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.

    veracity

    veracity

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 12, 2021 is: veracity \vuh-RASS-uh-tee\ noun
    1 : [conformity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conformity) with truth or fact : [accuracy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accuracy)

    2 : devotion to the truth : [truthfulness](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truthfulness)

    3 : power of conveying or perceiving truth

    4 : something true

    Examples:

    English poet Thomas Gray wrote, "Any fool may write a most valuable book by chance, if he will only tell us what he heard and saw with veracity."

    "Few observers have bothered to point out that the same online magic that allows viewers to stream 'The Crown' on demand also allows them to check within milliseconds on its veracity, if they so desire. " — [Christina Boyle, The Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2020](https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-12-04/brits-love-lambaste-netflix-the-crown-season-4)

    Did you know?

    Veracity has been a part of English since the early 17th century, and we can honestly tell you that it derives from the Latin adjective vērāx ("truthful"), which in turn comes from the earlier vērus ("true"). Vērus also gives us [verity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verity) ("the quality of being true"), [verify](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verify) ("to establish the truth of"), and [verisimilitude](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verisimilitude) ("the appearance of truth"), among other words. In addition, vērāx is the root of the word [veraciousness](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/veraciousness), a somewhat rarer synonym and cousin of veracity.

    • 1 min
    importunate

    importunate

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 11, 2021 is: importunate \im-POR-chuh-nut\ adjective
    1 : troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand

    2 : [troublesome](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/troublesome)

    Examples:

    "It seems apt that in the play's first scene, set at 6 a.m. in Lagos, Nigeria, an importunate young customer asks the barber he's so rudely awakened to give him an 'aerodynamic' cut." — [Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 4 Dec. 2019](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/theater/barber-shop-chronicles-review.html)

    "But when I spoke to Nadella he allowed that when you see people in their homes, with their noisy children and importunate pets, struggling to stay focussed and upbeat, 'you have a different kind of empathy for your co-workers.'" — [John Seabrook, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2021](https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/01/has-the-pandemic-transformed-the-office-forever)

    Did you know?

    Importunate has been part of the English language since the 16th century, and the synonymous [importune](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/importune) arrived even earlier, in the 15th century. The seemingly superfluous inclusion of the suffix -ate in importunate is a bit mysterious; one theory is that English speakers modeled the adjective after words like [obstinate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obstinate). Importune and importunate come from Latin importunus. The prefix im- means "not," and importunus can be contrasted with Latin opportunus, which shares its meaning with and is the ancestor of our [opportune](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opportune), meaning "suitable or timely." The connection is obscure now, but opportunus itself harks back to the Latin phrase ob portum, meaning "[coming] to harbor." Importune, and later importunate, once meant "inopportune, untimely," but that sense is now obsolete.

    • 2 min
    shrive

    shrive

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 10, 2021 is: shrive \SHRYVE\ verb
    1 : to administer the sacrament of [reconciliation](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reconciliation?show=0&t=1414588156) to

    2 : to free from guilt

    Examples:

    "Once every three months, Pancho took his savings and drove into Monterey to confess his sins, to do his penance, and be shriven and to get drunk, in the order named." — [John Steinbeck, The Pastures of Heaven, 1932](https://www.google.com/books/edition/ThePasturesofHeaven/GQQ7TaTnU1EC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22,+Pancho+took+his+savings+and+drove%22&pg=PT54&printsec=frontcover)

    "Each Saturday he confessed humbly at St Francis' Church, then shrived penitents for long hours at the cathedral, never stinting his homilies." — [James Griffin, The Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1986](https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mannix-daniel-7478)

    Did you know?

    We wouldn't want to give the history of shrive short shrift, so here's the whole story. It began when the Latin verb scribere (meaning "to write") found its way onto the tongues of certain Germanic peoples who brought it to Britain in the early Middle Ages. Because it was often used for laying down directions or rules in writing, Old English speakers used their form of the term, scrīfan, to mean "to prescribe or impose." The Church adopted scrīfan to refer to the act of assigning penance to sinners and, later, to hearing confession and administering absolution. Today [shrift](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shrift), the noun form of shrive, makes up half of "[short shrift](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/short%20shrift)," a phrase meaning "little or no attention or consideration." Originally, "short shrift" was the barely adequate time for confession before an execution.

    • 1 min
    paean

    paean

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 9, 2021 is: paean \PEE-un\ noun
    1 : a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph

    2 : a work that praises or honors its subject : [encomium](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encomium), [tribute](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tribute)

    Examples:

    "But Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town,' set amid the mountains there, is no folksy paean to simplicity. It's a boldly experimental play about the beauty of the everyday, and human beings' tragic propensity to look right past that." — [Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2021](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/06/theater/our-town-actresses.html)

    "Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, has a smart new book out advising us to 'Think Again,' in the words of his title. He explores in part what goes wrong when smart people are too righteous, and he offers a paean to intellectual humility." — [Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, 3 Mar. 2021](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/03/opinion/progressives-conservatives-think-again.html)

    Did you know?

    According to the poet Homer, the Greek god [Apollo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Apollo) sometimes took the guise of Paean, physician to the gods. The earliest musical paeans were hymns of thanksgiving and praise that were dedicated to Apollo. They were sung at events ranging from boisterous festivals to public funerals, and they were the traditional marching songs of armies heading into battle. Over time, the word became generalized, and it is now used for any kind of tribute.

    • 1 min
    frugal

    frugal

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 8, 2021 is: frugal \FROO-gul\ adjective
    : characterized by or reflecting [economy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/economy#h1) in the use of resources

    Examples:

    "Frugal diners might prefer hitting Ulrich's on Monday nights, when all burgers are $3 off. It's one of the best deals Downtown, or anywhere in town." — [Nick Vlahos, The Peoria (Illinois) Journal Star, 1 Mar. 2021](https://www.pjstar.com/story/news/columns/nick-in-the-morning/2021/03/01/jims-bistro-among-best-burger-joints-in-peoria/6850216002/)

    "But a frugal lifestyle doesn't have to mean a deprived lifestyle. In fact, I've managed to whittle down my spending and boost my savings by making a few simple but meaningful choices." — [Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool, 19 Jan. 2021](https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-finance/articles/4-frugal-living-tips-for-2021/)

    Did you know?

    Those who are frugal are unwilling to ([lavishly](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lavishly)) enjoy the fruits of their labors, so it may surprise you to learn that frugal ultimately derives from the Latin frux, meaning "fruit" or "value," and is even a distant cousin of the Latin word for "enjoy" (frui). The connection between fruit or value and restraint was first made in Latin; the Middle French word that English speakers eventually adopted as frugal came from the Latin adjective frugalis, a frux descendant meaning "virtuous" or "frugal." Although English speakers adopted frugal by the 16th century, they were already lavishly supplied with earlier coinages to denote the idea, including [sparing](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sparing) and [thrifty](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thrifty).

    • 1 min
    archipelago

    archipelago

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 7, 2021 is: archipelago \ahr-kuh-PEL-uh-goh\ noun
    1 : an expanse of water with many scattered islands

    2 : a group of islands

    3 : something resembling an archipelago; especially : a group or scattering of similar things

    Examples:

    "The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, is recognized globally as a megadiverse nation and a biodiversity hotspot." — [The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 30 Mar. 2021](https://carnegiemnh.org/press/)

    "For those who have the choice, an island is a place to go to simplify life, to strip it bare of the constant attention-battering of our world. When Francis was writing he was not to know that, by the time of publication, isolation would have left its island home to push us two metres apart, to make us archipelagos." — [Philip Marsden, The Spectator, 3 Oct. 2020](https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/surrounded-by-sea-and-sky-the-irresistible-draw-of-islands)

    Did you know?

    The Greeks called it the Aegean Pelagos and the Italians referred to it as Arcipelago (meaning "chief sea"), but English speakers now call it the [Aegean Sea](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Aegean%20Sea). Numerous islands dot its expanse, and 16th-century English speakers adopted a modified form of its Italian name for any sea with a similar scattering of islands. In time, archipelago came to refer to the groups of islands themselves, and now it is often used figuratively, as in, for example, "an archipelago of high-rise buildings."

    • 1 min

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