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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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







parlay • \PAHR-lay\ • verb Parlay means "to turn (something) into something of greater value." // The young actor parlayed his popularity as a teen heartthrob into a successful film career. See the entry > Examples: "Since his pro debut in 1995, [Manny Pacquiao] has won world titles in a record eight weight classes and parlayed boxing fame into political clout." — Morgan Campbell, The New York Times, 22 Aug. 2021 Did you know? In gambling, parlay is used for a series of bets...



misbegotten • \miss-bih-GAH-tun\ • adjective Misbegotten means "ill-conceived." It can also mean "having an improper origin." // The celebrity's misbegotten tweet went viral. // The university's Board of Trustees rejected the misbegotten plan for building a new football stadium. See the entry > Examples: "… one of those misbegotten oddities that cheats you out of the film you imagine you'll be getting from its opening 10 minutes...." — Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph (London),...



dedication • \ded-ih-KAY-shun\ • noun Dedication means "devotion or loyalty to a person or cause." // With great dedication, the scientists worked to perfect the vaccine. // At his retirement party, his boss said a few words about Tom's dedication and commitment to the company. See the entry > Examples: "President Steven Eggland, PhD, named the foundation in honor of his Norwegian immigrant heritage and the family's longtime dedication to charitable acts and modest philanthropy."...



obtuse • \ahb-TOOSS\ • adjective Obtuse means "difficult to understand" or "unable to understand what is obvious." // The attorney explained the obtuse language in the contract to her client. // Maybe I am being obtuse, but I didn't understand the end of the movie. See the entry > Examples: "There are speeches and flags and somewhat obtuse artistic presentations, then at or near the end, the Olympic flame enters the stadium and is delivered to a cauldron … to burn for the next 16...



hobnob • \HAHB-nahb\ • verb Hobnob means "to come or be together as friends." // Local business owners hobnobbed at the fundraiser. // The entertainment columnist learns about the latest gossip by hobnobbing with celebrities. See the entry > Examples: "Does declaring affection for Tanglewood, the iconic venue in the Berkshires, make me seem like a self-important muckety-muck eager to hobnob with elites from Boston and Manhattan? Well, so be it." — Chris Churchill, The Times-Union...



chastise • \chass-TYZE\ • verb Chastise means "to criticize (someone) harshly for doing something wrong." // The boss eventually had to chastise certain employees for being consistently late. See the entry > Examples: "I used to chastise people for not working as efficiently as the WWE. … I was judgmental and I was apprehensive and I wanted to be back in the ring because I loved that immediate gratification." — John Cena, quoted in USA Today, 5 Aug. 2021 Did you know? There...



inchoate • \in-KOH-ut\ • adjective Inchoate means "imperfectly formed or formulated." // In the podcast, the author described the process by which she took a series of inchoate vignettes and shaped them into her best-selling novel. See the entry > Examples: "Petrifying sights and sounds haunt her nights and inchoate shadows hover around her." — Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times, 19 Aug. 2021 Did you know? Inchoate comes from inchoare, which means "to start work on" in...



flehmen • \FLAY-mun\ • noun Flehmen is a mammalian behavior (as of horses or cats) in which the animal inhales with the mouth open and upper lip curled. This is done to expose the nose to a scent. // The vet explained that what appeared to be a display of anger in the cat was called flehmen. See the entry > Examples: "Flehmen, sometimes also called the Flehmen response or the Flehmen reaction, is actually a way of smelling or scenting the air. It's not peculiar to horses: other...



collude • \kuh-LOOD\ • verb Collude means "to conspire or plot." // The two companies had colluded to keep prices high. See the entry > Examples: "Seven … maintenance managers were federally charged … with bilking the transit agency out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by colluding with vendors to charge for goods that were never provided and pocketing the proceeds." — Thomas Fitzgerald and Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 Aug. 2021 Did you know? The Latin...



lucid • \LOO-sid\ • adjective Lucid means "very clear and easy to understand." // The author has a lucid writing style that makes the book enjoyable to read. See the entry > Examples: "Kynpham's prose is lucid and engaging and often lyrical and poetic…." — Kanchan Verma, Wired, 13 Aug. 2021 Did you know? Lucid comes from the Latin verb lucere, meaning "to shine," which is reflected in its meanings "filled with light" or "shining." It also describes someone whose mind is clear...



vignette • \vin-YET\ • noun A vignette is a short written description or a brief scene in a movie or play. // The play's program features a brief vignette about each member of the cast. // The documentary is a series of vignettes showing the lives of three families under quarantine during the pandemic. See the entry > Examples: "Additional pregame and in-game presentations will feature tributes and vignettes honoring [Phil] Niekro as one of baseball's greatest knuckleball...



precarious • \prih-KAIR-ee-us\ • adjective Precarious means "characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, or instability that threatens with danger." // College debt leaves many students in a precarious financial situation after graduation. // The books were stacked high in a precarious tower. See the entry > Examples: "Staff may be anxious about returning to the office and want to be assured of their safety while leaders are in the precarious position of having to make what they...



exonerate • \ig-ZAH-nuh-rayt\ • verb Exonerate means "to clear from a charge of wrongdoing or from blame." // The witness' testimonies were key in exonerating the defendant. // The report exonerated the captain from any blame for the ship's running aground. See the entry > Examples: "The actor met with Sooner State oil rig workers who helped him prepare for his role in 'Stillwater' as a father desperate to exonerate his jailed daughter of a murder conviction in France." — Peter...



tribulation • \trib-yuh-LAY-shun\ • noun Tribulation, which is often used in the phrase "trials and tribulations," refers to a trying experience. It can also mean "unhappiness, pain, or suffering." // The young, ambitious chef knew of trials and tribulations of opening a new restaurant, but he was ready for the undertaking. // Her son's illness has been a source of great tribulation. See the entry > Examples: "On the road to meet his destiny, Gawain must face a series of fearsome...



responsive • \rih-SPAHN-siv\ • adjective Responsive means "quick to respond or react in a desired or appropriate manner." // The Senator was responsive to the concerns voiced by the town's council and residents. // The eye contains cells that are responsive to light. See the entry > Examples: "A mobile responsive website is one that adapts to fit different screens, most notably mobile phones. It can do this in a number of ways that improve visibility and usability. For example, a...



inflammable • \in-FLAM-uh-bul\ • adjective Inflammable describes things that can easily catch fire. It also means "easily excited or angered." // The gas is highly inflammable. // The messenger trembled as he stuttered out the news of the army's defeat to the highly inflammable king. See the entry > Examples: "First, butane is inflammable (or flammable—whichever way you like to say it)." — Rhett Allain, Wired, 31 Mar. 2016 "'Don't trouble about it, Clym. They may get to be...



adversary • \AD-ver-sair-ee\ • noun Adversary is a word for an enemy or opponent. // The adversaries met at the negotiating table again, hoping to reach an agreement. See the entry > Examples: "Large-scale special effects and intrepid derring-do are wedded to themes of clan solidarity, compassion toward adversaries and contrition for past misdeeds in director Cate Shortland's Marvel Comics-derived action adventure." — The Arlington (Virginia) Catholic Herald, 2 Aug. 2021 Did you...



sedentary • \SED-un-tair-ee\ • adjective Sedentary describes an activity in which much sitting is involved. // Editorial work is chiefly sedentary. See the entry > Examples: "A sedentary lifestyle could increase your levels of exhaustion. Luckily, small changes in your daily life can impact your activity levels for the better. Taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and adding a daily walk can make you feel more energized…." — Maria Loreto, LA Weekly, 9 Aug. 2021 Did...



fulminate • \FULL-muh-nayt\ • verb Fulminate means "to send forth harsh criticisms or insults." // The writer of the editorial fulminated against the corruption in the state government that has been recently uncovered. See the entry > Examples: "Talking heads on both the right and the left now are fulminating about the labor shortage." — John Krull, The Republic (Columbus, Indiana), 28 July 2021 Did you know? Lightning strikes more than once in the history of fulminate. That...



brogue • \BROHG\ • noun A brogue is a low shoe, usually made of leather, with perforations and a wing tip. // Even though his brogues are scuffed and old, Dad prefers them to his new loafers. See the entry > Examples: "I've recently returned from my annual trip to the UK and, as usual on returning, my accent (apparently) is a little more clipped than when I left, and I'm wearing brogues and—most startling of all—socks, despite the unseasonable Aussie heat." — Neale Whitaker, The...