Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

Merriam-Webster


    • Aug 10, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
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    Latest episodes from Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

    trivial

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 10, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 10, 2022 is: trivial • TRIV-ee-ul • adjective Trivial means “of little worth or importance.” // Although her parents dismissed her love of pop music as trivial, she relied on the inspirational messages of many songs to help her through difficult times. See the entry > Examples: “Urged on by co-founders Jim VandeHei and John Harris to ‘win the morning,' Politico's reporters and editors covered Washington high and low, devoting space in their influential email newsletters to presidential campaigns and more trivial details like birthdays of prominent local figures.” — Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson, The New York Times, 3 May 2022 Did you know? When English speakers adopted the word trivial from Latin trivialis in the 16th century, they used it to mean just what its Latin ancestor meant: "found everywhere, commonplace." But the source of trivialis is about something more specific: trivium, from tri- (three) and via (way), means "crossroads; place where three roads meet." The link between the two presumably has to do with the commonplace sorts of things a person is likely to encounter at a busy crossroads. Today, the English word typically describes something barely worth mentioning. Such judgments are, of course, subjective; feel free to mention this bit of trivia to anyone and everyone who crosses your path.

    riposte

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2022 1:41

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 9, 2022 is: riposte • rih-POHST • noun A riposte is a clever retort or retaliatory measure. In fencing, it refers specifically to a quick return thrust immediately following a successful defensive action. // She's known for having a brilliant riposte to nearly any insult. See the entry > Examples: "As a riposte to the status quo, the studio has created Pendler, a conceptual urban e-bike pitched at commuters, meticulously designed and carefully shaped to be safer, more practical, and better performing that its rivals." — Jonathan Bell, Wallpaper (wallpaper.com), 21 July 2022 Did you know? In the sport of fencing, a riposte is a counterattack made after successfully fending off one's opponent. English speakers borrowed the name for this particular maneuver from French in the early 1700s, but the French had simply modified the Italian word risposta, which literally means "answer." Ultimately these words come from the Latin verb respondēre, meaning "to respond." It seems fitting that riposte has since come full circle to now refer to a quick and witty response performed as a form of retaliation.

    riposte

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2022 1:41

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 9, 2022 is: riposte • rih-POHST • noun A riposte is a clever retort or retaliatory measure. In fencing, it refers specifically to a quick return thrust immediately following a successful defensive action. // She's known for having a brilliant riposte to nearly any insult. See the entry > Examples: "As a riposte to the status quo, the studio has created Pendler, a conceptual urban e-bike pitched at commuters, meticulously designed and carefully shaped to be safer, more practical, and better performing than its rivals." — Jonathan Bell, Wallpaper (wallpaper.com), 21 July 2022 Did you know? In the sport of fencing, a riposte is a counterattack made after successfully fending off one's opponent. English speakers borrowed the name for this particular maneuver from French in the early 1700s, but the French had simply modified the Italian word risposta, which literally means "answer." Ultimately these words come from the Latin verb respondēre, meaning "to respond." It seems fitting that riposte has since come full circle to now refer to a quick and witty response performed as a form of retaliation.

    crepuscular

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 8, 2022 1:42

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 8, 2022 is: crepuscular • krih-PUHSS-kyuh-ler • adjective Crepuscular means "of, relating to, or resembling twilight." It is also used in zoological contexts to describe creatures that are active during twilight, or to the activities of such creatures. // As evening came on, fireflies began to appear in the crepuscular gloaming. See the entry > Examples: "Cardinals, a crepuscular species, follow their own schedule, eating an early breakfast and a stylishly late dinner. They will break that schedule on very cold days." — Jim Williams, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 16 Feb. 2022 Did you know? The early Romans had two words for the twilight. Crepusculum was favored by Roman writers for the half-light of evening, just after the sun sets; diluculum was reserved for morning twilight, just before the sun rises—it is related to lucidus, meaning "bright." We didn't embrace either of these Latin nouns as substitutes for our word twilight, but we did form the adjective crepuscular in the 17th century. The word's zoological sense, relating to animals that are most active at twilight, developed in the 19th century.

    eminently

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 7, 2022 1:28

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 7, 2022 is: eminently • EM-uh-nunt-lee • adverb Eminently is used as a synonym of very and means “to a high degree.” // All three outfielders are eminently capable of making an All-Star-caliber catch to help their team. See the entry > Examples: “As far as tequila goes, blancos are by far my favorite. And not without good reason: They're eminently drinkable—whether in cocktails, on the rocks, or neat.” — Karla Alindahao, Forbes, 2 May 2022 Did you know? When British physician Tobias Venner wrote in 1620 of houses "somewhat eminently situated," he meant that the houses were literally located in a high place. That use has since slipped into obsolescence, as has the word's use to mean "conspicuously"—a sense that reflects its Latin root, ēminēre, which means "to stick out" or “protrude.” The figurative sense of “notably” or “very” that is prominent today was likely a new development when Venner was writing.

    adjudicate

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 6, 2022 1:32

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 6, 2022 is: adjudicate • uh-JOO-dih-kayt • verb To adjudicate a dispute between parties is to make an official decision about which party is right. Adjudicate is also used to mean "to act as judge." // The case will be adjudicated in the state courts. // The property title cannot be transferred until a case concerning the affected rights of way is adjudicated. See the entry > Examples: "The request sought to move the trial to another location or bring an outside jury to adjudicate it." — Lydia Morrell, The Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel, 20 June 2022 Did you know? Adjudicate, which is usually used to mean "to make an official decision about who is right in a dispute," is one of several terms that give testimony to the influence of jus, the Latin word for "law," on our legal language. Others include judgment, judicial, prejudice, jury, justice, injury, and perjury. What's the verdict? Latin "law" words frequently preside in English-speaking courtrooms.

    heartstring

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 5, 2022 1:42

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 5, 2022 is: heartstring • HAHRT-string • noun Heartstring is used, usually in the plural, to refer to someone's deepest emotions or affections. // The movie's emotional ending really pulls at your heartstrings. See the entry > Examples: "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be amazed at the talent on stage. These six actresses definitely know how to effortlessly make you chuckle while also tugging at your heartstrings." — Paul Lockwood, The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), 22 Jun. 2022 Did you know? Before a love song could tug at your heartstrings, the job was more likely to be accomplished by a surgeon: the word heartstring used to refer to a nerve believed to sustain the heart. You might recognize the word's second syllable in hamstring, which refers to both a group of tendons at the back of the knee and to any of three muscles at the backs of the upper legs. It's also apparent in a rare dialect term for the Achilles tendon: heel string. And in light of these terms, it's not surprising to know that string itself was at one time used independently to refer to bodily cords like tendons and ligaments.

    brackish

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 4, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 4, 2022 is: brackish • BRACK-ish • adjective Brackish is typically used to mean “somewhat salty,” and most often describes water or bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries. // The mangrove swamp is home to many species of plants and animals that thrive in brackish water. See the entry > Examples: “The Homosassa River is an estuarial waterway that flows through marine wetlands on the western edge of the Florida panhandle, turning brackish as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico.” — Marissa Grunes, Boston Review, 11 Feb. 2022 Did you know? When the word brackish first appeared in English in the 1500s, it simply meant "salty," as did its Dutch parent brak. (English speakers also adopted the synonymous brack from the same source but it gets very little use.) Then, as now, brackish was used to describe water that was a mixture of saltwater and freshwater, such as one encounters where a river meets the sea. Since that time, however, brackish has developed the additional meanings of "unpalatable" and "repulsive," presumably because of the oozy, mucky, and sometimes stinky (or stinkyish, if you prefer)—not just salty—qualities of coastal estuaries and swamps.

    patina

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 3, 2022 1:58

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 3, 2022 is: patina • puh-TEE-nuh • noun A patina is a usually green film that forms on copper and bronze that is exposed to moist air for an extended time. The word can also refer to a shiny or dark surface that over time forms naturally on something (such as wood or leather), or to a literal or figurative thin layer. // The town erected a statue in her honor, which over the years developed a seafoam green patina. // Although the winery is brand-new, it has been constructed and decorated to give it a patina of old-world quaintness. See the entry > Examples: "She has attracted a popular following for stories grounded in historical fact, adorned with a patina of romance and adventure." — Stephanie Parkyn, Canberra Times (Australia), 1 Jan. 2022 Did you know? When Italians began using patina in the 17th century to refer to the green film that forms on the surface of copper, they were drawing on Latin, in which patina means "a shallow dish." (Presumably, the Italian meaning developed from the observation of such film forming on copper dishes.) By the mid-18th century, English speakers were also calling the green film patina, and by the 20th century, they'd expanded the word's application to surface appearances of things that have grown more beautiful with age or use—think of an old wooden desk or a tarnished silver goblet. Use of the word to refer to thin layers both literal and figurative ("a patina of grime," "a patina of respectability") followed soon after.

    nebulous

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 2, 2022 1:47

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 2, 2022 is: nebulous • NEB-yuh-lus • adjective Nebulous is often used as a synonym of indistinct or vague, but can also be used to refer to something that is related to or that resembles a nebula. // Daniel's description of the film was so nebulous that I'm still not quite sure what it is about. See the entry > Examples: "Instead of promoting nebulous concepts of 'diplomacy,' we should turn to the principles of negotiations and focus on concrete questions." — Anastassia Fedyk, The Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2022 Did you know? Nebulous may sound other-worldly—after all, it's related to nebula, which refers to a distant galaxy or an interstellar cloud of gas or dust—but its mysteriousness is rooted in more earthly unknowns. Both words ultimately come from Latin nebula, meaning “mist, cloud,” and as far back as the 14th century nebulous could mean simply “cloudy” or “foggy.” Nebulous has since the late 17th century been the adjective correlating to nebula (as in “nebulous gas”), but the word is more familiar in its figurative use, where it describes things that are indistinct or vague, as when Jack London wrote of “ideas that were nebulous at best and that in reality were remembered sensations.”

    frolic

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 1, 2022 1:28

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 1, 2022 is: frolic • FRAH-lik • verb Frolic means “to play and run about happily.” // One of the highlights of spring on the farm is watching newborn lambs frolic in the meadow. See the entry > Examples: “In front of her, kids frolicked on the playground and grassy field, dusting themselves off after tumbles and shrieking with joy.” — Kate Selig, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 21 June 2021 Did you know? Frolic is a word rooted in pleasure. Its most common function today is as a verb meaning “to play and run about happily,” as in “children frolicking in the waves,” but it joined the language in the 16th century as an adjective carrying the meaning of its Dutch source vroolijk: “full of fun; merry.” Shakespeare's Puck used it this way in A Midsummer Night's Dream, saying “And we fairies … following darkness like a dream, now are frolic.” Verb use quickly followed, and by the early 17th century the word was also being used as a noun, as in “an evening of fun and frolic.”

    frolic

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 1, 2022 1:28

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 1, 2022 is: frolic • FRAH-lik • verb Frolic means “to play and run about happily.” One of the highlights of spring on the farm is watching newborn lambs frolic in the meadow. See the entry > Examples: “In front of her, kids frolicked on the playground and grassy field, dusting themselves off after tumbles and shrieking with joy.” — Kate Selig, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 21 June 2021 Did you know? Frolic is a word rooted in pleasure. Its most common function today is as a verb meaning “to play and run about happily,” as in “children frolicking in the waves,” but it joined the language in the 16th century as an adjective carrying the meaning of its Dutch source vroolijk: “full of fun; merry.” Shakespeare's Puck used it this way in A Midsummer Night's Dream, saying “And we fairies … following darkness like a dream, now are frolic.” Verb use quickly followed, and by the early 17th century the word was also being used as a noun, as in “an evening of fun and frolic.”

    menagerie

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 31, 2022 1:37

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 31, 2022 is: menagerie • muh-NAJ-uh-ree • noun Menagerie is used to refer to a collection of animals kept especially to be shown to the public, as well as a place where such animals are kept. It can also refer more broadly to any varied mixture. // The aviary featured a menagerie of exotic birds. // The living room is eclectically furnished with a menagerie of garage sale finds. See the entry > Examples: "Beatrix Potter created a delightful Peter Rabbit in her 1902 book publication, then went on to write about and draw a whole menagerie of related animal friends." — Brenda Yenke, cleveland.com, 10 Mar. 2022 Did you know? Back in the days of Middle French, ménagerie meant "the management of a household or farm" or "a place where animals are tended." When English speakers adopted menagerie in the 1600s, they applied it specifically to places where wild and often also foreign animals were kept and trained for exhibition, as well as to the animals so kept. This second meaning was eventually generalized to refer to any varied mixture, especially one that includes things that are strange or foreign to one's experience.

    ineffable

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 30, 2022 1:48

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 30, 2022 is: ineffable • in-EFF-uh-bul • adjective Ineffable is used to describe something that is indescribable or unspeakable and that cannot be expressed in words. It is also used for things which are taboo and are not to be uttered. // Ed felt an ineffable joy at the sight of his daughter walking toward him from the plane. See the entry > Examples: "But onstage alone, talking to a crowd, he's smooth as can be. A seductive presence, he has that ineffable quality of stardom: a preternatural ability to connect." — Jason Zinoman, The New York Times, 28 May 2022 Did you know? "Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness," wrote Frederick Douglass in his autobiography. Reading Douglass's words, it's clear that ineffable means "indescribable" or "unspeakable." And when we break the word down to its Latin roots, we see how those meanings came about. Ineffable comes from ineffābilis, which joins the prefix in-, meaning "not," with the adjective effābilis, meaning "capable of being expressed." Effābilis comes from effārī, "to speak out," which in turn comes from ex- and fārī, meaning “to speak.”

    brouhaha

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 29, 2022 1:56

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 29, 2022 is: brouhaha • BROO-hah-hah • noun Brouhaha is a synonym of both uproar and hubbub, and can mean "a noisy confusion of sound" or "state of commotion." // A brouhaha erupted over the bill, even though the opposing party stood to gain just as much from its passage. See the entry > Examples: “An international piano competition back in 1958—the Tchaikovsky, in Moscow—made Texas-raised Van Cliburn an overnight international celebrity. In the height of Cold War tensions, his face was splashed across front pages, and he was feted with a ticker tape parade on Wall Street. No classical music competition anywhere stirs up that kind of brouhaha today.” — Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News, 26 May 2022 Did you know? The English language borrowed brouhaha directly from French in the late 18th century, but its origins beyond that are uncertain—not quite the subject of noisy brouhaha but perhaps more modest debate. What's less arguable is that brouhaha is fun to say, as are many of its synonyms, including hubbub, williwaw, hullabaloo, bobbery, and kerfuffle. And many of these, also like brouhaha, tend to suggest a certain judgment that the reason for all the foofaraw is a bit silly, or at least not worth getting all worked up about. A dad joke, for example, might raise some brouhaha, even though it's really no reason for an uproar to brew. Haha!

    ostentatious

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 28, 2022 1:39

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2022 is: ostentatious • ah-stun-TAY-shus • adjective Ostentatious means "attracting or seeking to attract attention, admiration, or envy." Things that are ostentatious tend to stand out as overly elaborate or conspicuous. // His ostentatious displays of knowledge were often less than charming. See the entry > Examples: "The Met Gala, in full ostentatious, crowd-pleasing costumery, returned this week, flooding the fashion news cycle." — Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 11 May 2022 Did you know? Ostentatious comes from a Latin word meaning “display," and the idea of display persists in the English word's current use: people and things described as ostentatious seem to be practically begging to be looked at. The word is often applied to objects and buildings that can also be described as luxurious—flashy jewelry, mansions, edifices with marble columns. Someone with an ostentatious lifestyle spends money in a way that makes it obvious that they have a lot of it. Used in negative constructions—“the house is large but not ostentatious”—the implication is that display isn't the point.

    apropos

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 27, 2022 1:30

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2022 is: apropos • ap-ruh-POH • preposition Apropos means "with regard to." It is frequently used in the phrase "apropos of." // Sean interrupted our conversation about politics and, apropos of nothing, asked who we thought would win the basketball game. See the entry > Examples: "It was July 2020 and, apropos of the times, they were in a Zoom meeting." — Alix Wall, The New York Times, 20 May 2022 Did you know? Apropos wears its ancestry like a badge—or a beret. From the French phrase à propos, meaning “to the purpose,” the word's emphasis lands on its last syllable, which ends in a silent “s”: ap-ruh-POH. Apropos typically functions as an adjective describing what is suitable or appropriate (“an apropos comment”), or as a preposition (with or without of) meaning “with regard to,” as in “apropos (of) the decision, implementation will take some time.” The phrase “apropos of nothing” suggests that something does not relate to a specified topic.

    Luddite

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 26, 2022 2:06

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2022 is: Luddite • LUH-dyte • noun Luddite refers to someone who is opposed to change, and especially to technological change. // Call me a Luddite, but I enjoy the sense of privacy that comes with not owning a smartphone. See the entry > Examples: “A high school English teacher who has been working for more than a quarter century, Beasley is no Luddite. She taught online courses before the pandemic and has used a learning-management system for years, unlike some of her colleagues, who still prefer a traditional pen-and-paper grade book.” — Alyson Klein, Education Week, 8 Mar. 2022 Did you know? Long before your Luddite friend was waxing poetic about how blissful it is to not have a smartphone, Luddites were protesting the textile machinery that was slowly replacing them. It was toward the end of 1811, in the vicinity of Nottingham, England, when handicraftsmen formed organized bands and began to riot for the destruction of the new machinery. Their name is of uncertain origin, but it may be connected to a (probably mythical) person named Ned Ludd. According to an unsubstantiated account in George Pellew's Life of Lord Sidmouth (1847), Ned Ludd was a Leicestershire villager of the late 1700s who, in a fit of rage, rushed into a stocking weaver's house and destroyed his equipment; subsequently, his name was proverbially connected with machinery destruction. With the onset of the information age, Luddite gained a broader sense describing anyone who shuns new technology.

    extradite

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 25, 2022 1:56

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2022 is: extradite • EK-struh-dyte • verb To extradite someone who has been accused of a crime is to send that person to the state or country that has jurisdiction to try them for that crime. // The U.S. has rejected the country's request to extradite the journalist because of concerns that she will be subjected to an unfair trial there. // An alleged criminal is typically only extradited under the provisions of a treaty or statute, but a fugitive is occasionally surrendered by one state or country to another as an act of good will. See the entry > Examples: "The U.S. State Department on Friday asked authorities in El Salvador to 'immediately' extradite leaders of the international criminal gang MS-13 to be put on trial in the United States." — Nelson Renteria and Brendan O'Boyle, Reuters, 24 June 2022 Did you know? Extradite and its related noun extradition are both ultimately Latin in origin: their source is tradition-, tradition, meaning “the act of handing over.” (The word tradition, though centuries older, has the same source; consider tradition as something handed over from one generation to the next.) While extradition and extradite are of 19th century vintage, the U.S. Constitution, written in 1787, addresses the idea in Article IV: “A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime.”

    pathos

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 24, 2022 1:54

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2022 is: pathos • PAY-thahss • noun Pathos refers to some element of an experience or of an artistic representation that evokes compassion or pity. The word also refers to a feeling of sympathetic pity. // Our knowledge of the hero's tragic end adds an element of pathos to the story of his early success. See the entry > Examples: "It's all in good fun, though. This is Maverick's movie, as the title declares. As a character study of an iconic hero, Cruise and Kosinski do fine work, plumbing pathos and power out of a mythic One Last Flight." — Eric Webb, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, 27 May 2022 Did you know? The Greek word páthos means "experience, misfortune, emotion, condition,” and comes from Greek path-, meaning “experience, undergo, suffer.” In English, pathos usually refers to the element in an experience or in an artistic work that makes us feel compassion, pity, or sympathy. The word is a member of a big family: empathy is the ability to share someone else's feelings. Pathetic (in its gentlest uses) describes things that move us to pity. Though pathology is not literally "the study of suffering," it is "the study of diseases." Other relatives of pathos include sympathy, apathy, and antipathy.

    conscientious

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 23, 2022 1:55

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2022 is: conscientious • kahn-shee-EN-shus • adjective Conscientious often describes those who are concerned with doing things correctly. It can be used as a synonym for both meticulous and careful. // Although Marvin was brilliant, he was not a very conscientious student, and he frequently lost points for forgetting to turn in his homework. See the entry > Examples: “Findings from Gosling's studies revealed that highly conscientious people tend to have homes or offices that are clean and in good condition. Books, TV remotes, and magazines may be neatly arranged and conveniently located, for example. Their music records and books might be organized and grouped together on the bookshelf by type or genre.” — Brian Collisson, Psychology Today, 25 May 2022 Did you know? According to American writer and editor H. L. Mencken, "Conscience is the inner voice which warns us someone may be looking." A person who is conscientious makes sure that if others are watching, they approve of what they see. This is true for someone who is “governed by their conscience” as the oldest sense of the word is defined—as in “a conscientious objector to the war”—but it is also true for the conscientious person paying close, careful attention to the task at hand. Conscientious came to English from French, centuries after Middle English had adopted conscience from Old French; both ultimately come from Latin scire, “to know.”

    muse

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 22, 2022 1:52

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 22, 2022 is: muse • MYOOZ • verb To muse about something is to think about it carefully and thoroughly. The word can also mean "to become absorbed in thought," or "to think or say something in a thoughtful way." // The conversation meandered, as the cousins mused about what had changed and what had remained the same since the last family reunion. See the entry > Examples: "In the first single, 'Canola Fields,' the singer is musing about a long-ago love, and the song sounds as intimate as a conversation and as infectiously vibrant as a roadhouse rocker." — Jay N. Miller, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), 14 June 2022 Did you know? Muse on this: the word muse comes from the Anglo-French muser, meaning “to gape, to idle, to muse.” (Amuse has the same source.) The image evoked is one of a thinker so absorbed in thought as to be unconsciously open-mouthed. Those who muse on their pets' musings might like to know that muser is ultimately from Latin musus, meaning “mouth of an animal”—also source of the word muzzle. The sister goddesses of Greek mythology known as the Muses have no etymological link: that word, which in lowercase refers to a source of inspiration, comes from Greek Mousa. The ultimate Greek origin of the word museum translates as “of the Muses.”

    iconoclast

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 21, 2022 2:00

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 21, 2022 is: iconoclast • eye-KAH-nuh-klast • noun Iconoclast originally referred to someone who destroys religious images or who opposes their veneration. It is now used to refer broadly to anyone who attacks widely accepted beliefs or institutions. // The comedian had developed a reputation as a contrarian and an iconoclast for whom no topic was off-limits. See the entry > Examples: "David Bowie was the ultimate iconoclast, a man who took his unique vocal instrument and used it to reinvent rock music almost album to album. From otherworldly Ziggy Stardust to the ethereal Thin White Duke, Bowie played fast and loose with style and sexuality throughout a five-decade career." — Marco della Cava, USA Today, 28 May 2022 Did you know? Iconoclast comes from the Greek word eikonoklastēs, which translates literally as “image destroyer.” While the destruction wrought by today's iconoclasts is figurative—in modern use, an iconoclast is someone who criticizes or opposes beliefs and practices that are widely accepted—the first iconoclasts directed their ire at religious icons, those representations of sacred individuals used as objects of veneration. The Byzantine Empire's Iconoclastic Controversy occurred in the 8th and 9th centuries, but the word iconoclast didn't find its way to English until the 17th century. Figurative use came later still.

    waggish

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 20, 2022 1:43

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2022 is: waggish • WAG-ish • adjective Waggish means “resembling or characteristic of a wag”—a wag being a clever person who is prone to joking—and is also a synonym of humorous. // With a wink and a waggish grin she emptied the sugar bowl and refilled it with salt. See the entry > Examples: “[William Taylor Ramage] underscores the hybrid nature of these works—his own splatter and drip paintings paired with a vintage photo of Pollock—with the waggish signature ‘W.T. Jackson.'” — Pamela Polston, Seven Days (Burlington, Vermont), 11 May 2022 Did you know? One who is waggish acts like a wag. What, then, is a wag? It has nothing to do with a dog's tail; in this case a wag is a clever person prone to joking. Though light-hearted in its use and meaning, the probable source of this particular wag is grim: it is thought to be short for waghalter, an obsolete English word that translates as gallows bird, a gallows bird being someone thought to be deserving of hanging. The wag in waghalter is the familiar wag having to do with movement, and halter is another word for a noose.

    waggish

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 20, 2022 1:43

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2022 is: waggish • WAG-ish • adjective Waggish means “resembling or characteristic of a wag”—a wag being a clever person who is prone to joking—and is also a synonym of humorous. // With a wink and a waggish grin she emptied the sugar bowl and refilled it with salt. See the entry > Examples: “[William Taylor Ramage] underscores the hybrid nature of these works—his own splatter and drip paintings paired with a vintage photo of Pollock—with the waggish signature ‘W.T. Jackson.'” — Pamela Polston, Seven Days (Burlington, Vermont), 11 May 2022 Did you know? One who is waggish acts like a wag. What, then, is a wag? It has nothing to do with a dog's tail; in this case a wag is a clever person prone to joking. Though light-hearted in its use and meaning, the probable source of this particular wag is grim: it is thought to be short for waghalter, an obsolete English word that translates as gallows bird, a gallows bird being someone thought to be deserving of hanging. The wag in waghalter is the familiar wag having to do with movement, and halter is another word for a noose.

    emolument

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 19, 2022 2:05

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 19, 2022 is: emolument • ih-MAHL-yuh-munt • noun An emolument refers to money, gifts, or perquisites that someone receives due to their job or position. // Jenna has contributed countless volunteer hours to the organization and continues to refuse any emolument for her work. Read the entry > Examples: “The Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Enforcement Act, introduced in November, would: (1) codify the emoluments clause's prohibition by barring federal officials from receiving foreign emoluments absent congressional approval; (2) increase transparency by requiring disclosure of such emoluments; (3) authorize the Office of Government Ethics to create rules to ensure compliance, and also empower the Office of the Special Counsel to investigate any violations.” — Editorial, The Boston Globe, 16 Apr. 2022 Did you know? The U.S. Constitution includes two emoluments clauses: the foreign emoluments clause, in Article 1, Section 9, prohibits federal officeholders from accepting gifts, payments, or other items of value from foreign states or rulers; the domestic emoluments clause, in Article 2, Section 1, prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from the federal government or from any state beyond what Section 1 outlines for compensation for service as the nation's chief executive. Like most technical legal terms, emolument is Latin in origin, but chew on this: its Latin predecessor meant simply “advantage,” but that word's source is emolere, meaning “to produce by grinding,” and its relations include such toothsome words as mill and molar.

    sanction

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 18, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2022 is: sanction • SANK-shun • verb Sanction means both "to give effective or authoritative approval or consent to" and "to impose a penalty or economically or militarily coercive measures." // Because he was using equipment that was not sanctioned by league officials, Jared was disqualified from the competition. See the entry > Examples: "Johnson himself was fined 50 pounds (about $63), making him the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office." — Jaweed Kaleem, The Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2022 Did you know? The noun sanction, meaning "authoritative approval" or "a coercive measure," entered English in the 15th century, and originally referred to a formal decree or law, especially an ecclesiastical decree. (The Latin sancire, meaning "to make holy," is an ancestor.) The noun's meaning then extended in different directions. By the end of the 17th century, it could refer to both a means of enforcing a law (a sense that in the 20th century we began using especially for economic penalties against nations violating international law) and the process of formally approving or ratifying a law. When the verb sanction appeared in the 18th century, it had to do with ratifying laws as well, but it soon acquired an additional, looser sense: "to approve."

    sanction

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 18, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2022 is: sanction • SANK-shun • verb Sanction means both "to give effective or authoritative approval or consent to" and "to impose a penalty or economically or militarily coercive measures." // Because he was using equipment that was not sanctioned by league officials, Jared was disqualified from the competition. See the entry > Examples: "Johnson himself was fined 50 pounds (about $63), making him the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office." — Jaweed Kaleem, The Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2022 Did you know? The noun sanction, meaning "authoritative approval" or "a coercive measure," entered English in the 15th century, and originally referred to a formal decree or law, especially an ecclesiastical decree. (The Latin sancire, meaning "to make holy," is an ancestor.) The noun's meaning then extended in different directions. By the end of the 17th century, it could refer to both a means of enforcing a law (a sense that in the 20th century we began using especially for economic penalties against nations violating international law) and the process of formally approving or ratifying a law. When the verb sanction appeared in the 18th century, it had to do with ratifying laws as well, but it soon acquired an additional, looser sense: "to approve."

    finicky

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 17, 2022 1:29

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 17, 2022 is: finicky • FIN-ih-kee • adjective Finicky means “very particular in tastes or standards.” // The young boy was a finicky eater, and his parents found it challenging to come up with ideas for healthy meals that he would enjoy. See the entry > Examples: “The cucumber is a pretty finicky vegetable, having strong opinions about soil, sun, and water.” — Vanessa Nirode, SFGate.com, 5 Apr. 2022 Did you know? If you're a reader of a certain age (say, a Boomer, Gen Xer, or even a Xennial), you may remember cheeky television commercials featuring Morris, a finicky housecat who only eats a certain brand of cat food. (Morris is still featured on product labels.) Morris's tastes in cuisine are not only very particular, but very fine as well, and that's appropriate given the origin of finicky. The word came about as an alteration of finicking, itself an alteration of another adjective, finical. It's believed that finical derives from the adjective fine.

    finicky

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 17, 2022 1:29

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 17, 2022 is: finicky • FIN-ih-kee • adjective Finicky means “very particular in tastes or standards.” // The young boy was a finicky eater, and his parents found it challenging to come up with ideas for healthy meals that he would enjoy. See the entry > Examples: “The cucumber is a pretty finicky vegetable, having strong opinions about soil, sun, and water.” — Vanessa Nirode, SFGate.com, 5 Apr. 2022 Did you know? If you're a reader of a certain age (say, a Boomer, Gen Xer, or even a Xennial), you may remember cheeky television commercials featuring Morris, a finicky housecat who only eats a certain brand of cat food. (Morris is still featured on product labels.) Morris's tastes in cuisine are not only very particular, but very fine as well, and that's appropriate given the origin of finicky. The word came about as an alteration of finicking, itself an alteration of another adjective, finical. It's believed that finical derives from the adjective fine.

    nuance

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 16, 2022 1:58

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 16, 2022 is: nuance • NOO-ahnss • noun A nuance is a subtle distinction, variation, or quality in something, such as tone, color, meaning, etc. // Her highly trained palate is able to detect nuances in fine wine that even most oenophiles cannot. Read the entry > Examples: “Chiwetel Ejiofor gets to go all kinds of over-the-top as an alien who has come to Earth to save both our planet and his own, but [Naomie] Harris has the difficult job of countering that with believable reactions. She's our eyes into this sometimes inspired show, and Harris gives the character nuance that so many other actresses would have missed.” — Brian Tallerico, Vulture, 22 June 2022 Did you know? The history of nuance starts in Latin with the noun nūbēs, meaning "cloud." Nūbēs floated into Middle French as nue, also meaning “cloud,” and nue gave rise to nuer, meaning “to make shades of color.” Nuer in turn produced nuance, which in Middle French meant “shade of color.” English borrowed nuance from French, with the meaning “a subtle distinction or variation,” in the late 18th century. That use persists today. Additionally, nuance is sometimes used in a specific musical sense, designating a subtle, expressive variation in a musical performance (such as in tempo, dynamic intensity, or timbre) that is not indicated in the score.

    akimbo

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 15, 2022 1:36

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 15, 2022 is: akimbo • uh-KIM-boh • adjective or adverb Akimbo means "having the hand on the hip and the elbow turned outward." It is also used in the broader sense of "set in a bent position." // The model, arms akimbo, struck a pose at the end of the runway. See the entry > Examples: "When these little frogs jump, they leap spectacularly, their airborne bodies imbued with all hope.... In their final descent, the toadlets sometimes reach for a handhold, but the effort is for naught. They crash to the ground, arms akimbo, landing not on their forelimbs with grace, but on their butt, their belly, their back, their head, in bouncing-beach-ball defeat." — Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 15 June 2022 Did you know? It's akimbo nowadays, but in Middle English, the adverbial phrase in kenebowe was used for the bent, hand-on-hip arm (or later, for any bent position). Originally, the term was fairly neutral, but now saying that a person is standing with "arms akimbo" implies a posture that communicates defiance, confidence, aggressiveness, or arrogance.

    validate

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 14, 2022 1:40

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 14, 2022 is: validate • VAL-uh-dayt • verb To validate something means to “recognize, establish, or illustrate” its worthiness or legitimacy. // He validated his daughter's safety concerns by covering her head to toe with protective padding for her bicycle riding lessons. See the entry > Examples: “I've had to learn how to validate my own experiences. I now give myself permission to feel angry, upset, disappointed, or whatever negative emotions I'm experiencing.” — Kiara Imani, Forbes, 31 May 2022 Did you know? When validate first entered the language in the mid-17th century, its meaning was tied fast to its close relative, the adjective valid: to validate something, such as a marriage or treaty, was to make it legally valid. This meaning is still current, but the word is now used in nonlegal and informal contexts. If the museum you visit validates your parking ticket, the museum official marks the ticket and you do not have to pay for parking. If someone's claims cannot be validated, those claims cannot be confirmed. And if a coach puts an untested player into the game and the player scores the winning point, the player's strong performance validates the coach's decision.  

    saga

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 13, 2022 1:56

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 13, 2022 is: saga • SAH-guh • noun A saga is a long and complicated story or series of events. Saga first referred to ancient Icelandic narratives that tell of legendary figures and events of the heroic age of Norway and Iceland. // What was supposed to be an easy return from the airport turned into quite a saga. See the entry > Examples: "Hill said that the key to the show's look and tone is always influenced by 'The Godfather.' The show is simply a version of the Corleone family saga that continually undermines its heroes' attempts at maintaining power, keeping their enemies close, and their dinner rolls closer." — Sarah Shachat, IndieWire, 20 June 2022 Did you know? The original sagas were Icelandic prose narratives that were roughly analogous to modern historical novels. They were penned in the 12th and 13th centuries, and blended fact and fiction to tell the tales of famous rulers, legendary heroes, and average folks of Iceland and Norway. And they were aptly named: saga traces back to an Old Norse root that means "tale." The English word first referred only to those original Icelandic stories, but saga later broadened to cover other narratives reminiscent of those, and the word was eventually further generalized to cover any long, complicated scenario.

    eccentric

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 12, 2022 1:40

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 12, 2022 is: eccentric • ik-SEN-trik • adjective Eccentric usually describes people and things that deviate from conventional or accepted usage or behavior, especially in odd or whimsical ways. It is also used technically to mean "deviating from a circular path" and "located elsewhere than at the geometric center." // Down the road from us lives an eccentric old man who claims that he can communicate with the birds that roost in his yard. // The dwarf planet Pluto has a particularly eccentric orbit. See the entry > Examples: "This children's adventure movie from Vietnam is like 'E.T.'—but sloppier and more eccentric." — Beatrice Loayza, The New York Times, 2 June 2022 Did you know? Eccentric was originally a technical term at home in the fields of geometry and astronomy. It comes from a Latin word meaning “not having the earth at its center,” and ultimately has its root in a Greek word with various meanings including “stationary point of a pair of compasses” and “midpoint of a circle or sphere.” But its figurative use is long-established too: as far back as the 17th century the word was used to describe people and things that deviate from what is conventional, usual, or accepted.

    carp

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 11, 2022 1:37

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 11, 2022 is: carp • KAHRP • verb To carp means “to complain in an annoying way,” and often suggests that such complaining is habitual. // He carps too much about the umpire's bad calls when he should be focused on improving his swing. See the entry > Examples: “It's not easy watching money vanish as the market plunges, particularly when many people, some of them highly respected, are carping about the end of the world, which invariably accompanies a market collapse.” — Nir Kaissar, Bloomberg Opinion, 30 Nov. 2020 Did you know? Though someone might hypothetically carp about the fish known as carp, the similarity between the words is wholly coincidental. Both entered the English language in the 15th century but from different sources. Like many terms for plants and animals adopted at that point in the language's history, the fish's name traces back to Late Latin, but the verb is of Scandinavian origin. It shares an ancestor with the Icelandic verb karpa, meaning "to dispute" or "to wrangle," which in turn comes from an Old Norse word meaning "boasting" or "arrogance." We promise there's nothing fishy about that.

    gibbous

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 10, 2022 1:33

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 10, 2022 is: gibbous • JIB-us • adjective Gibbous is most often used to describe a moon or planet that is seen with more than half, but not all, of the apparent disk illuminated. // The lake's calm surface glistened under the light of the waxing gibbous moon. See the entry > Examples: "Eventually, we lay our heads down on our pillows beneath a clear sky (no tent required) and a bright gibbous moon that left the canyon well illuminated. I never even unpacked a flashlight." — David Courtney, Texas Monthly, July 2022 Did you know? The adjective gibbous has its origins in the Latin noun gibbus, meaning "hump." It was adopted into Middle English to describe rounded, convex things. While it has been used to describe the rounded body parts of humans and animals (such as the back of a camel) and to describe the shape of certain flowers (such as snapdragons), the term is most often used to describe the moon: a gibbous moon is one that is between half full and full.

    behemoth

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 9, 2022 1:36

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 9, 2022 is: behemoth • bih-HEE-muth • noun A behemoth is something of monstrous size, power, or appearance. Behemoth (usually capitalized) is also the name of a mighty animal described in the biblical book of Job. // The town will be voting on whether or not to let the retail behemoth build a store on the proposed site. See the entry > Examples: "By anyone's lights, the federal bureaucracy is a cumbersome, slow-moving behemoth." — The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 1 June 2022 Did you know? In the biblical book of Job, Behemoth is the name of a powerful grass-eating, river-dwelling beast with bones likened to bronze pipes and limbs likened to iron bars. Scholars have speculated that the biblical creature was inspired by the hippopotamus, but details about the creature's exact nature are vague. The word first passed from Hebrew into Latin, where, according to 15th century English poet and monk John Lydgate it referred to "a beast rude full of cursednesse." In modern English, behemoth mostly functions as an evocative term for something of monstrous size, power, or appearance.

    postulate

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 8, 2022 1:44

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 8, 2022 is: postulate • PAHSS-chuh-layt • verb To postulate means to assume or claim something (such as an idea or theory) as true especially for the purposes of starting a discussion. // The famous science-fiction author often postulates in interviews that we live in but one of an infinite number of parallel universes. See the entry > Examples: “Little is known about the Javan ferret badger (Melogale orientalis), such as its primary diet or breeding behavior, although some scientists postulate it's similar to the Bornean ferret badger (M. everetti), burrowing and eating eggs, carrion, invertebrates, small mammals and fruit when available.” — Philip Jacobson, Mongabay, 26 Jan. 2022 Did you know? When you postulate an idea or theory you suggest that it is true especially for the purposes of an argument or discussion. The word is mostly at home in formal and academic contexts, but don't let that stop you from postulating, for example, that takeout for dinner makes sense given the cook's delayed return home from work. The word postulate also functions as a noun referring to something that's been postulated, as in “a theory based on disputed postulates.” Both verb and noun have their source in Latin postulare, meaning "to assume."

    inscrutable

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 7, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 7, 2022 is: inscrutable • in-SKROO-tuh-bul • adjective Inscrutable means "not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood." It often describes what is mysterious or difficult to comprehend. // The famously reclusive author remains an inscrutable figure even after the publication of some of her personal correspondence. See the entry > Examples: “Rosters were reconstructed by enlisting former NHLers, players from the KHL and other leagues in Europe and from the college ranks and major-junior level. There is enough of a mixture of guys who are a bit past their prime and others who are relatively unknown or waiting to be discovered to make the outcome more inscrutable than usual.” — Marty Klinkenberg, The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), 5 Feb. 2022 Did you know? Scrutinizing the inscrutable may be futile: even close scrutiny can fail to decipher it. Scrutinizing the scrutable, on the other hand, is likely to yield some understanding. All of these scrut- words have the same Latin root: scrutari, meaning “to search or examine.” While scrutiny, scrutinize, and inscrutable all prove themselves useful in everyday discourse, English speakers don't tend to call much on scrutable, which functions as a synonym of comprehensible.

    recidivism

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 6, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 6, 2022 is: recidivism • rih-SID-uh-viz-um • noun Recidivism is relapse into criminal behavior, or more broadly, a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior. // The county's new program has been very successful in reducing recidivism rates. See the entry > Examples: "The company's success rate, measured by residents who move on to self-sufficient housing before relapse or recidivism, turns statistics upside down. Forman says more than 60% of residents are clean, sober and employed after 2 years or more." — Christian Grace, Cape Gazette (Lewes, Delaware), 31 May 2022 Did you know? The re- in recidivism is the same re- in relapse and return, and like those words recidivism is about going back: it's a tendency to relapse, especially into criminal behavior. Recidivism is a 19th century French borrowing that's ultimately from a Latin word meaning “to relapse into sin or crime.” In borrowing recidivism, English was itself engaging in a kind of recidivism: the same Latin source of recidivism had been nabbed in the 16th century to form the much less common recidivate, meaning “to fall into or exhibit recidivism.”

    cantankerous

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 5, 2022 1:47

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 5, 2022 is: cantankerous • kan-TANK-uh-rus • adjective A cantankerous person is often angry and annoyed. Cantankerous also means “difficult or irritating to deal with.” // Several sportswriters cited the coach's cantankerous personality as a reason for the team's poor performance and lack of motivation. See the entry > Examples: “The episode centers around the Daffodil Ball, a magnificent cow, and a cantankerous pig. I would also be cantankerous if veterinarians who hadn't even passed their exams were chasing me around with a scalpel.” — Alice Burton, Vulture, 16 Jan. 2022 Did you know? Cantankerous people are cranky: they're grumpy and angry and if we think charitably about them for a moment we might consider that they possibly suffer from a health affliction that sours the mood. It's been speculated that cantankerous is a product of the Middle English contack, meaning “contention,” under the influence of a pair of words: rancorous and cankerous. Rancorous brings the anger and "bitter deep-seated ill will" (as rancor can be understood to mean). And cankerous brings the perhaps understandable foul mood: a cankerous person suffers from painful sores—that is, cankers.

    Yankee

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 4, 2022 2:03

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 4, 2022 is: Yankee • YANG-kee • noun Yankee can refer broadly to anyone born or living in the U.S., or it can refer more narrowly only to those in the northern U.S., or even more narrowly, only to those in the states of New England. The broadest use is especially common outside the U.S. // It took the children some time to adjust to being the only Southerners in a classroom full of Yankees. See the entry > Examples: "We're pretty good here in Vermont about being mindful about recycling. It is in our genes. Depression-era residents used to keep everything, from small jars for nails, to the nails themselves after they were retrieved from old boards. That Yankee ingenuity absolutely comes from the resourcefulness and ability not to waste anything." — editorial, The Rutland (Vermont) Herald, 31 May 2022 Did you know? We don't know the origin of Yankee but we do know that it began as an insult. British General James Wolfe used the term in a 1758 letter to express his low opinion of the New England troops assigned to him, and from around the same time period there is a report of British troops using Yankee as a term of abuse for the citizens of Boston. In 1775, however, after the battles of Lexington and Concord showed that colonials could stand up to British regulars, Yankee was proudly adopted by colonials as a self-descriptor in defiance of the pejorative use. Both derisive and respectable uses have existed ever since.

    teem

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 3, 2022 1:44

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 3, 2022 is: teem • TEEM • verb To teem with something is to be full of that thing, or to have much of that thing inside. // The river teems with fish. // The students' minds were teeming with ideas. See the entry > Examples: "Emily Wells' orchestral pop teems with grandly despairing gestures—synth tones as thick and black as crude oil, woodwinds like fluttering wings in the upper reaches of a condemned building." — Jayson Greene, Pitchfork, 21 Apr. 2022 Did you know? Teem and team are not just homophones, they are also etymological kin. Teem comes from Old English tīman or tǣman, which originally meant "to bring forth offspring" or "to give birth to.” That word is related to the ancestor of team, the Old English noun tēam, meaning "offspring, lineage, or group of draft animals." Team can still be used to refer to a brood of young animals, especially pigs or ducks, but both teem and team have otherwise largely left their offspring-related senses behind.

    apposite

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 2, 2022 1:41

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 2, 2022 is: apposite • AP-uh-zit • adjective Apposite is used to describe what is very appropriate, or what is suitable for an occasion or situation. It is a synonym of apt. // Before sending the final draft of his novel to his editor, Lyle searched for an apposite quotation that could serve as the book's epigraph. See the entry > Examples: “The fact that Apple can make these stories, many of which have been told before, feel so immediate is a testament to his canny knack for choosing apposite details.” — Seth Mnookin, The New York Times, 6 Jun. 2021 Did you know? Apposite and opposite sound so much alike that you would expect them to have a common ancestor—and they do: the Latin verb pōnere, which means "to place, set.” The prefixes that we see in the pair, ap- and op-, specify the kind of placement. Apposite is from appōnere, meaning “to place near,” and opposite is from oppōnere, one meaning of which is "to place (over or against).” Opposite is of course the far more common word, but apposite is useful too and is, ahem, apposite in descriptions of what is very appropriate or suitable for something, as in “an apposite comment.”

    debunk

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 1, 2022 1:49

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 1, 2022 is: debunk • dee-BUNK • verb To debunk something, such as a story, theory, or idea, is to show or expose the falseness of it. // The article thoroughly debunks the notion that life exists on Mars. See the entry > Examples: "The idea that dogs spend every waking moment trying to usurp their human masters and become 'the alpha' in the house ... [was] first introduced by a wolf ecologist in the mid-20th Century, [and] was later debunked after ecologists realised that the original observations of dominance behaviours were based on captive wolves (unrelated to one another) kept in a zoo enclosure." — Jules Howard, Science Focus, 19 May 2022 Did you know? To debunk something is to take the bunk out of it—that bunk being “nonsense.” (Bunk is short for the synonymous bunkum, which has political origins.) Debunk has been in use since at least the 1920s, and it contrasts with synonyms like disprove and rebut by suggesting that something is not merely untrue but is also a sham—a trick meant to deceive. One can simply disprove a myth, but if it is debunked, the implication is that the myth was a grossly exaggerated or foolish claim.

    scintillate

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 30, 2022 1:44

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 30, 2022 is: scintillate • SIN-tuh-layt • verb Scintillate means "to dazzle or impress with liveliness or wit." // Her hilarious and topical standup routine absolutely scintillated; the audience brought her back for two encores. See the entry > Examples: “Kimberly Marable's scarred Persephone, torn as Hades' consort between verdant summers above and the steamy underworld below, exudes a lust for life despite all. Her torchy vocals scintillate in ‘Livin' It Up on Top,' a rousing paean to seizing every moment.” — Michael Grossberg, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, 18 Nov. 2021 Did you know? The initial spark of the verb scintillate was the Latin noun scintilla, meaning, well, “spark.” The ember of scintilla in turn developed into the verb scintillāre, “to sparkle.” Scintillate retains this meaning in expressing the action of gleaming, glittery things, as when jewelry or the surface of a lake in full sun scintillates. But the word can and often does mean “to sparkle” in a figurative sense—that is, to dazzle or impress with a brilliant performance—making the word apt for both celestial and cinematic scintillating stars.

    duress

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 29, 2022 1:33

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 29, 2022 is: duress • dur-RESS • noun Duress, which is typically used with under, refers to force or threats meant to make someone do something. It is used especially of unlawful constraint. // The defense asserts that the defendant's confession was made under duress. See the entry > Examples: "The ordinance ... was passed under duress by council members who believed that it would never be implemented." — Gilbert Garcia, The San Antonio (Texas) Express-News Online, 20 May 2022 Did you know? Duress is most often paired with the word under to refer to force or threats meant to make someone do something. For example, someone forced to sign a document signs it “under duress,” and a person held “under duress” is not free to leave but is being constrained, usually unlawfully. (Do not confuse being “under duress” with being “under stress,” which is a much more common occurrence.) Duress is ultimately from Latin durus, meaning "hard," source too of durable and endure.

    fulsome

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 28, 2022 1:51

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 28, 2022 is: fulsome • FULL-sum • adjective Fulsome can be a positive term, as when it's used to mean "abundant, copious," or "full and well developed," but it has negative meanings too, such as "overdone" and "excessively flattering." // The photographs celebrate the island's fulsome biodiversity. // While most of the speeches expressed sincere appreciation for the outgoing CEO's leadership, some were dense with fulsome and cringeworthy accolades. See the entry > Examples: "The county executive isn't opposed in principle to bonds for housing, but thinks county leaders need to have a more fulsome discussion about tradeoffs such debt would require." — Dan Brendel, The Washington (D.C.) Business Journal, 10 May 2022 Did you know? In the 19th century, fulsome was mostly a literary term used disapprovingly to describe excessive, insincere praise and flattery. This meaning is still current, but since the early 20th century fulsome has been increasingly used with far more positive meanings, among them “abundant, copious” and “full and well developed.” The result is some amount of confusion: a phrase like “fulsome praise” used today without clarifying context may rightly be understood to mean either “abundant praise” or “excessive and obsequious praise.” While some critics object to the pleasanter meanings of fulsome, they are in fact true to the word's origins: when it was first used in the 14th century fulsome meant “abundant, copious.”

    jingoism

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 27, 2022 1:36

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 27, 2022 is: jingoism • JING-goh-iz-im • noun Jingoism is excessive patriotism or nationalism, especially when marked by a belligerent foreign policy. // When the war began many people were caught up in a wave of jingoism. See the entry > Examples: "War is bad for culture. Not least of all because it turns our cultural institutions into bastions of jingoism." — Annie Levin, The New York Observer, 7 Mar. 2022 Did you know? Jingoism originated during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, when many British citizens were hostile toward Russia and felt Britain should intervene in the conflict. Supporters of the cause expressed their sentiments in a music-hall ditty with this refrain: We don't want to fight, yet by jingo if we do, We've got the ships, we've got the men, We've got the money, too! Someone holding the attitude implied in the song became known as a jingo or jingoist, and the attitude itself was dubbed jingoism. The jingo in the tune is probably a euphemism for Jesus.

    culminate

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 26, 2022 1:42

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 26, 2022 is: culminate • KUL-muh-nayt • verb Culminate usually means “to reach the highest or a climactic or decisive point,” or "to reach the end or final result of something." // The festivities will culminate with a spectacular display of fireworks. // The partnership between the two songwriters culminated at last in a chart-topping single. See the entry > Examples: “The trail culminates at a mountaintop summit with handcrafted log benches as well as views of Lake Tahoe in one direction, Granite Chief Wilderness in the other.” – The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California), 28 July 2021 Did you know? When a star or other heavenly body culminates, it reaches its highest point above the horizon from the vantage point of an observer on the ground. Culminate was drawn from Medieval Latin culminare, meaning "to crown," specifically for this astronomical application. Its ultimate root is Latin culmen, meaning "top." Today, the word's typical context is less lofty: it can mean “to reach a climactic point,” as in “a long career culminating in a prestigious award,” but it can also simply mean "to reach the end of something,” as in “a sentence culminating in a period.”

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