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 for December 9, 2023 is: convalesce \kahn-vuh-LESS\ verb
To convalesce is to recover health and strength gradually after sickness, injury, or weakness.
// According to the article, the athlete is still convalescing from her recent injury but expects to resume her training schedule by the end of the month.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/convalesce)
"No complications occurred during the surgery or while the pope was convalescing in Gemelli's 10th-floor apartment reserved exclusively for hospitalization of pontiffs, according to the pope's medical staff." — Frances D'Emilio, The Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2023
Did you know?
When you convalesce, you heal or grow strong after illness or injury, often by staying off your feet. The related adjective [convalescent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/convalescent) means "recovering from sickness or debility," and a [convalescent home](https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/convalescent%20home) is a hospital for long-term recuperation and rehabilitation. Convalesce comes from the Latin verb convalescere, which combines the prefix com-/con-, meaning "with, together, jointly," with the verb valescere, meaning "to grow strong." Valescere, in turn, is related to the verb valēre, meaning "to be strong or be well," which is also an ancestor of [prevail](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prevail), [valor](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/valor), [value](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/value), and [valid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/valid).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 8, 2023 is: intrepid \in-TREP-id\ adjective
Intrepid means “fearless, bold, and brave.”
// Her college semester abroad sparked a series of intrepid travels around the world.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intrepid)
“After a trio of tech billionaires are forewarned of an apocalyptic [superbug](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superbug) and flee to a secret doomsday bunker to save only themselves, an unlikely group of friends embark on an intrepid mission to take down the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world. Beginning with the end of civilization and jumping back and forth through time, Naomi Alderman, the award-winning author of 2016's The Power, weaves a cautionary tale of what society stands to lose in a near-future where AI has transformed all walks of life.” — Megan McCluskey, Time, 31 Oct. 2023
Did you know?
If you’re going to name a ship, whether an [aircraft carrier](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aircraft%20carrier) or an interstellar [starship](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/starship), you could do worse than to name it the Intrepid, as both the United States military and [Star Trek](https://www.britannica.com/topic/Star-Trek-series-1966-1969) writers have done, respectively. (Technically “Intrepid” is a class of Trek ships that includes the Voyager, etc., but you get the drift.) Intrepid, after all, comes from the Latin word intrepidus, itself formed by the combination of the prefix in-, meaning “not,” and the adjective trepidus, meaning “alarmed.” When not designating sea or space vessels, intrepid aptly describes anyone—from explorers to reporters—who ventures bravely into unknown territory, though often you’ll see the word loaded with [irony](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irony), as in “an intrepid couch surfer endeavored to watch every installment of the beloved sci-fi series in chronological order.” Intrepid word lovers may be interested to know of the existence of [trepid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trepid), meaning “fearful”; it predates intrepid but most are too trepid (or simply unaware of its existence) to use it.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 7, 2023 is: tincture \TINK-cher\ noun
Tincture refers to a solution made by mixing a medicinal substance in an alcoholic solvent. It can also refer to a slight trace of something, as in “a tincture of doubt.”
// The shelves behind the [apothecary](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apothecary) counter were lined with dozens of jars and vials containing tinctures of every color of the rainbow.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tincture)
“Lemon balm can be consumed in several ways. People often drink it as a tea or as an ingredient in a tea blend. You can eat the herb fresh—chopped up into a salad, added to a cold beverage, or even as an ingredient in baked goods. You can find it as a supplement in capsule or tablet form or as an herbal tincture.” — Wendy Wisner, Health.com, 4 June 2023
Did you know?
A droplet of this, a [skosh](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skosh) of that. Now you take that home, throw it in a beaker, and add a touch of [ethyl alcohol](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethyl%20alcohol) to hold it all together—baby, you’ve got a tincture going. Tincture is a word with a colorful past most often encountered today in reference to a solution consisting of a medicinal substance mixed with alcohol, as in “Carl weathers his cold with a tincture of [echinacea](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/echinacea).” When the word first appeared in English in the 14th century, tincture referred to a substance used to color, dye, or stain, but by the 17th century the word had acquired several additional meanings, including “a slight infusion or trace of something.” This sense is still in use today, especially figuratively, as when an aspiring actor is said to feel a “tincture of doubt that the acting lessons are worth what he paid.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 6, 2023 is: permeable \PER-mee-uh-bul\ adjective
Permeable is a synonym of [penetrable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/penetrable) that is used especially to describe things that have pores or openings that permit liquids or gases to pass through.
// The new housing project will include a permeable parking lot to help mitigate stormwater runoff.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/permeable)
“The idea is to enable cities to soak up and retain excess water with designs focused on nature, including gardens, green roofs, wetlands and permeable sidewalks—allowing water to both sink into the ground and flow outwards.” — Laura Paddison, CNN, 26 Mar. 2023
Did you know?
“Our landscapes are changing … they’re becoming less permeable to wildlife at the precise moment animals need to move most,” writes Ben Goldfarb in his book Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet. He’s describing the effects of highway infrastructure and at the same time clearly demonstrating the meaning of permeable, a word that traces back to a combination of the prefix per-, meaning “through,” and the Latin verb meare, meaning “to go” or “to pass.” Accordingly, a permeable landscape—such as one where humans have constructed wildlife overpasses—is one that allows animals to pass and spread through [unimpeded](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unimpeded). Permeable’s relative, the verb [permeate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/permeate) (“to spread or [diffuse](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffuse) through”) is another commonly used meare descendent, but other relations haven’t managed to permeate the language quite so widely, such as [meatus](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meatus) (“a natural body passage”), [congé](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conge) (“a formal permission to depart”), and [irremeable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irremeable) (“offering no possibility of return”).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 5, 2023 is: smite \SMYTE\ verb
Smite means “to hit someone or something very hard.” Other uses of the word include “to severely injure, kill, or attack someone” (as in “smitten by disease”) and “to captivate or take” (as in “smitten by her beauty”).
// He smote the ball mightily, which helped us win the game.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smite)
“Somehow, Kyle Shanahan keeps meeting his accursed fortune with a spirit of inquiry. His record is arguably the most perplexing in the NFL: He is one of its most playful minds and most pained losers. He seems at once young and old, with his boyishly thin neck and easy laugh yet gray bristle and a somewhat scarred look around his eyes, as if he’s waiting for the next hex or treacherous blow of fate to smite him in the face.” — Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post, 10 Dec. 2022
Did you know?
Today’s word has been part of the English language for a very long time; its earliest uses date to before the 12th century. Smite can be traced back to the Old English smītan, meaning “to smear (a substance) on something” or “to stain or [defile](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defile).” Smite kept these meanings for a few centuries before they became obsolete and others arose or became more prominent, among them the modern “to strike or attack.” But smite also has a softer side. As of the mid-17th century, it can mean “to captivate or take”—a sense that is frequently used in the past participle in such contexts as “smitten by their beauty” or “smitten with them” (meaning “in love with them”). If [such a shift](https://www.merriam-webster.com/grammar/smite-smote-smitten-smoted-smut-smit) seems surprising, just remember what [they](https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dean-Martin) say about the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie (that’s a smiting).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 4, 2023 is: avoirdupois \av-er-duh-POYZ\ noun
Avoirdupois is synonymous with weight and heaviness, especially as related to the body. It also refers to the series of units of weight based on the pound of 16 ounces and the ounce of 16 [drams](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dram).
// The coach limited his recruiting to linebackers of a certain avoirdupois.
[See the entry >](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avoirdupois)
“... I find it hopeful that we’ve at least begun to dispense with the notion that only thin bodies are healthy and good. And to replace fantastical diet prescriptions with the common sense that healthy bodies eat all kinds of foods, depending on circumstance.... I will say Vogue’s diets have been right at least twice. A little Champagne at lunch is a sound choice, regardless of the rest of the meal, and, as an anonymous writer put it in these pages in 1906, ‘There is healthy fat as there is unhealthy fat, and unless your avoirdupois becomes such as to make you uncomfortable ... you should leave it alone.’” — Tamar Adler, Vogue, 24 Feb. 2022
Did you know?
When avoirdupois first appeared in English in the 15th century, it referred to “goods sold by weight,” which is also the meaning of its Middle English predecessor, avoir de pois. That term comes from an Anglo-French phrase meaning “goods of weight” or “property.” Today, avoirdupois most commonly refers to the system of weight measurement used for general merchandise, in which the pound is equal to 16 ounces, the ounce 16 drams, and the dram an ultra-specific 27.344 [grains](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grain). (Some other weight systems are apothecaries’ weight, used to measure pharmaceutical items, and troy weight, used for precious metals.) It was William Shakespeare, in his play [Henry IV, Part 2](https://www.britannica.com/topic/Henry-IV-Part-2), who first used avoirdupois to mean “heaviness”: “the weight of a hair will turn the scales between their avoirdupois.”