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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - 22 hours 52 min ago

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 19, 2018 is:

atone • \uh-TOHN\  • verb

1 : to make amends : to provide or serve as reparation or compensation for something bad or unwelcome — usually + for

2 : to make reparation or supply satisfaction for : expiate — used in the passive voice with for


James tried to atone for the mistakes of his youth by devoting his life to helping others.

"Tony Stark became Iron Man partially to atone for his history of global weapons profiteering." — Alex Biese and Felecia Wellington Radel, Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press, 1 July 2018

Did you know?

Atone comes to us from the combination in Middle English of at and on, the latter of which is an old variant of one. Together they meant "in harmony." (In current English, we use "at one" with a similar suggestion of harmony in such phrases as "at one with nature.") When it first entered English, atone meant "to reconcile" and suggested the restoration of a peaceful and harmonious state between people or groups. These days the verb specifically implies addressing the damage (or disharmony) caused by one's own behavior.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 18, 2018 is:

lenitive • \LEN-uh-tiv\  • adjective

: alleviating pain or harshness : soothing


Peppermint, chamomile, and ginger are all reputed to have a lenitive effect on the digestive system.

"The air in Eastbourne … is melancholy with the sweet memories of childhood, and the promises it breathes are prayerful and lenitive: all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." — Howard Jacobson, The Independent (London), 2 Aug. 2008

Did you know?

Lenitive first appears in English in the 15th century. It derives from the Latin verb lenire ("to soften or soothe"), which was itself formed from the adjective lenis, meaning "soft" or "mild." Lenire also gave us the adjective lenient, which usually means "tolerant" or "indulgent" today but in its original sense carried the meaning of "relieving pain or stress." Often found in medical contexts, lenitive can also be a noun referring to a treatment (such as a salve) with soothing or healing properties.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 17, 2018 is:

chiliad • \KILL-ee-ad\  • noun

1 : a group of 1000

2 : a period of 1000 years; especially : one reckoned from the beginning of the Christian era


Erin's pursuit of an MD degree felt like it took a chiliad, but she achieved her goal and is now running her own pediatric clinic.

"While teachers may offer children some new vocab words, there are some at-home tricks parents can also use to make sure their children learn a chiliad of new words." — Herb Scribner, The Petoskey (Michigan) News-Review, 6 Sept. 2015

Did you know?

What's the difference between a chiliad and a millennium? Not much: both are a period of 1000 years. While millennium is more widely used, chiliad is actually older. Chiliad first appeared in the late 1500s and was originally used to mean "a group of 1000," as in "a chiliad of arrows"; millennium didn't make its way into written English until some decades later, in the early 1600s. Not surprisingly, both words trace back to roots that mean "thousand." Millennium comes from Latin mille, and chiliad is a descendant of Greek chilioi.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 16, 2018 is:

resplendent • \rih-SPLEN-dunt\  • adjective

: shining brilliantly : characterized by a glowing splendor


His eyes were drawn to his elegant wife—resplendent in a fashionable evening gown—who had just appeared at the top of the stairway.

"The princes, all of whom have served in some capacity in the British armed forces, were resplendent in blue RAF uniforms, and the women glowed in stylish ensembles." — Maria Puente, USA Today, 11 July 2018

Did you know?

Resplendent has a lot in common with splendid (meaning, among other things, "shining" or "brilliant"), splendent ("shining" or "glossy"), and splendor ("brightness" or "luster"). Each of these glowing terms gets its shine from the Latin verb splendēre ("to shine"). In the case of resplendent, the prefix re- added to splendēre, formed the Latin resplendēre, meaning "to shine back." Splendent, splendor, and resplendent were first used in English during the 15th century, but splendid didn't light up our language until over 175 years later; its earliest known use dates from the early 1600s.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 15, 2018 is:

melancholia • \mel-un-KOH-lee-uh\  • noun

: a mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions


"Nevertheless, wakened out of her melancholia and called to the dinner table, she changed her mind. A little food in the stomach does wonders." — Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, 1900

"The ocean as healer beckoned people through the centuries. English doctors of yester-century prescribed 'sea baths' even to dissolve melancholia." — Liza Field, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times, 13 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

Today's word traces back to Greek melan‑ ("black, dark") and cholē ("bile"). Medical practitioners once adhered to the system of humors—bodily fluids that included black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. An imbalance of these humors was thought to lead to disorders of the mind and body. One suffering from an excess of black bile (believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen) could become sullen and unsociable—liable to anger, irritability, brooding, and depression. Today, doctors no longer ascribe physical and mental disorders to disruptions of the four humors, but the word melancholia is still used in psychiatry (it is identified as a "subtype" of clinical depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and as a general term for despondency. The older term ­melancholy, ultimately from the same Greek roots, is historically a synonym of melancholia but now more often refers to a sad or pensive mood.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 14, 2018 is:

advert • \ad-VERT\  • verb

1 : to turn the mind or attention — used with to

2 : to call attention in the course of speaking or writing : make reference — used with to


"He also adverted to the practice of demanding that producers take back unsold produce as an 'unfair' practice that concerns the commission." — Patrick Smyth, The Irish Times, 12 Apr. 2018

"Painfully as I am affected by the family calamity which has fallen on me, I cannot let this opportunity pass without adverting to another subject which seriously concerns your welfare…." — Wilkie Collins, No Name, 1862

Did you know?

You may be familiar with the noun advert, which is used, especially in British sources, as a shortened form of advertisement. That's one way to use advert, but it has also been used as a verb in English since the 15th century. There's a hint about the origin of the verb in the idea of "turning" the mind or attention to something; the word derives via Anglo-French from the Latin verb advertere, which in turn comes from Latin vertere, meaning "to turn." Vertere is the ancestor of a number of words in English, including controversy, divert, invert, revert, and even versatile. In addition, we'd like to turn your attention to one particular vertere descendant: avert, meaning "to avoid." Be careful to avoid mixing this one up with advert.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 13, 2018 is:

taradiddle • \tair-uh-DID-ul\  • noun

1 : a trivial or childish lie : fib

2 : pretentious nonsense


"The time came when she not only told her taradiddle about having 'hunted quite a lot,' she even came near believing it." — George Orwell, Burmese Days, 1934

"As truths go, the history of Miss Rossiter she had laid out was unimpressive: a forked-tongue taraddidle of the highest order and if I were to serve it up to Hardy and be found out afterwards I should be lucky to escape arrest, if not a smack on the legs with a hairbrush for the cheek of it." — Catriona McPherson, Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, 2009

Did you know?

The true origin of taradiddle is unknown, but that doesn't mean you won't encounter a lot of balderdash about its history. Some folks try to connect it to the verb diddle (one meaning of which is "to swindle or cheat"), but that connection hasn't been proven and may turn out to be poppycock. You may even hear some tommyrot about this particular sense of diddle coming from the Old English verb didrian, which meant "to deceive," but that couldn't be true unless didrian was somehow suddenly revived after eight or nine centuries of disuse. No one even knows when taradiddle was first used. It must have been before it showed up in a 1796 dictionary of colloquial speech (where it was defined as a synonym of fib), but if we claimed we knew who said it first, and when, we'd be dishing out pure applesauce.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 12, 2018 is:

enigmatic • \en-ig-MAT-ik\  • adjective

: of, relating to, or resembling an enigma : mysterious


"The magic of the Mona Lisa's smile is that it seems to react to our gaze. What is she thinking? She smiles back mysteriously. Look again. Her smile seems to flicker. We glance away, and the enigmatic smile lingers in our minds, as it does in the collective mind of humanity." — Walter Isaacson, The Atlantic, November 2017

"The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, also known as the Nevelson Chapel, is the work of Louise Nevelson, a flamboyant New York City sculptor who rose to prominence for her postwar abstract assemblages that turned street detritus into enigmatic works of art." — Jack Balderrama Morley, The Architects Newspaper (archpaper.com), 15 Aug. 2018

Did you know?

An enigma is a puzzle, a riddle, a mystery. The adjective enigmatic describes what is hard to solve or figure out. An enigmatic person is someone who is a bit mysterious to others. Behind an enigmatic smile are thoughts impossible to guess. The word enigma originally referred not to people or smiles but to words, and specifically to words that formed a riddle or a complicated metaphor that tested one's alertness and cleverness. This meaning is clearly connected to the word's origin. Enigma comes from the Greek word ainissesthai, meaning "to speak in riddles."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 11, 2018 is:

deportment • \dih-PORT-munt\  • noun

: the manner in which one conducts oneself : behavior


The candidate chosen for the position had an exceptional resume, but it was her deportment and personality as exhibited during interviews that were the deciding factors.

"The one artisanal, teachable thing is outer conduct. You can't restructure a genome, but, as Mr. Turveydrop, in [Charles Dickens'] 'Bleak House,' insisted, you really can teach deportment." — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 29 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

Deportment evolved from the verb deport, meaning "to behave especially in accord with a code," which in turn came to us through Middle French from Latin deportare, meaning "to carry away." (You may also know deport as a verb meaning "to send out of the country"; that sense is newer and is derived directly from Latin deportare.) Deportment can simply refer to one's demeanor, or it can refer to behavior formed by breeding or training and often conforming to conventional rules of propriety: "Are you not gratified that I am so rapidly gaining correct ideas of female propriety and sedate deportment?" wrote 17-year-old Emily Dickinson to her brother Austin.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2018 is:

fathom • \FA-thum\  • verb

1 : probe

2 : to take soundings : to measure by a sounding line

3 : to penetrate and come to understand


Even those close to him couldn't always fathom why he repeatedly risked his life to climb the world's tallest mountains.

"It was hard to fathom that this canyon was carved not by natural forces, but by humans. But that's the Mesabi Iron Range for you." — Simon Peter Groebner, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 15 July 2018

Did you know?

Today's word comes to us from Old English fæthm, meaning "outstretched arms." The noun fathom, which now commonly refers to a measure (especially of depth) of six feet, was originally used for the distance, fingertip to fingertip, created by stretching one's arms straight out from the sides of the body. In one of its earliest uses, the verb fathom meant to encircle something with the arms as if for measuring and was also a synonym of embrace. In the 1600s, however, fathom took on the meaning of using a sounding line to measure depth. At the same time, the verb also developed senses synonymous with probe or investigate, and is now frequently used to refer to the act of getting to the bottom of something, figuratively speaking.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sun, 09/09/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 9, 2018 is:

wanderlust • \WAHN-der-lust\  • noun

: strong longing for or impulse toward wandering


"The trip inspired a new commitment to working with artisans from around the world. It also reanimated her genetic sense of wanderlust. She recently went back to Peru, to meet with a weaver she's been working with since that first trip." — Olivia Stren, Elle, 19 Nov. 2017

"David and Victoria Beckham know how to live life to the fullest. Days after ringing in their 19th wedding anniversary, the Beckhams have embarked on a family vacation to Croatia—and it is wanderlust-inducing." — Marissa G. Muller, W Magazine, 17 July 2018

Did you know?

"For my part," writes Robert Louis Stevenson in Travels with a Donkey, "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Sounds like a case of wanderlust if we ever heard one. Those with wanderlust don't necessarily need to go anywhere in particular; they just don't care to stay in one spot. The etymology of wanderlust is a very simple one that you can probably figure out yourself. Wanderlust is a lust for wandering. The word comes from German, in which wandern means "to hike or roam about," and Lust means "pleasure or delight."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 09/08/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 8, 2018 is:

periphrasis • \puh-RIFF-ruh-sis\  • noun

1 : use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression

2 : an instance of periphrasis


"There are countless passages of asinine periphrasis: 'The accelerant enzymes her image infuses in Bob create a chemical cocktail he can only counter with self-preservational condescension.' As these examples suggest, the book is only intermittently comprehensible." — James Marriott, The Times (London), 7 Apr. 2018

"Literary translation is challenging, and tends to work best when the translator has recourse to the amplifying and telescoping powers of periphrasis, poetic license, and, if it comes to it, a discreet footnote here or there. Few of these tools are at the disposal of the cinematic translator." — Elias Muhanna, The New Yorker, 30 May 2014

Did you know?

It's easy enough to point out the origins of periphrasis: the word was borrowed into English in the early 16th century via Latin from Greek periphrazein, which in turn comes from the prefix peri-, meaning "all around," and the verb phrazein, "to point out." Two common descendants of phrazein in English are phrase and paraphrase, the latter of which combines phrazein with the prefix para-, meaning "closely resembling." Another phrazein descendant is the less familiar word holophrasis, meaning "the expression of a complex of ideas in a single word or in a fixed phrase." (The prefix holo- can mean "completely.")


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 09/07/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 7, 2018 is:

schmooze • \SHMOOZ\  • verb

1 : to converse informally : chat; also : to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections

2 : to engage in informal conversation with


Conference attendees will have plenty of chances to schmooze with the industry's power players.

"We're spending less time schmoozing with our co-workers, going from an average of 2.5 hours a week in the mid-1970s to under an hour in 2012." — Katrina Trinko, The Visalia (California) Times-Delta, 7 May 2018

Did you know?

Schmooze (also spelled shmooze) is one of a small, but significant, number of words borrowed from Yiddish that have become relatively common members of the English language. Other such words include chutzpah, lox, maven, mensch, nebbish, schlep, and schlock. Though classified as a High German language, Yiddish also borrows from the Slavic and Latinate languages as well as from Aramaic and Hebrew. It was the Hebrew shěmu’ōth ("news, rumor") that provided Yiddish with the noun shmues ("talk") and the verb shmuesn ("to talk or chat"). Although originally used in English to indicate simply talking in an informal and warm manner, schmooze has since also taken on the suggestion of discussion for the purposes of gaining something.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 6, 2018 is:

quiddity • \KWID-uh-tee\  • noun

1 : whatever makes something the type that it is : essence

2 a : a trifling point : quibble

b : an unusual personal opinion or habit : eccentricity


"The elegant, punky, petroleum-like smokiness that imbues every good mezcal, and which is its quiddity, comes from the burning of the agave heart." — Ray Harvey, The Coloradoan, 19 May 2016

"An apparently intractable fact of life is that our thoughts are inaccessible to one another. Our skulls are like space helmets; we are trapped in our heads, unable to convey the quiddity of our sensations." — Jason Pontin, Wired, 16 Apr. 2018

Did you know?

When it comes to synonyms of quiddity, the Q's have it. Consider quintessence, a synonym of the "essence of a thing" sense of quiddity (this oldest sense of quiddity dates from the 14th century). Quibble is a synonym of the "trifling point" sense; that meaning of quiddity arose from the subtler points of 16th-century academic arguments. And quirk, like quiddity, can refer to a person's eccentricities. Of course, quiddity also derives from a "Q" word, the Latin pronoun quis, which is one of two Latin words for "who" (the other is qui). Quid, the neuter form of quis, gave rise to the Medieval Latin quidditas, which means "essence," a term that was essential to the development of the English quiddity.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 5, 2018 is:

banshee • \BAN-shee\  • noun

: a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose appearance or wailing warns a family that one of them will soon die


"The family is reputed to have its own banshee that howls when one of them is going to die. Corran remembered that on receiving reports that the banshee had been heard, telegrams were sent to everyone in the family to find out if they were all right." — The Daily Telegraph (London), 16 July 2018

"Moments after the banshee wail of the air raid siren began, the teacher of my Grade 6 class shouted, 'Under the desks, children! Quickly!'" — Ken Cuthertson, The Globe and Mail (Canada), 14 April 2018

Did you know?

In Irish folklore, a bean sídhe (literally "woman of fairyland") was not a welcome guest. When she was seen combing her hair or heard wailing beneath a window, it was considered a sign that a family member was about to die. English speakers modified the mournful fairy's Irish name into the modern word banshee—a term we now most often use to evoke her woeful or terrible or earsplitting cry, as in "to scream like a banshee," or attributively, as in "a banshee wail."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 4, 2018 is:

ingratiate • \in-GRAY-shee-ayt\  • verb

: to gain favor or favorable acceptance for by deliberate effort — usually used with with


"He ingratiated himself with Crispin, deliberately ignoring Crispin's suspicion of him." — Zadie Smith, White Teeth, 2000

"Ford is also hoping to ingratiate itself with investors as its stock price still hovers around $11." — Nora Naughton, The Detroit News, 20 June 2018

Did you know?

17th-century English speakers combined the Latin noun gratia, meaning "grace" or "favor," with the English prefix in- to create the verb ingratiate. When you ingratiate yourself, you are putting yourself in someone's good graces to gain their approval or favor. English words related to ingratiate include gratis and gratuity. Both of these reflect something done or given as a favor through the good graces of the giver.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 3, 2018 is:

mentor • \MEN-tor\  • noun

1 : a trusted counselor or guide

2 : tutor, coach


Graduates of the program sometimes go on to become mentors to those making their way through the rigorous process of earning their certification.

"If you can find a mentor who is experienced in your field, they can provide you with insights that you may not get anywhere else. Think of them as kind of being a walking, talking, unofficial guidebook. They know the unspoken truths." — Abdullahi Muhammed, Forbes.com, 30 June 2018

Did you know?

We acquired mentor from the literature of ancient Greece. In Homer's epic The Odyssey, Odysseus was away from home fighting and journeying for 20 years. During that time, Telemachus, the son he left as a babe in arms, grew up under the supervision of Mentor, an old and trusted friend. When the goddess Athena decided it was time to complete the education of young Telemachus, she visited him disguised as Mentor and they set out together to learn about his father. Today, we use the word mentor for anyone who is a positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person's life.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sun, 09/02/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 2, 2018 is:

coeval • \koh-EE-vul\  • adjective

: of the same or equal age, antiquity, or duration


"Fantasy is at least as immense as realism and much older—essentially coeval with literature itself. Yet fantasy was relegated for fifty years or sixty years to the nursery." — Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Electric Literature, 1 Apr. 2016

"If animals are our other, there is nothing quite so other as the octopus. It is the alien with whom we share our planet, a coeval evolutionary life form whose slithery slipperiness and more than the requisite number of limbs … symbolize the dark mystery and fear of the deep." — Philip Hoare, The Guardian, 18 Sept. 2017

Did you know?

Coeval comes to English from the Latin word coaevus, meaning "of the same age." Coaevus was formed by combining the co- prefix ("in or to the same degree") with Latin aevum ("age" or "lifetime"). The root aevum is also a base in such temporal words as longevity, medieval, and primeval. Although coeval can technically describe any two or more entities that coexist, it is most typically used to refer to things that have existed together for a very long time (such as galaxies) or that were concurrent with each other in the distant past (parallel historical periods of ancient civilizations, for example).


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 1, 2018 is:

symposium • \sim-POH-zee-um\  • noun

1 a : a convivial party (as after a banquet in ancient Greece) with music and conversation

b : a social gathering at which there is free interchange of ideas

2 a : a formal meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics — compare colloquium

b : a collection of opinions on a subject; especially : one published by a periodical

c : discussion


"Scholars, culinary historians, writers, and chefs come together for this symposium … that chronicles the fascinating history of beef in the region." — Saveur, October 2009

"In 1977 [astronomer Beatrice Tinsley] organized and hosted a symposium that brought together the world's experts on the evolution of stars and galaxies. The transcribed proceedings … have become a classic reference for researchers." — The New York Times, 18 July 2018

Did you know?

It was drinking more than thinking that drew people to the original symposia and that gave us the word symposium. The ancient Greeks would often follow a banquet with a drinking party they called a symposion. That name came from sympinein, a verb that combines pinein, meaning "to drink," with the prefix syn-, meaning "together." Originally, English speakers only used symposium to refer to such an ancient Greek party, but in the 18th century British gentlemen's clubs started using the word for gatherings in which intellectual conversation was fueled by drinking. By the end of the 18th century, symposium had gained the more sober sense we know today, describing meetings in which the focus is more on the exchange of ideas and less on imbibing.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 01:00

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 31, 2018 is:

duress • \dur-RESS\  • noun

1 : forcible restraint or restriction

2 : compulsion by threat; specifically : unlawful constraint


"I understand the impulse to marvel at Mr. Mandela's civility and eloquence, even under duress. How, it's easy to wonder, could a man form such generous, brilliant philosophies in the face of cruelty and injustice?" — Tayari Jones, The New York Times, 6 July 2018     

"It's a pattern that runs throughout history. People assume they can pollute for free until the pollution builds up and becomes a serious problem. Then—under duress—they start paying for the trouble." — Nathanael Johnson, Grist, 3 July 2018

Did you know?

Duress is a word of hardy stock. It has been a part of the English language since the 14th century and has a number of long-lived relatives. Duress itself came into Middle English through the Anglo-French duresce (meaning "hardness" or "severity"), which stems from Latin durus, meaning "hard." Some obvious relatives of this robust root are durable, endure and obdurate (meaning "unyielding" or "hardened in feelings"). Some others are dour (meaning "harsh," "unyielding," or "gloomy") and the preposition during.