Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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Reviews: 5


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Very concise and includes interesting info like etymology or historical references.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

Description

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

Episode Date
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

1 : sleight of hand

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:

fictitious • \fik-TISH-us\  • adjective

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
troubadour
00:01:53

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

troubadour • \TROO-buh-dor\  • noun

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:

lissome • \LISS-um\  • adjective

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

2 : adventure, exploit

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
advocate
00:01:54

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

advocate • \AD-vuh-kayt\  • verb

: 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:

capricious • \kuh-PRISH-us\  • adjective

: 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:

eolian • \ee-OH-lee-un\  • adjective

: 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:

palmy • \PAH-mee\  • adjective

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:

empirical • \im-PEER-uh-kul\  • adjective

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:

homonymous • \hoh-MAH-nuh-mus\  • adjective

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:

shaggy-dog • \shag-ee-DAWG\  • adjective

: 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?

New Jersey's Camden and Amboy Railroad was the first in the U.S. to adopt the cowcatcher, adding it to its John Bull locomotive in the early 1830s. But, as the Model Railroader Cyclopedia warned, "don't ever let a railroad man hear you use 'cowcatcher.'" In its heyday, railroad workers preferred the name pilot for that v-shaped frame. In the 1940s and '50s, cowcatcher jumped the tracks and took on a new life in TV and radio advertising jargon. The term was used for a commercial that was aired immediately before a program and that advertised a secondary product of the program's sponsor. Such ads apparently got the name because they "went in front."



May 21, 2020
neoteric
00:01:37

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

neoteric • \nee-uh-TAIR-ik\  • adjective

: 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:

exiguous • \ig-ZIG-yuh-wus\  • adjective

: excessively scanty : inadequate

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:

bodacious • \boh-DAY-shuss\  • adjective

1 Southern & Midland : outright, unmistakable

2 : remarkable, noteworthy

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:

lorn • \LORN\  • adjective

: 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:

gratuitous • \gruh-TOO-uh-tuss\  • adjective

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:

disingenuous • \dis-in-JEN-yuh-wuss\  • adjective

: 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:

arboreal • \ahr-BOR-ee-ul\  • adjective

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:

obstinate • \AHB-stuh-nut\  • adjective

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

1 : conversation, dialogue

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:

peccant • \PEK-unt\  • adjective

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

: psychiatrist

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

: psychiatrist

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:

vanilla • \vuh-NILL-uh\  • adjective

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
caduceus
00:02:10

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

caduceus • \kuh-DOO-see-us\  • noun

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

2 : a shaded area

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:

hypnagogic • \hip-nuh-GAH-jik\  • adjective

: 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:

hypnagogic • \hip-nuh-GAH-jik\  • adjective

: 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:

berserk • \ber-SERK\  • adjective

: 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

2 : capricious, unpredictable

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

: even though : although

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

b : clear-cut, distinct

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

b : contemptible, deformed

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
eradicate
00:02:10

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

eradicate • \ih-RAD-uh-kayt\  • verb

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

2 : to pull up by the roots

Examples:

Widespread, global vaccination has been successful in eradicating smallpox.

"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

Did you know?

Given that eradicate first meant "to pull up by the roots," it's not surprising that the root of eradicate means, in fact, "root." Eradicate, which first turned up in English in the 16th century, comes from eradicatus, the past participle of the Latin verb eradicare. Eradicare, in turn, can be traced back to the Latin word radix, meaning "root" or "radish." Although eradicate began life as a word for literal uprooting, by the mid-17th century it had developed a metaphorical application to removing things the way one might yank an undesirable weed up by the roots. Other descendants of radix in English include radical and radish. Even the word root itself is related; it comes from the same ancient word that gave Latin radix.



Feb 19, 2020
bootless
00:01:48

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

bootless • \BOOT-lus\  • adjective

: useless, unprofitable

Examples:

"At the first glimpse of his approach, Don Benito had started, a resentful shadow swept over his face; and, as with the sudden memory of bootless rage, his white lips glued together." — Herman Melville, Benito Cereno, 1855

"We were forced out of the car for the second time that day and hustled into a jeep, unable to see where we were going. It peeled out, turning left, then right, then right again, before pulling over to the other side of the road, in a bootless attempt to mask the location of their base." — Simon Ostrovsky, Vice, 27 May 2014

Did you know?

This sense of bootless has nothing to do with footwear. The "boot" in this case is an obsolete noun that meant "use" or "avail." That boot descended from Old English bōt and is ultimately related to our modern word better, whose remote Germanic ancestor meant literally "of more use." Of course, English does also see the occasional use of bootless to mean simply "lacking boots," as Anne Brontë used the word in Agnes Grey (1847): "And what would their parents think of me, if they saw or heard the children rioting, hatless, bonnetless, gloveless, and bootless, in the deep soft snow?"



Feb 18, 2020
bootless
00:01:48

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

bootless • \BOOT-lus\  • adjective

: useless, unprofitable

Examples:

"At the first glimpse of his approach, Don Benito had started, a resentful shadow swept over his face; and, as with the sudden memory of bootless rage, his white lips glued together." — Herman Melville, Benito Cereno, 1855

"We were forced out of the car for the second time that day and hustled into a jeep, unable to see where we were going. It peeled out, turning left, then right, then right again, before pulling over to the other side of the road, in a bootless attempt to mask the location of their base." — Simon Ostrovsky, Vice, 27 May 2014

Did you know?

This sense of bootless has nothing to do with footwear. The "boot" in this case is an obsolete noun that meant "use" or "avail." That boot descended from Old English bōt and is ultimately related to our modern word better, whose remote Germanic ancestor meant literally "of more use." Of course, English does also see the occasional use of bootless to mean simply "lacking boots," as Anne Brontë used the word in Agnes Grey (1847): "And what would their parents think of me, if they saw or heard the children rioting, hatless, bonnetless, gloveless, and bootless, in the deep soft snow?"



Feb 18, 2020
probity
00:01:55

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

probity • \PROH-buh-tee\  • noun

: adherence to the highest principles and ideals : uprightness

Examples:

The tale of young George Washington's refusal to tell a lie after cutting down his father's cherry tree was told to us as grade schoolers to illustrate his probity.

"The schoolmaster was often the most trusted man in America's rural school districts. While some of his students might hold different opinions, the schoolmaster's probity, impartiality and wisdom were valued by the community." — Dan Krieger, The San Luis Obispo (California) Tribune, 21 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

Probity and its synonyms honesty, honor, and integrity all mean uprightness of character or action, with some slight differences in emphasis. Honesty implies a refusal to lie or deceive in any way. Honor suggests an active or anxious regard for the standards of one's profession, calling, or position. Integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge. Probity, which descends from Latin probus, meaning "honest," implies tried and proven honesty or integrity.



Feb 17, 2020
stipulate
00:02:13

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

stipulate • \STIP-yuh-layt\  • verb

1 : to make an agreement or covenant to do or forbear something : contract

2 : to demand an express term in an agreement

3 : to specify as a condition or requirement (as of an agreement or offer)

4 : to give a guarantee of

Examples:

"The county charter stipulates that county council appoint four citizens—two from each of the major political parties—to the election board. Those four then select a fifth member, who may be of any political affiliation, to serve as chairperson." — Eric Mark, The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), 9 Jan. 2020

"If Zendaya's grandfather inspired Rue's hoodie, it was her grandmother who inspired her second collection in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy x Zendaya.…  She was also motivated by the diversity of body types in her family tree to stipulate that the lines she works on also come in plus sizes…." — Jessica Chia, Allure, 21 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Like many terms used in the legal profession, stipulate has its roots in Latin. It derives from stipulatus, the past participle of stipulari, a verb meaning "to demand a guarantee (from a prospective debtor)." Stipulate has been a part of the English language since the 17th century. In Roman law, oral contracts were deemed valid only if they followed a proper question-and-answer format; stipulate was sometimes used specifically of this same process of contract making, though it also could be used more generally for any means of making a contract or agreement. The "to specify as a condition or requirement" meaning of stipulate also dates to the 17th century, and is the sense of the word most often encountered in current use.



Feb 16, 2020
vinaceous
00:01:41

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

vinaceous • \vye-NAY-shus\  • adjective

: of the color of red wine

Examples:

The dove had a slight vinaceous tinge on its breast and tail.

"My Warwickshire venison was even better…; the seared loin was medium-rare, with a gorgeous vinaceous colour at its centre." — Zoe Williams, The Telegraph (London), 19 Feb. 2012

Did you know?

The first recorded evidence of vinaceous in English dates from 1678, shortly before the accession of Mary II. If ever the queen used vinaceous, she was probably in the confines of her landscaped garden, admiring the vinaceous shades of petals or studying the vinaceous cap of a mushroom; since its beginning, vinaceous has flourished in the earthy lexicon of horticulture and mycology. It has also taken flight in the ornithological world as a descriptive word for the unique red coloring of some birds, like the vinaceous purple finch.



Feb 15, 2020
Cupid
00:02:00

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

Cupid • \KYOO-pid\  • noun

1 : the Roman god of erotic love

2 not capitalized : a figure that represents Cupid as a naked usually winged boy often holding a bow and arrow

Examples:

I purchased a large Valentine's Day card decorated with hearts and cupids.

"St. Clair said the library won't actively purchase more cake pan designs, but would welcome additional holiday themed designs such as a Christmas tree, a jack o'lantern, cupid or a witch." — Pamela Thompson, The Ashland (Nebraska) Gazette, 13 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

According to Roman mythology, Cupid was the son of Mercury, the messenger god, and Venus, the goddess of love. In Roman times, the winged "messenger of love" was sometimes depicted in armor, but no one is sure if that was intended as a sarcastic comment on the similarities between warfare and romance, or a reminder that love conquers all. Cupid was generally seen as a good spirit who brought happiness to all, but his matchmaking could cause mischief. Venus wasn't above using her son's power to get revenge on her rivals, and she once plotted to have the beautiful mortal Psyche fall in love with a despicable man. But the plan backfired: Cupid fell in love with Psyche, and she eventually became his immortal wife.



Feb 14, 2020
gustatory
00:01:41

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

gustatory • \GUSS-tuh-tor-ee\  • adjective

: relating to or associated with eating or the sense of taste

Examples:

"December may be full of sparkling holiday soirees, intimate dinners with friends or boisterous family gatherings. This glorious gustatory time is perfect for preparing luscious hors d'oeuvres, creative cocktails, delectable desserts and time-honored traditional treats." — Robin Glowa, The Ridgefield (Connecticut) Press, 14 Dec. 2019

"But I recently discovered that all the aforementioned fatteners aren't the Most Dangerous Food at your friendly neighborhood/highway-side convenience store. No. It's this dang-near-basketball-size, strawberry-cheese muffin. I encountered this gustatory Public Enemy No. 1 recently when I got gas at a convenience store in southwest Little Rock, then decided to go inside. Just for coffee, mind you." — Helaine Williams, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 17 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Gustatory is a member of a finite set of words that describe the senses with which we encounter our world, the other members being visual, aural, olfactory, and tactile. Like its peers, gustatory has its roots in Latin—in this case, the Latin word gustare, meaning "to taste." Gustare is a somewhat distant relative of several common English words, among them choose and disgust, but it is a direct ancestor of gustatory, gustation, meaning "the act or sensation of tasting," and degustation, meaning "the action or an instance of tasting especially in a series of small portions."



Feb 13, 2020
resile
00:01:51

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

resile • \rih-ZYLE\  • verb

: recoil, retract; especially : to return to a prior position

Examples:

"Sir Keir Starmer, who has also announced his candidacy, said his aim was also to restore 'trust' in Labour. The manifesto, he conceded, was 'overloaded,' yet he did not resile from its ambitions." — The Telegraph (London), 6 Jan. 2020

"Morrison is determined for the card trials to succeed, with community support, and won't resile from his view that the best form of welfare remains a job. Critics of the program misconceive what welfare is about, he says." — Max Koslowski, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

Resile is a resilient word: it's been in use in English since the early 1500s. It's also a cousin of resilient, and both words derive from the Latin verb resilire, which means "to jump back" or "recoil." (Resilire, in turn, comes from salire, meaning "to leap.") Resilient focuses on the ability of something to "bounce back" from damage, whereas resile generally applies to someone or something that withdraws from an agreement or "jumps back" from a stated position. Resile is a word that shows up only occasionally in U.S. sources; it is more common in British and especially Australian English.



Feb 12, 2020
obloquy
00:01:57

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

obloquy • \AH-bluh-kwee\  • noun

1 : a strongly condemnatory utterance : abusive language

2 : the condition of one that is discredited : bad repute

Examples:

The manager walked quickly back to the dugout as insults and obloquy rained down from the stands.

"During [literary critic Harold Bloom's] extremely prolific career, his audience was split between adulation and obloquy." — Benjamin Ivry, The Forward, 14 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

English speakers can choose from several synonyms to name a tongue-lashing. Abuse is a good general term that usually stresses the anger of the speaker and the harshness of the language, as in "scathing verbal abuse." Vituperation often specifies fluent, sustained abuse; "a torrent of vituperation" is a typical use of this term. Invective implies vehemence comparable to vituperation but may suggest greater verbal and rhetorical skill; it may also apply especially to a public denunciation, as in "blistering political invective." Obloquy, which comes from the Late Latin ob- (meaning "against") plus loquī (meaning "to speak"), suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace; a typical example of its use is "subjected to obloquy and derision."



Feb 11, 2020
debonair
00:02:07

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

debonair • \deb-uh-NAIR\  • adjective

1 : suave, urbane

2 : lighthearted, nonchalant

Examples:

"Bacs, 47, has sharp features, including a pointed nose; he carries permanent stubble and slicks back his silvered hair, in the style of a debonair, world-conquering James Bond villain." — Cam Wolf, GQ, May 13, 2019

"The fat kolaches and muffins go fast, but that still leaves treats to take home: piercingly sweet lemon bars, debonair key lime tarts, and petite, fairy-tale-perfect chocolate cakes peeking out from cascades of pink icing." — Patricia Sharpe, The Texas Monthly, April 2019

Did you know?

In Anglo-French, someone who was genteel and well-brought-up was described as deboneire—literally "of good family or nature" (from the three-word phrase de bon aire). When the word was borrowed into English in the 13th century, it basically meant "courteous," a narrow sense now pretty much obsolete. Today's debonair incorporates charm, polish, and worldliness, often combined with a carefree attitude (think James Bond). And yes, we tend to use this sense mostly, though not exclusively, of men. The "carefree" characteristic of a debonair person influenced the modern "lighthearted, nonchalant" sense of the word, as illustrated by film critic Owen Gleiberman: "It wouldn't be wrong to call Ocean's Eleven a trifle, but it's a debonair trifle made with high-wire effrontery, the kind that can't be faked. This giddy and glancing charade is one of the most sheerly pleasurable movies to come out this year…."



Feb 10, 2020
expunge
00:02:01

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

expunge • \ik-SPUNJ\  • verb

1 : to strike out, obliterate, or mark for deletion

2 : to efface completely : destroy

3 : to eliminate from one's consciousness

Examples:

As part of the plea bargain, the defendant's record will be expunged after 100 hours of community service.

"Now, court officials and prosecutors are bracing for a possible flood of people seeking to expunge their criminal records beginning Jan. 1 under a new law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham." — Colleen Heild and Katy Barnitz, The Albuquerque Journal, 29 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

In medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, a series of dots was used to mark mistakes or to label material that should be deleted from a text, and those deletion dots can help you remember the history of expunge. They were known as puncta delentia. The puncta part of the name derives from the Latin verb pungere, which can be translated as "to prick or sting" (and you can imagine that a scribe may have felt stung when their mistakes were so punctuated in a manuscript). Pungere is also an ancestor of expunge, as well as a parent of other dotted, pointed, or stinging terms such as punctuate, compunction, poignant, puncture, and pungent.



Feb 09, 2020
lenticular
00:01:54

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

lenticular • \len-TIK-yuh-ler\  • adjective

1 : having the shape of a double-convex lens

2 : of or relating to a lens

3 : provided with or utilizing lenticules

Examples:

Amateur astronomers might be interested in what the observatory markets as the "largest lenticular telescope on Earth."

"This is not the first time Boulder County has been enthralled by a strange cloud formation. In 2017, a spaceship-shaped group of lenticular clouds made its way across the county and onto social media." — Mitchell Byars, The Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera, 20 June 2019

Did you know?

"Lentil-shaped"—that's the meaning of Latin lenticularis, the parent of English's lenticular. It's an appropriate predecessor because a double-convex lens is one that is curved on both sides, giving it a shape similar to that of a lentil. English speakers borrowed the Latin term in the 15th century. Lenticularis, in turn, derives from lenticula, which is the source of the English word lentil and a diminutive of the Latin form lent-, lens, meaning "lentil." You probably won't be too surprised to learn that lent-, lens also gave English the word lens.



Feb 08, 2020
infantilize
00:01:56

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

infantilize • \IN-fun-tye-lyze\  • verb

1 : to make or keep infantile

2 : to treat as if infantile

Examples:

"Food manufacturers have been infantilizing us by selling calorie-dense, salty, sweet stuff in brightly colored packages with exciting punctuation for a very long time. And we're buying it." — Tamar Haspel, The Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2019

"In China, we like to believe we honor the elderly. We pamper them with gifts of fancy fruit baskets, imported foods and other indulgences. But this shallow perspective on aging infantilizes the elderly and neglects to preserve their dignity." — Frankie Huang, The New York Times, 7 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Infantilize is just a baby, relatively speaking. It first saw the light of day in the early 1900s, when social scientists started using the term to discuss the ways in which treating humans as helpless can prolong or encourage their dependency on others. The adjective infantile, which gave birth to infantilize, is far more mature: it dates to the 17th century. Infantile sometimes literally means "relating to infants"—that is, to children in the first year of life—but it also has a broader meaning. If you chide someone for their infantile behavior, you rebuke the person for acting immaturely or childishly.



Feb 07, 2020
canard
00:02:06

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

canard • \kuh-NARD\  • noun

1 a : a false or unfounded report or story; especially : a fabricated report

b : a groundless rumor or belief

2 : an airplane with horizontal stabilizing and control surfaces in front of supporting surfaces; also : a small airfoil in front of the wing of an aircraft that can increase the aircraft's performance

Examples:

"Naysayers have been saying that theater is dying, of course, only since the moment it was born. And as a theater critic, I work to debunk that persistent canard." — Lily Janiak, The San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Dec. 2019

"NHL players can't play in the Olympics because—though contrary to every publicly available metric—the league continues to trot out the canard about how interrupting the season is injurious to teams' financial health. Yes, players can get hurt in midseason competition…. Players also get hurt in exhibition games, but the owners have never considered canceling those matches that in essence are meaningless." — Larry Brooks, The New York Post, 14 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

In 16th-century France, vendre des canards à moitié was a colorful way of saying "to fool" or "to cheat." The French phrase means, literally, "to half-sell ducks." No one now knows just what was meant by "to half-sell"; the proverb was probably based on some story widely known at the time, but the details have not survived. At any rate, the expression led to the use of canard, the French word for "duck," with the meaning of "a hoax" or "a fabrication." English speakers adopted this canard in the mid-1800s. The aeronautical sense of canard, used from the early days of flying, comes from the stubby duck-like appearance of the aircraft.



Feb 06, 2020
ancillary
00:01:57

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

ancillary • \AN-suh-lair-ee\  • adjective

1 : of lower or secondary class or rank : subordinate, subsidiary

2 : providing additional help or support : auxiliary, supplementary

Examples:

One ancillary benefit of Beatrice's job at the movie theater is the ability to catch an early glimpse of new releases.

"Ohio's medical marijuana industry has spawned dozens of growers, dispensaries and processors, and while those businesses receive the most attention, an entire industry of ancillary companies has also sprung up." — Patrick Cooley, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, 2 Jan. 2020

Did you know?

Ancillary derives from the English word ancilla, a rare word that means "an aid to achieving or mastering something difficult." That word derives from Latin, in which it means "female servant." While English ancilla is unlikely to be encountered except in very specialized contexts (such as philosophy or quantum computing), ancillary picks up on the notion of providing aid or support in a way that supplements something else. In particular, the word often describes something that is in a position of secondary importance, such as the "ancillary products in a company's line."



Feb 05, 2020
scumble
00:01:49

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

scumble • \SKUM-bul\  • verb

1 a : to make (something, such as color or a painting) less brilliant by covering with a thin coat of opaque or semiopaque color applied with a nearly dry brush

b : to apply (a color) in this manner

2 : to soften the lines or colors of (a drawing) by rubbing lightly

Examples:

"In an accomplished artist's hands, oil paint is fluid; it can be scumbled or glazed; it's a more versatile medium than tempera." — Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, 11 Mar. 2018

"Yet even more than usual, Ms. Yiadom-Boakye paints so hastily that she undoes her own best efforts. Backgrounds are often so light that you can see the weave of the linen underneath; faces are reworked carelessly, and the edges between the figures and backgrounds become scumbled." — Jason Farago, The New York Times, 11 May 2017

Did you know?

The history of scumble is blurry, but the word is thought to be related to the verb scum, an obsolete form of skim, meaning "to pass lightly over." Scumbling, as first perfected by artists such as Titian, involves passing dry, opaque coats of oil paint over a tinted background to create subtle tones and shadows. Although the painting technique dates to the 16th century, use of the word scumble is only known to have begun in the late 18th century. The related noun form soon followed.



Feb 04, 2020
hierophant
00:02:12

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

hierophant • \HYE-uh-ruh-fant\  • noun

1 : a priest in ancient Greece; specifically : the chief priest of the Eleusinian mysteries

2 a : a person who explains : expositor

b : one who defends or maintains a cause or proposal : advocate

Examples:

"My choir knew their order and moved into it neatly. One expects that nowadays; then, one often saw choirs jostling about, even arguing aloud about where to stand. I bowed to the High Priestess—here was no Polykrates who'd expect to be noticed first—took in the other hierophants with a general reverence, and made the Archon my homage." — Mary Renault, The Praise Singer, 1978

"The art world is a balkanized anarchy, with lots of little insides, lots of little games, better and worse people, hierophants and hustlers." — Peter Schjeldahl, The Village Voice, 6 June 2019

Did you know?

Hierophant, hieroglyphics, and hierarch have a common root: hieros, a Greek word meaning "sacred." Hieroglyphics joins hieros with a derivative of glyphein, the Greek verb for "to carve." Hierarch, a word that can refer to a religious leader in a position of authority, joins hieros with a derivative of archein, meaning "to rule." Hierophant itself joins the root with a derivative of phainein, which means "to show." The original hierophants were priests of the ancient Greek city of Eleusis who performed sacred rites. In the 17th century, when the word was first documented in English, it referred to these priests. By the 19th century, English speakers were using the term in a broader sense. A hierophant can now be a spokesperson, a commentator, an interpreter, or a leading advocate.



Feb 03, 2020
prognosticate
00:01:44

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

prognosticate • \prahg-NAHSS-tuh-kayt\  • verb

1 : to foretell from signs and symptoms : predict

2 : to give an indication of in advance : foreshadow

Examples:

The university's political science professor has successfully prognosticated the outcomes of the last 8 presidential elections.

"What is it about pundits that they are so often wrong, including in the United States, but they get to keep prognosticating anyway?" — Cal Thomas, The Baltimore Sun, 19 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Prognosticate, which comes from the Greek prognōstikos ("foretelling"), first appears in English during the 15th century. Since that time, prognosticate has been connected with things that give omens or warnings of events to come and with people who can prophesy or predict the future by such signs. William Shakespeare used the "prophesy" sense of prognosticate in the sonnet that begins "Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck." "Of thee this I prognosticate," the Bard penned, "Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date."



Feb 02, 2020
fissile
00:02:10

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

fissile • \FISS-ul\  • adjective

1 : capable of or prone to being split or divided in the direction of the grain or along natural planes of cleavage

2 : capable of undergoing fission

Examples:

"The facility itself is buried under a mountain. Several hundred feet down, in two cavernous halls, neat rows of centrifuges spin uranium gas to produce fissile isotopes, which could be used for nuclear energy—or, if concentrated enough, a nuclear bomb." — The Economist, 7 Nov. 2019

"This country that self-identified so smugly as stable, tolerant and moderate, with a crown to symbolise traditions honed down the centuries, is revealed as fissile, fragile and ferociously divided." — Polly Toynbee, The Guardian (London), 28 Aug. 2019

Did you know?

When scientists first used fissile back in the 1600s, the notion of splitting the nucleus of an atom would have seemed far-fetched indeed. In those days, people thought that atoms were the smallest particles of matter that existed and therefore could not be split. Fissile (which can be traced back to Latin findere, meaning "to split" or "to cleave") was used in reference to things like rocks. When we hear about fissile materials today, the reference is usually to nuclear fission: the splitting of an atomic nucleus that releases a huge amount of energy. But there is still a place in our language for the original sense of fissile (and for the noun fissility, meaning "the quality of being fissile"). A geologist, for example, might refer to slate as being fissile.



Feb 01, 2020
macabre
00:02:03

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

macabre • \muh-KAHB\  • adjective

1 : having death as a subject : comprising or including a personalized representation of death

2 : dwelling on the gruesome

3 : tending to produce horror in a beholder

Examples:

"The secret of Killing Eve is that its macabre sense of humor and spy-story subversions are ornamental compared with the series' grist: the strange, transformative pull the two main characters have on each other." — Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 5 Apr. 2019

"Described as a surgeon by the newspapers, Holmes was charged with having broken into a vault in Hendon churchyard on 13 September 1828 … and cut the heads off three bodies. This strange and macabre story is quite unique, yet the reasons Holmes gave for his actions still applied directly to the advancement and development of medical understanding." — Suzie Lennox, Bodysnatchers, 2016

Did you know?

We trace the origins of macabre to the name of the Book of Maccabees, which is included in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons of the Old Testament and in the Protestant Apocrypha. Sections of this biblical text address both the deaths of faithful people asked to renounce their religion and the manner in which the dead should be properly commemorated. In medieval France, representations of these passages were performed as what became known as the "dance of death" or "dance Maccabee," which was spelled in several different ways, including danse macabre. In English, macabre was originally used in reference to this "dance of death" and then gradually came to refer to anything grim or gruesome.



Jan 31, 2020
gist
00:01:44

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

gist • \JIST\  • noun

1 : the ground of a legal action

2 : the main point or part : essence

Examples:

I didn't catch every word, but I heard enough to get the gist of the conversation.

"Ironically, the debate largely occurred on Twitter, one of the most effective disruptors of work productivity ever invented. And the gist was this: To succeed professionally, many Silicon Valley types said, one must be prepared to work not just long, but indeed punishing hours—workers must be prepared to give up 'nights and weekends.'"— Ethan Epstein, The Washington Times, 29 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

The word gist often appears in such contexts as "the gist of the conversation was that…" to let us know that what follows will be a statement or summary that in some way encapsulates the main point or overarching theme. The gist of a conversation, argument, story, or what-have-you is what we rely on when the actual words and details are only imperfectly recalled, inessential, or too voluminous to recount in their entirety. Gist was borrowed from the Anglo-French legal phrase laccion gist ("the action lies or is based [on]") in the 17th century, and it was originally used in law as a term referring to the foundation or grounds for a legal action without which the action would not be legally sustainable.



Jan 30, 2020
allege
00:01:41

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

allege • \uh-LEJ\  • verb

1 : to assert without proof or before proving

2 : to bring forward as a reason or excuse

Examples:

The lawsuit alleges that the company knew about the faulty switches but sold the product anyway.

"While the ACCC does not allege Mr Vassella was directly involved in formulating or carrying out the alleged price-fixing scheme, court documents filed by the regulator say he was briefed on the plans within a month of their launch, and given regular presentations on progress for at least the next six months." — Eric Johnston, The Australian, 27 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

These days, someone alleges something before presenting the evidence to prove it (or perhaps without evidence at all), but the word actually derives from the Middle English verb alleggen, meaning "to submit (something) in evidence or as justification." Alleggen, in turn, traces back to Anglo-French and probably ultimately to Latin allegare, meaning "to send as a representative" or "to offer as proof in support of a plea." Indeed, allege once referred to the actions of someone who came forward to testify in court; this sense isn't used anymore, but it led to the development of the current "assert without proof" sense.



Jan 29, 2020
diligent
00:01:47

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

diligent • \DIL-uh-junt\  • adjective

: characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort : painstaking

Examples:

After many hours of diligent research, the students were ready to compile their results.

"Being informed and diligent is a better investing strategy than no strategy at all. And it keeps us from 'acting ridiculously' at just the wrong time." — Nancy Tengler, USA Today, 16 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

You're more likely to be diligent about something if you love doing it. The etymology of diligent reflects the fact that affection can lead to energetic effort. The word, which entered English in the 14th century by way of Anglo-French, descends from the Latin verb diligere, meaning "to value or esteem highly" or "to love." The Latin diligere was formed by adding the di- prefix (from dis-, "apart") to the verb legere, an ancestor of the English legend, meaning "to gather, select" or "to read." Of course, you don't need to care for the task at hand in order to be diligent, but it certainly does help!



Jan 28, 2020
parvenu
00:02:17

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

parvenu • \PAHR-vuh-noo\  • noun

: one that has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it

Examples:

"It's impossible to exaggerate the rapidity with which Lexus came to dominate the North American luxury market. At its introduction in 1989, its competitors denigrated it as mere parvenu.... By 1990, the LS had become the bestselling large luxury sedan in the land." — David Booth, The Calgary Herald, 19 July 2019

"Croatia … does not have one of the strongest leagues in the world, one in which most clubs rely on selling young players, for a premium, to the aristocrats and parvenus of England and Spain. In an era in which financial might so often makes right, when the traditional European powerhouses hold the balance of power to a greater extent than at any time in history, … Croatia's achievement in making it this far is breathtaking." — Rory Smith, The New York Times, 15 July 2018

Did you know?

French has been generous in providing us with terms for obscure folks who suddenly strike it rich. In addition to parvenu, French has loaned us nouveau riche, arriviste, and roturier, all of which can describe a rich person of plebeian origins, especially one who is a bit snobby. Those colorful and slightly disparaging terms for the newly moneyed clearly show their French heritage, but it may be harder to see the French background of a term Massachusetts locals once used for coastal merchants made rich through the fishing trade: codfish aristocracy. Codfish comes from Middle English (beyond that its origin is a mystery), but aristocracy passed into English via Middle French (it is ultimately from Greek aristos, meaning "best").



Jan 27, 2020
sublimate
00:01:58

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

sublimate • \SUB-luh-mayt\  • verb

1 : to pass or cause to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state

2 : to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable

Examples:

"These ice crystals are temporary from day to day. They develop at night when the air is at its coldest but melt or sublimate away during the day in warmer air or sunlight." — Robert Dryja, The Los Alamos (New Mexico) Daily Post, 29 Nov. 2019

"She stalks. She hacks. She grimace-smiles.... She polishes silver with barely-contained fury.... She rides horseback in a manner that announces a ferocious, yet sublimated, desire." — Dave White, The Wrap, 20 Apr. 2017

Did you know?

To sublimate is to change the form, but not the essence. Physically speaking, it means to transform solid to vapor; psychologically, it means changing the outlet, or means, of expression from something base and inappropriate to something more positive or acceptable. The word sublimate comes from the Latin verb sublimare, which means "to lift up" or "to raise" and which is also the ancestor of our sublime. Sublimate itself once meant "to elevate to a place of dignity or honor" or "to give a more elevated character to," but these meanings are now obsolete.



Jan 26, 2020
lackluster
00:01:54

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

lackluster • \LAK-luss-ter\  • adjective

: lacking in sheen, brilliance, or vitality : dull, mediocre

Examples:

In spite of its owner's hard work, the coffee shop was forced to close due to lackluster sales.

"Say what you will about the Cardinals' record this season, but they've shown fight and played with effort all year other than a lackluster performance during a 34–7 blowout by the Rams." — Bob McManaman, The Arizona Republic, 18 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

In its earliest uses, lackluster (also spelled lacklustre) usually described eyes that were dull or lacking in brightness, as in "a lackluster stare." Later, it came to describe other things whose sheen had been removed; Charles Dickens, in his 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit, writes of the faded image of the dragon on the sign outside a village alehouse: "many a wintry storm of rain, snow, sleet, and hail, had changed his colour from a gaudy blue to a faint lack-lustre shade of grey." In addition to "a glow or sheen," luster can refer to a superficial attractiveness or appearance of excellence; it follows then that lackluster is often used as a synonym for unspectacular.



Jan 25, 2020
euphoria
00:02:04

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

euphoria • \yoo-FOR-ee-uh\  • noun

: a feeling of well-being or elation

Examples:

"In February 2014, Xenia gave birth to their daughter, Ella. Ben still recalls the euphoria of watching the nurse place their newborn on Xenia's chest. He still can't quite believe the song that played on the operating room radio, the refrain resounding in that moment: God only knows what I'd be without you." — Caitlin Gibson, The Washington Post Magazine, 9 Dec. 2019

"The floor became a dance-off—in one corner, dozens of girls put all their bags and backpacks in one giant pile, so nobody had to worry where their stuff was, and then danced around the pile in a circle that was really moving to behold, an example of how a Harry Styles concert creates crucial moments of utopian unity and shared euphoria." — Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 14 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Health and happiness are often linked, sometimes even in etymologies. Nowadays euphoria generally refers to happiness, but it derives from euphoros, a Greek word that means "healthy." Given that root, it's not surprising that in its original English uses euphoria was a medical term. Its entry in an early 18th-century dictionary explains it as "the well-bearing of the Operation of a Medicine; that is, when the Sick Person finds himself eas'd or reliev'd by it." Modern physicians still use the term, but they aren't likely to prescribe something that will cause it. In contemporary medicine and psychology, euphoria can describe abnormal or inappropriate feelings such as those caused by an illicit drug or an illness.



Jan 24, 2020
outlandish
00:02:04

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

outlandish • \out-LAN-dish\  • adjective

1 : of or relating to another country : foreign

2 a : strikingly out of the ordinary : bizarre

b : exceeding proper or reasonable limits or standards

3 : remote from civilization

Examples:

"In a letter sent to his mother … [T.S. Eliot] wrote, 'I really think that I have far more influence on English letters than any other American has ever had, unless it be Henry James.' It's an outlandish claim, even if one allows for the kind of hyperbole to be found in a letter meant to impress one's parents." — Kevin Dettmar, The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2019

"Seana Benz and Jimmy Johansmeyer create a hilarious series of outlandish costumes for the Carnegie sequence, which Woodall showcases in rapid succession." — Gene Terruso, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

In olden times, English speakers used the phrase "outlandish man" to refer to a foreigner—or, one who came from an outland, which originally meant "a foreign land." From here, outlandish broadened in usage from a word meaning "from another land" to one describing something unfamiliar or strange. Dress was a common early target for the adjective; English novelist Henry Fielding, in Tom Jones (1749), writes of a woman who was "drest in one of your outlandish Garments." Nowadays, the word can be applied to anything that strikes us as out of the ordinary, from bizarre conspiracy theories to exaggerated boasting.



Jan 23, 2020
nurture
00:01:59

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

nurture • \NER-cher\  • verb

1 : to supply with nourishment

2 : educate

3 : to further the development of : foster

Examples:

The mayor pushed for tax credits for small businesses as a way to nurture economic growth.

"Nurture your marriage. While it's important to keep the kids happy, it's also important to set aside time for you and your spouse." — K. Lori Hanson, The Miami Herald, 17 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

It's no coincidence that nurture is a synonym of nourish—both are derived from the Latin verb nutrire, meaning "to suckle" or "to nourish." The noun nurture first appeared in English in the 14th century, but the verb didn't arrive until the 15th century. Originally, the verb nurture meant "to feed or nourish." The sense meaning "to further the development of" didn't come into being until the end of the 18th century. Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, is credited with first giving life to that sense in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792): "Public spirit must be nurtured by private virtue," she wrote. Other nutrire descendants in English include nutrient, nutritious, nutriment, nutrition, and, of course, nourishment.



Jan 22, 2020
bonhomie
00:01:50

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

bonhomie • \bah-nuh-MEE\  • noun

: good-natured easy friendliness

Examples:

"For older athletes, the bonhomie among teammates and rivals who have spent years sprinting or skating together, or boxing one another out under the rim, is often as important as the exercise. Many have become friends off the court, sharing meals and socializing after games." — Robert Weisman, The Boston Globe, 4 Dec. 2019

"Throughout its history, the hugely successful TV show 'Downton Abbey' warmly embraced the tradition of the Christmas episode, a seasonally themed special that continued the endless narrative but with a particularly romantic and sentimental nod to what audiences wanted on Christmas Day, a time of familial togetherness and bonhomie." — Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune, 19 Nov. 2019 

Did you know?

English speakers borrowed bonhomie from French, where the word was created from bonhomme, which means "good-natured man" and is itself a composite of two other French words: bon, meaning "good," and homme, meaning "man." That French compound traces to two Latin terms, bonus (meaning "good") and homo (meaning either "man" or "human being"). English speakers have warmly embraced bonhomie and its meaning, but we have also anglicized the pronunciation in a way that may make native French speakers cringe. (We hope they will be good-natured about it!)



Jan 21, 2020
bonhomie
00:01:50

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

bonhomie • \bah-nuh-MEE\  • noun

: good-natured easy friendliness

Examples:

"For older athletes, the bonhomie among teammates and rivals who have spent years sprinting or skating together, or boxing one another out under the rim, is often as important as the exercise. Many have become friends off the court, sharing meals and socializing after games." — Robert Weisman, The Boston Globe, 4 Dec. 2019

"Throughout its history, the hugely successful TV show 'Downton Abbey' warmly embraced the tradition of the Christmas episode, a seasonally themed special that continued the endless narrative but with a particularly romantic and sentimental nod to what audiences wanted on Christmas Day, a time of familial togetherness and bonhomie." — Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune, 19 Nov. 2019 

Did you know?

English speakers borrowed bonhomie from French, where the word was created from bonhomme, which means "good-natured man" and is itself a composite of two other French words: bon, meaning "good," and homme, meaning "man." That French compound traces to two Latin terms, bonus (meaning "good") and homo (meaning either "man" or "human being"). English speakers have warmly embraced bonhomie and its meaning, but we have also anglicized the pronunciation in a way that may make native French speakers cringe. (We hope they will be good-natured about it!)



Jan 21, 2020
dauntless
00:02:03

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

dauntless • \DAWNT-lus\  • adjective

: incapable of being intimidated or subdued : fearless, undaunted

Examples:

With dauntless persistence, the ship's crew navigated the vessel through the unexpected storm, escaping with minimal damage and no casualties.

"Dug, as dauntless as ever, travels to the stronghold of his foes. The entrance is shielded by one gate after another, each shunting into position with a mighty clang, and finally, in the movie's best gag, by a little sliding bolt, such as you might find on a garden shed." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 26 Feb. 2018

Did you know?

The history of the world is peopled with dauntless men and women who refused to be "subdued" or "tamed" by fear. The word dauntless can be traced back to Latin domare, meaning "to tame" or "to subdue." When our verb daunt (a domare descendant adopted by way of Anglo-French) was first used in the 14th century, it shared these meanings. The now-obsolete "tame" sense referred to the taming or breaking of wild animals, particularly horses: an undaunted horse was an unbroken horse. Not until the late 16th century did we use undaunted with the meaning "undiscouraged and courageously resolute" to describe people. By then, such lionhearted souls could also be described as "undauntable" as well as "dauntless."



Jan 20, 2020
intercalate
00:02:09

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

intercalate • \in-TER-kuh-layt\  • verb

1 : to insert (something, such as a day) in a calendar

2 : to insert between or among existing elements or layers

Examples:

"The fossiliferous deposits … consist of pale pinkish-orange brown clays, brownish grey siltstones and shale, and greenish grey fine to medium grained sandstones intercalated with dark grey conglomerates…." — M. A. Khan, et al., The Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences, 31 Dec. 2011

"In order for a lunar calendar to keep up with the solar year and the seasons, it is necessary to intercalate a 13th lunar month every two or three years." — Sacha Stern, Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies, 2012

Did you know?

Intercalate was formed from the Latin prefix inter-, meaning "between" or "among," and the Latin verb calāre, meaning "to proclaim" or "to announce." It was originally associated with proclaiming the addition of a day or month in a calendar. An instance of intercalation occurred in the earliest versions of the Roman calendar, which originally consisted of 304 days and 10 months and was determined by the lunar cycle (the remaining 61.25 days of winter were apparently ignored). According to some Roman legends, it was Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, who intercalated the months January and February. Eventually, the word's use broadened to include other instances of introducing new elements or layers into a preexisting system.



Jan 19, 2020
vicarious
00:02:15

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

vicarious • \vye-KAIR-ee-us\  • adjective

1 : experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another

2 a : serving instead of someone or something else

b : that has been delegated

3 : performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another : substitutionary

4 : occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one

Examples:

"'Gravity' is a brilliantly realized, completely riveting, dread-drenched science fiction thriller about two astronauts stranded in orbit around Earth. And it turns out to be one amazing vicarious experience, simultaneously dream and nightmare, with a set of cinematic illusions that simply—well, maybe not so simply—astounds." — Bill Wine, The Chestnut Hill Local (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 15 Nov. 2019

"What kind of a play might Shakespeare have written if Lady Macbeth, rather than her husband, had been given the leading role? This is the premise of Kally Lloyd-Jones's bold and haunting new work, in which she tries to imagine the full story of a woman so deprived of purpose, so hell-bent on vicarious power, that she will goad her husband to commit regicide." — The Guardian (London), 9 Aug. 2017

Did you know?

If you act in someone's stead, you take his or her place, at least temporarily. The oldest meaning of vicarious, which dates to the first half of the 1600s, is "serving instead of someone or something else." The word vicarious derives from the Latin noun vicis, which means "change," "alternation," or "stead." Vicis is also the source of the English prefix vice- (as in "vice president"), meaning "one that takes the place of."



Jan 18, 2020
tontine
00:02:03

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

tontine • \TAHN-teen\  • noun

: a joint financial arrangement whereby the participants usually contribute equally to a prize that is awarded entirely to the participant who survives all the others

Examples:

"For denizens of the realm, tontines were a very popular twist on the annuity because they appealed to the gambling spirit. An annuity would pay you a steady trickle of money (boring). A tontine would pay you more and more as time went on because other people would be dying and you would be accumulating their shares." — Jeff Guo, The Washington Post, 28 Sept. 2015

"Lord Deverell wanted a loan from me based upon his contribution. Wanted out of the tontine entirely, rather, but without having to go to the trouble of dying." — Theresa Romain, Lady Notorious, 2019

Did you know?

Tontines were named after their creator, a Neapolitan banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1653, Tonti convinced investors to buy shares in a fund he had created. Each year, the investors earned dividends, and when one of them died, their share of the profits was redistributed among the survivors. When the last investor died, the capital reverted to the state. Louis XIV of France used tontines to save his ailing treasury and to fund municipal projects, and private tontines (where the last surviving investor—and subsequently their heirs—got the cash instead of the state) became popular throughout Europe and the U.S. Eventually, though, tontines were banned; there was just too much temptation for unscrupulous investors to bump off their fellow subscribers.



Jan 17, 2020
hirsute
00:02:15

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

hirsute • \HER-soot\  • adjective

1 : hairy

2 : covered with coarse stiff hairs

Examples:

Turner wore a hirsute mask as part of his werewolf costume for the school play.

"Berry is a stocky, hirsute fellow, with a big, rich voice that immediately calls to mind the word 'thespian' and gives everything he says a sheen of (over)dramatic irony…." — Robert Lloyd, The Los Angeles Times, 3 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Hirsute has nearly the same spelling and exactly the same meaning as its Latin parent, hirsutus. The word isn't quite one of a kind, though—it has four close relatives: hirsutism and hirsuties, synonymous nouns naming a medical condition involving excessive hair growth; hirsutal, an adjective meaning "of or relating to hair"; and hirsutulous, a mostly botanical term meaning "slightly hairy" (as in "hirsutulous stems"). The Latin hirsutus is also an etymological cousin to horrēre, meaning "to bristle." Horrēre gave rise to Latin horrōr-, horror, which has the various meanings of "standing stiffly," "bristling," "shivering," "dread," "consternation," and is the source, via Anglo-French, of our word horror. The word horripilation—a fancy word for goose bumps—is also a hirsute relation; its Latin source, horripilāre, means "to shudder," and was formed from horrēre and pilus ("hair").



Jan 16, 2020
artifice
00:02:16

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

artifice • \AHR-tuh-fus\  • noun

1 a : clever or artful skill : ingenuity 

b : an ingenious device or expedient

2 a : an artful stratagem : trick 

b : false or insincere behavior

Examples:

"A generation that's grown up with Snapchat-filtered selfies and pop feminism seems to have an innate understanding that artifice doesn't negate authenticity, or that a penchant for towering wigs and acrylic nails doesn't prevent someone from being a songwriting genius." — Lindsay Zoladz, The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2019

"It could all be rather enervating, but the sheer polish and panache of the cast's fluttering antics brings a smile to the lips—and Wilson introduced a soupçon of reality to offset the artifice. Having pretended to have a boyfriend, wealthy heiress Polly Browne … affects to be a humble secretary after she's instantly smitten with errant rich-kid Tony, who's slumming it as an errand boy." — Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph (London), 3 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Do great actors display artifice or art? Sometimes a bit of both. Artifice stresses creative skill or intelligence, but it also implies a sense of falseness and trickery. Art generally rises above such falseness, suggesting instead an unanalyzable creative force. Actors may rely on some of each, but the personae they display in their roles are usually artificial creations. Therein lies a lexical connection between art and artifice. Artifice derives from artificium, Latin for "artifice." That root also gave English artificial. Artificium, in turn, developed from ars, the Latin root underlying the word art (and related terms such as artist and artisan).



Jan 15, 2020
lily-livered
00:01:58

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

lily-livered • \LILL-ee-LIV-erd\  • adjective

: lacking courage : cowardly

Examples:

"The deus ex machina aspect of Mando's comrades popping up to save him and Baby Yoda from certain death once he proved he wasn't a lily-livered Empire flunky kind of irked me, but I often have that complaint with sci-fi and superhero stories, both of which are prone to ending battles with an out-of-nowhere assist." — Katie Rife, The A.V. Club, 22 Nov. 2019

"I did see more salads than should be allowed in a place like this—something the tentacle-bearded sea captain would surely dismiss as lily-livered landlubber food. And when you're deep inside the belly of Helmsman Ale House, marvelling at the … original arched, wood-beam ceilings that make you feel as if you've been swallowed by the hull of an ancient schooner, salad seems a silly thing to eat, especially while you're chugging a pint." — Edwin Goei, OC Weekly (Costa Mesa, California), 25 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

The basis of the word lily-livered lies in an old belief. Years ago, people thought that health and temperament were the products of a balance or imbalance of four bodily fluids, or humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. It was believed that a deficiency of yellow bile, or choler, the humor that governed anger, spirit, and courage, would leave a person's liver colorless or white. Someone with this deficiency, and so white-livered, would be spiritless and a coward. Lily-livered and white-livered have been used synonymously since the 17th century, but lily-livered is now the more common expression, probably because of its alliteration.



Jan 14, 2020
glom
00:01:54

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

glom • \GLAHM\  • verb

1 : take, steal

2 : seize, catch

Examples:

"It would not surprise me if the sampling 'Fleabag' receives from glomming an Emmy sets it up as a series that makes viewers eagerly await new seasons." — Neal Zoren, The Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times, 30 Sept. 2019

"The Captain is the alter ego of the kids' school principal, a real grump named Krupp … who can't stand laughter or those boys. A magic plastic hypno-ring glommed out of a cereal box puts him under the lads' spell and has him peeling down to his underpants and going forth to, well, mess things up." — Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, 1 June 2017

Did you know?

It's a classic case of glomming: Americans seized on glaum (a term from Scots dialect that basically means "to grab") and appropriated it as their own, changing it to glom in the process. Glom first meant "to steal" (as in the purse-snatching, robber kind of stealing), but over time that meaning got stretched, resulting in figurative uses. Today we might say, for example, that a busy professional gloms a weekend getaway. Glom also appears frequently in the phrase "glom on to," which can mean "to appropriate for one's own use" ("glom on to another's idea"); "to grab hold of" ("glom on to the last cookie"); or "to latch on to" ("glom on to an opinion" or "glom on to an influential friend").



Jan 13, 2020
weal
00:02:00

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

weal • \WEEL\  • noun

: a sound, healthy, or prosperous state : well-being

Examples:

Before presenting the bill to the legislature, the senator spoke of devotion to the general weal.

"All our life … is but a mass of habits,—practical, emotional, and intellectual,—systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be." — William James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology, 1899

Did you know?

Weal is most often used in contexts referring to the general good. One reads, for example, of the "public weal" or the "common weal." The latter of these led to the formation of the noun commonweal, a word that once referred to an organized political entity, such as a nation or state, but today usually means "the general welfare." The word commonwealth shares these meanings, but its situation is reversed; the "political entity" sense of commonwealth is still current whereas the "general welfare" sense has become archaic. At one time, weal and wealth were also synonyms; both meant "riches" ("all his worldly weal") and "well-being." Both words stem from wela, the Old English word for "well-being," and are closely related to the Old English word for "well."



Jan 12, 2020
convoke
00:01:44

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

convoke • \kun-VOHK\  • verb

: to call together to a meeting

Examples:

"The gloves were off now, and to mobilize every possible moral and military advantage, the pope convoked a general church Council in Rome for 1241." — Adrian House, Francis of Assisi, 2000

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently convoked a committee charged with proposing new standards for particle pollution, and two experts recommended a more careful look at exposure to harvest dust." — Garth Stapley, The Modesto (California) Bee, 10 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

The Latin noun vox ("voice") and verb vocare ("to call") have given rise to many English words,  including convoke. Other English descendants of those roots are usually spelled with voc and have to do with speaking or calling. Thus, a vocation is a special calling to a type of work; an evocative sight or smell calls forth memories and feelings; and a vocal ensemble is a singing group. Provoke, irrevocable, equivocate, and vociferous are a few of the other descendants of vox and vocare. The related noun convocation refers to a group of people who have been called together.



Jan 11, 2020
convoke
00:01:44

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

convoke • \kun-VOHK\  • verb

: to call together to a meeting

Examples:

"The gloves were off now, and to mobilize every possible moral and military advantage, the pope convoked a general church Council in Rome for 1241." — Adrian House, Francis of Assisi, 2000

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently convoked a committee charged with proposing new standards for particle pollution, and two experts recommended a more careful look at exposure to harvest dust." — Garth Stapley, The Modesto (California) Bee, 10 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

The Latin noun vox ("voice") and verb vocare ("to call") have given rise to many English words,  including convoke. Other English descendants of those roots are usually spelled with voc and have to do with speaking or calling. Thus, a vocation is a special calling to a type of work; an evocative sight or smell calls forth memories and feelings; and a vocal ensemble is a singing group. Provoke, irrevocable, equivocate, and vociferous are a few of the other descendants of vox and vocare. The related noun convocation refers to those whom have been called together.



Jan 11, 2020
elixir
00:02:14

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

elixir • \ih-LIK-ser\  • noun

1 a (1) : a substance held to be capable of changing base metals into gold

(2) : a substance held to be capable of prolonging life indefinitely

b (1) : cure-all

(2) : a medicinal concoction

2 : a sweetened liquid usually containing alcohol that is used in medication either for its medicinal ingredients or as a flavoring

3 : the essential principle

Examples:

While the new sports complex is hardly an elixir for all of the city's economic woes, it should spur some much-needed job growth.

"Before turning in on a really cold night, a hot toddy really helps knock off the edge. My elixir of choice is a cup of hot apple cider mixed with a shot of 12 Point Bourbon." — Bryan Hendricks, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 14 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Elixir has roots in the practice of alchemy; it was used in the Middle Ages as the word for a substance believed to be capable of changing base metals into gold. Its later use for a drug purported to prolong one's life led to its use in the names of medicines of mostly questionable effectiveness. Today, it is often used generally for anything thought capable of remedying all ills or difficulties, be they physical or otherwise. The word came to us via Middle English and Medieval Latin from Arabic al-iksīr; it probably ultimately derives from Greek xērion, meaning "desiccative powder."



Jan 10, 2020
belated
00:02:02

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

belated • \bih-LAY-tud\  • adjective

1 : delayed beyond the usual time

2 : existing or appearing past the normal or proper time

Examples:

Olivia called her friend on his birthday to let him know that a belated gift from her was on its way.

"Although it airs in Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles, Shtisel … has become such an international favorite that its creators are contemplating a belated third season, while Friends and Grace and Frankie co-creator Marta Kauffman is working on an American version." — Joy Press, Vanity Fair, 29 Aug. 2019

Did you know?

Long ago, there was a verb belate, which meant "to make late." From the beginning, belate tended to mostly turn up in the form of its past participle, belated. Eventually, belate itself fell out of use, leaving behind belated as an adjective that preserved the original notion of delay. As you may have guessed, belate and its descendant belated derive from the adjective late; belate was formed by simply combining the prefix be- ("to cause to be") with late. Belated was also once used in the sense "overtaken by night," as in "belated travelers seeking lodging for the night." This sense was in fact the first meaning of the adjective, but it has since fallen into disuse.



Jan 09, 2020
surfeit
00:02:05

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

surfeit • \SER-fut\  • noun

1 : an overabundant supply : excess

2 : an intemperate or immoderate indulgence in something (such as food or drink)

3 : disgust caused by excess

Examples:

"The fracking boom in the United States has led to a surfeit of natural gas worldwide." — Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 3 Dec. 2019      

"So we're keeping an eye on the next big opening, Limalimo, a 14-room lodge slated to debut in the Simien Mountains National Park in January or February. The design looks set to establish new standards: slick, sustainable (built of rammed earth and thatch), and with surfeits of natural light." — Maria Shollenbarger, The Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Aug. 2015

Did you know?

There is an abundance—you could almost say a surfeit—of English words that derive from the Latin facere, meaning "to do." The connection to facere is fairly obvious for words spelled with "fic," "fac," or "fec," such as sacrifice, benefaction, and infect. For words like stupefy (a modification of Latin stupefacere) and hacienda (originally, in Old Spanish and Latin, facienda) the facere factor is not so apparent. As for surfeit, the "c" was dropped along the path that led from Latin through Anglo-French, where facere became faire and sur- was added to make the verb surfaire, meaning "to overdo." It is the Anglo-French noun surfet ("excess"), however, that Middle English borrowed, eventually settling on the spelling surfeit.



Jan 08, 2020
dragoon
00:01:55

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

dragoon • \druh-GOON\  • verb

1 : to subjugate or persecute by harsh use of troops

2 : to force into submission or compliance especially by violent measures

Examples:

The ragtag force, composed mostly of young men dragooned from the surrounding villages, quickly surrendered to the more professional army of its foes.

"Too often, when a performer interacts with an audience, it's a cringe-fest: at best awkward, at worst humiliating for the poor spectator dragooned into serving as a prop." — Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe, 25 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

A dragoon was a mounted European infantryman of the 17th and 18th centuries armed with a firearm called by the same name. No arm-twisting should be needed to get you to believe that the firearm's name, which came to English from French, is derived from its semblance to a fire-breathing dragon when fired. History has recorded the dragonish nature of the dragoons who persecuted the French Protestants in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV. The persecution by means of the dragoons led to the use of the word dragoon as a verb.



Jan 07, 2020
agrarian
00:02:05

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

agrarian • \uh-GRAIR-ee-un\  • adjective

1 : of or relating to fields or lands or their tenure

2 a : of, relating to, or characteristic of farmers or their way of life

b : organized or designed to promote agricultural interests

Examples:

"Young children were encouraged to take part in adult activities as soon as they were able.... In agrarian societies they had always been expected to help out at home and in the fields from an early age." — The Economist, 5 Jan. 2019

"The Village of Dunchurch is no exception.... Even as the region diversifies from its agricultural base and develops with extravagant cottages dotting the lakes, the village's agrarian roots are proudly celebrated during the course of this annual festivity." — The Parry Sound North Star, 7 Aug. 2019

Did you know?

Today, an acre is generally considered to be a unit of land measuring 43,560 square feet (4,047 square meters). Before that standard was set, it's believed that an acre represented a rougher measurement: the amount of land that could be plowed in one day with a yoke of oxen. Both acre and agrarian derive from the Latin noun ager and the Greek noun agrós, meaning "piece of land, field." (You can probably guess that agriculture is another descendant.) Agrarian, first used in English in the 16th century, describes things pertaining to the cultivation of fields, as well as the farmers who cultivate them.



Jan 06, 2020
permutation
00:02:12

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

permutation • \per-myoo-TAY-shun\  • noun

1 : often major or fundamental change (as in character or condition) based primarily on rearrangement of existent elements; also : a form or variety resulting from such change

2 a : the act or process of changing the lineal order of an ordered set of objects

b : an ordered arrangement of a set of objects

Examples:

"Scientists have performed many permutations of the original MHC study, but the results suggest that people choose mates that have MHC genes that are dissimilar to their own—although not too dissimilar." — Caitlin O'Connell, Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse, 2015

"Two weeks after Wilder and Ortiz meet in the ring, Joshua and Ruiz plan to fight again in Saudi Arabia, which could generate several permutations of follow-up bouts, depending on who wins." — John Eligon, The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Permutation has not changed all that much since it was borrowed into Middle English from Anglo-French as permutacioun, meaning "exchange, transformation." Permutacioun traces back to the Latin verb permutare, meaning "to change thoroughly, exchange," and ultimately derives from the Latin mutare, "to change." Other descendants of mutare in English include commute, mutant, and mutual. Permutation also has a specific application in the field of mathematics relating to the ordering of a given set of objects. For example, permutations of items a, b, and c are abc, acb, bac, etc.



Jan 05, 2020
mendacious
00:02:01

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

mendacious • \men-DAY-shus\  • adjective

: given to or characterized by deception or falsehood or divergence from absolute truth

Examples:

Students in the class analyze political speeches and learn how to separate exaggerations and mendacious claims from verifiable facts.

"The periodical's skeptical approach to advertisers and authority figures helped raise a less credulous and more critical generation in the 1960s and 1970s. Today's media environment differs considerably from the era in which Mad [Magazine] flourished. But it could be argued that consumers are dealing with many of the same issues, from devious advertising to mendacious propaganda." — Michael J. Socolow, The Washington Post, 16 May 2018

Did you know?

Mendacious and lying have very similar meanings, but the two are not interchangeable. Mendacious is more formal and literary, suggesting a deception harmless enough to be considered somewhat bland. Lying is more blunt, accusatory, and often confrontational. You might yell, "You lying rat!" in an argument, but you would most likely stick to the more diplomatic, "Aren't you being somewhat mendacious?" in a business meeting. Mendacious can also imply habitual untruthfulness, whereas lying is more likely to be used to identify specific instances of dishonesty.



Jan 04, 2020
foible
00:02:10

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

foible • \FOY-bul\  • noun

1 : the part of a sword or foil blade between the middle and point

2 : a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior : weakness

Examples:

"From family foibles to practical jokes to heritage-based barbs, we embrace it all with laughter and shrugs. Everybody's got skeletons in their closet; we might as well laugh." — Paula Brewer, The Bangor (Maine) Daily News, 22 Nov. 2019

"Stand-up comedians, those unvarnished truth tellers and astute observers of human nature, are funniest when they mine their own human foibles for laughs, with bonus points for relatability." — The Las Vegas Weekly, 20 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In the 1600s, English speakers borrowed the French word foible to refer to the weakest part of the sword or foil, that part being the portion between the middle and the pointed tip. Despite the superficial resemblance, foible does not come from foil. The French foible was an adjective meaning "weak." (That French word, which is now obsolete, is derived from the same Old French term, feble, which gave us feeble.) The English foible soon came to be applied not only to weaknesses in blades but also to minor failings in character. It appeared in print with that use in the 17th century, and now the "character flaw" sense is considerably more popular than the original sword application.



Jan 03, 2020
cosmeticize
00:02:03

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

cosmeticize • \kahz-MET-uh-syze\  • verb

: to make (something unpleasant or ugly) superficially attractive

Examples:

The documentary takes a hard look at life in the camp, never once cosmeticizing the experience of its inhabitants.

"This time around, [Florian Henckel] von Donnersmarck is striving to deliver an epic that's palatable to wider audiences. But in cosmeticizing the painter's life, making this more of a love story crossed with wartime intrigue, he has overshot his target. With a little more truth, Never Look Away could have been really beautiful." — Andrea Gronvall, The Chicago Reader, 15 Feb. 2019

Did you know?

Cosmeticize first appeared in print in the early 19th century as a descendant of the noun cosmetic. Originally, its use was often literal, with the meaning "to apply a cosmetic to," but today it is more frequently used figuratively. Cosmeticize does occasionally draw criticism; usage commentators are sometimes irritated by verbs coined using -ize as they can sound like silly nonce words. Cosmeticize is fairly well established, however, in contrast with the two other rarer verbs that have been derived from cosmetic: cosmetize and the homograph cosmetic, which often turn up in literal senses ("cosmetize the face"; "a face cosmeticked with bright rouge").



Jan 02, 2020
redux
00:02:03

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

redux • \ree-DUKS\  • adjective

: brought back—used postpositively

Examples:

Following a spell of unseasonably warm weather in late March, April felt like winter redux as temperatures plunged back below freezing.

"With No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama facing off in the 'Game of the Century' redux, ticket prices are surging to levels rarely seen across college football." — Jeff Nowak, The New Orleans Advocate, 5 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In Latin, redux (from the verb reducere, meaning "to lead back") can mean "brought back" or "bringing back." The Romans used redux as an epithet for the goddess Fortuna with its "bringing back" meaning; Fortuna Redux was trusted to bring those far from home back safely. It was the "brought back" meaning that made its way into English. Redux belongs to a small class of English adjectives that are always used postpositively—that is, they always follow the words they modify. Redux has a history of showing up in titles of English works, such as John Dryden's Astraea Redux (a 17th-century poem on the happy restoration and return of the majestic Charles the Second), Anthony Trollope's 19th-century Phineas Redux, and John Updike's 20th-century Rabbit Redux.



Jan 01, 2020
shindig
00:02:03

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 31, 2019 is:

shindig • \SHIN-dig\  • noun

1 a : a social gathering with dancing

b : a usually large or lavish party

2 : fracas, uproar

Examples:

"In the program notes, director Isaac Lamb says he's aiming for the vibe of a ceilidh—an impromptu Irish shindig with instruments, singing, dancing and booze." — Lee Williams, The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 Oct. 2019

"Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin tied the knot for the second time, one year after legally getting married in a New York City courthouse. The star-studded shindig took place in South Carolina … with a weekend of festivities culminating in a ceremony and reception for 150 guests." — Jordan Julian, The Daily Beast, 2 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

At a glance, shindig appears to combine shin and dig, and thus might seem to suggest a painful kick to the leg—especially when you know that one of the first senses of shindig in English refers to a gathering at which people dance. It is more likely, however, that shindig is an alteration of shindy, which is itself the alteration of another word, shinny, used of a variation of hockey that is played with a curved stick and a ball or block of wood. It's not entirely clear how the game of shinny gave shindy its first meaning (the "social gathering with dancing" meaning that is also the original meaning of shindig) but shinny remains the most likely origin.



Dec 31, 2019
penultimate
00:02:17

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 30, 2019 is:

penultimate • \pih-NUL-tuh-mut\  • adjective

1 : next to the last

2 : of or relating to the next to the last syllable of a word

Examples:

The penultimate episode of the TV series features some shocking plot twists that set up what will surely be a thrilling series finale.

"There aren't too many players in [Major League Baseball] history who come to the plate in a game with their statue overlooking them from the outfield concourse. But such was the case in Paul Konerko's final two MLB games. The White Sox unveiled his statue on the left field concourse on September 27, 2014 prior to his penultimate game." — Chris Kamka, NBC Sports Chicago, 18 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Penultimate isn't the last word in words for things that are next to last. There is a pair of noun synonyms that are used commonly enough to have gained entry into abridged dictionaries: penult and penultima. Although all three can refer to something that's next to last, penult and penultima are usually a bit more specific; they are used most often to identify the next to last syllable of a word. All three derive from paenultima, the feminine of paenultimus, a Latin root from paene ("almost") and ultimus ("last"). You may occasionally hear the word penultimate used as an intensified version of ultimate, as in "a race they've called 'the penultimate challenge.'" This use isn't typically found in edited prose, however, or in dictionaries. One of our editors discusses it in this video.



Dec 30, 2019
penultimate
00:02:17

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 30, 2019 is:

penultimate • \pih-NUL-tuh-mut\  • adjective

1 : next to the last

2 : of or relating to the next to the last syllable of a word

Examples:

The penultimate episode of the TV series features some shocking plot twists that set up what will surely be a thrilling series finale.

"There aren't too many players in [Major League Baseball] history who come to the plate in a game with their statue overlooking them from the outfield concourse. But such was the case in Paul Konerko's final two MLB games. The White Sox unveiled his statue on the left field concourse on September 27, 2014 prior to his penultimate game." — Chris Kamka, NBC Sports Chicago, 18 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Penultimate isn't the last word in words for things that are next to last. There is a pair of noun synonyms that are used commonly enough to have gained entry into abridged dictionaries: penult and penultima. Although all three can refer to something that's next to last, penult and penultima are usually a bit more specific; they are used most often to identify the next to last syllable of a word. All three derive from paenultima, a Latin root from paene ("almost") and ultima ("last"). You may occasionally hear the word penultimate used as an intensified version of ultimate, as in "a race they've called 'the penultimate challenge.'" This use isn't typically found in edited prose, however, or in dictionaries. One of our editors discusses it in this video.



Dec 30, 2019
gallivant
00:02:17

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 29, 2019 is:

gallivant • \GAL-uh-vant\  • verb

1 informal : to travel, roam, or move about for pleasure

2 dated, informal : to go about usually ostentatiously or indiscreetly with members of the opposite sex

Examples:

After graduating from college, Maureen spent a year gallivanting all over before coming back home to find a job.

"'Star Wars' films have gallivanted all over galaxies far, far away, but the stories have remained Skywalker-adjacent, or at least tangentially connected to the narrative introduced decades ago in the original trilogy." — Jeremy Egner, The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Back in the 14th century, gallant, a noun borrowed from the French galant, denoted a young man of fashion. By the middle of the next century, it was being used more specifically to refer to such a man who was attentive to, and who had a fondness for the company of, women. In the late 1600s, this "ladies' man" sense gave rise to the verb gallant to describe the process a paramour used to win a lady's heart, and "to gallant" became synonymous with "to court." Etymologists think that the spelling of the verb gallant was altered to create gallivant, which originally meant "to act as a gallant" or "to go about usually ostentatiously or indiscreetly with members of the opposite sex." Nowadays, however, gallivant is more likely to describe wandering than romancing.



Dec 29, 2019
impervious
00:01:53

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 28, 2019 is:

impervious • \im-PER-vee-us\  • adjective

1 a : not allowing entrance or passage : impenetrable  

b : not capable of being damaged or harmed

2 : not capable of being affected or disturbed

Examples:

"Because porcelain is impervious to water, stains and temperature changes, it's a durable and practical choice for high-traffic areas." — Michelle Brunner, The Washington Post, 14 Oct. 2019

"I happen to love long trips.… No one could be more excited than I am about the chance to sit for an extended stretch of time, Wi-Fi-less, in business class with access to dozens of movies and TV shows that you would never pay to watch at home. I am impervious to jet lag! Sleep is for losers." — Sarah Lyall, The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

The English language is far from impervious, and, of course, a great many Latinate terms have entered it throughout its history. Impervious is one of the many that broke through in the 17th century. It comes from the Latin impervius, which adds the prefix im- to pervius, meaning "passable" or "penetrable." Pervius—which is also the source of the relatively uncommon English word pervious, meaning "accessible" or "permeable"—comes from per-, meaning "through," and via, meaning "way."



Dec 28, 2019
punctilio
00:02:08

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 27, 2019 is:

punctilio • \punk-TILL-ee-oh\  • noun

1 : a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code

2 : careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)

Examples:

"It is hard to write a novel in a Christian setting in such a secular age; 'The End of the Affair' manages to make even the punctilios of Catholic doctrine feel profoundly relevant." — Alex Preston, The Independent, 17 Feb. 2012

"At picnics, lawn-parties, little country gatherings of all sorts, she was, in her own quiet, natural manner, always the presiding spirit of general comfort and general friendship. Even the rigid laws of country punctilio relaxed before her unaffected cheerfulness and irresistible good-nature." — Wilkie Collins, Basil, 1852

Did you know?

We'll get straight to the point: there are a number of English words that come from Latin pungere, meaning "to prick" or "to sting." Punctilio is one of these words. It traces back to pungere by way of Italian puntiglio (meaning "small point," "point of honor," or "scruple"), Spanish puntillo (the diminutive of punto, meaning "point"), and Latin punctum (also meaning "point"). The adjective punctilious, meaning "marked by or concerned about precise accordance with the details of codes or conventions," is a close relative of punctilio. Do you have any guesses for other pungere derivatives? Punctuate, puncture, compunction, punctual, and pungent are some of the more common ones.



Dec 27, 2019
whipsaw
00:01:56

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 26, 2019 is:

whipsaw • \WIP-saw\  • verb

1 : to saw with a whipsaw

2 : to beset or victimize in two opposite ways at once, by two-phase operation, or by the collusive action of two opponents

Examples:

The community has been growing steadily safer and more prosperous after years of being whipsawed by climbing crime rates and plunging employment.

"In a study that is bound to be controversial—and confusing for consumers who feel whipsawed by conflicting nutrition advice—researchers from seven countries have reported finding few health benefits associated with cutting back on red or processed meats." — Mari A. Schaefer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 30 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

A whipsaw is a type of hand-powered saw worked by two people, one of whom stands on or above the log being sawed and the other below it, usually in a pit. The tool dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until the 19th century that anyone thought to use the saw's name figuratively to describe situations in which someone or something is doubly "cut," or hurt. Today, the word is commonly used when discussing financial crises or losses as well as ideological changes (as in government policy) that might "cut."



Dec 26, 2019
evergreen
00:02:06

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 25, 2019 is:

evergreen • \EV-er-green\  • adjective

1 : having foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season

2 a : retaining freshness or interest : perennial

b : universally and continually relevant : not limited in applicability to a particular event or date

Examples:

"For years, it was assumed that in order to have a garden of constant color, you needed to plant vivid annual flowers in every season. This was a somewhat costly proposition, however, especially when compared to a garden of evergreen and colorful succulents, where red, blue, yellow, green, pink and gold are on display 365 days a year." — Joshua Siskin, The Orange County (California) Register, 29 Oct. 2019

"Pinterest, in particular, is a great place for sharing evergreen content like recipes or DIY tutorials…." — Danielle Wiley, Adweek, 12 Dec. 2018

Did you know?

Which adjective do you think has existed longer in English, evergreen or perennial? If you count the hyphenated form ever-green (which of course means "always green"), then evergreen is older; its earliest known use dates from the 16th century. The hyphen-free form is first seen in writing from the 17th century as an adjective as well as a noun, meaning "conifer." The earliest known use of perennial as an adjective meaning "remaining green all year long" appears in the first half of the 17th century. Evergreen also wins in the more general "long lasting" sense. It began appearing in figurative use circa mid-17th century, whereas perennial began to be used with that "enduring" meaning in the early 18th.



Dec 25, 2019
luminaria
00:01:58

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 24, 2019 is:

luminaria • \loo-muh-NAIR-ee-uh\  • noun

: a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern originally consisting of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag

Examples:

"Mount Vernon Avenue will be illuminated by thousands of luminarias and feature storefront windows hand-painted for the holidays." — The Alexandria (Virginia) Living Magazine, 9 Nov. 2019

"The simple bag of sand with a candle inside has undergone some upgrades to keep up with the times—some people use fire-resistant bags or battery-powered candles—but the luminaria remains a part of Arizona's holiday tradition." — Weldon B. Johnson, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic, 3 Dec. 2018

Did you know?

Luminaria is a fairly recent addition to English; early usage dates from the 1930s, about the time that the Mexican Christmas custom started to gain popularity among Anglo-Americans. In some parts of the U.S., particularly New Mexico, these festive lanterns are also called farolitos, which means "little lanterns" in Spanish. We borrowed luminaria from Spanish, but the word has been around with exactly the same spelling since the days of Late Latin. The term ultimately traces to the classical Latin luminare, meaning "window," and to lumen, meaning "light." It is related to other light-bearing words such as luminary, illuminate, and phillumenist (a fancy name for someone who collects matchbooks).



Dec 24, 2019
discriminate
00:02:17

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 23, 2019 is:

discriminate • \diss-KRIM-uh-nayt\  • verb

1 a : to see the special features of

b : to perceive a difference in : differentiate

2 : to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences; especially : to distinguish from another like object

3 : to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit

Examples:

"Cashless restaurants … have faced criticism that they discriminate against low-income consumers who may not have bank accounts." — Leslie Patton, Bloomberg.com, 13 Nov. 2019

"That evening … he was conscious of a keen desire to get away, to go abroad, to leave behind him the little chatter his resignation would be sure to produce in an age of publicity which never discriminated as to the quality of events." — Henry James, The Tragic Muse, 1890

Did you know?

Although many methods or motives for discriminating are unfair and undesirable (or even illegal), the verb itself has a neutral history. English speakers borrowed it from the past participle of the Latin verb discriminare (meaning "to distinguish or differentiate"), which, itself, is derived from the verb discernere, meaning "to distinguish between." Discernere, in turn, was formed by combining the prefix dis- (meaning "apart") and cernere ("to sift"). Other descendants of discernere include discern and discernible (as you no doubt guessed), discreet, and indiscretion. In addition, the root cernere gives us concern, certain, decree, and even secret.



Dec 23, 2019
fulgent
00:01:48

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 22, 2019 is:

fulgent • \FULL-jint\  • adjective

: dazzlingly bright : radiant

Examples:

"Reigning as queen of the ball was Miss Skylar Nicole Ballard…. Her majesty's regal ensemble included a gown of white silver lace, tulle and regency organza…. Completing the raiment were … the fulgent crown and scepter." — The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate (nola.com), 10 Feb. 2019

"Goldfinches are among songbirds, like warblers, that undergo two molts a year: a complete feather molt in fall that covers them in lackluster plumage and a molt of head and body feathers excluding wings and tail in spring that adorns males in fulgent golden yellow." — Gary Clark, The Houston Chronicle, 12 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

"The weary Sun betook himself to rest; — / Then issued Vesper from the fulgent west." That's how the appearance of the evening star in the glowing western sky at sunset looked to 19th-century poet William Wordsworth. Fulgent was a particularly apt choice to describe the radiant light of the sky at sunset. The word derives from the Latin verb fulgēre, meaning "to shine," a root which is itself akin to the Latin flagrare, meaning "to burn." English speakers have been using fulgent to depict resplendence since at least the 15th century.



Dec 22, 2019
kowtow
00:01:58

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

kowtow • \KOW-tow\  • verb

1 : to show obsequious deference : fawn

2 : to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in token of homage, worship, or deep respect

Examples:

"[Cyndi] Lauper wanted a hit record. She wanted one badly after PolyGram dropped her first band Blue Angel following a failed debut in 1980. But she wouldn't kowtow to music execs in pursuit of that hit." — Jed Gottlieb, The Boston Herald, 17 Nov. 2018

"I sense people are hungry for something new, and sick of fiction that lazily kowtows to the reader or, God help us, the 'market.'" — Lucy Ellmann, quoted in The New Statesman, 11 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Kowtow originated as a noun referring to the act of kneeling and touching one's head to the ground as a salute or act of worship to a revered authority. In traditional China this ritual was performed by commoners making requests to the local magistrate, by the emperor to the shrine of Confucius, or by foreign representatives appearing before the emperor to establish trade relations. (In the late 18th century, some Western nations resisted performing the ritual, which acknowledged the Chinese emperor as the "son of heaven.") The word kowtow derives from Chinese koutou, formed by combining the verb kou ("to knock") with the noun tou ("head").



Dec 21, 2019
xenophobia
00:02:02

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

xenophobia • \zen-uh-FOH-bee-uh\  • noun

: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

Examples:

"George Kennan, who served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow…, wrote in 1947 that Soviet hostility toward the West was based upon more than Marxist ideology or traditional Russian xenophobia." — Philip Gold, Insight, 29 Dec. 1986

"Although the Great Depression prompted an exodus of foreign workers—spurred in part by a wave of popular xenophobia—the presence of foreigners in France was sustained by the arrival of refugees from the Spanish Civil War." — Peter Gatrell, The Unsettling of Europe, 2019

Did you know?

If you look back to the ancient Greek terms that underlie the word xenophobia, you'll discover that xenophobic individuals are literally "stranger fearing." Xenophobia, that elegant-sounding name for an aversion to persons unfamiliar, ultimately derives from two Greek terms: xenos, which can be translated as either "stranger" or "guest," and phobos, which means either "fear" or "flight." Phobos is the ultimate source of all English -phobia terms, but many of those were actually coined in English or New Latin using the combining form -phobia. Xenophobia itself came to us by way of New Latin and first appeared in print in English in the late 19th century.



Dec 20, 2019
haggard
00:02:04

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

haggard • \HAG-urd\  • adjective

1 of a hawk : not tamed

2 a : wild in appearance

b : having a worn or emaciated appearance : gaunt

Examples:

"When I met her at her subsidized apartment in the fall of 2018, she still had the haggard air of someone learning how to use the subway, navigate welfare programs, and raise two children by herself in an alien country." — Doug Bock Clark, GQ, 26 Mar. 2019

"East Avenue, the town's main drag, is fronted by stately if slightly haggard red-brick buildings, including the historic Cottrill Opera House (currently raising funds for its restoration) as well as several art galleries and antiques shops…." — Anna Altman, The Washingtonian, 15 Jan. 2019

Did you know?

Haggard comes from falconry, the sport of hunting with a trained bird of prey. The birds used in falconry were not bred in captivity until very recently. Traditionally, falconers trained wild birds that were either taken from the nest when quite young or trapped as adults. A bird trapped as an adult is termed a haggard, from the Middle French hagard. Such a bird is notoriously wild and difficult to train, and it wasn't long before the falconry sense of haggard was being applied in an extended way to a "wild" and intractable person. Next, the word came to express the way the human face looks when a person is exhausted, anxious, or terrified. Today, the most common meaning of haggard is "gaunt" or "worn."



Dec 19, 2019
aught
00:01:51

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

aught • \AWT\  • pronoun

1 : anything

2 : all, everything

Examples:

"Xury said it was a lion, and it might be so, for aught I know...." — Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, 1719

"All the ways into this grot were then sealed against the entry of water or aught else, all save one." — J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 1954

Did you know?

"If you know aught which does behove my knowledge / Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not / In ignorant concealment," Polixenes begs Camillo in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, employing the "anything" sense of aught. Shakespeare didn't coin the pronoun aught, which has been a part of the English language since before the 12th century, but he did put it to frequent use. Writers today may be less likely to use aught than were their literary predecessors, but the pronoun does continue to turn up occasionally. Aught can also be a noun meaning "zero," and "the aughts" is heard occasionally for the decade at the beginning of a century (say, 1900-1909 or 2000-2009) in which the penultimate digit is a zero.



Dec 18, 2019
flibbertigibbet
00:01:58

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

flibbertigibbet • \flib-er-tee-JIB-ut\  • noun

: a silly flighty person

Examples:

She plays a flibbertigibbet in the movie—a character completely at odds with her real-life reputation as a prolific writer and masterful actor and director.

"As played by a breathless Vinny Chavez, the young prince is a petulant flibbertigibbet obsessed with visual glamor, which gets in the way of his search for a suitable princess to marry." — Kerry Lengel, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic, 10 Nov. 2014

Did you know?

Flibbertigibbet is one of many incarnations of the Middle English word flepergebet, meaning "gossip" or "chatterer" (others include flybbergybe, flibber de' Jibb, and flipperty-gibbet). It is a word of onomatopoeic origin, created from sounds that were intended to represent meaningless chatter. William Shakespeare apparently saw a devilish aspect to a gossipy chatterer; he used flibbertigibbet in King Lear as the name of a devil. This use never caught on, but the devilish connotation of the word reappeared over 200 years later when Sir Walter Scott used Flibbertigibbet as the nickname of an impish urchin in the novel Kenilworth. The impish meaning derived from Scott's character was short-lived and was laid to rest by the 19th-century's end, leaving us with only the "silly flighty person" meaning.



Dec 17, 2019
mellifluous
00:02:00

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

mellifluous • \muh-LIFF-luh-wus\  • adjective

1 : having a smooth rich flow

2 : filled with something (such as honey) that sweetens

Examples:

"As you explore each room, you also hear a mellifluous voice-over uttering the relevant environmental facts and recommendations…. The 13,000-square-foot exhibition, which was designed with social media in mind, requires a free iPhone app to experience fully." — Laurel Graeber, The New York Times, 23 Oct. 2019

"Her voice alone is a stunner, a mellifluous soprano, more delicate than her big sister's powerhouse belt." — Peter Larsen, The Orange County Register (Anaheim, California), 10 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In Latin, mel means "honey" and fluere means "to flow." Those two linguistic components flow smoothly together in mellifluus (from Late Latin) and mellyfluous (from Middle English), the ancestors of mellifluous. The adjective these days typically applies to sound, as it has for centuries. In 1671, for example, poet John Milton wrote in Paradise Regained of the "Wisest of men; from whose mouth issu'd forth Mellifluous streams." But mellifluous can also be used of flavor, as when wine critics Eric Asimov and Florence Fabricant used it to describe pinot grigio in the 2014 book Wine With Food: "Most pinot grigios give many people exactly what they want: a mellifluous, easy-to-pronounce wine that can be ordered without fear of embarrassment and that is at the least cold, refreshing, and for the most part cheap."



Dec 16, 2019
delectation
00:02:00

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

delectation • \dee-lek-TAY-shun\  • noun

: delight, enjoyment

Examples:

"All of Europe is in mourning for its past. Bookstores are stocked with albums of photographs offering up the vanished past for our delectation and reflex nostalgia." — Susan Sontag, Where the Stress Falls, 2001

"Then it was on to the dining room for, among other delectations, Caesar salad, shrimp remoulade, turtle soup, Eggs Benedict, bread pudding and king cake French toast." — Nell Nolan, NOLA.com, 9 July 2019

Did you know?

Pleasure, delight, and enjoyment are all synonyms and all signify the agreeable emotion accompanying the possession or expectation of what is good or greatly desired. Why, then, use delectation, that not-so-familiar synonym? Because, as with most synonym groups, each word has its own subtle distinctions. Pleasure stresses satisfaction or gratification of the senses. Delight adds the idea of liveliness or obviousness in that satisfaction, often less enduring than pleasure. Enjoyment suggests a wide range of deep pleasure from merely transient, though complete, gratification to deep-seated happiness. Delectation (which is from the Latin word for "delight") suggests a reaction to pleasurable experience consciously sought or provided. More than all the others, it connotes amusement or diversion.



Dec 15, 2019
impugn
00:01:57

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

impugn • \im-PYOON\  • verb

: to assail by words or arguments : oppose or attack as false or lacking integrity

Examples:

The defense attorneys did their best to impugn the credibility of the prosecution's key witnesses.

"Terrible people hire good attorneys every day. Gripe with malfeasance by said legal teams, sure, but to impugn a lawyer for literally doing his job is unconscionable." — Tiana Lowe, The Washington (D.C.) Examiner, 13 May 2019

Did you know?

When you impugn, you hazard repugnant pugnacity. More simply put, you risk insulting someone so greatly that they may punch you in response. The belligerent implications of impugn are to be expected in a word that derives from the Latin verb pugnare, which means "to fight." In its earliest known English uses in the 1300s, impugn could refer to a physical attack (as in, "the troops impugned the city") as well as to figurative assaults involving verbal contradiction or dispute. Over time, though, the sense of physical battling has become obsolete and the "calling into question" sense has predominated. As you might expect, pugnare also gave English other fighting words, including repugnant and pugnacity.



Dec 14, 2019
tractable
00:02:23

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

tractable • \TRAK-tuh-bul\  • adjective

1 : capable of being easily led, taught, or controlled : docile

2 : easily handled, managed, or wrought : malleable

Examples:

"He also looks … at the biological and cultural implications of 'self-domestication,' a process by which humans school themselves out of their feral nature and into habits of being that moderate violence—though, as he adds, while other domesticated species such as dogs and guinea pigs are 'delightfully tractable,' human adaptability and cultural learning add up to something more." — Kirkus Reviews, 15 Oct. 2018

"The computer scientist Alan Turing noted that the question of whether a machine can think is incredibly difficult to determine, not least because of the lack of a clear definition of 'thinking'; he proposed investigating instead the more tractable question of whether a machine can convince a human interlocutor that it's human—the so-called Turing test." — William Egginton, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2019

Did you know?

Docile, obedient, and amenable are synonyms of tractable, but those four words have slightly different shades of meaning. Tractable describes an individual whose character permits easy handling, while docile implies a predisposition to submit readily to authority. Obedient is often used to describe compliance with authority, although that compliance is not necessarily offered eagerly. Amenable, on the other hand, is usually used when someone cooperates out of a desire to be agreeable. Tractable dates from the early 16th century and derives from the Latin verb tractare ("to handle" or "to treat"). Despite the resemblance, this root did not give us the noun tractor or verbs such as contract or attract—those all derive from a loosely related Latin verb trahere ("to draw or pull").



Dec 13, 2019
belle epoque
00:02:09

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

belle epoque • \BEL-ay-POK\  • noun

often capitalized Belle Epoque : a period of high artistic or cultural development; especially : such a period in fin de siècle France

Examples:

"Lest he become pigeonholed in the Belle Époque, [Jason] Jacques expanded his program in 2010 to include contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of clay. 'Siegfried Bing, the Art Nouveau gallerist in turn-of-the-century Paris, was selling contemporary decorative arts,' he explains. 'So I thought, Let's show living artists.' British ceramist Gareth Mason, who fires arresting forms over and over to near destruction, was the first to join the roster." — Hannah Martin, Architectural Digest, 24 Dec. 2018

"Then comes the most elegant of Paris bridges: the Pont Alexandre III, a belle epoque confection linking the Invalides to the Champs-Élysées. Built for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, it was named in honor of the father of the visiting Russian czar, Nicholas II." — Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times, 4 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

In the years before World War I, France experienced a period of economic growth that produced a wealth of artistic and cultural developments. That era has been described as excessive, glittering, gaudy, and extravagant, but the tumultuous days of war that followed it inspired the French to call that productive period la belle époque—literally, "the beautiful age." The term belle epoque soon found its way into English, where it came to be used to refer not only to the glory days of late 19th-century France, but to any similarly luxurious period. It is now used to more elegantly convey the sentiments of another nostalgic expression, "the good old days."



Dec 12, 2019
sodden
00:02:14

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 11, 2019 is:

sodden • \SAH-dun\  • adjective

1 a : dull or expressionless especially from continued indulgence in alcoholic beverages

b : torpid, sluggish

2 a : heavy with or as if with moisture or water

b : heavy or doughy because of imperfect cooking

Examples:

"… with these apt closing words Mr. Slyme fell forward with his head upon the table, and so declined into a sodden sleep." —