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.

    tyro

    tyro

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 2, 2020 is: tyro \TYE-roh\ noun
    : a beginner in learning : [novice](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/novice)

    Examples:

    The ranch has one riding trail for tyros and several more challenging options for experienced riders.

    "In 'Zucked,' Roger McNamee winces at the memory of his introduction to Mark Zuckerberg. It was 2006 and he played the grizzled industry elder to Zuckerberg's tyro." — Stephen Phillips, The San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Feb. 2019

    Did you know?

    The word tyro is hardly a newcomer to Western language. It comes from the Latin tiro, which means "young soldier," "new recruit," or more generally, "novice." The word was sometimes spelled tyro as early as Medieval Latin, and can be spelled tyro or tiro in English (though tyro is the more common American spelling). Use of tyro in English has never been restricted to the original "young soldier" meaning of the Latin term. Writers in the 17th and 18th centuries wrote of tyros in various fields and occupations, and Herman Melville used tyro to refer to men new to whaling and life at sea. The word also has a long history of being used attributively—that is, directly before another noun—in phrases like "tyro reporter" and "tyro actors."

    • 1 min
    equity

    equity

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 1, 2020 is: equity \EK-wuh-tee\ noun
    1 a : justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism

    b : something that is [equitable ](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equitable)

    2 a : the money value of a property or of an interest in a property in excess of claims or liens against it

    b : the common stock of a corporation

    c : a risk interest or ownership right in property

    d : a right, claim, or interest existing or valid in equity

    Examples:

    "Diversity, equity and [inclusion](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inclusion) education is critical to developing effective leadership and building a workforce with equitable opportunities to contribute, succeed and grow." — [Max Stier, Ourpublicservice.org, 20 Nov. 2020](https://ourpublicservice.org/publications/the-federal-toll-of-trumps-failure-to-lead/)

    "Local officials in California can demonstrate and encourage civility in the local governing culture in many ways.... Think about how social justice, engagement and equity can be integrated into your leadership principles." — [Erica L. Manuel, CalMatters, 16 Nov. 2020](https://calmatters.org/commentary/my-turn/2020/11/civility-needed-to-stem-eroding-confidence-in-democratic-institutions/)

    Did you know?

    Equity usually appears in courts of law as a term related to justice or proportional fairness, or in financial offices to property or one's share of a company. The derivative root of the noun, which gained stability in the English language during the 1300s, is Latin aequus, meaning "even," "fair," or "equal"; however, to be fair, it was introduced to English by the French, whose adaptation of the Latin was equité. The French word has clear legal connotations; it means "justice" or "rightness," and those meanings, plus a splash of "fairness," carried over to the English word equity. Noah Webster, himself a lawyer, notes the legal term [equity of redemption](https://www.merriam-webster.com/legal/equity%20of%20redemption) in his [1828 dictionary](http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/equity) defining it as "the advantage, allowed to a mortgager, of a reasonable time to redeem lands mortgaged, when the estate is of greater value than the sum for which it was mortgaged." This use led to the modern financial meanings of equity: "the value of a piece of property after any debts that remain to be paid are subtracted" and "a share in a company or of a company's stock."

    • 2 min
    ambient

    ambient

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 30, 2020 is: ambient \AM-bee-unt\ adjective
    1 : existing or present on all sides : [encompassing](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encompassing)

    2 of electronic music : quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times

    Examples:

    "These sophisticated spaces are stocked with elements to lure homeowners outdoors: water and fire features; … ambient lighting to set the mood." — [Rachel Hutton, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 21 Oct. 2020](https://www.startribune.com/heated-seats-and-fire-pits-extend-the-season-for-pandemic-socializing/572803852/)

    "The fear might go away after a couple of scenes, or even right after a first entrance. 'Sort of like in movies when all ambient noise fades away and everything goes out of focus but the path ahead,' says Leontyne Mbele-Mbong." — [Lily Janiak, The San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Oct. 2020](https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/theater/when-stage-fright-and-its-embarrassing-bodily-reactions-are-helpful)

    Did you know?

    Biologists explore the effects of ambient light on plants; acoustics experts try to control ambient sound; and meteorologists study ambient pressure, air, or temperature. All this can make ambient seem like a technical term, but when it first saw light of day, that all-encompassing adjective was as likely to be used in poetry as in science. John Milton used it in Paradise Lost, and Alexander Pope wrote of a mountain "whose tow'ring summit ambient clouds conceal'd." Both poets and scientists who use ambient owe a debt to the Latin verb ambire, meaning "to go around," the grandparent of our English word.

    • 1 min
    hinterland

    hinterland

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 29, 2020 is: hinterland \HIN-ter-land\ noun
    1 : a region lying inland from a coast

    2 a : a region remote from cities

    b : a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers

    Examples:

    "All the same, the large turnout, particularly unusual in Russia's quiescent hinterland, posed a bold challenge to the Kremlin, exposing deep wells of public anger as Russia struggles with the economic damage left by the coronavirus pandemic and growing fatigue with political stagnation." — [Andrew Higgins, The New York Times, 18 July 2020](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/18/world/russian-protests.html)

    "Edmund, summoned from the hinterland of the house to give his opinion why only one of Mike's shoes was to be found, had no views on the subject." — [P. G. Wodehouse, Mike and Psmith, 1909](https://books.google.com/books?id=9kAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA108&lpg=PA108&dq=%22Edmund,+summoned+from+the+hinterland+of+the+house+to+give+his+opinion+why+only+one+of+Mike%27s+shoes+was+to+be+found,+had+no+views+on+the+subject.%22&source=bl&ots=ec7nxAqSqU&sig=ACfU3U06slAa2-UmmC9B-E70zv0gBiJ9aQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi0qOntbsAhUJJt8KHUJcAqYQ6AEwAHoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=%22Edmund%2C%20summoned%20from%20the%20hinterland%20of%20the%20house%20to%20give%20his%20opinion%20why%20only%20one%20of%20Mike's%20shoes%20was%20to%20be%20found%2C%20had%20no%20views%20on%20the%20subject.%22&f=false)

    Did you know?

    When you're dealing with geography, it helps to know your hinterland from your [umland](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/umland). In the late 19th century, geographer George Chisholm took note of the German word Hinterland (literally "land in back of") and applied it specifically to the region just inland from a port or coastal settlement. (Chisholm spelled the word hinderland, but English speakers eventually settled on hinterland.) Early in the 20th century, another geographer adopted the German Umland ("land around") to refer to the territory around an inland town. What hinterland and umland have in common is a reference to a region economically tied to a nearby city. Nowadays, hinterland has a less technical use as well—it can be used for land that is simply out in the [sticks](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sticks). It can also be applied figuratively.

    • 1 min
    capitulate

    capitulate

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 28, 2020 is: capitulate \kuh-PIH-chuh-layt\ verb
    1 a : to surrender often after negotiation of terms

    b : to cease resisting : [acquiesce](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acquiesce)

    2 archaic : [parley](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parley), [negotiate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/negotiate)

    Examples:

    "Real estate experts say retailers are increasingly looking to pay rent as a percentage of sales, making it a variable expense on their balance sheets rather than a fixed one.… While there could be some hesitation to strike a deal like this, landlords could end up capitulating to keep a space occupied." — [Lauren Thomas, CNBC.com, 24 Sept. 2020](https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/24/retailers-resume-rent-payments-but-are-still-fighting-with-landlords.html)

    "And remember, Rivera didn't draft Haskins last year. His predecessor, Jay Gruden, didn't want to, either, but capitulated to owner Daniel Snyder." — [Steve DeShazo, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia), 8 Oct. 2020](https://fredericksburg.com/sports/steve-deshazo-by-benching-haskins-washington-keeps-going-through-demotion/article3758eb9b-4079-5f6c-8b62-79221d30dbc0.html)

    Did you know?

    Capitulate and its synonyms yield, submit, and succumb all mean to give way to someone or something, but have a few slight differences in emphasis. [Yield](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yield) may apply to any sort or degree of bowing to force, debate, or pleading ("yields too easily in any argument"). [Submit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/submit) suggests surrender, after resistance, to the will or control of another ("the soldiers submitted to their captors"). [Succumb](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/succumb) imputes weakness and helplessness to the person giving in, or an overwhelming power to the opposition ("succumbing to temptation"). Capitulate stresses the termination of all resistance and may imply either a coming to terms, as with an adversary, or hopelessness before an irresistible opposing force ("team owners capitulated to the demands of the players' union").

    • 2 min
    ulterior

    ulterior

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 27, 2020 is: ulterior \ul-TEER-ee-er\ adjective
    1 : going beyond what is openly said or shown and especially what is proper

    2 a : [further](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/further#h2), [future](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/future)

    b : more distant

    c : situated on the farther side

    Examples:

    "People need someone in office that they can trust, that they know has no ulterior motives or is beholden to any entities other than the city." — [Mark Rockeymoore, quoted in The San Marcos (Texas) Daily Record, 20 Oct. 2020](https://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/news/vote-2020-incumbent-rockeymoore-faces-challenger-scott-city-council-place-4)

    "Dreyer describes [Seuss's](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Seuss) personal collection of paintings and sculptures as 'secret art.' Geisel literally kept them in the closet … and his widow, Audrey Geisel, has never sold an original Seuss. She authorized high-quality lithograph prints so the public can see the ulterior side of her late husband." — [The Alexandria (Virginia) Times, 6 Dec. 2011](https://alextimes.com/2011/12/beyond-the-cat-in-the-hat-the-secret-art-of-dr-seuss-on-display-at-pc-art-gallery/#:~:text=Dreyer%20describes%20Seuss's%20personal%20collection,never%20sold%20an%20original%20Seuss.&text=%E2%80%9CHe%20was%20doing%20this%20for,back%20anything%2C%E2%80%9D%20Dreyer%20said.)

    Did you know?

    Although now usually hitched to the front of the noun [motive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ulterior%20motive) to refer to a hidden need or desire that inspires action, ulterior began its career as an adjective in the 17th century describing something occurring at a subsequent time, such as "ulterior measures" taken after a lawful request. It then started to be used to mean both "more distant" (literally and figuratively) and "situated on the farther side." The "hidden" sense, which is most familiar today, followed after those, with the word modifying nouns like [purpose](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose), [design](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/design#h2), and [consequence](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consequence). Ulterior comes directly from the Latin word for "farther" or "further," itself assumed to be from ulter, meaning "situated beyond."

    • 1 min

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