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.
||canoodle||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 14, 2016 is: canoodle \kuh-NOO-dul\ verb : to engage in amorous embracing, caressing, and kissing Examples: Chaperones watched for couples attempting to sneak under the gymnasium's bleachers to canoodle. "The sexiest new lounge in Des Moines features a must-drink cocktail list that blends in well with the atmosphere of dim lights and cute little seating areas where couples can canoodle." — Susan Stapleton, The Des Moines Register, 16 Dec. 2015 Did you know? The origins of canoodle are obscure. Our best guess is that it may come from an English dialect noun of the same spelling meaning "donkey," "fool," or "foolish lover," which itself may be an alteration of the word noodle, meaning "a foolish person." That noodle, in turn, may come from noddle, a word for the head. The guess seems reasonable given that, since its appearance in the language around the mid-19th century, canoodle has been most often used jocularly for playful public displays of affection by couples who are head over heels in love.||13 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||tribulation||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 13, 2016 is: tribulation \trib-yuh-LAY-shun\ noun : distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; *also* : a trying experience Examples: "Now Lemsford's great care, anxiety, and endless source of tribulation was the preservation of his manuscripts." — Herman Melville, White Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War, 1850 "In sharing the many tribulations of real-life patients and physicians, Nussbaum unveils a thoughtful, well-rounded, yet thorny vision of the current state of medicine." — Kirkus Reviews, 15 Jan. 2016 Did you know? The writer and Christian scholar Thomas More, in his 1534 work A dialoge of comforte against tribulation, defined the title word as "euery such thing as troubleth and greueth [grieveth] a man either in bodye or mynde." These days, however, the word tribulation is typically used as a plural noun, paired with its alliterative partner trial, and relates less to oppression and more to any kind of uphill struggle. Tribulation derives via Middle English and Old French from the Latin verb tribulare ("to oppress or afflict"), which is related to tribulum, a noun meaning "[threshing](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/threshing) board."||12 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||marmoreal||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 12, 2016 is: marmoreal \mahr-MOR-ee-ul\ adjective : of, relating to, or suggestive of marble or a marble statue especially in coldness or aloofness Examples: "'Thank you for your submission,' the note begins with marmoreal courtesy. It ends with a wish for success in placing your manuscript with another house." — William Germano, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 Feb. 2011 "Marble … has always been synonymous with artistry and luxury. Had it not been glowing marble would Michelangelo's David and the Pieta have looked the same? Not to speak of our Taj Mahal, whose marmoreal splendour has moved many poets to wax eloquent about its beauty." — Soumitra Das, The Telegraph (India), 1 June 2014 Did you know? Most marble-related words in English were chiseled from the Latin noun marmor, meaning "marble." Marmor gave our language the word marble itself in the 12th century. It is also the parent of marmoreal, which has been used in English since the mid-1600s. Marbleize, another marmor descendant, came later, making its print debut around 1854\. The obscure adjective marmorate, meaning "veined like marble," dates to the 16th century and hasn't seen much use since.||11 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||incumbent||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 11, 2016 is: incumbent \in-KUM-bunt\ noun 1 : the holder of an office or [ecclesiastical](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ecclesiastical) [benefice](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/benefice) 2 : one that occupies a particular position or place Examples: The two-term incumbent has already raised almost a million dollars for the upcoming congressional race. "In recent weeks, the candidates hoping to succeed Obama have backed into an honest debate about what American power can and can't do. On Tuesday, the incumbent himself joined in, explicitly defending his own restrained approach." — Dante Ramos, The Boston Globe, 14 Jan. 2016 Did you know? When incumbent was first used in English in the 15th century, it referred to someone who occupied a benefice—a paid position in a church. This was often a lifetime appointment; the person could only be forced to leave the office in the case of certain specific legal conflicts. In the mid-17th century, incumbent came to refer to anyone holding any office, including elected positions. These days, in the American political system, incumbent generally refers to someone who is the current holder of a position during an election to fill that position. Incumbent came to English through Anglo-French and derives from the Latin incumbere, meaning "to lie down on."||10 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||gruntle||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 10, 2016 is: gruntle \GRUN-tul\ verb : to put in a good humor Examples: The hour-long wait at the restaurant irked us, but once we were seated, we were soon gruntled by an amiable waiter. "I returned to my interrupted slumber in a mood far from gruntled. It was an injury to my [amour propre](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amour%20propre) to realize that in the Whitcomb affair I had been a small cog on a large wheel." — Lawrence Sanders, McNally's Trial, 1995 Did you know? The verb disgruntle, which has been around since 1682, means "to make ill-humored or discontented." The prefix dis- often means "to do the opposite of," so people might naturally assume that if there is a disgruntle, there must have first been a gruntle with exactly the opposite meaning. But dis- doesn't always work that way; in some rare cases it functions instead as an intensifier. Disgruntle developed from this intensifying sense of dis- plus gruntle, an old word (now used only in British dialect) meaning "to grumble." In the 1920s, a writer humorously used gruntle to mean "to make happy"—in other words, as an antonym of disgruntle. The use caught on. At first gruntle was used only in humorous ways, but people eventually began to use it seriously as well.||9 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||jocund||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 9, 2016 is: jocund \JAH-kund\ adjective : marked by or suggestive of high spirits and lively mirthfulness Examples: Clayton gave a jocund shout when he entered the room and saw the many friends who had come for his surprise 50th birthday celebration. "The jocund nature of Beethoven's Second Symphony is in utter contradiction with Beethoven's pathetic letter expressing the despair of inevitable deafness, both written at approximately the same time." — D. S. Crafts, The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, 13 Jan. 2012 Did you know? Don't let the etymology of jocund play tricks on you. The word comes from jucundus, a Latin word meaning "agreeable" or "delightful," and ultimately from the Latin verb juvare, meaning "to help." But jucundus looks and sounds a bit like jocus, the Latin word for "joke." These two roots took a lively romp through many centuries together and along the way the lighthearted jocus influenced the spelling and meaning of jucundus, an interaction that eventually produced our Modern English word jocund in the 14th century.||8 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||exonerate||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 8, 2016 is: exonerate \ig-ZAH-nuh-rayt\ verb 1 : to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship 2 : to clear from accusation or blame Examples: Dana was exonerated for the crime of taking the money after it was found that her fingerprints did not match those on the cashbox. "… a 2015 measure approved by the Legislature will provide more opportunities for convicted people to request DNA testing of evidence that might exonerate them." — The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington), 23 Dec. 2015 Did you know? We won't blame you if you don't know the origins of today's word. Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden" (onus itself lives on with that meaning in English). In its earliest uses, dating from the 16th century, exonerate was used in the context of physical burdens—a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."||7 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||peccadillo||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 7, 2016 is: peccadillo \pek-uh-DIL-oh\ noun : a slight offense Examples: Mark's thank-you note to his hostess was sincere and touching; his only peccadillo was addressing her by her first name instead of "Mrs. Henderson." "[Tanyanne] Ball seemed to have mastered the form of affable confrontation: as soon as she saw someone perpetrating a civic peccadillo, she would stride up and calmly, grinningly ask, 'Are you aware that you have just committed a violation?'" — Tobi Haslett, NewYorker.com, 10 Nov. 2015 Did you know? "The world loves a spice of wickedness." That observation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may explain why people are so willing to forgive peccadilloes as youthful foolishness or lapses of judgment. The willingness to overlook petty faults and minor offenses existed long before English speakers borrowed a modified version of the Spanish pecadillo at the end of the 16th century. Spanish speakers distinguished the pecadillo, or "little sin," from the more serious pecado, their term for a sin of magnitude. And these Spanish terms can be traced back still further, to the Latin verb peccare, meaning "to sin."||6 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||rescript||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 6, 2016 is: rescript \REE-skript\ noun 1 : a written answer of a Roman emperor or of a pope to a legal inquiry or petition 2 : an official or authoritative order, decree, edict, or announcement 3 : an act or instance of rewriting Examples: The rescript declared that the lands surrounding the new palace would henceforth belong to the royal family. "It was noon on August 25 when Japan's Emperor finally broke the silence. His recorded voice was broadcast to the nation, reading the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War." — Jamie Seidel, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), 15 Aug. 2015 Did you know? Rescript was first used in the 15th century for the written reply of a sovereign or pope to a question about some matter of law or state, and then for any type of authoritative declaration. Since the 19th century, however, it has also seen use as a synonym of rewrite. Charlotte Brontë, for one, used the word this way in her novel Villette. "I wrote [the letter] three times ... subduing the phrases at every rescript," her narrator confesses.||5 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|
||challah||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 5, 2016 is: challah \KHAH-luh\ noun : egg-rich yeast-leavened bread that is usually braided or twisted before baking and is traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays Examples: My father made a blessing over the challah before it was broken and passed around the Shabbat table. "The table was graced with the latkes and doughnuts that mark the Jewish holiday, but also featured brisket, challah and [tzimmes](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tzimmes)…." — Deanna Fox, The Times-Union (Albany, New York), 31 Dec. 2015 Did you know? When English speakers first borrowed challah from Yiddish, they couldn't quite settle on a single spelling, so the word showed up in several forms; challah, challa, hallah, and the plural forms challoth, challot, halloth, and hallot were all common enough to merit inclusion in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged when it was released in 1961\. Today, challah and the anglicized plural challahs are the variants that are usually encountered by English speakers. The initial ch of challah is frequently pronounced as a [velar](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/velar) [fricative](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fricative), like the ch in the German Buch or the Scottish English loch.||4 2 2016||Free||View In iTunes|