Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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

guttural • \GUTT-uh-rul\  • adjective

1 : articulated in the throat

2 : velar

3 : being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable


The only response we could get from him was an inarticulate guttural grunt.

"The guttural yells echoing off New Jersey's Lake Mercer conveyed the gravity of college rowing's biggest day Sunday: the Intercollegiate Rowing Championship." — Brian Towey, The Seattle Times, 6 June 2016

Did you know?

Though it is now used to describe many sounds or utterances which strike the listener as harsh or disagreeable, the adjective guttural was originally applied only to sounds and utterances produced in the throat. This is reflected in the word's Latin root—guttur, meaning "throat." Despite the similarity in sound, guttural is not related to the English word gutter, which comes (by way of Anglo-French) from Latin gutta, meaning "drop."

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Thu, 08/25/2016 - 12:00am

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

notch • \NAHTCH\  • noun

1 a : a V-shaped indentation

b : a slit made to serve as a record

c : a rounded indentation cut into the pages of a book on the edge opposite the spine

2 : a deep close pass : gap

3 : degree, step


The angle of the futon can be adjusted by inserting the pin into one of three notches.

"You're about to start a race or step onstage, and you want to knock it out of the park. … Revving up … is pretty easy: Do a few jumping jacks, or whatever gets your blood pumping. Need to take things down a notch (or 20)? Inhale deeply. Research shows that it can significantly calm you down." — Jeanine Detz, Self, July/August 2016

Did you know?

Occasionally, you might hear a child ask for a "napple," as in "I would like a napple," mistaking the phrase "an apple" for "a napple." A similar error is believed to be behind notch, which may have resulted from a misdivision of "an otch." (Otch is a noun that is assumed to have existed in earlier English as a borrowing of Middle French oche, meaning "an incision made to keep a record.") Notch would not be alone in developing from such a mistake. The words newt and nickname were formed, respectively, from misdivisions of "an ewte" and "an ekename." Going in the other direction, umpire first appears in Middle English as oumpere, a mistaken rendering of "a noumpere."

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Wed, 08/24/2016 - 12:00am

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

insinuate • \in-SIN-yuh-wayt\  • verb

1 a : to introduce (as an idea) gradually or in a subtle, indirect, or covert way

b : to impart or suggest in an artful or indirect way : imply

2 : to introduce (as oneself) by stealthy, smooth, or artful means


"They are confident buildings, but not boastful ones. They have a way of insinuating themselves into the landscape, behaving as if they’ve always been there." — Karrie Jacobs, Architect, 18 June 2013

"Pokemon Go players couldn't catch much on Saturday. That's because the game kept crashing. … [A] group called PoodleCorp claimed responsibility for the server crash in a series of tweets. The group also insinuated that another attack on the game was imminent." — Ahiza Garcia, CNN Wire, 16 July 2016

Did you know?

The meaning of insinuate is similar to that of another verb, suggest. Whether you suggest or insinuate something, you are conveying an idea indirectly. But although these two words share the same basic meaning, each gets the idea across in a different way. When you suggest something, you put it into the mind by associating it with other ideas, desires, or thoughts. You might say, for example, that a book's title suggests what the story is about. The word insinuate, on the other hand, usually includes a sense that the idea being conveyed is unpleasant, or that it is being passed along in a sly or underhanded way ("She insinuated that I cheated").

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Tue, 08/23/2016 - 12:00am

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

journeyman • \JER-nee-mun\  • noun

1 : a worker who has learned a trade and works for another person usually by the day

2 : an experienced reliable worker, athlete, or performer especially as distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful


"I started working exclusively as an actor when I was 25 years old…. I was a journeyman actor, working here and there. And I loved it." — Bryan Cranston, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2016

"Rich Hill is 36 and likely to be the most sought-after pitcher on the trade market, but he claims he doesn't see it that way. The transformation from journeyman to a pitcher with electric stuff has been stunning at his age." — Nick Cafardo, The Boston Globe, 10 July 2016

Did you know?

The journey in journeyman refers to a sense of the familiar word not often used anymore: "a day's labor." This sense of journey was first used in the 14th century. When journeyman appeared the following century, it originally referred to a person who, having learned a handicraft or trade through an apprenticeship, worked for daily wages. In the 16th century, journeyman picked up a figurative (and mainly deprecatory) sense; namely, "one who drudges for another." These days, however, journeyman has little to do with drudgery, and lots to do with knowing a trade inside out.

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Mon, 08/22/2016 - 12:00am

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

lenient • \LEEN-yunt\  • adjective

1 : exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress

2 : of mild and tolerant disposition; especially : indulgent


Because Kevin didn't have any past violations on his driving record, the officer decided to be lenient and let him off with a written warning.

"In February, he pleaded guilty to a bribery count and a tax count. His attorney … has said federal prosecutors have recommended a lenient sentence in exchange for his cooperation." — Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), 18 July 2016

Did you know?

Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of lenient referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by lenitive, an earlier derivative of lenire that was commonly used with electuary (a "lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in toe is fortis.

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Sun, 08/21/2016 - 12:00am

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

hypocorism • \hye-PAH-kuh-riz-um\  • noun

1 : a pet name

2 : the use of pet names


People began to refer to the elusive and mysterious Loch Ness monster by the hypocorism "Nessie" in the 1940s.

"… the use of hypocorisms … is on the decline (only my Aunt Dorothy is still called Toots), and terms of endearment have come under suspicion ('Call me Dollboat or Sweetie-Pie one more time, Mr. Snodgrass, and you've got a harassment suit on your hands')." — William Safire, The New York Times, 27 Sept. 1992

Did you know?

In Late Latin and Greek, the words hypocorisma and hypokorisma had the same meaning as hypocorism does in English today. They in turn evolved from the Greek verb hypokorizesthai ("to call by pet names"), which itself comes from korizesthai ("to caress"). Hypocorism joined the English language in the mid-19th century and was once briefly a buzzword among linguists, who used it rather broadly to mean "adult baby talk"—that is, the altered speech adults use when supposedly imitating babies. Once the baby talk issue faded, hypocorism settled back into being just a fancy word for a pet name. Pet names can be diminutives like "Johnny" for "John," endearing terms such as "honey-bunch," or, yes, names from baby talk, like "Nana" for "Grandma."

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Sat, 08/20/2016 - 12:00am

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

namby-pamby • \nam-bee-PAM-bee\  • adjective

1 : lacking in character or substance : insipid

2 : weak, indecisive


John complained that the movie was a namby-pamby romance with too much dialogue and not enough action.

"I go to a barber for a haircut and clip my own nails, and would rather smell broccoli cooking for a week than go to some namby-pamby spa place to get … my body kneaded like a loaf of over-fermented Wonder Bread." — Michael Penkava, The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), 27 Feb. 2016

Did you know?

Eighteenth-century poets Alexander Pope and Henry Carey didn't think much of their contemporary Ambrose Philips. His sentimental, singsong verses were too childish and simple for their palates. In 1726, Carey came up with the rhyming nickname Namby-Pamby (playing on Ambrose) to parody Philips: "Namby-Pamby's doubly mild / Once a man and twice a child ... / Now he pumps his little wits / All by little tiny bits." In 1729, Pope borrowed the nickname to take his own satirical jab at Philips in the poem "The Dunciad." Before long, namby-pamby was being applied to any piece of writing that was insipidly precious, simple, or sentimental, and later to anyone considered pathetically weak or indecisive.

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Fri, 08/19/2016 - 12:00am

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

fret • \FRET\  • verb

1 a : to eat or gnaw into : wear, corrode; also : fray

b : rub, chafe

c : to make by wearing away

2 : to become vexed or worried

3 : agitate, ripple


"You shouldn't fret so much over your wardrobe," Liza said. "You look great no matter what you wear."

"Not so long ago independent booksellers fretted about the Nooks and the Kindles and the iPad—digital reading devices. And if that didn't scare them, the trend of reading everything on a phone was worrisome." — Darrell Ehrlick, The Billings (Montana) Gazette, 22 July 2016

Did you know?

Since its first use centuries ago, fret has referred to an act of eating, especially when done by animals—in particular, small ones. You might speak, for example, of moths fretting your clothing. Like eat, fret also developed figurative senses to describe actions that corrode or wear away. A river could be said to "fret away" at its banks or something might be said to be "fretted out" with time or age. Fret can also be applied to emotional experiences so that something that "eats away at us" might be said to "fret the heart or mind." This use developed into the specific meaning of "vex" or "worry" with which we often use fret today.

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Thu, 08/18/2016 - 12:00am

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

panoptic • \pan-OP-tik\  • adjective

: being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view


The new security cameras installed in the jewelry store capture panoptic views of the entrance and display cases.

"Interweaving the narratives of an aristocratic uptown family, an underground punk band, a Long Island adolescent, a black gay aspiring writer, and a journalist determined to uncover the obscure connections between them all, the more-than-900-page novel … casts a panoptic lens on 1970s New York City…." — Lauren Christensen, Vanity Fair, October 2015

Did you know?

The establishment of panoptic in the English language can be attributed to two inventions known as panopticons. The more well-known panopticon was conceived by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. Bentham’s panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which guards could see the inmates at all times. The other panopticon, also created in the 18th century, was a device containing pictures of attractions, such as European capitals, that people viewed through an opening. Considering the views that both inventions gave, it is not hard to see why panoptic (a word derived from Greek panoptēs, meaning "all-seeing") was being used by the early 19th century.

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Wed, 08/17/2016 - 12:00am

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

dunnage • \DUN-ij\  • noun

1 : loose materials used to support and protect cargo in a ship's hold; also : padding in a shipping container

2 : baggage


The listed weight on the shipping order did not account for the container and dunnage.

"There are … efforts to reduce impact on the environment, with employees reusing as much of the packing material as possible. Boxes can be reused or turned into dunnage to use in packing." — The Crossville (Tennessee) Chronicle, 26 Nov. 2012

Did you know?

Etymologists don't know the exact origin of dunnage. Some have pointed out the similarity of the word to dünne twige, a Low German term meaning "brushwood," but no one has ever proven the two are related. Others have speculated that it derives from Dunlop, the name of a famous cheese-making town in Scotland; however, neither the town nor the cheese has any connection to dunnage. Truth be told, though dunnage has been with us since the 15th century, its etymological history remains a mystery.

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Tue, 08/16/2016 - 12:00am

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

dedication • \ded-ih-KAY-shun\  • noun

1 : a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose or use

2 : a name and often a message prefixed to a literary, musical, or artistic production in tribute to a person or cause

3 : self-sacrificing devotion

4 : a ceremony to mark the official completion or opening of something (as a building)


"Each of my days with my children embodies my dedication when I am open to them. Sitting around our kitchen table over dinner … we are giving thanks, talking to each other, laughing…." — Kathryn Black, in The Imperfect Mom, 2006

"My wife would say my best habit is ... my work ethic. She's impressed by my dedication." — Jimmie Johnson, quoted in Good Housekeeping, April 2012

Did you know?

The word dedication first appears in the 14th century as a name for the solemn act of dedicating something, such as a calendar day or a church, to a divine being or to a sacred use. The word—formed from the Latin past participle of dedicare, meaning "to dedicate"—did not take hold in secular contexts until a few centuries later when English speakers began using it to refer to the act of devoting time and energy to a particular purpose. One of the earliest writers to do so is William Shakespeare. "His life I gave him, and did thereto ad / My love without retention or restraint, / All his in dedication….," proclaims his character Antonio in Twelfth Night. Dedication has also come to describe the quality of being loyal or devoted to a cause, ideal, or purpose. Nowadays, people are commonly spoken of as having a dedication to his or her family or work.

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soul mate

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 12:00am

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

soul mate • \SOHL-MAYT\  • noun

1 : a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament

2 : a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs


They have been best friends and soul mates for nearly two decades.

"Decades of incredible songs performed by a multitalented ensemble sweep the audience through the musical journey of [Johnny Cash's] life, including gospel, folk, country and rock, along with incredible duets with his soul mate, June Carter." — The Chicago Daily Herald, 13 June 2016

Did you know?

The earliest known use of soul mate is found in an 1822 letter from English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to "a Young Lady" in which he writes, "To be happy in Marriage Life, nay … in order not to be miserable, you must have a Soul-mate as well as a House or a Yoke-mate…." The word yokemate is used to refer to someone who is figuratively yoked to another, such as a close associate or companion, or, as Coleridge uses the word, a spouse. Coleridge's advice to the recipient of his letter, then, is that she should not simply settle for a husband, but rather for a person whose character and sensibilities are of a nature suitable to her own. Soul mate is now often used by English speakers to describe those with whom our bonds of affection are marked by a strong sense of like-mindedness and intertwined affinities.

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Sun, 08/14/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 14, 2016 is:

tog • \TAHG\  • verb

: to dress especially in fine clothing — usually used with up or out


Christine smiled as she took pictures of her teenage son, who was togged out in a tuxedo and standing next to his prom date.

"Togged out in his driving gear and trademark tinted goggles, and sporting a jaunty mustache, Walter C. Baker cut a dashing, even raffish figure." — Michael W. Dominowski, The Staten Island (New York) Advance, 26 May 2013

Did you know?

The history of tog is a true rags-to-riches tale that begins with the slang of vagabonds and thieves—specifically, with the noun togeman, an old (and now obsolete) slang word meaning "cloak." By the early 18th century, the noun tog, a shortened form of togeman, was being used as a slang word for "coat," and before the century's end the plural form togs was being used to mean "clothing." The verb tog debuted shortly after togs and was immediately in style as a word for dressing up. You may be wondering if there's a connection between tog and toga, and if so, you are right on track. Togeman is believed to be derived in part from toga, which means "cloak" or "mantle" in Latin.

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Sat, 08/13/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 13, 2016 is:

zest • \ZEST\  • noun

1 : a piece of the peel of a citrus fruit (such as an orange or lemon) used as flavoring

2 : an enjoyably exciting quality : piquancy

3 : keen enjoyment : relish, gusto


Healthy and active as a senior citizen, Richard had a zest for life, a desire to travel and see the world, and a perpetual interest in trying new things.

"Basically, chocolate powder gets sprinkled on top of your cappuccino. It may not seem like much, but the sugary bitterness from the chocolate adds zest to the beverage." — Jean Trinh, The Los Angeles Magazine, 24 June 2016

Did you know?

Zest can spice up your life—fitting for a word that we learned from the world of cooking. We borrowed the term from a source that has given English speakers many culinary delights: French cuisine. The French used the form zest (nowadays they spell it zeste) to refer to orange or lemon peel used to flavor food or drinks. English speakers developed a taste for the fruit flavoring and adopted the term zest in the late 1600s. By the early 1700s, they had started using the word to refer to any quality that adds enjoyment to something in the same way that the zest of an orange or lemon adds flavor to food.

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