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.
||fester||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2017 is: fester \FESS-ter\ verb 1 : to generate pus 2 : [putrefy](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putrefy), [rot](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rot) 3 a : to cause increasing poisoning, irritation, or bitterness : [rankle](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rankle) b : to undergo or exist in a state of progressive deterioration Examples: "For more than a generation, instead of forging a path to reconciliation, we have allowed the wounds the war inflicted on our nation, our politics and our families to fester." — Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, The New York Times, 29 May 2017 "Tunisians have made tremendous progress. Yet their experiment is teetering on the brink. The economy is stuck in the doldrums. Poverty and corruption fester." — Christian Caryl, The Washington Post, 26 May 2017 Did you know? [Fester](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fester) entered English in the 14th century. It was used as we now use the word [fistula](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fistula) for an abnormal passage leading from an [abscess](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abscess) or hollow organ and permitting passage of fluids or secretions. It was also applied as a word for a sore that discharges pus. The connection between fester and fistula is no accident—both descend from Latin fistula, which has the same meaning as the English word but can also mean "pipe" or "tube" or "a kind of ulcer." Fester made the trip from Latin to English by way of Anglo-French. The word's use as a verb meaning "to generate pus" has also developed extended senses implying a worsening state.||26 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||akimbo||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2017 is: akimbo \uh-KIM-boh\ adjective or adverb 1 : having the hand on the hip and the elbow turned outward 2 : set in a bent position Examples: The model, arms akimbo, struck a pose at the end of the runway. "Off the kitchen, the metal skeleton of what is supposed to be a human-size dinosaur puppet sits akimbo." — Kayla Epstein, The Washington Post, 30 Apr. 2017 Did you know? It's akimbo nowadays, but in Middle English, the adverbial phrase in kenebowe was used for the bent, hand-on-hip arm (or later, for any bent position). Originally, the term was fairly neutral, but now saying that a person is standing with "arms akimbo" implies a posture that communicates defiance, confidence, aggressiveness, or arrogance. In her novel Little Women, Louisa May Alcott took the word one step further, extending it into the figurative realm when she explained that tomboyish Jo had not been invited to participate in an elegant event with the other young ladies of the neighborhood because "her elbows were decidedly akimbo at this period of her life."||25 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||wreak||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2017 is: wreak \REEK\ verb 1 : to cause the infliction of ([vengeance](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vengeance) or punishment) 2 : to give free play or course to ([malevolent](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/malevolent) feeling) 3 : [bring about](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bring%20about), [cause](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cause#h2) Examples: "A cheeky peacock has wreaked havoc inside a California liquor store, smashing over $500 worth of expensive wine and champagne." — Heat Street, 7 June 2017 "Don't be fooled by Mike Brown's big smile and happy-go-lucky demeanor. The Golden State Warriors' acting head coach is probably salivating over his chance to wreak brutal vengeance against the Cleveland Cavaliers—the team that fired him twice." — Chuck Barney, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 7 June 2017 Did you know? Wreak is a venerable word that first appeared in Old English as wrecan, meaning "to drive, drive out, punish, or avenge." Wrecan is related to a number of similar words in the Germanic languages, including Middle Dutch wreken ("to punish, avenge"), Old High German rehhan ("to avenge"), Old Norse reka ("to drive, push, or avenge"), and Gothic wrikan ("to persecute"). It may also be related to Latin urgēre ("to drive on, urge"), the source of the English verb [urge](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/urge). In modern English, vengeance is a common object of the verb wreak, reflecting one of its earlier uses in the sense "to take vengeance for"—as when Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus proclaims "We will solicit heaven, and move the gods / To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs."||24 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||haphazard||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2017 is: haphazard \hap-HAZZ-erd\ adjective : marked by lack of plan, order, or direction Examples: "… his intense work ethic has made such a feat of releasing back-to-back projects appear effortless, conscious and polished, as opposed to what could have been … a haphazard effort scrapping together 34 assorted tracks from his never-ending archive." — Billboard.com, 24 Feb. 2017 "Once the taxidermy is set up and artists escorted out, the doors to the exhibit hall are closed.… The hall is large and chilly, the scene is otherworldly, a haphazard zoo suspended in time, bald eagles perched beside African lions reclining beside wild turkeys standing beside trunkfish swimming alongside cape buffalo and snow leopards." — Christopher Borrelli, The Chicago Tribune, 28 May 2017 Did you know? The hap in haphazard comes from an English word that means "happening," as well as "chance or fortune," and that derives from the Old Norse word happ, meaning "good luck." Perhaps it's no accident that [hazard](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hazard) also has its own connotations of luck: while it now refers commonly to something that presents danger, at one time it referred to a dice game similar to craps. (The name ultimately derives from the Arabic al-zahr, meaning "the die.") [Haphazard](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haphazard) first entered English as a noun (again meaning "chance") in the 16th century, and soon afterward was being used as an adjective to describe things with no apparent logic or order.||23 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||advise||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2017 is: advise \ud-VYZE\ verb 1 a : to give a recommendation about what should be done : to give [advice](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advice) to b : [caution](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caution#h2), [warn](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/warn) c : [recommend](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recommend) 2 : to give information or notice to : [inform](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inform) 3 : to talk with someone in order to decide what should be done : [consult](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consult) Examples: Betty's doctor advised her to exercise more carefully if she hoped to avoid re-injuring her sprained ankle. "Many travelers underestimate the costs of meals, snacks and tips, says guidebook author James Kaiser. He advises bringing your own food or buying it at a store when you arrive at your destination to save money." — Devon Delfino, The Cherokee County (Kansas) News-Advocate, 23 May 2017 Did you know? Today's word was borrowed into Middle English in the 14th century as avise (spelling variants with the d found in the Modern English advise began showing up in the 15th century). The word is derived from the Anglo-French aviser, itself from avis, meaning "opinion." That avis is not to be confused with the Latin word avis, meaning "bird" (an ancestor of such English words as [avian](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avian) and [aviation](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aviation)). Instead, it results from the Old French phrase ce m'est a vis ("that appears to me"), a partial translation of Latin mihi visum est, "it seemed so to me" or "I decided." We advise you to remember that the verb advise is spelled with an s, whereas the related noun [advice](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advice) includes a stealthy c.||22 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||tare||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 22, 2017 is: tare \TAIR\ noun 1 : a deduction from the [gross](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gross) weight of a substance and its container made in allowance for the weight of the container; also : the weight of the container 2 : [counterweight](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counterweight) Examples: Factoring in a tare of 10,000 pounds for the trailer, the transportation officer determined that the truck's cargo load still exceeded the legal limit. "I hooked my scale to the net, grabbing a tare weight that required me to double-check: '12 lb 3 oz' read the digital display. Subtracting the '1 lb 15 oz' reading of my net by itself, my eyes widened at the realization that this 10.25-pound fish was my heaviest to-date." — Luke Ovgard, The Herald & News (Klamath Falls, Oregon), 19 May 2017 Did you know? Tare came to English by way of Middle French from the Old Italian term tara, which is itself from the Arabic word ṭarḥa, meaning "that which is removed." One of the first known written records of the word tare in English is found in the naval inventories of Britain's King Henry VII. The record shows two barrels of gunpowder weighing, "besides the tare," 500 pounds. When used of vehicles, [tare weight](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tare%20weight) refers to a vehicle's weight exclusive of any load. The term tare is closely tied to [net](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/net#h3) weight, which is defined as "weight excluding all tare."||21 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||gauche||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 21, 2017 is: gauche \GOHSH\ adjective 1 : lacking social experience or grace; also : not tactful : [crude](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crude) 2 : crudely made or done Examples: "We were described by our parents as classless and free, but instructed that chewing gum was gauche." — Kira von Eichel-Butler, Vogue, October 2016 "The second thing I did was request soy sauce, which wasn't on the table. The waiter managed to remain calm and respectful while dryly informing me that all necessary condiments are already infused into the dishes in the appropriate combinations. My request had apparently been quite gauche…." — Gene Weingarten, The Key West (Florida) Citizen, 21 May 2017 Did you know? Gauche is one of several words that come from old suspicions or negative associations surrounding the left side and use of the left hand. In French, gauche literally means "left," and it has the extended meanings "awkward" and "clumsy." These meanings may have come about because left-handed people could appear awkward trying to manage in a right-handed world, or perhaps they came about because right-handed people appear awkward when they try to use their left hand. In fact, [awkward](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awkward) comes from the Middle English awke, meaning "turned the wrong way" or "left-handed." On the other hand, [adroit](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adroit) and [dexterity](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dexterity) have their roots in words meaning "right" or "on the right side."||20 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||crucible||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2017 is: crucible \KROO-suh-bul\ noun 1 : a vessel in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted 2 : a severe test 3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development Examples: Living in the crucible that was Paris in the spring of 1968, Remi got to witness firsthand the angry confrontations between workers, students, and government. "They each also possess, in their own way, a startling self-awareness and self-possession forged by the crucibles they and their families endured." — John Nagy, The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina), 6 May 2017 Did you know? Crucible looks like it should be closely related to the Latin combining form cruc- ("cross"), but it isn't. It was forged from the Medieval Latin crucibulum, a noun for an earthen pot used to melt metals, and in English it first referred to a vessel made of a very heat-resistant material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. But the resemblance between cruc- and crucible probably encouraged people to start using crucible to mean "a severe trial." That sense is synonymous with one meaning of [cross](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cross), a word that is related to cruc-. The newest sense of crucible ("a situation in which great changes take place"—as in "forged in the crucible of war") recalls the fire and heat that would be encountered in the original heat-resistant pot.||19 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||edacious||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 19, 2017 is: edacious \ih-DAY-shus\ adjective 1 : having a huge appetite : [ravenous](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ravenous) 2 : excessively eager : [insatiable](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insatiable) Examples: Living with three edacious teenagers, Marilyn and Roger were dismayed by how much they had to spend on groceries week after week. "... Stone's narrative prowess had been such as to infect me ... with his [Weltschmerz](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weltschmerz). In fairness, Stone alone was not to blame. For too many years my edacious reading habits had been leading me into one unappealing corner after another...." — Tom Robbins, Harper's, September 2004 Did you know? Tempus edax rerum. That wise Latin line by the Roman poet Ovid translates as "Time, the devourer of all things." Ovid's correlation between rapaciousness and time is appropriate to a discussion of edacious. That English word is a descendant of Latin edax, which is a derivative of the verb edere, meaning "to eat." In its earliest known English uses, edacious meant "of or relating to eating." It later came to be used generally as a synonym of [voracious](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voracious), and it has often been used specifically in contexts referring to time. That's how Scottish essayist and historian [Thomas Carlyle](http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Carlyle) used it when he referred to events "swallowed in the depths of edacious Time."||18 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||vindicate||Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2017 is: vindicate \VIN-duh-kayt\ verb 1 : [avenge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avenge) 2 a : to free from allegation or blame b : [confirm](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/confirm), [substantiate](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/substantiate) c : to provide justification or defense for : [justify](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justify) d : to protect from attack or encroachment : [defend](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defend) 3 : to maintain a right to Examples: The defendant's lawyer feels his client will be completely vindicated by the witness' testimonies. "For us comic book fans back in that dark age of aesthetic awareness, the 'Batman' show meant significantly more. Its unexpected popularity briefly vindicated our obsession with what was considered inappropriate reading for anybody over the age of 9 (I was 11 when it hit the air)." — Bob Strauss, The Daily News of Los Angeles, 11 June 2017 Did you know? It's not surprising that the two earliest senses of vindicate are "to set free" (a sense that is now obsolete) and "to avenge." Vindicate, which has been used in English since at least the mid-16th century, derives from Latin vindicatus, the past participle of the verb vindicare, meaning "to set free, avenge, or lay claim to." Vindicare, in turn, derives from vindex, a noun meaning "claimant" or "avenger." Other descendants of vindicare in English include such vengeful words as [avenge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avenge) itself, [revenge](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/revenge), [vengeance](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vengeance), [vendetta](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vendetta), and [vindictive](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vindictive). Closer cousins of vindicate are [vindicable](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vindicable) ("capable of being vindicated") and the archaic word [vindicative](https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vindicative) ("punitive").||17 7 2017||Free||View in iTunes|