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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.

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.

    wherefore

    wherefore

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 30, 2021 is: wherefore \WAIR-for\ adverb
    1 : for what reason or purpose : [why](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/why)

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

    Examples:

    "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" — William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1594-95

    "According to The Blast, the legal filing said 'Wherefore, Petitioner requests an order of this court that the conservatorship of the person of Britney Jean Spears, the conservatee, be terminated.'" — Justin Enriquez, ­The Daily Mail (US), 18 June 2021

    Did you know?

    In early English, a number of new words were formed by combining [where](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/where) with a preposition. In such words, where had the meaning of "what" or "which"—hence, [wherein](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wherein) ("in what"), [whereon](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whereon) ("on what"), and wherefore ("for what"). Although wherefore as an adverb is rarely used today, the [noun](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wherefore#h2) form, meaning "an answer or statement giving an explanation," survives in the phrase "the whys and wherefores."

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    palaver

    palaver

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 29, 2021 is: palaver \puh-LAV-er\ noun
    1 a : a long discussion or meeting [parley](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parley#h2) usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication

    b : [conference](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conference), [discussion](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discussion)

    2 a : idle talk

    b : misleading or beguiling speech

    Examples:

    Enough of this palaver. We have a lot to discuss.

    "[Adrian Daub] brings the same sharp eye for sophistry to other forms of palaver that move capital in Silicon Valley. He revisits the actual thinkers appropriated by TED bloviators, from the philosopher Marshall McLuhan to the French historian René Girard to the novelist Ayn Rand." — Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2020

    Did you know?

    During the 18th century, Portuguese and English sailors often met during trading trips along the West African coast. This contact prompted the English to borrow the Portuguese palavra, which usually means "speech" or "word" but was used by Portuguese traders with the specific meaning "discussions with natives." The Portuguese word traces back to the Late Latin parabola, a noun meaning "speech" or "parable."

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    bivouac

    bivouac

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2021 is: bivouac \BIV-uh-wak\ verb
    1 : to make a temporary encampment under little or no shelter

    2 : to take shelter often temporarily

    3 : to provide temporary quarters for

    Examples:

    The climbers bivouacked under the cliff's ledge.

    "Bivouacked in the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. Even though it was the southern summer, geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured nearly three months of freezing temperatures, sleeping in a tent, and eating dehydrated food." — Matt Simon, Wired, 15 Feb. 2021

    Did you know?

    In his 1841 dictionary, Noah Webster observed bivouac to be a French borrowing having military origins. He defined the [noun](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bivouac) bivouac as "the guard or watch of a whole army, as in cases of great danger of surprise or attack" and the [verb](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bivouac#h2) as "to watch or be on guard, as a whole army." The French word is derived from the Low German word biwacht, which translates to "by guard." Germans used the word specifically for a patrol of citizens who assisted the town watch at night. Today, bivouac has less to do with guarding and patrolling than it does with taking shelter.

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    jeremiad

    jeremiad

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2021 is: jeremiad \jair-uh-MYE-ud\ noun
    : a prolonged [lamentation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lamentation) or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry [harangue](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harangue#h1)

    Examples:

    The news story was a scathing jeremiad against the invasion of privacy on celebrities.

    "We can expect a volley of jeremiads against wind power, as perhaps half that fleet stopped spinning. But with perhaps more than 30 gigawatts of thermal generating capacity tripping offline, and wind power producing about five gigawatts less than planned, this disaster clearly stretches, as Texas' grid operator said, 'across fuel types.'" — Liam Denning, The St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, 18 Feb. 2021

    Did you know?

    Jeremiah was a Jewish prophet, who lived from about 650 to 570 B.C. and spent his days lambasting the Hebrews for their false worship and social injustice and denouncing the king for his selfishness, materialism, and inequities. When not calling on his people to quit their wicked ways, he was lamenting his own lot; a portion of the biblical Book of Jeremiah is devoted to his "confessions," a series of lamentations on the hardships endured by a prophet with an unpopular message. Nowadays, English speakers use [Jeremiah](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Jeremiah) for a pessimistic person and jeremiad for the way these Jeremiahs carry on. The word jeremiad was borrowed from the French, who coined it as jérémiade.

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    urbane

    urbane

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2021 is: urbane \er-BAYN\ adjective
    : notably polite or polished in manner

    Examples:

    "When had my willful and boorish cousin turned into this urbane young artist greeting the guests at her opening reception?" wondered James.

    "Offstage, he could be sensitive or surly, charming or sometimes combative, an unabashed [hedonist](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonist) or an urbane aficionado of film, literature and theater." — George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Jun. 2021

    Did you know?

    City slickers and country folk have long debated whether life is better in town or in the wide-open spaces, and urbane is a term that springs from the throes of that debate. In its earliest English uses, urbane was synonymous with its close relative [urban](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/urban) ("of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city"). Both words come from the Latin adjective urbanus ("urban, urbane"), which in turn is derived from urbs, meaning "city." Urbane developed its modern sense denoting [savoir faire](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/savoir%20faire) from the belief (no doubt fostered by city dwellers) that living in the city made one more suave and polished than did leading a rural life.

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    hagiography

    hagiography

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2021 is: hagiography \hag-ee-AH-gruh-fee\ noun
    1 : biography of saints or [venerated](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/venerate) persons

    2 : idealizing or [idolizing](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idolize) biography

    Examples:

    "Music documentaries can veer into hagiography. That's not this story. It goes up and down, with constant left turns and surprises you don't expect." — Edgar Wright, quoted in The Houston Chronicle, 16 June 2021

    "Hemingway, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's latest PBS series, is a hagiography of one of the most popular writers of the 20th century, the tale of a man whose writing, image, and life were regularly the stuff of gossip, jealousy, admiration, and legend" — Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic, 15 Apr. 2021

    Did you know?

    Like [biography](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biography) and [autograph](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autograph), the word hagiography has to do with the written word. The combining form [-graphy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-graphy) comes from Greek graphein, meaning "to write." Hagio- comes from a Greek word that means "saintly" or "holy." This origin is seen in [Hagiographa](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hagiographa), the Greek designation of the [Ketuvim](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Ketuvim), the third part of the Jewish Scriptures. English's hagiography, though it can refer to biography of actual saints, is these days more often applied to biography that treats ordinary human subjects as if they were saints.

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