Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 9, 2023 is: saturnine SAT-er-nyne adjective Saturnine is a literary word that typically describes people who are glum and grumpy, or things that suggest or express gloom. It can also mean “slow to act or change.” // A walk in the sunshine can improve your mood significantly, raising the spirits of even the most saturnine among us. See the entry > Examples: “The canvases that surround you at the Rothko Chapel here can at first seem merely dark. Entering the space after nightfall on Saturday, the interior dimly lit, I struggled to see much of anything in them at all. But even in that calm gloom, my eyes slowly acclimated to the 14 grandly saturnine paintings, made by Mark Rothko in the late 1960s. Shadowy rectangles began to emerge, floating over shadow.” — Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2022 Did you know? Saturnine is far—even astronomically far—from the cheeriest of words. It has a long history of describing the glum and grouchy among us, and comes ultimately from Sāturnus, name of the Roman god of agriculture, who was often depicted as a bent old man with a stern, sluggish, and sullen nature. Saturn, the ringed gas giant that is one of five planets visible to the naked eye, is of course the namesake of Sāturnus, and Saturn does indeed seem to dawdle; it requires over 29 of our Earth years to orbit the sun. The ancient Romans (like some astrologists today) believed those who are born when Saturn is rising in the sky may tend toward being a Gloomy Gus or Debbie Downer. We don't know A. A. Milne's take on the influence of Saturn, but his gloomy, cynical gray donkey Eeyore is famously saturnine, a fact Eeyore himself would surely stoically accept as true if it were pointed out to him.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 8, 2023 is: etiquette ET-ih-kut noun Etiquette refers to the rules of proper and polite behavior that are expected in social or official life. // Her failure to respond to the invitation was a serious breach of etiquette. See the entry > Examples: “Keeping manners top of mind makes a difference when facing a dissatisfaction while dining out. Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert … tells USA Today that ‘you can get more with honey than you can with vinegar, that's the bottom line. When you're rude, you're calling attention to yourself in many cases and also you're making other people feel terrible and you're sometimes making yourself look bad,' she said. Often, if you are kind and direct, a situation can be resolved at a restaurant. It's important to understand that etiquette is situational. Every staff and management system has different procedures but their common goal is to keep diners happy. But ‘that doesn't give a diner permission to be rude to the waitstaff,' Whitmore said.” — Morgan Hines, USA Today, 18 Oct. 2022 Did you know? If you're looking for a polite topic of conversation to raise at your next gathering of word lovers, we've got just the ticket. The French word étiquette means “ticket”; its direct French ancestor also referred to a label attached to something for description or identification. Spaniards of the 16th-century adopted the French word (altering it to etiqueta), and used it to refer to the written protocols describing the behavior demanded of those who appeared at court. Eventually, etiqueta came to be applied to the court ceremonies themselves as well as to the documents which outlined their requirements. Word of this linguistic development got back to the French, who then expanded their word's meaning to include “proper court behavior” along with its “label” sense. By the middle of the 18th century English speakers had taken on etiquette as their own, applying it to the rules that indicate the proper and polite way to behave, whether in the presence or royalty or not.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 8, 2023 is: etiquette ET-ih-kut noun Etiquette refers to the rules of proper and polite behavior that are expected in social or official life. // Her failure to respond to the invitation was a serious breach of etiquette. See the entry > Examples: “Keeping manners top of mind makes a difference when facing a dissatisfaction while dining out. Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert … tells USA Today that ‘you can get more with honey than you can with vinegar, that's the bottom line. When you're rude, you're calling attention to yourself in many cases and also you're making other people feel terrible and you're sometimes making yourself look bad,' she said. Often, if you are kind and direct, a situation can be resolved at a restaurant. It's important to understand that etiquette is situational. Every staff and management system has different procedures but their common goal is to keep diners happy. But ‘that doesn't give a diner permission to be rude to the waitstaff,' Whitmore said.” — Morgan Hines, USA Today, 18 Oct. 2022 Did you know? If you're looking for a polite topic of conversation to raise at your next gathering of word lovers, we've got just the ticket. The French word étiquette means “ticket”; its direct French ancestor also referred to a label attached to something for description or identification. Spaniards of the 16th-century adopted the French word (altering it to etiqueta), and used it to refer to the written protocols describing the behavior demanded of those who appeared at court. Eventually, etiqueta came to be applied to the court ceremonies themselves as well as to the documents which outlined their requirements. Word of this linguistic development got back to the French, who then expanded their word's meaning to include “proper court behavior” along with its “label” sense. By the middle of the 18th century English speakers had taken on etiquette as their own, applying it to the rules that indicate the proper and polite way to behave, whether in the presence of royalty or not.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 7, 2023 is: blandishment BLAN-dish-munt noun A blandishment is something said or done in order to coax or persuade an individual or group to do something. The word is usually used in its plural form, blandishments. // It's important that the mayor not be swayed by bribes and blandishments; decisions must be made for the overall good of the city. // No treat, soft words, or other blandishment could get the mule to move when it decided it would rather stay put. See the entry > Examples: “Justices across the ideological spectrum have been accused of failing to make pertinent financial disclosures, accepting dubious blandishments, rejecting well-founded calls for recusal, engaging in questionable political and financial activity, and much else that would raise the eyebrows of any reasonable observer.” — Bloomberg Opinion, 5 May 2023 Did you know? When Star Wars audiences first meet former smuggler Lando Calrissian—played iconically by Billy Dee Williams—in The Empire Strikes Back, he is full of blandishments, offering flattery (telling Leia “You truly belong here with us among the clouds”) and gifts to our heroes in the form of food and drink (“Will you join me for a little refreshment?”) in order to entice them into what we soon discover is a trap. Notably, before the whole sordid deal goes down (and before Lando's eventual redemption), Han Solo calls him “an old smoothie.” Lando's verbal smoothness can be linked to blandishment too: the word was formed from the verb blandish, meaning “to coax with flattery.” Blandish ultimately comes from the Latin adjective blandus, meaning “mild” or “flattering,” source too of our adjective bland, which typically describes things boring and flavorless but which can also mean “smooth and soothing in manner or quality”—a meaning that also applies to everyone's favorite Cloud City administrator.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 6, 2023 is: trenchant TREN-chunt adjective Trenchant is a formal word that is usually used to describe communication that is notably strong, clear, and perceptive, or in other words, “sharp.” // The author's trenchant wit was very evident in the critique she wrote of the much-acclaimed film. // Trenchant insights made eloquently by the speaker clearly affected many of those in the audience. See the entry > Examples: “Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (a longtime collaborator of Halloween director John Carpenter), the film's scares touch on ancient witchcraft and computer chips made out of Stonehenge fragments. The movie also takes some trenchant digs at TV advertising and emphasizes an odd and foreboding atmosphere over cheap shocks.” — David Sims, The Atlantic, 8 Sep. 2021 Did you know? There's much to know about the word trenchant, but we'll cut to the chase. The word trenchant comes from the Anglo-French verb trencher, meaning “to cut.” Hence, a trenchant sword is one with a keen edge. Nowadays, trenchant mostly describes things that don't cut deep literally, but that are still felt: a trenchant remark is one that cuts close to the bone, and a trenchant observation is one that cuts to the heart of the matter. In addition to meaning “caustic” and “sharply perceptive,” trenchant also carries a sense meaning “very strong, clear, and effective” that may be used, for instance, to describe a persuasive essay written with intellectual rigor. If you find yourself forgetting these “edgy” definitions, you might dig up a familiar relative of trenchant: the noun trench, which refers to a long cut or ditch in the ground.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 5, 2023 is: yips YIPS noun Yips is a plural noun that refers to a state of nervousness that affects an athlete (such as a golfer) when they're about to make an important move or play. It is almost always used in the phrase "the yips." // Afflicted with a sudden case of the yips, Doug tensed up and pulled his putt too far to the left. See the entry > Examples: "In his fourth season in Boston, [Daniel] Bard had a 6.22 ERA with 38 strikeouts, 43 walks and eight hit batters in 59⅓ innings. He had the yips, leading to a seven-year hiatus from the big leagues. He bounced around in the minor leagues trying to reclaim control before retiring from baseball in 2017 to become a player mentor and mental skills coach. Bard returned to the pros with the Rockies in 2020 and was named NL Comeback Player of the Year." — Cydney Henderson, USA Today, 31 Mar. 2023 Did you know? When it comes to sports, yips happen. We're not sure who coined yips; we also can't say if this plural noun has anything to do with the singular yip, a word of imitative origin that refers to a dog's sharp bark. What we do know is that the yips have sported their name since at least the 1930s, and that the term first appeared in golf-related contexts. Anxious for similar language? Perhaps you're familiar with twisties, a term popularized in 2021 during the Tokyo Olympic games when gymnastics GOAT Simone Biles suffered from an affliction akin to the yips in which gymnasts experience a mental block causing loss of spatial orientation. Twisties doesn't yet meet our criteria for entry, however, so we'll have to bench it for now.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 4, 2023 is: concatenate kahn-KAT-uh-nayt verb Concatenate is a formal word that means “to link together in a series or chain.” // Most household garbage bags are concatenated on rolls and connected at their perforated edges for easy tearing. See the entry > Examples: “Smell is intimacy made sensate. Its knowledge precedes words. Smelling makes people uncomfortable because it mashes all the limbic buttons and leaves us bereft of language. Unlike vision, which surveys and controls a scene from an emotional distance, smells act on us instantly and make us relinquish our agency. All this can deepen immersion. Most importantly, smell matters because all our senses concatenate and build on each other. Smell is a ‘support' sense: not always noticeable, but often operating powerfully under the radar, and easily activating strong emotions, judgments, and memories without conscious thought.” — Jude Stewart, Wired, 31 July 2022 Did you know? Concatenate is a fancy word for a simple thing: it means “to link together in a series or chain.” It's Latin in origin, formed from a word combining con-, meaning “with” or “together,” and catena, meaning “chain. ” (The word chain is also linked directly to catena.) Concatenate can also function in English as an adjective meaning “linked together,” as in “concatenate strings of characters,” but it's rare beyond technology contexts. More common than either concatenate is the noun concatenation, used for a group of things linked together in a series, as in “a concatenation of events led to the mayor's resignation.” Concatenation, like concatenate, is used mostly in formal contexts, but you're welcome to change that. We personally would be tickled if professional baseball players aspired to play in the “World Concatenation,” and people talked about the latest concatenation they've been binge-watching.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 3, 2023 is: meet-cute MEET-kyoot noun Meet-cute is a term that refers to a cute, charming, or amusing first encounter between romantic partners. A meet-cute can be such an encounter as shown in a movie or television show, or one that happens in real life. // The elderly couple loved sharing the story of their hilarious meet-cute from 30 years ago. See the entry > Examples: “The star of E!'s new original TV movie Why Can't My Life Be a Rom-Com? recently revealed the ‘pretty cute' way she met her current partner, and the story is just like a meet-cute out of one of your favorite films.” — Brett Malec, E! Online, 19 Feb. 2023 Did you know? Isn't it cute how two words can be introduced to each other and become an inseparable pair soon after? Well, that's exactly what happened when meet and cute got together in 1952. The duo was spotted in The New York Times Book Review in 1952 in reference to an unexpected rendezvous: “This may well be, in magazine parlance, the neatest meet-cute of the week—the story of a ghost-writer who falls in love with a ghost.” Today the word is used often to refer to such encounters in films and television series (especially rom-coms and sitcoms). Writers of meet-cutes often develop plots by creating situations in which characters clash in personality, or by creating embarrassing situations in which two eventual romantic partners will meet, or by creating a misunderstanding between characters who will separate but become friends in the end.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 2, 2023 is: obstinate AHB-stuh-nut adjective Obstinate at its most basic means "stubborn." It describes people who refuse to change their behavior or ideas in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion, and it describes things that are not easily fixed, removed, or dealt with. // The project that had been the group's main focus for weeks was temporarily stymied by one obstinate member's refusal to compromise. // The planning committee discussed ways to mitigate the obstinate problem of gentrification. See the entry > Examples: "... [Louise Bates] Ames has an uncanny way of capturing the essence of children at different developmental stages, and when you understand that it is your child's work to behave this way, that the behavior is serving growth and maturity, you are less likely to try to squash it. For instance, when you've nicely asked your 2-year-old to stop jumping on the couch and they look you in the eyes and keep jumping? It's helpful to know that this obstinate behavior is normal and is not a reason to double-down or punish your child. Instead, speak less, redirect and provide other things for your child to jump on." — Meghan Leahy, The Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 Did you know? English has no shortage of words to describe stubbornness, and obstinate is one you might want to latch onto. It suggests an unreasonable persistence and is often used negatively to describe someone who is unwilling to change course or to give up a belief or plan. Animals can be obstinate, too—for instance, say, a beloved pet cat that refuses to get out of your easy chair when you want to sit down. Such an example makes a lot of sense with regard to obstinate's history, too: the word traces back to a combination of the Latin prefix ob-, meaning “in the way,” and a word related to stare, meaning "to stand." But if you're adamant about describing Whiskers' stubborn behavior in more faunal terms, allow us to suggest bullheaded, dogged, or mulish.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 1, 2023 is: gist JIST noun Gist, which almost always appears in the phrase “the gist,” refers to the general or basic meaning of something written or said—in other words, its essence. // I didn't catch every word, but I heard enough to get the gist of the conversation. See the entry > Examples: “Thanks to a student project at a Kirkland high school, Washington lawmakers are considering the impact of a ‘pink tax.' The gist: Products for women often cost more than similar products designed for men. Senate Bill 5171 would allow the office of the state attorney general to review complaints and hand out fines to companies that demonstrate gender bias in their pricing.” — The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington), 21 Jan. 2023 Did you know? The main point, overarching theme, essence—that's gist in a nutshell. The gist of gist, if you will. The gist of a conversation, argument, story, or what-have-you is what we rely on when the actual words and details are only imperfectly recalled, inessential, or too voluminous to recount in their entirety. Gist was borrowed from the Anglo-French legal phrase laccion gist (“the action lies/is based [on]”) in the 17th century, and it was originally used in law as a term referring to the foundation or grounds for a legal action without which the action would not be legally sustainable.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 31, 2023 is: enthrall in-THRAWL verb Enthrall means “to hold the attention of someone by being very exciting, interesting, or beautiful,” or in other words, “to charm.” It is often used in its past participle form, as in “I was enthralled by the beauty of the landscape.” // A captivating take on the human experience, the movie has enthralled audiences across the country. See the entry > Examples: “Judy Blume's books have captivated generations of readers. Anyone who has held one of her countless paperbacks will immediately recall her name. Blume's startling honesty has comforted and enthralled readers for decades ...” — Casey Abline, TAPinto (Elizabeth, New Jersey), 23 Apr. 2023 Did you know? The history of enthrall appeals far less than the word as we use it today might suggest. In Middle English, enthrallen meant “to deprive of privileges; to put in bondage.” Thrall then, as now, referred to bondage or slavery. An early figurative use of enthrall appeared in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: “So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape.” But we rarely use even this sense of mental or moral control anymore. More often, the word simply suggests a state of being generally captivated or delighted by some particular thing. Enthrall is commonly found in its past participle form enthralled, which can mean “spellbound,” as in “we listened, enthralled, to the elder's oral history.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 30, 2023 is: nemesis NEM-uh-siss noun A nemesis is a formidable foe—an opponent or enemy who is very difficult to defeat. As a proper noun, Nemesis refers to the Greek goddess of vengeance. // She will be playing against her old nemesis for the championship. See the entry > Examples: "2020's original Enola Holmes proved to be a surprisingly enjoyable twist on the world's most famous detective [Sherlock Holmes], focusing instead on his overlooked sister, Enola. No surprise, then, that this follow-up is just as exciting a romp through Victorian London. Despite proving her skills in the first film, Enola struggles to establish her own detective credentials until a missing-person report leads her to a case that's stumped even Sherlock, and sees her crossing paths with his arch nemesis, Moriarty." — Matt Kamen, WIRED, 10 Feb. 2023 Did you know? Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance, a deity who doled out rewards for noble acts and punishment for evil ones. The Greeks believed that Nemesis didn't always punish an offender immediately but might wait generations to avenge a crime. In English, nemesis originally referred to someone who brought a just retribution, but nowadays people are more likely to see simple animosity rather than justice in the actions of a nemesis (consider the motivations of Batman's perennial foe the Joker, for example).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 23, 2023 is: bower BOW-er noun Bower is a literary word that usually refers to a garden shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together. // Resting in the shade of the bower was the perfect way to cool off during the hot summer afternoon. See the entry > Examples: “Today, a café occupies part of the ground floor, its tables and chairs distributed under a leafy bower on the veranda.” — Samanth Subramanian, The New York Times, 9 June 2022 Did you know? If you visited someone's bower a millennium ago, you'd likely have found yourself at an attractive rustic cottage. A few centuries later, a visit to a bower could have involved a peek into a lady's personal hideaway within a medieval castle or hall—that is, her private apartment. Both meanings hark back to the word's ancient roots: it comes from Old English būr, meaning “dwelling.” Today, bower is more familiar as a word for a garden shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together, a meaning that overlaps with that of arbor. (The adjective bowery, meaning “like a bower” or “full of bowers” is used to describe areas that resemble or are filled with these leafy pergola-like structures). Bower also features in the name of bowerbirds, any of approximately 20 different bird species native to Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, the males of which build more-or-less elaborate structures using twigs, moss, and other plant materials to woo potential mates during courtship.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 22, 2023 is: officious uh-FISH-us adjective Officious typically describes a person who tends to offer unwanted advice in a way that annoys the advice recipients. It is a synonym of meddlesome. // After the boss told his workers what to do, his officious assistant stepped in to micromanage. See the entry > Examples: “Imagine, if you will, any professor from your past being told by some young, officious techie that his or her decades of training and teaching were about to be reimagined and transformed by the alchemy of the digital age into glitzy and compelling content sure to hold students' attention and, at a minimum, entertain them if not educate them.” — Howard Tullman, Inc.com, 22 Mar. 2022 Did you know? If you've ever dreamed of having your financial officer officiate your office wedding—well, you're officially alone there. But we won't meddle in your business; if we suggested a more, um, “charming” location, we'd be sticking our nose where it doesn't belong. We have our own offic word for such behavior: officious. As with some key words in your hypothetical dream wedding, officious comes from the Latin noun officium, meaning “service” or “office.” In its early use, officious meant “eager to serve, help, or perform a duty,” but that meaning is now obsolete, and the word today typically describes a person who offers unwanted advice or help. Since, again, we don't want to be such a person, we definitely won't suggest marrying at a banquet hall or botanical garden in lieu of the office, but we do applaud any consideration of that office-fave for your celebratory sweet, the humble sheet cake.
Optimal Health Daily - ARCHIVE 1 - Episodes 1-300 ONLY
Diania Merriam answers a listener's question about saving and investing vs. spending. Episode 2151: Q&A with Diania Merriam - Saving & Investing vs. Spending Visit Me Online at OLDPodcast.com Interested in advertising on the show? Visit https://www.advertisecast.com/OptimalHealthDailyDietNutritionFitness Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Diania Merriam answers a listener's question about saving and investing vs. spending. Episode 2151: Q&A with Diania Merriam - Saving & Investing vs. Spending Visit Me Online at OLDPodcast.com Interested in advertising on the show? Visit https://www.advertisecast.com/OptimalHealthDailyDietNutritionFitness Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 21, 2023 is: gamut GAM-ut noun A gamut is a range or series of related things. When we say that something “runs the gamut,” we are saying that it encompasses an entire range of related things. // I adore licorice, mints, lollipops, candy corn—the whole gamut of penny candy. // On that fateful day, her emotions ran the gamut from joy to despair. See the entry > Examples: “A PEN America paper, published last September, records 2,532 instances of book banning in thirty-two states between July, 2021, and June, 2022. The challenges are spread throughout the country but cluster in Texas and Florida. Their targets are diverse, running the gamut from earnestly dorky teen love stories and picture books about penguins to Pulitzer-winning works of fiction.” — Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2023 Did you know? With the song “Do-Re-Mi,” the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music (adapted from the 1958 stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein) introduced millions of non-musicians to solfège, the singing of the sol-fa syllables—do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti—to teach the tones of a musical scale. Centuries earlier, however, the do in “Do-Re-Mi” was known as ut. Indeed, the first note on the scale of Guido d'Arezzo, an 11th century musician and monk who had his own way of applying syllables to musical tones, was ut. d'Arezzo also called the first line of his bass staff gamma, which meant that gamma ut was the term for a note written on the first staff line. In time, gamma ut underwent a shortening to gamut, and later its meaning expanded first to cover all the notes of d'Arezzo's scale, then to cover all the notes in the range of an instrument, and, eventually, to cover an entire range of any sort.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2023 is: telegenic tel-uh-JEN-ik adjective Someone or something described as telegenic is well-suited to the medium of television. Telegenic is often used to describe people whose appearance or manners are particularly attractive to television viewers. // Her favorite actor is so telegenic that he can make a bad series enjoyable. See the entry > Examples: “[Alison] Roman … learned at Bon Appétit that she was telegenic. She is the rare influencer who projects the same energy in person as she does on camera. Her wit and candor buoy the cooking video genre from informative to outright entertaining. Some of her fans comment that they tune in every week with no intention of making the recipes, just to watch Roman try to dislodge ingredients from her overstuffed refrigerator.” — Eliana Dockterman, Time, 19 Mar. 2023 Did you know? Telegenic debuted in the 1930s, a melding of television with photogenic, “suitable for being photographed especially because of visual appeal.” The word photogenic had other, more technical meanings before it developed that one in the early decades of the 20th century, but the modern meaning led to the use of -genic of interest here: “suitable for production or reproduction by a given medium.” (That sense is also found in the rarer videogenic, a synonym of telegenic.) Telegenic may seem like a word that would primarily be used to describe people, but there is evidence of telegenic describing events (such as popular sports), objects, and responses. Occasionally, one even sees reference to a telegenic attitude, presence, charisma, or other intangible.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2023 is: censure SEN-sher verb To censure someone is to formally criticize or reprimand them for an act or failure, especially from a position of authority. // He was censured by the committee for his failure to report the problem. See the entry > Examples: “Aware of recent occurrences in Deltona, whose City Commission censured one of its members for naming a private citizen and posting insults and vulgar comments about him on social media, [Mayor Gary] Blair said Orange City should declare such behavior out of bounds.” — Al Everson, The West Volusia Beacon (DeLand, Florida), 9 Mar. 2023 Did you know? If you're among those who confuse censure and censor, we don't blame you. The two words are notably similar in spelling and pronunciation, and both typically imply acts of authority. It's no surprise that they share a common ancestor: the Latin cēnsēre, meaning “to give as an opinion.” But here's the uncensored truth: despite the similarities, censure and censor are wholly distinct in meaning. Censure means “to fault or reprimand,” often in an official way; censor means “to suppress or delete as objectionable.” So if you're talking about removing objectionable content from a book or banning it from a library, the word you want is censor. And you can use censure to talk about criticizing, condemning, or reprimanding those pushing for censorship.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2023 is: zephyr ZEFF-er noun A zephyr is a breeze blowing from the west. More loosely, a zephyr can be any gentle breeze. // We were relieved when a zephyr blew in just as the heat of the day was peaking, allowing us to remain comfortably on the beach for a little while longer. See the entry > Examples: “As I played [the video game Okami], I'd pause to manually draw a slash, loop, or other shape using a calligraphy-style brush, creating a tornado or a fire. … An ‘O' around a tree's naked branches made it burst with cherry blossoms, a vision of abundance. A curlicue in the air created a zephyr that gently riffled through the sky. The world was my sketchbook, and I wanted to beautify the game's gorgeous woodblock and sumi-e ink art style.” — Nicole Clark, Polygon.com, 8 Feb. 2023 Did you know? To build on a classic lyric by Bob Dylan, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows—especially if you know that wind is a zephyr. You see, poets have eulogized Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind—and his “swete breeth” (in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer)—for centuries. Zephyrus, the personified west wind, eventually evolved into zephyr, a word for a breeze that is westerly or gentle, or both. Breezy zephyr blew into English with the help of such delightfully windy wordsmiths as William Shakespeare, who used the word in his play Cymbeline: “Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2023 is: rarefied RAIR-uh-fyde adjective Something described as rarefied is understood or appreciated by only a small or select group of people; the word is a synonym of esoteric. Rarefied can also be used technically to mean “being less dense,” a use that is typically applied to air that has less oxygen in it because of high elevation. // She has never been comfortable in the rarefied world of art dealers. // The climbers knew that breathing in the rarefied air near the mountain's peak would be difficult. See the entry > Examples: “Quiet luxury fashion is on the rise, helped by the unbranded ‘stealth wealth' styles favoured by the Roys in HBO's hit TV show Succession and the louche-yet-elegant looks donned by Gwyneth Paltrow during her now infamous ski trip trial. There is, however, always a rule breaker where you least expect one, and this spring, it's the ultimate ‘stealth' brand, Rolex, that's bending the rules and bringing a sense of playfulness to the rarefied milieu of haute luxury.” — Alexandra Zagalsky, The Week (London), 14 Apr. 2023 Did you know? In the upper reaches of Chomolungma, known more familiarly as Mount Everest, the air is so rarefied—so much less dense than at lower elevations—that most climbers use supplemental oxygen in order to successfully complete their climb. This sense of rarefied, a word that comes from a combination of the Latin words rarus (“thin” or “rare”) and facere (“to make”), has been in use since the 1500s. A second, figurative sense of rarefied developed in the following century to describe things that can only be understood by a small or select group, i.e. one “thinned” from the majority of people by dint of their unique experience, expertise, or status. It's this sense that we use when we say that to successfully summit Chomolungma puts one in rarefied company—just over 6,000 people have made it to the top at the time of this writing.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2023 is: disapprobation dis-ap-ruh-BAY-shun noun Disapprobation refers to the act or state of disapproving or of being disapproved of. // There was widespread disapprobation of the city's plan to slash educational funding. See the entry > Examples: "Set in 19th-century Western Australia at the height of the pearl trade, this book paints a nuanced portrait of the era as the backdrop for a feminist epic. In her debut novel, [author Lizzie] Pook introduces us to Eliza Brightwell, a pearler's daughter living in the fictional Bannin Bay of Western Australia. Eliza stands out from the other women of Bannin Bay because of both her plain looks and her independent personality. She's the sort to walk around town in battered boots rather than ride in a carriage like other ladies of her class, much to the disapprobation of the townsfolk." — Kirkus Reviews, 15 Apr. 2022 Did you know? Disapprobation is not only a synonym of disapproval but a relative as well. Both words were coined in the 17th century by adding the prefix dis-, meaning "the opposite or absence of," to existing "approving" words: synonyms approbation and approval. The ultimate source of the foursome is the Latin verb approbare, meaning "to approve." Another descendant of approbare is approbate, which means "to express approval of formally or legally." Love it or lump it, approbare has proven itself useful.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2023 is: maudlin MAUD-lin adjective Maudlin describes someone or something that expresses sadness or sentimentality in an exaggerated way. // The class had a hard time taking the maudlin poetry seriously. See the entry > Examples: “All seven musicians in the band complement each other so effortlessly that at times it's like they all breathe together. The album is often dark, and in the hands of less skilled songwriters could be maudlin and self-indulgent, but I think you can hear just how much fun they have playing together.” — Rob McHugh, The Guardian (London), 3 Jan. 2023 Did you know? The history of maudlin is connected both to the Bible and the barroom. The biblical Mary Magdalene is often (though some say mistakenly) identified with the weeping sinner who washed Jesus' feet with her tears to repent for her sins. This association led to the frequent depiction of Mary Magdalene as a weeping penitent, and even the name Magdalene came to suggest teary emotion to many English speakers. It was then that maudlin, an alteration of Magdalene, appeared in the English phrase “maudlin drunk” in the 16th century, describing a weepy, drunken state. Nowadays, maudlin is used to describe someone or something that expresses sadness or sentimentality in an exaggerated way; however, the “maudlin drunk” meaning was so intoxicating that it stuck around and became the “drunk enough to be emotionally silly” sense still in use today, as in “after a few glasses of port he became quite maudlin.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 14, 2023 is: engender in-JEN-der verb Engender is a formal word that means “to produce; to cause to exist or to develop.” It is used especially when feelings and ideas are generated. // The annual company picnic featured activities, such as a scavenger hunt, meant to engender a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among employees. See the entry > Examples: “Student silence and compliance are often more comfortable and comforting for those who are invested in and benefit from the status quo, but it is truly anti-learning. ... Listening to students does not mean ‘giving in to students' or treating students as customers. It's a step toward fostering engagement and engendering responsibility. If we say we are listening, students are more likely to speak. We just have to be ready to absorb some things we might not want to hear.” — John Warner, Inside Higher Ed, 17 Oct. 2022 Did you know? A good paragraph about engender will engender understanding in the reader. Like its synonym generate, engender comes from the Latin verb generare, meaning “to generate” or “to beget,” and when the word was first used in the 14th century, engender meant “propagate” or “procreate.” That literal meaning having to do with creating offspring (which generate shared when it was adopted in the early 16th century) was soon joined by the “to cause to exist or develop; to produce” meaning most familiar to us today. Generare didn't just engender generate and engender; regenerate, degenerate, and generation have the same Latin root. As you might suspect, the list of engender relatives does not end there. Generare comes from the Latin noun genus, meaning “origin” or “kind.” From this source we took our own word genus, plus gender, general, and generic, among other words.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 12, 2023 is: cordial KOR-jul adjective Cordial means “politely pleasant and friendly.” It also means “showing or marked by warm and often hearty friendliness, favor, or approval” and “sincerely or deeply felt.” // Despite past conflicts, the two nations now maintain cordial relations. See the entry > Examples: “On the way out, there were profuse thank-yous and cordial comments about future get-togethers, which never occurred.” — Peter Bart, Deadline, 16 Mar. 2023 Did you know? The Latin root cord- (or cor) is at the heart of the connection between cordial, concord (meaning “harmony”), and discord (meaning “conflict”). Cord- means “heart,” and each of these cord- descendants has something to do with the heart, at least figuratively. Concord, which comes from com- (meaning “together” or “with”) plus -cord, suggests that one heart is with another. Discord combines the prefix dis- (meaning “apart”) with -cord to imply that hearts are apart. Hundreds of years ago, cordial could mean simply “of or relating to the (literal) heart” (the -ial is simply an adjective suffix) but today anything described as cordial—be it a friendly welcome, a compliment, or an agreement—comes from the heart in a figurative sense. Cordial is also used as a noun to refer to a usually sweet liqueur, the name being inspired by the idea that a cordial invigorates the heart.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 11, 2023 is: aftermath AF-ter-math noun Aftermath refers to the period of time shortly following a destructive event, or to a negative consequence or result. // It was almost noon before I felt ready to clean up the mess that remained in the aftermath of the previous night's festivities. See the entry > Examples: “The ballad, stacked with layers of harmonies, establishes her independence in the aftermath of a relationship coming to an end.” — Larisha Paul, The Rolling Stone, 14 Apr. 2023 Did you know? At first glance, one might calculate aftermath to be closely related to mathematics and its cropped form math. But the math of mathematics (which came to English ultimately from Greek) and the math of aftermath grew from different roots. Aftermath dates to the late 1400s and was originally an agricultural term, an offshoot of the ancient word math, meaning “a mowing.” The original aftermath came, of course, after the math: it was historically the crop cut, grazed, or plowed under after the first crop of the season from the same soil. (Math is still used in some parts of the United Kingdom to refer to a mowing of a grass or hay crop, as well as to the crop that is mowed.) It wasn't until the mid-1600s that aftermath came to have the meanings now familiar to us, referring to the period of time following a destructive event, or to a negative consequence or result.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 10, 2023 is: laden LAY-dun adjective Laden describes things that are heavily loaded with something, literally or figuratively. // Airline passengers laden with luggage inched slowly through the gate. // His voice was heavily laden with sarcasm. See the entry > Examples: "While dating sites and apps can be convenient ways to meet a special someone, many singles find that the road to love is often laden with potholes and pitfalls." — Charanna Alexander, The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2020 Did you know? Something that is laden seems to be, or actually is, weighed down by the large amount of whatever it's carrying: tree branches laden with fruit bend toward the ground; newspaper articles laden with technical jargon are hard to read; and sugar-laden cereal is very, very sweet. Laden has been used as an adjective to describe heavily loaded things for a millennium, but its source is an even older verb: lade, meaning primarily "to load something." Lade today mostly occurs in contexts relating to shipping; its related noun lading may be familiar from the phrase bill of lading, which refers to a document listing goods to be shipped and the terms of their transport. Laden is itself sometimes used as a verb meaning "to load something" (as in "ladening the truck with equipment"), and an adjectival form of that word sometimes appears too, as in "a truck ladened with equipment." Plain old laden is preferred in such cases though: "a truck laden with equipment."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 9, 2023 is: unctuous UNK-chuh-wus adjective Unctuous is a formal word used to describe someone who speaks and behaves in a way that is meant to seem friendly and polite but that is unpleasant because it is obviously not sincere. It can also mean “fatty,” “oily,” and “smooth and greasy in texture or appearance.” // Politicians are often at their most unctuous during election years, full of empty promises made solely to win over certain voters. // Braising chicken thighs with their skins on creates a rich, unctuous sauce that can be spooned back over the finished dish. See the entry > Examples: “The fate of a sycophant is never a happy one. At first, you think that fawning over the boss is a good way to move forward. But when you are dealing with a narcissist … you can never be unctuous enough.” — Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 18 June 2022 Did you know? Nowadays, unctuous usually has a negative connotation, but it originated as a term describing a positive act: that of healing. The word comes from the Latin verb unguere (“to anoint”), a root that also gave rise to the words unguent (“a soothing or healing salve”) and ointment. The oily nature of ointments may have led to the use of unctuous to describe things marked by an artificial gloss of sentimentality. An unctuous individual may mean well, but the person's insincere effusiveness can leave an unwelcome residue—much like that of some ointments.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 8, 2023 is: deepfake DEEP-fayk noun Deepfake refers to an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said. // The leaked video incriminating the school's dean was discovered to be a deepfake. See the entry > Examples: "All sorts of deepfakes are possible. Face swaps, where the face of one person is replaced by another. Lip synchronization, where the mouth of a speaking person can be adjusted to an audio track that is different from the original. Voice cloning, where a voice is being 'copied' in order to use that voice to say things." — Julia Bayer and Ruben Bouwmeester, DW.com, 14 Jan. 2022 Did you know? The old maxim "things aren't always as they seem" seems more true than ever in the age of deepfakes. A deepfake is an image, or a video or audio recording, that has been edited using an algorithm to replace the person in the original with someone else (especially a public figure) in a way that makes it look authentic. The fake in deepfake is transparent: deepfakes are not real. The deep is less self-explanatory: this half of the term is specifically influenced by deep learning—that is, machine learning using artificial neural networks with multiple layers of algorithms.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 7, 2023 is: satiate SAY-shee-ayt verb Satiate is a formal word that means “to satisfy (something, such as a need or desire) fully.” // My curiosity about Nicole's Spring Fling costume, which she promised would be “corny,” was finally satiated when she arrived at the party dressed as an incredibly lifelike cob of corn, complete with tassels. See the entry > Examples: “Every time I near the end of dinner at Yangban Society, Katianna and John Hong's Art District restaurant, I experience the same dilemma. I'm happily satiated. ... I couldn't possibly eat another bite. The thought is actually painful. But for Katianna's cheesecake, I persevere.” — Jenn Harris, The Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2022 Did you know? The time has come at last to share the “sad” history of satiate, by which we mean that the two words—sad and satiate—are etymologically connected, not that the details will have you reaching for the tissue box. Both satiate and sad are related to the Latin adjective satis, meaning “enough.” When we say our desire, thirst, curiosity, etc. has been satiated, we mean it has been fully satisfied (satisfy being another satis descendant)—in other words, we've had enough. Satiate and sate (believed to be an alteration and shortening of satiate) sometimes imply simple contentment, but often suggest that having enough has dulled interest or desire for more, as in “Years of globe-trotting satiated their interest in travel.” Sad, which in its earliest use could describe someone who was weary or tired of something, traces back to the Old English adjective sæd, meaning “sated,” and sæd shares an ancient root with Latin satis.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 6, 2023 is: fulcrum FULL-krum noun In technical use, fulcrum refers to the support on which a lever moves when it is used to lift something. In figurative use, fulcrum refers to a person or thing that makes it possible for something to function or develop, or in other words, one who plays an essential role in something. // Although the lead actor was phenomenal, critics believe that the supporting cast was the real fulcrum of the show. See the entry > Examples: "For now, [Super Nintendo World] is entirely focused on Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom. ... According to [Shinya] Takahashi, while other properties have been considered ... it just made the most sense to start with Mario. 'When you think of Nintendo you think Mario,' he says. 'He's the fulcrum around which everything revolves.'" — Andrew Webster, TheVerge.com, 22 Feb. 2023 Did you know? Fulcrum, which means "bedpost" in Latin, comes from the verb fulcire, which means "to prop." When the word fulcrum was first used in the 17th century, it referred to the point on which a lever or similar device (such as the oar of a boat) is supported. The literal use easily supported figurative use, and it didn't take long for the word to develop a meaning referring to one deemed essential to the function or development of something. Despite fulcrum's multiple senses, the word's meanings have kept a steady theme. In zoology, fulcrum refers to a part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support, such as the joint supporting a bird's wing.
The Christian Hunters of America Podcast
We get to learn from our very own board member Mr. Howard Frampton, about hunting Turkeys in the springtime here in AZ. Most of the Turkey hunts in AZ revolve around Merriam's but we do have small pockets of Rio Grandes in northeast AZ as well as the coveted Goulds in southern AZ. Howard will share lots of tips, tricks and techniques to make you a more effective turkey hunter. We hope you all have lots of fun and success in the woods hearing those gobbles !!
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 5, 2023 is: eponymous ih-PAH-nuh-mus adjective Eponymous is used to describe something named for a person or group (as in “Merriam-Webster, an eponymous publishing company named for George and Charles Merriam and Noah Webster”), or a person or group whose name is used for something (as in “the company's eponymous founders”). // The band's eponymous debut album received critical acclaim. See the entry > Examples: “The Outer Banks of North Carolina made a name for themselves long before the eponymous Netflix show premiered in 2020.” — Lydia Mansel, Travel + Leisure, 26 Mar. 2023 Did you know? What's in a name? If the name is eponymous, a name is in the name: an eponymous brand, café, river, or ice cream is named for someone or something. And because English is beastly sometimes, the one lending the name to the brand, café, river, or ice cream can also be described as eponymous. This means that if Noah Webster owns a bookstore called “Webster's Books,” it's an eponymous bookstore, and Noah himself is the bookstore's eponymous owner. Most of the time, though, we see eponymous describing a thing named for a person—for example, an eponymous brand named for a designer, or a band's eponymous album titled only with the band's name. The related word eponym is less ambiguous: it refers to the one for whom someone or something is named. At our hypothetical “Webster's Books,” Noah Webster is the bookstore's eponym. Appropriately enough, the Greek root of both words is onyma, meaning “name.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 4, 2023 is: chivalry SHIV-ul-ree noun Chivalry refers to the qualities of the ideal knight, such as honor, generosity, and courtesy—in other words, an honorable and polite way of behaving toward others. It is used especially to refer to such behavior as expressed by men toward women. // Some believe that holding doors open for others is an act of chivalry, but doing so only for women is considered patronizing by many. See the entry > Examples: “At a North Carolina charter school, all students follow the same curriculum. But their gender-specific uniform requirements—pants for boys, and skirts, skorts or jumpers for girls—separate them in a way a federal court on Tuesday deemed unconstitutional. The dress code … no longer can be enforced, Senior Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in a majority opinion. The school founder's claim that the uniform rules promote chivalry ‘based on the view that girls are “fragile vessels” deserving of “gentle” treatment by boys' was determined to be discriminating against female students in the 10-to-6 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.” — María Luisa Paúl and Anne Branigin, The Washington Post, 15 June 2022 Did you know? Chivalry is dead, they say. The statement is indisputably true in at least one sense: the word chivalry first referred to medieval knights, as in “the king was accompanied by his chivalry,” and we're quite certain those knights are all long gone. But the word's meaning has shifted since the 14th century, with other meanings joining the first over the years. Today, chivalry typically refers to an honorable and polite way of behaving, especially by men toward women. And when people say “chivalry is dead” they're usually bemoaning either a perceived lack of good manners among those they encounter generally, or a dearth of men holding doors for appreciative women. The word came to English by way of French, and is ultimately from the Late Latin word caballārius, meaning “horseback rider, groom,” ancestor too of another term for a daring medieval gentleman-at-arms: cavalier. In a twist, the adjective form of cavalier is often used to describe someone who is overly nonchalant about important matters—not exactly chivalrous.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 3, 2023 is: importune im-per-TOON verb To importune someone is to annoy or pester them with repeated questions or requests. // Several students importuned the professor to extend the deadline of the lengthy essay assignment until she finally relented. See the entry > Examples: “We learned from Drew Lock at the end of the Denver Broncos' 2019 season that he planned to importune Peyton Manning for any advice, any tips on how to best attack the offseason.” — Chad Jensen, Sports Illustrated, 24 Jan. 2020 Did you know? “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Oh, bother. If you've ever been on the receiving end of this classic road-trip refrain, then you, friend, have been importuned. Importune is most often encountered in formal speech and writing, however, so you're more likely to have responded “Stop bothering/pestering/annoying me!” (or just “No!”) than “Please cease importuning me while I'm driving!” Nevertheless, importune—like bother, pester, and annoy—conveys irritating doggedness in trying to break down resistance to a request for something, whether information (such as a precise ETA) or a favor, as in “repeated e-mails from organizations importuning me for financial help.” Importune also functions in the legal realm, where it is used for behavior that qualifies as pressing or urging another with troublesome persistence.
Love Letters, Life and Other Conversations
This week on the say YES to yourself! podcast Wendy hosts Britney Merriam co-owner, alongside her husband, Benjamin Merriam, of The Garden of Thomas. The idea of their dream was born when they lost their first son, Thomas, who passed away nine years ago. Seeking comfort, therapy, and a happy place, they decided to create their own. Britney would go to her local florist and select cut flowers so she could piece them together as an arrangement to place beside Thomas' urn. Having this bouquet by her bedside gave her a feeling of support, warmth, and comfort. She started doing this every week and bringing more and more flowers home. Her husband quietly observed and then proposed the idea of how they could grow their own flowers. The Garden of Thomas' purpose was to be a sanctuary, where they could grow and collect their own flowers. Today, it is all of those things, and also a flower shop and private event venue. The love she has for flowers is also the same for the South of France. In the front of their home you'll find a courtyard and gardens, which is typical of the farmhouses in Provence, and within that courtyard is a large fountain, hand hewn from the French limestone quarries, that she had imported from France! Their hosted guests have the pleasure of sitting within the courtyard, with breathtaking views of the mountains, accompanied by the trickling sounds of the limestone fountain, and the scent of the many many garden roses.Listen in to hear her story and journey as she navigates through a new life and new Britney.Learn more about Britney, The Garden of Thomas, and the in-person opportunities to experience their beautifully curated space at the links below. If you would like to be a guest at The Garden of Thomas they're hosting a wonderful Mother's Day event. Crepe Elizabeth @crapeelizabeth, will be serving amazing crepes, you can sit in the courtyard with your loved ones, listen to the fountain and bask in the grand views of Pleasant Mountain! All event details and how to purchase tickets can be found below.Mother's Day in the CourtyardFloral Demonstration & Book Signing with French Blooms author Sandra SigmanInstagram: @britneymerriamInstagram: @thegardenofthomasInstagram: @crepeelizabeth————————————————Say YES to joining Wendy for her:PWH Farm StaysPWH Summer Field DinnersPWH Peony & Cookie Decorating WorkshopPWH Mother & Daughter Experience | ParisPWH Paris & Versailles PWH Bordeaux & Charente Maritime Instagram: @phineaswrighthouseFacebook: Phineas Wright HouseWebsite: Phineas Wright HouseThank you for listening to the say YES to yourself! podcast. It would mean the world if you would take one minute to follow, leave a 5 star review and share with those you too are encouraging to say YES to themselves. xo,Wendy
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 2, 2023 is: plausible PLAW-zuh-bul adjective Plausible means "seemingly fair, reasonable, or valuable but often not so" or "appearing worthy of belief." // One problem with the horror movie is that the plot is barely plausible—there was no good reason for the kids to enter the abandoned mansion to begin with. See the entry > Examples: "The West Midlands is a region that is no stranger to myths. From the bustling motorway of the M5 to the quiet, secluded woods of Cannock Chase—you will hear tales of abnormal happenings. ... Some explanations are offered as to why such spooky events may be taking place. But others appear to be a mystery with no plausible explanation." — Jamie Brassington, Birmingham Live (UK), 16 Apr. 2022 Did you know? Put your hands together for plausible, a word with a sonorous history. Today the word usually means "reasonable" or "believable," but its origins lie in the sensory realm, rather than that of the mind. In fact, plausible comes to us from the Latin adjective plausibilis, meaning "worthy of applause," which in turn derives from the verb plaudere, meaning "to applaud or clap." Other plaudere words include applaud, plaudit (the earliest meaning of which was "a round of applause"), and explode (from the Latin explodere, meaning "to drive off the stage by clapping"). Will the evolution of plaudere continue? Quite plausibly, and to that we say "Bravo."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 1, 2023 is: Beltane BEL-tayn noun Beltane refers to the Celtic May Day festival. // She looks forward to the festivities and traditions her town has kept alive to celebrate Beltane each year. See the entry > Examples: “A yearly cycle of rituals, known as sabbats, celebrate the beginning and height of each of the four seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. Each ritual encourages participants to celebrate the changes the seasons bring to nature and to reflect on how those changes are mirrored in their own lives. For example, at Beltane—which takes place May 1, at the height of spring—Wiccans celebrate fertility in both the Earth and in people's lives. The rituals are constructed to not only celebrate the season but to put the participant in direct contact with the divine.” — Helen A. Berger, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 Sept. 2021 Did you know? To the ancient Celts, May Day marked the start of summer, and a critical time when the boundaries between the human and supernatural worlds were removed, requiring that people take special measures to protect themselves against enchantments. The Beltane fire festival originated in a summer ritual in which cattle were herded between two huge bonfires to protect them from evil and disease. The word Beltane has been used in English since the 15th century, but the earliest known instance of the word in print—as well as the description of that summer ritual—is from 500 years previous: it appears in an Irish glossary commonly attributed to Cormac, a king and bishop who lived in the south of Ireland, near the end of the first millennium.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 30, 2023 is: sinecure SYE-nih-kyoor noun Sinecure is a noun that refers to a usually paid job or position that requires little or no work. // The king was in the habit of rewarding his loyal supporters with sinecures. See the entry > Examples: “To make matters worse, the architects of failure are rarely, if ever, held accountable. Instead of acknowledging their mistakes openly, even discredited former officials can head off to corporate boards, safe sinecures, or lucrative consulting firms, hoping to return to power as soon as their party regains the White House. Once back in office, they are free to repeat their previous mistakes, backed by a chorus of pundits whose recommendations never change no matter how often they've failed.” — Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 3 Mar. 2021 Did you know? A sinecure (pronounced SYE-nih-kyoor) sounds like a pretty sweet deal: it's a job or title that usually comes with regular money but with little or no work. Who wouldn't want that? While the thing sinecure refers to might be desirable, the word itself is typically used with disdain—if someone refers to your job as a sinecure they don't think you earn the money you collect by doing it. The word's roots are likewise served with some side-eye: it comes from the Medieval Latin sine cura, meaning “without cure”—the lack of cure in this case being one for souls. The original sinecure was a church position that didn't involve the spiritual care or instruction of church members (theoretically, the church's sole purpose). Ecclesiastical sinecures have been a thing of the past since the late 19th century; positions referred to with the word these days are more likely to be board positions or academic appointments that require no teaching.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 29, 2023 is: expedite EK-spuh-dyte verb To expedite something is to speed up its process or progress. Expedite can also mean “to carry out promptly.” // To expedite the processing of your request, please include your account number on all documents. See the entry > Examples: “Builders have been accused of using cheap materials and skirting building codes to expedite projects and fatten profits—erecting structures that could not survive quakes.” — Nimet Kirac, The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2023 Did you know? Need someone to do something in a hurry? You can tell that person to step on it—or you can tell them expedite it. Figurative feet are involved in both cases, though less obviously in the second choice. Expedite comes from the Latin verb expedire, meaning “to free from entanglement” or “to release (a person) especially from a confined position.” The feet come in at that word's root: it traces back to Latin ped- or pes, meaning “foot.” Expedient and expedition also stepped into English by way of expedire.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 28, 2023 is: arboreal ahr-BOR-ee-ul adjective Arboreal is a literary term that means “of or relating to trees.” It can also mean “living in or often found in trees,” as in “arboreal monkeys.” // Despite taking weekly hikes on the same trail, she never ceases to be amazed by the forest's arboreal beauty. See the entry > Examples: “[The satanic leaf-tailed gecko's] mottled brown skin, replete with mossy splotches and vein-like ridges, makes it the perfect imitation of a decaying leaf. Any predator clever enough to see through its arboreal disguise and mount an attack will be in for a fright. The leafy gecko opens its mouth, sticking out a blood-red tongue and unleashing a chilling scream that will frighten off the boldest of predators.” — Holly Barker, Discover Magazine, 7 Oct. 2022 Did you know? Arboreal took root in English in the 17th century, at a time when language influencers were eager to see English take on words from Latin and Greek. Apparently unsatisfied with the now-obsolete word treen (“of, relating to, or derived from trees”), they plucked arboreal from the Latin arboreus, meaning “of a tree”; its ultimate root is arbor, meaning “tree.” That root arborized—that is, branched freely (to use the term figuratively): English abounds with largely obscure words that trace back to arbor, meaning “tree.” Generally synonymous with arboreal are arboraceous, arborary, arboreous, and arborous. Synonymous with arboreal specifically in the sense of “relating to or resembling a tree” are arborescent, arboresque, arborical, and arboriform. Arboricole is a synonym of arboreal in its “inhabiting trees” sense. (The influencers may have overdone it a bit.) Arboreal is far more common than any of these, but other arbor words also have a firm hold in the language: arborvitae refers to a shrub whose name translates as “tree of life”; arboretum refers to a place where trees are cultivated; and arboriculture is the cultivation of trees. And of course we can't forget Arbor Day, which since 1872 has named a day set aside for planting trees. Despite its spelling, however, the English word arbor, which refers to a garden shelter of tree boughs or vines twined together, has a different source: it came by way of Anglo-French from the Latin herba, meaning “herb” or “grass.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 27, 2023 is: vicissitudes vuh-SISS-uh-toodz noun plural The word vicissitudes usually refers to events or situations that occur by chance. It can also apply specifically to the difficulties or hardships, usually beyond one's control, that are commonly encountered in a life, career, etc., or simply to the quality or state of being changeable. // Capricorns are often described as persistent, down-to-earth strivers, unlikely to be thrown off by the vicissitudes of life. See the entry > Examples: “Picture a majestic coniferous forest. The hierarchy in scale and time is pine needle, tree crown, patch, stand, whole forest, and biome. The needles change annually with the seasons. The tree crowns over several years. The patch after many decades. The stand every hundred years or so. The forest over a thousand years. And the biome over tens of thousands of years. The different layers allow the entire system to roll with the vicissitudes and stresses of crowding, parasites, weather, disease, and fire. Continuity is maintained without sacrificing adaptation.” — Jacob L. Taylor, SeekingAlpha.com, 28 Oct. 2022 Did you know? In one entry of his nine-volume biography of Walt Whitman's later years, Horace L. Traubel quotes the Good Gray Poet remarking on an in-process manuscript: “If we keep pegging away slowly but persistently, the book must in the end come out—if I should last, and I guess I will. But we mustn't crow until we've left the last limit of the woods behind us—till we're clean out into the open. The vicissitudes are many—the certainties few.” Whitman's reflection sheds some light on vicissitudes (the singular form vicissitude is rare but also extant), a word that can refer simply to the fact of change, or to instances of it, but that often refers specifically to hardships or difficulties brought about by change. To survive “the vicissitudes of life” is to survive life's ups and downs, which is more than worth sounding one's “barbaric yawp” about over the roofs of the world. The word is a descendant of the Latin vicis, meaning “change” or “alternation.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 26, 2023 is: carouse kuh-ROWZ ("OW" as in 'cow') verb Carouse means "to drink alcohol, make noise, and have fun with other people." // After a long night of carousing around Puerto Vallarta, the travelers settled into their hotel room. See the entry > Examples: "While my best friend and I took in two rowdy Mardi Gras parades during our weekend trip, we didn't come just to carouse. I wanted to eat seafood po' boys and hear music and experience Cajun culture as we relished the early spring Southern greenery. We wanted to experience this singular American city." — Laura Johnston, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 Feb. 2023 Did you know? Sixteenth-century English revelers toasting each other's health sometimes drank a brimming mug of booze straight to the bottom—drinking an "all-out," they called it. German tipplers did the same and used the German expression for "all out"—gar aus. The French adopted the German term as carous, using the adverb in their expression boire carous ("to drink all out"). That phrase, with its idiomatic sense of "to empty the cup," led to carrousse, a French noun meaning "a large draft of liquor." And that's where English speakers picked up carouse in the 1500s, using it first as a direct borrowing of the French noun, which later took on the sense of a general "drunken revel," and then as a verb meaning "to drink freely." The verb later developed the "rowdy partying" use familiar to us today.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 25, 2023 is: orthography or-THAH-gruh-fee noun Orthography refers to “correct spelling,” or “the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage.” // As the winner of several spelling bees, she impressed her teachers with her exceptional grasp of orthography. See the entry > Examples: “What makes [poet John] Ashbery difficult ... is nonetheless different from what makes his ‘modernist precursors' like Pound and Eliot difficult. It requires no supplemental linguistic, historical, philosophical, or literary knowledge to appreciate. ... His verse rarely relies on outright violations of the norms of syntax, orthography, or page layout to achieve its effects. Rather, it tends to be composed of grammatically well-formed units combined in such a way as to produce semantically nonsensical wholes.” — Ryan Ruby, The Nation, 27 Jan. 2022 Did you know? The concept of orthography (a term that comes from the Greek words orthos, meaning “right or true,” and graphein, meaning “to write”) was not something that really concerned English speakers until the introduction of the printing press in England in the second half of the 15th century. From that point on, English spelling became progressively more uniform. Our orthography has been relatively stable since the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, with the notable exception of certain spelling reforms, such as the change of musick to music. Incidentally, many of these reforms were championed by Merriam-Webster's own Noah Webster.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 24, 2023 is: reprehensible rep-rih-HEN-suh-bul adjective Reprehensible is a formal word that means “worthy of or deserving blame or very strong criticism.” // A recent news article called for the mayor's resignation, citing the recent accusations of bribery as both plausible and reprehensible. See the entry > Examples: “The extraordinary blooms, visible from the 15 Freeway, led to people parking on the freeway shoulders and blocking city streets to walk into the hills. City officials tried offering shuttle buses and forming lines to the trails to manage the throngs, but some people ignored the trails and just scrambled up the hillsides, wading through the flowers and even dislodging rocks that rolled onto people below, according to news reports. That behavior was reprehensible, [Evan] Meyer said, and potentially devastating to the flowers everyone was clamoring to see.” — Nathan Solis, The Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2023 Did you know? It may be easy to grasp that reprehensible is all about blame, but the word's origins tell a grabbier story. The word comes from the Latin reprehendere (literally “to hold back”), a combination of re- and prehendere, meaning “to grasp.” Prehendere is at the root of other grasp-related words, among them apprehend, used when grabbing hold of bad guys, comprehend, used when it's concepts that are grasped, and prehensile, used to describe anatomical features—for example, a monkey's tail or an elephant's trunk—that grasp especially by wrapping around. Grasp these words, and there's nothing reprehensible about your grasp on this little corner of the English lexicon.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 23, 2023 is: gravamen gruh-VAY-mun noun Gravamen is a formal word that refers to the significant part of a complaint or grievance. // The gravamen of Walter's letter to the editor was that the newspaper frequently reports on the school system's failures but rarely covers its successes and improvements. See the entry > Examples: “The only thing worse than living under a totalitarian Communist regime is outliving one. That seems to be the half-serious gravamen of ‘The Interim,' a novel published in 2000 by the East German writer Wolfgang Hilbig (1941-2007) and now translated into supple, vivid English by Isabel Fargo Cole. It's not a completely absurd grievance. Not everyone does well with the kind of freedom afforded by the free market.” — Caleb Crain, The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2021 Did you know? Gravamen is not a word you hear every day (even rarer is gravamina, the less expected of its two plural forms; gravamens is the other), but it does show up occasionally in modern-day publications. It comes from the Latin verb gravare, meaning “to burden,” and ultimately from the Latin adjective gravis, meaning “heavy.” Fittingly, gravamen refers to the part of a grievance or complaint that gives it weight or substance. In legal contexts, gravamen is used to refer to the grounds on which a legal action is allowed or upheld as valid. (The word is synonymous with a legal use of gist not found outside technical contexts). Gravis has given English several other heavy words that throw their weight around more frequently, including gravity, grieve, and the adjective grave, meaning “important” or “serious.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 22, 2023 is: beguile bih-GHYLE verb To beguile is to attract or interest someone, or to trick or deceive them. // He beguiled the audience with his smooth and seductive voice. // She was cunning enough to beguile her classmates into doing the work for her. See the entry > Examples: “Recycling themes from ‘Dangerous Liaisons' and ‘John Tucker Must Die,' the movie [Mr. Malcolm's List] follows two young women as they exact retribution on a snooty bachelor. The more Machiavellian of the pair is Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton), who early on endures a public snubbing by the coveted Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Vexed, Julia summons an old school chum, Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), and enlists her in a vindictive plot to beguile Malcolm and then break his heart as payback.” — Natalia Winkelman, The Boston Globe, 29 June 2022 Did you know? A number of English words have traveled a rather curious path from meanings related to deception or trickery to something less unwelcome. A prime example is beguile, which first appeared in English around the 13th century with the meaning “to lead or draw by deception.” For the next several centuries, most of the senses of the verb had to do, in one manner or another, with deceiving. Around the time of Shakespeare, however, a more appealing sense charmed its way into the English language and hasn't left since: “to attract or interest someone,” or in other words, “to charm.” Nowadays, you're just as likely to hear beguile applied to someone who woos an audience with charisma, as to a wily trickster who hoodwinks others to get their way.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 21, 2023 is: wistful WIST-ful adjective To be wistful is to be full of or to inspire yearning or desire tinged with melancholy. Wistful can also mean “suggestive of sad thoughtfulness.” // As the car pulled away, Lea cast one last wistful glance at the house where she'd spent so many happy years. See the entry > Examples: “Josh Tillman, better known by stage name Father John Misty, dives headlong into big-band jazz on his sumptuous and melancholy fifth album [Chloë and the Next 20th Century]. With honeyed vocals and a potent dose of gallows humor, the shape-shifting crooner is reborn as a Sinatra-style lounge act, weaving wistful tales of heartache and tragedy over lush orchestrations.” — Patrick Ryan, USA Today, 30 Dec. 2022 Did you know? We see you there, dear reader, gazing silently up at the moon, heart aching to know the history of wistful, as if it could be divined on the lunar surface. And we'd like to ease your melancholy by telling you that the knowledge you seek—nay, pine for—is closer at hand. But the etymology of wistful, while intriguing, is not entirely clear. It's thought that the word is a combination of wistly, a now-obsolete word meaning “intently” and, perhaps, the similar-sounding wishful. Wistly, in turn, may have come from whistly, an old term meaning “silently” or “quietly.” What's more certain is that our modern wistful is a great word to describe someone full of pensive yearning, or something inspiring such yearning.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 20, 2023 is: fortitude FOR-tuh-tood noun Fortitude is a formal word that refers to the strength of mind that enables someone to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. Less formal words with similar meanings include grit, fiber, and pluck. // To reach the summit of Denali requires not only great physical strength and training but the fortitude to persevere no matter the challenge. See the entry > Examples: “This emotional novel about forgiveness honors the immense fortitude manifested by families separated during wartime.” — review, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Jan. 2023 Did you know? Fortitude comes from the Latin word fortis, meaning “strong,” and in English it has always been used primarily to describe strength of mind. For a time, the word was also used to mean “physical strength”; William Shakespeare used it that way in Henry VI, Part 1: “Coward of France! How much he wrongs his fame / Despairing of his own arm's fortitude.” But despite use by the famous bard himself, that meaning languished and is now considered obsolete. Even the familiar phrase “intestinal fortitude” is just a humorous way to refer to someone's courage or mental stamina, not the literal strength of their digestive system. (If you're looking to describe such a gastrointestinal tract, we might suggest “iron stomach.”)
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2023 is: undergird un-der-GHERD verb Undergird means “to strengthen or support (something) from below” or “to form the basis or foundation of.” // Their way of life is undergirded by religious faith. See the entry > Examples: “Genuine connection has always been scarce, but during the height of the pandemic in 2020 it became even more so. [Jake] Johnson wrote the screenplay for Self Reliance during this scary, unpredictable and lonely period. The lessons from isolation undergird the film's emotional core.” — Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Mar. 2023 Did you know? When undergird was a new word in the 16th century, it was ships that were undergirded—that is, made secure below—and the undergirding was done by passing a rope or chain underneath. That literal sense has long since fallen out of use, but in the 19th century undergird picked up the figurative “strengthen” or “support” meaning that we still use. Centuries before anything was undergirded, however, people and things could be girded—that is, encircled or bound with a flexible band, such as a belt. Girding today is more often about preparing oneself to fight or to do something difficult, as in “girding themselves for an ideological battle.” About as old as gird is the word's close relation, girdle, which originally referred to an article of clothing that circles the body usually at the waist; the girdles of today address the same anatomical territory but with the squeezy aim of making the waist look thinner. Gird also gives us girder, a noun referring to a horizontal piece supporting a structure.