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TEMPLATEfilename:rss/sample-template.html Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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

09/22/2018 01:00 AM
viva voce

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 22, 2018 is:

viva voce • \vye-vuh-VOH-see\  • adverb

: by word of mouth : orally


"He was examined according to standard inquisitorial procedures derived from Roman law and medieval practice. Interrogators put questions to the accused who answered viva voce, in writing, or both, as demanded." — Donald Weinstein, Savonarola: The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Prophet, 2011

"In the old days, voter turnout was significant because the rite was an open event and fun-filled. In colonial Maryland and Virginia, for example, a citizen would cast his vote orally—viva voce—and then would be rewarded with food and strong drink by the candidate he had just voted for." — Thomas V. DiBacco, The Washington Times, 26 Oct. 2016

Did you know?

Viva voce derives from Medieval Latin, where it translates literally as "with the living voice." In English it occurs in contexts, such as voting, in which something is done aloud for all to hear. Votes in Congress, for example, are done viva voce—members announce their votes by calling out "yea" or "nay." While the phrase was first used in English as an adverb in the 16th century, it can also appear as an adjective (as in "a viva voce examination") or a noun (where it refers to an examination conducted orally).

09/21/2018 01:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 21, 2018 is:

panoply • \PAN-uh-plee\  • noun

1 a : a full suit of armor

b : ceremonial attire

2 : something forming a protective covering

3 a : a magnificent or impressive array

b : a display of all appropriate appurtenances


"Like many of the islands of the Caribbean, Jamaica is home to a cuisine that combines a heady mixture of flavors, spices, techniques and influences from the panoply of cultures that have inhabited its shores." — Maria Sonnenberg, Florida Today, 11 July 2018

"'Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse' focuses on the final turbulent decade of a life, but Andrea di Robilant captures the full panoply of quirks and conflicts that often made Papa and those closest to him miserable." — Michael Mewshaw, The Washington Post, 26 July 2018

Did you know?

Panoply comes from the Greek word panoplia, which referred to the full suit of armor worn by hoplites, heavily armed infantry soldiers of ancient Greece. Panoplia is a blend of the prefix pan-, meaning "all," and hopla, meaning "arms" or "armor." (As you may have guessed already, hopla is also an ancestor of hoplite.) Panoply entered the English language in the 17th century, and since then it has developed other senses which extend both the "armor" and the "full set" aspects of its original use.

09/20/2018 01:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 20, 2018 is:

milieu • \meel-YOO\  • noun

: the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment


"In researching my second film, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, I learned just how much independence and bravery it took for Guggenheim to step away from her very traditional roots and move at the age of 20 to Paris, where she … became part of the milieu of the Surrealist artists, and ultimately set out on the path to becoming a world famous patron." — Lisa Vreeland, Town & Country, March 2018

"Critics have called [Nicole] Holofcener 'the female Woody Allen,' noting that the two directors, both Jewish, explore a milieu disproportionately populated by writers, artists, and shrinks." — Ariel Levy, The New Yorker, 6 Aug. 2018

Did you know?

The etymology of milieu comes down to mi and lieu. English speakers learned the word (and borrowed both its spelling and meaning) from French. The modern French term comes from two much older French forms, mi, meaning "middle," and lieu, meaning "place." Like so many terms in the Romance languages, those Old French forms can ultimately be traced to Latin; mi is an offspring of Latin medius (meaning "middle") and lieu is a derivative of locus (meaning "place"). English speakers have used milieu for the environment or setting of something since at least the mid-1800s, but other lieu descendants are much older. We've used both lieu itself (meaning "place" or "stead," as in "in lieu of") and lieutenant since the 13th century.

09/19/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/18/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/17/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/16/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/15/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/14/2018 01:00 AM

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.

09/13/2018 01:00 AM

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.

Last updated: March 16, 2017