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.

    chlamys

    chlamys

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2021 is: chlamys \KLAM-us\ noun
    : a short oblong [mantle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantle) worn by young men of ancient Greece

    Examples:

    "Perhaps her effect on him was as despotic and intoxicating as the poets claimed. Rumors reached Rome that he had abandoned his [toga](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toga) for the Greek chlamys; that she reviewed his troops with a bodyguard of [Praetorians](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/praetorians); that he followed her [litter](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/litter) humbly on foot…." — [Judith Thurman, Cleopatra's Nose, 2007](https://www.google.com/books/edition/CleopatrasNose/2Wy54ZkiFYwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22Perhaps+her+effect+on+him+was+as+despotic+and+intoxicating+as+the+poets+claimed%22&pg=PA420&printsec=frontcover)

    "Ann Moore displays a black-and-white photo in a 1953 issue of Vogue magazine of a woman modeling an elegant silk [taffeta](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taffeta) chlamys with beading and rhinestones." — [Shelia M. Poole, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1 Sept. 2016](https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/fashion--style/fashion-designer-ann-moore-work-featured-atlanta-history-center/lS0I09c5jHHZyC1zOdvFyL/)

    Did you know?

    If you had been a man of ancient Greece, you'd likely have worn a chlamys from time to time. This cloak was a short, oblong [mantle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mantle), typically made of dark wool, and worn draped over the left shoulder and fastened with a [fibula](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fibula) at the right shoulder, leaving the right arm uncovered. The chlamys was popular especially among soldiers and messengers. Modern encounters with the chlamys are most likely to occur at museums where a statue of the messenger god [Hermes](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hermes) or the Greco-Roman god [Apollo](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Apollo) might be seen garbed in such. As deities frequently on the move, these two would have appreciated the fact that the garment provided both protection from the elements and freedom of movement.

    • 1 min
    forfend

    forfend

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 18, 2021 is: forfend \for-FEND\ verb
    1 a archaic : [forbid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forbid)

    b : to ward off : [prevent](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prevent)

    2 : [protect](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protect), [preserve](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/preserve)

    Examples:

    "All too often, the selfie is looked down upon with condescension, viewed as the narcissist's calling card, treated with scorn and disdain. But why? Heaven forfend we show evidence of loving ourselves." — [Rachel Thompson, Mashable, 24 Dec. 2020](https://mashable.com/article/2020-thirst-traps/)

    "Juvenile birds left on a quest for their own feeding grounds, to avoid competition with parents and siblings. Going out on their own also forfends against inbreeding, which would have a deleterious effect on the gene pool of their species." — [Gary Clark, The Houston Chronicle, 21 Sept. 2018](https://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/gardening/article/Where-have-all-the-songbirds-gone-13245756.php)

    Did you know?

    When forfend was first used in the 14th century, it meant "to forbid." The term is still used with this meaning in phrases like "heaven forfend" or "God forfend," but it bears an antiquated patina communicated in our dictionary with an "archaic" label. Other uses of the word are current, though somewhat uncommon. Forfend comes from Middle English forfenden, from [for-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/for-#h5) (meaning "so as to involve prohibition, exclusion, omission, failure, neglect, or refusal") and fenden, a variant of defenden, meaning "to defend."

    • 1 min
    purloin

    purloin

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 17, 2021 is: purloin \per-LOYN\ verb
    : to [appropriate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appropriate#h2) wrongfully and often by a breach of trust

    Examples:

    "A comfortable career of prosperity, if it does not make people honest, at least keeps them so. An alderman coming from a turtle feast will not step out of his carriage to steal a leg of mutton; but put him to starve, and see if he will not purloin a loaf." — [William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848](https://archive.org/stream/vanityfair02thacuoft/vanityfair02thacuoftdjvu.txt)

    "White Fox, played with brisk, exemplary swagger by Hsu Feng, is a master thief employed by a corrupt landowner who wants to purloin a priceless [sutra](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sutra) from a Buddhist monastery." — [Glenn Kenny, The New York Times, 29 Oct. 2020](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/movies/raining-in-the-mountain-review.html)

    Did you know?

    The word purloin features in the title of a famous Edgar Allan Poe story in its past tense form: "The Purloined Letter" was included in Poe's 1845 Tales, and involves the search for a letter that a cabinet minister has stolen and is now using to blackmail the rightful owner, an unnamed woman of royalty. When Poe opted for ­purloin for his story, he was employing a term in use since the 15th century with the meaning "to put away; to inappropriately take or make use of." The word had earlier use, now obsolete, with the meaning "to set aside; to render inoperative or ineffectual," a meaning that links more clearly to the word's Anglo-French origin: purluigner means "to prolong, postpone, set aside," and comes from pur-, meaning "forward," and luin, loing, meaning "at a distance." Its ultimate root is Latin longus, long, meaning "long."

    • 1 min
    lodestone

    lodestone

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 16, 2021 is: lodestone \LOHD-stohn\ noun
    1 : [magnetite](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magnetite) possessing [polarity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polarity)

    2 : something that strongly attracts

    Examples:

    "… the city was a lodestone of rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues innovation." — [John Beifuss, The Memphis (Tennessee) Commercial Appeal, 2 Nov. 2020](https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2020/10/27/stan-kesler-obit-memphis-music-elvis-jerry-lee-lewis-sam-the-sham/3746810001/)

    "[Britney] Spears … became a vessel for our intense emotions, but in the process, she would also become a lodestone for criticism of an entire generation's tastes and habits." — [Craig Jenkins, Vulture, 17 Feb. 2021](https://www.vulture.com/article/essay-britney-spears-discourse-pop-history.html)

    Did you know?

    Lodestone is made up of distinctly English components, ones that have been part of our language since before the 12th century. [Lode](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lode) comes from the Old English lād, which means "way, journey, course." The word [stone](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stone) derives from the Old English stān, which had the same meaning as the modern term stone. When the two ancient words were combined to form lodestone in the early 16th century, the new term referred to magnetite, a magnetic iron [ore](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ore#h1). Just as a new business district might be a magnet for entrepreneurs, or a poor soul a magnet for bad luck, lodestone sees similar figurative use describing things with a seeming power to attract.

    • 1 min
    obstreperous

    obstreperous

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 15, 2021 is: obstreperous \ub-STREP-uh-rus\ adjective
    1 : marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness : [clamorous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clamorous)

    2 : stubbornly resistant to control : [unruly](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unruly)

    Examples:

    "Throughout a long career, [Lawrence Ferlinghetti] showed courage, taste and willingness to put up with sometimes obstreperous writers for the sake of literature. He first won widespread renown by publishing Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' and defending the book in a court case in 1957 when it was declared obscene." — [Benjamin Ivry, The Forward (New York), 24 Feb. 2021](https://forward.com/culture/464675/the-jewish-visionary-who-defended-allen-ginsberg-and-warned-of-trumps/)

    "In Hollywood, [Eugene DeMarco had] gained renown as a [barnstorming](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barnstorming) stunt pilot in films and commercials.... Within the small but global community of antique-aviation buffs, he continues to be held in awe, considered by many to be the most accomplished flier of dangerously obstreperous World War I airplanes." — [Marc Wortman, Vanity Fair, March 2021](https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/01/peter-jackson-and-the-airplane-thief)

    Did you know?

    The handy Latin prefix ob-, meaning "in the way," "against," or "toward," occurs in many Latin and English words. Obstreperous comes from ob- plus strepere, a verb meaning "to make a noise," so someone who is obstreperous can be thought of as literally making noise to rebel against something, much like a protesting crowd or an unruly child. The word has been used in English since around the beginning of the 17th century. Strepere has had a limited impact on the English lexicon; in addition to obstreperous it seems only to have contributed strepitous and its synonym strepitant, which mean "characterized or accompanied by much noise"—that is, "noisy." Ob- words, on the other hand, abound, and include such terms as [obnoxious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obnoxious), [occasion](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occasion), [offend](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/offend), [omit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/omit), [oppress](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppress), and [oust](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oust).

    • 2 min
    discomfit

    discomfit

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 14, 2021 is: discomfit \diss-KUM-fit\ verb
    1 : to put into a state of perplexity and embarrassment : [disconcert](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disconcert)

    2 a : to frustrate the plans of : [thwart](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thwart)

    b archaic : to defeat in battle

    Examples:

    Jacob was discomfited by the new employee's forward, probing questions.

    "Upon entering the theater, the audience is immediately discomfited by the set; it is a portrait of devastation. Aaron Benson’s scenic design is a beautiful and chaotic vision of decay: two towering tenements whose brick walls are stripped down to their wooden lath, with battered plaster that doubles as projection surfaces peeking between the bricks." — [Andrea Simakis, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 Mar. 2020](https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2020/03/marisol-at-cleveland-public-theatre-is-a-poetic-visit-to-a-parallel-universe.html)

    Did you know?

    Disconcerted by discomfit and [discomfort](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discomfort)? While the two look similar and share some semantic territory, they're etymologically unrelated. Unlike discomfort, discomfit has no connection to comfort, which comes ultimately from Latin com- plus fortis, meaning "strong." Instead, discomfit was borrowed from Anglo-French in the 13th century with the meaning "to defeat in battle." Within a couple centuries, discomfit had expanded beyond the battlefield to mean "to frustrate the plans of; to thwart," a meaning that eventually softened into the "to disconcert or confuse" use we find most often today—one quite close to the uneasiness and annoyance communicated by discomfort. For a time, usage commentators were keen to keep a greater distance between discomfit and discomfort; they recommended that discomfit be limited to "to completely defeat; to rout," but they've largely given up now, and the "disconcert or confuse" meaning is fully established. There is one major difference between discomfit and discomfort, though: discomfit is used almost exclusively as a verb, while discomfort is much more commonly used as a noun than a verb.

    • 2 min

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