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Preview: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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

Last Build Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2017


Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 18, 2017 is:

belaud • \bih-LAWD\  • verb

: to praise usually to excess


"Several cheers went up. Piccard, unaware of the scene unfolding behind him, seemed to think they were meant to belaud his plan." — Jake Silverstein, Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction, 2011

"We believe it was about 1835 that Mr. Dearborn republished the Culprit Fay, which then, as at the period of its original issue, was belauded by the universal American press…." — Edgar Allan Poe, "J. G. C. Brainard" in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, 1850

Did you know?

You may recognize the word laud (meaning "to praise or extol") in belaud. In fact, belaud was formed by combining the prefix be- and the verb laud. Since be- can denote both "to a greater degree" and "excessively or ostentatiously," it perhaps should come as no surprise that while laud may imply praise to a deserved degree, belaud often has the connotations of unreasonable or undeserved praise. Incidentally, both laud and by extension belaud derive from the Latin verb laudare, which in turn traces back to laud-, meaning "praise." Other descendants of laud- in English include laudatory, laudable, and even laudation, meaning "an act of praising."

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Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 17, 2017 is:

jalousie • \JAL-uh-see\  • noun

1 : a blind with adjustable horizontal slats for admitting light and air while excluding direct sun and rain

2 : a window made of adjustable glass louvers that control ventilation


The rooms of the little bungalow were protected from the brutal tropical heat by wooden jalousies.

"All the old jalousies have been replaced with new windows framed in mahogany, but many interior doors and much of the original hardware have been retained." — Christine Davis, The Palm Beach Daily News, 14 July 2011

Did you know?

Etymologists are clear on the source of the word jalousie—it's French for "jealousy"—but the relationship between the emotion and the window treatments originally referred to as jalousies is not something they've speculated much about. Is it that those peering out through the original jalousie blinds were jealous of the people outside? Or is it more likely that the jealousy festered in the hearts of those outside, who could see the blinds but not the faces and lives of the people they hid? This excerpt from the October 23, 1766 entry in the Duchess of Northumberland's diary perhaps provides a clue: "Rows of Seats with Jalousies in Front that [the women] may not be seen."

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Thu, 16 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 16, 2017 is:

lollygag • \LAH-lee-gag\  • verb

: to spend time idly, aimlessly, or foolishly : dawdle


Owen had a habit of lollygagging in the morning when he was supposed to be getting ready for school, and that meant that he was sometimes late.

"We were spoiled in the heart of summer by daylight that lingered until 10 p.m. We felt no sense of hurry. We could get home from work and still have almost five hours to lollygag away catching walleyes, water-skiing or having picnics on the beach." — Sam Cook, The Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune, 29 Sept. 2017

Did you know?

You certainly didn't want to be known as a lollygagger at the beginning of the 20th century. Back then, lollygag was slang for "fooling around" (sexually, that is). That sense of lollygag was in use at least as long ago as 1868, and it probably originated as an alteration of the older (and more dawdlingly innocent) lallygag. Nowadays, lollygag doesn't usually carry such naughty connotations, but back in 1946, one Navy captain considered lollygagging enough of a problem to issue this stern warning: "Lovemaking and lollygagging are hereby strictly forbidden.... The holding of hands, osculation and constant embracing of WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service], corpsmen or civilians and sailors or any combination of male and female personnel is a violation of naval discipline...."

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Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 15, 2017 is:

proximity • \prahk-SIM-uh-tee\  • noun

: the quality or state of being proximate : closeness


"[T]he company's main advantages as an exporter include proximity to the U.S. market, quality of production and its ability to alter production to suit the needs and design tastes of U.S. consumers." — Thomas Russell, Furniture Today, 4 Oct. 2017

"Common interests, shared experiences and momentum are the things that bind superficial relationships…, but remove the natural closeness that proximity creates and you find that having once shared a few high school classes is not enough to sustain a lifelong relationship." — Jonathan Look, Forbes, 24 Sept. 2017

Did you know?

The history of proximity hinges on the idea of closeness, both physical and metaphorical. English speakers borrowed the word from Middle French, which in turn acquired it from Latin proximitat-, proximitas, forms of the adjective proximus, meaning "nearest" or "next." A number of other languages, including Catalan, Portuguese, and Italian, derived similar words from Latin proximus. Other descendants of proximus in English include proximal, proximate, and the somewhat more rare approximal (meaning "contiguous").

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Tue, 14 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 14, 2017 is:

stellar • \STEL-er\  • adjective

1 a : of or relating to the stars : astral

b : composed of stars

2 : of or relating to a theatrical or film star

3 a : principal, leading

b : outstanding


Kelly's stellar academic record should help her gain acceptance to almost any college she wants to attend.

"The carbon-rich asteroid is like a time capsule from more than 4.5 billion years ago when the solar system formed. Scientists hope that the samples that Osiris-Rex collects and brings to Earth in 2023 will contain clues from the earliest history of our stellar neighborhood." — Nicholas St. Fleur, The New York Times, 28 Sept. 2017

Did you know?

Stella, the Latin word for "star," shines brightly in the word constellation, but stella words have been favored by scientists to describe earthly things as much as heavenly bodies. Stellar was once used to mean "star-shaped." That use is no longer current, but today biologists and geologists might use one of these synonyms: stellular, stellate, and stelliform. Poets, too, have looked to stella. John Milton used stellar in its infancy when he wrote in Paradise Lost "these soft fires … shed down their stellar virtue." Stellar shot into its leading role as a synonym of star (as when we say "stellar pupil") in the late 1800s.

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Mon, 13 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 13, 2017 is:

roué • \roo-AY\  • noun

: a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure : rake


"Hugh Grant, as a roué who seems to realize that his charm is a regrettably cheap commodity, enjoyed something of a comeback in Florence Foster Jenkins." — Tom Gliatto, People, 17 Jan. 2017             

"[Roger Moore's] Bond was a roué, a bounder, a debonair playboy not remotely like a real spy and arguably all the better for it." — Alex Bilmes, Esquire, 25 May 2017

Did you know?

Roué originated as a French word and gained momentum when it began to be used in reference to the libertine companions of Philippe II, France's regent from 1715-1723. Roué means "broken on the wheel" in French and ultimately derives from Latin rota, meaning "wheel." Since the wheel being referred to was an instrument of punishment, the French were implying that such dissolute beings deserved this punishment. By the end of the 18th century, English-speakers added roué to its list of synonyms for a rake, libertine, debaucher, lecher, etc.

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Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 12, 2017 is:

shilly-shally • \SHIL-ee-SHAL-ee\  • verb

1 : to show hesitation or lack of decisiveness or resolution

2 : dawdle


"As for buying Concord grapes at either a farm stand or a supermarket, the rule of thumb is, when you see them, claim them. Don't shilly-shally, because the season for this most coveted of grapes is fleeting." — Heidi Legenbauer Williams, The Daily Gazette (Schenectady, New York), 9 Sept. 2016

"He chaired a meeting this month that called on reluctant officials not to shilly-shally with economic and social reforms…." — The Economist, 18 Feb. 2017

Did you know?

Shall I? Shall I? When you just don't know what to do, it may feel as if asking that question twice will somehow help you decide. The 17th century saw the use of the phrase "stand shall I, shall I" to describe vacillation or indecision. By that century's end, the phrase had been altered to "shill I, shall I," most likely because people just liked the vowel alteration (that's the same process that gave us dillydally and wishy-washy). Soon after, the adverbial shilly-shally made the jump from slang to literature and writers began applying it as an adjective, a noun, and a verb as well.

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Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 11, 2017 is:

doughty • \DOW-tee\  • adjective

: marked by fearless resolution : valiant


Noticing that the cashier shorted him a nickel, the doughty child marched up to the counter and demanded it from her.

"The early lighthouse keepers were a doughty lot, and had to be, insofar as their job wasn't merely to light the wick, but save the occasional ship that foundered…." — Verne Gay, Newsday, 26 May 2010

Did you know?

Doughty is a persevering English word. In Old English, it shows up as dohtig, which was probably an alteration of dyhtig that resulted from the influence of the Old English dohte, meaning "had worth." By the 13th century, the spelling doughty had begun to appear. The expected pronunciation would be \DAW-tee\, paralleling other similarly spelled old words like bought and sought. But over the centuries, the spelling was sometimes confused with that of the now-obsolete word doubty, meaning "full of doubt," and thus, so it is conjectured, we have the pronunciation we use today.

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Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 10, 2017 is:

pathos • \PAY-thahss\  • noun

1 : an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion

2 : an emotion of sympathetic pity


"Clowns have always been represented as tricksters and jokers, from the days of jesters all the way through Ronald McDonald, but the high jinks were always paired with pathos and humanity." — Vulture, 7 Sept. 2017

"The best survival movies are often harrowing; packed with loss and pathos while testing the limits of human endurance." — Mathew DeKinder, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5 Oct. 2017

Did you know?

The Greek word pathos means "suffering," "experience," or "emotion." It was borrowed into English in the 16th century, and for English speakers, the term usually refers to the emotions produced by tragedy or a depiction of tragedy. Pathos has quite a few kin in English. Pathetic is used to describe things that move us to pity. Empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another. Though pathology is not literally "the study of suffering," it is "the study of diseases." You can probably guess at more relatives of pathos. Sympathy, apathy, antipathy, sociopath, and psychopath are a few.

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Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 9, 2017 is:

cotton • \KAH-tun\  • verb

1 : to take a liking — used with to

2 : to come to understand — used with to or on to


"He was so much fun to have in the company. He had that warm, inviting voice. Audiences just cottoned to him." — Gary Gisselman, quoted in The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 3 Mar. 2016

"This exhibition—like many of [Jim] Henson's shows—is mainly for adults, concerned with the craft of puppetry and the expansion of broadcast media…. Henson, born in Greenville, Miss., in 1936, had an early gift for landscape drawing, but he cottoned on quickly to the potentials of a new medium—and to the branding opportunities that the medium would allow." — Jason Farago, The New York Times, 21 July 2017

Did you know?

The noun cotton first appears in English in the late Middle Ages. It comes, via Anglo-French and Old Italian, from the Arabic word for cotton, quṭun or quṭn. In the 15th century, cotton acquired a verb use meaning "to form a nap on (cloth)." Though this verb sense is now obsolete, our modern-day use might have spun from it. In 1822, English philologist Robert Nares reported that cotton had been used to mean "to succeed" and speculated that this use came from "the finishing of cloth, which when it cottons, or rises to a regular nap, is nearly or quite complete." The meaning of cotton shifted from "to get on well" to "to get on well together," and eventually to the sense we know today, "to take a liking to." The "understand" sense appeared later, in the early 20th century.

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