Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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Jun 23, 2021
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Always something to learn, even if I generally knew the word.

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

Episode Date
00:01:20

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2022 is:

Ad hoc means "concerned with a particular end or purpose" or "formed or used for specific or immediate problems or needs."

// An ad hoc committee was formed to investigate the matter.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The council voted unanimously last fall to establish an ad hoc advisory strategic planning board tasked with writing a new long-range plan for the town." — Jodie Wagner, The Palm Beach (Florida) Daily News, 12 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

In Latin ad hoc literally means "for this," and in English it describes anything that can be thought of as existing "for this purpose only." For example, an ad hoc committee is generally authorized to look into a single matter of limited scope, not to pursue any issue of interest. Ad hoc can also be used as an adverb meaning "for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application," as in "decisions were made ad hoc."

May 20, 2022
kibosh
00:01:38

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2022 is:

kibosh • \KYE-bosh\  • noun

Kibosh refers to something that serves as a check or stop. It is usually used in the phrase "put the kibosh on."

// The rain put the kibosh on the Fourth of July fireworks display.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The state Senate last week put the kibosh on up to $60 million more in aid for school districts." — Kevin Landrigan, The (Manchester) New Hampshire Sunday News, 24 Apr. 2022 Did you know? Evidence of kibosh dates the word to only a few years before Charles Dickens used it in an 1836 sketch, but despite kibosh being relatively young in English its source is elusive. Claims were once made that it was Yiddish, despite the absence of a plausible Yiddish source. Another hypothesis pointed to Irish caidhp bhais, literally, "coif (or cap) of death," explained as headgear a judge put on when pronouncing a death sentence, or as a covering pulled over the face of a corpse when a coffin was closed. But evidence for any metaphorical use of this phrase in Irish is lacking, and kibosh is not recorded in English as spoken in Ireland until decades after Dickens' use. More recent source theories include a heraldic term for an animal’s head when born with only its face fully showing, and an Arabic word meaning “whip, lash,” but as the note at our etymology explains, no theory has sufficient evidence to back it. May 19, 2022 kibosh 00:01:38 Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2022 is: kibosh • \KYE-bosh\ • noun Kibosh refers to something that serves as a check or stop. It is usually used in the phrase "put the kibosh on." // The rain put the kibosh on the Fourth of July fireworks display. See the entry > Examples: "The state Senate last week put the kibosh on up to$60 million more in aid for school districts." — Kevin Landrigan, The (Manchester) New Hampshire Sunday News, 24 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

Evidence of kibosh dates the word to only a few years before Charles Dickens used it in an 1836 sketch, but despite kibosh being relatively young in English its source is elusive. Claims were once made that it was Yiddish, despite the absence of a plausible Yiddish source. Another hypothesis pointed to Irish caidhp bhais, literally, coif (or cap) of death, explained as headgear a judge put on when pronouncing a death sentence, or as a covering pulled over the face of a corpse when a coffin was closed. But evidence for any metaphorical use of this phrase in Irish is lacking, and kibosh is not recorded in English as spoken in Ireland until decades after Dickens' use. More recent source theories include a heraldic term for an animal’s head when born with only its face fully showing, and an Arabic word meaning “whip, lash,” but as the note at our etymology explains, no theory has sufficient evidence to back it.

May 19, 2022
indoctrinate
00:01:28

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2022 is:

indoctrinate • \in-DAHK-truh-nayt\  • verb

Indoctrinate means "to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs."

// The goal of the professor is to teach politics, rather than to indoctrinate students with a narrow set of political beliefs.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Moreover, in a pluralistic society, parents from varied backgrounds want to know their children can receive a public education without being indoctrinated into a faith not their own." — David Callaway, The Parsons (Kansas) Sun, 26 Dec. 2020

Did you know?

Indoctrinate means "brainwash" to many people, but its meaning isn't always so negative. When the verb first appeared in English in the 17th century, it simply meant "to teach"—a meaning linked closely to its source, the Latin verb docēre, which also means "to teach." (Other offspring of docēre include docile, doctor, document, and, of course, doctrine). By the 19th century, indoctrinate was being used in the sense of teaching someone to fully accept only the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group.

May 18, 2022
nonpareil
00:01:12

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2022 is:

Nonpareil means "having no equal."

// The singer's stunning performance was nonpareil.

See the entry >

Examples:

"A multitasker nonpareil, he is a musician, actor, director, author, artist, poet, playwright and composer, not to mention a self-styled pierogi-making king…." — Bill Brownstein, The Gazette (Montreal, Canada), 5 Apr. 2022

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 Latin par, which means "equal," and non- is a common prefix meaning "not." In addition to its adjectival use, nonpareil also functions as a noun describing an individual of unequaled excellence ("the nonpareil of cellists"), and as the name of a chocolate candy disk covered with small sugar pellets. A full exploration of the word's history, and its current functions in French, can be found here.

May 17, 2022
nonpareil
00:01:12

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2022 is:

Nonpareil means "having no equal."

// The singer's stunning performance was nonpareil.

See the entry >

Examples:

"A multitasker nonpareil, he is a musician, actor, director, author, artist, poet, playwright and composer, not to mention a self-styled pierogi-making king…." — Bill Brownstein, The Gazette (Montreal, Canada), 5 Apr. 2022

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 Latin par, which means "equal," and non- is a common prefix meaning "not." In addition to its adjectival use, nonpareil also functions as a noun describing an individual of unequaled excellence ("the nonpareil of cellists"), and as the name of a chocolate candy disk covered with small sugar pellets.

May 17, 2022
epithet
00:01:37

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2022 is:

epithet • \EP-uh-thet\  • noun

An epithet is "a characterizing word or phrase that accompanies, or occurs in place of, the name of a person or thing" or "a disparaging or abusive word or phrase."

// Richard the First is frequently referred to by the epithet "Lionheart."

// The school's policy makes it clear that derogatory epithets will not be tolerated.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Seeing the [Combat Veterans motorcycle club] holding American Flags … brings back a lot of patriotic emotions. WWII vets are part of what has been referred to as 'The Greatest Generation.' I wonder what the epithet will be for our current generation." — Stephen Rowland, The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tennessee), 23 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

Nowadays, epithet is usually used negatively, with the meaning "a disparaging word or phrase," but it wasn't always that way. Epithet comes from Greek epitithenai, meaning "to put on" or "to add." In its oldest sense, epithet is simply a descriptive word or phrase, especially one joined by fixed association to the name of someone or something, as in "Ivan the Great" or the Homeric phrase "wine-dark sea."

May 16, 2022
hark back
00:01:33

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2022 is:

hark back • \HAHRK-BAK\  • verb

Hark back means "to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance" or "to go back to something as an origin or source."

// The sisters' stories hark back to the good old days of their youth.

// The diner's interior harks back to the 1950s.

See the entry >

Examples:

"This can be a fun pastime that harks back to childhood…. Simply collect a range of leaves on a woodland walk, then place a piece of paper over them and rub a crayon across the page. The imprint of the leaf, with all its intricate veins, will show through, allowing you to appreciate all its details that might usually pass you by." — Rebecca Thair, Happiful, 24 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

Hark, a very old word meaning "to listen," was used as a cry in hunting. The master of the hunt might cry "Hark! Forward!" or "Hark! Back!" The cries became set phrases, both as nouns and verbs. Thus, a "hark back" was a retracing of a route by dogs and hunters, and to "hark back" was to turn back along the path. From its use in hunting, the verb soon acquired its current figurative meanings. The variants hearken and harken (also very old words meaning “to listen”) are also used, with and without back, as synonyms of hark back.

May 15, 2022
hark back
00:01:33

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2022 is:

hark back • \HAHRK-BAK\  • verb

Hark back means "to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance" or "to go back to something as an origin or source."

// The sisters' stories hark back to the good old days of their youth.

// The diner's interior harks back to the 1950s.

See the entry >

Examples:

"This can be a fun pastime that harks back to childhood…. Simply collect a range of leaves on a woodland walk, then place a piece of paper over them and rub a crayon across the page. The imprint of the leaf, with all its intricate veins, will show through, allowing you to appreciate all its details that might usually pass you by." — Rebecca Thair, Happiful, 24 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

Hark, a very old word meaning "to listen," was used as a cry in hunting. The master of the hunt might cry "Hark! Forward!" or "Hark! Back!" The cries became set phrases, both as nouns and verbs. Thus, a "hark back" was a retracing of a route by dogs and hunters, and to "hark back" was to turn back along the path. From its use in hunting, the verb soon acquired its current figurative meanings. The variants hearken and harken (also very old words meaning “to listen”) are also used, with and without back, as synonyms of hark back.

May 15, 2022
verdant
00:01:22

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 14, 2022 is:

Verdant means "green in tint or color," "green with growing plants," or "unripe in experience or judgment."

// The golf course is noted for its tricky hazards and lush, verdant borders along its fairways.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Vermont is famous for its verdant summer landscapes and postcard-worthy fall colors. But it's the Green Mountain State's winter landscape that truly sparks my photographic eye." — Caleb Kenna, The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

English speakers have been using verdant as a ripe synonym of green since at least the 16th century, and as a descriptive term for inexperienced or naïve people since the 19th century. (By contrast, the more experienced green has colored our language since well before the 12th century, and was first applied to inexperienced people in the 16th century.) Verdant comes from the Old French word for "green," vert, which itself is from Latin virēre, meaning "to show green growth" or "to be green." Today, vert is used in English as a word for green forest vegetation and the heraldic color green. A related word is virescent, meaning "beginning to be green."

May 14, 2022
turpitude
00:01:32

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 13, 2022 is:

turpitude • \TER-puh-tood\  • noun

Turpitude refers to inherent lack of integrity or morality, or to an evil or immoral act. It is frequently used in legal contexts in the phrase "moral turpitude."

// Crimes such as theft and perjury may involve moral turpitude.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Moral turpitude is defined at the local level, but common crimes include murder, … robbery, burglary, drugged driving, drunk driving with a suspended license, voluntary manslaughter…." — David J. Bier, The Cato Institute, 30 Nov. 2021

Did you know?

Turpitude comes from Latin turpis, meaning "vile" or "base." The word is often heard in the phrase "moral turpitude," an expression used in law to designate an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. A criminal offense that involves moral turpitude is considered wrong or evil by moral standards, in addition to being the violation of a statute.

May 13, 2022
bloviate
00:01:43

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 12, 2022 is:

bloviate • \BLOH-vee-ayt\  • verb

Bloviate means "to speak or write verbosely and windily."

// The columnist tends to bloviate on topics about which he is not particularly knowledgeable.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The excerpt itself relates to … a perpetual clock that ticked off precise measures of time, to keep orators in the Roman Senate from bloviating past their allotted speaking period." — Caitlin Lovinger, The New York Times, 10 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

Warren G. Harding is often linked to bloviate, but to him the word wasn't insulting; it simply meant "to spend time idly." Harding used the word often in that "hanging around" sense, but during his tenure as the 29th U.S. President (1921-23), he became associated with the "verbose" sense of bloviate, perhaps because his speeches tended to the long-winded side. Although he is sometimes credited with having coined the word, it's more likely that Harding picked it up from local slang while hanging around with his boyhood buddies in Ohio in the late 1800s. The term probably derives from a combination of the word blow plus the suffix -ate.

May 12, 2022
ramshackle
00:01:30

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 11, 2022 is:

Ramshackle means "in a very bad condition and needing to be repaired" or "carelessly or loosely constructed."

// The company was contracted to demolish the ramshackle apartments.

// The reviewer of the book said it had a ramshackle plot that was confusing and unbelievable.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Near the Otara town centre in South Auckland, there's a large block of land overgrown with trees and brush and dotted with ramshackle houses and farm sheds." — Tony Wall, The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), 20 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

Ramshackle has nothing to do with rams, nor the act of being rammed, nor shackles. The word is an alteration of ransackled, an obsolete form of the verb ransack, meaning "to search through or plunder." (Ransack comes from Old Norse words meaning "house" and "seek.") A home that has been ransacked has had its contents thrown into disarray, and that image may be what inspired people to start using ramshackle in the first half of the 19th century to describe something that is poorly constructed or in a state of near collapse. Ramshackle in modern use can also be figurative, as in "a ramshackle excuse for the error."

May 11, 2022
conclave
00:01:38

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 10, 2022 is:

conclave • \KAHN-klayv\  • noun

A conclave can be a private meeting, a secret assembly, or a general gathering.

// A conclave of regional leaders of the international organization is meeting in June.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Until Franklin Roosevelt invited King George VI and the Queen Mother for a visit in 1939, no reigning British ruler had ever set foot on American soil. With the clouds of war on the horizon, their conclave was a key element in bolstering the relationship between the two nations." — Jonathan L. Stolz, The Virginia Gazette, 24 Jan. 2022

Did you know?

Conclave comes from a Latin word meaning "room that can be locked up" (from the Latin com-, "together," and clavis, "key"). The English conclave formerly had the same meaning, but that use is now obsolete. Today, conclave refers not to the locked rooms but to the private meetings and secret assemblies that occur within them. The meaning of conclave has also expanded to include gatherings that are not necessarily secret or private but simply involve people with shared interests.

May 10, 2022
orientate
00:01:26

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 9, 2022 is:

orientate • \OR-ee-un-tayt\  • verb

Orientate means "to set in a definite position," "to acquaint with an existing situation or environment," or "to direct toward the interests of a particular group."

// The spot of the planting of the tree is intended to orientate it to get full sun.

// The first stage of the video game allows players to orientate themselves in the virtual world and become accustomed to the game controls.

// The program is intended to orientate students toward a career in medicine.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Everything is walkable…. We were not far from the main Skanderbeg Square, so it was easy to orientate ourselves." — Suzanne Moore, The Daily Telegraph (London), 9 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

Orientate is a synonym of orient. Both can mean "to cause to face toward the east." The proper noun Orient refers to "the East." The verbs, however, have broader meanings that relate to setting or determining direction or position, either literally or figuratively. Orientate tends to be used more often in British English than it is in American English.

May 09, 2022
darling
00:01:19

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 8, 2022 is:

darling • \DAHR-ling\  • noun

A darling is "a dearly loved person" or "a person who is a favorite."

// The youngest child is the grandparents' little darling.

// The actor is a darling of the entertainment industry in both film and music.

See the entry >

Examples:

"President Tyler met Juliana and David Gardiner later that year during a social occasion. Their daughter Julia became the undisputed darling of the capital." — The News Leader (Clermont, Florida), 30 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

Darling comes from Old English dēorling, which was formed by attaching the Old English suffix -ling ("one associated with or marked by a specified quality") with the adjective dēore, the ancestor of our adjective dear ("regarded very affectionately or fondly," "highly valued or esteemed," "beloved").

May 08, 2022
sagacious
00:01:29

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 7, 2022 is:

Sagacious means "having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions." It implies being wise or discerning.

// Student reviews paint the writing professor as a sagacious mentor and a compassionate teacher.

See the entry >

Examples:

"If depression crept in, she would phone her sagacious dad for advice…." — Tom Lanham, Spin, 8 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

You might expect the root of sagacious to be sage, which, as an adjective, means "wise" or, as a noun, "a wise person." Despite similarities of spelling, sound, and sense, the two words are not closely related. Sagacious comes from sagire, a Latin verb meaning "to perceive keenly." Etymologists believe that sage comes from a different Latin verb, sapere, which means "to taste," "to have good taste," or "to be wise."

May 07, 2022
mollify
00:01:28

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 6, 2022 is:

mollify • \MAH-luh-fye\  • verb

Mollify means "to soothe in temper or disposition" or "to reduce in intensity."

// The company attempted to mollify its employees by offering them more flexible work schedules.

// The explanation was intended to mollify the manager's anger.

See the entry >

Examples:

"And a lot of fans who had vowed never to return were apparently mollified since attendance returned to pre-strike levels within a year. Will fans forgive this time? Maybe. But MLB was losing ground before the lockout." — Jeffery G. Hanna, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times, 23 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

Mollify, like its synonyms pacify, appease, and placate, means "to ease the anger or disturbance of." But mollify is particularly well-suited for referring to an act of soothing hurt feelings or anger; it comes from the Latin mollis, meaning "soft."

May 06, 2022
fractious
00:01:28

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 5, 2022 is:

Fractious means "troublesome," "unruly," "quarrelsome," or "irritable."

// The political party is more organized and coherent and less fractious.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The game became fractious, heavy tackles flying in, players squaring up to each other. The hostility spread." — Luke Edwards, The Daily Telegraph (London), 4 Apr. 2022

Did you know?

The Latin verb frangere means "to break or shatter" and is related to a few common words, which is evident in their meanings. Dishes that are fragile break easily. A person whose health is easily broken might be described as frail. A fraction is one of the many pieces into which a whole can be broken. But fraction also once meant "disharmony" or "discord"—that is, a "rupture in relations." From this noun sense came the adjective fractious.

May 05, 2022
abeyance
00:01:41

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 4, 2022 is:

abeyance • \uh-BAY-unss\  • noun

Abeyance means "a state of temporary inactivity." The word itself is commonly preceded by the preposition in.

// The misdemeanor charges are in abeyance while the suspect is being prosecuted for the felony.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The consensus of analysts is that the crisis may be in abeyance for the moment, but is far from over." — Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Dec. 2021

Did you know?

Abeyance comes from Old French baer, meaning "to have the mouth wide open," which was joined with the prefix a- to form abaer, a verb meaning "to open wide," and, in later Anglo-French usage, "to expect or await." There followed Anglo-French abeyance, which referred to a state of expectation—specifically, a person's expectation of inheriting a title or property. The word, in English, was then applied for the expectation to the property itself: a property or title "in abeyance" is in temporary limbo, waiting to be claimed by a rightful heir or owner.

May 04, 2022
schmooze
00:01:28

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 3, 2022 is:

schmooze • \SHMOOZ\  • verb

Schmooze means "to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections."

// The event gives an opportunity for local business owners to network and schmooze.

See the entry >

Examples:

"Officials encourage participation with their open public speaking portion before the formal city council meeting. I often show up early to schmooze with officials, constituents, reporters, and gadflies." — Jonathan L. Wharton, CT News Junkie (Hartford, Connecticut), 9 Mar. 2022

Did you know?

Schmooze (also spelled shmooze) comes from Yiddish schmues, meaning "talk," which itself is from Hebrew shěmu’ōth, "news" or "rumor." Although originally used to indicate simply talking in an informal and warm manner, the word now commonly suggests discussion for the purposes of gaining something.

May 03, 2022
piggyback
00:01:37

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 2, 2022 is:

piggyback • \PIG-ee-bak\  • verb

The verb piggyback means "to set up or cause to function in conjunction with something larger, more important, or already in existence or operation" or "to function or be carried on or as if on the back of another."

// The legislation is being piggybacked on another bill.

// The relief pitcher piggybacked off the starter and won the ballgame.

See the entry >

Examples:

"The wildlife structures are being piggybacked on a nearly \$1 billion project to widen I-90 from four lanes to six, straighten curves, reduce avalanche hazards and generally improve driving conditions on one of the nation's busiest mountain highways." — Sandi Doughton, The Seattle Times, 8 June 2015

Did you know?

Piggyback was first used in the 16th century as an adverb, meaning "up on the back and shoulders" (as in "the child was carried piggyback"). It comes from a phrase of unknown origin, a pick pack. There is also the less-common adverb pickaback. The verb piggyback didn't piggyback on the adverb until the 19th century.

May 02, 2022