Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 28, 2016 is:

foozle • \FOO-zul\  • verb

: to manage or play awkwardly : bungle


After the receiver foozled the catch, the kicking team recovered the ball at the opponent's 10-yard line.

"He foozled a short putt on the 72nd green at Southern Hills in Tulsa that would've won him the 2001 Open, then played solidly in a Monday playoff and defeated Mark Brooks for the title." — Gary Van Sickle,, 30 July 2015

Did you know?

Foozle dates only to the late 19th century, but its origins are obscure. The German dialect verb fuseln ("to work carelessly") could figure in its history, but that speculation has never been proven. Not particularly common today, foozle still holds a special place in the hearts, minds, and vocabularies of many golfers. In golf, to foozle a shot is to bungle it and a foozle is a bungled shot. In a Century magazine piece from 1899 called "Two Players and their Play," Beatrice Hanscom reveals more of golf's specialized vocabulary:

She tops her ball; then divots fly; / In bunkers long she stays; / She foozles all along the course / In most astounding ways: / In sooth, it is an eery thing / The way Priscilla plays.

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Fri, 05/27/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 27, 2016 is:

aureate • \OR-ee-ut\  • adjective

1 : of a golden color or brilliance

2 : marked by grandiloquent and rhetorical style


The poems display the writer's mastery of both colloquial and aureate diction.

"… the sunlight burned upon his medal, giving him an aureate, convincing—but false—appearance." — David Ebershoff, Pasadena, 2003

Did you know?

Aureate is among several adjectives in English pertaining to gold that derive from the Latin name for the metal, aurum. While its relatives auriferous and auric are more likely to appear in scientific contexts to describe substances containing or made from gold (or Au, to use its chemical symbol), aureate has tended to have a more literary allure since it was first used in English in the early 15th century. Over time, the word's use was extended from "golden" to "resplendent," and it finally lost some of its luster as it came to mean "grandiloquent."

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Thu, 05/26/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 26, 2016 is:

milquetoast • \MILK-tohst\  • noun

: a timid, meek, or unassertive person


Brian was such a milquetoast that he agreed to work extra hours on Sunday even though he had already told his boss that he needed that day off.

"Aristotle said that virtue is the mean between the extremes of deficiency and excess. When someone steals your parking spot, you're virtuous if you're neither a milquetoast nor a madman, but something in between...." — Ruth Chang, The San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Nov. 2015

Did you know?

Caspar Milquetoast was a comic strip character created in 1924 by the American cartoonist Harold T. Webster. The strip, called "The Timid Soul," ran every Sunday in the New York Herald Tribune for many years. Webster, who claimed that Milquetoast was a self-portrait, summed up the character as "the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick." The earliest examples for Milquetoast used as a generic synonym for "timid person" date from the mid-1930s. Caspar's last name might remind you of "milk toast," a bland concoction of buttered toast served in a dish of warm milk.

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Wed, 05/25/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 25, 2016 is:

jeopardize • \JEP-er-dyze\  • verb

: to expose to danger or risk : imperil


Jerry was warned that a continued decrease in his sales performance could jeopardize his chances for a promotion.

"The bill grew out of a problem that has developed in north central Connecticut, where cracking foundations have jeopardized the stability of more than 150 homes, according to homeowners who have filed complaints with state officials." — Kathleen McWilliams, The Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, 8 Apr. 2016

Did you know?

It may be hard to believe that jeopardize was once controversial, but in 1870 a grammarian called it "a foolish and intolerable word," a view shared by many 19th-century critics. The preferred word was jeopard, which first appeared in print in the 14th century. (The upstart jeopardize turned up in 1582.) In 1828, Noah Webster himself declared jeopardize to be "a modern word, used by respectable writers in America, but synonymous with 'jeopard,' and therefore useless." Unfortunately for the champions of jeopard, jeopardize is now much more popular.

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Tue, 05/24/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 24, 2016 is:

stolid • \STAH-lid\  • adjective

: having or expressing little or no sensibility : unemotional


The stolid detective spoke to the witness in a precise, unequivocal manner.

"A modest woman of great heart and spirit, Deirdre, perhaps more than any other member of the family, has weathered the storms she and her husband have endured with a stolid equanimity…." — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2016

Did you know?

Stolid derives from stolidus, a word that means "dull" or "stupid" in Latin. It is also distantly related to the word stultify, meaning "to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical." The earliest examples of usage for stolid, dating back to the early 17th century, indicate that it too was originally associated with a lack of smarts; it was used to describe people who were considered dull or stupid because they didn't wear their emotions on their sleeves. By the 1800s, however, stolid was frequently appearing without the connotation of foolishness, and it continues to be free of such overtones today.

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Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 23, 2016 is:

litotes • \LYE-tuh-teez\  • noun

: understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary


"Vacationing in the Caribbean wasn't a total drag," said Sheila with her characteristic flair for litotes.

"Analysts and experts reached for metaphors, similes, allusions, litotes and anything else lying about to express their wonderment." — Wesley Pruden, The Washington Times, 31 Oct. 2003

Did you know?

Even if you've never heard the word litotes, chances are you've encountered this figure of speech. If you've ever approved of a job well done by exclaiming "Not bad!" or told someone that you are "not unhappy" when you are ecstatic, you've even used it yourself. In fact, you might say that it would be "no mean feat" to avoid this common feature of our language! And litotes isn't only common; it's also simple—etymologically speaking, that is. Litotes evolved from a Greek word meaning "simple," and perhaps ultimately from another Greek word meaning "linen cloth."

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Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 22, 2016 is:

ideate • \EYE-dee-ayt\  • verb

1 : to form an idea or conception of (something)

2 : to form an idea


Jocelyn used the lunch hour at the education seminar to talk with other teachers and ideate new activities to use in the classroom.

"Most of us don't dedicate any time to thinking and ideating. To think well, you need to be willing to fail well." — Andy Lark, Fortune, 7 Mar. 2016

Did you know?

Like idea and ideal, ideate comes from the Greek verb idein, which means "to see." The sight-thought connection came courtesy of Plato, the Greek philosopher who based his theory of the ideal on the concept of seeing, claiming that a true philosopher can see the essential nature of things and can recognize their ideal form or state. Early uses of idea, ideal, and ideate in English were associated with Platonic philosophy; idea meant "an archetype" or "a standard of perfection," ideal meant "existing as an archetype," and ideate referred to forming Platonic ideas. But though ideate is tied to ancient philosophy, the word itself is a modern concoction, relatively speaking. It first appeared in English only about 400 years ago.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Sat, 05/21/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 21, 2016 is:

zeroth • \ZEE-rohth\  • adjective

: being numbered zero in a series; also : of, relating to, or being a zero


"Many tall buildings lack a 13th floor, skipping from 12 to 14 to avoid that dreaded number. Most buildings—at least in the U.S.A.—also lack a zeroth floor." — Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty, Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2005

"… I teach creative writing, and I expect I've confused a great many students with my 'tear up your synopsis' approach. My excuse is that I didn't start out as a literary type: in my zeroth life I was a physicist, and I've always felt some sympathy for Bertrand Russell's advice: 'Say everything in the smallest number of words in which it can be said clearly.'" — Andrew Crumey, Time Out, 27 Mar. 2008

Did you know?

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to use zeroth, but the word, which was coined by physicists 120 years ago, does often show up in scientific contexts. (It comes from zero, which is itself from Arabic ṣifr.) These days zeroth is frequently used to suggest a level of importance that is even higher than first. Renowned Soviet physicist Lev Landau used zeroth this way when he classified all the famous physicists according to the relative value of their contributions to science. He put Niels Bohr and Max Planck, for example, right up there in the first class, and lesser-rated physicists in the second through fifth classes. Where did he think Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton belonged? They were unmatched, he felt, so they went in his zeroth class.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Fri, 05/20/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2016 is:

dally • \DAL-ee\  • verb

1 a : to act playfully; especially : to play amorously

b : to deal lightly : toy

2 a : to waste time

b : linger, dawdle


He dithered and dallied, avoiding his work for as long as possible.

"Voters don't elect leaders to dally, stall, drag their feet and excel at the art of delay." —The Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), 31 Dec. 2015

Did you know?

English speakers have been playing with different uses of dally since the 14th century. They first started using the word with the meaning "to chat," which was also the meaning of the Anglo-French word from which it was derived, but that meaning fell into disuse by the end of the 15th century. Next, dalliers were amusing themselves by acting playfully with each other especially in amorous and flirtatious ways. Apparently, some dalliers were also a bit derisive, leading dally to mean "to deal with lightly or in a way that is not serious." It didn't take long for the fuddy-duddies to criticize all this play as a waste of time. By the mid-16th century, dally was weighted down with its "to waste time" and "dawdle" meanings, which, in time, gave way to the word dillydally, a humorous reduplication of dally.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Thu, 05/19/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2016 is:

ramshackle • \RAM-shak-ul\  • adjective

1 : appearing ready to collapse : rickety

2 : carelessly or loosely constructed


The yard was sectioned off by a ramshackle wooden fence that was just barely held together with chicken wire.

"He's also made the bold move of purchasing the ramshackle building behind his market, envisioning an Internet cafe." — Sarah Netter, The Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2016

Did you know?

Ramshackle has nothing to do with rams, nor the act of being rammed, nor shackles. The word is an alteration of ransackled, an obsolete form of the verb ransack, meaning "to search through or plunder." (Ransack in turn derives, via Middle English, from Old Norse words meaning "house" and "seek.") A home that has been ransacked has had its contents thrown into disarray, and that image may be what caused us to start using ramshackle in the first half of the 19th century to describe something that is poorly constructed or in a state of near collapse. These days, ramshackle can also be used figuratively, as in "He could only devise a ramshackle excuse for his absence."

Categories: Fun Stuff


Wed, 05/18/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2016 is:

nomenclature • \NOH-mun-klay-cher\  • noun

1 : name, designation

2 : the act or process or an instance of naming

3 a : a system or set of terms or symbols especially in a particular science, discipline, or art

b : an international system of standardized New Latin names used in biology for kinds and groups of kinds of animals and plants


"Most Americans are aware of differences in nomenclature between British and American English, e.g. flat versus apartment, lift versus elevator, petrol versus gasoline." — Sara Boyett, The Silver City (New Mexico) Daily Press & Independent, 31 Mar. 2016

"And although the nomenclature of Greenhouse Bistro and Samovar Tea Room suggests a quieter, intimate restaurant, the two actually take up a massive 14,000-square-foot location that seats 580 between the tearoom, the Greenhouse interior and a 2,000-square-foot patio out front." — Rebecca Cooper, The Washington (D.C.) Business Journal, 6 Apr. 2016

Did you know?

In his 1926 Dictionary of Modern English Usage, grammarian H. W. Fowler asserted that it was wrong to use nomenclature as a synonym for name; he declared that nomenclature could only mean "a system of naming or of names." It is true that nomenclature comes from the Latin nomenclatura, meaning "the assigning of names," but the name sense was the first to appear in English (it is documented as long ago as 1610), and it has been considered perfectly standard for centuries.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2016 is:

hector • \HEK-ter\  • verb

1 : to play the bully : swagger

2 : to intimidate or harass by bluster or personal pressure


The judge sternly ordered the attorney to stop hectoring the witness.

"For several years now he has been making life easier for every journalist who follows the Affordable Care Act by heroically compiling health insurance enrollments under the law, explaining developments, debunking myths, and hectoring the nearly infinite sources of mis- and disinformation … into getting things right." — Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2016

Did you know?

Hector wasn't always a bully. In Homer's Iliad, the eldest son of King Priam of Troy was a model soldier, son, father, and friend, the champion of the Trojan army until he was killed by the Greek hero Achilles. How did the name of a Trojan paragon become a generic synonym of bully? That pejorative English use was likely influenced by gangs of rowdy street toughs who roamed London in the 17th century and called themselves "Hectors." They may have thought themselves gallant young blades, but to the general populace they were merely swaggering bullies who intimidated passersby and vandalized property. By 1660, hector was being used as a noun for the sort of blustering braggarts who populated those gangs, and as a verb as well.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Mon, 05/16/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2016 is:

quincunx • \KWIN-kunks\  • noun

: an arrangement of five things in a square or rectangle with one at each corner and one in the middle


The sculptures in the square were arranged in a quincunx with the outer ones marking the perimeter and the middle one serving as the centerpiece.

"The towers of Angkor Wat—shaped in a quincunx, five points in a cross—were named after Mount Meru, the home of the gods believed in Indian myth to lie at the center of the world." — William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books, 21 May 2015

Did you know?

In ancient Rome, a quincunx was a coin with a weight equal to five twelfths of a libra, a unit of weight similar to our pound. The coin's name comes from the Latin roots quinque, meaning "five," and uncia, meaning "one twelfth."  The ancients used a pattern of five dots arranged like the pips on a die as a symbol for the coin, and English speakers applied the word to arrangements similar to that distinctive five-dot mark.

Categories: Fun Stuff


Sun, 05/15/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2016 is:

eminently • \EM-uh-nunt-lee\  • adverb

: to a high degree : very


The candidate is so eminently qualified that it is difficult to imagine why she would not get the position.

"… in the interest of exercise and getting to know my town a little better, my New Year's resolution was this: Walk every block of this eminently walkable little city in 2016." — Tim Buckwalter, (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), 18 Mar. 2016

Did you know?

When British physician Tobias Venner wrote in 1620 of houses "somewhat eminently situated," he used eminently in a way that now seems unusual. Venner meant that the houses were literally located in a high place, but that lofty use of eminently has since slipped into obsolescence. The term also formerly had the meaning "conspicuously," a use that reflects its Latin root, eminēre, which means "to stand out." That meaning, like the elevated one, is now obsolete. The figurative sense that is still prominent today also began appearing in English texts in the 1600s.

Categories: Fun Stuff