Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

United States

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



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 12, 2017 is:

scour • \SKOW-er\  • verb

1 : to move about quickly especially in search

2 : to go through or range over in or as if in a search


The dog scoured the terrain in search of the tennis ball I had thrown.

"The rescue team scoured the ground and a New Hampshire National Guard Black Hawk helicopter also searched the area." — Emily Sweeney, The Boston Globe, 18 July 2017

Did you know?

There are two distinct homographs of the verb scour in English. One means to clean something by rubbing it hard with a rough object; that scour, which goes back to at least the early 14th century, probably derives—via Middle Dutch and Old French—from a Late Latin verb, excurare, meaning "to clean off." Today's word, however, which appears in the 13th century, is believed to derive from the Old Norse skūr, meaning "shower." (Skūr is also distantly related to the Old English scūr, the ancestor of our English word shower.) Many disparate things can be scoured. For example, one can scour an area (as in "scoured the woods in search of the lost dog") or publications (as in "scouring magazine and newspaper articles").


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 11, 2017 is:

bibelot • \BEE-buh-loh\  • noun

: a small household ornament or decorative object : trinket


"Moonlight furbished the brown cylindrical floor vase and its gnarled branch, as well as an aquarium bibelot in the shape of a ruined arch on his bedside table." — Nicholson Baker, The New Yorker, 27 June - 4 July 1994

"The sitting room is inviting, with its smart soft furnishings and bibelots, many of them from Samantha's mother, Lady Astor's, furnishing business, OKA—a sort of one-stop-tasteful decorating shop for the well-heeled." — Debora Robertson, The Telegraph (UK), 4 Aug. 2017

Did you know?

Can you think of a six-letter synonym of bibelot that starts with the letter "g"? No? How about an eight-letter one? Crossword puzzle whizzes might guess that the words we are thinking of are gewgaw and gimcrack. Like these, bibelot, which English speakers borrowed from French, has uses beyond wordplay. In addition to its general use as a synonym of trinket, it can refer specifically to a miniature book of elegant design (such as those made by Tiffany and Faberge). It also appears regularly in the names of things as diverse as restaurants and show dogs.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2017 is:

conversant • \kun-VER-sunt\  • adjective

: having knowledge or experience


The ideal candidate for the sommelier position will have expert knowledge of the various wine varieties served in the restaurant and be conversant in the rich vocabulary of viniculture.

"My sister is a cognitive scientist at M.I.T., more conversant than most people in the mental processes involved in tracking and misplacing objects." — Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 13 Feb. 2017

Did you know?

The adjectives conversant and conversational are related; both are descendants of Latin conversari, meaning "to associate with." Conversant dates to the Middle Ages, and an early meaning of the word was simply "having familiar association." One way to associate with others is to have a conversation with them—in other words, to talk. For a short time in the 19th century conversant could mean "relating to or suggesting conversation," but for the most part that meaning stayed with conversational while conversant went in a different direction. Today, conversant is sometimes used, especially in the United States, with the meaning "able to talk in a foreign language," as in "she is conversant in several languages," but it is more often associated with knowledge or familiarity, as in "conversant with the issues."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 9, 2017 is:

disport • \dih-SPORT\  • verb

1 : divert, amuse

2 : display

3 : to amuse oneself in light or lively fashion : frolic


"At a very early hour in the morning, twice or thrice a week, Miss Briggs used to betake herself to a bathing-machine, and disport in the water in a flannel gown and an oilskin cap." — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848

"More stunts follow in Act II: Les Incredibles, an enormous Russian man who flings his tiny Canadian wife through the air; a stunning aerialist known as Lucky Moon; a family of three, Los Lopez, disporting themselves on the high-wire." — Margaret Gray, The Los Angeles Times, 21 Feb. 2017

Did you know?

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the earliest writers to amuse the reading public with the verb disport. Chaucer and his contemporaries carried the word into English from Anglo-French, adapting it from desporter, meaning "to carry away, comfort, or entertain." The word can ultimately be traced back to the Latin verb portare, meaning "to carry." Deport, portable, and transport are among the members of the portare family.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 8, 2017 is:

extemporaneous • \ek-stem-puh-RAY-nee-us\  • adjective

1 : composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment : impromptu

2 : provided, made, or put to use as an expedient : makeshift


Everyone was surprised to hear my normally taciturn brother give a heartfelt, extemporaneous speech at our parents' 50th anniversary party.

"At the last Japanese performance—in Fukui, some 200 miles to the west of Tokyo—audiences were so exuberant that Slatkin and solo pianist Makoto Ozone indulged in an extemporaneous duet." — Michael H. Hodges, The Detroit News, 26 July 2017

Did you know?

Extemporaneous, which comes from Latin ex tempore ("out of the time"), joined the English language sometime in the mid-17th century. The word impromptu was improvised soon after that. In general usage, extemporaneous and impromptu are used interchangeably to describe off-the-cuff remarks or speeches, but this is not the case when they are used in reference to the learned art of public speaking. Teachers of speech will tell you that an extemporaneous speech is one that has been thoroughly prepared and planned but not memorized, whereas an impromptu speech is one for which absolutely no preparations have been made.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 7, 2017 is:

propagate • \PRAH-puh-gayt\  • verb

1 : to reproduce or cause to reproduce biologically : multiply

2 : to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area : extend

3 : to pass along to offspring

4 : to foster growing knowledge of, familiarity with, or acceptance of (such as an idea or belief) : publicize


"It is always observable that silence propagates itself, and that the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find any thing to say." — Samuel Johnson, The Adventurer, 25 Aug. 1753

"… Jonathan Anderson … wonders if he could propagate a honeysuckle-scented yellow azalea that is blooming around an early Georgian garden temple…." — Hamish Bowles, Vogue, August 2017

Did you know?

The origins of propagate are firmly rooted in the field of horticulture. The word was borrowed into English in the 16th century from Latin propagatus, the past participle of the verb propagare, which means "to set (onto a plant) a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting." Propagare, in turn, derives from propages, meaning "layer (of a plant), slip, offspring." It makes sense, therefore, that the earliest uses of propagate referred to facilitating reproduction of a plant or animal. Nowadays, however, the meaning of propagate extends to the "reproduction" of something intangible, such as an idea or belief. Incidentally, propaganda also comes to us from propagare, although it took a somewhat different route into English.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 6, 2017 is:

robot • \ROH-baht\  • noun

1 a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (such as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized

b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically

2 : a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks

3 : a mechanism guided by automatic controls


Isaac Asimov is famous for writing science-fiction stories about robots which were governed by specific laws of behavior.

"The six-girl team and their chaperone completed their journey just after midnight from their hometown of Herat, Afghanistan, to enter their ball-sorting robot in the three-day high school competition starting Sunday in the U.S. capital." — Josh Lederman, The St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch, 17 July 2017

Did you know?

In 1920, Czech writer Karel Čapek published a play titled R.U.R. Those initials stood for "Rossum's Universal Robots," which was the name of a fictional company that manufactured human-like machines designed to perform hard, dull, dangerous work for people. The machines in the play eventually grew to resent their jobs and rebelled—with disastrous results for humans. During the writing of his play, Čapek consulted with his brother, the painter and writer Josef Čapek, who suggested the name robot for these machines, from the Czech word robota, which means "forced labor." Robot made its way into our language in 1922 when R.U.R. was translated into English.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 5, 2017 is:

scrupulous • \SKROO-pyuh-lus\  • adjective

1 : having moral integrity : acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper

2 : punctiliously exact : painstaking


"As a child, I somehow absorbed the idea that getting in the way of other people or wasting their time was a terrible offense. I have been scrupulous about standing to the right on escalators, not blocking aisles, not showing up late." — Rebecca Solnit, Harper's, July 2017

"Don't do business on the side with an elected official who can benefit your clients by lowering their property assessments. But if you do, be absolutely scrupulous about filling out every disclosure form. Or you'll look like you're trying to hide something—and maybe you are." — The Chicago Sun-Times, 27 July 2017

Did you know?

Scrupulous and its close relative scruple ("an ethical consideration or principle") come from the Latin noun scrupulus, the diminutive of scrupus. Scrupus refers to a sharp stone, so scrupulus means "a small sharp stone." Scrupus retained its literal meaning but eventually also came to be used with the metaphorical meaning "a source of anxiety or uneasiness," the way a sharp pebble in one's shoe would be a source of pain. When the adjective scrupulous entered the language, it meant "principled," but now it also commonly means "painstaking" or "careful."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 4, 2017 is:

fruition • \froo-ISH-un\  • noun

1 : pleasurable use or possession : enjoyment

2 a : the state of bearing fruit

b : realization


"… wife and husband had nothing to do but to link each other's arms together, and wander gently downwards towards old age in happy and perfect fruition." — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848

"Many brands depend on crowdfunding to bring a concept to fruition." — Curtis Sparrer,, 7 Apr. 2017

Did you know?

Fruition must come from the word fruit, right? Not exactly. Fruition and fruit are related (both ultimately come from the Latin verb frui, meaning "to enjoy"), but they were derived independently. The original meaning of fruition had nothing to do with fruit. Rather, when the term was first used in the early 15th century, it meant only "pleasurable use or possession." Not until the 19th century did fruition develop a second meaning, "the state of bearing fruit," possibly as the result of a mistaken assumption that fruition evolved from fruit. The "state of bearing fruit" sense was followed quickly by the figurative application to anything that can be "realized" and metaphorically bear fruit, such as a plan or a project.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 3, 2017 is:

vociferous • \voh-SIF-uh-rus\  • adjective

: marked by or given to vehement insistent outcry


"A few days after NBC decided to cancel time-traveling adventure drama Timeless, the network changed its mind and renewed the series for a second season, thanks in part to a vociferous fan campaign…. — USA Today, 17 July 2017

"Legislation for a pilot program that would install speed-detecting cameras on the most dangerous traffic corridors … has been shelved after facing vociferous opposition and tepid support." — Robert Salonga, The Marin Independent Journal (California), 27 Apr. 2017

Did you know?

Vociferous, deriving from a combination of the Latin vox ("voice") with ferre ("to carry"), is one of a number of English words that describe those who compel attention by being loud and insistent. Vociferous implies a vehement shouting or calling out, but to convey the insistency of a demand or protest, clamorous might be a better choice. You could use strident to suggest harsh and discordant noise in a protest, or obstreperous to imply loud, unruly and aggressive resistance to restraint. But someone who is noisy and turbulent due to high spirits rather than dissatisfaction might more aptly be called boisterous.

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