Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
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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.
||nomothetic||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 16, 2019 is: nomothetic \nah-muh-THET-ik\ adjective : relating to, involving, or dealing with abstract, general, or universal statements or laws Examples: "Moreover, there is the often-incorrect assumption that crimes and offenders are sufficiently similar to be lumped together for aggregate study. In such cases the resulting nomothetic knowledge is not just diluted, it is inaccurate and ultimately misleading." — Brent E. Turvey, Criminal Profiling, 2011 "First, they can expect to find an investigation of the ways in which males and females differ universally: that is, of the nomothetic principles grounded in biology and evolutionary psychology that govern sex-differentiated human development." — Frank Dumont, A History of Personality Psychology, 2010 Did you know? Nomothetic is often contrasted with [idiographic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idiographic), a word meaning "relating to or dealing with something concrete, individual, or unique." Where idiographic points to the specific and unique, nomothetic points to the general and consistent. The immediate Greek parent of nomothetic is a word meaning "of legislation"; the word has its roots in nomos, meaning "law," and -thetēs, meaning "one who establishes." Nomos has played a part in the histories of words as varied as [metronome](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metronome), [autonomous](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autonomous), and [Deuteronomy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deuteronomy). The English contributions of -thetēs are meager, but -thetēs itself comes from tithenai, meaning "to put," and tithenai is the ancestor of many common words ending in -thesis—[hypothesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypothesis), [parenthesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parenthesis), [prosthesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prosthesis), [synthesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/synthesis), and [thesis](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thesis) itself—as well as [theme](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theme), [epithet](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epithet), and [apothecary](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apothecary).||1/15/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||liaison||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 15, 2019 is: liaison \LEE-uh-zahn\ noun 1 : a binding or thickening agent used in cooking 2 a : a close bond or connection : [interrelationship](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interrelationship) b : an illicit sexual relationship : [affair](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/affair) 3 a : communication for establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and cooperation (as between parts of an armed force) b : a person who establishes and maintains communication for mutual understanding and cooperation 4 : the pronunciation of an otherwise absent consonant sound at the end of the first of two consecutive words the second of which begins with a vowel sound and follows without pause Examples: "Brennan and Alejandro Castro agreed on a series of steps to build confidence. One called for the Cubans to post an officer in Washington to act as a formal liaison between the two countries' intelligence agencies." — Adam Entous, The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2018 "… the book offers vignettes that describe Smith's childhood as the youngest of seven Irish-American kids in Chicago; his sister's short liaison with a married British man who shared the surname Smith; and a panicked hashish trip in Amsterdam." — Kirkus Reviews, 1 Dec. 2018 Did you know? If you took French in school, you might remember that liaison is the term for the phenomenon that causes a silent consonant at the end of one word to sound like it begins the next word when that word begins with a vowel, so that a phrase like [beaux arts](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beaux%20arts) sounds like \boh zahr\\. We can thank French for the origin of the term, as well. Liaison derives from the Middle French lier, meaning "to bind or tie," and is related to our word [liable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liable). Our various English senses of liaison apply it to all kinds of bonds—from people who work to connect different groups to the kind of relationship sometimes entered into by two people who are attracted to one another.||1/14/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||mea culpa||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 14, 2019 is: mea culpa \may-uh-KOOL-puh\ noun : a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error Examples: The mayor's public mea culpa for his involvement in the scandal didn't satisfy his critics. "The internal investigation ended with a mea culpa from the sheriff's department and a reprimand and reassignment for a deputy overseeing the property room." — Allie Morris, The Houston Chronicle, 15 Nov. 2018 Did you know? Mea culpa, which means "through my fault" in Latin, comes from a prayer of confession in the Catholic Church. Said by itself, it's an exclamation of apology or remorse that is used to mean "It was my fault" or "I apologize." Mea culpa is also a noun, however. A newspaper might issue a mea culpa for printing inaccurate information, or a politician might give a speech making mea culpas for past wrongdoings. Mea culpa is one of many English terms that derive from the Latin culpa, meaning "guilt." Some other examples are [culpable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culpable) ("meriting condemnation or blame especially as wrong or harmful"), [culprit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culprit) ("one guilty of a crime or a fault"), and [exculpate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpate) ("to clear from alleged fault or guilt").||1/13/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||clement||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 13, 2019 is: clement \KLEM-unt\ adjective 1 : inclined to be merciful : [lenient](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient) 2 : not severe : [mild](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mild) Examples: The judge decided to be clement and said she would forgive the young defendants so long as they paid back the money they stole from the fundraiser. "Eagle Scout Michael Eliason completed his project by literally blazing a trail: he created a half-mile-long trail along a Heights park still being developed along the Yellowstone River, Dover Park. 'We rototilled and used pickaxes on it, and we had to wait until the weather was clement,' he said." — Mike Ferguson, The Billings Gazette, 24 Nov. 2014 Did you know? Defendants in court cases probably don't spend much time worrying about inclement weather. They're too busy hoping to meet a clement judge so they will be granted clemency. They should hope they don't meet an inclement judge! Clement, [inclement](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inclement), and [clemency](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clemency) all derive from the Latin clemens, which means "mild" or "calm." All three terms can refer to an individual's degree of mercy or to the relative pleasantness of the weather.||1/12/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||boycott||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 12, 2019 is: boycott \BOY-kaht\ verb : to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions Examples: "Chinese boycotted Norwegian salmon over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the late dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. They stopped buying fruit from the Philippines amid a dispute over territory in the South China Sea." — Associated Press, 13 Dec. 2018 "[Saul] Bellow … showed up at President Johnson's White House Festival of the Arts in the summer of 1965, which other writers, such as Philip Roth (a friend and follower) and Robert Lowell, boycotted to protest against the war in Vietnam." — Benjamin Markovits, The Spectator, 17 Nov. 2018 Did you know? In the 1870s, Irish farmers faced an agricultural crisis that threatened to result in a repeat of the terrible famine and mass evictions of the 1840s. Anticipating financial ruin, they formed a Land League to campaign against the rent increases and evictions landlords were imposing as a result of the crisis. Retired British army captain Charles Boycott had the misfortune to be acting as an agent for an absentee landlord at the time, and when he tried to evict tenant farmers for refusing to pay their rent, he was ostracized by the League and community. His laborers and servants quit, and his crops began to rot. Boycott's fate was soon well known, and his name became a byword for that particular protest strategy.||1/11/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||syllogism||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 11, 2019 is: syllogism \SIL-uh-jiz-um\ noun 1 : a deductive scheme of a formal argument consisting of a major and a minor [premise](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/premise) and a conclusion 2 : a subtle, [specious](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specious), or crafty argument 3 : [deductive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deductive) reasoning Examples: "Plato's pupil Aristotle developed the techniques of logical analysis that still enable us to get at the knowledge hidden within us. He examined propositions by stating possible contradictions and developed the syllogism, a method of proof based on stated premises." — Mary Lefkowitz, The New York Times Book Review, 23 Jan. 2000 "In some states … there are calls to eliminate courses in literature, philosophy, history and other fields of the humanities. Students want and need technical, employable skills, not sonnets or syllogisms, it is said." — Scott D. Miller, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia), 3 June 2018 Did you know? For those trained in formal argument, the syllogism is a classical form of [deduction](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deduction), specifically an argument consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion. One example is the inference that "kindness is praiseworthy" from the premises "every virtue is praiseworthy" and "kindness is a virtue." Syllogism came to English through Anglo-French from Latin syllogismus, which in turn can be traced back to the Greek verb syllogizesthai, meaning "to infer." In Greek logizesthai means "to calculate" and derives from logos, meaning "word" or "reckoning." Syl- comes from syn-, meaning "with" or "together."||1/10/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||venal||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 10, 2019 is: venal \VEE-nul\ adjective 1 : capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration : [purchasable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purchasable); especially : open to corrupt influence and especially bribery : [mercenary](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mercenary) 2 : originating in, characterized by, or associated with corrupt bribery Examples: "We have to prove that our institutions are more important than our ideologies, that the dream, the whisper, the precious possibility of America cannot be trampled by the corrupt and the fraudulent, the venal and the lecherous." — Charles M. Blow, The New York Times, 9 Dec. 2018 "He held combative press conferences outlining … corporate malpractice and passed along to journalists dossiers that described the way venal oligarchs engaged in asset stripping, wasteful spending, and share dilutions." — Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, 20 Aug. 2018 Did you know? If you are given the choice between acts that are venal and those that are [venial](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/venial), go for the venial. Although the two words look and sound alike, they have very different meanings and histories. Venal demonstrates the adage that anything can be had if the price is high enough and the morals are low enough. That word originated with the Latin venum, which simply referred to something that was sold or for sale. Some of those transactions must have been rather shady because by the mid-1600s, venal had gained the sense of corruption it carries today. Venial sins, on the other hand, are pardonable, the kind that show that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. That forgiving term descends from venia, Latin for "favor," "indulgence," or "pardon."||1/9/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||behest||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 9, 2019 is: behest \bih-HEST\ noun 1 : an authoritative order : [command](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/command#h2) 2 : an urgent prompting Examples: "Let's be clear on this, in the case of a foreclosure sale, while you might not think of it as a 'sale' because it is not a voluntary action taken by the homeowner, but rather a forced action at the behest of the lender, for tax purposes a foreclosure is treated exactly the same as a voluntary sale by the buyer." — Tony Nitti, Forbes, 19 Nov. 2018 "He is being detained at the behest of Japanese prosecutors after Nissan alleged that he had understated his earnings and misused company assets." — The Economist, 24 Nov. 2018 Did you know? Today's word first appeared in Old English and was formed from the prefix [be-](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/be-#dictionary-entry-5) and the verb hātan ("to command" or "to promise"). While behest was originally used only in the sense of "promise," it acquired the additional sense of "command" among speakers of Middle English. Among contemporary English speakers, behest is no longer used in the sense of "promise" but rather denotes an authoritative or urgent request or command. Old English hātan also gave English the now-archaic words [hest](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hest) (meaning "command") and [hight](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hight) ("being called or named").||1/8/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||malinger||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 8, 2019 is: malinger \muh-LING-gur\ verb : to pretend or exaggerate [incapacity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incapacity) or illness (as to avoid duty or work) Examples: Sarah's prospects for promotion aren't helped by her well-known tendency to malinger. "[Writer Jaroslav] Hašek's meandering, unfinished comedy tells the story of a dog thief turned soldier, who blusters, pranks and malingers his way through the early days of the war." — Daniel Mason, The Guardian (London), 14 Nov. 2018 Did you know? Do you know someone who always seems to develop an ailment when there's work to be done? Someone who merits an Academy Award for his or her superb simulation of symptoms? Then you know a malingerer. The verb malinger comes from the French word malingre, meaning "sickly," and one who malingers feigns illness. In its earliest uses in the early 19th century, malinger usually referred to a soldier or sailor pretending to be sick or insane to shirk duty. Later, psychologists began using malingering as a clinical term to describe the feigning of illness in avoidance of a duty or for personal gain. Today, malinger is used in just about any context in which someone fakes sickness or injury to get out of an undesirable task.||1/7/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
||demotic||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 7, 2019 is: demotic \dih-MAH-tik\ adjective 1 : of, relating to, or written in a simplified form of the ancient Egyptian [hieratic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hieratic) writing 2 : of or relating to people and especially their speech : [popular](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/popular), [common](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common) 3 : of or relating to the form of Modern Greek that is based on everyday speech Examples: "[The Rosetta Stone] features three columns of the same inscription in three languages: Greek, hieroglyphs and demotic Egyptian—and is the text of a decree written by priests in 196 BC, during the reign of pharaoh Ptolemy V." — Ashley Lime, BBC.com, 23 Nov. 2018 "When it came time to make her own wine …, she continued taking the natural path, bent earnestly to the task of revitalizing California winemaking with a demotic, punk-rock spirit." — Jeff Gordinier et al., Esquire, 25 Apr. 2017 Did you know? You may recognize the root of demotic from words like [democracy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy) and [demography](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demography). The source of these words is the Greek word dēmos, meaning "people." Demotic is often used of everyday forms of language (as opposed to literary or highbrow versions). It entered English in the early 1800s and originally designated a form of ancient Egyptian cursive script which by the 5th century BCE had come into use everywhere in Egypt for business and literary purposes (in contrast to the more complex, hieratic script retained by the clergy). Demotic has a newer specialized sense, as well, referring to a form of Modern Greek that is based on everyday speech and that since 1976 has been the official language of Greece.||1/6/2019||Free||View in iTunes|
Merrimack Webster Dictionary
Very good and appreciated!
With this precision what more does one want?