Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 18, 2019 is: hobbyhorse \HAH-bee-horss\ noun
1 a : a figure of a horse fastened about the waist in the [morris dance](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morris)
b : a dancer wearing this figure
2 a : a stick having an imitation horse's head at one end that a child pretends to ride
b : [rocking horse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rocking%20horse)
c : a toy horse suspended by springs from a frame
3 a : a topic to which one constantly reverts
b : a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation : [hobby](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobby#h2)
"Apologies for hopping back on my hobbyhorse, but the lifeblood of every program is recruiting. The first thing Tech's next coach must do is rustle up pro-style quarterbacks and tight ends because, for 11 years, Tech hasn't had one." — [Mark Bradley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 Nov. 2018](https://www.ajc.com/blog/mark-bradley/was-time-for-johnson-but-the-next-guy-might-worse/gUoOXNvI9b9hKlj747j4nK/)
"When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion,—or, in other words, when his Hobby-Horse grows headstrong,—farewell cool reason and fair discretion." — [Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, 1759](https://books.google.com/books?id=qoU-AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA111&dq=%22When+a+man+gives+himself+up+to+the+government+of+a+ruling+passion&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj3v3Pis7kAhVCFjQIHX72ByoQ6AEIUTAG#v=onepage&q=%22When%20a%20man%20gives%20himself%20up%20to%20the%20government%20of%20a%20ruling%20passion&f=false)
Did you know?
The hobbyhorse is a toy of yesteryear, dating back to a homespun era predating automobiles. In the 1400s, the word hobby could refer to a real-life horse of small or average size. It soon came to refer to the horse costume worn by a person participating in a [morris](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morris) dance or a burlesque performance, and then, later, to the child's toy. Another meaning of hobbyhorse was "a favorite pursuit or pastime"; our modern noun [hobby](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobby#h2) (referring to an activity that one does for pleasure when not working) was formed by shortening this word. From [pastime](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastime), the meaning of hobbyhorse was extended to "a subject to which one repeatedly returns." The sense is typically encountered as part of such phrases as "get on one's hobbyhorse" or "ride one's hobbyhorse."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 17, 2019 is: maunder \MAWN-der\ verb
1 : chiefly British : [grumble](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grumble)
2 : to wander slowly and idly
3 : to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly
The bed-and-breakfast was delightful but we felt a bit captive in the morning as our host maundered on while we hovered at the door, hoping to escape before the morning had passed.
"Listening to [Kenneth Branagh playing Hercule Poirot] feels like chatting with your neighbor over the garden hedge, and it's all too easy to be distracted by the foliage, I'm afraid, as he maunders on about knife wounds and sleeping potions and missing kimonos." — [Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2017](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/20/murder-on-the-orient-express-and-thelma)
Did you know?
Maunder looks a lot like [meander](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meander#h2), and that's not all the two words have in common—both mean "to wander aimlessly," either physically or in speech. Some critics have suggested that while meander can describe a person's verbal and physical rambling, in addition to the wanderings of things like paths and streams, maunder should be limited to wandering words. The problem with that reasoning is that maunder has been used of the physical movements of people since the 18th century, whereas meander didn't acquire that use until the 19th. These days, meander tends to be the more common choice, although maunder does continue to turn up in both applications.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 16, 2019 is: genial \JEE-nee-ul\ adjective
1 : favorable to growth or comfort : [mild](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mild)
2 : marked by or freely expressing sympathy or friendliness
3 : displaying or marked by [genius](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genius)
"What country seems more sensible? The even discourse, the reflexive politeness, the brilliant yet genial wit, that easy embrace of hellish cold: Canada is a rock. Canada is the neighbor who helps clean out your garage.… Canada is always so … solid." — [S. L. Price, Sports Illustrated, 12 Mar. 2019](https://www.si.com/nhl/2019/03/12/maple-leafs-stanley-cup-drought-shanahan-tavares-dubas)
"… Sony Pictures confirmed that its upcoming Fred Rogers film will be called 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.' The announcement came by way of Twitter…, with the studio again sharing a picture of its star Tom Hanks seated on a trailer stoop in character as the genial children's programming pioneer—cardigan and all." — [Nardine Saad, The Los Angeles Times, 28 December 2018](https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-tom-hanks-a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-20181228-story.html)
Did you know?
Genial derives from the Latin adjective genialis, meaning "connected with marriage." When genial was first adopted into English in the mid-16th century, it meant "of or relating to marriage," a sense that is now obsolete. Genialis was formed in Latin by combining the -alis suffix (meaning "of, relating to, or characterized by") with genius, meaning "a person's disposition or inclination." As you may have guessed, Latin genius is the ancestor of the English word [genius](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genius), meaning "extraordinary intellectual power"—so it's logical enough that genial eventually developed a sense (possibly influenced by the German word genial) of "marked by very high intelligence."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 15, 2019 is: belfry \BEL-free\ noun
1 : a bell tower; especially : one surmounting or attached to another structure
2 : a room or framework for enclosing a [bell](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bell)
3 : the seat of the intellect : [head](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/head)
"The mission stands a little back of the town, and is a large building, or rather collection of buildings, in the centre of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells…." — [Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, 1840](https://books.google.com/books?id=01YWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA70&dq=%22The+mission+stands+a+little+back+of+the+town,+and+is+a+large+building%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiI46zh4LzkAhUqh-AKHQPbAcUQ6AEIPzAD#v=onepage&q=%22The%20mission%20stands%20a%20little%20back%20of%20the%20town%2C%20and%20is%20a%20large%20building%22&f=false)
"In 1963, a stone steeple over the belfry was removed after settling of the foundation compromised its integrity." — [Stephen Mills, The Times Argus (Barre-Montpelier, Vermont), 12 July 2019](https://www.timesargus.com/news/local/christ-church-readies-for-major-repairs/article993cddf4-1d6d-5a29-bdcb-da023fa5bd83.html)
Did you know?
Surprisingly, belfry does not come from [bell](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bell), and early belfries did not contain bells at all. Belfry comes from the Middle English berfrey, a term for a wooden tower used in medieval sieges. The structure could be rolled up to a fortification wall so that warriors hidden inside could storm the battlements. Over time, the term was applied to other types of shelters and towers, many of which had bells in them. This association of berfrey with bell towers, seems to have influenced the [dissimilation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissimilation) of the first r in berfrey to an l, and people began representing this pronunciation in writing with variants such as bellfray, belfrey, and belfry (the last of which has become the standard spelling). On a metaphorical note, someone who has "[bats in the belfry](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bats%20in%20the/one's%20belfry)" is insane or eccentric. This phrase is responsible for the use of [bats](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bats) for "insane" (as in "Are you completely bats?") and the occasional use of belfry for "head" ("He's not quite right in the belfry").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 14, 2019 is: exoteric \ek-suh-TAIR-ik\ adjective
1 a : suitable to be imparted to the public
b : belonging to the outer or less initiate circle
2 : relating to the outside : [external](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/external)
As a specialist writing for a broader audience, Annette faces the challenge of producing an exoteric synthesis of complex information.
"Mainstream Judaism is primarily an exoteric, or outwardly oriented, religion, with a focus on reason, philosophy and ethics. Yet it has always had an [esoteric](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esoteric) side, expressed in the [kabbalah](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kabbalah) and other mystical teachings." — Rodger Kamenetz, The San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Dec. 1990
Did you know?
Exoteric derives from Latin exotericus, which is itself from Greek exōterikos, meaning "external," and ultimately from exō, meaning "outside." Exō has a number of offspring in English, including [exotic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exotic), [exonerate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exonerate), [exorbitant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exorbitant), and the combining form [exo-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exo-) or ex- (as in [exoskeleton](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exoskeleton) and [exobiology](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exobiology)). The antonym of exoteric is [esoteric](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esoteric), meaning "designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone"; it descends from the Greek word for "within," esō.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 13, 2019 is: triskaidekaphobia \triss-kye-dek-uh-FOH-bee-uh\ noun
: fear of the number 13
"We've gathered a list of 13 local theater productions to help you get into that eerie Halloween feeling. Just don't let triskaidekaphobia—fear of the number 13—stop you from seeing one of these theater productions opening across the state this month." — [Whitney Butters Wilde, The Deseret News, 1 Oct. 2018](https://www.deseret.com/2018/10/1/20655021/there-s-nothing-unlucky-about-these-13-local-and-spooky-theater-productions-timed-for-halloween#the-cast-of-the-ziegfeld-theaters-the-addams-family-which-runs-oct-12-nov-3)
"If you've got triskaidekaphobia, this event is not for you.... On Friday, April 13, some fans of the horror movie 'Friday the 13th' will get a chance to stay overnight at the New Jersey camp where the original film in the slasher series was shot." — [Amy Lieu, The New York Post, 21 Feb. 2018](https://nypost.com/2018/02/21/stay-at-the-friday-the-13th-campsite-if-you-dare/)
Did you know?
It's impossible to say just how or when the number thirteen got its bad reputation. There are a number of theories, of course. Some say it comes from the Last Supper because Jesus was betrayed afterwards by one among the thirteen present. Others trace the source of the superstition back to ancient Hindu beliefs or Norse mythology. But if written references are any indication, the phenomenon isn't all that old (at least, not among English speakers). Known mention of fear of thirteen in print dates back only to the late 1800s. By circa 1911, however, it was prevalent enough to merit a name, which was formed by attaching the Greek word for "thirteen"—treiskaideka (dropping that first "e")—to phobia ("fear of").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 12, 2019 is: wheedle \WEE-dul\ verb
1 : to influence or entice by soft words or flattery
2 : to gain or get by coaxing or flattering
3 : to use soft words or flattery
Suzie and Timmy wheedled the babysitter into letting them stay up an hour past their bedtime.
"As we were saying, if you've noticed an increase recently in [robocalls](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/robocalls)—those automated calls to your cellphone or landline with come-ons to lower your credit card debt or ploys to wheedle your Social Security number and other information from you—you're hardly alone." — [editorial, The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington), 2 July 2019](https://www.heraldnet.com/opinion/editorial-congress-agencies-move-to-shut-down-robocalls/)
Did you know?
Wheedle has been a part of the English lexicon since the mid-17th century, though no one is quite sure how the word made its way into English. (It has been suggested that the term may have derived from an Old English word that meant "to beg," but this is far from certain.) Once established in the language, however, wheedle became a favorite of some of the language's most illustrious writers. Wheedle and its related forms appear in the writings of Wordsworth, Dickens, Kipling, Dryden, Swift, Scott, Tennyson, and Pope, among others.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 11, 2019 is: idée fixe \ee-day-FEEKS\ noun
: an idea that dominates one's mind especially for a prolonged period : [obsession](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obsession)
"When Byrne arrived, he noticed the trees stood close together—far too narrow a space for something with broad shoulders and big feet to make a clean egress. And there, between three and five feet off the ground, snagged in the bark, he spotted the tuft of hair and piece of skin he hoped would bring him one step closer to his idée fixe, the [sasquatch](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Sasquatch) itself, a towering hominid of North American lore." — [Reis Thebault, The Washington Post, 6 June 2019](https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/06/he-asked-fbi-analyze-bigfoot-hair-years-ago-never-heard-back-until-now/)
"Though it takes a shocking turn toward the horrific, [Flannery O'Connor's] 'Wise Blood' is in fact a comedy of aberrant humors, in which every character is driven by a compulsive idée fixe." — David Ansen, Newsweek, 17 Mar. 1980
Did you know?
The term idée fixe is a 19th-century French coinage. French writer Honoré de Balzac used it in his 1830 novella Gobseck to describe an obsessive idea. By 1836, Balzac's more generalized use of the term had carried over into English, where idée fixe was embraced as a clinical and literary term for a persistent preoccupation or delusional idea that dominates a person's mind. Although it is still used in both psychology and music, nowadays idée fixe is also applied to milder and more pedestrian obsessions.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 10, 2019 is: blandish \BLAN-dish\ verb
1 : to coax with flattery : [cajole](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cajole)
2 : to act or speak in a flattering or coaxing manner
"… and all that was left of Pym, it seemed to me, as I wove my lies and blandished, and perjured myself before one [kangaroo court](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kangaroo%20court) after another, was a failing con man tottering on the last legs of his credibility." — [John Le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986](https://books.google.com/books?id=1i1b1jWKsEsC&pg=PT397#v=onepage&q&f=false)
"What happened, and what few expected, was the birth of open-access journals that will take just about any paper, for a fee.... They send blandishing emails to scientists, inviting them to publish with them." — [Gina Kolata, The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2017](https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/insider/reporting-open-access-journals-sketchy-science.html)
Did you know?
The word blandish has been a part of the English language since at least the 14th century with virtually no change in its meaning. It ultimately derives from blandus, a Latin word meaning "mild" or "flattering." One of the earliest known uses of blandish can be found in the sacred writings of [Richard Rolle de Hampole](https://www.britannica.com/biography/Richard-Rolle), an English hermit and mystic, who cautioned against "the dragon that blandishes with the head and smites with the tail." Although blandish might not exactly be suggestive of dullness, it was the "mild" sense of blandus that gave us our adjective [bland](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bland), which has a lesser-known sense meaning "smooth and soothing in manner or quality."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 9, 2019 is: scapegoat \SKAYP-goat\ noun
1 : a male goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for [Yom Kippur](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Yom%20Kippur)
2 a : one that bears the blame for others
b : one that is the object of irrational hostility
The financial advisor was a convenient scapegoat for some of the ill-fated business ventures that the company had undertaken over the years.
"The French framed [Mata Hari] for espionage, making her the scapegoat for their losses on the Western Front, but it's also clear that some of her [inquisitors](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inquisitors) really believed she was guilty…." — [Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Aug. 2019](https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/movies-tv/time-to-rescue-mata-hari-from-the-spy-myth-and-appreciate-the-real-woman)
Did you know?
On Yom Kippur, the ancient Hebrews would sacrifice one goat for the Lord and lead another one into the wilderness bearing the sins of the people. The ceremony is described in Leviticus, where it is said that one lot shall be cast for the Lord and one for "[Azazel](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Azazel)." Modern scholars usually interpret Azazel as being the name of a demon living in the desert, but ancient biblical translators thought Azazel referred to the goat itself, apparently confusing it with the Hebrew phrase ez ozel, meaning "goat that departs." The mistranslation was carried through Greek and Latin into a 16th-century English translation, where the word for the goat was rendered as scapegoote; that is, "goat that escapes." The extended senses of scapegoat we use today evolved from this biblical use.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 8, 2019 is: caustic \KAWSS-tik\ adjective
1 : capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action : [corrosive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corrosive)
2 : marked by [incisive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incisive) sarcasm
3 : relating to or being the surface or curve of a [caustic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caustic#h2)
A caustic substance had eaten away at the metal of the plaque, and the inscription was now impossible to read.
"The lauded satirist's caustic send-up centers on a cabal of [hucksters](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/huckster) … working to turn a phony self-help guru into a moneymaking messiah." — [Michelle Hart and Hamilton Cain, O, The Oprah Magazine, 14 Jan. 2019](https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/books/g25726995/new-book-releases-january-2019/?slide=3)
Did you know?
If you have a burning desire to know the origins of caustic, you're already well on the way to figuring it out. Caustic was borrowed into English in the 14th century from the Latin causticus, which itself derives from the Greek kaustikos. Kaustikos, in turn, comes from the Greek verb kaiein, meaning "to burn." Other kaiein descendants in English include [cautery](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cautery) and [cauterize](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cauterize), [causalgia](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/causalgia) (a burning pain caused by nerve damage), and [encaustic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encaustic) (a kind of paint that is heated after it's applied).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 7, 2019 is: redound \rih-DOWND\ verb
1 : to have an effect for good or ill
2 : to become transferred or added : [accrue](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accrue)
3 : [rebound](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rebound), [reflect](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reflect)
"When no one is an expert, everyone becomes an expert, and authority thus redounds to the person who is least troubled by that paradox." — [Justin Peters, Slate, 10 Sept. 2018](https://slate.com/technology/2018/09/r-advice-is-the-nicest-place-on-reddit.html)
"General George B. McClellan … was an admirer principally of George B. McClellan; and although he was an excellent organizer and motivator of troops, he was reluctant to send his men into engagements where he could not be certain that the outcome would redound to the glory of their commander." — [Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club, 2001](https://books.google.com/books?id=lSUmpX-G13UC&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=false)
Did you know?
Although it looks and sounds like a number of similar words (including [rebound](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rebound), [resound](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resound), [abound](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abound), and [redundant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/redundant)), redound is a distinct term. It developed from Middle French redunder, which in turn came from Latin redundare, meaning "to overflow." In its earliest known English uses in the late 1300s, redound meant "to overflow" or "to abound," but those senses are now considered archaic. In current use, redound is often followed by "to," and the effect can be positive or negative: "[It] probably would have redounded strongly to my disadvantage if I had pursued to completion my resolution…," writes Joseph Heller in his 1984 tragicomic novel God Knows.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 6, 2019 is: amaranthine \am-uh-RANTH-un\ adjective
1 a : of or relating to an [amaranth](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amaranth)
b : [undying](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undying)
2 : of a pinkish or rosy red color
"At 37-years-old, most players accept they have reached their twilight years, yet goalkeepers can lead an almost amaranthine existence…." — Chris Tait, The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), 2 Apr. 2012
"Locals call it the 'pink moment'—this phenomenon where the sky takes on a soft, amaranthine glow at dusk. Unlike most sunsets, this one comes from the east, where the Topatopa Mountains act like a mirror to reflect and diffuse the orb's light over Ojai Valley in Ventura County." — [Ginny Prior, The Mercury News (California), 9 Oct. 2013](https://www.mercurynews.com/2013/10/09/happy-wanderer-seeking-the-pink-moment-in-relaxing-ojai/)
Did you know?
Long ago poets conceived of a flower that did not fade and christened it amaranth. The appellation is rooted in the Greek word amarantos, meaning "immortal" or "unfading," and amarantus, the Latin name of a flower (probably [Celosia cristata](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cockscomb)). The word amaranthine emerged as an adjective of the imaginary flower and subsequently of anything possessing its undying quality. Amaranth also names a real plant (genus [Amaranthus](https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/Amaranthus)), an herb that some consider a weed and others grow for its colorful leaves and spikes of flowers.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 5, 2019 is: divulge \dih-VULJ\ verb
: to make known (something, such as a secret)
"Mita Shah, a former marketing statistician, was once a devoted customer of this strip-mall parlor—so devoted that, one day in 2000, she divulged her much-finessed recipe for mango ice cream to the owner. It was such a hit, he offered her a job." — [Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times, 2 July 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/02/dining/ice-cream-shops.html)
"Danielle was already up and watching the Discovery Channel, pretending to know more about sharks than the voice-over was willing to divulge, improvising facts as she went along, to make the ocean more interesting." — [Camille Bordas, The New Yorker, 20 May 2019](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/20/the-presentation-on-egypt)
Did you know?
It isn't vulgar to make known the roots of divulge. The preceding sentence contains two hints about the origins of the word. Divulge was borrowed into Middle English in the 15th century from Latin divulgare, a word that combines the prefix dis-, meaning "apart" or "in different directions," with vulgare, meaning "to make known." Vulgare, in turn, derives from the Latin noun vulgus, meaning "mob" or "common people." As you have no doubt guessed, English [vulgar](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vulgar) is another word that can be traced back to vulgus.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 4, 2019 is: futhark \FOO-thahrk\ noun
: the [runic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/runic) alphabet : any of several alphabets used by the Germanic peoples from about the 3rd to the 13th centuries
"The oldest inscriptions in the futhark were found in Denmark and northern Germany, dating from the first century AD; at that time the inventory consisted of twenty-four signs. Later, by the eighth century, the range used in Denmark was reduced to sixteen…." — [George L. Campbell & Christopher Moseley, The Routledge Handbook of Scripts and Alphabets, 2012](https://books.google.com/books?id=6lQwRD2Cb8EC&pg=PA38#v=onepage&q&f=false)
"Conveniently, one of the Americans … is an anthropology student studying Scandinavian rituals. His in-depth questions provide context for viewers not steeped in Nordic lore, but it's still not always clear what he's talking about. For instance, looking over a rune carving …, he guesses 'Younger Futhark?' only to be told no, 'Elder.'" — [Danielle Burgos, Bustle, 3 July 2019](https://www.bustle.com/p/what-do-the-midsommar-runes-mean-the-harga-language-is-full-of-clues-18145637)
Did you know?
The word futhark refers to a writing system used by [Germanic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Germanic) peoples, and especially by the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons, from about the third to the 13th centuries. Its origin is unclear, but a likely theory is that it was developed by the [Goths](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Goth) from the [Etruscan](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Etruscan) alphabet of northern Italy, with perhaps some aspects being influenced by the [Latin alphabet](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Latin%20alphabet) of the first and second centuries. The word futhark itself comes from the sounds of the first six letters used in the earliest of the main runic script varieties: f, u, th, a, r, k. While eventually fully displaced by the Latin alphabet, futhark was still used occasionally for charms and memorial inscriptions in Scandinavia into the 16th and 17th centuries.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 3, 2019 is: pursy \PER-see\ adjective
1 : having a puckered appearance
2 : proud because of one's wealth especially in the absence of other distinctions : [purse-proud](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purse-proud)
"There was a picture of a pale gent with a narrow face and a woman with dark eyes and a pursy mouth." — [Stephen King, Misery, 1987](https://books.google.com/books?id=cc5NCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA189&lpg=PA189&dq=%22There+was+a+picture+of+a+pale+gent+with+a+narrow+face%22&source=bl&ots=UvlLNECwbS&sig=ACfU3U0tRzsv6OiOOvk88ne20yiHTVRLXA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiK-cmAkavkAhXoUt8KHZWCCbwQ6AEwCnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22There%20was%20a%20picture%20of%20a%20pale%20gent%20with%20a%20narrow%20face%22&f=false)
"Some guys get all pursy around the mouth when you suggest this, but figure skating is infinitely harder than ice hockey. Every four years at the Winter Olympics, figure skating fans have to listen to a lot of nonsense about how their sport lacks legitimacy." — [Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2014](https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/figure-skating-offers-more-physical-challenges-than-ice-hockey/2014/02/13/55d14e4c-94e2-11e3-b46a-5a3d0d2130dastory.html)
Did you know?
There are two adjectives spelled pursy, each with its own etymology. The one describing a puckered appearance goes back to the mid-16th century and has its source in the noun [purse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purse) ("a receptacle for carrying money and other small objects"); a drawstring purse's puckered appearance is the inspiration. The other [pursy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pursy#h1) (pronounced PUH-see or PER-see) dates from the 15th century and can mean "short-winded especially because of corpulence" or simply "fat." This pursy comes from the Old French word pousser, meaning "to exert pressure" or "to breathe heavily"—the same word, etymologists believe, behind the word [push](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/push).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 2, 2019 is: sawbones \SAW-bohnz\ noun
slang : [physician](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physician), [surgeon](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surgeon)
"After abandoning his destitute family in 1913, Brinkley bought a medical degree from a ['diploma mill'](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diploma%20mill) in St. Louis. An itinerant preacher assured him that he did not have to be a bona fide sawbones to cure the ills of the world." — [Bartee Haile, The Courier (Montgomery County, Texas), 19 Jan. 2018](https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/moco/opinion/article/Haile-Radio-quack-made-millions-off-his-listeners-12511190.php)
"Anyway, his relatives … reminded him that it's hard to shine shoes without a heartbeat. So he went back to his sawbones to talk about the pacemaker." — [Phil Luciano, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 28 Oct. 2017](https://www.pjstar.com/news/20171028/luciano-heart-trouble-cant-keep-george-manias-away-from-shoeshine-shop)
Did you know?
Sawbones cut its first literary tooth in Charles Dickens's 1837 novel The Pickwick Papers, when Sam Weller says to Mr. Pickwick, "Don't you know what a sawbones is, sir? … I thought everybody know'd as a sawbones was a surgeon." An evocative term that calls to mind the saws that 19th-century surgeons used to perform amputations, sawbones quickly became an established member of the English language, employed by such authors as H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Mercifully, medical technology has improved dramatically since then (the surgical saws used in procedures today are a far cry from the primitive tools of yesteryear), but the word sawbones is still used, often in a humorous context.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 1, 2019 is: mitigate \MIT-uh-gayt\ verb
1 : to cause to become less harsh or [hostile](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hostile) : [mollify](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mollify)
2 a : to make less severe or painful : [alleviate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alleviate)
b : to lessen the seriousness of : [extenuate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extenuate)
"Although Apple Hill receives the bulk of their visitors in October, most of its ranches and wineries are open from mid-August through December.… Last year, October traffic was mitigated by a grant-funded pilot program that brought a shuttle to Apple Hill." — [Dylan Svoboda, The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California), 14 Aug. 2019](https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/apple-hill-shuttles-shuttered-growers-unite-in-effort-to-mitigate-traffic/)
"More important than treating migraines once they come on is avoiding episodes to begin with, says Diamond. That means taking steps to adjust your work routine and office environment as much as possible in order to mitigate the specific factors that prompt episodes." — [Alejandro de la Garza, Time, 27 June 2019](https://time.com/5615056/migraines-work/)
Did you know?
The meaning of mitigate is straightforward enough: it is most often used to talk about making something, such as a problem, symptom, or punishment, less harsh or severe. Sometimes, however, it appears where the similar-looking [militate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/militate) is expected. That word, which is often followed by against, means "to have weight or effect," as in "your unexcused absences might militate against your getting a promotion." The two words are not closely related etymologically (mitigate descends from the Latin verb mitigare, meaning "to soften," whereas militate traces to militare, another Latin verb that means "to engage in warfare"), but the confusion between the two has existed for long enough that some usage commentators have accepted "mitigate against" as an idiomatic alternative to militate. If you want to avoid criticism, you should keep mitigate and militate distinct.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 30, 2019 is: buttress \BUTT-russ\ noun
1 architecture : a projecting structure of masonry or wood for supporting or giving stability to a wall or building
2 : something that resembles a buttress: such as
a : a projecting part of a mountain or hill
b biology : a horny protuberance on a horse's hoof at the heel
c botany : the broadened base of a tree trunk or a thickened vertical part of it
3 : something that supports or strengthens
"The root system of one of the cedars has been hollowed out into a den, in which Neasloss finds black bear hair. One of the tree's buttresses has been chopped long ago by what he recognizes was a [nephrite](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nephrite) ax, the green jade axes that the coastal people used until 1846, when they adopted steel axes." — [Alex Shoumatoff, Smithsonian, September 2015](https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/rare-white-bear-key-saving-canadian-rainforest-180956330/)
"The modifications to Isabella [Dam] include raising the profile of the main and auxiliary dams 16 feet, adding buttresses and other safety features, and excavating 100 feet deep to build the huge spillway." — [Steven Mayer, The Bakersfield Californian, 28 July 2019](https://www.bakersfield.com/news/project-manager-on-isabella-dam-provides-update-on-progress/article686f2cf8-aff9-11e9-a36e-37d34aad1e76.html)
Did you know?
In architecture, a buttress is an exterior support that projects from a wall to resist the sideways force, called [thrust](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thrust#h2), created by the load on an arch or roof. The word buttress was first adopted into English as butres in the 14th century. It came to us from the Anglo-French (arche) boteraz, meaning "thrusting (arch)," and ultimately derives from the verb buter, "to thrust." Buter is also the source of our verb [butt](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butt#h1), meaning "to thrust, push, or strike with the head or horns." Buttress developed figurative use relatively soon after its adoption, being applied to anything that supports or strengthens something else.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 29, 2019 is: Elysian \ih-LIZH-un\ adjective
1 : of or relating to [Elysium](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Elysium)
2 : [blissful](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blissful), [delightful](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/delightful)
"On such a balmy summer day, on this Elysian isle, anything seemed possible." — [Dorothy West, The Wedding, 1995](https://books.google.com/books?id=2fGgLWzFAGMC&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=%22On+such+a+balmy+summer+day,+on+this+Elysian+isle%22&source=bl&ots=awNpcglX5n&sig=ACfU3U3uvVElXSedITB22OtT66p2YwIA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjnipHY26DkAhUuUt8KHf7uCOAQ6AEwAHoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22On%20such%20a%20balmy%20summer%20day%2C%20on%20this%20Elysian%20isle%22&f=false)
"No matter what one's childhood is, a seeming Elysian remembrance or a parental vendetta, the understanding of the [afflatus](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/afflatus) of a poet lies elsewhere." — [Edward Dahlberg, "Hart Crane" (1966), reprinted in The Company They Kept (2006)](https://books.google.com/books?id=NvTId4AglEsC&pg=PA28&dq=%22Elysian+remembrance+or+a+parental+vendetta%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjN4ICE3KDkAhWHY98KHRB7AbYQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=%22Elysian%20remembrance%20or%20a%20parental%20vendetta%22&f=false)
Did you know?
In classical mythology, Elysium, also known as the [Elysian Fields](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elysian%20fields), was the paradise reserved for the heroes immortalized by the gods. Ancient Greek poets imagined it as the abode of the blessed after death, but in English the concept has more often been applied figuratively. In his history play Henry V, William Shakespeare used the place-name as a word for a peaceful state of sleep enjoyed by a mere mortal, and 18th-century English lexicographer and author Samuel Johnson wrote in The Rambler that in reading [pastoral](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastoral) poetry we allow ourselves "to be transported to elysian regions, where we are met with nothing but joy, and plenty, and contentment…" In Walden a century later Henry David Thoreau wrote that "The summer, in some climates, makes possible to man a sort of Elysian life."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 28, 2019 is: hegemony \hih-JEM-uh-nee\ noun
1 : [preponderant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/preponderant) influence or authority over others : [domination](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/domination)
2 : the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group
"According to Chinese analysts' telling of World War II, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the invasion of China proper in 1937 were part of the U.S. strategy to pit the two Asian nations against each other in an endless war that would prevent either from rising to threaten American hegemony in the western Pacific." — [Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon, 2015](https://books.google.com/books?id=grGMAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=hundred%20year%20marathon%20pillsbury&pg=PT129#v=onepage&q&f=false)
"The sweeping restrictions come as New York and other cities fundamentally rethink the role of cars in the face of unrelenting traffic that is choking their streets, poisoning the environment and crippling public transit systems by trapping buses and light rail systems in gridlock. It is becoming a moment of reckoning—and, cars, which once had absolute hegemony over the streets, are losing." – [Winnie Hu, The New York Times, 8 Aug. 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/nyregion/14th-street-busway.html)
Did you know?
Hegemony comes to English from the Greek hēgemonia, a noun formed from the verb hēgeisthai ("to lead"), which also gave us the word [exegesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exegesis) (meaning "exposition" or "explanation"). Hegemony was first used in English in the mid-16th century in reference to the control once wielded by the ancient Greek states, and it was reapplied in later centuries as other nations subsequently rose to power. By the 19th century, it had acquired a second sense referring to the social or cultural influence wielded by a dominant member over others of its kind, such as the domination within an industry by a business conglomerate over smaller businesses.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 27, 2019 is: cleave \KLEEV\ verb
1 : to divide (something) by or as if by a cutting blow : [split](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/split)
2 : to separate (something) into distinct parts and especially into groups having divergent views
3 : to subject to chemical [cleavage](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cleavage)
4 : to split especially along the grain
5 : to penetrate or pass through something by or as if by cutting
"The surface you're cutting against will have a greater impact on your knife's edge than the food you're chopping up, assuming you aren't regularly cleaving through massive bones." — [Paul Stephen, The San Antonio Express News, 10 July 2019](https://www.expressnews.com/food/recipes-cooking/article/Our-guide-to-knives-will-give-you-an-edge-in-the-14085640.php)
"Of course, single-item restaurants are nothing new.... But they don't usually serve something so divisive as [polenta](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polenta). You see, the slow-cooked dish of maize cleaves opinion like a Justin Bieber concert. You either love it or loathe it—and ever has it been so." — [Samuel Muston, The Independent (London), 30 Jan. 2014](https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/samuel-muston-a-hug-on-a-plate-my-paean-to-polenta-9097478.html)
Did you know?
Cleave has two homographs, each with a distinct origin. There is [cleave](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cleave#h1) meaning "to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly," as in "a family that cleaves to tradition"; that one is from Old English clifian, meaning "to adhere." And there is the cleave with meanings relating to splitting and dividing, which derives from Old English clēofan, meaning "to split." The two have slightly different inflections. The "split" cleave usually has cleaved as its past tense form, but cleft and clove are both in use as well; as its past participle form (the form that often occurs with have), cleaved is most common, but cleft and cloven are also used. The "adhere" cleave commonly has cleaved or clove (and occasionally clave) as its past tense and cleaved as its past participle.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 26, 2019 is: frowsy \FROW-zee\ adjective
1 : [musty](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/musty), [stale](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stale)
2 : having a slovenly or uncared-for appearance
The lamp, discovered in a frowsy Midwestern antique store, turned out to be quite valuable.
"On good days, I could also manage super boring reality TV shows, like 'Escape to the Country,' in which retired British couples go on slow searches for frowsy new homes in sleepy towns, and nobody gets excited about anything." — [Yvonne Abraham, The Boston Globe, 24 Nov. 2018](https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/11/24/hello-friends-been-while/3vqrNrrtsA8VrTz1WgwkYP/story.html)
Did you know?
The exact origins of frowsy are perhaps lost in an old, frowsy book somewhere, but some etymologists have speculated that frowsy (also spelled [frowzy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frowsy)) shares a common ancestor with the younger, chiefly British, word [frowsty](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frowsty), a synonym of frowsy in both its senses. That ancestor could be the Old French word frouste, meaning "ruinous" or "decayed," or the now-obsolete English word [frough](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frough) or frow, meaning "brittle" or "fragile." An early print example of frowsy can be found in [Thomas Otway's](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Otway) 1681 comedy The Souldier's Fortune, wherein the character Beau refers to another character as "a frouzy [Fellmonger](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fellmonger)."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 25, 2019 is: lèse-majesté \layz-MAJ-uh-stee\ noun
1 a : a crime (such as [treason](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treason)) committed against a [sovereign](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sovereign) power
b : an offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power
2 : a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance
"David's grandfather, [President Eisenhower](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Eisenhower), had left David all his clothes in his will, and David felt obliged to wear them…. Naturally, it would be something along the lines of lèse-majesté for him to remove the presidential jacket and vest and sit in his shirtsleeves, so he gamely continued to sweat in the sweltering heat, out of respect for Ike." — [Michael Korda, Another Life, 2000](https://books.google.com/books?id=7MJv8YDA58UC&pg=PT614#v=onepage&q&f=false)
"Thai law makes it illegal to defame, insult or threaten 'the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent.' … Though other countries still have similar laws—both Spain and the Netherlands have lèse-majesté laws on the books—Thailand's enforcement of its laws may make them the strictest in the world." — [Adam Taylor, The Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2019](https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/02/08/what-happens-when-you-criticize-royal-family-thailand/)
Did you know?
Lèse-majesté (or lese majesty, as it is also styled in English publications) comes into English by way of Middle French, from the Latin laesa majestas, which literally means "injured majesty." The English term can conceivably cover any offense against a sovereign power or its ruler, from treason to a simple breach of etiquette. Lèse-majesté has also acquired a more lighthearted or ironic meaning, referring to an insult or impudence to a particularly pompous or self-important person or organization. As such, it may be applied to a relatively inoffensive act that has been exaggeratedly treated as if it were a great affront.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 24, 2019 is: axiomatic \ak-see-uh-MAT-ik\ adjective
1 : taken for granted : [self-evident](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-evident)
2 : based on or involving an [axiom](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/axiom) or system of axioms
"It's axiomatic that intellectuals like to deal with ideas. Ideas are to the intellectual what paint is to the painter and stone is to the mason." — [Jonah Goldberg, The Baltimore Sun, 10 June 2019](https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0610-goldberg-ideas-20190607-story.html)
"Value of life? How could I answer the question on the spur of the moment? The sacredness of life I had accepted as axiomatic. That it was intrinsically valuable was a truism I had never questioned." — Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904
Did you know?
An [axiom](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/axiom) is a principle widely accepted on the basis of its [intrinsic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intrinsic) merit, or one regarded as self-evidently true. A statement that is axiomatic, therefore, is one against which few people would argue. Axiomatic entered English from Middle Greek axiōmatikos, and axiom derived, via Latin, from Greek axiōma ("something worthy") and axios ("worthy"). The word axiom can also refer to a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference. Such axioms are often employed in discussions of philosophy, as well as in mathematics and geometry, where they are sometimes called [postulates](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/postulate#h2).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 23, 2019 is: suffuse \suh-FYOOZ\ verb
: to spread over or through in the manner of fluid or light : [flush](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flush#h4), [fill](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fill)
"Also beguiling … are such installation works as 'Spatial Environment in Red Light'…. It's a walk-through enclosure containing six parallel corridors and suffused with a neon redness that, having saturated your optic nerves, turns the world green when you exit." — [Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 4 Feb. 2019](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/04/the-once-radical-slashes-of-lucio-fontana)
"The dessert I still dream about from the summer of 2018 is … a creamy, multi-textured bonbon suffused … with the flavor of black licorice from Denmark. — [Jeff Gordinier, Esquire, 28 Nov. 2018](https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/restaurants/a25133820/best-new-restaurants-in-america-2018/)
Did you know?
The Latin word suffendere, ancestor to suffuse by way of Latin suffūsus, has various meanings that shed light on our modern word, among them "to pour on or in (as an addition)" and "to fill with a liquid, color, or light that wells up from below." Suffundere is a blend of the prefix sub- ("under" or "beneath") and the verb fundere ("to pour" or "to send forth"). Other English verbs related to fundere continue the theme of pouring or spreading: [diffuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffuse) ("to pour out and spread freely"), [effuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effuse) ("to pour or flow out"), [transfuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transfuse) ("to cause to pass from one to another"), and the verb [fuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fuse) itself when it's used to mean "to meld or join."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 22, 2019 is: detritus \dih-TRYE-tus\ noun
1 geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : [debris](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debris)
b : miscellaneous remnants : [odds and ends](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/odds%20and%20ends)
"Much to our shock, when my roommates and I opened the cabinets above and underneath our sink, we stood witness to an unbelievable mess. All of the detritus left as a result of the incomplete, shoddy work of 'renovating' the apartment appeared to have just been shoved behind the doors. Bags of random trash, dust bunnies, and paper towels filled the space." — [Daniel Varghese, GQ.com, 6 Aug. 2019](https://www.gq.com/story/pegboard-organized-kitchen-to-cook-in)
"As telescopes grow more advanced, astronomers have become more adept at finding not just [white dwarf](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20dwarf) systems, but also the detritus that sometimes surrounds them. Often these objects–which might be planets, asteroids, comets, or other space junk—are noticed only after they fall into the white dwarf, contaminating the star's otherwise pure outer layers." — [Korey Haynes, Discover Magazine, 7 Aug. 2019](http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/08/07/astronomers-search-for-radio-signals-from-dead-planets/)
Did you know?
If you use detritus in speech, remember to stress the second syllable, as you do in the words [arthritis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arthritis) and [bronchitis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bronchitis). Once you've mastered its meaning and pronunciation, you'll find that detritus is a term—originally a geology term—that can be applied in many situations. After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are littered with the detritus of the summer's plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, and maybe even an abandoned hand trowel. As a flood-swollen river retreats to its banks, it leaves detritus—debris gathered by the raging waters—in its wake. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 21, 2019 is: redoubtable \rih-DOUT-uh-bul\ adjective
1 : causing fear or alarm : [formidable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/formidable)
2 : [illustrious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illustrious), [eminent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eminent); broadly : worthy of respect
The theater has hired a redoubtable director to direct its upcoming production.
"There, amid the planers and sawdust, 46 craftsmen create custom-built pieces for private clients and for such redoubtable institutions as 10 [Downing Street](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Downing%20Street), Westminster Abbey, and even Hogwarts." — [Mark Rozzo, Vanity Fair, May 2019](https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2019/05/sir-terence-conran-retail-design-and-decor)
Did you know?
The word redoubtable is worthy of respect itself, if only for its longevity. It has been used in English for things that cause fear, dread, and apprehension since at least the 15th century and comes to us through Middle English from the Anglo-French verb reduter, meaning "to dread." That word comes ultimately from Latin dubitare, "to be in doubt" (by way of Anglo-French duter, douter, meaning "to doubt," also the source of English [doubt](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doubt)). Things or people that are formidable and alarming can also inspire awe and even admiration, and it wasn't long before the meaning of redoubtable was extended from "formidable" to "illustrious" and "worthy of respect."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 20, 2019 is: misprision \mis-PRIZH-un\ noun
1 a : neglect or wrong performance of official duty
b : concealment of treason or felony by one who is not a participant in the treason or felony
c : [seditious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/seditious) conduct against the government or the courts
2 : [misunderstanding](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misunderstanding), [misinterpretation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misinterpretation)
The article asserts that the health guru's recommendations are based on a misprision of what it means to be healthy.
"The charge, misprision of a felony, is one prosecutors often deploy against defendants who have agreed to help the government make its case." — [Grace Toohey, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 8 Mar. 2019](https://www.theadvocate.com/batonrouge/news/courts/article324d1ba2-411e-11e9-ac0f-83bc5b8defdd.html)
Did you know?
All but one of the following words traces back to Latin prehendere, meaning "to seize." Which word doesn't belong?
apprehend - comprehend - misprision - misprize - prison - surprise
It's easy to see the prehendere connection in [apprehend](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apprehend) and [comprehend](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/comprehend), whereas you may be surprised that [surprise](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surprise) is from prehendere (via Anglo-French susprendre, meaning "to capture" or "to take by surprise"). [Prison](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prison), too, is from prehendere by way of Anglo-French. And [misprision](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misprision) comes to us by way of Anglo-French mesprisun ("error, wrongdoing"), from mesprendre ("to take by mistake"), itself from prehendere. The only word that's out of place is [misprize](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misprize), meaning "to despise" or "to undervalue." It's ultimately from Latin pretium, meaning "value," but—in a trick move that perhaps only English could pull off—misprize has also given us a related noun meaning "contempt, scorn," in the form of an etymologically distinct [misprision](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misprision#h2).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 19, 2019 is: issuable \ISH-oo-uh-bul\ adjective
1 : open to contest, debate, or litigation
2 : authorized for [issue](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/issue)
3 : possible as a result or consequence
"The common shares issuable upon exercise of the [options](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/option) are subject to a four-month hold period from the original date of grant." — [Yahoo! Finance, 25 July 2019](https://finance.yahoo.com/news/argo-gold-initiates-exploration-woco-125600237.html)
"Questions calling for inadmissible proof which is damaging and prejudicial should be objected to on any and every possible ground. Even if an attorney appears to be making an excessive number of objections, this is preferable to admitting without contest issuable evidence devastating in its effect." — [Mason Ladd, Case and Comment, Vol. 44, No. 6, 1922](https://books.google.com/books?id=mHSmAAAAIAAJ&lpg=RA1-PA174&dq=%22issuable%20evidence%22&pg=RA1-PA174#v=onepage&q&f=false)
Did you know?
Although issuable now tends to appear in financial contexts (such as in reference to shares that are eligible to be issued, or made available, according to a company's [articles of incorporation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/legal/articles%20of%20incorporation)), it was originally used in the late 16th century as a legal term: an issuable matter was one that was open to contest, debate, or litigation. Within a century, though, the word had taken on the "authorized for issue" meaning that it most commonly has today. In making its home in the world of finance, issuable is carrying on a family tradition. In the early 14th century, its predecessor [issue](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/issue) began being used in plural to refer to proceeds from a source of revenue, such as an estate. Issue itself traces back to Latin exire, meaning "to go out."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 18, 2019 is: bivouac \BIV-uh-wak\ verb
1 : to make a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter : [camp](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/camp#h2)
2 : to take shelter often temporarily
3 : to provide temporary quarters for
The search party bivouacked under a nearby ledge until the storm passed.
"Isakson said Native American artifacts were found on the site, along with plenty of evidence to suggest Union soldiers had bivouacked there after the Civil War." — [Lawrence Specker, The Huntsville (Alabama) Times, 17 Mar. 2019](http://mobilepressregister.al.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=001439c36)
Did you know?
In the 1841 edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster observed bivouac to be a French borrowing having military origins. He defined the noun bivouac as "the guard or watch of a whole army, as in cases of great danger of surprise or attack" and the verb as "to watch or be on guard, as a whole army." The French word is derived from the Low German word biwacht, a combination of bi ("by") and wacht ("guard"). In some German dialects, the word was used specifically for a patrol of citizens who assisted the town watch at night. Today, bivouac has less to do with guarding and patrolling and more about having shelter.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 17, 2019 is: labile \LAY-byle\ adjective
1 : readily or continually undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown : [unstable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unstable)
2 : readily open to change
"From the outset, we see Queen Anne—portrayed brilliantly by Olivia Colman—as frail, obese and emotionally-labile. One minute, she's calmly speaking to her confidante…. The next, she's accosting a boy servant in a hysterically bizarre scene…. — [Lipi Roy, Forbes.com, 24 Feb. 2019](https://www.forbes.com/sites/lipiroy/2019/02/24/delight-and-despair-how-stress-and-emotional-trauma-unfold-in-the-2019-oscar-nominated-films/#10bc9ad75f5f)
"'A desirable long-term outcome would be to create [contact] lenses from [polymers](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polymer) that are fine-tuned to be inert during use but labile and degradable when escaping into the environment.' As for members of the public concerned they are polluting the environment, [Dr. Rolf] Halden said: 'Used plastic lenses ideally should be returned to the manufacturer for recycling….'" — [Kashmira Gander, Newsweek, 20 Aug. 2018](https://www.newsweek.com/stop-dumping-your-used-contact-lenses-sink-toilet-report-1079954)
Did you know?
We are confident that you won't slip up or err in learning today's word, despite its etymology. Labile was borrowed into English from French and can be traced back (by way of Middle French labile, meaning "prone to err") to the Latin verb labi, meaning "to slip or fall." Indeed, the first sense of labile in English was "prone to slip, err, or lapse," but that usage is now obsolete. Other labi descendants in English include [collapse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collapse), [elapse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elapse), and [prolapse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prolapse), as well as [lapse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lapse) itself.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 16, 2019 is: Yooper \YOO-per\ noun
: a native or resident of the [Upper Peninsula](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Upper%20Peninsula) of Michigan — used as a nickname
"The district has always elected Yoopers to represent them in Congress, rather than someone from the lower peninsula like Morgan." — [Melissa Nann Burke, The Detroit News, 6 Nov. 2018](https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/06/michigan-house-representatives-first-district-bergman-morgan-race-results-winner/1826047002/)
"Mezydlo and Turnquist live in the Upper Peninsula community of Mohawk, which is about 25 miles south of Copper Harbor, the northernmost tip of the U.P.'s remote Keweenaw Peninsula. The region is known for having notoriously long, snowy winters—but snow lingering through July? Shocking, even for a lifelong Yooper like Turnquist." — [Emily Bingham, MLive.com, 26 July 2019](https://www.mlive.com/life/2019/07/viral-video-reveals-theres-still-snow-in-michigans-upper-peninsula-in-late-july.html)
Did you know?
The word Yooper comes from the common nickname of Michigan's Upper Peninsula—the "U.P."—and the etymology requires the same follow-up question that a challenging joke does: "Get it?" If you're not there yet, try saying them both out loud: Yooper, U.P. Yoopers have been saying both out loud now for about 40 years, but it's only in recent years that those beyond the U.P. and its geographical neighbors have begun to encounter Yooper in use. Yoopers refer to people who live in the Lower Peninsula as trolls (they live "under" the Mackinac Bridge, after all), but that nickname is still at this point too much of a [regionalism](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regionalism) to qualify for entry in our dictionaries.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 15, 2019 is: continual \kun-TIN-yoo-ul\ adjective
1 : [continuing](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continue) indefinitely in time without interruption
2 : recurring in steady usually rapid succession
The continual blaring of the car's alarm outside made it very difficult for Jane to focus on her work that morning.
"Cows can drink upwards of 50 gallons of water a day, so making sure the animals have continual access to clean water is a must." — [Stephanie Blaszczyk, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 19 July 2019](https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2019/07/19/how-cows-keep-cool-summer-heat-wisconsin-dairy-farmers-share-hot-weather-tips/1759308001/)
Did you know?
Since the mid-19th century, many grammarians have drawn a distinction between continual and [continuous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continuous). Continual should only mean "occurring at regular intervals," they insist, whereas continuous should be used to mean "continuing without interruption." This distinction overlooks the fact that continual is the older word and was used with both meanings for centuries before continuous appeared on the scene. Today, continual is the more likely of the two to mean "recurring," but it also continues to be used, as it has been since the 14th century, with the meaning "continuing without interruption."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 14, 2019 is: travail \truh-VAIL\ noun
1 a : work especially of a painful or laborious nature : [toil](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toil)
b : a physical or mental exertion or piece of work : [task](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/task), [effort](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effort)
c : [agony](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agony), [torment](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torment)
2 : [labor](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/labor), [childbirth](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/childbirth)
"Time and again, the company made shrewd business decisions that, through the many travails of two centuries, has left it standing." — [Robert Klara, Adweek.com, 20 May 2019](https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/how-yuengling-beer-has-endured-for-a-whopping-190-years/)
"The [Rolling] Stones have survived it all by this point: near-breakups, the death of one member, the voluntary departure of a few others, medical maladies, as well as all the typical travails that have doomed countless other bands coming up in their wake." — [Corbin Reiff, Billboard.com, 22 June 2019 ](https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/8517085/mick-jagger-rolling-stones-2019-us-tour-kickoff-chicago-review)
Did you know?
Etymologists are pretty certain that travail comes from trepalium, the Late Latin name of an instrument of torture. We don't know exactly what a trepalium looked like, but the word's history gives us an idea. Trepalium is derived from the Latin tripalis, which means "having three stakes" (from tri-, meaning "three," and palus, meaning "stake"). From trepalium sprang the Anglo-French verb travailler, which originally meant "to torment" but eventually acquired the milder senses "to trouble" and "to journey." The Anglo-French noun travail was borrowed into English in the 13th century, along with another descendant of travailler, [travel](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/travel).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 13, 2019 is: abscond \ab-SKAHND\ verb
: to depart secretly and hide oneself
"The camera tracked [the black bear] as he moved in a sturdy lurch, … holding his dangling, unnecessary arms close to his chest like a mime absconding with a snatched purse." — [Jon Mooallem, The New York Times Magazine, 21 Dec. 2016](https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/21/magazine/the-lives-they-lived-pedals-the-bear.html)
"The historian [Plutarch](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Plutarch) wrote that about a million [Gauls](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Gaul) were killed in the campaign and another million enslaved. Some Gallic fighters may have absconded to Britannia—not yet governed by the Roman Empire—rather than face the legions." — [Isaac Schultz, Atlas Obscura, 30 July 2019](https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/found-iron-age-warrior)
Did you know?
Abscond derives from Latin abscondere, meaning "to hide away," a product of the prefix ab- and condere, a verb meaning "to conceal." (Condere is also the root for [recondite](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recondite), a word meaning "concealed" as well as "hard to understand" or "obscure.") Abscond retained the meaning of its Latin parent when it was first used in English in the 17th century. In general usage, abscond refers to any act of running away and hiding (usually from the law and often with funds), but in legal circles, the word is used specifically when someone who has already become the focus of a legal proceeding hides or takes off in order to evade the legal process, as in "absconded from parole."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 12, 2019 is: deleterious \del-uh-TEER-ee-us\ adjective
: harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way
"With an injury, the body automatically responds with an inflammatory process to neutralize the toxic microorganisms, repair the affected tissues and eliminate debris from the wound. That is beneficial, but chronic inflammation is deleterious, causing a continuous supply of [free-radicals](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20radical), overwhelming our [antioxidant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antioxidant) immunities." — [Phyllis Van Buren, The St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times, 24 Apr. 2019](https://www.sctimes.com/story/opinion/2019/04/24/evolution-american-diet-proves-our-downfall/3554790002/)
"But Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso ruled in 2016 that the landfill could stay open because its closure 'would have drastic and deleterious effects on the surrounding communities and their taxpayers.'" — [Scott Fallon, The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), 24 May 2019](https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2019/05/24/judge-orders-last-meadowlands-landfill-temporarily-closed-citing-fumes-keegan-kearny-fumes/1228585001/)
Did you know?
Pernicious, baneful, noxious, and detrimental are the wicked synonyms of deleterious. All five words refer to something exceedingly harmful. Of the group, deleterious is most often used for something that is unexpectedly harmful. [Pernicious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pernicious) implies irreparable harm done by something that degrades or undermines in an evil or insidious way ("the pernicious effects of corruption"), while [baneful](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/baneful) suggests injury through poisoning or destruction ("the baneful consequences of war"). [Noxious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noxious) can apply to anything that is both offensive and injurious to the health of body or mind ("noxious chemical fumes"), and [detrimental](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detrimental) implies an obvious harmfulness to something specified ("the detrimental effects of excessive drinking").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 11, 2019 is: repertoire \REP-er-twahr\ noun
1 a : a list or supply of dramas, operas, pieces, or parts that a company or person is prepared to perform
b : a supply of skills, devices, or [expedients](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expedient#h2); broadly : [amount](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amount#h2), [supply](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supply#h2)
c : a list or supply of capabilities
2 a : the complete list or supply of dramas, operas, or musical works available for performance
b : the complete list or supply of skills, devices, or ingredients used in a particular field, occupation, or practice
"But the make-or-break element of any interior Mexican restaurant is its [mole](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mole#h6) repertoire, and I was curious to see how these sauces would turn out. My favorite was a light, sweet, chile-based mole served with chunky butternut squash topped with sweet-potato crisps." — [Patricia Sharpe, The Texas Monthly, June 2019](https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/downtown-austin-new-comedor-restaurant-menu-visionary-mexican-cuisine/)
"For decades, immunologists had reasoned that the [T-cell](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/T%20cell) surveillance system might be able to detect and kill cancer cells. But, unlike infected cells, cancerous ones tend to be so genetically similar to normal cells, with such a similar repertoire of proteins, that they're hard for even T cells to pick out of a crowd." — [Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker, 22 July 2019](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/22/the-promise-and-price-of-cellular-therapies)
Did you know?
The Late Latin noun repertorium, meaning "list," has given us two words that can be used to speak of the broad range of things that someone or something can do. One is [repertory](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repertory), perhaps most commonly known as a word for a company that presents several different plays, operas, or other works at one theater, or the theater where such works are performed. Repertoire, which comes from repertorium via French, once meant the same thing as repertory but later came to refer to the range of skills that a person has, such as the different pitches a baseball pitcher can throw or the particular dishes that are a chef's specialty.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2019 is: pell-mell \pel-MEL\ adverb
1 : in mingled confusion or disorder
2 : in confused haste
When the final bell of the day rang, the children bolted from their desks and streamed pell-mell out the door into the schoolyard.
"The grammar school dropout was forever on the move. There were times he bolted into the darkroom of his employer's photographic studio to hide from an approaching truant officer. More often, the errand boy ran pell-mell to the offices of New York City newspapers and magazines, lugging a pouch stuffed with the newsy photographs of the day…." — [Bill Case, The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina), 14 July 2019](https://www.thepilot.com/news/features/hemmer-a-shooting-star/article280acf8a-a4d9-11e9-bae4-877e5c6da89c.html)
Did you know?
The word pell-mell was probably formed through a process called reduplication. The process—which involves the repetition of a word or part of a word, often including a slight change in its pronunciation—also generated such terms as [bowwow](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bowwow), [helter-skelter](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/helter-skelter), [flip-flop](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flip-flop), and [chitchat](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chitchat). Yet another product of reduplication is shilly-shally, which started out as a single-word compression of the question "Shall I?" For pell-mell, the process is believed to have occurred long ago: our word traces to a Middle French word of the same meaning, pelemele, which was likely a product of reduplication from Old French mesle, a form of mesler, meaning "to mix."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 9, 2019 is: olfactory \ahl-FAK-tuh-ree\ adjective
: of or relating to the sense of smell
"The glands located between the cat's toes secrete a scent whenever he scratches on objects such as a tree or a scratching post. This activity provides an olfactory territory mark in addition to the visual." — [Pam Johnson-Bennett, Think Like a Cat, 2011](https://books.google.com/books?id=IoU6Ib9nt8C&pg=PT46&lpg=PT46&dq=%22The+glands+located+between+the+cat%27s+toes+secrete+a+scent%22&source=bl&ots=HwSf4kloV7&sig=ACfU3U079dassBHMCVphZrh7gZnK4PAJQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiv7Jiho-LjAhUFTd8KHfBYAwsQ6AEwAHoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22The%20glands%20located%20between%20the%20cat's%20toes%20secrete%20a%20scent%22&f=false)
"Young male [anglerfish](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anglerfish) face the challenge of finding a mate in the ocean's vastness. They have large olfactory organs, which suggests that suitors follow a trail of [pheromones](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pheromone)." — [William J. Broad, The New York Times, 29 July 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/29/science/anglerfish-bioluminescence-deep-sea.html)
Did you know?
Olfactory derives from the past participle of the Latin olfacere ("to smell"), which was formed from the verb olēre ("to give off a smell") and facere ("to do"). Olfactory is a word that often appears in scientific contexts (as in "olfactory nerves," the nerves that pass from the nose to the brain and contain the receptors that make smelling possible), but it has occasionally branched out into less specialized contexts. The pleasant smell of spring flowers, for example, might be considered an "olfactory delight." A related word, [olfaction](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfaction), is a noun referring to the sense of smell or the act or process of smelling.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 8, 2019 is: bas-relief \bah-rih-LEEF\ noun
art : sculptural [relief](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relief#h1) in which the projection from the surrounding surface is slight and no part of the modeled form is [undercut](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undercut#h1); also : sculpture executed in bas-relief
"Three [works] that caught my eye were Maksymowicz's solemn plaster bas-relief of bones and tools, Gina Michaels' bronze sculpture of a prickly pear cactus with pads in the shapes of human feet, and Burnell Yow's totemic found-object sculpture topped with an animal skull." — [Edith Newhall, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 July 2019](https://www.inquirer.com/arts/philadelphia-art-gallery-shows-july-2019-vox-populi-wexler-gallery-imperfect-gallery-20190718.html)
"Lorraine Hansberry's 60-year-old American classic about a black family in Chicago's South Side in the 1950s that has a shot at the American dream is given a volatile production that, like a bas-relief, brings out details and layers that have not been so clearly defined in more traditional approaches." — [The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), 5 July 2019](https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/berkshrie-stages-curtains-up-treat-yourself-to-a-play,578661)
Did you know?
The best way to understand the meaning of bas-relief is to see one—and the easiest way to do that is to look at a penny, nickel, or other coin and examine the raised images on it; they're all bas-reliefs. English speakers adopted bas-relief from French (where bas means "low" and [relief](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relief) means "raised work") during the mid-1600s; earlier, we borrowed the synonymous [basso-relievo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/basso-relievo) from Italian. The French and Italian terms have common ancestors (and, in fact, the French word is likely a translation of the Italian), but English speakers apparently borrowed the two independently. Bas-relief is more prevalent in English today, although the Italian-derived term has not disappeared completely from the language.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 7, 2019 is: germane \jer-MAYN\ adjective
: being at once [relevant](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relevant) and appropriate : [fitting](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fitting#h1)
The message board moderator politely reminded new members to keep their posts germane to the topic being discussed.
"'Most places we used to play have been demolished, and this one hasn't,' [Mick Jagger] said, and while he was mixing up his venues, his point was germane. Buildings, eras, styles of music, and the people that play them come and go. But the [Rolling] Stones carry on, seemingly immortal." — [Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 July 2019](https://www.inquirer.com/entertainment/music/rolling-stones-no-filter-tour-philadelphia-lincoln-financial-field-review-20190724.html)
Did you know?
"Wert thou a Leopard, thou wert Germane to the Lion." So wrote William Shakespeare in his tragic play Timon of Athens, using an old (and now-obsolete) sense of germane meaning "closely akin." Germane derives from the Latin word germen, meaning "bud" or "sprout," which is also at the root of our verb [germinate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/germinate), meaning "to sprout" or "to begin to develop." An early sense of germane referred specifically to children of the same parents, who were perhaps seen as being like buds on a single tree. Again, we turn to Shakespeare, who composed this dark line in The Winter's Tale: "Not he alone shall suffer what wit can make heavy and vengeance bitter; but those that are germane to him … shall all come under the hangman…."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 6, 2019 is: skulk \SKULK\ verb
1 : to move in a stealthy or furtive manner
2 : to hide or conceal something (such as oneself) often out of cowardice or fear or with sinister intent
The cat often skulks around the foyer, waiting for someone to open the front door.
"Engineers did not, for instance, want the robot to silently skulk up and scare anyone—but how exactly should it announce itself? They tested a wide range of noises, from Road Runner-style 'beep-beeps' to the honks of reversing forklifts before settling on a pleasant yet insistent chirp they mixed from a clip of birdsong." — [Drew Harwell, The Washington Post, 6 June 2019](https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/06/06/walmart-turns-robots-its-human-workers-who-feel-like-machines/)
Did you know?
Here's one for the word-puzzle lovers. Can you name three things that the word skulk has in common with all of these other words: [booth](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/booth), [brink](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brink), [cog](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cog), [flit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flit), [kid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kid), [meek](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meek), [scab](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scab), [seem](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/seem), and [skull](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skull)? If you noticed that all of the terms on that list have just one syllable, then you've got the first, and easiest, similarity, but the next two are likely to prove a little harder to guess. Do you give up? All of the words listed above are of Scandinavian origin and all were first recorded in English in the 13th century. As for skulk specifically, its closest known Scandinavian relative is the Norwegian dialect word skulka, which means "to lie in wait" or "to lurk."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 5, 2019 is: adscititious \ad-suh-TISH-us\ adjective
: derived or acquired from something [extrinsic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extrinsic)
"I left the warm embrace of government work for adscititious reasons, driven not by boredom or indignation, but mainly by [itchy feet](http://learnersdictionary.com/definition/itchy)." — [John Derbyshire, The National Review, 17 July 2002](https://johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/USPolitics/govtpeoplehavewon.html)
"We should choose our books as we would our companions, for their sterling and intrinsic merit, not for their adscititious or accidental advantages." — [Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon, 1832](https://books.google.com/books?id=LmMoAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA179&dq=%22We+should+choose+our+books+as+we+would+our+companions%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQ7afC5eHjAhWOTN8KHTOwDe4Q6AEINzAD#v=onepage&q=%22We%20should%20choose%20our%20books%20as%20we%20would%20our%20companions%22&f=false)
Did you know?
Adscititious comes from a very "knowledgeable" family—it ultimately derives from scīscere, the Latin verb meaning "to get to know, ascertain, vote for, approve." The related scīre means "to know" and is fundamental to [science](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science), [conscience](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conscience), [prescience](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prescience) ("foreknowledge"), [nescience](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nescience) ("lack of knowledge"), as well as adscititious. Admittedly, adscititious is more akin to adscīscere, which means "to admit" or "to adopt." This explains why adscititious describes something adopted from an outside source.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 4, 2019 is: minim \MIN-im\ noun
1 : a musical [half note](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/half%20note)
2 : something very minute
3 : a unit of capacity equal to 1/60 [fluid dram](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fluid%20dram)
"And yet there are transcendent sparks in [writer Raymond Carver's work that] I keep going back to, moments of human communion that raise his people briefly above the wreckage of their worlds.… What's notable here is the clause he felt able to let her go, and also what he does immediately after these lines: 'He brought his arm down and turned to his children.' … There's a minim of grace in that gesture, of self-forgiveness and, yes, of hope, however fugitive." — [William Giraldi, Commonweal, 23 Apr. 2019](https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/redemption-raymond-carver)
"He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders." — [Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886](https://www.gutenberg.org/files/43/43-h/43-h.htm)
Did you know?
Like the more common [minimum](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/minimum), minim derives from the Latin word minimus, meaning "least" or "smallest." Musicians were the first to note its significance in the 15th century as a word for the [half note](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/half%20note). [Chirographers](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chirographers) soon adopted it as a word for a single downstroke in penmanship (such as any of the three in the letter m), and after careful analysis, [apothecaries](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apothecaries) prescribed minim as a word for their smallest unit of liquid capacity. English speakers have also embraced minim as a general noun referring to things that are very small and as an adjective meaning "of the smallest size," as in "a minim amount."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 3, 2019 is: fecund \FEK-und\ adjective
1 : fruitful in offspring or vegetation : [prolific](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prolific)
2 : intellectually productive or inventive to a marked degree
As an artist, she gets most of her inspiration from nature; her daily walks in the woods are a fecund source of ideas.
"As if there aren't enough bugs around, get this: insects are amazingly fecund and can reproduce quickly, laying thousands of eggs in a short time." — [Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Montgomery Herald (Oak Hill, West Virginia), 23 July 2019](https://www.montgomery-herald.com/community/what-s-bugging-you-learn-about-insects-benefits-in-buzz/articlec98203fe-acab-11e9-911f-472889f10e59.html)
Did you know?
Fecund and its synonyms fruitful and fertile all mean producing or capable of producing offspring or fruit, literally or figuratively. Fecund applies to things that yield offspring, fruit, or results in abundance or with rapidity ("a fecund herd," "a fecund imagination"). [Fruitful](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fruitful) emphasizes abundance, too, and often adds the implication that the results attained are desirable or useful ("fruitful plains," "a fruitful discussion"). [Fertile](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fertile) implies the power to reproduce ("a fertile egg") or the power to assist in reproduction, growth, or development ("fertile soil," "a fertile climate for artists").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 2, 2019 is: extemporize \ik-STEMP-puh-ryze\ verb
1 : to do something [extemporaneously](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extemporaneously) : [improvise](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/improvise); especially : to compose, perform, or speak extemporaneously
2 : to get along in a [makeshift](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/makeshift) manner
"Donald's own trio consisted of piano, bass and cello. Each player's part was written, not extemporized." — Anthony Weller, The Los Angeles Times, 3 Feb. 2019
"The name Cher Horowitz was extemporized by Wallace Shawn, who plays a teacher in 'Clueless.' Wallace Shawn is also Jewish, and he came up with the catchy Jewish-sounding designation for the film's star during a scene where he was taking attendance in the classroom." — [Tamar Skydell, The Forward, 31 Dec. 2018](https://forward.com/schmooze/416823/the-creator-of-clueless-just-delivered-a-shocking-blow-to-jews-of-the-90s/)
Did you know?
Extemporize means to say or do something [on the spur of the moment](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spur#on-the-spur-of-the-moment), an appropriate meaning given the word's history. Extemporize was coined by adding the suffix -ize to Latin ex tempore, meaning "instantaneously" or "on the spur of the moment." Ex tempore, in turn, was formed by combining ex and the noun tempus, meaning "time." Incidentally, ex tempore was also borrowed wholesale into English (where it means "extemporaneously"). Other descendants of Latin ex tempore include the now rare [extemporal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extemporal) and [extemporary](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extemporary) (both synonyms of [extemporaneous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extemporaneously)), and as you have no doubt guessed by now, extemporaneous itself.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 1, 2019 is: calliope \kuh-LYE-uh-pee\ noun
1 capitalized Calliope : the Greek Muse of [heroic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heroic) poetry
2 : a keyboard musical instrument resembling an organ and consisting of a series of whistles sounded by steam or compressed air
The distant song of a calliope let everyone know the carnival was back in town.
"And on Saturday, Minns, now 22, once again took his place behind the keyboard on the nearly 100-year-old calliope blasting out jovial circus tunes to the crowds that lined the streets during the longest running and only circus parade left in the country." — [Carson Gerber, The Rushville (Indiana) Republican, 21 July 2019](https://www.rushvillerepublican.com/indiana/news/two-peru-natives-keep-circus-tradition-alive-playing-building-rare/article50f2cf6c-24bc-5dc0-bcf8-bc2f407d0408.html)
Did you know?
With a name literally meaning "beautiful-voiced" (from kallos, meaning "beauty," and ops, meaning "voice"), Calliope was the most prominent of the Muses—the nine sister goddesses who in Greek mythology presided over poetry, song, and the arts and sciences. She is represented in art as holding an epic poem in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The musical instrument invented and patented in the 1850s, played by forcing steam or compressed air through a series of whistles, was named after the goddess. Because its sound could be heard for miles around, the calliope was effective in luring patrons to river showboats, circuses, and carnivals, which is why the instrument continues its association with such attractions today.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 31, 2019 is: brackish \BRACK-ish\ adjective
1 : somewhat salty
2 a : not appealing to the taste
b : [repulsive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repulsive)
The mangrove swamp is home to many species of plants and animals that thrive in brackish water.
"For decades, the Battleship Texas has rested in the shallow, brackish waters of the Houston Ship Channel, slowly decaying. While tourists marvel at the last surviving [dreadnought](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreadnought) that fought in two world wars, beneath the surface a system of pumps pushes out water seeping through the ship's corroded hull." — [Nick Powell, The Houston Chronicle, 26 June 2019](https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/The-water-s-gonna-win-Despite-risks-13999021.php)
Did you know?
When the word brackish first appeared in English in the 1500s, it simply meant "salty," as did its Dutch parent brac. Then, as now, brackish water could simply be a mixture of saltwater and freshwater. Since that time, however, brackish has developed the additional meanings of "unpalatable" or "distasteful"—presumably because of the undrinkable quality of saltwater. "The brackish water that we drink / Creeps with a loathsome slime, / And the bitter bread they weigh in scales / Is full of chalk and lime." As this use from Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading [Gaol](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gaol)" illustrates, brackish water can also include things other than salt that make it unpleasant to drink.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 30, 2019 is: martinet \mar-tuh-NET\ noun
1 : a strict [disciplinarian](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disciplinarian)
2 : a person who stresses a rigid adherence to the details of forms and methods
"Her father was a diet-and-exercise martinet, imposing a strict regimen on her as a condition for receiving an allowance." — [Michael Upchurch, The Boston Globe, 20 Aug. 2017](https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2017/08/17/the-women-who-captured-john-singer-sargent-attention/MiaPjJUTqB2pbgTxkrO8YJ/story.html)
"Topping them all, though, has to be Gen. William Westmoreland. Tall. Ramrod straight. Grim visage. He just had that look, and he … is the subject of endless debate. Was he a martinet who never really understood his war and cost America a chance at victory, or was he perhaps something more complex?" — [Andrew Wiest and Susannah Ural, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2017](https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/opinion/ken-burns-vietnam.html)
Did you know?
When France's King Louis XIV appointed Lieutenant Colonel Jean Martinet to be inspector general of the infantry in the late 17th century, he made a wise choice. As a drillmaster, Martinet trained his troops to advance into battle in precise linear formations and to fire in volleys only upon command, thus making the most effective use of inaccurate muskets—and making the French army one of the best on the continent. He also gave English a new word. Martinet has been used synonymously with "strict disciplinarian" since the early 18th century.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 29, 2019 is: augur \AW-gur\ verb
1 : to foretell especially from omens
2 : to give promise of : [presage](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/presage#h2)
"The new discovery should provide insight into the elusive origins of the strange bright signals, and augurs a dawning era in which they will be found and studied by the thousands." — [Nola Taylor Redd, Scientific American, 13 Aug. 2018](https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/record-breaking-signal-may-help-solve-the-mystery-of-fast-radio-bursts/)
"Still, combined with Denver's lack of postseason experience, its recent struggles against top competition doesn't augur well for a deep playoff run." — [Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report, 5 Apr. 2019](https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2828978-nba-power-rankings-steph-curry-warriors-look-unstoppable-entering-playoffs#slide9)
Did you know?
Auguring is what [augurs](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/augur) did in ancient Rome. Augurs were official diviners whose function it was not to foretell the future, but to divine whether the gods approved of a proposed undertaking, such as a military move. They did so by various means, among them observing the behavior of birds and examining the entrails of sacrificed animals. Nowadays, the foretell sense of the verb is often used with an adverb, such as well. Augur comes from Latin and is related to the Latin verb augēre, meaning "to increase."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 28, 2019 is: irascible \ir-RASS-uh-bul\ adjective
: marked by hot temper and easily provoked anger
That tidy little house belongs to an irascible crank who never has a kind word for any of his neighbors.
"Working with Adam Baldwin, best known as the irascible mercenary Jayne in Firefly and Serenity and the gruff but lovable John Casey on Chuck, was another bonus." — [Tim Clodfelter, The News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 9 June 2019](https://www.greensboro.com/entertainment/filmtv/tv-tidbits-winston-salem-native-stars-in-her-first-western/article66fc7bc3-5100-53a6-9363-095e18b8298e.html)
Did you know?
If you try to take apart irascible in the same manner as [irrational](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irrational), [irresistible](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irresistible), or [irresponsible](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irresponsible), you might find yourself wondering what ascible means—but that's not how irascible came to be. The key to the meaning of irascible isn't the negative prefix [ir-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ir-#h3) (which is a variant of the prefix [in-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/in-#h8) that is used before words beginning with "r"), but the Latin noun ira, meaning "anger." From ira, which is also the root of [irate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irate) and [ire](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ire), came the Latin verb irasci ("to become angry") and the related adjective irascibilis, the latter of which led to the French irascible. English speakers borrowed the word from French in the 16th century.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 27, 2019 is: desuetude \DESS-wih-tood\ noun
: discontinuance from use or exercise : [disuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disuse#h2)
The old bridge, which fell into desuetude after the railroad was shut down, has recently been opened as a pedestrian walkway.
"It has been 15 years since Mr. Klein and his partners paid $18 million for the Sunset Tower, a faded Art Deco relic on a stretch of Sunset Strip that, although now booming, had fallen into funky desuetude. Against most odds and all prevailing wisdom, he soon established it and its Tower Bar restaurant as essential landmarks of the new Hollywood." — [Guy Trebay, The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/style/san-vicente-bungalows-jeff-klein.html)
Did you know?
Desuetude must be closely related to [disuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disuse), right? Wrong. Despite the similarities between them, desuetude and disuse derive from two different Latin verbs. Desuetude comes from suescere, a word that means "to become accustomed" (suescere also gave us the word [custom](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/custom)). Disuse descends from uti, which means "to use." (That Latin word also gave us [use](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/use) and [utility](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utility).) Although less common, desuetude hasn't fallen into desuetude yet, and it was put to good use in the past, as in the 17th-century writings of Scottish Quaker Robert Barclay, who wrote, "The weighty Truths of God were neglected, and, as it were, went into Desuetude."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 26, 2019 is: wangle \WANG-gul\ verb
1 : to resort to trickery
2 : to adjust or manipulate for personal or fraudulent ends
3 : to make or get by devious means : [finagle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/finagle)
"He wangled an invitation to a White House Christmas party, where he and his wife posed for a photo with then-President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama." — [Barbara Demick and Victoria Kim, The Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2019](https://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-north-korea-madrid-embassy-20190515-story.html)
"'Our Mayor is the most appealing man I know,' [[Franklin D. Roosevelt](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Roosevelt#b2)] said on one occasion. 'He comes to Washington and tells me a sad story. The tears run down my cheeks and the tears run down his cheeks and the next thing I know, he has wangled another $50 million out of me.'" — [Mason B. Williams, City of Ambition, 2013](https://books.google.com/books?id=FB2fQev4fHsC&pg=PA206&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false)
Did you know?
Wangle, a verb of uncertain origin, has been used in its newest sense, "to obtain by sly methods," since at least the early 20th century. Occasionally, one sees [wrangle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wrangle) used similarly, as in "wrangle a huge salary," but more typically it means "to argue or engage in controversy." Did the "obtain" sense of wrangle evolve through confusion with wangle? Not exactly. Wrangle was used with the meaning "to obtain by arguing or bargaining" since the early 17th century, long before wangle appeared in the language. The sense had all but disappeared until recent decades, however, and its revival may very well have been influenced by wangle. The "obtain" sense of wangle is currently more common than that use of wrangle, but both are considered standard.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 25, 2019 is: kludge \KLOOJ\ noun
: a haphazard or makeshift solution to a problem and especially to a computer or programming problem
Andy knocked out a hasty kludge to circumvent the buggy code until a more robust solution could be developed.
"When the theatre was built in and opened in 1920, there were no concessions of any kind. Everything that we've done to accommodate modern audiences was a kludge in various ways." — [Curtis McCrary, quoted in The Tucson (Arizona) Weekly, 25 Oct. 2018](https://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/new-accommodations/Content?oid=21584725)
Did you know?
The first recorded use of the word kludge is attributed to Jackson W. Granholm, who defined the word in a 1962 issue of the magazine Datamation as "an ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole." He further explained that it was derived from the German word klug, meaning "smart" or "witty." Why Granholm included a d in his spelling is not known. What we do know is that speakers of American English have agreed to disregard it in pronunciation, making the vowel pronunciation of kludge reflective of the pronunciation of German klug (\KLOOK\ ). We can also tell you that not everyone agrees with Granholm on the "d" matter: the spelling [kluge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kluge) is also popularly used.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 24, 2019 is: sporadic \spuh-RAD-ik\ adjective
: occurring occasionally, singly, or in irregular or random instances
The team's regular meetings became sporadic over the summer months, when at some points up to half of its members were on vacation.
"Continuous [permafrost](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/permafrost) hugs the Hudson Bay coast and spreads inland about 75 kilometres before becoming discontinuous and sporadic. Like [peat](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peat), permafrost is an effective storehouse of greenhouse gases." — [Kenyon Wallace, The Toronto Star, 27 May 2019](http://projects.thestar.com/climate-change-canada/ontario-ring-of-fire/)
Did you know?
Sporadic describes the distribution of something across space or time that is not frequent enough to fill an area or period, often in scattered instances or isolated outbursts (as in "sporadic applause"). The word comes from Medieval Latin sporadicus, which is itself derived from Greek sporadēn, meaning "here and there." It is also related to the Greek verb speirein ("to sow"), the ancestor from which we get our word [spore](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spore) (the reproductive cell of a fungus, microorganism, or some plants), hinting at the seeming scattered nature by which such cells distribute and germinate.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2019 is: excursion \ik-SKER-zhun\ noun
1 a : a going out or forth : [expedition](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expedition)
b (1) : a usually brief pleasure trip
(2) : a trip at special reduced rates
2 : deviation from a direct, definite, or proper course; especially : [digression](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digression)
3 : a movement outward and back or from a [mean](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mean#h3) position or axis; also : the distance traversed : [amplitude](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amplitude)
Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass is an excursion into a fantastical world where nothing is what it seems to be, and everything appears to be what it is not.
"Every morning for 10 years, Joey Gamez has hopped on a boat to take customers of his Golden State Sportfishing business on a San Francisco Bay excursion, a hobby-turned-business for the 42-year-old." — [Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, The Los Angeles Times, 15 July 2019](https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-great-white-shark-catch-20190715-story.html)
Did you know?
In Latin, the prefix ex- means "out of" and the verb currere means "to run." When the two are put together, they form the verb excurrere, literally "to run out" or "to extend." Excurrere gave rise not only to excursion but also to [excurrent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/excurrent) (an adjective for things having channels or currents that run outward) and [excursus](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/excursus) (meaning "an appendix or digression that contains further exposition of some point or topic"). Other words deriving from currere include [corridor](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corridor), [curriculum](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curriculum), and among newer words, [parkour](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parkour).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 22, 2019 is: chivy \CHIV-ee\ verb
1 : to tease or annoy with persistent petty attacks
2 : to move or obtain by small maneuvers
Marielle watched her little brother as he chivied an olive from the jar with his fingers.
"To encounter [Hemingway](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hemingway) as an adult was to be faced with a man whose appetite for supposedly masculine pursuits was so assiduously cultivated as to border on parody…. He would routinely chivy his friends into the ring in order to engage in tests of strength." — [Matthew Adams, The Washington Post, 17 May 2017](https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/entertainment/books/ernest-hemingway-the-man-behind-the-cultivated-image-of-hyper-masculinity/2017/05/17/c54e1aae-3b04-11e7-8854-21f359183e8cstory.html)
Did you know?
Chivy, which is also spelled [chivvy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chivvy), became established in our language in the 19th century and, at first, meant "to harass or chase." Early usage examples are of people chivying a chicken around to catch it and of a person chivying around food that is frying. The verb comes from a British noun chivy meaning "chase" or "hunt." That chivy is believed to be derived from Chevy Chase—a term for "chase" or "confusion" that is taken from the name of a ballad describing the 1388 battle of Otterburn between the Scottish and English. (A [chase](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chase) in this context is an unenclosed tract of land that is used as a game preserve.)
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 21, 2019 is: misnomer \miss-NOH-mer\ noun
1 : the misnaming of a person in a legal instrument
2 a : a use of a wrong or inappropriate name
b : a wrong name or inappropriate designation
"When you see flashes along the horizon on a summer night, it could be lightning within a storm that's more than 100 miles away. ['Heat lightning](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heat%20lightning)' is a misnomer—they're just ordinary strikes that lack thunder and appear diffuse when witnessed from a long distance." — [John Boyer, The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 27 June 2019](https://www.richmond.com/weather/thursday-weatherline/articlebdd443be-2aba-5f0c-acf2-5b31d39c9999.html)
"Ten candidates will debate for two hours each night Wednesday and Thursday—although 'debate' is something of a misnomer, in the [Lincoln](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Lincoln#b1)-[Douglas](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Douglas#b2) sense of the word, given the time constraints and limited ability for great depth or lengthy engagement." — [Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan, The Los Angeles Times, 25 June 2019](https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-2020-democratic-debate-time-stage-20190625-story.html)
Did you know?
What's in a name? Well, in some cases, a name will contain an error, a misunderstanding, or a mislabeling. Historians have long noted that the [Holy Roman Empire](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Holy%20Roman%20Empire) was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. The Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on [Breed's Hill](https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Bunker-Hill). And the [Pennsylvania Dutch](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Pennsylvania%20Dutch) are in fact of German ancestry. For such cases, we have the term misnomer, which comes from the Anglo-French verb mesnomer ("to misname") and ultimately has its roots in nomen, the Latin word for "name."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2019 is: ethereal \ih-THEER-ee-ul\ adjective
1 a : of or relating to the regions beyond the earth
b : [celestial](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/celestial), [heavenly](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heavenly)
c : [unworldly](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unworldly), [spiritual](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spiritual)
2 a : lacking material substance : [immaterial](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immaterial), [intangible](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intangible)
b : marked by unusual delicacy or refinement
c : suggesting the heavens or heaven
3 : relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical [ether](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ether)
"Like Howe's Omniverse, van Herpen's finale piece used aluminum and stainless steel on the skeleton, covering it with a thin layer of feathers that ruffled, turning as if graced with gust of wind. The penultimate look channeled the same ethereal vibe, featuring laser-cut strips of fabric that give the appearance of pulsating angel wings." — [Barry Samaha, Surface, 2 July 2019](https://www.surfacemag.com/articles/iris-van-herpen-paris-fall-2019/)
"Colored Everything has an air of maturity about it. … What you'll hear is seemingly endless layers of airy, ethereal sound that makes you wonder what kinds of instruments are being used to create such sounds." — [Jon Bodell, The Concord (New Hampshire) Insider, 18 June 2019](https://www.theconcordinsider.com/2019/06/18/album-review-colored-everything-by-the-rhythm-upstairs-a-trippy-ethereal-ride/)
Did you know?
If you're burning to know the history of ethereal, you're in the right spirit to fully understand that word's etymology. The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was composed of earth, air, fire, and water, but that the heavens and its denizens were made of a purer, less tangible substance known as either [ether](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ether) or [quintessence](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quintessence). Ether was often described as an invisible light or fire, and its name derives from the Greek aithein, a verb meaning "to ignite" or "to blaze." When ethereal, the adjectival kin of ether, debuted in English in the 1500s, it referred to regions beyond the Earth or anything that seemed to originate from there.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2019 is: brandish \BRAN-dish\ verb
1 : to shake or wave (something, such as a weapon) menacingly
2 : to exhibit in an [ostentatious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostentatious) or aggressive manner
Michael appeared before the town council brandishing a petition signed by 500 people asking the town to increase funding for the public skate park.
"Our plates of crisply battered cod, chips and mushy peas and our drinks arrived and we set to. Atticus ate with his fingers…. 'Do you know how to use a knife and fork?' I said to him, purely out of interest. He said he did know and he picked them up and brandished them at me to prove it. The fork was in his right hand, the knife in his left. 'Bravo,' I said." — Jeremy Clarke, The Spectator, 21 July 2018
Did you know?
Often when we encounter the word brandish in print, it is soon followed by a word for a weapon, such as knife or handgun. That's appropriate given the word's etymology: it is a descendant of the Middle English braundisshen, which derives, via brandiss- (a stem of the Anglo-French brandir), from brant, braund, meaning "sword." Nowadays you can brandish things other than weapons, however. The figurative usage of brandish rose alongside its earliest literal usage in the 14th century. When you brandish something that isn't a weapon (such as a sign), you are in effect waving it in someone's face so that it cannot be overlooked.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2019 is: hiatus \hye-AY-tus\ noun
1 a : a break in or as if in a material object : [gap](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gap)
b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
2 a : an interruption in time or continuity : [break](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/break#h2); especially : a period when something (as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted
b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening [consonantal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consonantal) sound
"The bus service will run from Dec. 3 to Dec. 21 before going on hiatus for the holidays. Regular service will resume on Jan. 7." — [Alison Brownlee, The Huntsville Forester, November 27, 2012](https://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/3578230-corridor-11-bus-gets-wheels-rolling-on-muskoka-barrie-route/)
"It's a new era for pop/rockstar Adam Lambert. After a four-year hiatus from his solo career, during which he became the new frontman for Queen, the singer returned earlier this year with two new singles and the announcement of his upcoming fourth studio album Velvet." — [Stephen Daw, Billboard.com, 19 June 2019](https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/8516637/adam-lambert-announces-new-single-comin-in-hot)
Did you know?
Hiatus comes from hiare, a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, British novelist Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, hiatus is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 17, 2019 is: tortuous \TOR-chuh-wus\ adjective
1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : [winding](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/winding#h2)
2 a : marked by devious or indirect tactics : [crooked](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crooked), [tricky](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tricky)
b : [circuitous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circuitous), [involved](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/involved)
"What a cast! A tsunami of lawyers, such as William Evarts, Benjamin Butler and others swept over Washington with a vengeance, launching long-winded speeches—one lasted 14 hours—and tortuous explanations of policies." — [Sam Coale, The Providence Journal, 23 May 2019](https://www.providencejournal.com/entertainmentlife/20190523/review-compelling-look-at-first-presidential-impeachment)
"Introduced to the Tour in 2012, the Planche des Belles Filles ascent immediately became a classic. Set up in the [Vosges](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Vosges) mountains, it is steep, tortuous and brutal, featuring a 20 percent gradient at the top." — Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press, 1 July 2019
Did you know?
Be careful not to confuse tortuous with [torturous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torturous). These two words are relatives—both ultimately come from the Latin verb torquere, which means "to twist," "to wind," or "to wrench"—but tortuous means "winding" or "crooked," whereas torturous means "painfully unpleasant." Something tortuous (such as a twisting mountain road) might also be torturous (if, for example, you have to ride up that road on a bicycle), but that doesn't make these words synonyms. The twists and turns that mark a tortuous thing can be literal ("a tortuous path" or "a tortuous river") or figurative ("a tortuous argument" or "a tortuous explanation"), but you should consider choosing a different descriptive term if no implication of winding or crookedness is present.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 16, 2019 is: satiate \SAY-shee-ayt\ verb
: to [satisfy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satisfy) (a need, a desire, etc.) fully or to excess
After eating three pieces of pie and one of cake at the potluck, Jamie's sweet tooth was finally satiated.
"While the battles between Shazam and his arch enemy Thaddeus Sivana … will satiate superhero fans, the emotional center of the movie is the Philadelphia foster family that embraces Billy." — [Brian Truitt, USA Today, 3 Apr. 2019](https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2019/04/03/5-ways-shazam-makes-dc-superhero-films-more-marvelous/3333401002/)
Did you know?
Satiate, sate, surfeit, cloy, pall, glut, and gorge all mean to fill to repletion. Satiate and [sate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sate#h2) sometimes imply only complete satisfaction but more often suggest repletion that has destroyed interest or desire, as in "Years of globe-trotting had satiated their interest in travel" and "Readers were sated with sensationalistic stories." [Surfeit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surfeit#h2) implies a nauseating repletion, as in "They surfeited themselves with junk food," while [cloy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cloy) stresses the disgust or boredom resulting from such surfeiting, "The strong scent of the flowers cloyed her." [Pall](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pall#h1) emphasizes the loss of ability to stimulate interest or appetite—for example, "A life of leisure eventually began to pall." [Glut](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glut#h1) implies excess in feeding or supplying, as in "a market glutted with diet books," and [gorge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gorge#h2) suggests glutting to the point of bursting or choking, "They gorged themselves with chocolate."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 15, 2019 is: miscible \MISS-uh-bul\ adjective
: capable of being mixed; specifically : capable of mixing in any ratio without separation of two phases
Oil and water are not miscible—if you pour oil in a glass of water, it will float to the top.
"Although the [alkalized](https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/alkalize) cocoa was not completely soluble in milk or water, it was more miscible than any other cocoa product, blending more evenly in solution…." — [Deborah Cadbury, Chocolate Wars, 2010](https://books.google.com/books?id=oQSMvtA7rvMC&pg=PA135&lpg=PA135&dq=%22Although+the+alkalized+cocoa+was+not+completely+soluble+in+milk+or+water%22&source=bl&ots=wfQyPwEI6R&sig=ACfU3U35Cyc3T1zVBFOD7RRXy-WkFvi1hg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiT1LvtwKjAhXHGs0KHTlBQkQ6AEwAHoECAEQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Although%20the%20alkalized%20cocoa%20was%20not%20completely%20soluble%20in%20milk%20or%20water%22&f=false)
Did you know?
Miscible isn't simply a lesser-known synonym of [mixable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mixable)—it's also a cousin. It comes to us from the Medieval Latin adjective miscibilis, which has the same meaning as miscible and which derives, in turn, from Latin miscēre, meaning "to mix." Miscēre is also the ultimate source of our [mix](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mix); its past participle mixtus (meaning "mixed") spawned mixte in Anglo-French and Middle English, and mix came about as a back-formation of mixte. The suffix [-able](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-able) gives us mixable, thereby completing its link to miscible. Miscible turns up most frequently in scientific discussions where it is used especially to describe fluids that don't separate when they are combined.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 14, 2019 is: garniture \GAHR-nih-cher\ noun
1 : [embellishment](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embellishment), [trimming](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trimming)
2 : a set of decorative objects (such as vases, urns, or clocks)
"Above the fireplace: a scene of a cow jumping over the moon, in an elaborate gilt frame. On the mantle below, we see a clock…, flanked by garniture sturdy enough to be a murder weapon out of Agatha Christie." — [Rumaan Alam, Slate, 23 Aug. 2016](https://slate.com/culture/2016/08/from-goodnight-moon-to-richard-scarry-the-great-rooms-of-children-s-literature-reviewed.html)
"Once upon a time, this was probably one of a pair of vases that comprised a garniture set used to decorate a Victorian mantel. Its mate has vanished into the lost and found of history, but this one with its superb craftsmanship remains a thing of beauty." — [Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson, The New Hampshire Union Leader, 29 June 2019](https://www.unionleader.com/news/homes/treasures-in-your-attic-cut-overlay-vase-has-superb-craftsmanship/article33d9ca60-3506-59bf-9ab4-e1c090f80cd0.html)
Did you know?
In Middle French, garniture meant "accessory." It is an alteration of the Old French noun garneture, which is derived from the verb garnir, which meant "to equip, trim, or decorate." In fact, an Anglo-French stem of garnir, garniss-, is the source of the English verb [garnish](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/garnish), which in its senses of "to decorate" and "to embellish" shares a similar relationship to garniture that the verb [furnish](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furnish) shares with [furniture](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furniture). Furnish comes from the Anglo-French furniss-, a stem of the verb furnir or fournir, which also gave rise to the Middle French fourniture, the source of the English furniture.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 13, 2019 is: smite \SMYTE\ verb
1 : to strike sharply or heavily especially with the hand or an implement held in the hand
2 a : to kill or severely injure by so striking
b : to attack or afflict suddenly and injuriously
3 : to cause to strike
4 : to affect as if by striking
5 : [captivate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/captivate), [take](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/take)
The cartoon's villain was, as tradition would have it, smote by an anvil dropping mysteriously from the sky.
"Down the street, Teresa Benner's 1963, 23-window Volkswagen van was also turning heads. She bought it recently when it came up at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona. She was smitten at first sight." — [Joel Mills, The Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune, 23 June 2019](https://lmtribune.com/northwest/car-show-draws-crowd-to-clarkston/article5f202595-2dfe-5416-a345-28f43396417d.html)
Did you know?
Today's word has been part of the English language for a very long time; the earliest documented written use dates to the 12th century. Smite can be traced back to the Old English smītan, meaning "to smear or defile." Smītan is akin to the Scottish word [smit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smit), meaning "to stain, contaminate, or infect," as well as to the Old High German bismīzan, "to defile." In addition to its "strike" and "attack" senses, smite has a softer side. As of the mid-17th century, it can mean "to captivate or take"—a sense that is frequently used in the past participle in such contexts as "smitten by her beauty" or "smitten with him" (meaning "in love with him"). Its past tense is smote.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 12, 2019 is: plaintive \PLAYN-tiv\ adjective
: expressive of suffering or woe : [melancholy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/melancholy)
"Dean Nicholson was pedaling up a hill in Bosnia … when he heard a plaintive meow. He looked over his shoulder. In the lambent December light, he saw a gray-and-white kitten chasing him up the incline." — [Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 Apr. 2019](https://www.inquirer.com/things-to-do/travel/hes-biking-around-world-with-cat-his-back-shoulder-his-handlebars-20190405.html)
"[Stevie] Wonder did perform a plaintive cover of the John Lennon classic 'Imagine' for his penultimate number—a statement piece that he's incorporated on his tours since the 1990s, and which he noted as being 'still relevant,' despite originally coming out in 1971." — [Mara Reinstein, Billboard.com, 25 June 2019](https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/concerts/8517514/stevie-wonder-red-rocks-concert)
Did you know?
Like its relative [plangent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plangent), plaintive is often used to describe sad sounds. "A plaintive wail," for example, is a common use. Plaintive and plangent (along with relatives [plaintiff](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plaintiff) and [complain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complain)) ultimately derive from the Latin verb plangere, meaning "to strike," "to beat one's breast," or "to lament." This Latin verb led to plaint, an Anglo-French word (and now also an English word) meaning "lamentation." Plaint is the root of Middle English plaintif (meaning "lamenting" or "complaining"), which gave rise to plaintive as well as the noun plaintiff.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 11, 2019 is: démarche \day-MARSH\ noun
1 a : a course of action : [maneuver](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/maneuver)
b : a diplomatic or political initiative or maneuver
2 : a petition or protest presented through diplomatic channels
"On Feb. 23, less than a week after the U.S. démarche to the Cuban government, DeLaurentis accompanied two visiting U.S. senators … to see President Raúl Castro at the Palace of the Revolution." — [Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, 14 Feb. 2018](https://www.propublica.org/article/diplomats-in-cuba)
"European Union foreign ministers … will also issue a demarche—a formal diplomatic protest note—to Moscow as early as next week over Russia's continued detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the November incident, they added." — [The Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2019](https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/world-digest-jan-24-2019/2019/01/24/e758acf8-1fec-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131story.html)
Did you know?
When it comes to international diplomacy, the French may not always have the last word—but they have quite a few, many of which they've shared with English. We began using démarche—which in French can mean "gait," "walk," or "action," among other things—in the 17th century. It was first used generally in the sense of "a maneuver," and before long it developed a specific use in the world of diplomacy. Some of the other diplomacy-related words we use that come from French include [attaché](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attache), [chargé d'affaires](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/charge%20d'affaires), [communiqué](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communique), [détente](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detente), and [agrément](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agrement)—not to mention the words [diplomacy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diplomacy) and [diplomat](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diplomat) themselves.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 10, 2019 is: balkanize \BAWL-kuh-nyze\ verb
1 : to break up (a region, a group, etc.) into smaller and often hostile units
2 : [divide](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divide), [compartmentalize](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compartmentalize)
"Tech companies and civil rights advocates warn that the increasing push by nations to create their own internet rules will Balkanize the internet and potentially lead to privacy violations and the stifling of political dissent." — [Cecilia Kang and Katie Benner, The New York Times, 7 Jan. 2017](https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/technology/linkedin-blocked-in-russia.html)
"Historical scholarship had become Balkanized into dozens of subfields and specialized methodologies, many of them virtually inaccessible to [lay](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lay#h5) readers or even to specialists in other subfields." — [James M. McPherson, The New York Times Book Review, 19 Sept. 1999](https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/09/19/bookend/bookend.html)
Did you know?
The [Balkan Peninsula](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/balkan%20peninsula) of southeastern Europe is lapped by the Adriatic Sea in the west and the Black Sea in the east. It is named for the Balkan Mountains, a mountain range which extends from its border with Serbia to the Black Sea. (Balkan derives from the Ottoman Turkish balḳān, meaning "wooded mountain or mountain range.") The [Balkan States](https://www.britannica.com/place/Balkans) are commonly characterized as comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, with mainland portions of Greece and the European portion of Turkey often being included as well. The English word balkanize (often written with a capital B) is the lexical offspring of geography and history: the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century led to a series of revolts that accelerated the fracturing of the region into a number of smaller states whose unstable coexistence led to violence that came to a head in World War I. Since the early 20th century, balkanize and its related noun, balkanization, have come to refer to the kind of divisive action that can weaken countries or groups, as well as other things.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 9, 2019 is: omnium-gatherum \ahm-nee-um-GA-thuh-rum\ noun
: a miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons)
"Muldoon's Picnic—the critically acclaimed omnium-gatherum of music, storytelling, poetry, and more—has become a staple of New York's cultural diet." — [BroadwayWorld.com, 4 Sept. 2018](https://www.broadwayworld.com/brooklyn/article/Irish-Arts-Center-Presents-New-Season-Of-Muldoons-Picnic-20180904)
"In his diary, a small, haphazardly kept omnium-gatherum, Arlen set down axioms, vocabulary words, and quotes from a wide-ranging reading list—Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, Santayana, Nietzsche." — [John Lahr, The New Yorker, 19 Sept. 2005](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/09/19/come-rain-or-come-shine)
Did you know?
English abounds in Latin phrases. They roll off the learned tongue like peas off a fork: [tabula rasa](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tabula%20rasa), [ab ovo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ab%20ovo), [a posteriori](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20posteriori), [deus ex machina](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deus%20ex%20machina), [ex cathedra](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ex%20cathedra), [mea culpa](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mea%20culpa), [terra firma](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terra%20firma), [vox populi](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vox%20populi), [ad hominem](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ad%20hominem), [sub rosa](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sub%20rosa). Omnium-gatherum belongs on that list too, right? Not exactly. Omnium-gatherum sounds like Latin, and indeed omnium (the genitive plural of Latin omnis, meaning "all") is the real thing. But [gatherum](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gatherum) is simply English [gather](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gather) with -um tacked on to give it a classical ring. We're not suggesting, however, that the phrase is anything less than literate. After all, the first person known to have used it was John Croke, a lawyer who was educated at Eton and Cambridge in the 16th century.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 8, 2019 is: aggregate \AG-rih-gut\ noun
1 : a mass or body of units or parts somewhat loosely associated with one another
2 : the whole sum or amount : [sum total](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sum%20total)
The university's various departments spent an aggregate of 1.2 million dollars in advertising last year.
"Their bill would require companies that collect user data to tell consumers and regulators what they collect, how they make money off it and how much it's worth—in aggregate and broken down by users." — [James Condliffe, The New York Times, 1 July 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/28/technology/data-price-big-tech.html)
Did you know?
We added aggregate to our flock of Latin borrowings in the 15th century. It descends from aggregāre ("to cause to flock together" or "to join together"), a Latin verb made up of the prefix [ad-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ad-#h5) (which means "to," and which usually changes to ag- before a g) and greg- or grex (meaning "flock, herd, or group"). Greg- also gave us [congregate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/congregate), [gregarious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gregarious), and [segregate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/segregate). Aggregate is commonly employed in the phrase "in the aggregate," which means "considered as a whole." Aggregate also has some specialized senses. For example, it is used to describe a mass of minerals formed into a rock, and materials like sand or gravel that are used to form concrete, mortar, or plaster.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 7, 2019 is: ransack \RAN-sak\ verb
1 : to look through thoroughly in often a rough way
2 : to search through and steal from in a forceful and damaging way : [plunder](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plunder)
The kids had ransacked the cabinets looking for snacks, leaving not a chip or cracker uneaten.
"Also in the spring, I bring the bird feeders inside the house to avoid tempting bears into our yard…. A resident bear only had to ransack my feeders once for me to learn my lesson." — [Aislinn Sarnacki, The Bangor (Maine) Daily News, 6 June 2019](https://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2019/06/04/recreation/mystery-pheasant-other-wild-visitors-keep-spring-exciting/)
Did you know?
Ransack carries the image of a house being roughly disarranged, as might happen when you are frantically searching for something. This is appropriate given the word's origin. Ransack derives, via Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka; the rann in rannsaka means "house." The second half of rannsaka is related to an Old English word, sēcan, meaning "to seek." But our modern use of the word isn't restricted to houses. You can ransack a drawer, a suitcase, or even the contents of a book (for information). A now-obsolete [frequentative](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frequentative) form of ransack, [ransackle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransackle), gave us our adjective [ramshackle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ramshackle).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 6, 2019 is: totem \TOH-tum\ noun
1 a : an object (such as an animal or plant) serving as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry; also : a usually carved or painted representation of such an object
b : a family or clan identified by a common [totemic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/totemic) object
2 : one that serves as an emblem or revered symbol
The Delaware Indians of eastern North America belonged to one of three groups whose totems were the turkey, the turtle, and the wolf.
"A totem reached the end of its life with a unifying ceremony after 65 years standing the grounds of Thunderbird Park. Members of First Nations … spoke to the significance of the Kwakwaka'wakw house post replica, which was built in 1954…. — Nicole Crescenzi, Victoria News, 31 May 2019
Did you know?
Totem comes to us from [Ojibwa](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Ojibwa), an [Algonquian](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Algonquian) language spoken by an American Indian people from the regions around Lake Superior. The most basic form of the word in Ojibwa is believed to be ote, but 18th-century English speakers encountered it as ototeman (meaning "his totem"), which became our word totem. In its most specific sense, totem refers to an emblematic depiction of an animal or plant that gives a family or clan its name and that often serves as a reminder of its ancestry. The term is also used broadly for any person or thing having particular emblematic or symbolic importance. The related adjective [totemic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/totemic) describes something that serves as a totem, that depicts totems ("totemic basketry," for example), or that has the nature of a totem.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 5, 2019 is: passim \PASS-im\ adverb
: in one place and another : [here and there](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/here%20and%20there)
The old cookbooks that once belonged to Michael's grandmother had some of her own recipes and other annotations penciled on the pages passim.
"Finally, may I say that I respect the views of those who have read and researched the same information as I, but reached the opposing conclusion, as displayed in your letter pages passim." — Stephen Brown, The North Devon Journal, 12 Dec. 2013
Did you know?
Passim is from the Latin word passus ("scattered"), itself from pandere, meaning "to spread." Pandere is the root of the common word [expand](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expand) and the not-so-common word [repand](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repand), meaning "having a slightly undulating margin" (as in "a repand leaf" or "a repand colony of bacteria"). It is also the progenitor of [pace](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pace), as in "keep up a steady pace." Passim itself appears in English both on its own and as part of the adverb [sic passim](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sic%20passim), which means "so throughout." Sic passim is typically used to indicate that a word or idea is to be found at various places throughout a book or a writer's work.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 4, 2019 is: faze \FAYZ\ verb
: to disturb the composure of : [disconcert](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disconcert), [daunt](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/daunt)
My grandfather was a [stolid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stolid) individual who was not easily fazed by life's troubles.
"The heat didn't faze the crowd, though, as families swarmed up to Kirkbride Park to browse vendors and watch performances." — Johanna Armstrong, The Fergus Falls (Minnesota) Daily Journal, 8 June 2019
Did you know?
Faze (not to be confused with [phase](https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/phase-vs-faze)) first appeared in English in the early 1800s—centuries after the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer were penned. But both of those authors were familiar with the word's ancient parent: faze is an alteration of the now-rare verb feeze, which has been in use since the days of Old English (in the form fēsian), when it meant "to drive away" or "to put to flight." By the 1400s, it was also being used with the meaning "to frighten or put into a state of alarm." The word is still used in some English dialects as a noun meaning "rush" or "a state of alarm or excitement."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 3, 2019 is: silly season \SIL-ee-SEE-zun\ noun
1 : a period (such as late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories
2 : a period marked by frivolous, outlandish, or illogical activity or behavior
"The St. Louis Blues have claimed their first Stanley Cup, officially ending the 2018-19 season and unofficially kicking off the silly season of trade speculation, draft gossip and free agent scuttlebutt." — Chip Alexander, The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), 18 June 2019
"I'm talking about the silly season. Remember the silly season? Every August, politicians would leave us all in peace and we'd have a blissful month of light-hearted, meaningless non-news." — Michael Deacon, The Daily Telegraph (London), 11 Aug. 2018
Did you know?
Silly season was coined in the 19th century to describe the time when journalists face a bit of a conundrum: Washington is on summer break and European governments are on vacation, but the columns of space newspapers typically devote to politics must still be filled—hence, stories about beating the heat and how celebrities are also managing to do so. The idea is comical, really, since there's always something going on somewhere. P.G. Wodehouse understood the absurdity inherent in the term when he wrote in his 1909 comic novel, The Swoop! or How Clarence Saved English, "It was inevitable, in the height of the Silly Season, that such a topic as the simultaneous invasion of Great Britain by nine foreign powers should be seized upon by the press." Inevitable indeed.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 2, 2019 is: clarion \KLAIR-ee-un\ adjective
: brilliantly clear; also : loud and clear
"The guitars take off like fighter planes and [Stef Chura] delivers a clarion, country-steeped vocal, somewhere between Kitty Wells and Kurt Cobain." — Megan Reynolds, Jezebel, 3 June 2019
"The commonest winter birds cheered me on: the chickadees and titmice, woodpeckers and jays, crows, cardinals, and sparrows. And of course my clarion wrens." — Jack Wennerstrom, The Bird Watcher's Digest, September/October 1992
Did you know?
In the Middle Ages, clarion was a noun, the name for a trumpet that could play a melody in clear, shrill tones. The noun has since been used for the sound of a trumpet or a similar sound. By the early 1800s, English speakers also started using the word as an adjective for things that ring as clear as the call of a well-played trumpet. Not surprisingly, clarion ultimately derives (via the Medieval Latin clario-) from clarus, which is the Latin word for "clear." In addition, clarus gave English speakers [clarify](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clarify), [clarity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clarity), [declare](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/declare) ("to make clearly known"), and [clear](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clear) itself.