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.

    obtain

    obtain

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 2, 2020 is: obtain \ub-TAYN\ verb
    1 : to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort

    2 : to be generally recognized or established : [prevail](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prevail)

    Examples:

    The experiment was designed to obtain more accurate data about weather patterns.

    "By time of competition, [NHL deputy commissioner Bill] Daly said, the league will test players every night and obtain results by the time they report to the rink the next morning." — [Matt Porter, The Boston Globe, 26 May 2020](https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/26/sports/nhl-return-play-plan-gary-bettman/)

    Did you know?

    Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning "to hold on to, possess." Obtinēre was itself formed by the combination of ob-, meaning "in the way," and the verb tenēre, meaning "to hold." In its earliest uses, obtain often implied a conquest or a successful victory in battle, but it is now used for any attainment through planned action or effort. The verb tenēre has incontestably prevailed in the English language, providing us with such common words as [abstain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain), [contain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contain), [detain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detain), [sustain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustain), and, perhaps less obviously, the adjectives [tenable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenable) and [tenacious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenacious).

    • 1 min
    farrago

    farrago

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 1, 2020 is: farrago \fuh-RAH-goh\ noun
    : a confused mixture : [hodgepodge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hodgepodge)

    Examples:

    "Combining these plots is a terrible idea for multiple reasons. One is simply logistical; the fusion turns two improbable but engaging stories into a ludicrous farrago." — [Laura Miller, Slate, 8 Nov. 2019](https://slate.com/culture/2019/11/dublin-murders-starz-tana-french-in-the-woods-the-likeness-review.html)

    "Although it's hard to know anything for sure about North Korea, the fertilizer-plant photo suggests the reporting about Kim over the past few weeks was a farrago of misinformation, non-information, half speculation and outright guessing." — [Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, 5 May 2020](https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/kim-jong-un-appears-to-be-alive-after-all-so-how-did-his-death-make-the-news/2020/05/05/e9cf7f0e-8d6c-11ea-a0bc-4e9ad4866d21story.html)

    Did you know?

    Farrago might seem an unlikely relative of [farina](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/farina) (the name for the mealy breakfast cereal), but the two terms have their roots in the same Latin noun. Both derive from far, the Latin name for [spelt](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spelt) (a type of grain). In Latin, farrago meant "mixed fodder"—cattle feed, that is. It was also used more generally to mean "mixture." When it was adopted into English in the early 1600s, farrago retained the "mixture" sense of its ancestor. Today, we often use it for a jumble or medley of disorganized, haphazard, or even nonsensical ideas or elements.

    • 1 min
    louche

    louche

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 30, 2020 is: louche \LOOSH\ adjective
    : not reputable or decent

    Examples:

    "Here, he's just a dude, with an earring and a motorcycle, a dude who wears jeans to military court. Freeman's best when he's not trying to win re-election or standing at the Pearly Gates, when he's just a guy slouching in dungarees, looking a little louche." — [Wesley Morris, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2020](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/movies/panic-room-the-scorpion-king-virus.html)

    "On 7 May, for one week only, it released a modern-dress version of Antony and Cleopatra set in a series of strategy rooms, conference centres and five-star hotel suites. The lovestruck Roman was played by a louche, gruff, brooding Ralph Fiennes." — [Lloyd Evans, The Spectator (UK), 16 May 2020](https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-national-theatre-s-live-streaming-policy-is-bizarre)

    Did you know?

    Louche ultimately comes from the Latin word luscus, meaning "blind in one eye" or "having poor sight." This Latin term gave rise to the French louche, meaning "[squinting](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/squint#h2)" or "[cross-eyed](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cross-eyed)." The French gave their term a figurative sense as well, taking that squinty look to mean "shady" or "devious." English speakers didn't see the need for the sight-impaired uses when they borrowed the term in the 19th century, but they kept the figurative one. The word is still quite visible today and is used to describe both people and things of questionable repute.

    • 1 min
    parse

    parse

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 29, 2020 is: parse \PARSS\ verb
    1 a : to divide (a sentence) into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other

    b : to describe (a word) grammatically by stating the part of speech and explaining the [inflection](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inflection) and [syntactical](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syntactic) relationships

    2 : to examine in a minute way : analyze critically

    3 : to give a grammatical description of a word or a group of words

    4 : to admit of being parsed

    Examples:

    The lawyer meticulously parsed the wording of the final contract to be sure that her client would get all that he was asking for.

    "[AI](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artificial%20intelligence) technologies can be very useful when there's enormous amounts of data to parse, and that data is patterned in a way that is either already known or which the AI can discover." — [Alexander García-Tobar, quoted in The San Francisco Business Times, 19 May 2020](https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2020/05/19/ai-is-a-double-edged-sword-for-cybersecurity-firms.html)

    Did you know?

    If parse brings up images of elementary school and learning the [parts of speech](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/part%20of%20speech), you've done your homework regarding this word. Parse comes from the first element of the Latin term for "part of speech," pars orationis. It's an old word that has been used since at least the mid-1500s, but it was not until the late 18th century that parse graduated to its extended, non-grammar-related sense of "to examine in a minute way; to analyze critically." Remember this extended sense, and you're really at the head of the class.

    • 1 min
    argot

    argot

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 28, 2020 is: argot \AHR-goh\ noun
    : the language used by a particular type or group of people : an often more or less secret vocabulary and [idiom](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idiom) peculiar to a particular group

    Examples:

    "Should all go well, after three weeks or more, the state would move on to phase two, which officials, creating a new virus-age argot, have labeled 'Cautious.'" — [Matt Stout and Tim Logan, The Boston Globe, 18 May 2020](https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/18/nation/baker-details-plan-reopen-massachusetts/)

    "The Universe, [[Galileo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Galileo)] famously wrote, 'is written in the language of mathematics.' It was an argot that allowed him to break reliance on the Aristotelian cosmology prized by the Catholic Church, and to forge a new, quantitative study of nature." — [Alison Abbott, Nature, 4 May 2020](https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01316-6)

    Did you know?

    We borrowed argot from French in the early 1800s, although our language already had several words covering its meaning. There was [jargon](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jargon), the Anglo-French ancestor of which meant "twittering of birds"; it had been used for specialized (and often obscure or pretentious) vocabulary since the 1600s. There was also [lingo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lingo), from the Latin word lingua, meaning "language"; that term had been in use for more than a century. English novelist and lawyer Henry Fielding used it of "court gibberish"—what we tend to call [legalese](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legalese). And speaking of legalese, the suffix [-ese](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-ese#h3) is a newer means of indicating arcane vocabulary. One of its very first applications at the turn of the 20th century was for "American 'golfese.'"

    • 1 min
    incontrovertible

    incontrovertible

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 27, 2020 is: incontrovertible \in-kahn-truh-VER-tuh-bul\ adjective
    : not open to question : [indisputable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/indisputable)

    Examples:

    "'Why are you kids inside? It's nice outside.' It wasn't a question. It was a directive. Out the door, pronto. Further, to us kids, the logic seemed incontrovertible. Indeed, if the sun were shining, why wouldn't we be playing under it?" — [Phil Luciano, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 12 May 2020](https://www.pjstar.com/news/20200512/luciano-covid-19-cant-cancel-summer-if-kids-can-be-kids)

    "And so while all this may just be temporary—and it may simply be that in our leisure and idleness we are hearing birdsong that always was there, and noticing wildlife that was just beyond our [ken](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ken)—it nonetheless is incontrovertible that there is a small but discernible uptick in our apprehension of nature, and of our appreciation of the natural world." — [David M. Shribman, The Salem (Massachusetts) News, 16 May 2020](https://www.salemnews.com/opinion/columns/shribman-in-the-quiet-nature-roars-back/article2423fd22-ab77-5775-97b8-51a7777a9f13.html)

    Did you know?

    If something is indisputable, it's incontrovertible. But if it is open to question, is it [controvertible](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/controvertible#other-words)? It sure is. The antonyms controvertible and incontrovertible are both derivatives of the verb [controvert](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/controvert) (meaning "to dispute or oppose by reasoning"), which is itself a spin-off of [controversy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/controversy). And what is the source of all of these controversial terms? The Latin adjective controversus, which literally means "turned against."

    • 1 min

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