Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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Reviews: 7

 Jun 23, 2021
Love the word of the day.

 Jan 29, 2021

 Jun 8, 2020

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

 Nov 25, 2018


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

Episode Date

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 29, 2021 is:

obfuscate • \AHB-fuh-skayt\  • verb

Obfuscate means "to make difficult to understand" or "to be evasive, unclear, or confusing."  

// The coach obfuscated his response as to whether he would retire at the end of the season.

// When asked about the lawsuit alleging plagiarism, the singer obfuscated.

See the entry >


"Intelligence officials operate in an increasingly difficult environment, in which bad actors are deploying sophisticated technology to obfuscate their activities…." — Will Hurd, The Dallas Morning News, 8 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Obfuscate comes from the Latin prefix ob- (meaning "over" or "completely") and fuscus ("dark-colored"). That fact gives an idea as to how the word can refer to making something difficult to see or understand—much like how dark, dirty water makes it hard to see the bottom.

Nov 29, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 28, 2021 is:

menorah • \muh-NOR-uh\  • noun

A menorah is a candelabra with seven or nine lights that is used in Jewish worship.

// At sundown on the first night of Hanukkah, Aaron's father helped him light the first candle on the menorah.

See the entry >


"The world's largest menorah went up in Manhattan on Tuesday and will be lit on Thursday after sundown…." — ABC7 (New York), 10 Dec. 2020

Did you know?

In English, menorah was originally the name for the seven-branched candelabra used in Jewish worship. The nine-branched Hanukkah candelabra is called hanukkiah in Hebrew, but English speakers came to use menorah for this too. The Hanukkah menorah recalls expulsion by Judah Maccabee of invading forces from the Temple of Jerusalem. Maccabee and his followers sought oil for the temple's menorah so that the sanctuary could be rededicated, but they found only enough oil for a single day. Miraculously, that tiny amount of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply could be obtained. The Hanukkah menorah includes a candle for each day the oil burned, plus the shammes, a "servant candle" that is used to light the others.

Nov 28, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 27, 2021 is:

commensurate • \kuh-MEN-suh-rut\  • adjective

Commensurate means "proportionate" or "equal in size, amount, or degree."

// The job posting states that salary will be commensurate with experience.

// The budget cuts of the community college are commensurate with other state-funded agencies and programs.

See the entry >


"Nationwide was originally founded in the 1920s as Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Company with the idea of offering farmers automobile insurance that was more commensurate with their driving habits at a time when many were being charged similar rates to their counterparts in densely-populated urban areas." — Jason Bisnoff, Forbes, 29 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Commensurate comes from the Latin word for the act of measuring, mensūra. That noun is based on mensus, the past participle of the verb mētīrī," meaning "to determine the extent of."

Nov 27, 2021
maître d'

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2021 is:

maître d' • \may-truh-DEE\  • noun

A maître d' (or maitre d') is the headwaiter of the dining-room staff of a restaurant or hotel.

// The maître d' ushered the celebrity couple to a private table at the back of the restaurant.

See the entry >


"Mike is part of a long-standing trio responsible for making Lucca's one of Helena's premier fine-dining establishments. … Rounding out the team is Ray Spooner, maître d', who not only greets and seats patrons but starts the evening off by eloquently describing the featured wines." — Donnie Sexton, The Billings (Montana) Gazette, 19 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

Maître d' is short for maître d'hôtel, which comes from French and literally means "master of the house." Maître d'hôtel was used in English for a head butler or steward of a household before it referred to the head of a dining-room staff. For the record, the plural of maître d'hôtel is maîtres d'hôtel whereas the plural of maître d' is maître d's.

Nov 26, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 25, 2021 is:

jovial • \JOH-vee-ul\  • adjective

Jovial means "markedly good-humored" and describes people and things that are cheerful or full of joy.  

// Andy remembered his Uncle Jim as a jovial man with a ready smile, a firm handshake, and a cheery greeting for all.

// Family reunions are a jovial occasion in which long-distance relatives reconnect and, of course, share amusing stories about each other.

See the entry >


"Still, part of the pleasure of dining at Margie's is ... its familial atmosphere. When Winston, a jovial seventeen-year-old senior at Far Rockaway High School, stopped to chat while clearing dishes, it was hard not to feel like a guest at an intergenerational dinner." — Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, 16 Aug. 2021

Did you know?

In Roman astrology, planets were named after gods, and people were thought to share the personality traits of the god whose planet was rising when they were born. Jupiter, also called Jove, was the chief Roman god and was considered a majestic type who was the source of joy and happiness. The Latin adjective jovialis means "of or relating to Jove." In French, this had become jovial, which English borrowed and used to describe people and things full of cheer or joy.

Nov 25, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 24, 2021 is:

feign • \FAYN\  • verb

Feign means "to give a false appearance of something."

// After her mom told her that she will bring her to the doctor's, Kim confessed that she was feigning illness because she forgot to finish her book report.

See the entry >


"For his part, Hopkins said Collins had surprised him the most this preseason, adding that he's never seen a 6-9 player who can do the things his fellow freshman can on the court. Hopkins … also didn't attempt to feign surprise when told that every single one of his teammates had mentioned him by name when asked the same question." — Ben Roberts, The Lexington (Kentucky) Herald Leader, 21 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

Feign is all about faking it, but that hasn't always been so. An early meaning of the word is "to fashion, form, or shape." That meaning comes from its Latin source: the verb fingere. In time, people began fashioning feign to suggest the act of forming, or giving shape to, false appearances.

Nov 24, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 23, 2021 is:

enclave • \EN-klayv\  • noun

An enclave is an area inhabited by people who are different in some way from the people in the surrounding areas.

// The district includes an enclave in which students of the university reside.

See the entry >


"Harlem … was rapidly evolving; once a rural, village-like enclave for rich English, Dutch and French families, it had become desirable among city elites." — Sandra E. Garcia, The New York Times, 27 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

Enclave comes from French enclaver, meaning "to enclose," which itself is based on the Latin noun clavis, meaning "key." Clavis opened the door to a few other English words, some of which might seem unlikely relatives of enclave. For example, clavicle, the word for the bone that joins the breastbone and the shoulder blade, and the musical sign clef.

Nov 23, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 22, 2021 is:

roister • \ROY-ster\  • verb

Roister means "to engage in noisy partying or celebration."

// Fans roistered after their team won the championship.

See the entry >


"Of course, my student life wasn't all angst and regret. I spent much of my time falling in and out of love and roistering around the world of Cambridge theatre." — Joan Bakewell, The Guardian (London), 8 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Roister is related to French ruste, meaning "rude" or "rough." That word comes from the fairly neutral Latin rusticus, meaning "rural." Originally, the English verb was simply roist, and one who roisted was a roister. Those words are no longer used; instead, we have the verb roister, and the corresponding noun roisterer.

Nov 22, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 21, 2021 is:

univocal • \yoo-NIV-uh-kul\  • adjective

Univocal means "unambiguous"—that is, "clear" or "precise."   

// The results of the study were univocal.

See the entry >


"An audience member asked the panel if fans might get to see a musical episode in Season 3. Several TV shows have gone down this path…. The answer from [Scott Grimes] was, at first, univocal: 'Absolutely not.' However, he paused and added, 'But if we did….'" — Scott Snowden,, 26 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

In Latin, the prefix uni- ("one") united with vox ("voice"), creating univocus, the source of English's univocal.

Nov 21, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 20, 2021 is:

trepidation • \trep-uh-DAY-shun\  • noun

Trepidation is a feeling of fear that causes hesitation because you think that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen.

// The students felt a sense of trepidation as they walked toward the principal's office.

See the entry >


"The current market is great for employment. There was a lot of trepidation for companies in 2020. People wanted to see how things would work out and were stalling." — Lisa Noble, quoted in The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

If you've ever trembled with fright, you know something of both the sensation and etymology of trepidation. The word comes from the Latin verb trepidare, which means "to tremble." Early meanings of trepidation, such as "tremulous motion" or "tremor," reflect that origin; those are followed by the word's sense of "apprehension."

Nov 20, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 19, 2021 is:

draconian • \dray-KOH-nee-un\  • adjective

Draconian means "cruel" or "severe." It is usually used to describe harsh laws, rules, or regulations.

// Small businesses believe that the new tax is draconian.

See the entry >


"Members of the public were mostly against the censure policy…. They said the policy was draconian, divisive and unnecessary." — Braden Cartwright, The Daily Post (Palo Alto, California), 14 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

Draconian comes from Draco, the name of a 7th-century B.C. Athenian legislator who created a written code of law. Draco's code was intended to clarify existing laws, but its severity is what made it really memorable. According to the code, even minor offenses were punishable by death, and failure to pay one's debts could result in slavery. Draconian, as a result, became associated with especially authoritative actions that are viewed as cruel or harsh.

Nov 19, 2021