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 October 26, 2021 is:

facile • \FASS-ul\  • adjective

Facile means "too easily accomplished or attained."

// The facts of the unsolved mystery were intriguing, but the author's conclusion was facile.

See the entry >


"It feels as though the songs just came to be. They reveal a facile elegance that does not let on the laborious writing and technical work that went into their creation." — Julien A. Luebbers, The Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington), 20 Aug. 2021

Did you know?

Facile comes from the Latin facilis, meaning "easy," and facere, "to make or do." The adjective can mean "easy" or "easily done," as befits its Latin roots, but it now often adds the meaning of undue haste or shallowness, as in "facile answers to complex questions."

Oct 26, 2021

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

hector • \HEK-ter\  • verb

Hector means "to criticize or question in a threatening manner."

// The mediator asked the unruly members of the audience to cease hectoring the speaker.

See the entry >


"In budget meetings, ... Freeman hectored local publishers, demanding that they produce detailed numbers off the top of their head and then humiliating them when they couldn't. — McKay Coppins, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

In Homer's Iliad, Hector, the eldest son of King Priam of Troy, was a model soldier, son, father, and friend, the champion of the Trojan army until he was killed by the Greek hero Achilles. So how did his name become a verb meaning "to intimidate or harrass"? That use was likely influenced by gangs of rowdy street toughs who roamed London in the 17th century and called themselves "Hectors." They may have thought themselves gallant young blades, but to the general populace they were swaggering bullies who intimidated passersby and vandalized property.

Oct 25, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 24, 2021 is:

mirage • \muh-RAHZH\  • noun

A mirage is a reflection of light that can trick the mind into interpreting a sight as an apparently solid thing. The word is also used figuratively to describe things that are illusory or unattainable.

// What the shipwrecked crew thought was a ship on the horizon turned out to be a mirage.

// The team's early season hopes for a first-place finish are now a mirage.

See the entry >


"Kozell spent the first day after the storm patching holes in his own roof, and he's been helping clients ever since. A day off is a distant mirage for workers like him and Hasan, who predict they'll be patching roofs for weeks to come." — Matt Sledge, The Times-Picayune, 6 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Mirage comes from the French verb mirer ("to look at"), which is related to mirror. Mirer, itself, is from Latin mīrārī ("to wonder at"), the ancestor of the commonly seen admire, miracle, and marvel.

Oct 24, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 23, 2021 is:

bogus • \BOH-gus\  • adjective

Bogus means "not real or genuine"—it is synonymous with fake or counterfeit.

// The art dealer proved the painting to be bogus.

See the entry >


"Investigators said Talens … cheated manufacturers and merchants of more than $31 million by producing bogus coupons that gave customers merchandise at steep discounts—or for free." — Jonathan Edwards, The Washington Post. 18 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

In the early 19th century, a "bogus" was a machine used to make counterfeit coins. No one knows for sure how this coin-copying contraption got its name, but before long bogus became a name for funny money or for a fraudulent imitation of any kind. The more common "phony" adjective followed.

Oct 23, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 22, 2021 is:

devotion • \dih-VOH-shun\  • noun

Devotion means being dedicated or loyal, or expressing dedication or loyalty.

// The organizer's devotion to the cause of the fundraiser was greatly admired.

// The students' devotion of their time to the science project was not overlooked by their teacher.

See the entry >


"Restaurant loyalties run deep. Look at the scads of eateries that have drawn devotion for decades in the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, and environs." — Kathy Biehl, The Preston Hollow People (Dallas, Texas), 14 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Devotion and the verb devote come from the act of taking a vow (the Latin verb vovēre means "to vow"). Devote was once used as an adjective that could mean either "devout" or "devoted." While devout implies faithfulness of a religious nature ("a devout parishioner), devoted refers to one's commitment to another through love and loyalty ("a singer's devoted fans").

Oct 22, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 21, 2021 is:

untoward • \un-TOH-erd\  • adjective

Untoward means "unruly, unfavorable, or improper."

// The rules specify that untoward behavior will not be tolerated.

See the entry >


"At 82, Judy Collins retains the crystalline tone that made her an icon of the early 1960s folk music movement, sounding so youthful … it's hard not to ask her whether she's made an untoward bargain with the devil." — Andrew Gilbert, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

For centuries, toward was used for "forward-moving" youngsters, the kind who showed promise and were open to listening to their elders. The adjective then came to mean "obliging." The opposite of this toward is froward, meaning "disobedient." Froward has fallen out of common use, and the cooperative sense of toward is obsolete, but untoward is still moving forward.

Oct 21, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 20, 2021 is:

batten • \BAT-un\  • verb

Batten means "to furnish or fasten with or as if with supports."

// Residents battened down their doors and windows before the storm.

See the entry >


"Everything was battened down and they were all set to leave the round-the-clock eatery—until they discovered there was no key to the front door. It had been that long since they'd locked it." — Bob Yesbek, The Cape Gazette (Lewes, Delaware), 7 May 2021

Did you know?

Batten comes from the name for an iron bar used to secure the covering of a hatchway on a ship, which was especially useful in preparation of stormy weather. The verb batten is used in variations of the phrase "batten down the hatches," which means "to prepare for a difficult or dangerous situation." It winds back to Latin battuere, meaning "to beat."

Oct 20, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 19, 2021 is:

nomenclature • \NOH-mun-klay-cher\  • noun

Nomenclature is most often used for a system of names for things, especially in science.

// Starting a new job or entering a new field of study means becoming familiar with the nomenclature.

See the entry >


"Not everything called democracy is democratic. … Both capitalism and socialism have demonstrated that democracy is not automatic with nomenclature. Some policies promote democracy; others contradict the ideal." — Eugene Clemens, LNP (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), 18 Oct. 2021

Did you know?

Nomenclature comes from a Latin word meaning "the assigning of names." English's name and noun are rooted in the Latinate nomen.

Oct 19, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 18, 2021 is:

zaftig • \ZAHF-tig\  • adjective

Zaftig means "having a full, rounded figure"—in other words, "pleasingly plump."

// Portraits of zaftig models are exhibited in the artist's collection.

See the entry >


"The photography exhibition revels in depictions of Coney Island, including Lisette Model's widely-reproduced 1939-40 portrait of a zaftig woman  … laughing as waves lap at her feet…." — Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 29 Aug. 2021

Did you know?

Zaftig is one of a number of Yiddish-derived words that entered the English language during the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. It comes from Yiddish zaftik, which means "juicy" or "succulent" and itself derives from zaft, meaning "juice" or "sap."

Oct 18, 2021

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 17, 2021 is:

perpetuity • \per-puh-TOO-uh-tee\  • noun

Perpetuity is a state of continuing forever or for a very long time.

// The property will be passed on from generation to generation in perpetuity.  

See the entry >


"Nearly 120 acres in Bradford County … will be free from development in perpetuity, thanks to a conservation easement acquisition by the North Florida Land Trust." — The Florida Times-Union, 18 Sept. 2021

Did you know?

Continual existence—that elusive philosophical concept is reflected in perpetuity, which traces to Latin perpetuus, an adjective meaning "continual" or "uninterrupted." The word has specific legal use. It can refer, for example, to an arrangement in a will rendering land forever incapable of being surrendered or transferred (or at least, for a period longer than is set by rules against such arrangements) or to an annuity that is payable forever.

Oct 17, 2021