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.
||factoid||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 23, 2017 is: factoid \FAK-toyd\ noun 1 : an invented fact believed to be true because of its appearance in print 2 : a briefly stated and usually trivial fact Examples: Printed on the back of each baseball card is a chart showing the player's statistics along with one or two interesting factoids about his career. "Diana, the manager, took us through the intricacies of coffee roasting, providing us with interesting factoids such as that lava from the volcanoes results in excellent soil for coffee growing, and the darker the coffee bean, the less caffeine it has." — Patti Nickell, The Lexington (Kentucky) Herald Leader, 17 Feb. 2017 Did you know? We can thank Norman Mailer for the word factoid; he coined the term in his 1973 book Marilyn, about Marilyn Monroe. In the book, Mailer explains that factoids are "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority." Mailer's use of the [-oid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-oid) suffix (which traces back to the ancient Greek word eidos, meaning "appearance" or "form") follows in the pattern of [humanoid](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humanoid): just as a humanoid appears to be human but is not, so a factoid appears to be factual but is not. Mailer likely did not appreciate the word's evolution. As current evidence demonstrates, it now most often refers to things that decidedly are facts, just not ones we tend to pay much attention to.||22 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||cartographer||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 22, 2017 is: cartographer \kahr-TAH-gruh-fer\ noun : one that makes maps Examples: A cartographer was brought in to create new graphical representations of the shoreline that had been reshaped by erosion. "A multi-media interactive website that celebrates the life and times of 16th-century cartographer Martin Waldseemüller—who created the 1507 World Map … —has been unveiled by the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and the Galileo Museum, Florence, Italy." — USA Today, 1 Jan. 2017 Did you know? Up until the 18th century, maps were often decorated with fanciful beasts and monsters, at the expense of accurate details about places. French [mapmakers](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mapmaker) of the 1700s and 1800s encouraged the use of more scientific methods in the art they called cartographie. The French word cartographie (the science of making maps), from which we get our English word cartography, was created from carte, meaning "map," and -graphie, meaning "representation by." Around the same time we adopted cartography in the mid-19th century, we also created our word for a mapmaker, cartographer.||21 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||bucolic||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 21, 2017 is: bucolic \byoo-KAH-lik\ adjective 1 : of or relating to shepherds or herdsmen : [pastoral](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastoral) 2 a : relating to or typical of rural life b : pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity : [idyllic](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idyllic) Examples: "My husband, Toby, and I … live on a remote sheep farm in the Cotswold Hills.… Our house perches on the edge of a bucolic valley, its pastures divided by ancient dry-stone walls and hawthorn hedges." — Plum Sykes, Vogue, November 2016 "With acres of tree-shaded paths, outdoor cafés, a lake with rowboats, and several exhibition spaces, the city's grandest park offers a bucolic escape." — Andrew Ferren, Traveler, November 2016 Did you know? We get bucolic from the Latin word bucolicus, which is ultimately from the Greek word boukolos, meaning "[cowherd](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cowherd)." When bucolic was first used in English as an adjective in the early 17th century, it meant "[pastoral](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastoral)" in a narrow sense—that is, it referred to things related to shepherds or herdsmen and in particular to pastoral poetry. Later in the 19th century, it was applied more broadly to things rural or rustic. Bucolic has also been occasionally used as a noun meaning "a pastoral poem" or "a bucolic person."||20 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||eighty-six||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 20, 2017 is: eighty-six \ay-tee-SIKS\ verb : (slang) to refuse to serve (a customer); also : to get rid of : [throw out](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/throw%2Bout) Examples: The bar's policy is that bartenders have both the authority and responsibility to eighty-six customers who disrupt other patrons. "He eighty-sixed the last reform once he was safely re-elected, saying he wanted to give municipalities more time to get ready for the change." — Brian O'Neill, The Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Post-Gazette, 14 June 2007 Did you know? If you work in a restaurant or bar, you might eighty-six (or "eliminate") a menu item when you run out of it, or you might eighty-six (or "cut off") a customer who should no longer be served. Eighty-six is still used in this specific context, but it has also entered the general language. These days, you don't have to be a worker in a restaurant or bar to eighty-six something—you just have to be someone with something to get rid of or discard. There are many popular but unsubstantiated theories about the origin of eighty-six. The explanation judged most probable by Merriam-Webster etymologists is that the word was created as a [rhyming slang](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhyming%20slang) word for [nix](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nix#h2), which means "to veto" or "to reject."||19 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||tatterdemalion||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2017 is: tatterdemalion \tatt-er-dih-MAIL-yun\ adjective 1 : ragged or disreputable in appearance 2 : being in a decayed state or condition : [dilapidated](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dilapidated) Examples: "ThreadBanger features episodes about making clothes and other [D.I.Y.](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/DIY) endeavors that will make you wish you could live life all over again and be a tatterdemalion [steampunk](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/steampunk) kid from San Francisco." — Virginia Hefferman, The New York Times, 21 June 2009 "Layoffs in the refinery, paper mills and brewery that anchored the economy after its shipbuilding and merchant trading days ended have left many striking 19th century buildings of the compact, hilly downtown in a tatterdemalion state but have not torn its welcoming, small-town atmosphere." — Philip Hersh, The Chicago Tribune, 21 Nov. 2014 Did you know? The exact origin of tatterdemalion is uncertain, but it's probably connected to either the noun [tatter](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tatter#h2) ("a torn scrap or shred") or the adjective [tattered](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tattered) ("ragged" or "wearing ragged clothes"). We do know that tatterdemalion has been used in print since the 1600s. In its first documented use, it was a noun referring to a person in ragged clothing—the type of person we might also call a ragamuffin. ([Ragamuffin](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ragamuffin), incidentally, predates tatterdemalion in this sense. Like tatterdemalion, it may have been formed by combining a known word, [rag](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rag), with a fanciful ending.) Soon after the first appearance of tatterdemalion, it came to be used as an adjective to describe anything or anyone ragged or disreputable.||18 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||grimalkin||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 18, 2017 is: grimalkin \grih-MAWL-kin\ noun : a domestic cat; especially : an old female cat Examples: The family grimalkin, dreaming, perhaps, of mousing days long past, twitched her tail as she dozed contentedly on the windowsill. "The security-evading feline was caught on camera … on a confectionary shelf, back in November. Now, the grumpy grimalkin has been pictured glaring down at shoppers from above a fridge full of pizzas, garlic bread and ready meals." — Hatty Collier, News Shopper, 7 Jan. 2016 Did you know? In the opening scene of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, one of the three witches planning to meet with Macbeth suddenly announces, "I come, Graymalkin." The witch is responding to the summons of her [familiar](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/familiar), or guardian spirit, which is embodied in the form of a cat. Shakespeare's graymalkin literally means "gray cat." The gray is of course the color; the [malkin](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/malkin) was a nickname for Matilda or Maud that came to be used in dialect as a general name for a cat—and sometimes a hare—and for an untidy woman as well. By the 1630s, graymalkin had been altered to the modern spelling grimalkin.||17 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||reciprocate||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 17, 2017 is: reciprocate \rih-SIP-ruh-kayt\ verb 1 : to give and take mutually 2 : to return in kind or degree 3 : to make a return for something done or given 4 : to move backward and forward alternately Examples: It was kind of Jake to give us a ride to the airport, and we'd like to find a way to reciprocate the favor. "The covenant only works if each partner, as best as possible, puts the other's needs above his or her own, with the understanding that the other will reciprocate." — David Brooks, The New York Times, 7 Mar. 2017 Did you know? Reciprocate, retaliate, requite, and return all mean "to give back," usually in kind or in quantity. Reciprocate implies a mutual or equivalent exchange or a paying back of what one has received ("We reciprocated their hospitality by inviting them to our beach house"). [Retaliate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retaliate) usually implies a paying back of an injury or offense in exact kind, often vengefully ("She retaliated by spreading equally nasty rumors about them"). [Requite](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/requite) implies a paying back according to one's preference, and often not in an equivalent fashion ("He requited her love with cold indifference"). [Return](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/return) implies simply a paying or giving back ("returned their call" or "return good for evil").||16 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||interminable||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 16, 2017 is: interminable \in-TER-muh-nuh-bul\ adjective : having or seeming to have no end; especially : wearisomely [protracted](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protract) Examples: Hayley didn't think she would have the patience to sit through another interminable radio pledge drive without changing the station at least once. "Garrett Richards' first thought when he found out about his torn elbow ligament in May was to schedule [Tommy John surgery](https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/tommy%20john) as soon as possible.… Richards knew how to handle the seemingly interminable months of rehab, and he wanted to get the clock started on his return." — Jorge L. Ortiz, USA Today, 28 Feb. 2017 Did you know? We promise not to ramble on endlessly about the origins of interminable. The word was borrowed into English in the 15th century and descends from a Latin combination of the prefix in- ("not") and the verb terminare, meaning "to terminate" or "to limit." The word describes not only something without an actual end (or no end in sight, such as "interminable oceans"), but also events, such as tedious lectures, that drag on in such a way that they give no clear indication of ever wrapping up. Other relatives of interminable in English include [terminate](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terminate), [determine](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/determine), [terminal](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terminal), and [exterminate](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exterminate).||15 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||pittance||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 15, 2017 is: pittance \PIT-unss\ noun : a small portion, amount, or allowance; also : a meager wage or remuneration Examples: "… chances are good that any snow that might fall in coming days could be like the pittance of flakes that fell Thursday—and then almost immediately melted." — Neil Johnson, The Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette, 11 Mar. 2017 "It's a setup worthy of Sherlock Holmes: a museum acquires a work of art for a pittance, not quite realizing what it has on its hands, only to discover, quite casually, that the piece in question is a long-lost work by a canonical artist." — Kirkus Reviews, 24 Feb. 2017 Did you know? It's a pity when you haven't anything but a pittance. And in fact, [pity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pity) and pittance share etymological roots. The Middle English word pittance came from Anglo-French pitance, meaning "pity" or "piety." Originally, a pittance was a gift or bequest to a religious community, or a small charitable gift. Ultimately, the word comes from the Latin pietas, meaning "piety" or "compassion." Our words pity and [piety](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piety) come from pietas as well.||14 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||magnanimous||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 14, 2017 is: magnanimous \mag-NAN-uh-mus\ adjective 1 : showing or suggesting a [lofty](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lofty) and courageous spirit 2 : showing or suggesting [nobility](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nobility) of feeling and generosity of mind Examples: Rather than gloat about her victory in the race, Michelle chose to be magnanimous and congratulated her opponents on their strong showings. "Of course, all TV shows will one day end, and cancellation is part of the business. But similar to its streaming rival Netflix, Amazon has been unusually magnanimous with renewals, granting second and even third seasons to series that haven't exactly captured the cultural conversation…." — Meredith Blake, The Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2016 Did you know? When you see anima, animus, or a similar formation in a word, it's an indicator of something alive, lively, or spirited. Something described as [animated](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/animated) is full of life, for example, and the word animal names a living, breathing thing. The Latin word animus means "soul" or "spirit." In magnanimous, that animus is joined by Latin magnus, meaning "great." Basically meaning "greatness of spirit," [magnanimity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magnanimity) is the opposite of pettiness. A truly magnanimous person can lose without complaining and win without gloating. Angry disputes can sometimes be resolved when one side makes a magnanimous gesture toward another.||13 4 2017||Free||View in iTunes|