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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, 27 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Copyright: Copyright 2017


Sat, 27 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 27, 2017 is:

concatenate • \kahn-KAT-uh-nayt\  • verb

: to link together in a series or chain


"While the stories are separate, they're concatenated in that characters recur from story to story, so while one might be a major player in one tale, he might be only alluded to in a subsequent narrative." — Kirkus Reviews, 15 Feb. 2013

"To test cockatoos' planning and mechanical capacities, Auersperg designed a box housing a visible cashew nut blocked by five interlocking devices. The locks were concatenated so that the bird would have to solve the lock puzzle farthest from the reward before gaining access to the next, and so on." — Jenny Jennings Foerst, American Scientist, November 2013

Did you know?

Concatenate comes directly from Latin concatenare, which in turn is formed from con-, meaning "with" or "together," and catena, meaning "chain." (The word chain itself also evolved from catena.) Concatenate has a somewhat longer history as an adjective, meaning "linked together," than as a verb. The adjective first appeared in English in the 15th century and the verb wasn't in use until more than a century later. Catenate, a verb in its own right meaning "to link in a series," had also arrived on the scene by the early 17th century.

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Fri, 26 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 26, 2017 is:

torpedo • \tor-PEE-doh\  • noun

1 : electric ray

2 : a weapon (such as a thin cylindrical self-propelled underwater projectile) for destroying ships by rupturing their hulls below the waterline

3 : a large sandwich on a long split roll with any of a variety of fillings : submarine


Among the undersea wreckage, the divers found an unexploded torpedo.

"An interactive exhibit also takes 'sailors' aboard the USS Tang, a submarine simulation, where you can relive the boat's final, heroic patrol before it sank—torpedo launches, sirens, and chaos ensue." — Meaghan O'Neill, The Boston Globe, 19 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

Like the adjective torpid, torpedo can be traced back to the Latin verb torpēre, meaning "to be sluggish or numb." In Latin torpedo literally meant "stiffness" or "numbness." Torpedo was also the name given in Latin to the fish known as the electric ray, and it was as a name for the fish that torpedo first entered English. During the Napoleonic Wars, the American inventor Robert Fulton experimented with an explosive charge for use against warships which he called a "torpedo" (and which we would now refer to as a mine) after the electric ray's ability to incapacitate creatures with an electrical discharge. Fulton was also the inventor of the Nautilus, an early hand-powered submarine which was one of the precursors of the vessels that would deliver the more familiar cigar-shaped torpedoes with such devastating effects during the 20th century's two World Wars.

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Thu, 25 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 25, 2017 is:

inanition • \in-uh-NISH-un\  • noun

1 : the exhausted condition that results from lack of food and water

2 : the absence or loss of social, moral, or intellectual vitality or vigor


"My friend had no breakfast himself, for it was one of his peculiarities that in his more intense moments he would permit himself no food, and I have known him presume upon his iron strength until he has fainted from pure inanition." — Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder," 1903

"Although she remains largely in the background, Mama is the character apparently most energized by the revolution of 2011, the person who has found purpose and focus, eschewing nostalgia even as the men who surround her have lapsed into rueful inanition." — Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books, 18 Aug. 2016

Did you know?

Inanition describes a state of suffering from either a literal emptiness (of sustenance) or a metaphorical emptiness (of interest or energy), so it should come as no surprise that the word ultimately derives from the same idea in Latin. Inanition, which first appeared in Middle English in the 14th century as in-anisioun, can be traced back to the Latin verb inanire, meaning "to make empty," which in turn comes from inanis (meaning "empty"). Another far more common descendant of inanis is inane. The family resemblance is clear: inane is used describe things lacking significance or substance.

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Wed, 24 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 24, 2017 is:

malleable • \MAL-ee-uh-bul\  • adjective

1 : capable of being extended or shaped by beating with a hammer or by the pressure of rollers

2 a : capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences

b : having a capacity for adaptive change


"Lead is insidiously useful. It's hard but malleable, is relatively common, melts at a low enough temperature to be workable, and doesn't rust." — Ben Paynter, Wired, June 2016

"[T]he role of First Lady is … a role that is surprisingly malleable, shaped by the personality, style, and interests (or lack thereof) of the person occupying it." — Jonathan Van Meter, Vogue, 11 Nov. 2016

Did you know?

There is a hint about the origins of malleable in its first definition. The earliest uses of the word, which first appeared in English in the 14th century, referred primarily to metals that could be reshaped by beating with a hammer. The Middle English word malliable comes to us from Medieval Latin malleabilis, which in turn derives from the Latin verb malleare, meaning "to hammer." Malleare itself was created from the Latin word for "hammer": malleus. If you have guessed that maul and mallet, other English words for specific types of hammers, can also be traced back to malleus, you have hit the nail on the head.

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Tue, 23 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 23, 2017 is:

nudnik • \NOOD-nik (the "OO" is as in "good")\  • noun

: a person who is a bore or nuisance


James worried that he would never finish his work if the office nudnik didn't quit hanging around his cubicle.

"Others may enjoy its gentle comedy, its plentiful caricatures and easy jokes, its lightweight tone. However, I found most of its characters to be obnoxious, insufferable nudniks who never shut up or mind their own business or resemble real human beings." — John Serba, The Flint (Michigan) Journal, 27 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

The suffix -nik came to English through Yiddish (and ultimately from Polish and Ukrainian). It means "one connected with or characterized by being." You might be familiar with beatnik, peacenik, or neatnik, but what about no-goodnik or allrightnik? The suffix -nik is frequently used in English to create nonce words that are often jocular or slightly derogatory. Some theorize that the popularity of the suffix was enhanced by Russian Sputnik, as well as Al Capp's frequent use of -nik words in his L'il Abner cartoons. The nud- of the Yiddish borrowing nudnik ultimately comes from the Polish nuda, meaning "boredom."

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Mon, 22 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 22, 2017 is:

acerbic • \uh-SER-bik\  • adjective

: acid in temper, mood, or tone


"It was [Dave Chappelle's] first comedy special in 17 years, and even though the specials were filmed in 2015 and 2016, they confirmed that Dave still had his … acerbic wit and impeccable comedic timing…." — Michael Harriot, The Root, 29 Mar. 2017

"It's tempting to view Tourist in This Town as a clean break from Crutchfield's previous music—a breakup record about a former bandmate that's reflected in a stark sonic departure from that band. But Crutchfield is still the same acerbic and fearless observer, her lyrics unflinchingly honest in their feminist perspective." — Nathan Tucker, The Portland (Oregon) Mercury, 22 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

English speakers created acerbic in the 19th century by adding -ic to the adjective acerb. Acerb had been around since the 17th century, but for most of that time it had been used only to describe foods with a sour taste. (Acerb is still around today, but now it's simply a less common synonym of acerbic.) Acerbic and acerb ultimately come from the Latin adjective acerbus, which can mean "harsh" or "unpleasant." Another English word that comes from acerbus is exacerbate, which means "to make more violent or severe."

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Sun, 21 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 21, 2017 is:

philately • \fuh-LAT-uh-lee\  • noun

: the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps : stamp collecting


"With philately, it's not just the stamp that makes it valuable, but often the cancellation mark. Also, errors are considered good things." — Nancy Kennedy, The Citrus County (Florida) Chronicle, 5 June 2015

"Evidently, however, there is still enough interest in philately that local, national and international stamp shows are still regularly happening. San Diego has a Philatelic Council and an annual San Diego-based Sandical stamp show." — Karen Pearlman, The San Diego Union Tribune, 26 May 2016

Did you know?

Who wouldn't love something tax free? George Herpin did. He was a French stamp fancier back in the 1860s, when stamps were a fairly new invention. Before stamps, the recipient of a letter—not the sender—had to pay the postage. Stamps forced the sender to foot the bill, and created a lot of stamp lovers among folks on the receiving end of the mail—and a mania for stamp collecting. Timbromania was toyed with as a term to affix to this new hobby—from the French word for stamp, timbre. But when Herpin suggested philatélie (anglicized to philately), combining the Greek root phil-, meaning "loving," with Greek ateleia, meaning "tax-exemption," stamp lovers everywhere took a fancy to it and the name stuck.

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Sat, 20 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2017 is:

baroque • \buh-ROHK\  • adjective

1 : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of artistic expression prevalent especially in the 17th century that is marked generally by use of complex forms, bold ornamentation, and the juxtaposition of contrasting elements often conveying a sense of drama, movement, and tension

2 : characterized by grotesqueness, extravagance, complexity, or flamboyance


Though I was interested in the book's subject matter, I was put off by the baroque descriptions the author seemed to favor.

"The Rev. Canon Patrick Malloy, the priest who oversees arts-related projects at the cathedral …, said the idea was to recreate a Baroque chapel and show the tapestries differently from when they hung over the transepts." — James Barron, The New York Times, 21 Mar. 2017

Did you know?

Baroque came to English from the French word barroque, meaning "irregularly shaped." At first, the word in French was used mostly to refer to pearls. Eventually, it came to describe an extravagant style of art characterized by curving lines, gilt, and gold. This type of art, which was prevalent especially in the 17th century, was sometimes considered to be excessively decorated and overly complicated. It makes sense, therefore, that the meaning of the word baroque has broadened to include anything that seems excessively ornate or elaborate.

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Fri, 19 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2017 is:

rebus • \REE-bus\  • noun

: a representation of syllables or words by means of pictures or symbols; also : a riddle made up of such pictures or symbols


The answer to yesterday's rebus, which showed a man on an ark, a spider web, and a spoon stirring coffee, was "Noah Webster."

"The books are rebuses: They combine normally written words with emojis that substitute for words or parts of words." — Jessica Roy, The Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec. 2016

Did you know?

A rebus communicates its message by means of pictures or symbols whose names sound like various parts of a word, phrase, or sentence. For example, a picture of a can of tomatoes followed by the letters UC and a picture of a well means "Can you see well?" In Latin, the word rebus means "by things"; rebus is a form of the Latin word res, which means "thing." English speakers started using the word rebus for picture writing in the early 1600s.

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Thu, 18 May 2017 01:00:01 -0400

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

luscious • \LUSH-us\  • adjective

1 : having a delicious sweet taste or smell

2 : sexually attractive

3 a : richly luxurious or appealing to the senses

b : excessively ornate


"Stockman's abstract paintings … are simple yet luscious, with thick, sensuous, curved shapes in intense, vibrating hues." — Steffie Nelson, W, February 2017

"His exhortations of umami—that luscious, satisfying flavor, not exactly savory or sweet or sour or bitter, that the Japanese were the first to identify—whetted my curiosity. One night at dinner, a chef prepared a special batch of dashi—the umami-drenched base stock of Japanese soups—before my eyes, so I could observe and taste its alchemy as it brewed." — Liesl Schillinger, Vogue, March 2017

Did you know?

Have you ever heard a young child say something is "licius" when he or she really means it's "delicious"? Back in the Middle Ages, the word licius was sometimes used as a shortened form of delicious by adults and kids alike. Linguists believe that luscious developed when licius was further altered to lucius by 15th-century speakers. Both words ultimately derive from the Latin verb delicere, meaning "to entice by charm or attraction." The adjective lush, which can sometimes mean "delicious" as well, is not a shortened form of luscious; it derived on its own from the Middle English lusch, meaning "soft or tender."

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