Rank #1: bromide
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 9, 2020 is:
bromide • \BROH-myde\ • noun
2 a : a commonplace or tiresome person : bore
b : a commonplace or hackneyed statement or notion
"In many ways, he's an outlier on the self-help circuit. Thomas isn't selling shortcuts to success or feel-good bromides. He makes achievement sound grueling. His knack is for transforming those he meets—a CEO, an NBA All-Star, a guy manning the desk at a hotel—into the sort of person who loves digging deep and grinding hard." — Leslie Pariseau, GQ, 28 May 2020
"Currently, Virginia's leaders are engaged in a tax debate over standard deductions for the middle class. Studying that problem would be a bromide that induces inertia. What is needed is action." — L. Scott Lingamfelter, The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 20 Jan. 2019
Did you know?
After bromine was discovered in the 1820s, chemists could not resist experimenting with the new element. It didn't take long before they found uses for its compounds, in particular potassium bromide. Potassium bromide started being used as a sedative to treat everything from epilepsy to sleeplessness, and by the 20th century, the word bromide was being used figuratively for anything or anyone that might put one to sleep because of commonness or just plain dullness. Today, bromides are no longer an ingredient in sedative preparations, but we can still feel the effects of figurative bromides as we encounter them in our daily routines.
Jul 09 2020
Rank #2: emulate
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 8, 2020 is:
emulate • \EM-yuh-layt\ • verb
1 a : to strive to equal or excel
b : imitate; especially : to imitate by means of hardware or software that permits programs written for one computer to be run on another computer
2 : to equal or approach equality with
Younger children will often try to emulate the behavior of their older siblings.
"As part of its subsequent push to emulate the West, Meiji-era Japan encouraged the production of domestic versions of that same whiskey. Japanese distillers often used sweet potatoes, which were abundant, but they produced a much different spirit than the barley, corn and rye used in Scotland and America." — Clay Risen, The New York Times, 29 May 2020
Did you know?
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then past speakers of English clearly had a great admiration for the Latin language. The verb emulate joined the ranks of Latin-derived English terms in the 16th century. It comes from aemulus, a Latin term for "rivaling" or "envious." Two related adjectives—emulate and emulous—appeared within a half-century of the verb emulate. Both mean "striving to emulate; marked by a desire to imitate or rival" or sometimes "jealous," but emulous is rare these days and the adjective emulate is obsolete. The latter did have a brief moment of glory, however, when William Shakespeare used it in Hamlet:
"Our last king,
Whose image even but now appear'd to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride,
Dar'd to the combat...."
Jul 08 2020
Rank #3: sound
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 7, 2020 is:
sound • \SOWND\ • adjective
1 a : free from injury or disease
b : free from flaw, defect, or decay
3 : free from error, fallacy, or misapprehension
4 a : thorough
b : deep and undisturbed
5 : showing good judgment or sense
The doctor's statement affirmed that the wealthy man was of sound mind when he decided to bequeath all of his money to the charitable foundation.
"Social distancing, where people are advised to stay at least 6 feet apart, was sound advice when the idea was put forth during the pandemic's early days. It remains sound advice now, and will continue to be sound advice in the days ahead." — The Times, 7 May 2020
Did you know?
English contains several sound homographs, all with distinct histories. For example, the sound that means "something heard" descends from Latin sonus ("sound"), whereas the sound that means "to measure the depth of water" traces to Middle French sonde ("sounding line"). Another sound, as in "of sound mind and body," is the contemporary form of Old English's gesund. Gesund is related to several words in other languages, such as Old Saxon gisund ("sound"), Old Frisian sund ("fresh, unharmed, healthy"), and Gothic swinths ("sound" or "healthy"). Another relative is Old High German's gisunt ("healthy"), which led to modern German's gesund, the root of gesundheit.
Jul 07 2020
Rank #4: legerdemain
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 6, 2020 is:
legerdemain • \lej-er-duh-MAYN\ • noun
1 : sleight of hand
2 : a display of skill and adroitness
"An example of Mr. Northam's political legerdemain is his tax proposal, which avoided the minefields of income or sales tax increases. Instead, he suggested hiking the gas tax while scrapping mandatory annual vehicle inspections and halving vehicle registration fees." — The Washington Post, editorial, 20 Dec. 2019
"One must find the resonance between ancient and contemporary, blending incongruous elements in a way that seems not only right but inevitable: telling the story of a founding father with hip-hop lyrics, as in 'Hamilton,' or presenting the myth of Theseus in the milieu of reality television as in 'The Hunger Games.' Kekla Magoon manages a similar feat of legerdemain in 'Shadows of Sherwood,' her compelling reboot of the Robin Hood myth." — Rick Riordan, The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2015
Did you know?
In Middle French, folks who were clever enough to fool others with fast-fingered illusions were described as leger de main, literally "light of hand." English speakers condensed that phrase into a noun when they borrowed it in the 15th century and began using it as an alternative to the older sleight of hand. (That term for dexterity or skill in using one's hands makes use of sleight, an old word from Middle English that derives from an Old Norse word meaning "sly.") In modern times, a feat of legerdemain can even be accomplished without using your hands, as in, for example, "an impressive bit of financial legerdemain."
Jul 06 2020
Rank #5: deracinate
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 5, 2020 is:
deracinate • \dee-RASS-uh-nayt\ • verb
1 : uproot
2 : to remove or separate from a native environment or culture; especially : to remove the racial or ethnic characteristics or influences from
The old-fashioned gardening book recommended deracinating every other plant in the row to allow the survivors room to grow.
"In many ways, the couple's self-removal befits the deracinated monarchy. Once upon a time, English monarchs were sovereign, supreme. The occasion of democratizing reforms such as the Magna Carta beginning in the late Middle Ages brought the English monarchy down, down, like glistering Phaethon, into 'the base court.'" — Grant Addison, The Examiner (Washington, DC), 9 Jan. 2020
Did you know?
There is a hint about the roots of deracinate in its first definition. Deracinate was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Middle French and can be traced back to the Latin word radix, meaning "root." Although deracinate began life referring to literal plant roots, it quickly took on a second, metaphorical, meaning suggesting removal of anyone or anything from native roots or culture. Other offspring of radix include eradicate ("to pull up by the roots" or "to do away with as completely as if by pulling up by the roots") and radish (the name for a crisp, edible root). Though the second sense of deracinate mentions racial characteristics and influence, the words racial and race derive from razza, an Italian word of uncertain origin.
Jul 05 2020
Rank #6: aphelion
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 4, 2020 is:
aphelion • \af-EEL-yun\ • noun
: the point farthest from the sun in the path of an orbiting celestial body (such as a planet)
"Our planet reaches aphelion only once a year, and the event typically falls approximately 14 days after the June solstice, which marks the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter for the Southern Hemisphere. Similarly, perihelion happens two weeks after the December solstice." — Hanneke Weitering, Space.com, 4 July 2019
"Currently about 34 AU from the Sun, Pluto is still slowly approaching its aphelion, the farthest point in its orbit from the Sun, where it will lie nearly 50 AU from our star." — Alison Klesman, Astronomy, 3 Apr. 2020
Did you know?
Aphelion and perihelion are troublesome terms. Which one means a planet is nearest to the sun and which means it is farthest away? An etymology lesson may help you keep those words straight. Just remember that the "ap" of aphelion derives from a Latin prefix that means "away from" (the mnemonic "'A' for 'away'" can help too); peri-, on the other hand, means "near." And how are aphelion and perihelion related to the similar-looking astronomical pair apogee and perigee? Etymology explains again. The "helion" of aphelion and perihelion is based on the Greek word hēlios, meaning "sun," while the "gee" of apogee and perigee is based on gaia, meaning "earth." The first pair describes distance in relation to the sun, the second in relation to the Earth.
Jul 04 2020
Rank #7: stentorian
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 3, 2020 is:
stentorian • \sten-TOR-ee-un\ • adjective
: extremely loud
"'Let it Be' … was uncannily similar to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' not only in sentiment, but even to its churchy flavor. 'They're both very gospely songs,' [David] Wills says. 'I think 1968 was a very turbulent year … and in 1969 there was this life-affirming achievement of going to the moon. So I think that was in the zeitgeist, those stentorian, stately gospel piano-based songs.'" — Jim Beckerman, NorthJersey.com, 14 May 2020
"'Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching,' I wrote in my first book…. Laughter has always been the best medicine; I wasn't exactly making any boldly original statement almost three decades ago. I wasn't expecting a MacArthur grant. But what I expected even less … was that the not-touching part of my line would eventually be part of a stentorian, global prescription to combat COVID-19." — Gina Barreca, The Bedford (Pennsylvania) Gazette, 23 Mar 2020
Did you know?
The Greek herald Stentor was known for having a voice that came through loud and clear. In fact, in the Iliad, Homer described Stentor as a man whose voice was as loud as that of fifty men together. Stentor's powerful voice made him a natural choice for delivering announcements and proclamations to the assembled Greek army during the Trojan War, and it also made his name a byword for any person with a loud, strong voice. Both the noun stentor and the related adjective stentorian pay homage to the big-voiced warrior, and both have been making noise in English since the early 17th century.
Jul 03 2020
Rank #8: obtain
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 2, 2020 is:
obtain • \ub-TAYN\ • verb
1 : to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort
2 : to be generally recognized or established : prevail
The experiment was designed to obtain more accurate data about weather patterns.
"By time of competition, [NHL deputy commissioner Bill] Daly said, the league will test players every night and obtain results by the time they report to the rink the next morning." — Matt Porter, The Boston Globe, 26 May 2020
Did you know?
Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning "to hold on to, possess." Obtinēre was itself formed by the combination of ob-, meaning "in the way," and the verb tenēre, meaning "to hold." In its earliest uses, obtain often implied a conquest or a successful victory in battle, but it is now used for any attainment through planned action or effort. The verb tenēre has incontestably prevailed in the English language, providing us with such common words as abstain, contain, detain, sustain, and, perhaps less obviously, the adjectives tenable and tenacious.
Jul 02 2020
Rank #9: farrago
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 1, 2020 is:
farrago • \fuh-RAH-goh\ • noun
: a confused mixture : hodgepodge
"Combining these plots is a terrible idea for multiple reasons. One is simply logistical; the fusion turns two improbable but engaging stories into a ludicrous farrago." — Laura Miller, Slate, 8 Nov. 2019
"Although it's hard to know anything for sure about North Korea, the fertilizer-plant photo suggests the reporting about Kim over the past few weeks was a farrago of misinformation, non-information, half speculation and outright guessing." — Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, 5 May 2020
Did you know?
Farrago might seem an unlikely relative of farina (the name for the mealy breakfast cereal), but the two terms have their roots in the same Latin noun. Both derive from far, the Latin name for spelt (a type of grain). In Latin, farrago meant "mixed fodder"—cattle feed, that is. It was also used more generally to mean "mixture." When it was adopted into English in the early 1600s, farrago retained the "mixture" sense of its ancestor. Today, we often use it for a jumble or medley of disorganized, haphazard, or even nonsensical ideas or elements.
Jul 01 2020
Rank #10: louche
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 30, 2020 is:
louche • \LOOSH\ • adjective
: not reputable or decent
"Here, he's just a dude, with an earring and a motorcycle, a dude who wears jeans to military court. Freeman's best when he's not trying to win re-election or standing at the Pearly Gates, when he's just a guy slouching in dungarees, looking a little louche." — Wesley Morris, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2020
"On 7 May, for one week only, it released a modern-dress version of Antony and Cleopatra set in a series of strategy rooms, conference centres and five-star hotel suites. The lovestruck Roman was played by a louche, gruff, brooding Ralph Fiennes." — Lloyd Evans, The Spectator (UK), 16 May 2020
Did you know?
Louche ultimately comes from the Latin word luscus, meaning "blind in one eye" or "having poor sight." This Latin term gave rise to the French louche, meaning "squinting" or "cross-eyed." The French gave their term a figurative sense as well, taking that squinty look to mean "shady" or "devious." English speakers didn't see the need for the sight-impaired uses when they borrowed the term in the 19th century, but they kept the figurative one. The word is still quite visible today and is used to describe both people and things of questionable repute.
Jun 30 2020