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.

    jeopardy

    jeopardy

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 28, 2024 is: jeopardy \JEP-er-dee\ noun
    Jeopardy is defined as "exposure to or imminence of death, loss, or injury"; it is synonymous with [danger](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/danger). In legal contexts, jeopardy refers specifically to the danger that an accused person is subjected to when on trial for a criminal offense.

    // Rather than risk placing passengers in jeopardy, the pilot waited for the storm to pass before taking off.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jeopardy)

    Examples:

    "As Dior rises to prominence with his groundbreaking, iconic imprint of beauty and influence, Chanel’s reign as the world’s most famous fashion designer is put into jeopardy." — Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 16 Nov. 2023

    Did you know?

    We'll start with the answer and you provide the question: A word meaning "danger" that inspired the title of a popular game show. Got it? If you buzzed in "what is jeopardy?" you are correct! Today’s word dates back to at least the 1300s, but its Middle English form can make it hard to spot: it appears in the phrase "in jupartie" with a meaning very much akin to the word's meaning in the modern phrase "in jeopardy"—that is, "in danger." The spellings of what we now render only as jeopardy were formerly myriad. The Oxford English Dictionary reports that between the late 14th and mid-17th centuries the word was spelled in a great variety of ways, among them ieupardyes (the spelling Chaucer used in [The Canterbury Tales](https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Canterbury-Tales)), iupertie, iupartye, ieoperdis, and juperti. Indeed, like the [eponymous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eponymous) quiz show [Jeopardy!](https://www.britannica.com/topic/Jeopardy-American-television-game-show), today’s word has a long history; we’d wager it has a long future, too.

    • 2 min
    translucent

    translucent

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 27, 2024 is: translucent \trans-LOO-sunt\ adjective
    Translucent describes something that is not completely clear or transparent but is clear enough to allow light to pass through.

    // They admired the translucent gemstones on the display at the museum.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/translucent)


    Examples:

    "What you want to buy are dry scallops, which have never been soaked or treated. Dry scallops are visually distinguishable from their wet counterparts: Their cylindrical edges are more clearly defined, while the firm meat has a moist sheen and looks almost translucent." — Tim Cebula, The Portland (Maine) Press Herald, 14 Jan. 2024

    Did you know?

    Let’s shine a light on translucent and a couple of its relatives. Look closely and you will see the same group of three letters in translucent, [elucidate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elucidate), and [lucid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lucid), illuminating the family relationship between the three words. All descend from the Latin word lucēre, meaning "to shine." Translucent is from lucēre plus [trans-](https://bit.ly/3vPdszl), which means "through"—hence, something translucent allows light to pass through. To elucidate something is to metaphorically shine a light on it by explaining it clearly; a lucid person is able to think clearly, and lucid writing is easy to understand. We hope this light explainer helps clarify things.

    • 1 min
    retinue

    retinue

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 26, 2024 is: retinue \RET-uh-noo\ noun
    A retinue is a group of helpers, supporters, or followers.

    // The venue relies on a retinue of workers to carry out large events.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retinue)

    Examples:

    "Royal Island, a swanky Caribbean oasis in The Bahamas, awaits its next king or queen and their lucky retinue of family and friends." — Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 11 Jan. 2024

    Did you know?

    Retinue comes via Middle English from the Anglo-French verb retenir, meaning "to [retain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retain) or keep in one's pay or service." Another retenir descendant is [retainer](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retainer), which has among its meanings "one who serves a person of high position or rank." In the 14th century, such retainers typically served a noble or royal of some kind, and retinue referred to a collection of retainers—that is, the noble's servants and companions. Nowadays, the word retinue is often used with a bit of exaggeration to refer to the assistants, guards, publicists, and other people who accompany a high-profile individual in public. You might also hear such a collection of folks called a [suite](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suite) or [entourage](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entourage), two other words that come from French.

    • 1 min
    caterwaul

    caterwaul

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 25, 2024 is: caterwaul \KAT-er-wawl\ verb
    To caterwaul is to make a very loud and unpleasant sound. Caterwaul can also mean “to protest or complain noisily.”

    // The woods were quiet until the sound of a chainsaw caterwauling in the distance broke the calm.

    // They continue to caterwaul about having to take the blame.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caterwaul)


    Examples:

    “The young woman in her 20s seated next to me laughed and caterwauled as other audience members participated in the traditional ‘Rocky Horror’ routine, shouting catchphrases and sarcastic commentary back at the actors.” — Peter Marks, The Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2023

    Did you know?

    Though the most familiar sense of caterwaul, “to protest or complain loudly,” is not specific to our feline friends, we still think it’s the [cat’s meow](https://bit.ly/3U1bTIM), and not without good reason. Caterwaul first appeared in English in the 1300s as a verb applied to the wailing sounds made by cats when on the prowl for a mate. The word comes from the Middle English word caterwawen (also caterwrawen), but its origins beyond that are obscure. The cater part is thought to be connected to the cat, but scholars disagree about whether it traces to the Middle Dutch word cāter, meaning “tomcat,” or if it is merely cat with an “-er” added. Wawen is probably imitative in origin, approximating one of the domestic kitty’s many vocalizations. By the 1600s caterwaul was also being used for similar non-cat noises and later as a noun referring to noisy people or things.

    • 1 min
    voracious

    voracious

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 24, 2024 is: voracious \vuh-RAY-shus\ adjective
    Voracious describes someone who has a huge appetite. It can also be used figuratively to mean "excessively eager," as in "a voracious reader."

    // It seemed like the voracious kitten was eating her weight in food every day.

    // She has her voracious appetite for knowledge to thank for graduating at the top of her class.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voracious)


    Examples:

    "Cane toads are unwelcome in Australia because the bulbous amphibian is a voracious eater that when stressed releases a toxin strong enough to kill lizards, snakes, crocodiles—almost anything that dares to attack it. In a suburban setting, that includes dogs and cats." — Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 19 Jan. 2024

    Did you know?

    Voracious is one of several English words that come from the Latin verb vorare, which means "to eat greedily" or "to devour." Vorare is also an ancestor of [devour](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/devour) and of the -ivorous words that describe the diets of various creatures. These include [carnivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carnivorous) ("meat-eating"), [herbivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/herbivorous) ("plant-eating"), [omnivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/omnivorous) ("feeding on both animals and plants"), [frugivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frugivorous) ("fruit-eating"), [graminivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/graminivorous) ("feeding on grass"), and [piscivorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piscivorous) ("fish-eating").

    • 1 min
    opprobrium

    opprobrium

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 23, 2024 is: opprobrium \uh-PROH-bree-um\ noun
    Opprobrium refers to very strong disapproval or criticism of a person or thing especially by a large number of people.

    // They're going ahead with the plan despite public opprobrium.

    [See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opprobrium)

    Examples:

    "Caught up in a whirlwind of public opprobrium, ... the brand's executives seemed unsure how to react, before finally offering up statements of public apologies and self-recrimination." — Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times, 1 June 2023

    Did you know?

    Unfamiliar with opprobrium? [Tsk](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tsk), tsk, tsk. Just kidding—unfamiliarity with a word is hardly grounds for, well, opprobrium. We're here to learn! Besides, opprobrium is quite formal and has few close relations in English. It comes from the Latin verb opprobrāre, which means "to reproach." That verb, in turn, comes from the noun probrum, meaning "a disgraceful act" or "reproach." The adjective form of opprobrium is [opprobrious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opprobrious), which in English means "deserving of scorn" or "expressing contempt." One might commit an "opprobrious crime" or be berated with "opprobrious language," for example.

    • 1 min

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