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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







treacle • \TREE-kul\ • noun Treacle is a British word for molasses. The heavy sweetness of the syrup influenced people to apply its name to things overly sentimental. // From beginning to end, the movie had many lines of sentimental treacle. See the entry > Examples: "But Parr's script swings so often between artistic triumph and personal tragedy that the structure quickly feels predictable, and lines likely intended to be inspirational sound more like pat treacle." — Steve...



facile • \FASS-ul\ • adjective Facile means "too easily accomplished or attained." // The facts of the unsolved mystery were intriguing, but the author's conclusion was facile. See the entry > Examples: "It feels as though the songs just came to be. They reveal a facile elegance that does not let on the laborious writing and technical work that went into their creation." — Julien A. Luebbers, The Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington), 20 Aug. 2021 Did you know? Facile comes...



hector • \HEK-ter\ • verb Hector means "to criticize or question in a threatening manner." // The mediator asked the unruly members of the audience to cease hectoring the speaker. See the entry > Examples: "In budget meetings, ... Freeman hectored local publishers, demanding that they produce detailed numbers off the top of their head and then humiliating them when they couldn't. — McKay Coppins, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2021 Did you know? In Homer's Iliad, Hector, the eldest son...



mirage • \muh-RAHZH\ • noun A mirage is a reflection of light that can trick the mind into interpreting a sight as an apparently solid thing. The word is also used figuratively to describe things that are illusory or unattainable. // What the shipwrecked crew thought was a ship on the horizon turned out to be a mirage. // The team's early season hopes for a first-place finish are now a mirage. See the entry > Examples: "Kozell spent the first day after the storm patching holes in...



bogus • \BOH-gus\ • adjective Bogus means "not real or genuine"—it is synonymous with fake or counterfeit. // The art dealer proved the painting to be bogus. See the entry > Examples: "Investigators said Talens … cheated manufacturers and merchants of more than $31 million by producing bogus coupons that gave customers merchandise at steep discounts—or for free." — Jonathan Edwards, The Washington Post. 18 Sept. 2021 Did you know? In the early 19th century, a "bogus" was a...



devotion • \dih-VOH-shun\ • noun Devotion means being dedicated or loyal, or expressing dedication or loyalty. // The organizer's devotion to the cause of the fundraiser was greatly admired. // The students' devotion of their time to the science project was not overlooked by their teacher. See the entry > Examples: "Restaurant loyalties run deep. Look at the scads of eateries that have drawn devotion for decades in the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, and environs." — Kathy Biehl,...



untoward • \un-TOH-erd\ • adjective Untoward means "unruly, unfavorable, or improper." // The rules specify that untoward behavior will not be tolerated. See the entry > Examples: "At 82, Judy Collins retains the crystalline tone that made her an icon of the early 1960s folk music movement, sounding so youthful … it's hard not to ask her whether she's made an untoward bargain with the devil." — Andrew Gilbert, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sept. 2021 Did you know? For...



batten • \BAT-un\ • verb Batten means "to furnish or fasten with or as if with supports." // Residents battened down their doors and windows before the storm. See the entry > Examples: "Everything was battened down and they were all set to leave the round-the-clock eatery—until they discovered there was no key to the front door. It had been that long since they'd locked it." — Bob Yesbek, The Cape Gazette (Lewes, Delaware), 7 May 2021 Did you know? Batten comes from the name...



nomenclature • \NOH-mun-klay-cher\ • noun Nomenclature is most often used for a system of names for things, especially in science. // Starting a new job or entering a new field of study means becoming familiar with the nomenclature. See the entry > Examples: "Not everything called democracy is democratic. … Both capitalism and socialism have demonstrated that democracy is not automatic with nomenclature. Some policies promote democracy; others contradict the ideal." — Eugene...



zaftig • \ZAHF-tig\ • adjective Zaftig means "having a full, rounded figure"—in other words, "pleasingly plump." // Portraits of zaftig models are exhibited in the artist's collection. See the entry > Examples: "The photography exhibition revels in depictions of Coney Island, including Lisette Model's widely-reproduced 1939-40 portrait of a zaftig woman … laughing as waves lap at her feet…." — Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 29 Aug. 2021 Did you know? Zaftig...



perpetuity • \per-puh-TOO-uh-tee\ • noun Perpetuity is a state of continuing forever or for a very long time. // The property will be passed on from generation to generation in perpetuity. See the entry > Examples: "Nearly 120 acres in Bradford County … will be free from development in perpetuity, thanks to a conservation easement acquisition by the North Florida Land Trust." — The Florida Times-Union, 18 Sept. 2021 Did you know? Continual existence—that elusive philosophical...



gossamer • \GAH-suh-mer\ • adjective Gossamer means "extremely light, delicate, or tenuous." // Except for a few gossamer clouds, the sky was clear and blue. See the entry > Examples: "The dragonfly is our state insect…. As a beautiful predator with gossamer wings…, this insect deserves far more appreciation." — Barbara Hunt, The Mat-Su Valley (Alaska) Frontiersman, 2 Aug. 2021 Did you know? In the days of Middle English, a period of mild weather in late autumn or early winter...



embellish • \im-BELL-ish\ • verb Embellish means "to make (something) more appealing or attractive with fanciful or decorative details." // As they grew older, the children realized their grandfather embellished the stories of his travels abroad. // The gift shop had cowboy shirts and hats embellished with beads and stitching. See the entry > Examples: "Well, I've always wanted to write a children's book. This is just partly based on a story I used to tell Krishna, my daughter,...



cabal • \kuh-BAHL\ • noun A cabal is a group secretly united in a plot. // Military police arrested members of the cabal who were planning to overthrow the government. See the entry > Examples: "February 14? … That's an arbitrary date picked by a cabal of florists and greeting card manufacturers. Love can happen any time of the year…." — Bruce Gravel, Peterborough (Ontario) This Week, 4 Feb. 2021 Did you know? Cabal has been associated with a group of five ministers in the...



odious • \OH-dee-us\ • adjective Odious means "causing strong hatred or dislike." // The biography is an in-depth account of one of the most odious serial killers in American history. See the entry > Examples: "There are probably few things more emotion-laden and odious as taxes. But for a society to function for the common good, they are a necessary evil." — William P. Cawley, The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 15 Sept. 2021 Did you know? Odious comes from Latin odiosus;...



extricate • \EK-struh-kayt\ • verb Extricate means "to free or remove someone or something from an entanglement or difficulty." // Firefighters extricated the passengers from the wreckage. // The wife of the accused hired an attorney to extricate herself from the allegations brought against her husband. See the entry > Examples: "The skylight has been lifted off Toland Hall to create an opening large enough to extricate the panels by crane." — Sam Whiting, The San Francisco...



restaurateur • \res-tuh-ruh-TER\ • noun A restaurateur is a person who owns or manages a restaurant. // The restaurateur has created an exquisite menu to match the elegantly renovated dining room. See the entry > Examples: "Savvy restaurateurs have been turning to milkshakes to create buzz for their brands in recent years thanks to the visual nature of maxed-out milkshakes … with their over-the-top flavors laden with indulgent toppings like churros, whole cake slices and ice cream...



amicable • \AM-ih-kuh-bul\ • adjective Amicable means "showing a polite and friendly desire to avoid disagreement and argument." // The partners maintained an amicable relationship after selling the business. See the entry > Examples: "I value the hours of amicable, nuanced conversations on complex topics with the people I have met, which always prove to be full of disagreement but also surprising amounts of agreement and understanding." — John Rochford, The Iowa State Daily...



fret • \FRET\ • verb Fret means "to become worried or concerned." // The director fretted over every detail of the show's opening night performance. See the entry > Examples: "Notre Dame had four players who needed surgery this week. … It's a troubling start that every coach frets about. — Mike Hutton, Sports Illustrated, 9 Sept. 2021 Did you know? The meat-and-potatoes meaning of fret is "to eat." The verb is used literally, as in "Moths fretted the clothing," but more often...



scion • \SYE-un\ • noun A scion is an heir or descendant of a wealthy or influential family. // As scions of the celebrity family, the siblings have options when choosing their career paths. See the entry > Examples: "Walker was the beloved, indulged scion of a wealthy East Coast family, the son of the first curator of the National Gallery and a descendant of Thomas More, the author of the 15th-century satire 'Utopia.'" — Parul Sehgal, The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2021 Did you...