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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Updated 23 days ago

Rank #196 in Arts category

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

Read more

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

iTunes Ratings

462 Ratings
Average Ratings
316
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35
20
24

Peer etym

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

Why I can’t see the album figure?

By kaiyuyue - Aug 19 2018
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The album figure may be have a problem of showing on iPhone. Will it be fixed ?

iTunes Ratings

462 Ratings
Average Ratings
316
67
35
20
24

Peer etym

By Larry in Contra Costa County - May 22 2019
Read more

Peer, Par: same Latin root.

Why I can’t see the album figure?

By kaiyuyue - Aug 19 2018
Read more

The album figure may be have a problem of showing on iPhone. Will it be fixed ?

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

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Updated 23 days ago

Rank #196 in Arts category

Read more

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

Rank #1: ratiocination

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 6, 2019 is: ratiocination \rat-ee-oh-suh-NAY-shun\ noun 1 : the process of exact thinking : [reasoning](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reasoning) 2 : a reasoned train of thought Examples: "It is beginning to look like television may soon kill not only the theater and the movies but radio, books, magazines, newspapers, and finally articulate speech and all the processes of ratiocination." — Aldous Huxley, letter, 14 Feb. 1949 "Ratiocination is a trained, disciplined procedure of arriving at truth—a use of reason and perspicacity so precise it's almost supernatural." — Virginia Heffernan, Wired, June 2018 Did you know? Edgar Allan Poe is said to have called the 1841 story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" his first "tale of ratiocination." Many today agree with his assessment and consider that Poe classic to be literature's first detective story. Poe didn't actually use ratiocination in "Rue Morgue," but the term does appear three times in its 1842 sequel, "The Mystery of Marie Roget." In "Marie Roget," the author proved his reasoning ability (ratiocination traces to [ratio](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratio), Latin for "reason" or "computation"). The second tale was based on an actual murder, and as the case unfolded after the publication of Poe's work, it became clear that his fictional detective had done an amazing job of reasoning through the crime.

Feb 06 2019
2 mins
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Rank #2: behest

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 9, 2019 is: behest \bih-HEST\ noun 1 : an authoritative order : [command](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/command#h2) 2 : an urgent prompting Examples: "Let's be clear on this, in the case of a foreclosure sale, while you might not think of it as a 'sale' because it is not a voluntary action taken by the homeowner, but rather a forced action at the behest of the lender, for tax purposes a foreclosure is treated exactly the same as a voluntary sale by the buyer." — Tony Nitti, Forbes, 19 Nov. 2018 "He is being detained at the behest of Japanese prosecutors after Nissan alleged that he had understated his earnings and misused company assets." — The Economist, 24 Nov. 2018 Did you know? Today's word first appeared in Old English and was formed from the prefix [be-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/be-#dictionary-entry-5) and the verb hātan ("to command" or "to promise"). While behest was originally used only in the sense of "promise," it acquired the additional sense of "command" among speakers of Middle English. Among contemporary English speakers, behest is no longer used in the sense of "promise" but rather denotes an authoritative or urgent request or command. Old English hātan also gave English the now-archaic words [hest](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hest) (meaning "command") and [hight](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hight) ("being called or named").

Jan 09 2019
1 min
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Rank #3: grift

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 27, 2019 is: grift \GRIFT\ verb 1 : to obtain (money) illicitly (as in a [confidence game](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/confidence%20game)) 2 : to acquire money or property illicitly Examples: The guidebook warns that the city's con artists grift millions of dollars from unwary tourists annually. "He's somebody that lived and grifted, lived for the day. As soon as he got any money from some shady deal or whatever he was involved in, he just spent it." — Richard E. Grant, quoted on Vox.com, 18 Oct. 2018 Did you know? Grift was born in the argot of the underworld, a realm in which a "grifter" might be a pickpocket, a crooked gambler, or a confidence man—any criminal who relied on skill and wits rather than physical violence—and to be "on the grift" was to make a living by stings and clever thefts. Grift may have evolved from [graft](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/graft#h4), a slightly older word meaning "to acquire dishonestly," but its exact origins are uncertain. We do know that the verb grift first finagled its way into print in the early 20th century, as demonstrated in George Bronson-Howard's 1915 novel God's Man, where it appears in gerund form: "Grifting ain't what it used to be. Fourteenth Street's got protection down to a system—a regular underworld tariff on larceny."

Feb 27 2019
1 min
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Rank #4: lunette

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 12, 2018 is: lunette \loo-NET\ noun 1 a : something that has the shape of a crescent or half-moon b : an opening in a vault especially for a window c : the surface at the upper part of a wall that is partly surrounded by a vault which the wall intersects and that is often filled by windows or by mural painting d : a low crescentic mound (as of sand) formed by the wind 2 : the figure or shape of a crescent moon Examples: "All the windows and doors were topped with lunettes of small-paned glass." — Theodore Dreiser, The Financier, 1912 "But what people found most striking about the school was the elaborate lunette built on the exterior of the building over the front entrance. With the lunette's intricate sunburst design, Iddles School caught the attention of many passersby." — Becky Kark, The Herald-Palladium (St. Joseph, Michigan), 15 July 2018 Did you know? Lunette, a word borrowed from French, looks like it should mean "little moon"—luna being Latin for "moon" and [-ette](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-ette) being a diminutive suffix. There is indeed some 17th-century evidence of the word being used for a small celestial moon, but that meaning is now obsolete. Earlier, in the 16th century, lunette referred to a horseshoe having only the front semicircular part—a meaning that still exists but is quite rare. Other senses of lunette that are infrequently used nowadays include "a blinder especially for a vicious horse" and, in the plural form, "spectacles." (Lunettes is the usual term for eyeglasses in modern French.) The oldest meaning of lunette still in common use is "something shaped like a crescent or half-moon," which our evidence dates to the early 1600s.

Dec 12 2018
2 mins
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Rank #5: perennial

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 13, 2018 is: perennial \puh-REN-ee-ul\ adjective 1 : present at all seasons of the year 2 : persisting for several years usually with new herbaceous growth from a [perennating](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perennate) part 3 a : [persistent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/persistent), [enduring](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enduring) b : continuing without interruption : [constant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/constant), [perpetual](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perpetual) c : regularly repeated or renewed : [recurrent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recurrent) Examples: "Kieran [Culkin] called Saines in 2016 after a two-year hiatus to say, 'You know, I think I want to act again. I want to do This Is Our Youth.' Written by Kenneth Lonergan, … the play has become a perennial showcase for young actors." — Sam Kashner, Vanity Fair, December 2018 "Making the kids think of school as important to their complicated, often tragic lives—while meeting the demands of the curriculum—was a perennial struggle." — Sarah Stodder, The Washingtonian, November 2018 Did you know? Nowadays when we talk about "perennial plants," or simply "perennials" ([perennial](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perennial) can be a noun, too), we mean plants that die back seasonally but produce new growth in the spring. But originally perennial was equivalent to [evergreen](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evergreen), used for plants that remain with us all year. We took this "throughout the year" sense straight from the Romans, whose Latin perennis combined per- ("throughout") with a form of annus ("year"). The poet Ovid, writing around the beginning of the first millennium, used the Latin word to refer to a "perennial spring" (a water source), and the scholar [Pliny](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Pliny) used it of birds that don't migrate. Our perennial retains these same uses, for streams and occasionally for birds, but it has long had extended meanings, too.

Dec 13 2018
2 mins
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Rank #6: katzenjammer

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 15, 2019 is: katzenjammer \KAT-sun-jam-er\ noun 1 : [hangover](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hangover) 2 : distress, depression, or confusion resembling that caused by a hangover 3 : a discordant clamor Examples: "I drank too much that night and woke up submerged in a post-wine katzenjammer the next morning. My head was buzzing, and every fiber of my body slowly shriveled and wilted as the alcohol exited it." — Mac Lethal, Texts from Bennett, 2013 "The highest purpose of bar food, in all its cheesy, starchy, [pinguid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pinguid), deep-fried trashiness, is to sponge up as many bad decisions as possible before you wake up with a katzenjammer." — Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, 19 Oct. 2015 Did you know? Have you ever heard a cat wailing and felt that you could relate? Apparently some hungover German speakers once did. Katzenjammer comes from German Katze (meaning "cat") and Jammer (meaning "distress" or "misery"). English speakers borrowed the word for their hangovers (and other distressful inner states) in the first half of the 19th century and eventually applied it to outer commotion as well. The word isn't as popular in English today as it was around the mid-20th century, but it's well-known to many because of The Katzenjammer Kids, a long-running comic strip featuring the incorrigibly mischievous twins Hans and Fritz.

Apr 15 2019
2 mins
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Rank #7: delate

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 12, 2019 is: delate \dih-LAYT\ verb 1 : [accuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accuse), [denounce](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denounce) 2 : [report](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/report), [relate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relate) Examples: Hepzibah was brought to trial after being delated for the practice of witchcraft. "Persons who are delated must first swear to tell the truth concerning themselves and others; if they confess, the judge proceeds accordingly." — H. Ansgar Kelly, Speculum, October 1993 Did you know? To delate someone is to "hand down" that person to a court of law. In Latin, delatus is the unlikely-looking past participle of deferre, meaning "to bring down, report, or accuse," which in turn comes from ferre, meaning "to carry." Not surprisingly, our word [defer](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defer#h2), meaning "to yield to the opinion or wishes of another," can also be traced back to deferre. At one time, in fact, defer and delate had parallel meanings (both could mean "to carry down or away" or "to offer for acceptance"), but those senses are now obsolete. Today, you are most likely to encounter delate or its relatives delation and delator in the context of medieval tribunals, although the words can also relate to modern ecclesiastical tribunals.

Mar 12 2019
1 min
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Rank #8: two-bit

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 15, 2019 is: two-bit \TOO-BIT\ adjective 1 : cheap or trivial of its kind : [petty](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/petty), [small-time](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/small-time) 2 : of the value of two [bits](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bit#h3) Examples: "In 1956, he published Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems at City Lights Books, which was then, [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti says, both a one-room bookshop and a 'two-bit poetry press' in San Francisco." — Ira Silverberg, The Document Journal, December 10, 2018 "Bright lights shining through the foggy 1950s London air is the memorable backdrop of Jules Dassin's story of a two-bit American hustler, Harry Fabian, doing everything he can to stay ahead of his [arrears](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arrears) and the doomed end pursuing him." — Kevin P. Sullivan, Vulture, 22 Jan. 2019 Did you know? The money-related definition of two-bit makes its etymology obvious: it is derived from the noun phrase [two bits](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/two%20bits). However, two bits is an interesting phrase because it actually means "the value of a quarter of a dollar." There is no such thing as a single bit, at least not anymore. The now-obsolete Spanish dollar (also known as a [peso](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peso) or [piece of eight](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piece%20of%20eight)) was composed of eight [reales](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/real#h5), or eight bits, so a quarter of the dollar equaled two bits. The phrase two bits carried over into U.S. usage. It first appeared in print in English in the early 1700s (and later developed the figurative sense of "something of small worth or importance"), and was followed by its adjectival relative sometime around the beginning of the 19th century. These days, the adjective has far surpassed the noun in popularity.

Mar 15 2019
2 mins
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Rank #9: proliferate

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 30, 2019 is: proliferate \pruh-LIF-uh-rayt\ verb 1 : to grow or cause to grow by rapid production of new parts, cells, buds, or offspring 2 : to increase or cause to increase in number as if by proliferating : [multiply](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/multiply) Examples: "[Muskies](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/muskie) in Lake St. Clair are a world-class presence because local folks 30 years ago got smart. They agreed on a catch-and-release ethic. Catch the muskie. Put it back into the water. And watch a species proliferate." — Lynn Henning, The Detroit News, 26 December 2018 "The surge in the price of [bitcoin](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Bitcoin), and of other [cryptocurrencies](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cryptocurrencies), which proliferated amid a craze for initial coin offerings, prompted a commensurate explosion in the number of stories and conversations about this new kind of money…." — Nicholas Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 22 Oct. 2018 Did you know? Proliferate is a [back-formation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/back-formation) of proliferation. That means that proliferation came first (we borrowed it from French in the 18th century) and was later shortened to form the verb proliferate. Ultimately these terms come from Latin. The French adjective prolifère ("reproducing freely") comes from the Latin noun proles and the Latin combining form -fer. Proles means "offspring" or "descendants," and -fer means "bearing." Both of these Latin forms gave rise to numerous other English words. [Prolific](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prolific) and [proletarian](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proletarian) ultimately come from proles; [aquifer](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aquifer) and words ending in -ferous have their roots in -fer.

Jan 30 2019
2 mins
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Rank #10: arduous

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 3, 2019 is: arduous \AHR-juh-wus\ adjective 1 a : hard to accomplish or achieve : [difficult](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difficult) b : marked by great labor or effort : [strenuous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strenuous) 2 : hard to climb : [steep](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/steep) Examples: Every summer, right before the beginning of the new school year, the football team begins its season with "Hell Week," an arduous six days of conditioning and training. "The mission has been long and the road arduous for Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL, which has, in some iteration or another, been working on the concept of a lunar lander for nearly a decade." — Chabeli Herrera, The Orlando (Florida) Sentinel, 20 Feb. 2019 Did you know? "To forgive is the most arduous pitch human nature can arrive at." When Richard Steele published that line in The Guardian in 1713, he was using arduous in what was apparently a fairly new way for English writers in his day: to imply that something was steep or lofty as well as difficult or strenuous. Steele's use is one of the earliest documented in English for that meaning, but he didn't commit it to paper until almost 150 years after the first uses of the word in its "strenuous" sense. Although the "steep" sense is newer, it is still true to the word's origins; arduous derives from the Latin arduus, which means "high," "steep," or "difficult."

Apr 03 2019
1 min
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Rank #11: putsch

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 26, 2019 is: putsch \PUTCH\ noun : a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government Examples: The graduate-level seminar focuses on the events surrounding the August 1991 putsch against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "[Christian Petzold's] thriller Transit twists modern concerns about national identity, immigration, and fascism into a personal, artsy mystery. Petzold starts with Georg …, an emotionally wounded German living in France, during a spookily contemporary, unspecified putsch, who seeks refuge in the Americas." — Armond White, National Review, 13 Mar. 2019 Did you know? In its native Swiss German, putsch originally meant "knock" or "thrust," but these days both German and English speakers use it to refer to the kind of government overthrow also known as a [coup d'état](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coup%20d'etat) or [coup](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coup). Putsch debuted in English shortly before the tumultuous Kapp Putsch of 1920, in which Wolfgang Kapp and his right-wing supporters attempted to overthrow the German [Weimar](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Weimar%20Republic) government. Putsch attempts were common in Weimar Germany, so the word appeared often in the stories of the English journalists who described the insurrections. Adolf Hitler also attempted a putsch (known as the Beer Hall Putsch), but he ultimately gained control of the German government via other means.

Apr 26 2019
1 min
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Rank #12: polyglot

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 28, 2019 is: polyglot \PAH-lee-glaht\ adjective 1 a : speaking or writing several languages : [multilingual](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/multilingual) b : composed of numerous linguistic groups  2 : containing matter in several languages  3 : composed of elements from different languages 4 : widely diverse (as in ethnic or cultural origins) Examples: With vacationers arriving from all over Europe and other parts of the world, merchants in the resort city must adjust to serving a polyglot clientele. "Learning the basics of any language is a quick task. Programmes like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone can guide you through a few greetings and simple phrases at lightning speed. For a more personal experience, polyglot Timothy Doner recommends reading and watching material that you already have an interest in. 'If you like cooking, buy a cookbook in a foreign language; if you like soccer, try watching a foreign game,' he says." — Peter Rubinstein and Bryan Lufkin, BBC.com, 19 Feb. 2019 Did you know? You've probably run across the prefix [poly-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poly-#h2) before—it comes from Greek and means "many" or "[multi-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/multi-)." But what about [-glot](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-glot)? That part of the word comes from the Greek term glōtta, meaning "language" or "tongue." (Glōtta is also the source of [glottis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glottis), the word for the space between the vocal cords.) Polyglot itself entered English in the 17th century, both as an adjective and as a noun meaning "one who can write or speak several languages." You could call the Holy Roman Emperor [Charles V](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Charles%20V) a polyglot. He claimed that he addressed his horse only in German, he conversed with women in Italian and with men in French, but reserved Spanish for his talks with God.

Mar 28 2019
2 mins
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Rank #13: noisome

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 21, 2018 is: noisome \NOY-sum\ adjective 1 : [noxious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noxious), [harmful](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harmful) 2 a : offensive to the senses and especially to the sense of smell b : highly obnoxious or objectionable Examples: "The streets were narrow and very dirty, the air smoky and noisome, the people mostly wretched." — Ken Follett, The Man From St. Petersburg, 1982 "The last two newspaper offices where I worked were based in not-so-safe or particularly pretty areas of a city, and most nights when I left work I had to breathe in the noisome aromas of swamp gas, paper mill, deteriorating sewer lines and a dog food processing plant…." — Jackie Torok, The Brunswick Beacon (Shallotte, North Carolina), 27 May 2014 Did you know? Noisome sounds like it might be a synonym of [noisy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noisy), but it's not. Something noisome is disgusting, offensive, or harmful, often in its smell. Noisome does not come from [noise](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noise), but from the Middle English word noysome, which has the same meaning as noisome. Noysome was formed by combining the noun noy, which means "annoyance," with the adjectival suffix [-some](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-some#dictionary-entry-4) ("characterized by a (specified) thing, quality, state, or action"). Noy comes from Anglo-French anui, which also means "annoyance." As you may have already guessed, the English words [annoy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/annoy) and [annoyance](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/annoyance) are also related to noisome.

Nov 21 2018
2 mins
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Rank #14: hoodwink

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 1, 2019 is: hoodwink \HOOD-wink\ verb : to deceive by false appearance : [dupe](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dupe#h2) Examples: All would be wise to remember that we're especially likely to be hoodwinked on April Fools' Day. "Madsen's fascination with space and rockets and technology could hoodwink you into thinking he was a man of the future; you could miss the fact that his obsession was rooted in nostalgia." — May Jeong, Wired, March 2018 Did you know? A now-obsolete sense of the word [wink](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wink) is "to close one's eyes," and [hoodwink](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoodwink) once meant to cover the eyes of someone, such as a prisoner, with a hood or blindfold. (Hoodwink was also once a name for the game of [blindman's buff](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blindman's%20buff).) This 16th-century term soon came to be used figuratively for veiling the truth. "The Public is easily hood-winked," wrote the Irish physician Charles Lucas in 1756, by which time the figurative use had been around for quite a while—and today, the meaning of the word hasn't changed a wink.

Apr 01 2019
1 min
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Rank #15: ecstatic

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2019 is: ecstatic \ek-STAT-ik\ adjective : of, relating to, or marked by [ecstasy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ecstasy) Examples: Greta and Paul were ecstatic when their daughter called to tell them that they were soon going to be grandparents. "Harold Pinter established himself as Britain's foremost dramatist by placing inscrutable characters in cryptic situations and he was bound to keep the production line in motion, knowing that his oblique scripts would be greeted by genuflecting reviewers, ecstatic professors of literature and shrewd thesps ululating with approval at every rehearsal." — Lloyd Evans, The Spectator, 24 Nov. 2018 Did you know? Ecstatic has been used in our language since the late 16th century, and the noun [ecstasy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ecstasy) is even older, dating from the 1300s. Both derive from the Greek verb existanai ("to put out of place"), which was used in a Greek phrase meaning "to drive someone out of his or her mind." That seems an appropriate history for words that can describe someone who is nearly out of their mind with intense emotion. In early use, ecstatic was sometimes linked to mystic trances, out-of-body experiences, and temporary madness. Today, however, it typically implies a state of enthusiastic excitement or intense happiness.

Apr 19 2019
1 min
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Rank #16: nonpareil

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 25, 2019 is: nonpareil \nahn-puh-REL\ adjective : having no equal Examples: The chef is well-known for his mastery at creating savory entrées, but it is his dessert creations that are nonpareil. "Louis Armstrong was a God-gifted cultural amalgamation of all the best that America has to offer: He was an artist and humanitarian of the highest order.… [He] broke down artistic, racial, social, and cultural barriers. Using his nonpareil trumpet ability, he reinvented American music." — Jon Batiste, quoted in Billboard, 31 May 2017 Did you know? Trace nonpareil back to its Middle French origins, and you'll find that it comes from a term meaning "not equal." Pareil itself comes from a Vulgar Latin form of par, which means "equal." Nonpareil has served as an English adjective since the 15th century, and since about the turn of the 16th century, it has also functioned as a noun describing an individual of unequaled excellence. In 1612, Captain John Smith used the term in that noun sense (but with a now-archaic spelling): "Pocahontas, Powhatan's daughter ... was the very Nomparell of his kingdome, and at most not past 13 or 14 years of age." And as you may know, nonpareil is also the [name](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonpareil#h2) of a chocolate candy covered with white sugar pellets.

Apr 25 2019
2 mins
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Rank #17: sciential

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 2, 2018 is: sciential \sye-EN-shul\ adjective 1 : relating to or producing knowledge or [science](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science) 2 : having efficient knowledge : [capable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capable) Examples: There was no apparent sciential reason for the birds to have migrated this far south. "The hidden treasures of science, St. Bonaventure tells us, can be discovered … in a knowledge of either the principles or the conclusions of sciential demonstrations." — John Francis Quinn, The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure's Philosophy, 1973 Did you know? You might expect sciential, which derives from Latin scientia (meaning "knowledge"), to be used mostly in technical papers and descriptions of scientific experiments. In truth, however, sciential has long been a favorite of playwrights and poets. It appears in the works of Ben Jonson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and John Keats, among others. Keats made particularly lyrical use of it in his narrative poem "Lamia," which depicts a doomed love affair between the Greek sorceress Lamia and a human named Lycius. In the poem, Hermes transforms Lamia from a serpent into a beautiful woman, "Not one hour old, yet of sciential brain."

Dec 02 2018
2 mins
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Rank #18: apotheosis

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 15, 2019 is: apotheosis \uh-pah-thee-OH-sis\ noun 1 a : the perfect form or example of something : [quintessence](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quintessence) b : the highest or best part of something : [peak](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peak) 2 : elevation to divine status : [deification](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deification) Examples: "Four decades after its box office debut, Grease remains a cultural phenomenon.… [Olivia] Newton-John is particularly stellar, with her charming persona and spotless soprano voice making the film the apotheosis of her '70s superstardom." — Billboard.com, 4 Oct. 2018 "In 2018, this adaptation [of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451] speaks to the apotheosis of social media, to the approach of authoritarianism, and to any other anxieties about the self-surveillance state that you might harbor." — Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, 18 May 2018 Did you know? Among the ancient Greeks, it was sometimes thought fitting—or simply handy, say if you wanted a god somewhere in your bloodline—to grant someone or other "god" status. So they created the word apotheōsis, from the verb apotheoun, meaning "to deify." (The prefix apo- can mean "off," "from," or "away," and theos is the Greek word for "god.") There's not a lot of Greek-style apotheosizing in the 21st century, but there is hero-worship. Our extended use of apotheosis as "elevation to divine status" is the equivalent of "placement on a very high pedestal." Even more common these days is to use apotheosis in reference to a perfect example or ultimate form. For example, one might describe a movie as "the apotheosis of the sci-fi movie genre."

Feb 15 2019
2 mins
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Rank #19: orthography

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 19, 2019 is: orthography \or-THAH-gruh-fee\ noun 1 a : the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage b : the representation of the sounds of a language by written or printed symbols 2 : a part of language study that deals with letters and spelling Examples: English orthography was not yet regularized in William Shakespeare's time, so words often had many different spellings. "He had to finish his thesis … before leaving for a research job in Australia, where he planned to study aboriginal languages. I asked him to assess our little experiment. 'The grammar was easy,' he said. 'The orthography is a little difficult, and the verbs seemed chaotic.'" — Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 3 Sept. 2018 Did you know? "It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word!" That quote, ascribed to Andrew Jackson, might have been the motto of early English spelling. The concept of orthography (a term that derives from the Greek words orthos, meaning "right or true," and graphein, meaning "to write") was not something that really concerned people until the introduction of the printing press in England in the second half of the 15th century. From then on, English spelling became progressively more uniform and has remained fairly stable since the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (with the notable exception of certain spelling reforms, such as changing musick to music, that were championed by Noah Webster).

Mar 19 2019
2 mins
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Rank #20: mayhem

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 1, 2018 is: mayhem \MAY-hem\ noun 1 a : willful and permanent deprivation of a bodily member resulting in the impairment of a person's fighting ability b : willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfigurement of any part of the body 2 : needless or willful damage or violence Examples: "Joe is not your average Joe. He is a contract killer…. The business is low-grade; payments are made with an envelope of cash stuffed above a ceiling tile, and, at the end of a hard night's mayhem, Joe returns to the small house that he shares with his elderly mother." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 16 Apr. 2018 "We are very fortunate to live in a society with 911 responders, but they may not be able to get to victims in a crowded arena, or the police may have to block their entry because of ongoing mayhem." — USA Today, 1 Mar. 2018 Did you know? Legally speaking, mayhem refers to the gruesome crime of deliberately causing an injury that permanently disfigures another. The name derives via Middle English from the Anglo-French verb maheimer ("to maim") and is probably of Germanic origin; the English verb maim comes from the same ancestor. The disfigurement sense of mayhem first appeared in English in the 15th century. By the 19th century the word had come to mean any kind of violent behavior; nowadays, mayhem can be used to suggest any kind of chaos or disorder, as in "there was mayhem in the streets during the citywide blackout."

Dec 01 2018
2 mins
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