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

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 27, 2016 is:

plinth • \PLINTH\  • noun

1 : the lowest part of the base of an architectural column

2 : a usually square block serving as a base; broadly : any of various bases or lower parts

3 : a course of stones forming a continuous foundation or base course

Examples:

An empty plinth remains where the statue of the toppled dictator once commanded.

"Fabio Mauri (1926-2009) grew up in Mussolini-era Italy and his art consistently examines the ways in which the traumas of war and fascism are assimilated by history. For the most part it's the simpler works that resonate—such as a lone artillery shell on a plinth." — Time Out, 26 Jan. 2016

Did you know?

"These ivy-clad arcades — / These mouldering plinths ... are they all — / All of the famed, and the colossal left…?" In these lines from "The Coliseum," Edgar Allan Poe alludes to a practical feature of classical architecture. The plinth serves the important purpose of raising the base of the column it supports above the ground, thus protecting it from dampness and mold. The humble plinth is usually a mere thick block. It's humbly named, too, for the Greek word plinthos means simply "tile" or "brick." English writers have used plinth, a shortened version of the Latin form plinthus, since the mid-16th century. The word's meaning was later extended to bases for statues, vases, or busts.



»guttural 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 26, 2016 is:

guttural • \GUTT-uh-rul\  • adjective

1 : articulated in the throat

2 : velar

3 : being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable

Examples:

The only response we could get from him was an inarticulate guttural grunt.

"The guttural yells echoing off New Jersey's Lake Mercer conveyed the gravity of college rowing's biggest day Sunday: the Intercollegiate Rowing Championship." — Brian Towey, The Seattle Times, 6 June 2016

Did you know?

Though it is now used to describe many sounds or utterances which strike the listener as harsh or disagreeable, the adjective guttural was originally applied only to sounds and utterances produced in the throat. This is reflected in the word's Latin root—guttur, meaning "throat." Despite the similarity in sound, guttural is not related to the English word gutter, which comes (by way of Anglo-French) from Latin gutta, meaning "drop."



»notch 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 25, 2016 is:

notch • \NAHTCH\  • noun

1 a : a V-shaped indentation

b : a slit made to serve as a record

c : a rounded indentation cut into the pages of a book on the edge opposite the spine

2 : a deep close pass : gap

3 : degree, step

Examples:

The angle of the futon can be adjusted by inserting the pin into one of three notches.

"You're about to start a race or step onstage, and you want to knock it out of the park. … Revving up … is pretty easy: Do a few jumping jacks, or whatever gets your blood pumping. Need to take things down a notch (or 20)? Inhale deeply. Research shows that it can significantly calm you down." — Jeanine Detz, Self, July/August 2016

Did you know?

Occasionally, you might hear a child ask for a "napple," as in "I would like a napple," mistaking the phrase "an apple" for "a napple." A similar error is believed to be behind notch, which may have resulted from a misdivision of "an otch." (Otch is a noun that is assumed to have existed in earlier English as a borrowing of Middle French oche, meaning "an incision made to keep a record.") Notch would not be alone in developing from such a mistake. The words newt and nickname were formed, respectively, from misdivisions of "an ewte" and "an ekename." Going in the other direction, umpire first appears in Middle English as oumpere, a mistaken rendering of "a noumpere."



»insinuate 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 24, 2016 is:

insinuate • \in-SIN-yuh-wayt\  • verb

1 a : to introduce (as an idea) gradually or in a subtle, indirect, or covert way

b : to impart or suggest in an artful or indirect way : imply

2 : to introduce (as oneself) by stealthy, smooth, or artful means

Examples:

"They are confident buildings, but not boastful ones. They have a way of insinuating themselves into the landscape, behaving as if they’ve always been there." — Karrie Jacobs, Architect, 18 June 2013

"Pokemon Go players couldn't catch much on Saturday. That's because the game kept crashing. … [A] group called PoodleCorp claimed responsibility for the server crash in a series of tweets. The group also insinuated that another attack on the game was imminent." — Ahiza Garcia, CNN Wire, 16 July 2016

Did you know?

The meaning of insinuate is similar to that of another verb, suggest. Whether you suggest or insinuate something, you are conveying an idea indirectly. But although these two words share the same basic meaning, each gets the idea across in a different way. When you suggest something, you put it into the mind by associating it with other ideas, desires, or thoughts. You might say, for example, that a book's title suggests what the story is about. The word insinuate, on the other hand, usually includes a sense that the idea being conveyed is unpleasant, or that it is being passed along in a sly or underhanded way ("She insinuated that I cheated").



»journeyman 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2016 is:

journeyman • \JER-nee-mun\  • noun

1 : a worker who has learned a trade and works for another person usually by the day

2 : an experienced reliable worker, athlete, or performer especially as distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful

Examples:

"I started working exclusively as an actor when I was 25 years old…. I was a journeyman actor, working here and there. And I loved it." — Bryan Cranston, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2016

"Rich Hill is 36 and likely to be the most sought-after pitcher on the trade market, but he claims he doesn't see it that way. The transformation from journeyman to a pitcher with electric stuff has been stunning at his age." — Nick Cafardo, The Boston Globe, 10 July 2016

Did you know?

The journey in journeyman refers to a sense of the familiar word not often used anymore: "a day's labor." This sense of journey was first used in the 14th century. When journeyman appeared the following century, it originally referred to a person who, having learned a handicraft or trade through an apprenticeship, worked for daily wages. In the 16th century, journeyman picked up a figurative (and mainly deprecatory) sense; namely, "one who drudges for another." These days, however, journeyman has little to do with drudgery, and lots to do with knowing a trade inside out.



»lenient 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 22, 2016 is:

lenient • \LEEN-yunt\  • adjective

1 : exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress

2 : of mild and tolerant disposition; especially : indulgent

Examples:

Because Kevin didn't have any past violations on his driving record, the officer decided to be lenient and let him off with a written warning.

"In February, he pleaded guilty to a bribery count and a tax count. His attorney … has said federal prosecutors have recommended a lenient sentence in exchange for his cooperation." — Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), 18 July 2016

Did you know?

Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of lenient referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by lenitive, an earlier derivative of lenire that was commonly used with electuary (a "lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in toe is fortis.



»hypocorism 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 21, 2016 is:

hypocorism • \hye-PAH-kuh-riz-um\  • noun

1 : a pet name

2 : the use of pet names

Examples:

People began to refer to the elusive and mysterious Loch Ness monster by the hypocorism "Nessie" in the 1940s.

"… the use of hypocorisms … is on the decline (only my Aunt Dorothy is still called Toots), and terms of endearment have come under suspicion ('Call me Dollboat or Sweetie-Pie one more time, Mr. Snodgrass, and you've got a harassment suit on your hands')." — William Safire, The New York Times, 27 Sept. 1992

Did you know?

In Late Latin and Greek, the words hypocorisma and hypokorisma had the same meaning as hypocorism does in English today. They in turn evolved from the Greek verb hypokorizesthai ("to call by pet names"), which itself comes from korizesthai ("to caress"). Hypocorism joined the English language in the mid-19th century and was once briefly a buzzword among linguists, who used it rather broadly to mean "adult baby talk"—that is, the altered speech adults use when supposedly imitating babies. Once the baby talk issue faded, hypocorism settled back into being just a fancy word for a pet name. Pet names can be diminutives like "Johnny" for "John," endearing terms such as "honey-bunch," or, yes, names from baby talk, like "Nana" for "Grandma."



»namby-pamby 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2016 is:

namby-pamby • \nam-bee-PAM-bee\  • adjective

1 : lacking in character or substance : insipid

2 : weak, indecisive

Examples:

John complained that the movie was a namby-pamby romance with too much dialogue and not enough action.

"I go to a barber for a haircut and clip my own nails, and would rather smell broccoli cooking for a week than go to some namby-pamby spa place to get … my body kneaded like a loaf of over-fermented Wonder Bread." — Michael Penkava, The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), 27 Feb. 2016

Did you know?

Eighteenth-century poets Alexander Pope and Henry Carey didn't think much of their contemporary Ambrose Philips. His sentimental, singsong verses were too childish and simple for their palates. In 1726, Carey came up with the rhyming nickname Namby-Pamby (playing on Ambrose) to parody Philips: "Namby-Pamby's doubly mild / Once a man and twice a child ... / Now he pumps his little wits / All by little tiny bits." In 1729, Pope borrowed the nickname to take his own satirical jab at Philips in the poem "The Dunciad." Before long, namby-pamby was being applied to any piece of writing that was insipidly precious, simple, or sentimental, and later to anyone considered pathetically weak or indecisive.



»fret 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2016 is:

fret • \FRET\  • verb

1 a : to eat or gnaw into : wear, corrode; also : fray

b : rub, chafe

c : to make by wearing away

2 : to become vexed or worried

3 : agitate, ripple

Examples:

"You shouldn't fret so much over your wardrobe," Liza said. "You look great no matter what you wear."

"Not so long ago independent booksellers fretted about the Nooks and the Kindles and the iPad—digital reading devices. And if that didn't scare them, the trend of reading everything on a phone was worrisome." — Darrell Ehrlick, The Billings (Montana) Gazette, 22 July 2016

Did you know?

Since its first use centuries ago, fret has referred to an act of eating, especially when done by animals—in particular, small ones. You might speak, for example, of moths fretting your clothing. Like eat, fret also developed figurative senses to describe actions that corrode or wear away. A river could be said to "fret away" at its banks or something might be said to be "fretted out" with time or age. Fret can also be applied to emotional experiences so that something that "eats away at us" might be said to "fret the heart or mind." This use developed into the specific meaning of "vex" or "worry" with which we often use fret today.



»panoptic 
 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2016 is:

panoptic • \pan-OP-tik\  • adjective

: being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view

Examples:

The new security cameras installed in the jewelry store capture panoptic views of the entrance and display cases.

"Interweaving the narratives of an aristocratic uptown family, an underground punk band, a Long Island adolescent, a black gay aspiring writer, and a journalist determined to uncover the obscure connections between them all, the more-than-900-page novel … casts a panoptic lens on 1970s New York City…." — Lauren Christensen, Vanity Fair, October 2015

Did you know?

The establishment of panoptic in the English language can be attributed to two inventions known as panopticons. The more well-known panopticon was conceived by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. Bentham’s panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which guards could see the inmates at all times. The other panopticon, also created in the 18th century, was a device containing pictures of attractions, such as European capitals, that people viewed through an opening. Considering the views that both inventions gave, it is not hard to see why panoptic (a word derived from Greek panoptēs, meaning "all-seeing") was being used by the early 19th century.



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