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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Rank #9 in Books category

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

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

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Something is missing

By Muhammad510 - Jul 17 2019
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I can’t find past episodes. I want to listen to those episodes. Is there anyway?

Peer etym

By Larry in Contra Costa County - May 22 2019
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Peer, Par: same Latin root.

iTunes Ratings

611 Ratings
Average Ratings
423
84
39
26
39

Something is missing

By Muhammad510 - Jul 17 2019
Read more
I can’t find past episodes. I want to listen to those episodes. Is there anyway?

Peer etym

By Larry in Contra Costa County - May 22 2019
Read more
Peer, Par: same Latin root.

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Cover image of Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Updated 4 days ago

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

gingerly

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 6, 2019 is:

gingerly • \JIN-jer-lee\  • adjective

: very cautious or careful

Examples:

"The reality: I am averse to wet clothes, squishy shoes and algae in my hair, so I cautiously stepped into a kayak, trying my darndest not to rock the boat, and set out at a gingerly pace on a still lake." — Liz Carey, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia), 15 May 2012

"The 2019 Emmy Awards … were home to more than a few memorable moments. One we can't get out of our heads was owned by Gwyneth Paltrow, whose sleek-yet-restrictive silver dress made for a gingerly walk across the stage that caught the internet's attention." — Andy Moser, Mashable, 23 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

Etymologists take a gingerly approach to assigning any particular origins to this word. While it might have come from the name of the spice, there's nothing concrete to back up that idea. Another conjecture is that it's related to an Old French word, gensor, which meant "delicate." That's because in 16th century English an earlier sense of gingerly often referred to dancing or walking with dainty steps. Not till the 17th century did it change to apply to movements that were cautious in order to avoid being noisy or causing injury, and to a wary manner in handling or presenting ideas. Not too surprisingly, given its -ly ending, gingerly is also quite often correctly used as an adverb, as in "they moved gingerly on the icy pond."

Dec 06 2019

1min

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delectation

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

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

: delight, enjoyment

Examples:

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

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

Did you know?

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

Dec 15 2019

2mins

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impugn

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

impugn • \im-PYOON\  • verb

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

Examples:

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

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

Did you know?

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

Dec 14 2019

1min

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tractable

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

tractable • \TRAK-tuh-bul\  • adjective

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

2 : easily handled, managed, or wrought : malleable

Examples:

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

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

Did you know?

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

Dec 13 2019

2mins

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belle epoque

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

belle epoque • \BEL-ay-POK\  • noun

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

Examples:

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

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

Did you know?

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

Dec 12 2019

2mins

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sodden

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

sodden • \SAH-dun\  • adjective

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

b : torpid, sluggish

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

b : heavy or doughy because of imperfect cooking

Examples:

"… with these apt closing words Mr. Slyme fell forward with his head upon the table, and so declined into a sodden sleep." — Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, 1844

"I'll never forget [football quarterback Eli] Manning repeatedly rising up from the sodden San Francisco turf, literally pulling pieces of the field from his facemask." — Tara Sullivan, The Boston Globe, 7 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Nowadays, seethed is the past tense and past participle form of the verb seethe (which originally meant "to boil or stew"). Originally, however, seethe could also be conjugated in the past tense as sod and in the past participle as sodden. By the 14th century, sodden had become an independent adjective synonymous with boiled. And, by the 16th century, it had taken on the figurative sense used to describe someone who appears dull, expressionless, or stupid, particularly as a result of heavy drinking. Today, sodden is commonly used as a synonym of soaked or saturated. Seethe followed a different figurative path: while one who is sodden may appear dull, torpid, or sluggish, one who is seething is highly agitated, like a pot of boiling water.

Dec 11 2019

2mins

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reiterate

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 10, 2019 is:

reiterate • \ree-IT-uh-rayt\  • verb

: to state or do over again or repeatedly sometimes with wearying effect

Examples:

"Flanery reiterated that the new hotel, HRM facility and expanded seating will not require Churchill Downs to expand outside of its current property. Churchill Downs will continue to have a 'constant dialogue' with neighbors, Flanery said." — Sarah Ladd, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 31 Oct. 2019

"In addition to addressing the situation with Green, Durant reiterated that he won't be playing this season. He tore his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals." — Connor Letourneau, The San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Can you guess the meaning of iterate, a less common relative of reiterate? It must mean simply "to state or do," right? Nope. Actually, iterate also means "to state or do again." It's no surprise, then, that some usage commentators have insisted that reiterate must always mean "to say or do again AND AGAIN." No such nice distinction exists in actual usage, however. Both reiterate and iterate can convey the idea of a single repetition or of many repetitions. Reiterate is the older of the two words—it first appeared in the 15th century, whereas iterate turned up in the 16th century. Both stem from the Latin verb iterare, which is itself from iterum ("again"), but reiterate took an extra step, through Latin reiterare ("to repeat").

Dec 10 2019

2mins

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oxymoron

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 9, 2019 is:

oxymoron • \ahk-sih-MOR-ahn\  • noun

: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness); broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

Examples:

"Truly antisocial celebrity-level pop is probably an oxymoron, but part of the thrill of one new arrival, Billie Eilish, is that she gets close to achieving it." — Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 10 May 2019

"'Liquid crystal' ought to be an oxymoron, but technology has rendered it sensible instead. A crystal is by definition a solid with a repeating, orderly, three-dimensional lattice. Liquid crystals are electrically activated to become quasi-crystals that act as polarizing filters. The wave nature of light manifests as oscillating electric and magnetic fields that wave like a rope tied to a post as it is shaken." — Richard Brill, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 20 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

The Greeks exhaustively classified the elements of rhetoric, or effective speech and writing, and gave the name oxymoron—literally "pointed foolishness"—to the deliberate juxtaposing of seemingly contradictory words. The roots of oxymoron, oxys meaning "sharp" or "keen," and mōros meaning "foolish," are nearly antonyms themselves, making oxymoron nicely self-descriptive. Oxymoron originally applied to a meaningful paradox condensed into a couple of words, as in "precious bane," "lonely crowd," or "sweet sorrow." Today, however, what is commonly cited as an oxymoron is often simply a curiosity of language, where one or both elements have multiple meanings (shrimp in "jumbo shrimp" doesn't mean "small"; it refers to a sea creature), or a phrase whose elements seem antithetical in spirit, such as "classic rock."

Dec 09 2019

2mins

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circumscribe

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 8, 2019 is:

circumscribe • \SER-kum-skrybe\  • verb

1 a : to constrict the range or activity of definitely and clearly

b : to define or mark off carefully

2 a : to draw a line around

b : to surround by or as if by a boundary

3 : to construct or be constructed around (a geometrical figure) so as to touch as many points as possible

Examples:

"Perhaps most important, the government was given a circumscribed mission statement—to secure the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its citizens, with their consent—and, in the form of the Bill of Rights, a set of lines it could not cross in its use of violence against them." — Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2011

"But even hacking keyboards and old toys comes with limitations, circumscribed by the chips inside their circuit boards. You can make interesting sounds—especially if you incorporate effects pedals—but you're still building off the electronic guts you've inherited." — David Rees, The New York Times Magazine, 16 July 2019

Did you know?

Circumscribe has a lot of relatives in English. Its Latin predecessor circumscribere (which roughly translates as "to draw a circle around") derives from circum-, meaning "circle," and scribere, meaning "to write or draw." Among the many descendants of circum- are circuit, circumference, circumnavigate, circumspect, circumstance, and circumvent. Scribere gave us such words as scribe and scribble, as well as ascribe, describe, and transcribe, among others. Circumscribe was first recorded in the 15th century; it was originally spelled circumscrive, but by the end of the century the circumscribe spelling had also appeared.

Dec 08 2019

2mins

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vexillology

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 7, 2019 is:

vexillology • \vek-suh-LAH-luh-jee\  • noun

: the study of flags

Examples:

"I was recently watching a rerun episode of The Big Bang Theory that featured one of the main characters. Sheldon Cooper was videoing a new episode of Sheldon Cooper Presents: Fun With Flags, a YouTube/podcast show that Sheldon makes to teach vexillology, the scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags." — Alicia Vandine, The Brighton Independent (Belleville, Ontario), 12 July 2019

"After self-study in vexillology—the art of flag design—and a lot of erasing, [Laurin] Stennis settled on the circle-star design. The 20 stars represent Mississippi's entry into the union as the 20th state; the blue star on the white background is an inversion of the white star on a blue field of 'Bonnie Blue Flag,' which was waved when the state seceded." — Steve Hendrix, The Washington Post,20 Jan. 2019

Did you know?

"The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history." Woodrow Wilson was speaking of the U.S. flag when he made that statement in an address in June of 1915, but those who engage in vexillology—that is, vexillologists—would likely find the comment applicable to any national banner. Vexillologists undertake scholarly investigations of flags, producing papers with titles such as "A Review of the Changing Proportions of Rectangular Flags since Medieval Times, and Some Suggestions for the Future." In the late 1950s, they coined vexillology as a name for their field of research, basing it on vexillum, the Latin term for a square flag or banner of the ancient Roman cavalry. The adjectives vexillologic and vexillological and the noun vexillologist followed soon thereafter.

Dec 07 2019

2mins

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gingerly

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 6, 2019 is:

gingerly • \JIN-jer-lee\  • adjective

: very cautious or careful

Examples:

"The reality: I am averse to wet clothes, squishy shoes and algae in my hair, so I cautiously stepped into a kayak, trying my darndest not to rock the boat, and set out at a gingerly pace on a still lake." — Liz Carey, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia), 15 May 2012

"The 2019 Emmy Awards … were home to more than a few memorable moments. One we can't get out of our heads was owned by Gwyneth Paltrow, whose sleek-yet-restrictive silver dress made for a gingerly walk across the stage that caught the internet's attention." — Andy Moser, Mashable, 23 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

Etymologists take a gingerly approach to assigning any particular origins to this word. While it might have come from the name of the spice, there's nothing concrete to back up that idea. Another conjecture is that it's related to an Old French word, gensor, which meant "delicate." That's because in 16th century English an earlier sense of gingerly often referred to dancing or walking with dainty steps. Not till the 17th century did it change to apply to movements that were cautious in order to avoid being noisy or causing injury, and to a wary manner in handling or presenting ideas. Not too surprisingly, given its -ly ending, gingerly is also quite often correctly used as an adverb, as in "they moved gingerly on the icy pond."

Dec 06 2019

1min

Play