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

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2014 is:

numismatic • \noo-muz-MAT-ik\  • adjective
1 : of or relating to the study or collection of coins, tokens, and money 2 : of or relating to currency : monetary

Jasmine was disappointed to learn that the 1936 buffalo nickel she owned had virtually no numismatic value.

"Steve is well-known in the numismatic community as a specialist in National Currency and is very passionate in his teachings and publications…." — Lake Sun Leader (Camdenton, Missouri), March 21, 2014

Did you know?
The first metal coins are believed to have been used as currency by the Lydians, a people of Asia Minor, during the 7th century B.C.E., and it is likely that folks began collecting coins not long after that. The name that we give to the collection of coins today is "numismatics," a word that also encompasses the collection of paper money and of medals. The noun "numismatics" and the adjective "numismatic" came to English (via French "numismatique") from Latin and Greek "nomisma," meaning "coin." "Nomisma" in turn derives from the Greek verb "nomizein" ("to use") and ultimately from the noun "nomos" ("custom" or "usage"). From these roots we also get "numismatist," referring to a person who collects coins, medals, or paper money.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2014 is:

execrate • \EK-suh-krayt\  • verb
1 : to declare to be evil or detestable : denounce 2 : to detest utterly

The school principal execrated the individuals who had stolen the cashbox from the raffle table.

"Long execrated by Republicans as a 'death tax,' the posthumous federal levy on accumulated wealth has Democratic detractors as well, especially those who represent significant numbers of rural landowners." — The Washington Post, December 12, 2012

Did you know?
To Latinists, there's nothing cryptic about the origins of "execrate"—the word derives from "exsecratus," the past participle of the Latin verb "exsecrari," meaning "to put under a curse." "Exsecrari" was itself created by combining the prefix "ex-" ("not") and the word "sacer" ("sacred"). "Sacer" is also an ancestor of such English words as "sacerdotal" ("relating to priests"), "sacral" ("holy or sacred"), "sacrifice," "sacrilege," and of course "sacred" itself. There's also "execration," which, true to its "exsecrari" roots, means "the act of cursing" or "the curse so uttered."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 26, 2014 is:

celerity • \suh-LAIR-uh-tee\  • noun
: rapidity of motion or action : swiftness

Monica was impressed by the ease and celerity with which the new waiter she had hired could wipe down and set up a table.

"The Common Core entered public discourse suddenly this year, due in large part to the celerity with which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation financed and coordinated its implementation in 2010." — Micah Meadowcroft, The American Spectator, June 9, 2014

Did you know?
In the novel Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham tells of an undertaker's shop that used the words "Economy, Celerity, Propriety" as part of a window display involving "silver lettering on a black cloth" and "two model coffins." But "celerity" isn't dead in English writing, where it has proven its vitality since the Middle Ages. Shakespeare used it in Henry V when the chorus recited, "Thus with imagin'd wing our swift scene flies, / In motion of no less celerity / Than that of thought." Benjamin Franklin used it as a synonym of "velocity." And the speedy term (which can be traced back to "celer," a Latin word meaning "swift") is still keeping pace today.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2014 is:

requisite • \REK-wuh-zut\  • adjective
: essential, necessary

The application will not be considered until all of the requisite forms have been submitted.

"This smaller, slightly more upscale pizza shop … has all the requisite Wicker Park trappings: chalkboard menu, exposed brick, communal seating." — Kate Bernot, Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2014

Did you know?
Acquiring an understanding of where today's word comes from won't require a formal inquiry. Without question, the quest begins with Latin "quaerere," which means "to ask" and is an ancestor of a number of English words, including "acquire," "require," "inquiry," "question," "quest," and, of course, "requisite." From "quaerere" came "requirere," meaning "to ask again." Repeated requests can express a need, and the past participle of "requirere," which is "requisitus," came to mean "needed" or "necessary." The English language acquired "requisite" when it was adopted into Middle English back in the 1400s.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2014 is:

silhouette • \sil-uh-WET\  • noun
1 a : a picture (as a drawing or cutout) of the outline of an object filled in with a solid usually black color b : a profile portrait done in silhouette 2 : the shape or outline of something; especially : the outline of an object seen or as if seen against the light

"The tree-tops rose against the luminous blue sky in inky silhouette, and all below that outline melted into one formless blackness." — H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1896

"This is not a season for shoehorning yourself into your pants. Painted-on is out, and loose, slouchy silhouettes are in." — Christine Whitney and Jessica Prince, Harper's Bazaar, April 2014

Did you know?
Before the age of the photograph, the silhouette, either cut from paper or painted, was the most affordable portrait that could be made. The art enjoyed a golden age in the second half of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, when many people collected them. Although silhouettes were well-loved, the man for whom they were named was not: Étienne de Silhouette was France's finance minister under Louis XV and was notorious for both his frugality and his hobby of making cut-paper shadow portraits. The phrase "à la Silhouette" came to mean "on the cheap," and portraits like the ones he produced were (satirically) bestowed with his name as well.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2014 is:

interpolate • \in-TER-puh-layt\  • verb
1 a : to change (as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter b : to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation 2 : to insert (something) between other things or parts : to make insertions 3 : to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values

"Ellis nicely interpolated a harpsichord solo between Bach's two movements…." — Tom Aldridge, NUVO (Indiana), May 18, 2013

"Most scanners can scan at higher resolutions than their maximum optical resolutions by using software to interpolate more dots per inch, but you really aren't getting any better quality." — Jim Rossman, The Virginian-Pilot, June 23, 2014

Did you know?
"Interpolate" comes from Latin "interpolare," a verb with various meanings, among them "to refurbish," "to alter," and "to falsify." "Interpolate" entered English in the 17th century and was applied early on to the alteration (and in many cases corruption) of texts by insertion of additional material. Modern use of "interpolate" still sometimes suggests the insertion of something extraneous or spurious, as in "she interpolated her own comments into the report."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 22, 2014 is:

Yooper • \YOO-per\  • noun
: a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — used as a nickname

The land of the Yoopers—the Upper Peninsula, or U.P.—is connected to Michigan's Lower Peninsula by means of the Mackinac Bridge.

"Every Yooper I've ever met was an uncommonly unique character—a real salt-of-the-earth townie, skilled at mechanics, deer hunting, and/or ice fishing." — Kelly O, The Stranger, January 29, 2014 – February 4, 2014

Did you know?
The word "Yooper" comes from the common nickname of Michigan's Upper Peninsula—the "U.P."—and the etymology requires the same follow-up question that a challenging joke does: "Get it?" If you're not there yet, try saying them both out loud: Yooper, U.P. Yoopers have been saying both out loud now for about 40 years, but it's only in recent years that those beyond the U.P. and its geographical neighbors have begun to encounter "Yooper" in use. Yoopers refer to people who live in the Lower Peninsula as "trolls" (they live "under" the Mackinac Bridge, after all), but that nickname is still at this point too regional for entry in our dictionaries.


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 21, 2014 is:

fiduciary • \fuh-DOO-shee-air-ee\  • adjective
1 : involving a confidence or trust 2 : held or holding in trust for another

"While bank trust departments have a fiduciary duty to file claims on behalf of their clients, many are overworked and understaffed." — Business Wire, September 17, 2010

"The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case in which it addressed a variety of fiduciary breaches alleged by employees participating in an employer’s 401(k) plans." — Peter K. Bradley, Anita Costello Greer, Michael J. Flanagan, Richard W. Kaiser, Arthur A. Marrapese III and Ryan M. Murphy,, May 30, 2014

Did you know?
Fiduciary relationships often concern money, but the word "fiduciary" does not, in and of itself, suggest financial matters. Rather, "fiduciary" applies to any situation in which one person justifiably places confidence and trust in someone else and seeks that person's help or advice in some matter. The attorney-client relationship is a fiduciary one, for example, because the client trusts the attorney to act in the best interest of the client at all times. "Fiduciary" can also be used as a noun for the person who acts in a fiduciary capacity, and "fiduciarily" or "fiducially" can be called upon if you are in need of an adverb. The words are all faithful to their origin: Latin "fidere," which means "to trust."

»big data 

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2014 is:

big data • \BIG-DAY-tuh\  • noun
: an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools

"The age of big data has driven advances in technology that make it possible to collect, store, and transmit nearly infinite amounts of information." — Sean Lahman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 30, 2014

"In other words, how do you use big data about people and things productively and profitably without risking a loss of trust and business patronage from consumers who are beginning to question it?" — Mary Shacklett,, June 16, 2014

Did you know?
"Big data" is a new addition to our language, but exactly how new is not an easy matter to determine. A 1980 paper by Charles Tilly provides an early documented use of "big data," but Tilly wasn't using the word in the exact same way we use it today; rather, he used the phrase "big-data people" to refer to historians engaged in data-rich fields such as cliometrics. Today, "big data" can refer to large data sets or to systems and solutions developed to manage such large accumulations of data, as well as for the branch of computing devoted to this development. Francis X. Diebold, a University of Pennsylvania economist, who has written a paper exploring the origin of big data as a term, a phenomenon, and a field of study, believes the term "probably originated in lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) in the mid 1990s…."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 19, 2014 is:

blandish • \BLAN-dish\  • verb
1 : to coax or persuade with flattery : cajole 2 : to act or speak in a flattering or coaxing manner

Some of Tim's coworkers even managed to blandish him into doing their work for them by complimenting him shamelessly.

"Glennan believed a presidential statement would help to gain initiative against Congress and the media, and he repeatedly blandished Eisenhower to make a greater public relations effort." — Yanek Mieczkowski, Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment, 2013

Did you know?
The word "blandish" has been a part of the English language since at least the 14th century with virtually no change in its meaning. It ultimately derives from "blandus," a Latin word meaning "mild" or "flattering." One of the earliest known uses of "blandish" can be found in the sacred writings of Richard Rolle de Hampole, an English hermit and mystic, who cautioned against "the dragon that blandishes with the head and smites with the tail." Although "blandish" might not exactly be suggestive of dullness, it was the "mild" sense of "blandus" that gave us our adjective "bland," which has a lesser-known sense meaning "smooth and soothing in manner or quality."


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2014 is:

lèse-majesté • \layz-MAJ-uh-stee\  • noun
1 : an offense violating the dignity of sovereign 2 : a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance

"That kind of suppression actually harkens back … to the 1976 coup, when the penalty for lèse majesté was increased to a maximum of 15 years in prison per count.…" —David Streckfuss, Vice News, June 3, 2014

"You can look it up, but every man who beat Roger Federer this year lost his next match. Maybe there is a psychic price to pay for lèse-majesté." — Roger Kaplan, The American Spectator, June 4, 2014

Did you know?
"Lèse-majesté" (or "lese majesty," as it is also styled in English publications) came into English by way of Middle French, from Latin "laesa majestas," which literally means "injured majesty." The English term can conceivably cover any offense against a sovereign power or its ruler, from treason to a simple breach of etiquette. "Lèse-majesté" has also acquired a more lighthearted or ironic meaning, that of an insult or impudence to a particularly pompous or self-important person or organization. As such, it may be applied to a relatively inoffensive act that has been exaggeratedly treated as if it were a great affront.

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