Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

By Merriam-Webster

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 Jun 23, 2021
Love the word of the day.

 Jan 29, 2021

 Jun 8, 2020

 Jan 17, 2019
Always something to learn, even if I generally knew the word.

 Nov 25, 2018


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

Episode Date

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 3, 2021 is:

berate • \bih-RAYT\  • verb

: to scold or condemn vehemently and at length


"Don't berate yourself over canceling plans," the lifestyle expert said. "It is sometimes more important that you allow for time to take care of yourself."

"During Russell's tirade Wednesday, he didn't shout at any particular player, but his team as a whole. 'I would never single someone out and berate them,' Russell said." — Shaun Goodwin, The Kansas City Star, 17 June 2021

Did you know?

Berate and rate can both mean "to rebuke angrily or violently." This sense of rate was first recorded in the 14th century, centuries before the familiar (and etymologically unrelated) rate meaning "to estimate the value of." We know that berate was probably formed by combining the prefix be- and the older rate, but the origins of this particular rate itself are somewhat more obscure.

Aug 03, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 2, 2021 is:

exemplary • \ig-ZEM-pluh-ree\  • adjective

1 a : deserving imitation : commendable; also : deserving imitation because of excellence

b : serving as a pattern

2 : serving as an example, instance, or illustration

3 : serving as a warning : monitory


The novel is exemplary of 18th-century Romanticism.

"The awards … celebrate the exemplary performance of public school teachers throughout the city that inspire students, model great teaching, and enrich school communities." — Annalise Knudson, The Staten Island (New York) Advance, 25 June 2021

Did you know?

Exemplary (and its close relatives example and exemplify) derives from the Latin noun exemplum ("example"). When exemplary describes something as "excellent," it almost always carries the further suggestion that the thing described is worthy of imitation.

Aug 02, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 1, 2021 is:

pulchritude • \PUHL-kruh-tood\  • noun

: physical comeliness


The magazine features a photo essay of celebrities who are famed for their Hollywood stardom and pulchritude.

"Sadly, Renee's judgment on Mrs. Appleyard's baby's pulchritude, or lack of it, turned out to be true—he was an 'ugly little thing.'" — Kate Atkinson, Life After Life: A Novel, 2013

Did you know?

Pulchritude is a descendant of the Latin adjective pulcher, which means "beautiful." Pulcher hasn't exactly been a wellspring of English terms, but it did give English both pulchritude and pulchritudinous, an adjective meaning "attractive" or "beautiful." The verb pulchrify (a synonym of beautify), the noun pulchritudeness (same meaning as pulchritude), and the adjective pulchrous (meaning "fair or beautiful") are other pulcher offspring, but those terms have proved that, in at least some linguistic cases, beauty is fleeting.

Aug 01, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 31, 2021 is:

dally • \DAL-ee\  • verb

1 a : to act playfully; especially : to play amorously

b : to deal lightly : toy

2 a : to waste time

b : linger, dawdle


Alton has been dallying with the idea of starting a bakery.

"Just as businesses that dallied too long before moving into the era of computing lost ground and eventually faded away, companies that delay in adopting the technologies of the future will find it impossible to keep up with those that take the necessary steps quickly.”— Pritom Das, Entrepreneur, 21 May 2021

Did you know?

English speakers have been playing with dally since the 14th century. They first started using the word with the meaning "to chat," which was also the meaning of the Anglo-French word from which it was derived, but that meaning fell into disuse. Next, dalliers were amusing themselves by acting playfully with each other especially in amorous and flirtatious ways. Apparently, some dalliers were also a bit derisive, leading dally to mean "to deal with lightly or in a way that is not serious." It didn't take long for the fuddy-duddies to criticize all this play as a waste of time. By the mid-16th century, dally was weighted down with its "to waste time" and "to dawdle" senses.

Jul 31, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 30, 2021 is:

wherefore • \WAIR-for\  • adverb

1 : for what reason or purpose : why

2 : therefore


"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" — William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1594-95

"According to The Blast, the legal filing said 'Wherefore, Petitioner requests an order of this court that the conservatorship of the person of Britney Jean Spears, the conservatee, be terminated.'" — Justin Enriquez, ­The Daily Mail (US), 18 June 2021

Did you know?

In early English, a number of new words were formed by combining where with a preposition. In such words, where had the meaning of "what" or "which"—hence, wherein ("in what"), whereon ("on what"), and wherefore ("for what"). Although wherefore as an adverb is rarely used today, the noun form, meaning "an answer or statement giving an explanation," survives in the phrase "the whys and wherefores."

Jul 30, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 29, 2021 is:

palaver • \puh-LAV-er\  • noun

1 a : a long discussion or meeting parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication

b : conference, discussion

2 a : idle talk

b : misleading or beguiling speech


Enough of this palaver. We have a lot to discuss.

"[Adrian Daub] brings the same sharp eye for sophistry to other forms of palaver that move capital in Silicon Valley. He revisits the actual thinkers appropriated by TED bloviators, from the philosopher Marshall McLuhan to the French historian René Girard to the novelist Ayn Rand." — Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2020

Did you know?

During the 18th century, Portuguese and English sailors often met during trading trips along the West African coast. This contact prompted the English to borrow the Portuguese palavra, which usually means "speech" or "word" but was used by Portuguese traders with the specific meaning "discussions with natives." The Portuguese word traces back to the Late Latin parabola, a noun meaning "speech" or "parable."

Jul 29, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2021 is:

bivouac • \BIV-uh-wak\  • verb

1 : to make a temporary encampment under little or no shelter

2 : to take shelter often temporarily

3 : to provide temporary quarters for


The climbers bivouacked under the cliff's ledge.

"Bivouacked in the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. Even though it was the southern summer, geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured nearly three months of freezing temperatures, sleeping in a tent, and eating dehydrated food." — Matt Simon, Wired, 15 Feb. 2021

Did you know?

In his 1841 dictionary, Noah Webster observed bivouac to be a French borrowing having military origins. He defined the noun bivouac as "the guard or watch of a whole army, as in cases of great danger of surprise or attack" and the verb as "to watch or be on guard, as a whole army." The French word is derived from the Low German word biwacht, which translates to "by guard." Germans used the word specifically for a patrol of citizens who assisted the town watch at night. Today, bivouac has less to do with guarding and patrolling than it does with taking shelter.

Jul 28, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2021 is:

jeremiad • \jair-uh-MYE-ud\  • noun

: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue


The news story was a scathing jeremiad against the invasion of privacy on celebrities.

"We can expect a volley of jeremiads against wind power, as perhaps half that fleet stopped spinning. But with perhaps more than 30 gigawatts of thermal generating capacity tripping offline, and wind power producing about five gigawatts less than planned, this disaster clearly stretches, as Texas' grid operator said, 'across fuel types.'" — Liam Denning, The St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, 18 Feb. 2021

Did you know?

Jeremiah was a Jewish prophet, who lived from about 650 to 570 B.C. and spent his days lambasting the Hebrews for their false worship and social injustice and denouncing the king for his selfishness, materialism, and inequities. When not calling on his people to quit their wicked ways, he was lamenting his own lot; a portion of the biblical Book of Jeremiah is devoted to his "confessions," a series of lamentations on the hardships endured by a prophet with an unpopular message. Nowadays, English speakers use Jeremiah for a pessimistic person and jeremiad for the way these Jeremiahs carry on. The word jeremiad was borrowed from the French, who coined it as jérémiade.

Jul 27, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2021 is:

urbane • \er-BAYN\  • adjective

: notably polite or polished in manner


"When had my willful and boorish cousin turned into this urbane young artist greeting the guests at her opening reception?" wondered James.

"Offstage, he could be sensitive or surly, charming or sometimes combative, an unabashed hedonist or an urbane aficionado of film, literature and theater." — George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Jun. 2021

Did you know?

City slickers and country folk have long debated whether life is better in town or in the wide-open spaces, and urbane is a term that springs from the throes of that debate. In its earliest English uses, urbane was synonymous with its close relative urban ("of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city"). Both words come from the Latin adjective urbanus ("urban, urbane"), which in turn is derived from urbs, meaning "city." Urbane developed its modern sense denoting savoir faire from the belief (no doubt fostered by city dwellers) that living in the city made one more suave and polished than did leading a rural life.

Jul 26, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2021 is:

hagiography • \hag-ee-AH-gruh-fee\  • noun

1 : biography of saints or venerated persons

2 : idealizing or idolizing biography


"Music documentaries can veer into hagiography. That's not this story. It goes up and down, with constant left turns and surprises you don't expect." — Edgar Wright, quoted in The Houston Chronicle, 16 June 2021

"Hemingway, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's latest PBS series, is a hagiography of one of the most popular writers of the 20th century, the tale of a man whose writing, image, and life were regularly the stuff of gossip, jealousy, admiration, and legend" — Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic, 15 Apr. 2021

Did you know?

Like biography and autograph, the word hagiography has to do with the written word. The combining form -graphy comes from Greek graphein, meaning "to write." Hagio- comes from a Greek word that means "saintly" or "holy." This origin is seen in Hagiographa, the Greek designation of the Ketuvim, the third part of the Jewish Scriptures. English's hagiography, though it can refer to biography of actual saints, is these days more often applied to biography that treats ordinary human subjects as if they were saints.

Jul 25, 2021