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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

06/25/2018 01:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 25, 2018 is:

amortize • \AM-er-tyze\  • verb

1 : to pay off (an obligation, such as a mortgage) gradually usually by periodic payments of principal and interest or by payments to a sinking fund

2 : to gradually reduce or write off the cost or value of (something, such as an asset)


"A standard three-year, 15,000-mile Momentum lease will run about $410 per month with the down payment amortized." — J. P. Vettraino, AutoWeek, 8 Jan. 2018

"A typical car factory costs between $500 million and $1 billion to build, and the tooling and machinery are amortized over many years, which is why they need to produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year to be profitable." — Alan Ohnsman and Joann Muller, Forbes, 12 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

When you amortize a loan, you "kill it off" gradually by paying it down in installments. This is reflected in the word's etymology. Amortize derives via Middle English and Anglo-French from Vulgar Latin admortire, meaning "to kill." The Latin noun mors ("death") is a root of admortire; it is related to our word murder, and it also gave us a word naming a kind of loan that is usually amortized: mortgage. Amortize carries a different meaning in the field of corporate finance, where it means to depreciate the cost or value of an asset (as, for example, to reduce interest revenue on that asset for tax purposes).

06/24/2018 01:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 24, 2018 is:

effigy • \EFF-uh-jee\  • noun

: an image or representation especially of a person; especially : a crude figure representing a hated person


"At one meeting, he remembers, the leader of a competing company was hung in effigy as employees cheered." — Evan Bush, The Seattle Times, 25 Feb. 2018

"On the gathering's penultimate day, the giant effigy—or Man, as it is known—is set ablaze during a raucous, joyful celebration." — John Rogers and Janie Har, The Chicago Sun-Times, 28 Apr. 2018

Did you know?

An earlier sense of effigy is "a likeness of a person shaped out of stone or other materials," so it's not surprising to learn that effigy derives, by way of Middle French, from the Latin effigies, which, in turn, comes from the verb effingere ("to form"), a combination of the prefix ­ex- and fingere, which means "to shape." Fingere is the common ancestor of a number of other English nouns that name things you can shape. A fiction is a story you shape with your imagination. Figments are shaped by the imagination, too; they're something you imagine or make up. A figure can be a numeral, a shape, or a picture that you shape as you draw or write.

06/23/2018 01:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 23, 2018 is:

skirl • \SKERL\  • verb

1 of a bagpipe : to emit the high shrill tone of the chanter; also : to give forth music

2 : to play (music) on the bagpipe


"Then the Dropkick Murphys victory song skirled over the PA and the player pile was on, followed by the Red Sox team rushing the left field fence and flipping over it, reminiscent of Torii Hunter's vain try for a David Ortiz homer during the 2013 playoffs." — Jack Shea, The Martha's Vineyard Times, 23 June 2014

"On a crisp spring morning in West Roxbury, several honor guards stood at rigid attention outside Holy Name Church as scores of bagpipes skirled." — Eric Moscowitz, The Boston Globe, 4 Apr. 2014

Did you know?

Not every musical instrument is honored with its very own verb. But then, not every musical instrument emits a sound that quite matches that of a bagpipe. Depending on your ear, you might think bagpipes "give forth music," or you might be more apt to say they "shriek." If you are of the latter opinion, your thinking aligns with the earliest sense of skirl—"to shriek." That early sense was used of screeching maids, winds, and the like. Scottish poet Robert Sempill first used it for bagpipes in the mid-1600s. The meaning of skirl has shifted over time, however, and these days you can use the verb without causing offense to bagpipers and bagpipe enthusiasts.

06/22/2018 01:00 AM

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

notorious • \noh-TOR-ee-us\  • adjective

: generally known and talked of; especially : widely and unfavorably known


"Black-legged ticks, notorious for transmitting the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, are now present in almost half of U.S. counties, up nearly 45 percent since 1998." — Bradley Rife et al., O, The Oprah Magazine, April 2018

"Galveston Island has it all. To some, Texas' bustling island will always be defined by its storied past, its nineteenth-century elegance, big-city ambitions, notorious seaport, and even more notorious storms." — Texas Monthly, May 2018

Did you know?

Notorious was adopted into English in the 16th century from Medieval Latin notorius, itself from Late Latin's noun notorium, meaning "information" or "indictment." Notorium, in turn, derives from the Latin verb noscere, meaning "to come to know." Although notorious can be a synonym of famous, meaning simply "widely known," it long ago developed the additional implication of someone or something unpleasant or undesirable. The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 includes one of the first known uses of the unfavorable meaning in print, referring to "notorious synners."

06/21/2018 01:00 AM

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

voracity • \vuh-RASS-uh-tee\  • noun

: the quality or state of being ravenous or insatiable


Elena reads books with such voracity that she returns to the library two or three times a week.

"In the end, spiders' voracity actually works out to mankind's benefit. Since they primarily feast on bugs, their hunger means fewer pests in the garden, fewer mosquitoes in the yard, and fewer flies in the house." — Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, 28 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

Voracity comes to us (via Middle French voracité) from the Latin word voracitas, which itself comes from vorax, meaning "voracious," plus -itas, the Latin equivalent of the English noun suffix -ity. Voracity is one of two English words that mean "the quality or state of being voracious." The other is voraciousness, which was once considered to be archaic but has made a comeback. Because voracity evolved from non-English forerunners, rather than being created in English from voracious (as was voraciousness), the word may strike some English speakers as an unusual formation. It's not surprising, therefore, that the more familiar-looking voraciousness has reappeared—most likely through a process of reinvention by people unfamiliar with voracity.

06/20/2018 01:00 AM

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

balmy • \BAH-mee\  • adjective

1 a : having the qualities of balm : soothing

b : mild, temperate

2 : crazy, foolish


"Men often don't moisturize their skin during the hotter months, but should. It's a misconception that oily skin doesn't get dehydrated. Use a lightweight moisturizer that isn't heavy or sticky in balmy weather." — Joane Amay, Ebony, June 2018

"He arose with the first peep of day, and sallied forth to enjoy the balmy breeze of morning...." — Thomas Love Peacock, Headlong Hall, 1816

Did you know?

It's no secret that balmy is derived from balm, an aromatic ointment or fragrance that heals or soothes. So when did it come to mean "foolish," you might wonder? Balmy goes back to the 15th century and was often used in contexts referring to weather, such as "a balmy breeze" or, as Mark Twain wrote in Tom Sawyer, "The balmy summer air, the restful quiet...." Around the middle of the 19th century, it developed a new sense suggesting a weak or unbalanced mind. It is uncertain if the soft quality or the soothing effect of balm influenced this use. But later in the century, balmy became altered to barmy in its "crazy" sense. This alteration may have come about from a mix-up with another barmy, meaning "full of froth or ferment." That barmy is from barm, a term for the yeast formed on fermenting malt liquors, which can indeed make one act balmy.

06/19/2018 01:00 AM

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

quail • \KWAIL\  • verb

1 : to give way : falter

2 : to recoil in dread or terror : cower


"It wasn't so long ago that book publishers and bookstore owners were quailing about the coming of e-books, like movie theatre owners at the dawn of the television age." — Michael Hiltzik, The Gulf Times, 10 May 2017

"I've a Pooh in me, blundering about, trying to think large thoughts, making pronouncements I hope won't be challenged. And I'm sometimes a Piglet, quailing in front of imaginary dangers, or figuratively jumping up and down to squeak, 'I'm here! What about me?'" — Jim Atwell, The Cooperstown (New York) Crier, 15 June 2017

Did you know?

Flinch, recoil, and wince are all synonyms of quail, but each word has a slightly different use. When you flinch, you fail to endure pain or to face something dangerous or frightening with resolution ("she faced her accusers without flinching"). Recoil implies a start or movement away from something through shock, fear, or disgust ("he recoiled at the suggestion of stealing"). Wince usually suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction to something ("she winced as the bright light suddenly hit her eyes"). Quail implies shrinking and cowering in fear ("he quailed before the apparition").

06/18/2018 01:00 AM

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

jabberwocky • \JAB-er-wah-kee\  • noun

: meaningless speech or writing


Amanda learned to ignore her critics, dismissing their attacks as the jabberwocky of minds with nothing more important to think of about.

"When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stepped into the crowded room, fashionably late, jabberwocky ceased and the only sound you heard was the whir and click of cameras." — Greg Cote, The Miami Herald, 28 Sept. 2010

Did you know?

In a poem titled "Jabberwocky" in the book Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872), Lewis Carroll warned his readers about a frightful beast:

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

This nonsensical poem caught the public's fancy, and by 1908 jabberwocky was being used as a generic term for meaningless speech or writing. The word bandersnatch has also seen some use as a general noun, with the meaning "a wildly grotesque or bizarre individual." It's a much rarer word than jabberwocky, though, and is entered only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

06/17/2018 01:00 AM

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

meritorious • \mair-uh-TOR-ee-us\  • adjective

: deserving of honor or esteem


"Markle received citations for meritorious conduct in the battle at Fort Erie." — Mike McCormick, The Terre Haute (Indiana) Tribune-Star, 15 Apr. 2018

"The Seven Seals award, signed by ESGR National Chair, Craig McKinley, is presented for meritorious leadership and initiative in support of the men and women who serve America in the National Guard and Reserve." — The Hattiesburg (Mississippi) American, 13 May 2018

Did you know?

People who demonstrate meritorious behavior certainly earn our respect, and you can use that fact to remember that meritorious ultimately traces to the Latin verb merēre, which means "to earn." Nowadays, the rewards earned for meritorious acts are likely to be of an immaterial nature: gratitude, admiration, praise, etc. But that wasn't always so. The history of meritorious recalls a reward more concrete in nature: money. The Latin word meritorius, an ancestor of the English meritorious, literally means "bringing in money."

06/16/2018 01:00 AM

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

tantalize • \TAN-tuh-lyze\  • verb

: to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach


"The scientist tantalized them with a radical theory about the foundation of the universe, which proposes that time and space fluctuate in a bubbly, unstable state known as 'quantum foam.'" — Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 25 Sept. 2017

"Bearcubs incorporate electric harps and all manner of strange synthetic noise to tantalize your ear drums." — Kat Bein,, 15 June 2017

Did you know?

Pity poor King Tantalus of Lydia. The mythic monarch offended the ancient Greek gods. As punishment, according to Homer's Odyssey, he was plunged up to his chin in water in Hades, where he had to stand beneath overhanging boughs of a tree heavily laden with ripe, juicy fruit. But though he was always hungry and thirsty, Tantalus could neither drink the water nor eat the fruit. Anytime he moved to get them, they would retreat from his reach. Our word tantalize is taken from the name of the eternally tormented king.

Last updated: March 16, 2017