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 for March 6, 2021 is: impunity \im-PYOO-nuh-tee\ noun
: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss
"Rather than subsidizing transportation that serves few, disturbs many and pollutes with impunity, money could be directed toward green transportation that serves everyone." — [Anne Wilson, letter in The Daily Camera (Boulder, Colorado), 26 Jan. 2021](https://www.dailycamera.com/2021/01/26/letters-to-the-editor-biological-sex-is-a-fact-ramp-up-mask-production-repurpose-airport-land-cu-south-annexation/amp/)
"Throughout the cruise, many of the officers had expressed their abhorrence of the impunity with which the most extensive plantations of hair were cultivated under their very noses; and they frowned upon every beard with even greater dislike. They said it was unseamanlike; not ship-shape; in short, it was disgraceful to the Navy." — [Herman Melville, White-Jacket, 1850](https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10712/10712-h/10712-h.htm)
Did you know?
Impunity (like the words [pain](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pain), [penal](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/penal), and [punish](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punish)) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning "punishment." The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning "payment" or "penalty." People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s. An illustrative example from 1660 penned by Englishman Roger Coke reads: "This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they [desire]." While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: "The local hollies seem to have lots of berries this year.… A single one won't harm you, but eating a handful would surely make you pretty sick, and might kill you. Birds such as robins, mockingbirds, and cedar waxwings eat them with impunity." (Karl Anderson, The Gloucester County Times, 22 Dec. 2002).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 5, 2021 is: abhor \ub-HOR\ verb
: to regard with extreme [repugnance](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repugnance) : to feel hatred or [loathing](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loathing) for : [loathe](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loathe)
Mariah is an animal rights activist who abhors any mistreatment of animals.
"The ultimate film geek, he worships the medium and abhors banality even as he reworks motifs from previous movies in his creative choices." — [Sally Kline, The Washington Examiner (Washington, D.C.), 20 Aug. 2009](https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/basterds-weaves-classic-tarantino-elements-into-strong-story)
Did you know?
Abhor implies strong feelings of repugnance, disgust, and aversion. This degree of distaste is seen in the word's history. In earlier use, abhor sometimes implied an actual shrinking away from something in horror or repugnance. Appropriately, the word's Latin source, the verb abhorrēre, comes from the prefix ab- ("from, away") and the verb horrēre ("to bristle, shiver, or shudder"). As you may have guessed, the Latin horrēre is also the source of the English words [horror](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horror), [horrify](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horrify), and [horrible](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horrible).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 4, 2021 is: smorgasbord \SMOR-gus-bord\ noun
1 : a luncheon or supper buffet offering a variety of foods and dishes (such as hors d'oeuvres, hot and cold meats, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses, salads, and relishes)
2 : an often large heterogeneous mixture : [mélange](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mélange)
"Each week, Bayle will highlight a spread inspired by both her New England and European adventures; this week's lineup features … a smorgasbord starter kit featuring rye bread, cultured butter, cheese, pickles, cranberry preserves, and more." — [Erin Kuschner, Boston.com, 8 Jan. 2021](https://www.boston.com/food/restaurants/2021/01/08/weekend-food-roundup-mikkusu-popup)
"The game is absolutely unapologetic when it comes to taking themes from its many sources of inspiration, which run the gamut of well-known science fiction books and movies. From classics such as H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds to more modern fare such as E.T., Terminator and Pacific Rim, 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim's narrative is a smorgasbord of science fiction references." — [Jason Hidalgo, The Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal, 25 Sept. 2020](https://www.rgj.com/story/life/2020/09/15/sci-fi-smorgasbord-13-sentinels-aegis-rim-review-technobubble/5797900002/)
Did you know?
Although smorgasbord might make us think of a variety of foods, the Swedish word smörgås refers to a particular food item—an open sandwich or, alternatively, a slice of bread covered with butter—which is a staple of the traditional Swedish smorgasbord. (The word smör means "butter," and gås can mean "a lump of butter" as well as "goose.") Smörgås teamed up with the Swedish word bord, meaning "table" or "board," to form smorgasbord; the word first appeared in English in the later part of the 19th century. By the mid-20th century smorgasbord was being used outside of food-related contexts to refer to something that comprises a mixture or assemblage of different parts.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 3, 2021 is: contaminate \kun-TAM-uh-nayt\ verb
1 a : to soil, stain, corrupt, or infect by contact or association
b : to make inferior or impure by admixture
2 : to make unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements
"Marin Audubon Society president Barbara Salzman said she plans to review the city's environmental report, but expressed concern about the potential for tank leakage to contaminate groundwater." — [Will Houston, The Marin Independent Journal (Marin County, California), 28 Jan. 2021](https://www.marinij.com/2021/01/27/novato-environmental-report-clears-costco-gas-station-plan/#:~:text=Marin%20Audubon%20Society%20president%20Barbara,the%20bay%2C%E2%80%9D%20Salzman%20said.)
"As to any recreation with other children of my age, I had very little of that; for the gloomy theology of the Murdstones made all children out to be a swarm of little vipers …, and held that they contaminated one another." — [Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849-1850](https://www.gutenberg.org/files/766/766-h/766-h.htm)
Did you know?
Contaminate, taint, pollute, and defile mean to make impure or unclean. Contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source (logically enough, it derives from the Latin word tangere, meaning "to touch"). [Taint](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taint) stresses a loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contact ("tainted meat"). [Pollute](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollute), sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy ("the polluted waters of the river"). [Defile](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defile) implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred, and commonly suggests violation or desecration ("vandals defiled the mausoleum").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 2, 2021 is: organoleptic \or-guh-noh-LEP-tik\ adjective
1 : being, affecting, or relating to qualities (such as taste, color, odor, and feel) of a substance (such as a food or drug) that stimulate the [sense organs](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sense%20organ)
2 : involving use of the sense organs
"The goal of beverage distillers is generally a beverage, often very traditional in nature, with very specific organoleptic properties…." — Paul Schwarz and Yin Li, in Barley: Production, Improvement, and Uses, 2011
"After these deep inhales we sipped the oil and worked it around our mouths…. Finally, we slurped. Not a delicate or elegant sound, but an indispensable one for probing the subtler, organoleptic qualities of the oil." — [Ari LeVaux, The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, 25 Sep. 2018](https://www.statesman.com/NEWS/20160903/Drama-in-the-olive-groves)
Did you know?
English speakers got an early taste of organoleptic in an 1852 translation of a French chemistry textbook. Its spelling is an [Anglicization](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anglicization) of the French word organoleptique, which derives from organ (same meaning as in English) and Greek lēptikos, meaning "disposed to take or accept." Lēptikos is also an ingredient in [neuroleptic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuroleptic) (a type of powerful tranquilizer). The parent of lēptikos—the verb lambanein, meaning "to take or seize"—contributed to the formation of several English words, including [epilepsy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epilepsy) and [syllable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syllable).
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 1, 2021 is: gazette \guh-ZET\ noun
1 : a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinion, features, and advertising : [newspaper](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/newspaper)
2 : an official journal
3 British : an announcement in an official gazette
The weekly gazette includes a list of the names of students who have made local schools' honor rolls.
"French media group Lagardere, the owner of Paris Match magazine, has received a 465 million euro ($564 million) state-guaranteed loan to help it cope with the economic fallout of the pandemic, the government’s official gazette said on Sunday." — [Reuters, 3 Jan. 2021](https://www.reuters.com/article/lagardere-loans/french-media-group-lagardere-gets-465-mln-euro-state-guaranteed-loan-idUSL1N2JE03I)
Did you know?
You are probably familiar with the word gazette from its use in the names of a number of newspapers, but the original Gazettes were a series of bulletins published in England in the 17th and early 18th centuries. These official journals contained notices of government appointments and promotions, as well as items like bankruptcies, property transfers, and engagements. In British English, gazette can also refer to the kind of announcement that one might find in such a publication. It can also be used as a verb meaning "to announce or publish in a gazette." The word derives via French from Italian gazetta. The related word [gazetteer](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gazetteer), which we now use for a dictionary of place names, once meant "journalist" or "publicist."
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