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

    • Arts
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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.

    connive

    connive

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 3, 2024 is: connive \kuh-NYVE\ verb
    To connive is to secretly help someone do something dishonest or illegal.

    // Roger suspected that his coworkers were conniving to get him fired when in reality they were planning his surprise birthday party.

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


    Examples:

    "The truth is that conflict on the river will never be stilled because there will always be more demand for the water than there is water. As I reported in 'Colossus,' my 2010 book about the building of Hoover Dam, [Herbert] Hoover and his deputy, Arthur Powell Davis, connived in 1922 to exaggerate the Colorado River's flow in order to persuade all seven states that it carried enough water to serve their interests, then and into the future." — Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2023

    Did you know?

    Connive may not seem like a term that would raise many [hackles](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hackles), but it certainly raised those of Wilson Follett, a usage critic who lamented that the word "was undone during the Second World War, when restless spirits felt the need of a new synonym for plotting, bribing, spying, conspiring, engineering a coup, preparing a secret attack." Follett thought connive should only mean "to wink at" or "to pretend ignorance." Those senses are closer to the Latin ancestor of the word: connive comes from the Latin verb connivēre, which means "to close the eyes" and which is descended from -nivēre, a form akin to the Latin verb nictare, meaning "to wink." But many English speakers disagreed, and the "conspire" sense is now the word's most widely used meaning.

    • 2 min
    proximity

    proximity

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 2, 2024 is: proximity \prahk-SIM-uh-tee\ noun
    Proximity is the quality or state of being near or [proximate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proximate). The word proximity is synonymous with [closeness](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/closeness).

    // The apartment's proximity to hiking trails is a definite plus.

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

    Examples:

    "... research on employee proximity conducted at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that sitting near senior colleagues led junior engineers to learn more and to be less likely to leave their jobs, an effect that was particularly pronounced for women and younger employees." — Amy Edmondson, WIRED, 8 Jan. 2024

    Did you know?

    The fact that the star closest in proximity to our sun (approximately 4.2 [light-years](https://bit.ly/47Ztp3a) distant) is named [Proxima Centauri](https://bit.ly/3ufzZVG) is no coincidence. The history of proximity hinges on the idea of closeness, both physical and metaphorical. English speakers borrowed the word from Middle French, which in turn acquired it from forms of the Latin adjective proximus, meaning "nearest" or "next." Close relatives of proximity in English include [proximal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proximal), [proximate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proximate), and the somewhat more rare [approximal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/approximal) (meaning "[contiguous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contiguous)"). A number of other languages, including [Catalan](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Catalan), Portuguese, and Italian, have similar words that come from the Latin proximus.

    • 1 min
    inveterate

    inveterate

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 1, 2024 is: inveterate \in-VET-uh-rut\ adjective
    Inveterate is a formal word used to describe someone who is always or often doing something specified. For instance, a person could be an inveterate liar, or inveterate prankster. Inveterate can also mean "firmly established by long persistence," as in "an inveterate tendency to overlook the obvious."

    // She's an inveterate traveler who constantly searches for flight deals to her next destination.

    // Carla’s inveterate optimism keeps her going during challenging times.

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


    Examples:

    "I am an inveterate name dropper as you have just very politely pointed out. I left it to the editor to decide whether something was too much ... and she just said, 'That is a reflection of how your brain works.'" — Richard E. Grant, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 6 Aug. 2023

    Did you know?

    Despite how it may seem at first glance, inveterate has nothing to do with lacking a spine. That’s [invertebrate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/invertebrate), which came into English in the early 19th century from New Latin, the Latin vocabulary used in scientific description and classification. Inveterate, on the other hand, is a true veteran of the English language, with a membership card dating to the 15th century. Like [veteran](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/veteran), inveterate ultimately comes from the Latin adjective vetus, which means "old." (In times past, inveterate had among its meanings "old.") The more direct source of inveterate, however, is the Latin adjective inveteratus, with which it shares the meaning "firmly established by long persistence." Today inveterate most often describes someone who so frequently or invariably engages in a particular habit or attitude as to be regularly identified with that habit or attitude, as when political columnist Jamelle Bouie observed "The truth is that our best presidents—or at least our most successful ones—have been inveterate flip-floppers, willing to break from unpopular positions, move with political winds, and adjust to new complications."

    • 2 min
    demean

    demean

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 29, 2024 is: demean \dih-MEEN\ verb
    To demean someone or something is to cause that person or thing to seem less important or worthy of respect.

    // By refusing to condemn the unlawful actions of her supporters, the governor demeaned the office she was elected to hold.

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


    Examples:

    “Balding, bespectacled [Hubert] Eaton didn’t lack self-esteem. He went by the godlike nickname ‘the Builder,’ and in the early days of his cemetery, he crafted a mission statement that sounded more like a set of holy commandments than a business plan. He had the Builder’s Creed etched onto a giant stone tablet that still stands in front of the Great Mausoleum. The creed demeans traditional cemeteries as ‘unsightly stone-yards full of inartistic symbols and depressing customs’ and promises all who read it that the Builder will offer a better place for people to go after their deaths.” — Greg Melville, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Sept. 2022

    Did you know?

    There are two words spelled demean in English. One has a construction similar to its synonym, [debase](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debase): where debase combines the prefix [de-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/DE) with an adjective base, meaning “low” or “vile,” demean applies de- to the adjective mean, meaning “inferior or contemptible.” The basic meaning the pair shares, “to lower in character or esteem,” is quite at odds with that of the other demean: “to conduct or behave oneself.” This demean comes from the Anglo-French verb demener (“to conduct”), and is generally used in formal contexts to specify a type of behavior, as in “he demeaned himself in a most unfriendly manner”; “she demeaned herself as befitting her station in life”; and “they knew not how to demean themselves in the king’s presence.” As such, it may be possible to demean someone for the way they demean themselves, though we assert that would be doubly mean.

    • 2 min
    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

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