Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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redux

15 hours 46 min ago

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 21, 2014 is:

redux • \ree-DUKS\  • adjective
: brought back

Examples:
Now running in his own campaign, the son of the former mayor was advised to develop his own identity and not simply portray himself as his father redux.

"Think of it as 'Combat Evolved' redux. 'Destiny' wants to meld the multiplayer and single-player experience into a coherent whole." — Gieson Cacho, San Jose Mercury News, September 16, 2014

Did you know?
In Latin, redux (from the verb reducere, meaning "to lead back") can mean "brought back" or "bringing back." The Romans used redux as an epithet for the Goddess Fortuna with its "bringing back" meaning; Fortuna Redux was "one who brings another safely home." But it was the "brought back" meaning that made its way into English. Redux belongs to a small class of English adjectives that are always used postpositively—that is, they always follow the words they modify. Redux has a history of showing up in titles of English works, such as John Dryden’s Astraea Redux (a poem "on the happy restoration and return of his sacred majesty, Charles the Second"), Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Redux, and John Updike’s Rabbit Redux.

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impunity

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 20, 2014 is:

impunity • \im-PYOO-nuh-tee\  • noun
: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss

Examples:
Penalties for breaking the law can be made harsher, but without extra funding for its enforcement, people will continue to violate it with impunity.

"Carlos Zarate, a congressman who sits on the Philippine House of Representatives' Human Rights Committee, said in an interview Tuesday that the arrest of General Palparan did not signal an end to the problem of security forces committing abuses with impunity." — Floyd Whaley, The New York Times, August 13, 2014

Did you know?
Impunity (like the words pain, penal, and punish) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning "punishment." The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning "payment" or "penalty." People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s, as in this 1660 example by Englishman Roger Coke: "This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they list [desire]." While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: "Certain beetles have learned to detoxify [willow] leaves in their digestive tract so they can eat them with impunity" (Smithsonian, September 1986).

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esculent

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 19, 2014 is:

esculent • \ESS-kyuh-lunt\  • adjective
: edible

Examples:
Morels are esculent mushrooms and are delicious, but be warned that there are also false morels, which are poisonous.

"The berry, which has two to three times more antioxidants than blueberries, falls from what the Brazilians call 'The Tree of Life', with about 90 per cent being inedible, but the esculent skin of the aҫaí tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and dark chocolate." — Sarah O'Brien, Newcastle Herald (Australia), December 14, 2013

Did you know?
One appealing thing about esculent is that this word, which comes from the Latin for food (esca), has been around for over 375 years. If we give you just one more tidbit of etymology—that esca is from Latin edere, which means "to eat"—can you pick which of the following words is NOT related to esculent? Comestible, edacious, edible, escalade, escarole, or obese. Comestible (meaning "edible"), edacious (meaning "voracious"), edible, escarole (a type of salad green), and obese are all descendants of edere. Only escalade (meaning "an act of scaling walls") doesn't belong on the list. It descends from the Italian scalare, meaning "to scale."

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neophilia

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 18, 2014 is:

neophilia • \nee-uh-FILL-ee-uh\  • noun
: love or enthusiasm for what is new or novel

Examples:
Loretta wondered if it was neophilia that led her husband to buy shiny new power tools even when the ones he already had were in perfect condition.

"Time was, not too many years ago, when shopping was a pleasure. The atmosphere at the malls, the array of items, the decor, the people, the variety of shops, all beckoned to our neophilia, although I wasn’t aware there was a word for it." — Juanita Hughes, Cherokee Tribune (Canton, Georgia), September 2, 2014

Did you know?
The earliest known example of neophilia in print is from an 1899 issue of Political Science Quarterly, a publication of Columbia University. The word is a combination of the Greek-derived combining forms neo-, meaning "new," and -philia, meaning "liking for." In the 1930s, the form neophily was introduced as a synonym of neophilia, but no neophilia could save it from obscurity—it has never caught on. The opposite of neophilia is neophobia, meaning "a dread of or aversion to novelty." It has been around slightly longer than neophilia, having first appeared in 1886.

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forswear

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 17, 2014 is:

forswear • \for-SWAIR\  • verb
1 : to make a liar of (oneself) under or as if under oath 2 a : to reject, deny, or renounce under oath b : to renounce earnestly

Examples:
Tina forswore flying after the latest airline mishap left her stranded in Chicago for eighteen hours.

"… the film finds Cotillard playing an ordinary woman who, shortly after recovering from a period of depression, finds herself being laid off in unusual circumstances. If she can persuade a majority of her colleagues to forswear their annual bonuses then she can keep her job." — Donald Clarke, The Irish Times, August 22, 2014

Did you know?
Forswear (which is also sometimes spelled foreswear) is the modern English equivalent of the Old English forswerian. It can suggest denial ("[Thou] would'st forswear thy own hand and seal" — John Arbuthnot, John Bull) or perjury ("Is it the interest of any man … to lie, forswear himself, indulge hatred, seek desperate revenge, or do murder?" — Charles Dickens, American Notes). But in current use, it most often has to do with giving something up, as in "the warring parties agreed to forswear violence" and "she refused to forswear her principles." The word abjure is often used as a synonym of forswear, though with less emphasis on the suggestion of perjury or betrayal of the beliefs that one holds dear.

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bucket shop

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 16, 2014 is:

bucket shop • \BUK-ut-SHAHP\  • noun
1 : a gambling establishment that formerly used market fluctuations (as in commodities) as a basis for gaming 2 : a dishonest brokerage firm

Examples:
"Today … the SEC is able to intervene more quickly to shut down frauds, like boiler rooms or bucket shops pushing bogus stocks…." — The Orange County Register, October 15, 2001

"As a result, dozens of operations have sprouted up on the Caymans to supply directors, from one-man bucket shops to powerhouse law firms." — Azam Ahmed, The New York Times, July 2, 2012

Did you know?
In the 1870s, a bucket shop was a lowly saloon that sold beer and other cheap hooch in buckets. How did the term make the jump from watering hole to Wall Street? No one is really sure. Some speculate that it may have been because of the small-time gambling that took place at the original bucket shops, while others claim it derives from the bucket elevator used to transport things between the Chicago Board of Trade and a market for small investors housed directly below it. By the 1880s, bucket shop was being used for pseudo "investment houses" where gamblers bid on the rise and fall of stock prices. These days the term is used for any business that sells cut-price goods, especially airline tickets.

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doctrinaire

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 15, 2014 is:

doctrinaire • \dahk-truh-NAIR\  • adjective
: attempting to put into effect an abstract doctrine or theory with little or no regard for practical difficulties

Examples:
"As doctrinaire as I may be about players being ready to play every day," Coach said, "they are also human beings; I need to accept they are going to need breaks once in a while."

"We use endorsement interviews to see how candidates interact with their opponents, how politically daring (or doctrinaire) they are and whether they’re thinking more about the public’s good or their own campaigns." — Elizabeth Sullivan, Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), September 21, 2014

Did you know?
Doctrinaire didn't start out as a critical word. In post-revolutionary France, a group who favored constitutional monarchy called themselves Doctrinaires. Doctrine in French, as in English, is a word for the principles on which a government is based; it is ultimately from Latin doctrina, meaning "teaching" or "instruction." But both ultraroyalists and revolutionists strongly derided any doctrine of reconciling royalty and representation as utterly impracticable, and they resented the Doctrinaires' influence over Louis XVIII. So when doctrinaire became an adjective, "there adhered to it some indescribable tincture of unpopularity which was totally indelible" (Blanc's History of Ten Years 1830-40, translated by Walter K. Kelly in 1848).

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judgment

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 14, 2014 is:

judgment • \JUJ-munt\  • noun
1 : a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion 2 : a formal decision given by a court 3 : the capacity for judging or the exercise of this capacity

Examples:
Theresa showed good judgment by clearing her family out of the house as soon as she smelled gas.

"Christenson said he'll reserve judgment on the larger iPhone 6 until he holds one in his hand." — Neil Nisperos, Redlands Daily Facts (California), September 10, 2014

Did you know?
Judgment can also be spelled "judgement," and usage experts have long disagreed over which spelling is the preferred one. Henry Fowler asserted, "The OED [Oxford English Dictionary] prefers the older and more reasonable spelling. 'Judgement' is therefore here recommended." William Safire held an opposite opinion, writing, "My judgment is that Fowler is not to be followed." "Judgement" is in fact the older spelling, but it dropped from favor and for centuries "judgment" was the only spelling to appear in dictionaries. That changed when the OED (Fowler's source) was published showing "judgement" as an equal variant. Today, "judgment" is more popular in the U.S., whereas both spellings make a good showing in Britain.

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posthaste

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 13, 2014 is:

posthaste • \POHST-HAYST\  • adverb
: with all possible speed

Examples:
"You must leave posthaste," Virginia theatrically admonished her guests, "or you'll miss your ferry!"

"Yes, West Palm Beach commissioners should green-light the chief’s efforts to address the issue posthaste." — Palm Beach Post, September 3, 2014

Did you know?
In the 16th century, the phrase "haste, post, haste" was used to inform "posts," as couriers were then called, that a letter was urgent and must be hastily delivered. Posts would then speedily gallop along a route, with a series of places at which to get a fresh horse or to relay the letter to a fresh messenger. Shakespeare was one of the first to use a version of the phrase adverbially in Richard II. "Old John of Gaunt ... hath sent post haste / To entreat your Majesty to visit him," the Bard versified. He also used the phrase as an adjective (a use that is now obsolete) in Othello: "The Duke ... requires your haste-post-haste appearance," Lieutenant Cassio reports to the play's namesake. Today, the word still possesses a literary flair attributable to the Bard.

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megillah

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 12, 2014 is:

megillah • \muh-GHIH-luh\  • noun
: slang a long involved story or account

Examples:
Instead of just saying she was running late, Lynette went into the whole megillah of why her appointment would have to be rescheduled.

"It takes place far below the surface of the earth, among dripping stalactites, and if you're a fan of Tolkien's mythos in any of its versions, you know it's perhaps the most pivotal moment in the whole megillah: the scene where Bilbo gets his paws on That Ring." — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe, December 13, 2012

Did you know?
Although megillah is a slang word in English, it has perfectly respectable Hebrew origins. Megillah derives from the Yiddish megile, which itself comes from the Hebrew word mĕgillāh, meaning "scroll" or "volume." (Mĕgillāh is especially likely to be used in reference to the Book of Esther, which is read aloud at Purim celebrations.) It makes sense, then, that when megillah first appeared in English in the mid-20th century, it referred to a story that was so long (and often tedious or complicated) that it was reminiscent of the length of the mĕgillāh scrolls. The Hebrew word is serious, but the Yiddish megile can be somewhat playful, and our megillah has also inherited that lightheartedness.

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derogate

Sat, 10/11/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 11, 2014 is:

derogate • \DAIR-uh-gayt\  • verb
1 : to cause to seem inferior : disparage 2 : to take away a part so as to impair : detract 3 : to act beneath one's position or character

Examples:
It is easy to derogate the prom committee for its lackluster theme now, but nobody came forward with any better ideas while it was being discussed.

"In two national elections, American voters definitively entrusted that man with the job. That man represents the presidency…. Politicians who publicly disrespect the man who holds that office derogate their own profession." — Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times, June 23, 2014

Did you know?
You're probably familiar with derogatory, the adjective meaning "expressing a low opinion," but you may not be as well-acquainted with the less common verb, derogate. Both words can be traced back to the Late Latin word derogatus, which is the past participle of the verb derogare, meaning "to detract" or "to annul (a law)." Derogare, in turn, derives from the Latin word for "ask," rogare. Derogate first appeared in English in the 15th century. Derogatory was adopted in the early 16th century, and has become much more popular than the verb. Other derogate relatives include derogative, derogation, and derogatorily.

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clerisy

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 10, 2014 is:

clerisy • \KLAIR-uh-see\  • noun
: intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite: intelligentsia

Examples:
The book's author claims that a successful society must have both a strong commitment to democratic ideals and a well-established clerisy.

"The situation was so dire that it required nothing less than scientific experts freed from constitutional strictures to run the government and the elevation of intellectuals and artists to the status of a new cultural clerisy." — Daniel DiSalvo, The Washington Times, February 18, 2014

Did you know?
English philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) believed that if humanity was to flourish, it was necessary to create a secular organization of learned individuals, "whether poets, or philosophers, or scholars" to "diffuse through the whole community … that quantity and quality of knowledge which was indispensable." Coleridge named this hypothetical group the clerisy, a term he adapted from Klerisei, a German word for clergy (in preference, it seems, to the Russian term intelligentsia which we borrowed later, in the early 1900s). Coleridge may have equated clerisy with an old sense of clergy meaning "learning" or "knowledge," which by his time was used only in the proverb "an ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy."

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infinitesimal

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 09, 2014 is:

infinitesimal • \in-fin-ih-TESS-uh-mul\  • adjective
1 : taking on values arbitrarily close to but greater than zero 2 : immeasurably or incalculably small

Examples:
Stella includes a lottery ticket in every birthday card she sends despite the infinitesimal chances that it will be a winning one.

"Across the nation, voters in the magic age range of 18 to 29 … have been coming out in this year’s primaries at a rate 20 percent less than their mostly oblivious elders, a rate which in South Florida would put their impact on the election somewhere between sparse and infinitesimal." — Fred Grimm, The Miami Herald, August 27, 2014

Did you know?
Infinite, as you probably know, means "endless" or "extending indefinitely." It is ultimately from Latin infinitus, the opposite of finitus, meaning "finite." The notion of smallness in infinitesimal derives from the mathematical concept that a quantity can be divided endlessly; no matter how small, it can be subdivided into yet smaller fractions, or "infinitesimals." The concept was still in its infancy in 1710 when Irish philosopher George Berkeley observed that some people "assert there are infinitesimals of infinitesimals of infinitesimals, etc., without ever coming to an end." He used the adjective in a mathematical sense, too, referring to "infinitesimal parts of finite lines." Less than a quarter century later, the adjective had acquired a general sense applicable to anything too small to be measured.

Categories: Fun Stuff

pork barrel

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 08, 2014 is:

pork barrel • \PORK-BAIR-ul\  • noun
: government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits; also: government funds, jobs, or favors distributed by politicians to gain political advantage

Examples:
It was apparent that the construction of the new parking garage was not a necessary project but a pork barrel deal for the business owners who would see increased foot traffic.

"In a debate over pork barrel projects in 2007, [Sen. Tom Coburn] admonished his colleagues, 'Your duty is to the country as a whole, not to the well-heeled special interests who are the beneficiaries.'" — Chris Casteel, NewsOK.com (Oklahoma City), September 7, 2014

Did you know?
You might expect that the original pork barrels were barrels for storing pork—and you're right. In the early 19th century, that's exactly what pork barrel meant. But the term was also used figuratively to mean "a supply of money" or "one's livelihood" (a farmer, after all, could readily turn pork into cash). When 20th-century legislators doled out appropriations that benefited their home districts, someone apparently made an association between the profit a farmer got from a barrel of pork and the benefits derived from certain state and federal projects. By 1909, pork barrel was being used as a noun naming such government appropriations, and today the term is usually used attributively in constructions such as "pork barrel spending" or "a pork barrel project."

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