10 episodes

Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day Merriam-Webster

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

    capricious

    capricious

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 6, 2020 is: capricious \kuh-PRISH-us\ adjective
    : governed or characterized by [caprice](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caprice) : [impulsive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impulsive), [unpredictable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unpredictable)

    Examples:

    "Like all great children's writers, [Jacqueline] Wilson and [E.] Nesbit understood how strange and capricious children could be…." — [Guy Lodge, Variety, 4 Apr. 2020](https://variety.com/2020/film/reviews/four-kids-and-it-review-1234570289/)

    "[The television show] Succession doesn't just get the details right; mirroring the capricious world of media and its greedy overlords, it also makes sweeping plot turns that build to climaxes as bloody as Macbeth." — [Laura Adamczyk, The A.V. Club, 11 Nov. 2019](https://tv.avclub.com/the-100-best-tv-shows-of-the-2010s-1839672858)

    Did you know?

    The noun [caprice](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caprice), which first appeared in English in the mid-17th century, is a synonym of [whim](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whim). Evidence shows that the adjective capricious debuted before caprice; both words are believed to derive, via French, from Italian capriccio, which originally referred not to a sudden desire but to a sudden shudder of fear. The origin of capriccio is uncertain, but the going theory has a certain charm. Capriccio is thought to perhaps be a compounding of Italian capo, meaning "head," and riccio, meaning "hedgehog," The image evoked in this "hedgehog head" mashup is of someone shuddering in fear to such a degree that their hair stands on end, like the spines of a hedgehog.

    • 1 min
    rendition

    rendition

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 5, 2020 is: rendition \ren-DISH-un\ noun
    : the act or result of [rendering](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rendering) something: such as

    a : a performance or interpretation of something

    b : [depiction](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/depiction)

    c : [translation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/translation)

    d : [surrender](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surrender#h2); specifically, US law : the surrender by a state of a fugitive to another state charging the fugitive with a crime : [interstate extradition](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interstate%20extradition)

    Examples:

    "Still, Cosme is bound to offer the 'hood plenty of surprises, including a [mescal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mescal)-spiked, cactus-studded rendition of Manhattan clam chowder." — [Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times, 2 Sept. 2014](https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/dining/stalking-new-york-the-mexican-chef-enrique-olvera.html)

    "The best part is the vast majority of adults will love [Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse]. Most know who Spider-Man is. We've seen many different renditions of this superhero." — [Andrew McManus, The Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, 27 Apr. 2020](https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/features/entertainment/48714/movie-review-spider-man-into-the-spider-verse)

    Did you know?

    Rendition entered English in the early 17th century and can be traced to the Middle French word reddition and ultimately to the Latin verb reddere, meaning "to return." The English verb [render](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/render) is another descendant of reddere, so perhaps it is no surprise that rendition fundamentally means "the act or result of rendering." English speakers also once adopted reddition itself (meaning either "restitution, surrender" or "elucidation"), but that word has mostly dropped out of use. Incidentally, if you've guessed that surrender is also from the same word family, you may be right; [surrender](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surrender) derives in part from the Anglo-French rendre, which likely influenced the alteration of reddition to rendition.

    • 2 min
    posture

    posture

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 4, 2020 is: posture \PAHSS-cher\ verb
    1 : to cause to assume a given posture : [pose](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pose)

    2 : to assume a [posture](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/posture); especially : to strike a pose for effect

    3 : to assume an artificial or pretended attitude : [attitudinize](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attitudinize)

    Examples:

    "During the [rut](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rut), grabbing a bite to eat was an afterthought for bucks, but right now and in the weeks to come, choosing a prime food source is key to their survival. Sure … bucks are still banging antlers and posturing to prove who's boss. But this is all happening at, or around, the best food sources in the area." — [Scott Bestul, Field & Stream, 6 Jan. 2020](https://www.fieldandstream.com/story/hunting/best-late-season-deer-foods/)

    "It's also been assumed that a rift exists between Elway and Harris, but according to the player, that couldn't be further from the truth, despite the two being postured as adversaries over contracts and money." — [Chad Jensen, Sports Illustrated, 11 Jan. 2020](https://www.si.com/nfl/broncos/news/chris-harris-jr-reveals-true-thoughts-on-his-odds-of-returning-to-denver-broncos)

    Did you know?

    The Latin verb ponere, meaning "to put" or "to place," had a role in putting quite a few English terms into place, including component, dispose, expose, impose, oppose, posit, position, positive, postpone, and, yes, posture. The past participle of ponere—positus—gave Latin the noun positura, which has the same meaning as the English noun [posture](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/posture). Positura passed through Italian and Middle French and was finally adopted by English speakers as posture in the late 16th century. The verb posture later developed from the noun, finding its place in English at around the midpoint of the 17th century.

    • 1 min
    compunction

    compunction

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 3, 2020 is: compunction \kum-PUNK-shun\ noun
    1 a : anxiety arising from awareness of guilt

    b : distress of mind over an anticipated action or result

    2 : a twinge of misgiving : [scruple](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scruple)

    Examples:

    "A big reason why Illinois' population continues to plummet is that college-age youth feel no compunction at all about heading out of state for college." — [editorial board, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Feb. 2020](http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/articlepopover.aspx?guid=8713a0c8-73d6-497e-a6cb-280a01dd74d7)

    "Roses can get old and sick, and there are better varieties to try. I have no compunction ripping out a rose that no longer works for me." — [Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2020](https://live.washingtonpost.com/gardening-0213.html)

    Did you know?

    An old proverb says "a guilty conscience needs no accuser," and it's true that the sting of a guilty conscience—or a conscience that is provoked by the contemplation of doing something wrong—can prick very hard indeed. The sudden guilty "prickings" of compunction are reflected in the word's etymological history. Compunction comes (via Anglo-French compunction and Middle English compunccioun) from Latin compungere, which means "to prick hard" or "to sting." Compungere, in turn, derives from pungere, meaning "to prick," which is the ancestor of some other prickly words in English, such as [puncture](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puncture) and even [point](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/point).

    • 1 min
    eolian

    eolian

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 2, 2020 is: eolian \ee-OH-lee-un\ adjective
    : borne, deposited, produced, or eroded by the wind

    Examples:

    The park is known for its eolian caves—chambers formed in sandstone cliffs by powerful winds.

    "If an extremely tenuous atmosphere like that of Pluto can support the generation of [bedforms](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bedform) from wind-driven sediment, what kind of eolian activity might we see on places like Io (a moon of Jupiter)…?" — [Alexander Hayes, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2018](https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-pluto-methane-dunes-20180531-story.html)

    Did you know?

    When [Aeolus](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Aeolus) blew into town, things really got moving. He was the Greek god of the winds and the king of the floating island of Aeolia. In The Odyssey, Homer claims Aeolus helped Odysseus by giving him a favorable wind. Aeolus also gave English speakers a few terms based on his name, including the adjective eolian (also spelled [aeolian](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aeolian#h2)), which is often used for wind-sculpted geological features such as caves and dunes, and [aeolian harp](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aeolian%20harp), the name for an instrument that makes music when the wind blows across its strings.

    • 1 min
    stiction

    stiction

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 1, 2020 is: stiction \STIK-shun\ noun
    : the force required to cause one body in contact with another to begin to move

    Examples:

    "Stiction is stationary friction. Starting the bolt turning takes more force than keeping it turning. The tighter the bolt, the more stiction can affect [torque](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torque) readings." — [Jim Kerr, SRTForums.com, 4 Mar. 2004](https://www.srtforums.com/threads/the-secrets-of-bolt-tightening-by-jim-kerr.40921/)

    "The theme of blue continues on the fork [stanchions](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stanchion). The upside-down fork itself is the same Showa unit seen on the standard bike, but in this case the inner tubes feature a special nitride coating to help reduce stiction and provide a smoother [stroke](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stroke#h2)." — [Zaran Mody, ZigWheels.com, 14 Apr. 2020](https://www.zigwheels.com/news-features/news/kawasaki-ninja-zx25r-racer-custom-image-gallery/38150/)

    Did you know?

    Stiction has been a part of the English language since at least 1946, when it appeared in a journal of aeronautics. While stiction refers to the force needed to get an object to move from a position at rest, it is not related to the verb [stick](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stick#h3). The word is a blend word formed from the st- of [static](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/static) ("of or relating to bodies at rest") and the -iction of [friction](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/friction) ("the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact"). So, basically, it means "[static friction](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/static%20friction)" (or to put it another way, "stationary friction").

    • 1 min

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