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







wherefore • \WAIR-for\ • adverb 1 : for what reason or purpose : why 2 : therefore Examples: "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" — William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1594-95 "According to The Blast, the legal filing said 'Wherefore, Petitioner requests an order of this court that the conservatorship of the person of Britney Jean Spears, the conservatee, be terminated.'" — Justin Enriquez, ­The Daily Mail (US), 18 June 2021 Did you know? In early English, a number...



palaver • \puh-LAV-er\ • noun 1 a : a long discussion or meeting parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication b : conference, discussion 2 a : idle talk b : misleading or beguiling speech Examples: Enough of this palaver. We have a lot to discuss. "[Adrian Daub] brings the same sharp eye for sophistry to other forms of palaver that move capital in Silicon Valley. He revisits the actual thinkers appropriated by TED bloviators, from the...



bivouac • \BIV-uh-wak\ • verb 1 : to make a temporary encampment under little or no shelter 2 : to take shelter often temporarily 3 : to provide temporary quarters for Examples: The climbers bivouacked under the cliff's ledge. "Bivouacked in the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. Even though it was the southern summer, geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured nearly three months of...



jeremiad • \jair-uh-MYE-ud\ • noun : a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue Examples: The news story was a scathing jeremiad against the invasion of privacy on celebrities. "We can expect a volley of jeremiads against wind power, as perhaps half that fleet stopped spinning. But with perhaps more than 30 gigawatts of thermal generating capacity tripping offline, and wind power producing about five gigawatts less than planned, this disaster...



urbane • \er-BAYN\ • adjective : notably polite or polished in manner Examples: "When had my willful and boorish cousin turned into this urbane young artist greeting the guests at her opening reception?" wondered James. "Offstage, he could be sensitive or surly, charming or sometimes combative, an unabashed hedonist or an urbane aficionado of film, literature and theater." — George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Jun. 2021 Did you know? City slickers and country folk have...



hagiography • \hag-ee-AH-gruh-fee\ • noun 1 : biography of saints or venerated persons 2 : idealizing or idolizing biography Examples: "Music documentaries can veer into hagiography. That's not this story. It goes up and down, with constant left turns and surprises you don't expect." — Edgar Wright, quoted in The Houston Chronicle, 16 June 2021 "Hemingway, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's latest PBS series, is a hagiography of one of the most popular writers of the 20th century, the...



lexical • \LEK-sih-kul\ • adjective 1 : of or relating to words or the vocabulary of a language as distinguished from its grammar and construction 2 : of or relating to a lexicon or to lexicography Examples: As stated in the catalog, the university's second-year language courses are designed to emphasize lexical skills. "Technology companies exhibit a curious lexical property. Google and Zoom are verbs." — The Economist, 27 Feb. 2021 Did you know? The word lexicon can be used...



expropriate • \ek-SPROH-pree-ayt\ • verb 1 : to deprive of possession or proprietary rights 2 : to transfer (the property of another) to one's own possession Examples: The city council rejected a proposal to expropriate private property for the highway expansion. "Newspapers, in particular, have had their content unfairly expropriated by the lords of the internet, even as the advertising that once sustained the news business has been snatched away by the same online behemoths." —...



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: We asked the bouncer for directions, but he only responded with an inarticulate guttural grunt. "And when you hear the strange guttural call of the Red Bellied Woodpecker, you wonder, who would respond to that weird sound?" — Joseph Palmer, The Brooklyn (New York) Eagle, 14 June 2021 Did you know? Though it is now...



receipt • \rih-SEET\ • noun 1 a : a writing acknowledging the receiving of goods or money b receipts, plural, informal : proof, evidence 2 : the act or process of receiving 3 : something received — usually used in plural 4 : recipe Examples: If you find that the item has been damaged during shipping, please contact us upon receipt to request a return shipping label. "A perplexed correspondent asked Emily Post why it was that she used the word 'receipt' instead of 'recipe' in...



attenuate • \uh-TEN-yuh-wayt\ • verb 1 : to lessen the amount, force, magnitude, or value of : weaken 2 : to reduce the severity, virulence, or vitality of 3 : to make thin or slender 4 : to make thin in consistency : rarefy 5 : to become thin, fine, or less Examples: The use of computers, with their quiet keyboards, in place of typewriters greatly attenuated the noise level of the office. "Fans who attend Double-A games this year will see a couple of new rules…. During the...



capricious • \kuh-PRISH-us\ • adjective : governed or characterized by caprice : impulsive, unpredictable Examples: "Like all great children's writers, [Jacqueline] Wilson and [E.] Nesbit understood how strange and capricious children could be…." — Guy Lodge, Variety, 4 Apr. 2020 "[The television show] Succession doesn't just get the details right; mirroring the capricious world of media and its greedy overlords, it also makes sweeping plot turns that build to climaxes as bloody as...



parry • \PAIR-ee\ • verb 1 : to ward off (something, such as a weapon or blow) 2 : to evade (something, such as a question) by an adroit answer Examples: "Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri had a clearer opportunity midway through the first half but his header was blocked by a low save from Spain keeper Unai Simon, who thwarted the Moroccan again before half-time, parrying his shot and then scurrying back to prevent the ball from trickling over the line." — ESPN, 3 May 2021 "When...



torpor • \TOR-per\ • noun 1 a : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility b : a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals 2 : apathy, dullness Examples: The magazine article provided ideas for activities designed to shake off the torpor of a rainy day. "Hummingbirds are one of...



omniscient • \ahm-NISH-unt\ • adjective 1 : having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight 2 : possessed of universal or complete knowledge Examples: "You'll need to tell me when you don't understand something I've said," Maria said. "I'm not omniscient, you know." "I suppose I had boxed myself into a corner by making the story first person, present tense, and thus not allowing for an omniscient narrator who could act as the Greek chorus for the reader, explaining as...



flounder • \FLOUN-der\ • verb 1 : to struggle to move or obtain footing : thrash about wildly 2 : to proceed or act clumsily or ineffectually Examples: "Tech geeks will read the book with knowing amusement; those of us floundering in the rarefied air will encounter baffling jargon and acronyms scattered like birdseed through the pages." — Lee Langley, The Spectator, 29 May 2021 "Several times, just when we think we know how 'Unsettled Ground' will unfold, Fuller pulls the rug out...



shibboleth • \SHIB-uh-luth\ • noun 1 a : a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning b : a widely held belief c : truism, platitude 2 a : a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group b : a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others Examples: "… in Britain, whether a person pronounces hs is still a significant shibboleth." — Henry Hitchings, The Language Wars,...



ruthless • \ROOTH-lus\ • adjective : having no pity : merciless, cruel Examples: "This process taught me the importance of being a ruthless editor; I learnt that if a piece of information can be deleted without impacting the narrative flow, then it didn't belong there." — Saurja DasGupta, Nature, 8 Jan. 2021 "Through a twist of fate, Estella lands a job working for a legendary designer known as the Baroness, who is played with horrible delight by Emma Thompson. The two characters...



emprise • \em-PRYZE\ • noun : an adventurous, daring, or chivalric enterprise Examples: "But perhaps he was the only one courageous enough to voice an opinion that others might have shared, but were afraid to say, that this whole quixotic emprise had been a bad idea, that they had been fools to attempt an escape." — John D. Lukacs, Escape From Davao, 2010 "Applied to any other creature than the Leviathan—to an ant or a flea—such portly terms might justly be deemed unwarrantably...



nonplus • \nahn-PLUS\ • verb : to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do : perplex Examples: The student's unexpected about-face during the class discussion nonplussed the teacher. "Lattimer and Warnick are suitably nonplussed when the Coveys' nemesis arrives in the form of a rather robotic 19-year-old, dressed like an exorcist in his long overcoat and wide-brimmed hat, clearly unpracticed in social customs." — Melinda Miller, The Buffalo (New York) News, 16 Apr....