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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: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

Copyright: Copyright 2018


Wed, 25 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

slew • \SLOO\  • noun

: a large number


Daniel regularly receives a slew of clothing catalogs as part of his junk mail.

"We had two weeks off and wanted to take a fun mother-daughter trip to Europe but didn't want to grapple with the slew of flights we'd have to take to visit multiple cities or the constant unpacking and packing involved on such a trip." — Shivani Vora, The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2018

Did you know?

Slew appeared as an American colloquialism in the early 19th century. Its origins are unclear, but it is perhaps taken from the Irish slua, a descendant of Old Irish slúag, meaning "army," "host," or "throng." Slew has several homographs (words that are spelled alike but different in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation) in English. These include: slew as the past tense of the verb slay; slew as a spelling variant of slough, a word which is also commonly pronounced \SLOO\ and which means "swamp," "an inlet on a river," or "a creek in a marsh or tide flat"; and the verb slew, meaning "to turn, veer, or skid."

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Tue, 24 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

loath • \LOHTH\  • adjective

: unwilling to do something contrary to one's ways of thinking : reluctant


My grandfather was naturally very proud of the company he had built, so he was loath to admit that it was time to think about selling it and retiring.

"It seems like a lot of film directors are loath to embrace VR for the same reason that Roger Ebert famously dismissed video games as a form of art: They think it's a gimmick that punishes artistry in the name of the medium's requirements." — Alex McLevy, The A.V. Club, 15 Mar. 2018

Did you know?

Many usage commentators point out that the spelling of loath, the adjective, is distinct from loathe, the verb that means "to dislike greatly." Merriam-Webster dictionaries do record loathe (along with loth) as a variant spelling for the adjective, but at the same time indicate that the loath spelling is the most common one. The adjective and the verb both hark back to Old English, and the "e" ending in each has come and gone over the centuries—but if you want to avoid the ire of those who like to keep the language tidy, stick with loath for the adjective and loathe for the verb.

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Mon, 23 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

cathexis • \kuh-THEK-sis\  • noun

: investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea


"In 2004, Bowie had a heart attack, and he was recently rumored to be in poor health. Leading up to the release of 'The Next Day,' a jittery cathexis formed. Do we judge Bowie as we always have, by his own standards? Would a new album be received reverentially, like those of the post-motorcycle-crash Bob Dylan?" — Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker, 18 Mar. 2013

"… young lovers who marry during the giddy rush of cathexis, when the hormonal highs of romantic love prompt them to be in love with being in love, often find there's no cement to tightly bind their relationship." — Mike Masterson, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 25 Dec. 2016

Did you know?

You might suspect that cathexis derives from a word for "emotion," but in actuality the key concept is "holding." Cathexis comes to us by way of New Latin (Latin as used after the medieval period in scientific description or classification) from the Greek word kathexis, meaning "holding." It can ultimately be traced back (through katechein, meaning "to hold fast, occupy") to the Greek verb echein, meaning "to have" or "to hold." Cathexis first appeared in print in 1922 in a book about Freud's psychological theories (which also established the plural as cathexes, as is consistent with Latin), and it is still often used in scientific and specifically psychological contexts.

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Sun, 22 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

traduce • \truh-DOOSS\  • verb

1 : to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation

2 : violate, betray


"Here, at last, was someone prepared publicly to speak up for the BBC when so many others were seeking to traduce and destroy it." — Jason Cowley, New Statesman, 19 Nov. 2012

"Some players' records reflect abilities enhanced by acts of bad character—surreptitious resorts to disreputable chemistry that traduces sportsmanship. But as younger writers who did not cover baseball during the PED era become Hall of Fame voters, the electorate is becoming less interested in disqualifying PED users." — George Will, The Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2017

Did you know?

Traduce is one of a number of English synonyms that you can choose when you need a word that means "to injure by speaking ill of." Choose traduce when you want to stress the deep personal humiliation, disgrace, and distress felt by the victim. If someone doesn't actually lie, but makes statements that injure by specific and often subtle misrepresentations, malign may be the more precise choice. To make it clear that the speaker is malicious and the statements made are false, calumniate is a good option. But if you need to say that certain statements represent an attempt to destroy a reputation by open and direct abuse, vilify is the word you want.

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Sat, 21 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

grudging • \GRUH-jing\  • adjective

1 : unwilling, reluctant

2 : done, given, or allowed unwillingly, reluctantly, or sparingly


"The class differences between teacher and students are so pronounced that they threaten to plunge the film into a schoolhouse drama—that well-worn genre in which a charismatic authority figure, inevitably likable yet inevitably tough, gains her students' grudging respect and eventual trust." — Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times, 22 Mar. 2018

"There is no grudging marriage of art and politics in her work; as John Berger, one of her longtime interlocutors and a formative influence, wrote, 'Far from my dragging politics into art, art has dragged me into politics.' [Arundhati] Roy's work conveys a similar spirit." — Parul Sehgal, The Atlantic, 17 June 2017

Did you know?

In the 15th century, English jurist Sir John Fortescue observed, "Somme . . . obtayne gretter rewardis than thei have disserved, and yit grugge, seying they have [too] litill." Fortescue's grugge (an early spelling of the verb grudge) meant "to grumble and complain," just like its Middle English forerunner, grucchen, and the Anglo-French word grucer, which gave rise to the English forms. English speakers had adopted the "complain" sense of grudge by the late 13th century, and a century later they had added the extended sense "to give reluctantly." That second sense may have developed because people associated grudge with the related word begrudge (meaning "to give reluctantly," as in "I begrudged him a second chance.") Grudging, which developed from grudge, made its English debut in the 1530s.

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Fri, 20 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

bloviate • \BLOH-vee-ayt\  • verb

: to speak or write verbosely and windily


"It's a slow night. Just a couple of other regulars and our usual bartender, a bright, young fellow who seems to enjoy his customers' company, despite our tendency to bloviate." — Bruce VanWyngarden, The Memphis Flyer, 15 Feb. 2018

"Wall Street analysts and the media covering them have often bloviated about the lamentable end of retail, the death of department stores, the changing fickle habits of Millennials, the power of online retail, and the tragedy of an America left behind." — Monica Showalter, The American Thinker, 6 July 2017

Did you know?

Warren G. Harding is often linked to bloviate, but to him the word wasn't insulting; it simply meant "to spend time idly." Harding used the word often in that "hanging around" sense, but during his tenure as the 29th U.S. President (1921-23), he became associated with the "verbose" sense of bloviate, perhaps because his speeches tended to the long-winded side. Although he is sometimes credited with having coined the word, it's more likely that Harding picked it up from local slang while hanging around with his boyhood buddies in Ohio in the late 1800s. The term probably derives from a combination of the word blow plus the suffix -ate.

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Thu, 19 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

headlong • \HED-LAWNG\  • adverb

1 : with the head foremost

2 : without deliberation : recklessly

3 : without pause or delay


He's impulsive when it comes to romance and often rushes headlong into relationships, with little thought given to their long-term viability.

"What was once optimistically pitched as a complete 800-mile program that could be built for about $35 billion and conceivably up and running by as early as 2020 has run headlong into an unrelenting wall of obstacles, including engineering, litigation and politics." — Tim Sheehan, The Fresno (California) Bee, 15 Mar. 2018

Did you know?

Headlong appeared in Middle English as hedlong, an alteration of the older hedling. Hedling is a combination of the Middle English hed ("head") and -ling, an adverb suffix which means "in such a direction or manner." Thus, hedling originally meant "with the head foremost" or, if you will, "in the direction of the head." By the late 1400s, influenced by its use in the compound word endlong, the adjective long began to be regarded as a suffix and a variant of -ling. It was this substitution of -ling with -long that led to the replacement of words like sideling and headling with the now more familiar sidelong and headlong.

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Wed, 18 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

embarrass • \im-BAIR-us\  • verb

1 a : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress

b : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties

c : to involve in financial difficulties

2 a : to hamper the movement of

b : hinder, impede

3 : to make intricate : complicate

4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part)


He was embarrassed to discover that he had been talking to prospective clients all day with a piece of spinach lodged in his teeth.

"To start with, the existence of the blog post itself is a striking demonstration of privilege. Most people think twice before publicly embarrassing their former employers, for fear that it will ruin their careers or they will face other types of retaliation." — Sarah Kessler, Quartz, 27 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame, then you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and baraça, the Portuguese word for "noose." Though embarrass has had various meanings related to acts that hinder or impede throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.

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Tue, 17 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

onomatopoeia • \ah-nuh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh\  • noun

1 : the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz, hiss)

2 : the use of words whose sound suggests the sense


"The 'whiz'—or is it the 'whoosh,' or maybe 'sh-sh-sh-sh-sh'?—of an ace being served is described … by rival tennis players in the opening moments of Anna Ziegler's 'The Last Match.' The speakers concede, though, that an onomatopoeia doesn't do the job of explaining what it's like to have a meteoric ball hurtling past your ears, shattering your hopes if not the sound barrier." — Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 26 Oct. 2017

"[James] Chapman pointed out that what looks like variation in onomatopoeia is sometimes simply a rearranging of discrete sounds: clap clap in English becomes plec plec in Portuguese." — Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, 27 Nov. 2015

Did you know?

Onomatopoeia came into English via Late Latin and ultimately traces back to Greek onoma, meaning "name," and poiein, meaning "to make." (Onoma can be found in such terms as onomastics, which refers to the study of proper names and their origins, while poiein gave us such words as poem and poet.) English speakers have only used the word onomatopoeia since the mid-1500s, but people have been creating words from the sounds heard around them for much longer. In fact, the presence of so many imitative words in language spawned the linguistic bowwow theory, which postulates that language originated in imitation of natural sounds.

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Mon, 16 Apr 2018 01:00:01 -0400

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

vulnerable • \VUL-nuh-ruh-bul\  • adjective

1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded

2 : open to attack or damage : assailable


The article reminds readers to install the latest antivirus software on their computers so that they will not be vulnerable to malware and viruses.

"Updated flood maps would give property owners an accurate picture of how vulnerable their property is to flooding and would help them take the appropriate measures to prepare for future storms." — Steve Ellis, Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press, 15 Mar. 2018

Did you know?

Vulnerable is ultimately derived from the Latin noun vulnus ("wound"). Vulnus led to the Latin verb vulnerare, meaning "to wound," and then to the Late Latin adjective vulnerabilis, which became vulnerable in English in the early 1600s. Vulnerable originally meant "capable of being physically wounded" or "having the power to wound" (the latter is now obsolete), but since the late 1600s, it has also been used figuratively to suggest a defenselessness against non-physical attacks. In other words, someone (or something) can be vulnerable to criticism or failure as well as to literal wounding. When it is used figuratively, vulnerable is often followed by the preposition to.

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