Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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Category: Literature

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Subscribers: 539
Reviews: 4

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Very concise and includes interesting info like etymology or historical references.

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


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

Episode Date

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

supersede • \soo-per-SEED\  • verb

1 a : to cause to be set aside

b : to force out of use as inferior

2 : to take the place or position of

3 : to displace in favor of another


"What may someday supersede Einstein's hypothesis is any genius' good guess. In the meantime, not only the theory of relativity but also Newton's laws, with all their known limitations, serve us rather well in navigating through space and in constructing bridges and dams on earth." — Henry Petroski, To Engineer is Human, 1992

"This park also supersedes what must have been the world's cleverest playground—a 10-foot-high fort made of telephone poles or logs up the hill at Rocky Ridge Park. (That simple, but popular play area was dismantled. Kids kept getting their heads stuck between the poles.)" — Jim McClure, The York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record, 5 May 2019

Did you know?

Supersede ultimately derives from the Latin verb supersedēre, meaning "to sit on top of" (sedēre means "to sit"), "to be superior to," or "to refrain from," but it came to us through Scots Middle English, where it was rendered superceden and used in the sense of "to defer." It will come as no surprise that modern English speakers can be confused about how to spell this word—it sometimes turns up as supercede. In fact, some of the earliest records of the word in English show it spelled with a c. The s spelling has been the dominant choice since the 16th century, and while both spellings can be etymologically justified, supersede is now regarded as the "correct" version.

Jun 26, 2019

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

gritty • \GRIT-ee\  • adjective

1 : containing or resembling grit

2 : courageously persistent : plucky

3 : having strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism


"Unlike a lot of natural deodorants that also use baking soda but have a gritty texture, this stick has a gel-like consistency that doesn't aggravate tender underarm skin." — Kristine Gill, Real Simple, 7 May 2019

"[John] Singleton was nominated for two Oscars—Best Director and Best Original Screenplay—for Boyz n the Hood…. The gritty tale of gangs in South Central Los Angeles marked the acting debuts of Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut, and also starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King and Angela Bassett." — Bruce Haring, Deadline, 20 Apr. 2019

Did you know?

Gritty comes from grit ("small hard granules"), which in turn derives, via Middle English, from an Old English word for "sand" or "gravel." Grit has been around since before the 12th century, but the first appearance of gritty in print in English was near the end of the 16th century, when it was used in the sense of "resembling or containing small hard granules." Grit entered American slang with the meaning "courage or persistence" in the early 19th century, and gritty followed suit with a corresponding "plucky" sense. By the 19th century's end, gritty was also being used to describe a literary style that was rough and coarse.

Jun 25, 2019

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

contraption • \kun-TRAP-shun\  • noun

: device, gadget


"In Connecticut, the Hartford Marathon Foundation worked with an engineering company to create a 40-foot-long drinking fountain for the finish line of its race. The contraption, known as the Bubbler, allows multiple people to drink at the same time and is estimated to have saved about 85,000 plastic bottles and wax cups since 2007, according to the foundation." — Sarah Mervosh, The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2019

"And scientists are creating devices to track the decay of icebergs. The small, cylindrical contraptions will be deployed in the Arctic, where they will sit atop ice as it breaks off and floats away from larger ice formations." — Laura Krantz, The Boston Globe, 9 May 2019

Did you know?

English has a number of words that can be used as general terms for mechanical or electronic devices, including gadget, gizmo, widget, and contraption. In addition to their meaning, these four words also have a couple of other things in common. First, they are all relative newcomers to the language. The oldest, contraption, entered the language in the early 1800s. Second, the origins of all four are a bit of a mystery. While widget is believed to be an alteration of gadget, the origins of gadget are unknown—it didn't appear in print until later in the 19th century, and it is believed to have been used earlier among sailors. Gizmo sprang into American English in the mid-20th century from origins unknown. The word contraption may be a blend of contrivance (which can be used as another synonym of gadget), trap, and invention.

Jun 24, 2019

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

lade • \LAYD\  • verb

1 a : to put a load or burden on or in : load

b : to put or place as a load especially for shipment : ship

c : to load heavily or oppressively

2 : dip, ladle


"… we might, for example, see what are arguably Mr. Boontje's two most influential designs: his Blossom chandelier for Swarovski, a sparkling spray of branches laden with rosy crystals; and the more affordable Garland light…." — Pilar Viladas, The New York Times, 9 May 2019

"There were no pictures on the walls but here and there boughs laden with heavy-petalled flowers spread widely against them." — Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out, 1915

Did you know?

Lade most often occurs in its past participle form laden, as shown in our examples. There is also the adjective laden, best distinguished from the verb by its placement before nouns, as in "laden ships" or "a laden heart." (The adjective is also at work in hyphenated terms like sugar-laden.) Lade has been in use for more than a millennium and formerly had a nominal counterpart: the noun lade, meaning "load" or "cargo," came to be around the same time but is now obsolete. A few short decades after it faded from active use, the noun lading took on the same meaning. Lading is still in use and appears most often in bill of lading—a term referring to a document that lists goods being shipped and specifies the terms of their transport.

Jun 23, 2019

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

puckish • \PUCK-ish\  • adjective

: impish, whimsical


"Ms. Jamon, with her charm and puckish humor, makes the restaurant feel like a home. For Christmas in 2009, after their move from Los Angeles, there was a fully decorated tree hanging upside down from the ceiling. 'Everything in the world seems upside down,' she said, 'so I decided to match it.'" — John Willoughby, The New York Times, 14 Mar. 2019

"[Thomas] Venning said the wheelchair became a symbol … of [Stephen] Hawking's 'puckish sense of humor.' He once ran over Prince Charles' toes—and reportedly joked that he wished he had done the same to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—and appeared in a 'Monty Python' skit running down fellow physicist Brian Cox." — The Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Oct. 2018

Did you know?

We know Puck as "that merry wanderer of the night," the shape-changing, maiden-frightening, mischief-sowing henchman to the king of the fairies in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Bard drew on English folklore in casting his character, but the traditional Puck was more malicious than the Shakespearean imp; he was an evil spirit or demon. In medieval England, this nasty hobgoblin was known as the puke or pouke, names related to the Old Norse pūki, meaning "devil." (There is no connection to modern English puke.) But it was the Bard's characterization that stuck, and by the time the adjective puckish started appearing regularly in English texts in the 1800s the association was one of impishness, not evil.

Jun 22, 2019

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

tonsorial • \tahn-SOR-ee-ul\  • adjective

: of or relating to a barber or the work of a barber


"Once again Ryan's Barber Shop and Shaving Parlor … provided the tonsorial team the chairs and the needed supplies for the men to sit down and get their faces cleaned up or hair trimmed." — Steve Moran, The Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press, 6 Dec. 2018

"I think we are still a long way off from having tonsorial robots, so whatever the trends and styles that come about ... as long as we are all still growing hair out of our heads, there will be patrons attending the barbershop." — Adam Castleforte, quoted in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 24 Sept. 2018

Did you know?

Tonsorial is a fancy word that describes the work of those who give shaves and haircuts. (It can apply more broadly to hairdressers as well.) It derives from the Latin verb tondēre, meaning "to shear, clip, or crop." (Another descendant, tonsor, is an archaic word for a barber.) You might be more familiar with the related noun tonsure, which refers to the shaven crown or patch worn by monks and other clerics, or the religious rite of clipping the hair of one being admitted as a cleric. The verb tonsure means "to shave the head of" or "to confer the tonsure upon."

Jun 21, 2019

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

demeanor • \dih-MEE-ner\  • noun

: behavior toward others : outward manner


The professor's friendly and laid-back demeanor made him a favorite among the students.

"Detroit's well-earned place as one of America's most iconic cities is a credit to its past, present and future. It is a city that has never had it easy, but its steely demeanor has also always encased and protected a powerful heart." —, 14 May 2019

Did you know?

There's a long trail from the Latin origins of demeanor to its English incarnation. It starts with minari, "to threaten"—a word connected to the threatening cries of cattle drivers. Leaving minari, we soon encounter a close Latin relation, minare; it means "to drive," and was once used specifically of driving animals for herding. From there, the path leads us to Anglo-French, where we pass by mener ("to lead") and then demener ("to conduct"). Next comes Middle English demenen and then Modern English demean, both meaning "to conduct (oneself) in a certain manner." And, finally, we take one last step, and add the suffix -or to demean to get demeanor.

Jun 20, 2019

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

insuperable • \in-SOO-puh-ruh-bul\  • adjective

: incapable of being surmounted, overcome, passed over, or solved


Though it had appeared that the visiting team had an insuperable lead, the home team rallied to win in the end.

"'Life and Fate,' his resulting magnum opus, is not likely to be unseated as the greatest Second World War novel ever written. Grossman's challenge over the ten years of its composition seems nearly insuperable: to evoke the scope and magnitude of the conflict without turning his characters into cogs in a vast military machine." — Sam Sacks, The New Yorker, 25 June 2013

Did you know?

Insuperable first appeared in print in the 14th century, and as a close synonym to insurmountable, it still means now approximately what it did then. In Latin, superare means "to go over, surmount, overcome, or excel." (The sur- in surmount is related to the Latin prefix super-.) The Latin word insuperabilis, from which insuperable is derived, was formed by combining the negative prefix in- with superare plus abilis ("able"). Hence, insuperabilis means "unable to be surmounted, overcome, or passed over," or more simply, "insurmountable." The word can describe physical barriers that cannot be scaled (such as walls or mountains) as well as more figurative challenges, obstacles, or difficulties.

Jun 19, 2019

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

boilerplate • \BOY-ler-playt\  • noun

1 : syndicated material supplied especially to weekly newspapers in matrix or plate form

2 a : standardized text

b : formulaic or hackneyed language

3 : tightly packed icy snow


"'I think the middle class is getting clobbered,' he said one day, over lunch. 'I think there has to be a significant change in both, over time, fiscal policy and tax policy.' He was trying to get that view 'further insinuated into the White House,' he said. It seemed like boilerplate, and I didn't quote it." — Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 26 Apr. 2019

"… we ask each of our esteemed colleagues to negotiate hard to get anti-harassment language woven into all service agreements, to make it part of the basic boilerplate and/or the standard asks in any negotiation." — Monika Tashman, Esq., et al.,, 12 Nov. 2018

Did you know?

In the days before computers, small, local newspapers around the U.S. relied heavily on feature stories, editorials, and other printed material supplied by large publishing syndicates. The syndicates delivered that copy on metal plates with the type already in place so the local papers wouldn't have to set it. Printers apparently dubbed those syndicated plates "boiler plates" because of their resemblance to the plating used in making steam boilers. Soon boilerplate came to refer to the printed material on the plates as well as to the plates themselves. Because boilerplate stories were more often filler than hard news, the word acquired negative connotations and gained another sense widely used today, such as "hackneyed or unoriginal writing."

Jun 18, 2019

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

flounce • \FLOUNSS\  • verb

1 a : to move with exaggerated jerky or bouncy motions

b : to go with sudden determination

2 : flounder, struggle


"With skirts flouncing, 15 young women ascended the steps … to a traditional Mexican birthday song played in a mariachi style." — Laurel Wamsley and Vanessa Romo, NPR, 19 July 2017

"The Master of the Music flounced out with the choir flouncing out in perfect unison behind him." — Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals, 2009

Did you know?

The story behind flounce is an elusive one. The verb's earliest recorded uses in English occurred in the mid-1500s, and some scholars believe it is related to the Norwegian verb flunsa (meaning "to hurry" or "to work briskly") and Swedish flunsa ("to fall with a splash" or "to plunge"). The connection is uncertain, however, because the flunsa verbs did not appear in their respective languages until the 18th century, long after flounce surfaced in English. A second distinct sense of flounce, referring to a strip or ruffle of fabric attached on one edge, did not appear in English until the 18th century. This flounce derives from the Middle English frouncen, meaning "to curl."

Jun 17, 2019