Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 21, 2018 is:
grudging \GRUH-jing\ adjective
2 : done, given, or allowed unwillingly, reluctantly, or sparingly
"The class differences between teacher and students are so pronounced that they threaten to plunge the film into a schoolhouse drama—that well-worn genre in which a charismatic authority figure, inevitably likable yet inevitably tough, gains her students' grudging respect and eventual trust." — Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times, 22 Mar. 2018
"There is no grudging marriage of art and politics in her work; as John Berger, one of her longtime interlocutors and a formative influence, wrote, 'Far from my dragging politics into art, art has dragged me into politics.' [Arundhati] Roy's work conveys a similar spirit." — Parul Sehgal, The Atlantic, 17 June 2017
Did you know?
In the 15th century, English jurist Sir John Fortescue observed, "Somme . . . obtayne gretter rewardis than thei have disserved, and yit grugge, seying they have [too] litill." Fortescue's grugge (an early spelling of the verb grudge) meant "to grumble and complain," just like its Middle English forerunner, grucchen, and the Anglo-French word grucer, which gave rise to the English forms. English speakers had adopted the "complain" sense of grudge by the late 13th century, and a century later they had added the extended sense "to give reluctantly." That second sense may have developed because people associated grudge with the related word begrudge (meaning "to give reluctantly," as in "I begrudged him a second chance.") Grudging, which developed from grudge, made its English debut in the 1530s.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 20, 2018 is:
bloviate \BLOH-vee-ayt\ verb
: to speak or write verbosely and windily
"It's a slow night. Just a couple of other regulars and our usual bartender, a bright, young fellow who seems to enjoy his customers' company, despite our tendency to bloviate." — Bruce VanWyngarden, The Memphis Flyer, 15 Feb. 2018
"Wall Street analysts and the media covering them have often bloviated about the lamentable end of retail, the death of department stores, the changing fickle habits of Millennials, the power of online retail, and the tragedy of an America left behind." — Monica Showalter, The American Thinker, 6 July 2017
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.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2018 is:
headlong \HED-LAWNG\ adverb
1 : with the head foremost
2 : without deliberation : recklessly
3 : without pause or delay
He's impulsive when it comes to romance and often rushes headlong into relationships, with little thought given to their long-term viability.
"What was once optimistically pitched as a complete 800-mile program that could be built for about $35 billion and conceivably up and running by as early as 2020 has run headlong into an unrelenting wall of obstacles, including engineering, litigation and politics." — Tim Sheehan, The Fresno (California) Bee, 15 Mar. 2018
Did you know?
Headlong appeared in Middle English as hedlong, an alteration of the older hedling. Hedling is a combination of the Middle English hed ("head") and -ling, an adverb suffix which means "in such a direction or manner." Thus, hedling originally meant "with the head foremost" or, if you will, "in the direction of the head." By the late 1400s, influenced by its use in the compound word endlong, the adjective long began to be regarded as a suffix and a variant of -ling. It was this substitution of -ling with -long that led to the replacement of words like sideling and headling with the now more familiar sidelong and headlong.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 18, 2018 is:
embarrass \im-BAIR-us\ verb
1 a : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress
b : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties
c : to involve in financial difficulties
2 a : to hamper the movement of
3 : to make intricate : complicate
4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part)
He was embarrassed to discover that he had been talking to prospective clients all day with a piece of spinach lodged in his teeth.
"To start with, the existence of the blog post itself is a striking demonstration of privilege. Most people think twice before publicly embarrassing their former employers, for fear that it will ruin their careers or they will face other types of retaliation." — Sarah Kessler, Quartz, 27 Jan. 2018
Did you know?
If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame, then you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and baraça, the Portuguese word for "noose." Though embarrass has had various meanings related to acts that hinder or impede throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 17, 2018 is:
onomatopoeia \ah-nuh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh\ noun
1 : the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz, hiss)
2 : the use of words whose sound suggests the sense
"The 'whiz'—or is it the 'whoosh,' or maybe 'sh-sh-sh-sh-sh'?—of an ace being served is described … by rival tennis players in the opening moments of Anna Ziegler's 'The Last Match.' The speakers concede, though, that an onomatopoeia doesn't do the job of explaining what it's like to have a meteoric ball hurtling past your ears, shattering your hopes if not the sound barrier." — Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 26 Oct. 2017
"[James] Chapman pointed out that what looks like variation in onomatopoeia is sometimes simply a rearranging of discrete sounds: clap clap in English becomes plec plec in Portuguese." — Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, 27 Nov. 2015
Did you know?
Onomatopoeia came into English via Late Latin and ultimately traces back to Greek onoma, meaning "name," and poiein, meaning "to make." (Onoma can be found in such terms as onomastics, which refers to the study of proper names and their origins, while poiein gave us such words as poem and poet.) English speakers have only used the word onomatopoeia since the mid-1500s, but people have been creating words from the sounds heard around them for much longer. In fact, the presence of so many imitative words in language spawned the linguistic bowwow theory, which postulates that language originated in imitation of natural sounds.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 16, 2018 is:
vulnerable \VUL-nuh-ruh-bul\ adjective
1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2 : open to attack or damage : assailable
The article reminds readers to install the latest antivirus software on their computers so that they will not be vulnerable to malware and viruses.
"Updated flood maps would give property owners an accurate picture of how vulnerable their property is to flooding and would help them take the appropriate measures to prepare for future storms." — Steve Ellis, Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press, 15 Mar. 2018
Did you know?
Vulnerable is ultimately derived from the Latin noun vulnus ("wound"). Vulnus led to the Latin verb vulnerare, meaning "to wound," and then to the Late Latin adjective vulnerabilis, which became vulnerable in English in the early 1600s. Vulnerable originally meant "capable of being physically wounded" or "having the power to wound" (the latter is now obsolete), but since the late 1600s, it has also been used figuratively to suggest a defenselessness against non-physical attacks. In other words, someone (or something) can be vulnerable to criticism or failure as well as to literal wounding. When it is used figuratively, vulnerable is often followed by the preposition to.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 15, 2018 is:
founder \FOUN-der\ verb
1 : to make or become disabled or lame
2 : to give way : collapse
3 : to become submerged : sink
4 : to come to grief : fail
As the vessel began to founder, the captain ordered everyone on board to prepare to abandon ship.
"If you adore New York City, you can't stand Los Angeles—and vice-versa, or so the myth goes. But the Jennifer Aniston-Justin Theroux marriage, according to People, may have foundered on just that urban divide." — Michael H. Hodges, The Detroit News, 17 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
Founder comes from Middle English foundren, meaning "to send to the bottom" or "collapse." That word came from the Middle French verb fondrer, and ultimately from the Latin noun fundus, meaning "bottom." When something founders, it usually hits the bottom in one sense or another. A foundering horse—that is, a disabled one—is likely to collapse to the ground. When a ship founders, it sinks to the bottom of the sea. Founder has a broader, figurative sense, too—if someone's marriage or career is foundering, it isn't doing well and is therefore headed downward.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 14, 2018 is:
succinct \suk-SINKT\ adjective
: marked by compact precise expression without wasted words
"[Ninni] Holmqvist's writing is spare in style, elegantly succinct, but the layers of the world she's created are manifold." — Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 25 July 2017
"[Steve] Bartels' keynote, at a succinct 30 minutes, managed to cover broad ground, including the surge of interest in hip-hop thanks to streaming, which has brought new interest in the genre's catalog." — Leila Cobo, Billboard.com, 7 June 2017
Did you know?
The history of succinct might not be short, but it's a cinch to remember. Succinct traces to Latin succinctus ("tightly wrapped, concise"), which comes from the verb cingere ("to gird"), the word that gave us cincture and cinch. In its earliest uses succinct meant "confined" or "girded up," and, as such, it was often used in reference to garments encircled by a band. Eventually, succinct was extended to the realm of insects, where it meant "supported by a band of silk around the middle" (as in "the succinct pupa of a butterfly"). Later, the word was applied to writings. A "succinct" piece of writing is "compressed" or "compact" and uses as few words as possible.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 13, 2018 is:
aegis \EE-jus\ noun
2 a : protection
b : controlling or conditioning influence
b : control or guidance especially by an individual, group, or system
The matter will be dealt with under the aegis of the ethics committee.
"The security office is not part of the main White House staff operation. Located outside the West Wing, it has an independent director who is not a political appointee. Its work, however, falls under the broader aegis of the White House chief of staff's office." — Anne Gearan, The Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
We borrowed aegis from Latin, but the word ultimately derives from the Greek noun aigis, which means "goatskin." In ancient Greek mythology, an aegis was something that offered physical protection, and it has been depicted in various ways, including as a magical protective cloak made from the skin of the goat that suckled Zeus as an infant and as a shield fashioned by Hephaestus that bore the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa. The word first entered English in the 15th century as a noun referring to the shield or protective garment associated with Zeus or Athena. It later took on a more general sense of "protection" and, by the late-19th century, it had acquired the extended senses of "auspices" and "sponsorship."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 12, 2018 is:
newfangled \NOO-FANG-guld\ adjective
1 : attracted to novelty
2 : of the newest style or kind
"If you're more like me and less like the authors of Fortune's outstanding blockchain and cryptocurrency site The Ledger, this newfangled stuff is more often than not clear as mud. I don't intend to completely elucidate it for you in one day." — Adam Lashinsky, Fortune.com, 7 Mar. 2018
"When they arrive in Memphis, they head to church, where Elvis' uncle, the church's reverend, is preaching about how this newfangled thing called rock is the devil's music." — Chancellor Agard, Entertainment Weekly, 12 Mar. 2018
Did you know?
Newfangled is actually a pretty old word. It dates all the way back to the 15th century, and likely developed from the even older adjective newfangle, which probably derives from a combination of the Middle English newe, meaning new, and the Old English fangol, from a verb meaning "to take." In its earliest documented uses, newfangled described a person who was fond of new things, fashions, or ideas. Current usage indicates that newfangled is used—sometimes deprecatingly—to describe anything that is new, hip, hot, or happening, while other times it is used with irony for something—such as rock music—that might have been new at one time but is hardly new anymore.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 11, 2018 is:
defer \dih-FER\ verb
2 : to postpone induction of (a person) into military service
"She made suggestions including deferring the decision again, as well as opening the opportunity for more applicants to be considered…." — Kelly Fisher, The Tennessean, 17 Jan. 2018
"He said funds are needed now, in large part, because deferring the maintenance will increase repair costs in the future." — Anthony Warren, The Northside Sun (Jackson, Mississippi), 23 Mar. 2017
Did you know?
There are two words spelled defer in English. The other defer, which means "to delegate to another for determination or decision" or "to submit to another's wishes or opinion" (as in "I defer to your superior expertise"), is derived from the Latin verb deferre, meaning "to bring down." The defer we're featuring today is derived from Latin differre, which itself has several meanings including "to postpone" and "to differ." Not surprisingly, differre is also the source of our word differ, meaning "to be different."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 10, 2018 is:
kitsch \KITCH\ noun
1 : something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality
2 : a tacky or lowbrow quality or condition
Geraldine was amused by the kitsch sold in the roadside souvenir shop, but she wasn't tempted to buy anything.
"During my wait, I took in my surroundings, which reflect a thematic blend of 1950s-style diner and rural-American kitsch. The TV behind the barstool counter cranked out a steady diet of 'The Andy Griffith Show' reruns via Netflix." — The Grub Scout, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, 16 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
"The fashionable clothing label … kicked off the revival last June …, putting its models in Miranda-inspired swimsuits and marching them through a gantlet of 50 tons of bananas," writes Mac Margolis in Newsweek International (January 2006) of a fabulously kitschy gala commemoration for the late Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda. Since we borrowed kitsch from German in the 1920s, it has been our word for things in the realm of popular culture that dangle, like car mirror dice, precariously close to tackiness. But although things that can be described with kitsch and the related adjective kitschy are clearly not fine art, they may appeal to certain tastes—some folks delight in velvet paintings, plastic flamingos, dashboard hula dancers, and Carmen Miranda revivals!
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 9, 2018 is:
maladroit \mal-uh-DROYT\ adjective
: lacking skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness in handling situations : inept
Any project, however carefully planned, is doomed to fail under maladroit management.
"[Lucy Atkins'] tale of a high-flying television historian entangled with a socially maladroit and manipulative 60-something housekeeper is smart and horrifying in equal measure." — Geordie Williamson, The Australian, 16 Dec. 2017
Did you know?
To understand the origin of maladroit, you need to put together some Middle French and Old French building blocks. The first is the word mal, meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase a droit, meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components a, meaning "to" or "at," and droit, meaning "right, direct, or straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as maladroit to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is adroit, which we adopted from the French in the same century.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 8, 2018 is:
bastion \BAS-chun\ noun
1 : a projecting part of a fortification
2 : a fortified area or position
3 a : a place of security or survival
b : a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic
"For a century, the automobile has been a bastion of liberty, freeing up almost everybody from the tyranny of other people's schedules." — Charles C. W. Cooke, The National Review, 18 Dec. 2017
"… pets have become a tolerated extension of their owners, accompanying them everywhere they go. It was only a matter of time before spas and resorts followed suit. These latest animal-friendly bastions go out of their way to offer cosseted companions an experience as luxurious as the ones enjoyed by their human escorts." — Chloe Malle, Vogue, January 2018
Did you know?
Bastion is constructed of etymological building blocks that are very similar to those of bastille (a word now used as a general term for a prison, but probably best known as the name of the Parisian fortress-turned-prison stormed by an angry mob at the start of the French Revolution). The history of bastion can be traced through Middle French to the Old Italian verb bastire, which means "to build." Bastille descends from the Old Occitan verb bastir, which also means "to build." Bastir and bastire are themselves of Germanic origin and akin to the Old High German word besten, meaning "to patch."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 7, 2018 is:
reify \RAY-uh-fye\ verb
: to consider or represent (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing : to give definite content and form to (a concept or idea)
"Increased awareness of automated surveillance, in other words, is most effective at demystifying the systems doing the watching, not reifying their wisdom and authority." — John Herrman, The New York Times, 14 Jan. 2018
"The home is a haven to be sure. There neatness scrubs away history like grease while retaining the polished signs of the past and reifying the timeless." — William H. Gass, The New York Times Book Review, 3 Aug. 1986
Did you know?
Reify is a word that attempts to provide a bridge between what is abstract and what is real. Fittingly, it derives from a word that is an ancestor to real—the Latin noun res, meaning "thing." Both reify and the related noun reification first appeared in English in the mid-19th century. Each word combines the Latin res with an English suffix (-fy and -fication, respectively) that is derived from the Latin -ficare, meaning "to make." In general use, the words refer to the act of considering or presenting an abstract idea in real or material terms, or of judging something by a concrete example.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 6, 2018 is:
ineluctable \in-ih-LUK-tuh-bul\ adjective
: not to be avoided, changed, or resisted : inevitable
"Mr. Unkrich faced a dilemma. On the one hand, he believed that artists should not be restricted to 'only telling stories about what they know and their own culture.' But he also needed to safeguard against his ineluctable biases and blind spots, and ensure that his film didn't 'lapse into cliché or stereotype.'" — Reggie Ugwu, The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2017
"… Mann's photographs were beautiful, although never cloying, and impossible to reduce to clean readings. But one of the deeper things they captured was the ineluctable pain—even in idyllic circumstances—of growing up." — Sebastian Smee, The Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
Like drama, wrestling was popular in ancient Greece and Rome. "Wrestler," in Latin, is luctator, and "to wrestle" is luctari. Luctari also has extended senses—"to struggle," "to strive," or "to contend." Eluctari joins e- ("ex-") with luctari, forming a verb meaning "to struggle clear of." Ineluctabilis brought in the negative prefix in- to form an adjective describing something that cannot be escaped or avoided; English speakers borrowed ineluctabilis as ineluctable. Another word that has its roots in luctari is reluctant. Reluctari means "to struggle against"—and someone who is reluctant resists or holds back.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 5, 2018 is:
veld \VELT\ noun
: a grassland especially of southern Africa usually with scattered shrubs or trees
"In the South African cakes you'll find marula—a fruit that grows in the veld, typically used to make a popular liqueur—and naartjie, a type of sweet mandarin orange." — Kristen Hartke, The Washington Post, 23 Aug. 2017
"I duck as swarming bees zoom overhead, trailing their queen. They are gone again in a second, coiling off in a shadowy murmuration across the veldt." — Aidan Hartley, The Spectator, 13 Jan. 2018
Did you know?
Veld (also spelled veldt) comes from Afrikaans, the language of the Afrikaners, the descendants of the Dutch and Huguenot people who settled in southern Africa in the 17th century. Literally, veld means "field," and is akin to feld, the Old English predecessor of field. English speakers adopted the Africa-specific sense of veld in the 18th century. Veld refers to open country in southern Africa. Different regions of the veld are distinguished by their elevations. There is the Highveld, the Lowveld, and the Middle Veld, each with different geographical characteristics. Another term associated with veld is kopje (or koppie). This word came to English from Afrikaans (and ultimately from a Dutch word meaning "small head" or "cup") and refers to a small hill, particularly one on the African veld.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 4, 2018 is:
career \kuh-REER\ verb
: to go at top speed especially in a headlong manner
The nervous passengers gripped their seats and exchanged anxious looks as the bus careered down the icy road.
"The year continued apace, as Hollywood careered haphazardly between wildly unexpected successes and 'sure things' that bombed just as dramatically." — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post, 29 Dec. 2017
Did you know?
Chances are you're familiar with the verb careen as used in the sense of "to go forward in a headlong or uncontrolled manner." Similarly, you likely know the noun career meaning "a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling." What you may not know is that the noun career (from Middle French carriere) originally referred to a course or passage (as in "the sun's career across the sky") and to the speed used to traverse such a course. In the context of medieval tournaments, career referred to the charge of mounted knights as well as to the courses they rode. Verb use eventually developed with a general "to go fast" meaning, and later the more specific sense of moving in a reckless or headlong manner. (If you're wondering, career is not etymologically related to careen; careen has nautical origins, tracing to the Latin word for "hull.")
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 3, 2018 is:
sensibility \sen-suh-BIL-uh-tee\ noun
1 : ability to receive sensations : sensitiveness
2 : peculiar susceptibility to a pleasurable or painful impression (as from praise or a slight) — often used in plural
3 : awareness of and responsiveness toward something (such as emotion in another)
4 : refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste
"In 1973, while heading the New York Philharmonic, he replaced the orchestra members' chairs with rugs and cushions, the better to appeal to the sensibilities of a young, post-hippie audience that regarded classical music as stuffy and pedantic." — George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Jan. 2016
"His guest appearances mark something more than the usual exchange of core audiences between individual artists, though they are definitely that; they're a chance to enlarge the sensibility of rap itself, to remind himself that, however hard and successfully he strains to be the biggest rapper, rap as a whole is always bigger than he is." — Frank Guan, Vulture, 14 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
From Latin sentire ("to feel"), the meanings of sensibility run the gamut from mere sensation of the sense organs to excessive sentimentality. In between is a capacity for delicate appreciation, a sense often pluralized. In Jane Austen's books, sensibility, a word much appreciated by the novelist, is mostly an admirable quality she attributed to or found lacking in her characters: "He had … a sensibility to what was amiable and lovely" (of Mr. Elliot in Persuasion). In Sense and Sensibility, however, Austen starts out by ascribing to Marianne sensibleness, on the one hand, but an "excess of sensibility" on the other: "Her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation … she was everything but prudent."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 2, 2018 is:
abide \uh-BYDE\ verb
1 a : to bear patiently : tolerate
b : to endure without yielding : withstand
2 : to wait for : await
3 : to accept without objection
4 : to remain stable or fixed in a state
5 : to continue in a place : sojourn
Susan has been a vegetarian for years and can no longer abide even the smell of cooked meat.
"They plainly abided a situation that was intolerable, and they shouldn't have done it." — Robert F. Bauer, The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2018
Did you know?
Abide may sound rather old-fashioned these days. The word has been around since before the 12th century, but it is a bit rare now, except in certain specialized uses. Even more archaic to our modern ear is abidden, the original past participle of abide. Today, both the past tense and the past participle of abide are served by either abode or abided, with abided being the more frequent choice. Abide turns up often in the phrase "can't (or couldn't) abide." The expression abide by, which means "to conform to" or "to acquiesce in," is also common. Related terms include the participial adjective abiding (which means "enduring" or "continuing," as in "an abiding interest in nature"), the noun abidance ("continuance" or "compliance"), and the noun abode ("residence").