Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Free daily dose of word power from Merriam-Webster's experts

02/19/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 19, 2018 is:

sanguine • \SANG-gwun\  • adjective

1 : bloodred

2 a : consisting of or relating to blood

b : bloodthirsty, sanguinary

c : ruddy

3 : having blood as the predominating bodily humoralso : having the bodily conformation and temperament held characteristic of such predominance and marked by sturdiness, ruddy color, and cheerfulness

4 : confident, optimistic


The coach insisted that he was sanguine about his team's chances in the playoffs, even though his star player was injured.

"Some of us hear the term AI [artificial intelligence] and picture a dystopian future where people lose jobs and control to robots who possess artificial—and superior—intelligence to human beings. Others are more sanguine about our ability to control and harness technology to achieve more and greater things." — Georgene Huang, Forbes, 27 Sept. 2017

Did you know?

If you're the sort of cheery soul who always looks on the bright side no matter what happens, you have a sanguine personality. Sanguine describes one of the temperaments that ancient and medieval scholars believed was caused by an abundance of one of the four humors (another is phlegmatic, an adjective that describes the calm, cool, and collected among us). The word sanguine derives from sanguineus, Latin for "blood" or "bloody," and over the more than 600 years it's been in use it has had meanings ranging from "bloodthirsty" and "bloodred" to today's most common one, "confident, optimistic."

02/18/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 18, 2018 is:

panegyric • \pan-uh-JEER-ik\  • noun

: a eulogistic oration or writing; also : formal or elaborate praise


The club's president opened the awards ceremony with a touching panegyric for several prominent members who had passed away during the last year.

"At Lafayette College in Northampton County in 2007, he marked the 250th anniversary of the Marquis de Lafayette's birthday with a panegyric to the great statesman and France's broader influence on America." — Joe Smydo, The Daily Telegram (Adrian, Michigan), 25 May 2017

Did you know?

On certain fixed dates throughout the year, the ancient Greeks would come together for religious meetings. Such gatherings could range from hometown affairs to great national assemblies, but large or small, the meeting was called a panēgyris. That name comes from pan, meaning "all," and agyris, meaning "assembly." At those assemblies, speakers provided the main entertainment, and they delivered glowing orations extolling the praises of present civic leaders and reliving the past glories of Greek cities. To the Greeks, those laudatory speeches were panēgyrikos, which means "of or for a panēgyris." Latin speakers ultimately transformed panēgyrikos into the noun panegyricus, and English speakers adapted that Latin term to form panegyric.

02/17/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 17, 2018 is:

biddable • \BID-uh-bul\  • adjective

1 : easily led, taught, or controlled : docile

2 : capable of being bid


"Unfailingly sweet and biddable (he never put his teeth on another creature—not even when he was bitten on the snout by a friend's ten-week-old puppy), we almost doubted his full canine credentials. No pack instincts? No resource guarding? No." — Mona Charen, The National Review, 23 Nov. 2016

"Because of the lack of documentation, the audit couldn't directly determine whether the project met a goal of awarding 60 percent of the biddable work to local firms, and 20 percent to small businesses." — Ben van der Meer, The Sacramento Business Journal, 5 Dec. 2017

Did you know?

A biddable individual is someone you can issue an order to—that is, someone who will do your bidding. The word dates to the late 18th century, and currently our earliest evidence for it is a quote in the Scottish National Dictionary. There are a number of words in English that do what biddable does. Tractable, amenable, and docile are three of them. Biddable is often applied to children and indicates a ready, constant inclination to follow orders, requests, and suggestions. Tractable suggests characteristics that make for easy guiding, leading, ordering, or managing; its antonym intractable (as in "intractable problems") is more common. Amenable indicates a disposition to be agreeable or complaisant as well as a lack of assertive independence. Docile can stress a disposition to submit, either due to guidance and control or to imposition and oppression.

02/16/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 16, 2018 is:

yuppify • \YUP-uh-fye\  • verb

: to make appealing to yuppies; also : to infuse with the qualities or values of yuppies


My sister rents an expensive apartment in a neighborhood that was recently yuppified.

"In those days, Surry Hills was a working-class suburb, and while its northern edges have been yuppified, the southern end around Cleveland Street maintains a vestige of the old feel." — Ean Higgins, The Australian, 31 July 2017

Did you know?

Yuppie and yuppify are products of the 1980s, but they owe a debt to predecessors from decades prior. Hippie (referring to a long-haired, unconventionally dressed young person who rejects societal mores; from hip, meaning "cool") first appeared in print in the 1950s. Yippie (naming a politically active hippie; from Youth International Party) followed hippie a decade later. Gentrification and gentrify (both of which have to do with the effects of influxes of relatively affluent people into deteriorating neighborhoods; from gentry) then evolved. Yuppie (pointing out a young well-paid professional who lives and works in or near an urban area; probably from young urban professional, influenced by hippie and yippie) hit the press in the early 1980s, bringing along yuppify and yuppification (patterned after gentrify and gentrification).

02/15/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 15, 2018 is:

nebbish • \NEB-ish\  • noun

: a timid, meek, or ineffectual person


Lyle may have come across as a nebbish, but he stood up to the bully who gave him a hard time—and the students in the cafeteria who witnessed the confrontation showed their support.

"Arthur Darvill is known to 'Doctor Who' fans as the nebbish-turned-stalwart-hero Rory Williams and to CW superhero fans as Rip Hunter, organizer of the 'Legends of Tomorrow' on that series." — Mike Suchcicki, The Pensacola (Florida) News Journal, 26 Nov. 2017

Did you know?

"From what I read ... it looks like Pa isn't anything like the nebbish Ma is always making him out to be…." Sounds like poor Pa got a bum rap, at least according to a 1951 book review that appeared in The New York Times. The unfortunate Pa unwittingly demonstrates much about the etymology of nebbish, which derives from the Yiddish nebekh, meaning "poor" or "unfortunate." As you might expect for a timid word like nebbish, the journey from Yiddish to English wasn't accomplished in a single bold leap of spelling and meaning. It originally entered English in the 1800s as the adjective nebbich, meaning "innocuous or ineffectual." Nebbich (sometimes spelled nebekh) has also been used as an interjection to express dismay, pity, sympathy, or regret, but that use is far less widespread and is not included in most general-use English dictionaries.

02/14/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 14, 2018 is:

frolic • \FRAH-lik\  • verb

1 : to amuse oneself : make merry

2 : to play and run about happily : romp


"Every year, Trolley Dances takes us on a unique journey.… Audiences are introduced to new, site-specific dance performances at stops along the trolley line…. In years past, for instance, dancers have frolicked in public fountains, executed seductive tango moves in a narrow alley and rolled down grassy slopes." — Marcia Manna, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Sept. 2017

"When we ask our viewers to send us photos of the snow, we always get the usual—kids, dogs, porches—but this year, one viewer stepped it up a notch. Oak Island resident Wendy Brumagin was able to capture a beautiful, and what some might consider rare, image of a coyote frolicking in the snow." — (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina), 8 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

Frolic is a playful word with a happy history. It traces back to the Dutch word vroolijk ("merry"), which in turn evolved from a Middle Dutch combination of vro ("happy") and the adjectival suffix -lijc ("-ly"). Vro is related to the Old Frisian and Old High German fro, which also means "happy." (It is also a distant relative of Old English frogga, from which Modern English derived frog.) When frolic first entered English in the early-mid 16th century, it was used as an adjective meaning "merry" or "full of fun." The verb came into use by the end of that century, followed a few decades later by a noun use, as in "an evening of fun and frolic."

02/13/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 13, 2018 is:

nuts • \NUTS\  • adjective

1 : enthusiastic, keen

2 : insane, crazy


"On Friday nights, when my kids … were younger, we would sit and watch a film. It's a fantastic feeling when you see them getting drawn into something you love. My husband, Phil, and I are nuts about West Wing, and we've gradually got my son into that as well." — Rebecca Front, quoted in Good Housekeeping (UK), April 2016

"I think the most irresponsible thing I did was invest in a company that was going nowhere.… It kept falling apart. People kept telling me I was nuts. I kept pushing forward." — Jessica Alba, quoted in Cosmopolitan, 1 Mar. 2016

Did you know?

The informal adjective nuts dates to the early 1900s but developed from an earlier 17th-century slang meaning often found in phrases like "nuts to me" and "nuts for me," where it referred to a source of delight, as in this quote from English satirist Jonathan Swift's A Journal to Stella (1766): "Why, we had not one word of quarrel; only he railed at me when I was gone: and Lord Keeper and Treasurer teased me for a week. It was nuts to them; a serious thing with a vengeance." The use likely had something to do with the taste of the dry fruit or seed since early figurative examples of the noun include the expression "nuts and cheese." Adjectival use, typically describing enthusiasm about or fondness for someone or something came about in the late 18th century. In Britain, the term was often used in the phrase "dead nuts on," as "She is dead nuts on the boy next door." The notion that enthusiasm and infatuation often lead to obsession may have played a role in the early 20th-century senses of nuts denoting extreme devotion, as in "nuts about baseball," and functioning as a synonym of "insane."

02/12/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 12, 2018 is:

adust • \uh-DUST\  • adjective

: scorched, burned


The adust landscape of volcanic rock and sand can be particularly beautiful at sunset.

"These arid and adust creatures, looking like the mummies of some antediluvian animals, … had to all appearance come out from this long tempest of trial unscathed and unharmed." — Thomas De Quincey, Revolt of the Tartars, 1837

Did you know?

Adust comes from Latin adustus, the past participle of adūrere ("to set fire to"), a verb formed from the Latin prefix ad- and the verb ūrere ("to burn"). It entered the English language in the early 15th century as a medical term related to the four bodily humors—black bile, blood, phlegm, and yellow bile—which were believed at the time to determine a person's health and temperament. Adust was used to describe a condition of the humors in which they supposedly became heated or combusted. Adust black bile in particular was believed to be a source of melancholy. The association with melancholy gave rise to a sense of adust meaning "of a gloomy appearance or disposition," but that sense is now considered archaic.

02/11/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 11, 2018 is:

recuse • \rih-KYOOZ\  • verb

: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly : to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest


Because she was a frequent customer at the plaintiff's shop, the judge recused herself from the case.

"If HB 1225 becomes law in its current form, any county official who has an agreement with a wind developer must recuse himself or herself from any matter that involves the ownership, operation, construction or location of a wind power device in the county." — Travis Weik, The Courier-Times (New Castle, Indiana), 14 Jan. 2018

Did you know?

Recuse is derived from the Middle French word recuser, which comes from the Latin recusare, meaning "to refuse." English speakers began using recuse with the meaning "to refuse or reject" in the 14th century. By the 15th century, the term had acquired the meaning "to challenge or object to (a judge)." The current legal use of recuse as a term specifically meaning "to disqualify (oneself) as a judge" didn't come into frequent use until the 19th century. Broader applications soon followed from this sense—you can now recuse yourself from such things as debates and decisions as well as court cases.

02/10/2018 12:00 AM

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 10, 2018 is:

instauration • \in-staw-RAY-shun\  • noun

1 : restoration after decay, lapse, or dilapidation

2 : an act of instituting or establishing something


"Once, humanity dreamed of the great instauration—a rebirth of ancient wisdom that would compel us into a New Age…." — Knute Berger, Seattle Weekly, 14 Dec. 2005

"Showing that we can set quantifiable and therefore measurable standards for a program's performance does indeed make possible the instauration of market dynamics with respect to outcomes for our students and for society at large." — Carlos J. Alonso, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 Dec. 2010

Did you know?

Instauration first appeared in English in the early 16th century, a product of the Latin verb instaurare, meaning "to renew or restore." This same source gave us our verb store, by way of Middle English and Anglo-French. After instauration broke into English, the philosopher Francis Bacon began writing his Instauratio Magna, which translates to The Great Instauration. This uncompleted collection of works, which was written in Latin, calls for a restoration to a state of paradise on earth, but one in which humankind is enlightened by knowledge and truth.