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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, 20 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2018


Sat, 20 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

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

bespoke • \bih-SPOHK\  • adjective

1 : custom-made

2 : dealing in or producing custom-made articles


"Matt, a lifelong collector of vintage and bespoke men's suiting, takes dressing for an occasion very seriously: black tie the first evening; blue jackets the second." — Pilar Guzman, Traveler, December 2017

"Customers stepped up for body scans inside the showroom and then worked with an employee to design their own bespoke pullovers." — Anna Wiener, Wired, December 2017

Did you know?

In the English language of yore, the verb bespeak had various meanings, including "to speak," "to accuse," and "to complain." In the 16th century, bespeak acquired another meaning—"to order or arrange in advance." It is from that sense that we get the adjective bespoke, referring to clothes and other things that are ordered before they are made. You are most likely to encounter this adjective in British contexts, such as the 2008 Reuters news story about a young pig in Northern England who was fitted with "bespoke miniature footwear" (custom-made Wellington boots) to help it overcome a phobia of mud.

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Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

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

trammel • \TRAM-ul\  • noun

1 : something impeding activity, progress, or freedom : restraint — usually used in plural

2 : a net for catching birds or fish; especially : trammel net

3 : an adjustable pothook for a fireplace crane

4 : a shackle used for making a horse amble

5 a : ellipsograph

b : beam compass


In her memoir, the singer asserts that her musicianship was ultimately hampered by the trammels of fame.

"We learn a good deal about [Doc] Holliday: his grief at the passing of his mother when he was a teenager, his early career as an Ivy League-trained dentist, his quickness on the draw, his self-reinvention as an adventurer-wanderer, his yearning to shed the trammels of the conventional life." — Richard Bernstein, The New York Times, 22 Aug. 2001

Did you know?

A trammel net traditionally has three layers, with the middle one finer-meshed and slack so that fish passing through the first net carry some of the center net through the coarser third net and are trapped. Appropriately, trammel traces back through the Middle English tramayle and the Old French tramail to the Late Latin tremaculum, which comes from Latin tres, meaning "three," and macula, meaning "mesh." Today, the plural trammels is synonymous with restraints, and trammel is also used as a verb meaning "to confine" or "to enmesh." You may also run across the adjective untrammeled, meaning "not confined or limited."

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Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

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

homiletic • \hah-muh-LET-ik\  • adjective

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a homily

2 : of or relating to the art of preaching; also : preachy


"The first part is full of homiletic insight, the second replete with postmodern angst, the third quite beautiful in its claim to faith—even the somewhat attenuated faith of our present age." — Paul Lakeland, Commonweal, 23 Apr. 2010

"Holbein was wonderfully fresh, but the concept stemmed from a 1280 poem, Le Dit des trois morts et les trois vifs, by Baudoin de Condé. Condé’s concept of a homiletic interchange between feckless living and ghastly dead transmuted swiftly into other languages and pictorial art across Europe." — Derek Turner, The New York Times, 5 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

Homiletic came to us by way of Latin from Greek homilētikos, meaning "affable" or "social." Homilētikos came from homilein, meaning "to talk with," "to address," or "to make a speech," which in turn came from homilos, the Greek word for "crowd" or "assembly." Homilos and homilein also gave English, by way of Latin homilia and French omelie, the word homily, which is used for a short sermon, a lecture on a moral theme, and an inspirational catchphrase or platitude. Like homily, homiletic focuses on the morally instructive nature of a discourse. Homiletic can also be used derogatorily in the sense of "preachy."

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Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

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

famish • \FAM-ish\  • verb

1 : to cause to suffer severely from hunger

2 : to suffer for lack of something necessary


"At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion." — Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener," 1853

"Eating healthy regularly is more important than famishing to shed a few pounds." — Emily Long, The Daily Vidette: Illinois State University, 23 Aug. 2017

Did you know?

Famish likely developed as an alteration of Middle English famen, meaning "to starve." The Middle English word was borrowed from the Anglo-French verb afamer, which etymologists believe came from Vulgar Latin affamare. We say "believe" because, while no written evidence has yet been found for the Vulgar Latin word affamare, it would be the expected source for the Anglo-French verb based on the combination of the Latin prefix ad- ("to" or "toward") and the root noun fames ("hunger"). In contemporary English, the verb famish is still used on occasion, but it is considerably less common than the related adjective famished, which usually means "hungry" or "starving" but can also mean "needy" or "being in want."

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Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

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

adapt • \uh-DAPT\  • verb

: to make or become fit (as for a new use) often by modification


It took Rachel a while to adapt to her new school, but she is settling in well now.

"Hydroponics and aeroponics require vigilant monitoring of nutrient solution. While this can be time consuming, Tiger Corner Farms has fully automated this process by adapting warehouse management software to adjust nutrient levels, pH and other environmental parameters." — Tony Bertauski, The Post & Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 29 Nov. 2017

Did you know?

Rooted in the origins of adapt is the idea of becoming specifically fit for something. English speakers adapted adapt in the 15th century from the Middle French adapter, which was borrowed, in turn, from the Latin adaptāre,a combination of the Latin prefix ad- ("to, toward") and the verb aptāre, meaning "to put into position, bring to bear, make ready." Aptāre is a verbal derivative of aptus, meaning "fit" or "apt." Other descendants of aptus in English include aptitude, inept, and of course apt itself, as well as unapt and inapt.

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Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 15, 2018 is:

intrepid • \in-TREP-id\  • adjective

: characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance


"An intrepid engineer is on the edge of fulfilling his dream of conquering the world's toughest mountaineering challenge. Peter Sunnucks, 35, will be joined by his wife Elizabeth Wood when he heads to Antarctica in two weeks' time to try to scale the last of seven of the earth's highest peaks." — Russell Blackstock, The Sunday Post (Dundee, Scotland), 14 Nov. 2017

"A series of disappearances echoes events from 33 years before, and an intrepid teenager, Jonas (Louis Hofmann, steady at the center of the large cast), sets off into the caverns under the plant to solve the mystery." — Mike Hale, The New York Times, 5 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

You need not be afraid to find out the origins of today's word, although its history does include fear. Intrepid derives from the Latin word intrepidus, itself formed by the combination of the prefix in- (meaning "not") and trepidus, meaning "alarmed." Other relatives of trepidus in English include trepidation and trepidatious, as well as trepid (which actually predates intrepid and means "fearful"). Synonyms for intrepid include courageous, valiant, fearless, valorous, and simply brave. Intrepid aptly describes anyone—from explorers to reporters—who ventures bravely into unknown territory, though often you'll see the word loaded with irony, as in "an intrepid volunteer sampled the entries at the pie bake-off."

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Sun, 14 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 14, 2018 is:

demiurge • \DEM-ee-erj\  • noun

: one that is an autonomous creative force or decisive power


"But it is difficult to create a world, even a tiny one, and some authors are more successful than others at playing demiurge…." — Sergio Ruzzier, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2016

"Gladstone, a formidable chancellor though an indifferent prime minister, was certainly an intellectual. Like Churchill, however, he was unclassifiable. Such demiurges transcend categories." — Bruce Anderson, The Daily Telegraph (London), 8 May 2014

Did you know?

In the Platonic school of philosophy, the Demiurge is a deity who fashions the physical world in the light of eternal ideas. In the Timaeus, Plato credits the Demiurge with taking preexisting materials of chaos and arranging them in accordance with the models of eternal forms. Nowadays, the word demiurge can refer to the individual or group chiefly responsible for a creative idea, as in "the demiurge behind the new hit TV show." Demiurge derives, via Late Latin, from Greek dēmiourgos, meaning "artisan," or "one with special skill." The demi- part of the word comes from the Greek noun dēmos, meaning "people"; the second part comes from the word for worker, ergon. Despite its appearance, it is unrelated to the word urge.

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Sat, 13 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 13, 2018 is:

stanch • \STAUNCH\  • verb

1 : to check or stop the flowing of; also : to stop the flow of blood from (a wound)

2 a : to stop or check in its course

b : to make watertight : stop up


The company's CEO gave the keynote address at the convention, stanching rumors that he was not recovering well from his surgery.

"Firefighters watched the smoke and assessed wind patterns, raking dead leaves and branches away from the blaze in hopes of stanching its charge once again." — Alissa Greenberg, The Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2017

Did you know?

The verb stanch has a lot in common with the adjective staunch, meaning "steadfast." Not only do both words derive from the Anglo-French word estancher (which has the same meaning as stanch), but the spelling "s-t-a-n-c-h" is sometimes used for the adjective, and the spelling "s-t-a-u-n-c-h" is sometimes used for the verb. Although both spelling variants have been in reputable use for centuries and both are perfectly standard for either the verb or adjective, stanch is the form used most often for the verb and staunch is the most common variant for the adjective.

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Fri, 12 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 12, 2018 is:

reprehensible • \rep-rih-HEN-suh-bul\  • adjective

: worthy of or deserving reprehension, blame, or censure : culpable


The newspaper's most recent editorial calls for the mayor's resignation, citing the recent accusations of bribery as both plausible and reprehensible.

"As a practical matter, successful hostile environment lawsuits involve two distinct components. Harassment is only the first. The second is the company's failure to respond effectively after learning about it, which is what turns reprehensible on-the-job behavior into job discrimination." — Joel Jacobsen, The Albuquerque Journal, 11 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

Reprehensible, blameworthy, blamable, guilty, and culpable mean deserving reproach or punishment. Reprehensible is a strong word describing behavior that should evoke severe criticism. Blameworthy and blamable apply to any kind of act, practice, or condition considered to be wrong in any degree ("conduct adjudged blameworthy"; "an accident for which no one is blamable"). Guilty implies responsibility for or consciousness of crime, sin, or, at the least, grave error or misdoing ("guilty of a breach of etiquette"). Culpable is weaker than guilty and is likely to connote malfeasance or errors of ignorance, omission, or negligence ("culpable neglect").

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Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 11, 2018 is:

placate • \PLAY-kayt\  • verb

: to soothe or mollify especially by concessions : appease


"Laughlin can placate even the most skittish of horses, coaxing them into his trailer with sugar cubes…." — Lizzie Johnson, The San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Dec. 2017

"While reviews from riders have been generally positive, there have been complaints about boats running late and being so full that they leave people behind. City officials said they hope to placate riders by next summer with a bigger fleet." — Patrick McGeehan, The New York Times, 29 Nov. 2017

Did you know?

The earliest documented uses of the verb placate in English date from the late 17th century. The word is derived from Latin placatus, the past participle of placare, and placate still carries the basic meaning of its Latin ancestor: "to soothe" or "to appease." Other placare descendants in English are implacable (meaning "not easily soothed or satisfied") and placation ("the act of soothing or appeasing"). Even please itself, derived from Latin placēre ("to please"), is a distant relative of placate.

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