meaning "inducing," from agein meaning "to lead." We borrowed hypnagogic (also spelled hypnogogic) from French hypnagogique in the late 19th century.

Apr 13, 2020
expiate
00:01:54

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 12, 2020 is:

expiate • \EK-spee-ayt\  • verb

1 : to extinguish the guilt incurred by

2 : to make amends for

Examples:

Although the editorial had characterized the mayor's failure to disclose the details of the meeting as a lapse that could not be expiated, many of the city's citizens seemed ready to forgive all.

"Batman sacrifices himself at the movie's climax—it's he who takes Dent's place, not the other way around—in an attempt to expiate not only his own guilt but also to assume the sins of the entire city." — Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times, 22 Aug. 2018

Did you know?

"Disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate." That ominous biblical prophecy (Isaiah 47:11, RSV) shows that expiate was once involved in confronting the forces of evil as well as in assuaging guilt. The word derives from the Latin expiare ("to atone for"), a combination of ex- and piare, which itself means "to atone for" as well as "to appease" and traces to the Latin pius ("pious"). Expiate originally referred to warding off evil by using sacred rites, or to using sacred rites to cleanse or purify something. By the end of the 16th century, English speakers were using it to mean "to put an end to." Those senses are now obsolete and only the "to extinguish the guilt" and "to make amends" senses remain in use.

Apr 12, 2020
pandiculation
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 11, 2020 is:

pandiculation • \pan-dik-yuh-LAY-shun\  • noun

: a stretching and stiffening especially of the trunk and extremities (as when fatigued and drowsy or after waking from sleep)

Examples:

"And finally pandiculation, a brain reflex action pattern similar to how a dog gets up from rest, putting his front paws out and lengthening his back as he relaxes his belly. Pandiculation can wake up the muscular system at the brain level and provide deep relaxation." — Jennifer Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 18 Sept. 2017

"Yawning is often accompanied by stretching of the body. This is called pandiculation. Humans yawn and so do animals, like dogs, chimpanzees, baboons and horses." — The Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), 26 Apr. 2015

Did you know?

Cat and dog owners who witness daily their pets' methodical body stretching upon awakening might wonder if there is a word to describe their routine—and there is: pandiculation. Pandiculation (which applies to humans too) is the medical term for the stretching and stiffening of the trunk and extremities, often accompanied by yawning, to arouse the body when fatigued or drowsy. The word comes from Latin pandiculatus, the past participle of pandiculari ("to stretch oneself"), and is ultimately derived from pandere, meaning "to spread." Pandere is also the source of expand.

Apr 11, 2020
permeate
00:01:40

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 10, 2020 is:

permeate • \PER-mee-ayt\  • verb

1 : to diffuse through or penetrate something

2 : to spread or diffuse through

3 : to pass through the pores or interstices of

Examples:

"As social media continues to permeate daily life, artists are also met with increasing demand from fans for content. Their enthusiasm is good for artists—but also challenging to satisfy." — Tatiana Cirisano, Billboard, 15 Mar. 2019

"Anna Talvi … has constructed her flesh-hugging clothing to act as a sort of 'wearable gym' to counter the muscle-wasting and bone loss caused by living in low gravity. She has also tried to tackle the serious psychological challenges of space exploration by permeating her fabrics with comforting scents." — Simon Ings, New Scientist, 18 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

It's no surprise that permeate means "to pass through something"—it was borrowed into English in the 17th century from Latin permeatus, which comes from the prefix per- ("through") and the verb meare, meaning "to go" or "to pass." Meare itself comes from an ancient root that may have also led to Middle Welsh and Czech words meaning "to go" and "to pass," respectively. Other descendants of meare in English include permeative, permeable, meatus ("a natural body passage"), and the relatively rare irremeable ("offering no possibility of return").

Apr 10, 2020
seder
00:01:57

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 9, 2020 is:

seder • \SAY-der\  • noun

: a Jewish home or community service including a ceremonial dinner held on the first or first and second evenings of the Passover in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt

Examples:

Ari enjoys the stories, songs, and rituals that accompany dinner on the night of the seder.

"In the private classes, the group will get to choose among three menus for their lesson. The first includes seder dishes such as tri-colored matzo ball soup, tomato leek California beef roast, … date-honey roasted vegetables and chocolate souffles." — Rebecca King, NorthJersey.com, 17 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Order and ritual are very important in the seder—so important that they are even reflected in its name: the English word seder is a transliteration of a Hebrew word (sēdher) that means "order." The courses in the meal, as well as blessings, prayers, stories, and songs, are recorded in the Haggadah, a book that lays out the order of the Passover feast and recounts the story of the Exodus. Each food consumed as part of the seder recalls an aspect of the Exodus. For instance, matzo (unleavened bread) represents the haste with which the Israelites fled ancient Egypt; maror (a mix of bitter herbs) recalls the bitterness of life as a slave; and a mixture of fruits and nuts called haroseth (or haroset/haroses or charoseth/charoset/charoses) symbolizes the clay or mortar the Israelites worked with as slaves.

Apr 09, 2020
berserk
00:01:36

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 8, 2020 is:

: frenzied, crazed — usually used in the phrase go berserk

Examples:

The dog inevitably goes berserk whenever he hears the doorbell.

"It was the first costume exhibit I had ever seen in my life. I didn't know such a thing even existed. And I was so excited and I went berserk.... So much of what was in the exhibit, I already owned." — Sandy Schreier, quoted in The Washington Post, 13 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Berserk comes from Old Norse berserkr, which combines ber- ("bear") and serkr ("shirt"). According to Norse legend, berserkrs were warriors who wore bearskin coverings and worked themselves into such frenzies during combat that they became immune to the effects of steel and fire. Berserk was borrowed into English (first as a noun and later as an adjective) in the 19th century, when interest in Scandinavian myth and history was high. It was considered a slang term at first, but it has since gained broader acceptance.

Apr 08, 2020
maverick
00:01:45

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 7, 2020 is:

maverick • \MAV-rik\  • noun

1 : an unbranded range animal; especially : a motherless calf
2 : an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party

Examples:

"'My record company wanted more of "The River & The Thread" but I couldn't do it,' she said. 'It seemed false. So I went in another direction.' It's not surprising for [Rosanne] Cash, who has been a maverick during her lengthy career, to go another way." — Ed Condran, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 6 Feb. 2020

"Audubon, a naturalist, artist, hunter, showman, and conservationist, was a maverick in his day, and his legacy has come to mean the very heart of bird conservation." — The Pontiac (Illinois) Daily Leader, 8 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

When a client gave Samuel A. Maverick 400 cattle to settle a $1,200 debt, the 19th-century south Texas lawyer had no use for them, so he left the cattle unbranded and allowed them to roam freely (supposedly under the supervision of one of his employees). Neighboring stockmen recognized their opportunity and seized it, branding and herding the stray cattle as their own. Maverick eventually recognized the folly of the situation and sold what was left of his depleted herd, but not before his name became synonymous with such unbranded livestock. By the end of the 19th century, the term maverick was being used to refer to individuals who prefer to blaze their own trails. Apr 07, 2020 incarcerate 00:01:44 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 6, 2020 is: incarcerate • \in-KAHR-suh-rayt\ • verb 1 : to put in prison 2 : to subject to confinement Examples: Because the accused man presented a serious threat to society, the judge ordered that he remain incarcerated while he awaited trial. "But he said that some research demonstrates that when incarcerated people earn a degree, recidivism rates can drop by as much as 40%." — Eliza Fawcett, The Hartford Courant, 24 Feb. 2020 Did you know? A criminal sentenced to incarceration may wish their debt to society could be canceled; such a wistful felon might be surprised to learn that incarcerate and cancel are related. Incarcerate comes from incarcerare, a Latin verb meaning "to imprison." That Latin root comes from carcer, meaning "prison." Etymologists think that cancel probably got its start when the spelling of carcer was modified to cancer, which means "lattice" in Latin—an early meaning of cancel in English was "to mark (a passage) for deletion with lines crossed like a lattice." Aside from its literal meaning, incarcerate has a figurative application meaning "to subject to confinement," as in "people incarcerated in their obsessions." Apr 06, 2020 forsooth 00:01:45 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 5, 2020 is: forsooth • \fer-SOOTH\ • adverb : in truth : indeed — often used to imply contempt or doubt Examples: "For sure and forsooth, that means savings for you, dear Renaissance-loving reveler, if you purchase your entry to the weekend-whimsical Irwindale festival by Jan. 6, 2020." —NBCLosAngeles.com, 26 Dec. 2019 "There is a man haunts the forest, that / abuses our young plants with carving 'Rosalind' on / their barks; hangs odes upon hawthorns and elegies / on brambles, all, forsooth, deifying the name of / Rosalind." — William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599 Did you know? Forsooth sounds like a dated word, but it is still part of modern English; it is primarily used in humorous or ironic contexts, or in a manner intended to play off the word's archaic vibe. Forsooth was formed from the combination of the preposition for and the noun sooth. Sooth survives as both a noun (meaning "truth" or "reality") and an adjective (meaning "true," "sweet," or "soft"), though it is rarely used by contemporary speakers and writers. It primarily lives on in the verb soothe (which originally meant "to show, assert, or confirm the truth of") and in the noun soothsayer (that is, "truthsayer"), a name for someone who can predict the future. Apr 05, 2020 solecism 00:02:10 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 4, 2020 is: solecism • \SAH-luh-siz-um\ • noun 1 : an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence; also : a minor blunder in speech 2 : something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order 3 : a breach of etiquette or decorum Examples: "We meet at the stroke of midday on an autumnal day in his West London apartment, where I instantly commit two sins from the Common list: being on time and being Scottish. My host kindly overlooks this double solecism and has made a jug of what he calls rosé cup…." — Jan Moir, The Daily Mail (UK), 14 Sept. 2019 "He even took private instruction in English, and succeeded in eliminating his worst faults, though in moments of excitement he was prone to lapse into 'you-all,' 'knowed,' 'sure,' and similar solecisms. He learned to eat and dress and generally comport himself after the manner of civilized man; but through it all he remained himself…." — Jack London, Burning Daylight, 1910 Did you know? The city of Soloi had a reputation for bad grammar. Located in Cilicia, an ancient coastal nation in Asia Minor, it was populated by Athenian colonists called soloikoi (literally "inhabitants of Soloi"). According to historians, the colonists of Soloi allowed their native Athenian Greek to be corrupted and started using words incorrectly. As a result, soloikos gained a new meaning: "speaking incorrectly." The Greeks used that sense as the basis of soloikismos, meaning "an ungrammatical combination of words." That root, in turn, gave rise to the Latin soloecismus, the direct ancestor of the English word solecism. Nowadays, solecism can refer to social blunders as well as sloppy syntax. Apr 04, 2020 solecism 00:02:10 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 4, 2020 is: solecism • \SAH-luh-siz-um\ • noun 1 : an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence; also : a minor blunder in speech 2 : something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order 3 : a breach of etiquette or decorum Examples: "We meet at the stroke of midday on an autumnal day in his West London apartment, where I instantly commit two sins from the Common list: being on time and being Scottish. My host kindly overlooks this double solecism and has made a jug of what he calls rosé cup…." — Jan Moir, The Daily Mail (UK), 14 Sept. 2019 "He even took private instruction in English, and succeeded in eliminating his worst faults, though in moments of excitement he was prone to lapse into 'you-all,' 'knowed,' 'sure,' and similar solecisms. He learned to eat and dress and generally comport himself after the manner of civilized man; but through it all he remained himself…." — Jack London, Burning Daylight, 1910 Did you know? The city of Soloi had a reputation for bad grammar. Located in Cilicia, an ancient coastal nation in Asia Minor, it was populated by Athenian colonists called soloikos (literally "inhabitant of Soloi"). According to historians, the colonists of Soloi allowed their native Athenian Greek to be corrupted and started using words incorrectly. As a result, soloikos gained a new meaning: "speaking incorrectly." The Greeks used that sense as the basis of soloikismos, meaning "an ungrammatical combination of words." That root, in turn, gave rise to the Latin soloecismus, the direct ancestor of the English word solecism. Nowadays, solecism can refer to social blunders as well as sloppy syntax. Apr 04, 2020 cocoon 00:01:37 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 3, 2020 is: cocoon • \kuh-KOON\ • verb : to wrap or envelop in or as if in a cocoon Examples: Lily got out of the water and cocooned herself in a large beach blanket. "By the time the United States entered World War I, France and England had been battling the Germans, the Turks and the Austro-Hungarians for nearly four years…. America, cocooned by great oceans, saw the struggle as distant and obscene." — Wayne Washington, The Palm Beach (Florida) Post, 23 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Since at least the late 1600s, English speakers have been using the noun cocoon for the silky covering that surrounds a caterpillar or other insect larva in the pupa stage of metamorphosis. The word derives, via French cocon, from Occitan coucoun, which, in turn, emerged from coco, an Occitan term for "shell." Linguists believe the Occitan term was probably born of the Latin word coccum, a noun that has been translated as kermes, which refers to the dried bodies of some insects that are sometimes found on certain trees. The verb cocoon has been with us since the latter half of the 19th century. Apr 03, 2020 pleonasm 00:01:45 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 2, 2020 is: pleonasm • \PLEE-uh-naz-um\ • noun 1 : the use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense (as in the man he said) : redundancy 2 : an instance or example of pleonasm Examples: The grammarian's recent post discussed pleonasms, such as "past history" and "personal friend." "Like most writers, I can be a stickler about language, but anyone who hangs out with me for long enough will learn that I favor a certain ungrammatical turn of phrase: 'true fact.' Technically speaking, that expression is a pleonasm—a redundant description—since all facts are, by definition, true." — Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 19 Dec. 2018 Did you know? Pleonasm, which stems (via Late Latin) from the Greek verb pleonazein, meaning "to be excessive," is a fancy word for "redundancy." It's related to our words plus and plenty, and ultimately it goes back to the Greek word for "more," which is pleōn. Pleonasm is commonly considered a fault of style, but it can also serve a useful function. "Extra" words can sometimes be helpful to a speaker or writer in getting a message across, adding emphasis, or simply adding an appealing sound and rhythm to a phrase—as, for example, with the pleonasm "I saw it with my own eyes!" Apr 02, 2020 loon 00:02:31 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 1, 2020 is: loon • \LOON\ • noun 1 : lout, idler 2 chiefly Scotland : boy 3 a : a crazy person b : simpleton Examples: "He eagerly races by local cop Tom … at 300 mph, unwittingly shedding magical blue hair as he goes. He also teases Crazy Carl …, the local loon who no one believes when he insists he's seen a blue alien. If you didn't know any better, you'd think Sonic wanted to get caught so he could have a family, friends, heck—a connection with anyone." — Dan Hudak, The Monterey County (California) Weekly, 13 Feb. 2020 "The third subscription … was Rolling Stone, the best introduction to counter-culture a 10-year-old could ever ask for…. I never understood the political writing, and I distinctly remember thinking Hunter S. Thompson was a loon. But when it came to the articles about musicians, I hung on every word." — Shane Brown, The Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), 27 Jan. 2020 Did you know? There are a number of theories about the origin of loon as it refers to a crazy person, its most common current meaning. One is that it comes from loony, meaning "crazy." But based on currently available evidence, loony is a late 19th-century alteration of lunatic that didn't come into use until decades after the meaning of loon in question. (It's still possible that loony influenced the development and spread of this meaning of loon.) Another guess is that this loon is from the avian loon, inspired either by the bird's maniacal cry or its displays to distract predators, such as skittering over water with its neck crooked. This is certainly possible, and is the origin story favored by some. But the story our dictionaries favor is a bit more quotidian: the current use of loon developed from earlier uses, primarily in Scottish and other northern dialects of British English, of loon to refer to a lout (an awkward, brutish person) or idler (someone who is idle, lazy, or inactive). While that loon, which is from Middle English loun, never spread to British English more broadly, immigrants from the regions where it was used had a significant influence on American English, and it's not far-fetched to posit that their loon developed into the distinctly American use of the word to refer to daffy people. Apr 01, 2020 plenary 00:02:18 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 31, 2020 is: plenary • \PLEN-uh-ree\ • adjective 1 : complete in every respect : absolute, unqualified 2 : fully attended or constituted by all entitled to be present Examples: "The President always retains the plenary power granted to him by the Constitution to pardon or commute sentences, and does so at his sole discretion, guided when he sees fit by the advice of the Pardon Attorney." — Nicole Navas, quoted in The Washington Post, 3 Feb. 2020 "The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union this Friday once the European Parliament gave their assent to the Withdrawal Agreement in a special plenary vote on Wednesday." — Aurora Bosotti, The Express (UK), 27 Jan. 2020 Did you know? In the 14th century, the monk Robert of Brunne described a situation in which all the knights of King Arthur's Round Table were present at court by writing, "When Arthures court was plener, and alle were comen, fer and ner.…" For many years, plener (also spelled plenar) served English well for both senses that we reserve for plenary today. But we'd borrowed plener from Anglo-French, and, although the French had relied on Latin plenus ("full") for their word, the revival of interest in the Classics during the English Renaissance led scholars to prefer purer Latin origins. In the 15th century, English speakers turned to Late Latin plenarius and came up with plenary. (Plenarius also comes from plenus, which is the source of our plenty and replenish as well.) Mar 31, 2020 laissez-faire 00:02:41 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 30, 2020 is: laissez-faire • \less-ay-FAIR\ • noun 1 : a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights 2 : a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference especially with individual freedom of choice and action Examples: "Though often viewed as an age of laissez-faire, the Victorian period saw ambitious lawmaking. Much of this involved revising existing legislation: one result was the expansion of the middle-class bureaucracy…." — Henry Hitchings, The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, 2011 "In the late nineteenth century, a new generation of economists, who had returned from training in Germany to challenge the laissez-faire orthodoxy of the American Gilded Age, gradually rose to prominence at Wharton. They argued that the government should intervene to address widening inequality of industrial capitalism." — David Sessions, The New Republic, March 2020 Did you know? The French phrase laissez faire literally means "allow to do," with the idea being "let people do as they choose." The origins of laissez-faire are associated with the Physiocrats, a group of 18th-century French economists who believed that government policy should not interfere with the operation of natural economic laws. The actual coiner of the phrase may have been French economist Vincent de Gournay, or it may have been François Quesnay, who is considered the group's founder and leader. The original phrase was laissez faire, laissez passer, with the second part meaning "let (things) pass." Laissez-faire, which first showed up in an English context in the first half of the 19th century, can still mean "a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs," but it is also used in broader contexts in which a "hands-off" or "anything-goes" policy or attitude is adopted. It is frequently used attributively before another noun. Mar 30, 2020 quixotic 00:02:06 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 29, 2020 is: quixotic • \kwik-SAH-tik\ • adjective 1 : foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action Examples: "'Amazon' covers nearly a quarter-century of business history, from [Jeff] Bezos' rise at a data-obsessed Wall Street hedge fund to his seemingly quixotic attempt to crash into the book business." — The New Jersey Herald, 18 Feb. 2020 "Gary Garrels, SFMoMA's senior curator of painting and sculpture, needed about ten years to put it together, in part because Celmins, who turns eighty-one in October, is so quixotic about how, and when, her work is seen."— Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, 26 Aug. 2019 Did you know? If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century Spanish novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (in English "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha") didn't change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote's beloved, has come to mean "mistress" or "sweetheart," and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old, broken-down horse, comes from the name of the hero's less-than-gallant steed, Rocinante. Mar 29, 2020 derogate 00:02:06 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 28, 2020 is: derogate • \DAIR-uh-gayt\ • verb 1 : to cause to seem inferior : disparage 2 : to take away a part so as to impair : detract 3 : to act beneath one's position or character Examples: "While one could argue that the phrase ['OK Boomer'] in itself derogates the very term used to describe an older age bracket of generational Baby Boomers (those born between the 1940s and 1960s), it would be more useful to examine how and when people use such a new phrase." — Kameryn Griesser, The Battalion (Texas A & M University), 19 Nov. 2019 "All jobs require us at some point to deliver bad news—whether it be a minor revelation such as a recruiter telling a prospective employee that there's no wiggle-room in salary, or something major, like when a manager must fire an employee.… Our research shows that people are prone to derogating those who tell them things they don't want to hear—we shoot the messenger." — Leslie K. John et al., The Harvard Business Review, 16 Apr. 2019 Did you know? Most of us encounter derogatory, the adjective meaning "expressing a low opinion," more frequently than we do derogate, its less common verb relation, but the verb is older; it first appeared in English in the 15th century, while derogatory wasn't adopted until the early 16th. Both words can be traced back to the Late Latin word derogatus, which is the past participle of the verb derogare, meaning "to detract" or "to annul (a law)." Derogare, in turn, derives from the Latin word for "ask," rogāre. Other derogate relatives include derogative, derogation, and derogatorily. Mar 28, 2020 cordial 00:01:59 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 27, 2020 is: cordial • \KOR-jul\ • adjective 1 a : showing or marked by warm and often hearty friendliness, favor, or approval : politely pleasant and friendly b : sincerely or deeply felt 2 : tending to revive, cheer, or invigorate Examples: Even though we disagree with one another on many points, we have long maintained a cordial relationship. "Last Wednesday, three members of the Taste Test team had lunch at All City Grille…. The experience was wholly pleasant. The dining room is modern and clean, the student servers were cordial and efficient, and the food was well-prepared and well-priced." — Dan Kane, The Repository (Canton, Ohio), 12 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Cordial shares the Latin root cor with concord (meaning "harmony") and discord (meaning "conflict"). Cor means "heart," and each of these cor descendants has something to do with the heart, at least figuratively. Concord, which comes from con- (meaning "together" or "with") plus cor, suggests that one heart is with another. Discord combines the prefix dis- (meaning "apart") with cor, and it implies that hearts are apart. When cordial was first used in the 14th century, it literally meant "of or relating to the heart," but this sense has not been in use since the 17th century. Today anything that is cordial, be it a friendly welcome, a compliment, or an agreement, comes from the heart in a figurative sense. Mar 27, 2020 ninja 00:02:14 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 26, 2020 is: ninja • \NIN-juh\ • noun : a person trained in ancient Japanese martial arts and employed especially for espionage and assassinations Examples: "Mando's one-man raid on the client's compound is lit darkly to better convey that our gunslinger can also operate like a ninja, but in the process it made the action there a bit harder to make out than some of the fight scenes from the two previous weeks." — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 22 Nov. 2019 "Clyde was on the fire escape. As he ambled back and forth, preening, Boicourt grabbed a purple bath towel. She threw it over the bird and pulled him into her apartment. 'I felt like a ninja,' she said. The creature bit her, hard, on the pinkie." — Katia Bachko, The New Yorker, 23 Dec. 2019 Did you know? Ninjas may seem mysterious, but the origin of their name is not. The word ninja derives from the Japanese characters nin and ja. Nin initially meant "persevere," but over time it developed the extended meanings "conceal" and "move stealthily." In Japanese, ja is the combining form of sha, meaning "person." Ninjas originated in the mountains of ancient Japan as practitioners of ninjutsu, a martial art sometimes called "the art of stealth" or "the art of invisibility." They often served as military spies and were trained in disguise, concealment, geography, meteorology, medicine, and also the arts of combat and self-defense we associate with modern martial arts. Popular legends still identify them with espionage and assassinations, but modern ninjas are most likely to study ninjutsu to improve their physical fitness and self-defense skills. Mar 26, 2020 gibe 00:02:00 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 25, 2020 is: gibe • \JYBE\ • verb 1 : to utter taunting words 2 : to deride or tease with taunting words Examples: "My PR firm introduced Tom and me, and I came ready to impress. I had read every piece he had written in the last five years. I playfully gibed him about obscure predictions he had made years ago in other articles, and was prepared to thoughtfully discuss his most recent column." — Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone, 2005 "'Anybody who complains about the microphone,' she gibed, is not having a good night.'" — Mark Z. Barabak et al., The Los Angeles Times, 27 Sept. 2016 Did you know? Confused about jibe and gibe? The distinction actually isn't as clear-cut as some commentators would like it to be. Jibe is used both for the verb meaning "to be in accord" or "agree" (as in "the results do not jibe with those from other studies") and for the nautical verb and noun referring to the act of shifting a sail from one side to the other ("jibe the mainsail," "a risky jibe in heavy seas"). Gibe is used as a verb and noun for derisive teasing or taunting. But jibe is also a recognized variant of gibe, so it too has teasing or taunting uses. Gibe has been used occasionally as a variant of jibe, but the use is not common enough to warrant dictionary entry, and is widely considered an error. Mar 25, 2020 timorous 00:01:56 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 24, 2020 is: timorous • \TIM-uh-rus\ • adjective 1 : of a timid disposition : fearful 2 : expressing or suggesting timidity Examples: The study suggests that timorous people suffer from stress more frequently than their bolder peers. "Perhaps most disappointing was the 1935 'Mosaic Quartet'…, a collection of five short movements that the performers can play and repeat in whatever order they choose. It's the kind of innovation that sounds intriguing in theory, but … they felt mild and even timorous in comparison with Cage's much wilder spirit." — Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle, 20 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Timid and timorous don't just have similar spellings and meanings; they are etymologically related as well. Both words ultimately derive from the Latin verb timēre, meaning "to fear." The immediate ancestor of timid is Latin timidus (with the same meaning as timid), whereas timorous traveled to Middle English by way of the Latin noun timor ("fear") and the Medieval Latin adjective timorosus. Timid may be the more common of the two words, but timorous is older. It first appeared in English in the mid-15th century; timid came on the scene a century later. Both words can mean "easily frightened" (as in "a timid mouse" or "a timorous child") as well as "indicating or characterized by fear" (as in "he gave a timid smile" or "she took a timorous step forward"). Mar 24, 2020 welkin 00:02:05 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 23, 2020 is: welkin • \WEL-kin\ • noun 1 a : the vault of the sky : firmament b : the celestial abode of God or the gods : heaven 2 : the upper atmosphere Examples: "If you stand in the trees you might see … owls, vibrant red cardinals and goldfinches lift into the welkin." — Emily Clark, The Carver Reporter (Plymouth, Massachusetts), 25 June 2018 "The night was dim, but not dark; no moon shone, but the stars, wan though frequent, gleamed pale, as from the farthest deeps of the heaven; clouds grey and fleecy rolled slowly across the welkin, veiling and disclosing, by turns, the melancholy orbs." — Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings, 1848 Did you know? When it comes to welkin, the sky's the limit. This heavenly word has been used in English to refer to the vault of the sky for centuries, and it derives from an Old English word meaning "cloud." In current English, welkin is still flying high, and it is often teamed with the verb ring to suggest a loud noise or an exuberant expression of emotion, as in "the welkin rang with the sound of the orchestra" or "her hearty laugh made the welkin ring." These contemporary phrases echo an older use—the original words of a carol that once began "Hark, how all the welkin ring," which we now know as "Hark! The herald angels sing." Mar 23, 2020 lampoon 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 22, 2020 is: lampoon • \lam-POON\ • verb : to make the subject of a satire : ridicule Examples: "From 'Seinfeld' to 'Veep,' I think [Julia] Louis-Dreyfus' greatness lies in her ability to savagely skewer the ridiculousness of the men around her while simultaneously lampooning herself." — Jake Coyle, The Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2020 "Ultimately, Craig, a struggling mystery writer, comes up with what he thinks is the perfect crime, but not quite with the results he expected. That's the premise behind Nick Hall's Dead Wrong…. As a playwright, Hall isn't afraid to lampoon the most hallowed gimmicks and creates a clever mystery about a man living off his wife's fortune, a man who plans the perfect murder." — Richard Hutton, The Fort Erie Post (Ontario, Canada), 12 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Lampoon can be a noun or a verb. The noun lampoon (meaning "satire" or, specifically, "a harsh satire usually directed against an individual") was first used in English in the 17th century and is still found in use, especially in the names of humor publications such as The Harvard Lampoon. Both the noun and the verb come from the French lampon, which probably originated from lampons, the first person plural imperative of the verb lamper, meaning "to guzzle." So what is the connection? Lampons! (meaning "Let us guzzle!") was a frequent refrain in 17th-century French satirical poems. Mar 22, 2020 incommunicado 00:01:42 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 21, 2020 is: incommunicado • \in-kuh-myoo-nuh-KAH-doh\ • adverb or adjective : without means of communication : in a situation or state not allowing communication Examples: Their government has agreed to give the Red Cross access to the prisoners who are being held incommunicado. "[Tommy Lee] Jones' character is his father, a world-renowned hero astronaut who has been incommunicado for 16 years after venturing to Neptune on a mission to find signs of intelligent life in the great beyond." — Soren Andersen, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington), 18 Sept. 2019 Did you know? Incommunicado ultimately comes from Latin but made its way into English via the Spanish incomunicado. We borrowed the word (with a slightly modified spelling) from the past participle of the Spanish verb incomunicar, meaning "to deprive of communication." The Spanish word, in turn, derives from the Latin prefix in- and the verb communicare, meaning "to communicate." Mar 21, 2020 fusty 00:01:57 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 20, 2020 is: fusty • \FUSS-tee\ • adjective 1 British : impaired by age or dampness : moldy 2 : saturated with dust and stale odors : musty 3 : rigidly old-fashioned or reactionary Examples: "She was there as an intermediary to translate the fusty old world of politics to a feisty new generation." — Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe, 13 Jan. 2020 "In a city facing the extinction of that rather prickly creature known as fine dining, it's nice to take a seat at GOMA and get properly coddled. Not, as you might be thinking, in a 1980-something, musty, fusty, rigid kind of way. But it has linen on the table, gorgeous crockery and service that's slick and glossy—almost formal, but not quite." — Tony Harper, The Brisbane (Australia) News, 12 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Fusty probably derives from the Middle English word foist, meaning "wine cask," which in turn traces to the Medieval Latin word fustis, meaning "tree trunk" or "wood." So how did fusty end up meaning "old-fashioned"? Originally, it described wine that had gotten stale from sitting in the cask for too long; fusty literally meant that the wine had the "taste of the cask." Eventually any stale food, especially damp or moldy food, was called "fusty." Those damp and moldy connotations were later applied to musty places, and later still to anything that had lost its freshness and interest—that is, to anything old-fashioned. Mar 20, 2020 viridity 00:02:07 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 19, 2020 is: viridity • \vuh-RID-uh-tee\ • noun 1 a : the quality or state of being green b : the color of grass or foliage 2 : naive innocence Examples: The bright colors of spring training baseball, with its blue Florida skies and the viridity of its playing fields, annually gave Roger hope and comfort after a bleak New England winter. "Many single people wish they had a partner. Many married people wish they were single again. Oh, that grass, that fence, that trick of the light that alters the intensity of the viridity. We want what we haven't got." — Oscar Cainer, The Scottish Daily Mail, 9 Sept. 2016 Did you know? Viridity is simply a highfalutin way to say "greenness" in both its literal and figurative senses. Greenness goes all the way back to Old English grēnnes, from grēne ("green"), a word akin to Old English grōwan ("to grow"). Viridity did not enter the language until the 15th century, when it was adopted into Middle English as viridite. The ultimate source of viridity is Latin viriditas ("greenness"), itself drawn from the root viridis ("green"). Viridis is also the source (by way of Middle French verdoyant) of English verdant, as well as verdancy, yet another fancy synonym for "greenness." Mar 19, 2020 abbreviate 00:01:57 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 18, 2020 is: abbreviate • \uh-BREE-vee-ayt\ • verb : to make briefer; especially : to reduce (a word or name) to a shorter form intended to stand for the whole Examples: Due to time constraints, the last speaker at the ceremony had to abbreviate her speech. "New Mexico's legislative sessions are abbreviated from 60 to 30 days in even years and limited in the scope of what can be considered." — Patrick Kulp, Adweek.com, 9 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Abbreviate and abridge both mean "to make shorter," so it probably will come as no surprise that both derive from Latin brevis, meaning "short." Abbreviate first appeared in print in English in the 15th century and derives from abbreviātus, the past participle of Late Latin abbreviāre, which in turn can be traced back to brevis. Abridge, which appeared a century earlier, also comes from abbreviāre but took a side trip through the Anglo-French abreger before arriving in Middle English as abreggen. Brevis is also the ancestor of English brief itself, as well as brevity and breviary ("a prayer book" or "a brief summary"), among other words. Mar 18, 2020 crwth 00:01:41 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 17, 2020 is: crwth • \KROOTH\ • noun : an ancient Celtic stringed instrument that is plucked or bowed> quote here Examples: An Irish journeyman is expected to perform at the St. Patrick's Day celebration; he is an accomplished player of the hornpipe and crwth. "Rae embarked on her first journey into songwriting and multi-instrumentalism with If Only I Could Fly [May 2013], featuring her prowess on fiddle, vocals, guitar and the crwth…." — Emeraldrae.com Did you know? Crwth, which comes to us from Welsh, is the name for an ancient Celtic instrument that is similar to a violin. In Middle English, the instrument's name was spelled crouth before metamorphosing to crowd, a word still used in some dialects of England to refer to a violin. Crwth can also refer to a swelling or bulging body, and we can speculate that it came to be used for the instrument because of the violin's bulging form. Other Celtic words for the violin also have meanings referring to rounded shapes. In Irish, for example, cruit can mean "harp" or "violin" as well as "hump" or "hunch." Mar 17, 2020 crwth 00:01:41 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 17, 2020 is: crwth • \KROOTH\ • noun : an ancient Celtic stringed instrument that is plucked or bowed Examples: An Irish journeyman is expected to perform at the St. Patrick's Day celebration; he is an accomplished player of the hornpipe and crwth. "Rae embarked on her first journey into songwriting and multi-instrumentalism with If Only I Could Fly [May 2013], featuring her prowess on fiddle, vocals, guitar and the crwth…." — Emeraldrae.com Did you know? Crwth, which comes to us from Welsh, is the name for an ancient Celtic instrument that is similar to a violin. In Middle English, the instrument's name was spelled crouth before metamorphosing to crowd, a word still used in some dialects of England to refer to a violin. Crwth can also refer to a swelling or bulging body, and we can speculate that it came to be used for the instrument because of the violin's bulging form. Other Celtic words for the violin also have meanings referring to rounded shapes. In Gaelic, for example, cruit can mean "harp" or "violin" as well as "hump" or "hunch." Mar 17, 2020 palpate 00:01:57 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 16, 2020 is: palpate • \PAL-payt\ • verb : to examine by touch especially medically Examples: "Therapy, though, felt different to me. I found performing a concrete task with specific steps, such as palpating an abdomen or starting an IV, less nerve-racking than figuring out how to apply the numerous abstract psychological theories I'd studied over the past several years to the hundreds of possible scenarios that any one therapy patient might present." — Lori Gottlieb, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, 2019 "A heel spur is a hard and usually painful area in the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches itself to the heel bone. When the area is examined and palpated, there is a feeling of hard bone rather than the soft suppleness of the Achilles tendon." — Robert Weiss, The Fairfield (Connecticut) Citizen, 29 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Palpate has been part of the English language since the 19th century. It was probably coined from the preexisting noun form palpation, which itself traces back to the Latin verb palpare, meaning "to stroke or caress." Other descendants of palpare in English include palpable (an adjective that might describe a tense moment that can be "felt"), palpitate (what the heart does when it beats so hard that it can be felt through the chest), and the verb palp ("to touch or feel"). Even feel itself is a distant cousin of palpitate, as both words can be linked to the same ancient root word that gave Latin palpare. Mar 16, 2020 minutia 00:01:46 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 15, 2020 is: minutia • \muh-NOO-shee-uh\ • noun : a minute or minor detail — usually used in plural Examples: The book argues that it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life and fail to notice important opportunities. "Bart has the soul of an artist, but his mind is like this steel trap of information that has details on everything from the minutia of legislation to the lyrics of every hit song that's ever been written." — Beckie Foster, quoted in The Tennessean, 10 Nov. 2019 Did you know? Minutia was borrowed into English in the 18th century from the Latin plural noun minutiae, meaning "trifles" or "details," and derived from the singular noun minutia, meaning "smallness." In English, minutia is most often used in the plural as either minutiae (pronounced \muh-NOO-shee-ee) or, on occasion, as simply minutia. The Latin minutia, incidentally, comes from minutus, an adjective meaning "small" that was created from the verb minuere, meaning "to lessen." A familiar descendant of minutus is minute. Mar 15, 2020 hoise 00:02:03 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 14, 2020 is: hoise • \HOYZ\ • verb : lift, raise; especially : to raise into position by or as if by means of tackle Examples: "The closest Brennan has come to hoising the AHL's holy grail has been the conference finals on a couple of occasions, most recently with the Toronto Marlies." — Dave Isaac, The Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey), 5 May 2018 "The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Ole Miss receiver ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, posted a 40.5 inch vertical and hoised 225 pounds on the bench 27 times." — James Koh, The Daily News (New York), 6 Mar. 2019 Did you know? The connection between hoise and hoist is a bit confusing. The two words are essentially synonymous variants, but hoist is far more common; hoise and its inflected forms hoised and hoising are infrequently used. But a variant of its past participle shows up fairly frequently as part of a set expression. And now, here's the confusing part: that variant past participle is hoist! The expression is "hoist with (or by) one's own petard," which means "victimized or hurt by one's own scheme." This oft-heard phrase owes its popularity to William Shakespeare's Hamlet in which the titular character says, "For 'tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petar[d]." (A petard is a medieval explosive. The quote implies that the engineer—the person who sets the explosive device—is blown into the air by the explosion of his own device.) Mar 14, 2020 ambidextrous 00:02:05 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 13, 2020 is: ambidextrous • \am-bih-DEK-strus\ • adjective 1 a : using both hands with equal ease or dexterity b soccer : using both feet with equal ease : two-footed 2 : designed or suitable for use by the left or right hand 3 : unusually skillful : versatile 4 : characterized by duplicity : double-dealing Examples: "Holiday is ambidextrous. He is the rare basketball player who shoots jump shots with one hand (right) but prefers to finish inside with the other (left)." — Christian Clark, NOLA.com (New Orleans, Louisiana), 2 Dec. 2019 "Miyamoto … also tells her he's ambidextrous and can use chopsticks with either hand, so if they go out for sushi, she can sit on either side." — Ben Flanagan, AL.com (Alabama), 5 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Latin dexter originally meant "related to or situated on the right side," but since most people do things better with the right hand, dexter developed the sense of "skillful" (as demonstrated by our word dexterous). In 1646, English physician and author Sir Thomas Browne combined dexter with the Latin prefix ambi- (meaning "both") to form ambidextrous: "Some are ... ambidextrous or right-handed on both sides," he wrote. The word can also describe the kind of mental agility demonstrated by one with multiple diverse talents, such as the ambidextrous leader who successfully works with a diverse team to meet goals. Mar 13, 2020 retronym 00:02:16 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 12, 2020 is: retronym • \RET-roh-nim\ • noun : a term (such as analog watch, film camera, or snail mail) that is newly created and adopted to distinguish the original or older version, form, or example of something (such as a product) from other, more recent versions, forms, or examples Examples: "… first came paperback book, differentiated from a book with a cloth or leather binding, provoking the retronym hardcover book." — William Safire, The New York Times Magazine, 18 Nov. 2007 "You can get a good sense of the pace of change over the past century just by looking at the retronyms we've accumulated. New technologies have forced us to come up with terms like steam locomotive, silent movie, manual transmission, AM radio, day baseball, conventional oven, and acoustic guitar." — Geoffrey Nunberg, Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times, 2004 Did you know? Remember way back when cameras used film? Back then, such devices were simply called cameras; they weren't specifically called film cameras until they needed to be distinguished from the digital cameras that came later. Similarly, the term desktop computer wasn't often used until laptops became prevalent. A lot of our common retronyms have come about due to technological advances: acoustic guitar emerged to contrast with electric guitar, and brick-and-mortar store to distinguish traditional stores from online retailers. Retronym was coined by Frank Mankiewicz, an American journalist and former president of National Public Radio, and was first seen in print in 1980. Mar 12, 2020 Byzantine 00:02:57 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 11, 2020 is: Byzantine • \BIZ-un-teen\ • adjective 1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the ancient city of Byzantium 2 architecture : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of architecture developed in the Byzantine Empire especially in the fifth and sixth centuries featuring the dome carried on pendentives over a square and incrustation with marble veneering and with colored mosaics on grounds of gold 3 Christianity : of or relating to the churches using a traditional Greek rite and subject to Eastern canon law 4 often not capitalized a : of, relating to, or characterized by a devious and usually surreptitious manner of operation b : intricately involved : labyrinthine Examples: "Unlike most Greek Orthodox churches in the U.S., though, St. Anna won't have a traditional Byzantine dome. While that might seem unusual, Savas said, it's hardly unheard of—there are churches in Greece that were built without that architectural feature." — Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Feb. 2020 "Following chases through small byzantine alleys and tiny Casbah-influenced streets, makes you feel so … James Bond-like!" — Cassandra Emp-Parsons, The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, West Virginia), 5 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Today, the city that lies on the Bosporus Strait in Turkey is named Istanbul, but it was once known as Constantinople (a name given to it when it became the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire), and in ancient times, it was called Byzantium. Its history is exotic—filled with mystics, wars, and political infighting—and over time the word Byzantine (from Late Latin Byzantinus, the name for a native of Byzantium) became synonymous with anything characteristic of the city or empire, from architecture to intrigue. The figurative sense referring to a devious manner of operation first appeared in the late 1930s. It was popularized by frequent use in reference to the Soviet Union, whose secrecy and despotism were equated by Westerners with what went on in the old Byzantine Empire. Mar 11, 2020 escapade 00:01:56 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 10, 2020 is: escapade • \ESS-kuh-payd\ • noun : a usually adventurous action that runs counter to approved or conventional conduct Examples: "There was a report that people with spotlights were turning picnic tables on their end and using them for snow escapades on Pine Street and West Second Street in Cle Elum." — The Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington), 22 Jan. 2020 "There was a dramatic escalation in the Senate's milk-drinking escapades. We've written about the trial rules limiting beverage consumption in the Senate chamber to just milk and water, and over the past week several senators have been spotted drinking regular milk at their desks. On Tuesday, Senator Mitt Romney, an important vote in the trial, took it to another level: He brought a bottle of chocolate milk." — Noah Weiland, The New York Times, 28 Jan. 2020 Did you know? When it was first used in English, escapade referred to an act of escaping or fleeing from confinement or restraint. The relationship between escape and escapade does not end there. Both words derive from the Vulgar Latin verb excappare, meaning "to escape," a product of the Latin prefix ex- and the Late Latin noun cappa, meaning "head covering or cloak." While escape took its route through Anglo-French and Middle English, however, escapade made its way into English by way of the Spanish escapar ("to escape") and the French escapade. Mar 10, 2020 devise 00:02:13 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 9, 2020 is: devise • \dih-VYZE\ • verb 1 a : to form in the mind by new combinations or applications of ideas or principles : invent b : to plan to obtain or bring about : plot 2 : to give (real estate) by will Examples: The author's childhood home was devised to the city, and the Historical Commission will turn it into a museum devoted to her life and her works of fantasy and science fiction. "There are efforts to devise an FDA-approved method for diagnosing concussion, including new blood tests, advanced brain scans, and systems that use artificial intelligence to read them." — Scott Eden, Men's Health, 12 Dec. 2019 Did you know? There's something inventive about devise, a word that stems from Latin dividere, meaning "to divide." By the time devise began being used in early Middle English, its Anglo-French forebear deviser had accumulated an array of senses, including "divide," "distribute," "arrange," "array," "digest," "order," "plan," "invent," "contrive," and "assign by will." English adopted most of these and added some new senses over the course of time, such as "imagine," "guess," "pretend," and "describe." In modern use, we've disposed of a lot of the old meanings, but we have kept the one that applies to wills; devise has traditionally referred to the transfer of real property (land), and bequeath to personal property. These days, this devise is most often recognized as applying generally to all the property in a person's estate. Mar 09, 2020 chapfallen 00:02:00 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 8, 2020 is: chapfallen • \CHAP-faw-lun\ • adjective 1 : having the lower jaw hanging loosely 2 : cast down in spirit : depressed Examples: "His appearance caused shouts of merriment in the camp,—but Tom for once could not join in the mirth raised at his expense: he was completely chapfallen…." — Washington Irving, Adventures of Captain Bonneville, 1837 "This season or next, don't bet on them turning a profit without making the playoffs. They need to do that next year to satisfy perennially chapfallen fans, if nothing else." — David J. Neal, The Miami Herald, 7 Feb. 2006 Did you know? A variant spelling of the adjective chapfallen is chopfallen, a spelling that may help us to better understand this somewhat unusual word. The chap in chapfallen is a word that dates back to at least the 16th century. It refers to the fleshy covering of the jaw or to the jaw itself and is often used in the plural, as in "the wolf licked its chaps." If that phrase doesn't seem quite right to you, it is likely because you are more familiar with chops, an alteration of chaps, which is also used to refer to the jaw or the mouth. Fallen is the past participle of fall. Thus, to be chapfallen or chopfallen is, literally, to have one's jaw in a fallen or lower position, which is a physical sign of dejection. Mar 08, 2020 sea change 00:02:07 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 7, 2020 is: sea change • \SEE-CHAYNJ\ • noun 1 archaic : a change brought about by the sea 2 : a marked change : transformation Examples: "Something was operating to make these marginal views more acceptable, something of which I had no inkling…. Something that it would not be an exaggeration to call a sea change in the whole culture, a transvaluation of values—for which there are many names." — Susan Sontag, Where the Stress Falls, 2001 "It's a scenario that's getting more common for traditional retailers as they find themselves under pressure from a sea change in where and how people are shopping. Retailers like Barneys and RadioShack have found themselves on the brink twice—going through a bankruptcy filing once, emerging, and then heading back to court, again." — Lauren Thomas, CNBC.com, 3 Feb. 2020 Did you know? In William Shakespeare's The Tempest, a sea change is a change brought about by the sea, as illustrated by the words of the sprite Ariel to Ferdinand, said to make the prince believe that his father has perished in a shipwreck: "Full fathom five thy father lies...; / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / into something rich and strange." This meaning of sea change is the original one, but it's now archaic. Long after sea change had gained its figurative meaning—that of any marked or permanent transformation—writers nonetheless continued to allude to Shakespeare's literal one; Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, and P.G. Wodehouse all used the term as an object of the verb suffer, but now a sea change is just as likely to be undergone or experienced. Mar 07, 2020 oleaginous 00:01:47 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 6, 2020 is: oleaginous • \oh-lee-AJ-uh-nus\ • adjective 1 : resembling or having the properties of oil : oily; also : containing or producing oil 2 : marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality Examples: The clerk's charm is in the eye of the beholder: where some see a quick smile and ready compliment, others see an oleaginous demeanor. "The antagonists (calling them villains would go too far) were superbly embodied by Catherine Cook as Marcellina …, Greg Fedderly as the oleaginous Basilio, and James Creswell as Dr. Bartolo…." — Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle, 15 Oct. 2019 Did you know? The oily oleaginous slipped into English via Middle French oleagineux, coming from Latin oleagineus, meaning "of an olive tree." Oleagineus itself is from Latin olea, meaning "olive tree," and ultimately from Greek elaia, meaning "olive." Oleaginous was at first used in a literal sense, as it still can be. An oleaginous substance is simply oily, and an oleaginous plant produces oil. The word took on its extended "ingratiating" sense in the 19th century. Mar 06, 2020 filch 00:02:02 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 5, 2020 is: filch • \FILCH\ • verb : to steal secretly or casually Examples: "Last November, thieves broke into a jewel room at the Royal Palace in Dresden, Germany, and took off with an array of precious jewelry…. One piece they failed to filch, however, was the Dresden Green, an elaborate diamond hat pin crafted around an extremely rare, almond-shaped celadon-green diamond." — Sebastian Smee, The Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2020 "The family that lived there previously had been in it for 50 years, so it hadn't been abandoned like so many other fixer-uppers near downtown. That was good news because many of the home's small treasures—vintage glass doorknobs, wall sconces—hadn't been filched or damaged." — Richard A. Marini, The San Antonio Express-News, 6 Aug. 2019 Did you know? "I am glad I am so acquit of this tinder-box: his thefts were too open; his filching was like an unskilful singer—he kept not time." So says Falstaff in William Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Bard was fond of filch in both its literal and figurative uses; Iago, for example, says to Othello, "But he that filches from me my good name / Robs me of that which not enriches him / And makes me poor indeed." Filch derives from the Middle English word filchen ("to attack" or "to steal") and perhaps from Old English gefylce ("band of men, troop, army"). As a noun, filch once referred to a hooked staff used by thieves to snatch articles out of windows and from similar places, but this use is now obsolete. Mar 05, 2020 filch 00:02:02 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 5, 2020 is: filch • \FILCH\ • verb : to steal secretly or casually Examples: "Last November, thieves broke into a jewel room at the Royal Palace in Dresden, Germany, and took off with an array of precious jewelry…. One piece they failed to filch, however, was the Dresden Green, an elaborate diamond hat pin crafted around an extremely rare, almond-shaped celadon-green diamond." — Sebastian Smee, The Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2020 "The family that lived there previously had been in it for 50 years, so it hadn't been abandoned like so many other fixer-uppers near downtown. That was good news because many of the home's small treasures—vintage glass doorknobs, wall sconces—hadn't been filched or damaged." — Richard A. Marini, The Houston Chronicle, 18 Aug. 2019 Did you know? "I am glad I am so acquit of this tinder-box: his thefts were too open; his filching was like an unskilful singer—he kept not time." So says Falstaff in William Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Bard was fond of filch in both its literal and figurative uses; Iago, for example, says to Othello, "But he that filches from me my good name / Robs me of that which not enriches him / And makes me poor indeed." Filch derives from the Middle English word filchen ("to attack" or "to steal") and perhaps from Old English gefylce ("band of men, troop, army"). As a noun, filch once referred to a hooked staff used by thieves to snatch articles out of windows and from similar places, but this use is now obsolete. Mar 05, 2020 albeit 00:01:48 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 4, 2020 is: albeit • \awl-BEE-it\ • conjunction Examples: Kara's big break as an actress came in a big-budget Academy Award-nominated movie, albeit in a minor role where she played a hotel clerk. "He admitted hitting a home run at Wrigley was 'a dream come true,' albeit with a big twist. Originally the dream had him wearing a Cubs uniform." — Paul Sullivan, The Chicago Tribune, 19 June 2019 Did you know? Albeit dates to the 14th century and comes from a Middle English word meaning, literally, "all (or completely) though it be." Its heritage is clear in its pronunciation, which is as though it were three words instead of one: all, be, it. In the early 20th century, albeit was accused of being archaic. That descriptor was never quite accurate; the word had mostly been holding steady at "not-terribly-common" since at least the mid-18th century. When albeit began to see a marked increase in use in the mid-20th century, several usage commentators proclaimed that it was making a comeback, and its "archaic" descriptor was fully recognized as no longer apt. Mar 04, 2020 rectitudinous 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 3, 2020 is: rectitudinous • \rek-tuh-TOO-duh-nus\ • adjective 1 : characterized by the quality of being honest and morally correct 2 : piously self-righteous Examples: The senatorial candidate's supporters insist that he is possessed of a rectitudinous character and a spotless record. "In a personal boycott of the Mongol regime, with its prejudicial attitude toward many native-born Chinese scholars, Ni took to living a fugitive's life on houseboat, always on the move, painting soundless little vistas of river and sky, with thin bare trees standing as symbols of his own rectitudinous isolation." — Holland Cotter, The New York Times, 30 Sept. 2010 Did you know? Rectitudinous comes to us straight from Late Latin rectitudin-, rectitudo (English added the -ous ending), which itself ultimately derives from the Latin word rectus, meaning both "straight" and "right." (Other rectus descendants in English include rectitude, of course, and rectilinear, rectangle, and rectify.) In one of its earliest known print appearances, in the year 1897, it was used in the phrase "notoriously and unctuously rectitudinous." Although rectitude often expresses an admirable moral integrity, rectitudinous has always had a less flattering side. It can suggest not only moral uprightness but also a displeasing holier-than-thou attitude. Mar 03, 2020 perquisite 00:01:56 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 2, 2020 is: perquisite • \PER-kwuh-zut\ • noun 1 : a privilege, gain, or profit incidental to regular salary or wages; especially : one expected or promised 2 : gratuity, tip 3 : something held or claimed as an exclusive right or possession Examples: One of the job's perquisites is use of a company car. "American consumers want choices, employers like using health insurance as a perquisite and competition improves efficiency." — Chris Tomlinson, The Houston Chronicle, 15 Dec. 2019 Did you know? Looking to acquire a job loaded with perquisites, or "perks" (a synonym of perquisites)? Don't give up the search! Make plenty of inquiries, send out an exquisitely crafted resume, and follow up with queries. Your quest may result in your conquering of the job market. After all, today's word perquisite derives from Latin perquirere, which means "to search for thoroughly." That Latin word, in turn, is from the verb quaerere, meaning "to ask" or "to seek." Seven other words in this paragraph are from quaerere as well—acquire, inquiries, exquisitely, queries, conquering, quest, and, of course, perk (which was formed by shortening and altering perquisite). Mar 02, 2020 interpolate 00:02:09 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 1, 2020 is: interpolate • \in-TER-puh-layt\ • verb 1 a : to alter or corrupt (something, such as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter b : to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation 2 : to insert between other things or parts : intercalate 3 : to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values 4 : to make insertions (as of estimated values) Examples: "But his reputation rested equally on his abilities as a composer and arranger for large ensembles, interpolating bebop's crosshatched rhythms and extended improvisations into lush tapestries." — Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times, 26 Jan. 2020 "Both movies interpolate familiar actors' evocatively animated faces into stylized worlds; the effect is gorgeous but unsettling, less like watching a movie in a new medium than like watching it in a dream." — Judy Berman, Time, 9 Sept. 2019 Did you know? Interpolate comes from Latin interpolare, a verb with various meanings, among them "to refurbish," "to alter," and "to falsify." (The polare part comes from polire, meaning "to polish.") Interpolate entered English in the 17th century and was applied early on to the alteration (and in many cases corruption) of texts by insertion of additional material. Modern use of interpolate still suggests the insertion of something extraneous or spurious, as in "she interpolated her own commentary into the report." Mar 01, 2020 untenable 00:01:48 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 29, 2020 is: untenable • \un-TEN-uh-bul\ • adjective 1 : not able to be defended 2 : not able to be occupied Examples: Faced with a budget deficit, the company's CEO made the untenable decision to lay off several upper management employees while still making sure he received a salary bonus. "At noon on February 20, tanks from the 8th Panzer Regiment slammed into the British two miles north of Kasserine Pass on Highway 17. For the next six hours, the Tommies yielded one untenable hill after another." — Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, 2002 Did you know? Untenable and its opposite tenable come to us from Old French tenir ("to hold, have possession of") and ultimately from Latin tenēre ("to hold, occupy, possess"). We tend to use untenable in situations where an idea or position is so off base that holding onto it is unjustified or inexcusable. One way to hold onto the meaning of untenable is to associate it with other tenēre descendants whose meanings are associated with "holding" or "holding onto." Tenacious ("holding fast") is one example. Others are contain, detain, sustain, maintain, and retain. Feb 29, 2020 coax 00:02:11 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 28, 2020 is: coax • \KOHKS\ • verb 1 : to influence or gently urge by caressing or flattering : wheedle 2 : to draw, gain, or persuade by means of gentle urging or flattery 3 : to manipulate with great perseverance and usually with considerable effort toward a desired state or activity Examples: "Toasting the pine nuts until they're properly golden brown to the center and not just on the surface is key in coaxing out maximum flavor." — Molly Willett, Bon Appétit, December 2019/January 2020 "Recycling is still important, but it's not the whole answer to our problem with getting rid of 'stuff.' What we really need is to shut our eyes and ears to the advertising that coaxes us to buy more, and spend our money on only the things we really need." — Dorothy Turcotte, The Grimsby Lincoln (Ontario) News, 6 Jan. 2020 Did you know? In the days of yore, if you made a "cokes" of someone, you made a fool of them. Cokes—a now-obsolete word for "fool"—is believed to be the source of the verb coax, which was first used in the 16th century (with the spelling cokes) to mean "to make a fool of." Soon, the verb also took on the kinder meaning of "to make a pet of." As might be expected, the act of "cokesing" was sometimes done for personal gain. By the 17th century, the word was being used in today's senses that refer to influencing or persuading people by kind acts or words. By the 19th century, the spelling cokes had fallen out of use, along with the meanings "to make a fool of" and "to make a pet of." Feb 28, 2020 trenchant 00:01:50 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 27, 2020 is: trenchant • \TREN-chunt\ • adjective 1 : keen, sharp 2 : vigorously effective and articulate; also : caustic 3 a : sharply perceptive : penetrating Examples: "Felix had a confident, gayly trenchant way of judging human actions which Mr. Wentworth grew little by little to envy; it seemed like criticism made easy." — Henry James, The Europeans, 1878 "Whether you view it as a trenchant treatise on the contemporary effects of Marxism, or just a wonderfully odd glimpse into a fading star of the fashion industry, Celebration is at turns beguiling, fascinating, and true, which is what one should want and need out of a documentary." — Josh Kupecki, The Austin Chronicle, 18 Oct. 2019 Did you know? The word trenchant comes from the Anglo-French verb trencher, meaning "to cut," and may ultimately derive from the Vulgar Latin trinicare, meaning "to cut in three." Hence, a trenchant sword is one with a keen edge; a trenchant remark is one that cuts deep; and a trenchant observation is one that cuts to the heart of the matter. Relatives of trenchant in English include the noun trench ("a long ditch cut into the ground") and the verb retrench ("to cut down or pare away" or "to cut down expenses"). Feb 27, 2020 injunction 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 26, 2020 is: injunction • \in-JUNK-shun\ • noun 1 : the act or an instance of enjoining : order, admonition 2 : a court order requiring a party to do or refrain from doing a specified act Examples: The family gathered in the room to hear the matriarch's dying injunctions. "The Benton County district filed a lawsuit asking for the division of fees to be declared unconstitutional and seeking an injunction to have the disputed money held in escrow." — Tom Sissom, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 22 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Injunction derives, via Anglo-French and Late Latin, from the Latin verb injungere, which in turn is based on jungere, meaning "to join." Like our verb enjoin, injungere means "to direct or impose by authoritative order or with urgent admonition." (Not surprisingly, enjoin is also a descendant of injungere.) Injunction has been around in English since at least the 15th century, when it began life as a word meaning "authoritative command." In the 16th century, it developed a legal second sense applying to a court order. It has also been used as a synonym of conjunction, another jungere descendant meaning "union," but that sense is extremely rare. Feb 26, 2020 injunction 00:01:52 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 26, 2020 is: injunction • \in-JUNK-shun\ • noun 1 : the act or an instance of enjoining : order, admonition 2 : a court order requiring a party to do or refrain from doing a specified act Examples: The family gathered in the room to hear the matriarch's dying injunctions. "The Benton County district filed a lawsuit asking for the division of fees to be declared unconstitutional and seeking an injunction to have the disputed money held in escrow." — Tom Sissom, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 22 Jan. 2020 Did you know? Injunction derives, via Anglo-French and Late Latin, from the Latin verb injungere, which in turn is based on jungere, meaning "to join." Like our verb enjoin, injungere means "to direct or impose by authoritative order or with urgent admonition." (Not surprisingly, enjoin is also a descendant of injungere.) Injunction has been around in English since at least the 15th century, when it began life as a word meaning "authoritative command." In the 16th century, it developed a legal second sense applying to a court order. It has also been used as a synonym of conjunction, another jungere descendant meaning "union," but that sense is extremely rare. Feb 26, 2020 dissemble 00:02:18 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 25, 2020 is: dissemble • \dih-SEM-bul\ • verb 1 : to hide under a false appearance 2 : to put on the appearance of : simulate 3 : to put on a false appearance : to conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under some pretense Examples: "The front room of the gallery will feature the artist's new work presented in large scale and a salon style arrangement of miniature vignettes that dissemble various elements of his inhabited landscapes." — The Register-Star (Hudson, New York), 14 Nov. 2019 "She nodded again, and her eyes closed. It was very pleasant to Darrow that she made no effort to talk or to dissemble her sleepiness. He sat watching her till the upper lashes met and mingled with the lower, and their blent shadow lay on her cheek; then he stood up and drew the curtain over the lamp, drowning the compartment in a bluish twilight." — Edith Wharton, The Reef, 1912 Did you know? We don't have anything to hide: dissemble is a synonym of disguise, cloak, and mask. Disguise implies a change in appearance or behavior that misleads by presenting a different apparent identity ("The prince disguised himself as a peasant"). Cloak suggests a means of hiding a movement or an intention ("The military operation was cloaked in secrecy"). Mask suggests some often obvious means of hiding or disguising something ("The customer smiled to mask her discontent"). Dissemble (from Latin dissimulare, meaning "to disguise or conceal") stresses the intent to deceive, especially about one's own thoughts or feelings, and often implies that the deception is something that would warrant censure if discovered. Feb 25, 2020 acumen 00:01:49 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 24, 2020 is: acumen • \AK-yoo-mun\ • noun : keenness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination especially in practical matters Examples: The author's detective possesses a superior acumen that enables her to solve the most bizarre and puzzling of mysteries. "Much of Pei's business acumen was shaped early on in his career, in the late 1940s. After receiving his master's from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, he taught for two years alongside Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School, whom he had also studied under." — Spencer Bailey and Alex Scimecca, Fortune, 19 May 2019 Did you know? A keen mind and a sharp wit can pierce the soul as easily as a needle passes through cloth. Remember the analogy between a jabbing needle and piercing perception, and you will readily recall the history of acumen. Our English word retains the spelling and figurative meaning of its direct Latin ancestor, a term that literally means "sharp point." Latin acūmen traces to the verb acuere, which means "to sharpen" and is related to acus, the Latin word for "needle." In its earliest English uses, acumen referred specifically to a sharpness of wit. In modern English, it conveys the sense that someone is perceptive enough to grasp a situation quickly and clever enough to apply that ability. Feb 24, 2020 misbegotten 00:01:55 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 23, 2020 is: misbegotten • \miss-bih-GAH-tun\ • adjective 1 : unlawfully conceived : illegitimate 2 a : having a disreputable or improper origin : ill-conceived Examples: The city's misbegotten attempt to install new traffic signals at the busy intersection only caused greater confusion for motorists. "Stillness fills the remaining six pictures. Paradoxically, each presents evidence of human activity: a harbor city, a partly constructed building, a garbage truck, a muddy road, a cat sitting curbside and a rusty engine from a military plane that crashed in 1942 and now rests in the landscape, like a misbegotten icon." — David Pagel, The Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2019 Did you know? In the beginning, there was the Old English begiten, and begiten begot the Middle English begotyn, and begotyn begot the modern English begotten, and from thence sprung misbegotten. That description may be a bit flowery, but it accurately traces the path that led to misbegotten. All of the Old English and Middle English ancestors listed above basically meant the same thing as the modern begotten, the past participle of beget, meaning "to father" or "to produce as an effect or outgrowth." That linguistic line brought forth misbegotten by adding the prefix mis- (meaning "wrong," "bad," or "not") in the mid-1500s. Feb 23, 2020 pontificate 00:01:58 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 22, 2020 is: pontificate • \pahn-TIF-uh-kayt\ • verb 1 : to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way 2 a : to officiate as a pontiff b : to celebrate pontifical mass Examples: Stan loves to hear himself talk and will often pontificate on even the most trivial issues. "If a talker's objective through nonstop chatter is to impress others, I have a life lesson worth sharing. People generally are resentful and/or bored by hearing another pontificate about the greatness of themselves." — Mike Masterson, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 28 Dec. 2019 Did you know? In ancient Rome, the pontifices were powerful priests who administered the part of civil law that regulated relationships with the deities recognized by the state. Their name, pontifex, derives from the Latin words pons, meaning "bridge," and facere, meaning "to make," and some think it may have developed because the group was associated with a sacred bridge over the river Tiber (although there is no proof of that). With the rise of Catholicism, the title pontifex was transferred to the Pope and to Catholic bishops. Pontificate derives from pontifex, and in its earliest English uses it referred to things associated with such prelates. By the late 1800s, pontificate was also being used derisively for individuals who spoke as if they had the authority of an ecclesiastic. Feb 22, 2020 numismatic 00:02:01 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 21, 2020 is: numismatic • \noo-muz-MAT-ik\ • adjective 1 : of or relating to the study or collection of coins, tokens, and paper money 2 : of or relating to currency : monetary Examples: Andrew brought his father's collection of 19th-century coins to an antique dealer to find out if any were of numismatic value. "Many a well-meaning metal detector enthusiast has taken aggressive measures to clean the old coins they unearth—including harsh scrubbing and abrasives like sandpaper. The coin may come out as bright and shiny as the day it was new, but its value can be destroyed in the process. Whatever the condition of the coin, it's probably better to consult with a local coin collectors' or numismatic group or experts before doing anything that can't be reversed." — Mason Dockter, The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, 30 Oct. 2019 Did you know? The first metal coins are believed to have been used as currency by the Lydians, a people of Asia Minor, during the 7th century B.C.E., and it is likely that folks began collecting coins not long after that. The name that we give to the collection of coins today is numismatics, a word that also encompasses the collection of paper money and of medals. The noun numismatics and the adjective numismatic came to English (via French numismatique) from Latin and Greek nomisma, meaning "coin." Nomisma in turn derives from the Greek verb nomizein ("to use") and ultimately from the noun nomos ("custom" or "law"). From these roots we also get numismatist, referring to a person who collects coins, medals, or paper money. Feb 21, 2020 judgment 00:02:25 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 20, 2020 is: judgment • \JUJ-munt\ • noun 1 a : the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing b : an opinion or estimate so formed 2 a : the capacity for judging : discernment b : the exercise of this capacity 3 a : a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion b : an opinion so pronounced 4 : a formal decision given by a court 5 : a divine sentence or decision Examples: Theresa showed good judgment by clearing her family out of the house as soon as she smelled gas. "The March hotel-tax increase and a$900 million housing bond proposal on the November ballot await judgment from voters." — Michael Smolens, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

Judgment can also be spelled judgement, and usage experts have long disagreed over which spelling is the preferred one. Henry Fowler asserted that "the OED [Oxford English Dictionary] prefers the older & more reasonable spelling. Judgement is therefore here recommended…." William Safire held an opposite opinion, writing, "My judgment is that Fowler is not to be followed on his spelling of judgement." Judgement is in fact the older spelling, but it dropped from favor and for centuries judgment was the only spelling to appear in dictionaries. That changed when the OED (Fowler's source) was published showing judgement as an equal variant. Today, judgment is more popular in the U.S., whereas both spellings make a good showing in Britain.

Feb 20, 2020
00:02:10

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 19, 2020 is:

1 : to do away with as completely as if by pulling up by the roots

2 : to pull up by the roots

Examples:

"The golf-cart fleet is fully powered by lithium batteries, food and horticultural waste is processed into fertilizer for the course, and a simple edict that every agronomy worker must handpick 15 weeds daily before quittin' time has all but eradicated the need for chemical treatments." — Max Alder, The Golf Digest, 16 Dec. 2019

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Feb 19, 2020
bootless
00:01:48

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 18, 2020 is: