Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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Subscribers: 627
Reviews: 4

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Very concise and includes interesting info like etymology or historical references.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

Description

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

Episode Date
misnomer
00:01:55

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 21, 2019 is:

misnomer • \miss-NOH-mer\  • noun

1 : the misnaming of a person in a legal instrument

2 a : a use of a wrong or inappropriate name

b : a wrong name or inappropriate designation

Examples:

"When you see flashes along the horizon on a summer night, it could be lightning within a storm that's more than 100 miles away. 'Heat lightning' is a misnomer—they're just ordinary strikes that lack thunder and appear diffuse when witnessed from a long distance." — John Boyer, The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 27 June 2019

"Ten candidates will debate for two hours each night Wednesday and Thursday—although 'debate' is something of a misnomer, in the Lincoln-Douglas sense of the word, given the time constraints and limited ability for great depth or lengthy engagement." — Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan, The Los Angeles Times, 25 June 2019

Did you know?

What's in a name? Well, in some cases, a name will contain an error, a misunderstanding, or a mislabeling. Historians have long noted that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. The Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill. And the Pennsylvania Dutch are in fact of German ancestry. For such cases, we have the term misnomer, which comes from the Anglo-French verb mesnomer ("to misname") and ultimately has its roots in nomen, the Latin word for "name."



Aug 21, 2019
ethereal
00:02:13

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2019 is:

ethereal • \ih-THEER-ee-ul\  • adjective

1 a : of or relating to the regions beyond the earth

b : celestial, heavenly

c : unworldly, spiritual

2 a : lacking material substance : immaterial, intangible

b : marked by unusual delicacy or refinement

c : suggesting the heavens or heaven

3 : relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

Examples:

"Like Howe's Omniverse, van Herpen's finale piece used aluminum and stainless steel on the skeleton, covering it with a thin layer of feathers that ruffled, turning as if graced with gust of wind. The penultimate look channeled the same ethereal vibe, featuring laser-cut strips of fabric that give the appearance of pulsating angel wings." — Barry Samaha, Surface, 2 July 2019

"Colored Everything has an air of maturity about it. … What you'll hear is seemingly endless layers of airy, ethereal sound that makes you wonder what kinds of instruments are being used to create such sounds." — Jon Bodell, The Concord (New Hampshire) Insider, 18 June 2019

Did you know?

If you're burning to know the history of ethereal, you're in the right spirit to fully understand that word's etymology. The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was composed of earth, air, fire, and water, but that the heavens and its denizens were made of a purer, less tangible substance known as either ether or quintessence. Ether was often described as an invisible light or fire, and its name derives from the Greek aithein, a verb meaning "to ignite" or "to blaze." When ethereal, the adjectival kin of ether, debuted in English in the 1500s, it referred to regions beyond the Earth or anything that seemed to originate from there.



Aug 20, 2019
brandish
00:01:46

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2019 is:

brandish • \BRAN-dish\  • verb

1 : to shake or wave (something, such as a weapon) menacingly

2 : to exhibit in an ostentatious or aggressive manner

Examples:

Michael appeared before the town council brandishing a petition signed by 500 people asking the town to increase funding for the public skate park.

"Our plates of crisply battered cod, chips and mushy peas and our drinks arrived and we set to. Atticus ate with his fingers…. 'Do you know how to use a knife and fork?' I said to him, purely out of interest. He said he did know and he picked them up and brandished them at me to prove it. The fork was in his right hand, the knife in his left. 'Bravo,' I said." — Jeremy Clarke, The Spectator, 21 July 2018

Did you know?

Often when we encounter the word brandish in print, it is soon followed by a word for a weapon, such as knife or handgun. That's appropriate given the word's etymology: it is a descendant of the Middle English braundisshen, which derives, via brandiss- (a stem of the Anglo-French brandir), from brant, braund, meaning "sword." Nowadays you can brandish things other than weapons, however. The figurative usage of brandish rose alongside its earliest literal usage in the 14th century. When you brandish something that isn't a weapon (such as a sign), you are in effect waving it in someone's face so that it cannot be overlooked.



Aug 19, 2019
hiatus
00:02:09

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2019 is:

hiatus • \hye-AY-tus\  • noun

1 a : a break in or as if in a material object : gap

b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ

2 a : an interruption in time or continuity : break; especially : a period when something (as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted

b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

Examples:

"The bus service will run from Dec. 3 to Dec. 21 before going on hiatus for the holidays. Regular service will resume on Jan. 7." — Alison Brownlee, The Huntsville Forester, November 27, 2012

"It's a new era for pop/rockstar Adam Lambert. After a four-year hiatus from his solo career, during which he became the new frontman for Queen, the singer returned earlier this year with two new singles and the announcement of his upcoming fourth studio album Velvet." — Stephen Daw, Billboard.com, 19 June 2019

Did you know?

Hiatus comes from hiare, a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, British novelist Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, hiatus is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).



Aug 18, 2019
tortuous
00:02:14

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 17, 2019 is:

tortuous • \TOR-chuh-wus\  • adjective

1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding

2 a : marked by devious or indirect tactics : crooked, tricky

b : circuitous, involved

Examples:

"What a cast! A tsunami of lawyers, such as William Evarts, Benjamin Butler and others swept over Washington with a vengeance, launching long-winded speeches—one lasted 14 hours—and tortuous explanations of policies." — Sam Coale, The Providence Journal, 23 May 2019

"Introduced to the Tour in 2012, the Planche des Belles Filles ascent immediately became a classic. Set up in the Vosges mountains, it is steep, tortuous and brutal, featuring a 20 percent gradient at the top." — Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press, 1 July 2019

Did you know?

Be careful not to confuse tortuous with torturous. These two words are relatives—both ultimately come from the Latin verb torquere, which means "to twist," "to wind," or "to wrench"—but tortuous means "winding" or "crooked," whereas torturous means "painfully unpleasant." Something tortuous (such as a twisting mountain road) might also be torturous (if, for example, you have to ride up that road on a bicycle), but that doesn't make these words synonyms. The twists and turns that mark a tortuous thing can be literal ("a tortuous path" or "a tortuous river") or figurative ("a tortuous argument" or "a tortuous explanation"), but you should consider choosing a different descriptive term if no implication of winding or crookedness is present.



Aug 17, 2019
satiate
00:02:11

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 16, 2019 is:

satiate • \SAY-shee-ayt\  • verb

: to satisfy (a need, a desire, etc.) fully or to excess

Examples:

After eating three pieces of pie and one of cake at the potluck, Jamie's sweet tooth was finally satiated.

"While the battles between Shazam and his arch enemy Thaddeus Sivana … will satiate superhero fans, the emotional center of the movie is the Philadelphia foster family that embraces Billy." — Brian Truitt, USA Today, 3 Apr. 2019

Did you know?

Satiate, sate, surfeit, cloy, pall, glut, and gorge all mean to fill to repletion. Satiate and sate sometimes imply only complete satisfaction but more often suggest repletion that has destroyed interest or desire, as in "Years of globe-trotting had satiated their interest in travel" and "Readers were sated with sensationalistic stories." Surfeit implies a nauseating repletion, as in "They surfeited themselves with junk food," while cloy stresses the disgust or boredom resulting from such surfeiting, "The strong scent of the flowers cloyed her." Pall emphasizes the loss of ability to stimulate interest or appetite—for example, "A life of leisure eventually began to pall." Glut implies excess in feeding or supplying, as in "a market glutted with diet books," and gorge suggests glutting to the point of bursting or choking, "They gorged themselves with chocolate."



Aug 16, 2019
miscible
00:01:57

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 15, 2019 is:

miscible • \MISS-uh-bul\  • adjective

: capable of being mixed; specifically : capable of mixing in any ratio without separation of two phases

Examples:

Oil and water are not miscible—if you pour oil in a glass of water, it will float to the top. 

"Although the alkalized cocoa was not completely soluble in milk or water, it was more miscible than any other cocoa product, blending more evenly in solution…." — Deborah Cadbury, Chocolate Wars, 2010

Did you know?

Miscible isn't simply a lesser-known synonym of mixable—it's also a cousin. It comes to us from the Medieval Latin adjective miscibilis, which has the same meaning as miscible and which derives, in turn, from Latin miscēre, meaning "to mix." Miscēre is also the ultimate source of our mix; its past participle mixtus (meaning "mixed") spawned mixte in Anglo-French and Middle English, and mix came about as a back-formation of mixte. The suffix -able gives us mixable, thereby completing its link to miscible. Miscible turns up most frequently in scientific discussions where it is used especially to describe fluids that don't separate when they are combined.



Aug 15, 2019
garniture
00:01:58

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 14, 2019 is:

garniture • \GAHR-nih-cher\  • noun

1 : embellishment, trimming

2 : a set of decorative objects (such as vases, urns, or clocks)

Examples:

"Above the fireplace: a scene of a cow jumping over the moon, in an elaborate gilt frame. On the mantle below, we see a clock…, flanked by garniture sturdy enough to be a murder weapon out of Agatha Christie." — Rumaan Alam, Slate, 23 Aug. 2016

"Once upon a time, this was probably one of a pair of vases that comprised a garniture set used to decorate a Victorian mantel. Its mate has vanished into the lost and found of history, but this one with its superb craftsmanship remains a thing of beauty." — Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson, The New Hampshire Union Leader, 29 June 2019

Did you know?

In Middle French, garniture meant "accessory." It is an alteration of the Old French noun garneture, which is derived from the verb garnir, which meant "to equip, trim, or decorate." In fact, an Anglo-French stem of garnir, garniss-, is the source of the English verb garnish, which in its senses of "to decorate" and "to embellish" shares a similar relationship to garniture that the verb furnish shares with furniture. Furnish comes from the Anglo-French furniss-, a stem of the verb furnir or fournir, which also gave rise to the Middle French fourniture, the source of the English furniture.



Aug 14, 2019
smite
00:02:14

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 13, 2019 is:

smite • \SMYTE\  • verb

1 : to strike sharply or heavily especially with the hand or an implement held in the hand

2 a : to kill or severely injure by so striking

b : to attack or afflict suddenly and injuriously

3 : to cause to strike

4 : to affect as if by striking

5 : captivate, take

Examples:

The cartoon's villain was, as tradition would have it, smote by an anvil dropping mysteriously from the sky.

"Down the street, Teresa Benner's 1963, 23-window Volkswagen van was also turning heads. She bought it recently when it came up at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona. She was smitten at first sight." — Joel Mills, The Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune, 23 June 2019

Did you know?

Today's word has been part of the English language for a very long time; the earliest documented written use dates to the 12th century. Smite can be traced back to the Old English smītan, meaning "to smear or defile." Smītan is akin to the Scottish word smit, meaning "to stain, contaminate, or infect," as well as to the Old High German bismīzan, "to defile." In addition to its "strike" and "attack" senses, smite has a softer side. As of the mid-17th century, it can mean "to captivate or take"—a sense that is frequently used in the past participle in such contexts as "smitten by her beauty" or "smitten with him" (meaning "in love with him"). Its past tense is smote.



Aug 13, 2019
plaintive
00:01:51

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 12, 2019 is:

plaintive • \PLAYN-tiv\  • adjective

: expressive of suffering or woe : melancholy

Examples:

"Dean Nicholson was pedaling up a hill in Bosnia … when he heard a plaintive meow. He looked over his shoulder. In the lambent December light, he saw a gray-and-white kitten chasing him up the incline." — Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 Apr. 2019

"[Stevie] Wonder did perform a plaintive cover of the John Lennon classic 'Imagine' for his penultimate number—a statement piece that he's incorporated on his tours since the 1990s, and which he noted as being 'still relevant,' despite originally coming out in 1971." — Mara Reinstein, Billboard.com, 25 June 2019

Did you know?

Like its relative plangent, plaintive is often used to describe sad sounds. "A plaintive wail," for example, is a common use. Plaintive and plangent (along with relatives plaintiff and complain) ultimately derive from the Latin verb plangere, meaning "to strike," "to beat one's breast," or "to lament." This Latin verb led to plaint, an Anglo-French word (and now also an English word) meaning "lamentation." Plaint is the root of Middle English plaintif (meaning "lamenting" or "complaining"), which gave rise to plaintive as well as the noun plaintiff.



Aug 12, 2019