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.

    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
    victual

    victual

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2020 is: victual \VIT-ul\ noun
    1 : food usable by people

    2 victuals plural : supplies of food : [provisions](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/provisions)

    Examples:

    "One day, I will have a large and well-organized fruit and vegetable garden that will furnish far more of my victuals." — [Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2020](https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-vegetable-garden-priceless-in-a-pandemic/2020/08/11/a3a98af2-d75d-11ea-930e-d88518c57dccstory.html)

    "'Why, she's hungry, poor little lady,' said the younger woman. 'Give her some o' the cold victual. You've been walking a good way, I'll be bound, my dear. Where's your home?'" — [George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860](https://www.google.com/books/edition/ThemillontheFlossbyGeorgeEliotSt/duUBAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22You%27ve+been+walking+a+good+way%22&pg=PA97&printsec=frontcover)

    Did you know?

    If you're hungry for the story behind victual, get ready to dig into a rich and fulfilling history. The word derives via the Middle English and Anglo-French vitaille from the Late Latin plural noun victualia ("provisions"), and ultimately (by way of victus, meaning "nourishment" or "way of living") the Latin verb vivere, meaning "to live." Vivere is the source of a whole smorgasbord of other English words, such as [vital](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vital), [vivid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vivid), and [survive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/survive). It's also the root of [viand](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/viand), another English word referring to food. There's also [vittles](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vittles), a word that sounds like it might be an alteration of the plural victuals (both are pronounced /VIT-ulz/) but which is actually just an earlier development of the Middle English vitaille that was served before victual.

    • 1 min
    posthumous

    posthumous

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 25, 2020 is: posthumous \PAHSS-chuh-muss\ adjective
    1 : born after the death of the father

    2 : published after the death of the author

    3 : following or occurring after death

    Examples:

    Published eleven years following his death in 1969, John Kennedy Toole's novel [A Confederacy of Dunces](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AConfederacyofDunces) earned the author posthumous fame as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

    "Sharon Jones may no longer be with us, but her legacy continues to endure in the form of posthumous releases. Daptone Records released a new Dusty Springfield cover from the upcoming Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings album, Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Rendition Was In." — [Emily Tan, Spin, 7 Oct. 2020](https://www.spin.com/2020/10/sharon-jones-the-dap-kings-cover-dusty-springfields-little-by-little/)

    Did you know?

    The etymology of the word posthumous tells a complex story. In Latin, posterus is an adjective meaning "coming after" (from post, meaning "after"). The comparative form of posterus is [posterior](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/posterior), and its superlative form is postumus, which means, among other things, "last." Postumus had specific application in referring to the last of a man's children, which in some cases meant those born after he had died. Latin speakers incorrectly identified the -umus in this word with humus, meaning "dirt" or "earth" (suggesting the ground in which the unfortunate father now lay). The Latin spelling became posthumus, as if the word were formed from post and humus, and both the "h" and the suggestion of "after burial" or "after death" carried over into English.

    • 1 min
    mogul

    mogul

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 24, 2020 is: mogul \MOH-gul\ noun
    1 capitalized Mogul : an Indian Muslim of or descended from one of several conquering groups of Mongol, Turkish, and Persian origin; especially : [Great Mogul](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/great+mogul)

    2 : a great personage : [magnate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magnate)

    Examples:

    "The philanthropic foundation created by the hedge fund mogul Ray Dalio is donating $50 million to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to address health social inequalities." — [The New York Times, 14 Oct. 2020](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/business/dealbook/business-election-integrity.html)

    "The Atlanta rap mogul is walking around Super Sound Studios, the recording haven he purchased last year, talking into the heel of his phone." — [Melissa Ruggieri, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 25 Sept. 2020](https://www.ajc.com/life/music-blog/ti-at-40-the-hip-hop-artist-and-grand-hustle-mogul-reflects-on-age-activism-and-atlanta/KY7YZPJE2NAONFYX4OTDVAHJBI/)

    Did you know?

    Started by [Bābur](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/babur), a descendant of [Genghis Khan](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Genghis%20Khan), the Muslim Mogul dynasty ruled much of India from the early 16th century to the mid-18th century. The Moguls (whose name is also spelled Moghul or Mughal) were known for their talented and powerful rulers (called "Great Moguls"), so it's no surprise that in English the word mogul came to denote a powerful person, as in today's familiar references to "media moguls." Skiers might wonder if such power moguls have anything to do with the name they use for a bump in a ski run, but that hilly homonym has nothing to do with Asian Mogul dynasties. We picked up the skier's [mogul](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mogul#h2) from German dialect, from a word that is probably related to the Viennese mugl, meaning "small hill."

    • 1 min

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