Word of the Day

Word of the Day


The huge Amazon Alexa hit Word of the Day is now available as a podcast!

Word of the Day teaches you a useful word, its definition, etymology, and gives you examples of how to use it in a sentence. A new word each and every day! Perfect for those looking to expand their vocabulary, learning English and looking for a boost and anyone who loves words.

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1909 episodes


Acrophobia is a noun that refers to a fear of heights.  The Greek word akron (AK ron) means ‘summit,’ while the Greek suffix P-H-O-B-I-A means fear. Since the late 19th century people terrified of high places have used our word of the day to describe their condition. Here’s an example: Tammy has such gripping acrophobia that she won’t date a man over six feet tall. She’s afraid that just reaching up to give him a kiss will make her dizzy. 

Feb 25

Mendicant is a noun that refers to a beggar.  The Latin verb mendicare (med duh CAR ay) refers to a ‘beggar.’ Our word of the day entered English in the Late Middle English period. Here’s an example of it in use: Jeff spent many years on the street as a mendicant. Being a beggar has a way of putting your success into perspective. 

Feb 24

Jeremiad is a noun that refers to a list of complaints.  Our word of the day has its origin in the Biblical figure Jeremiah, whose lamentations were featured in the Old Testament. Since the late 18th century, a jeremiad has been known as a series of criticisms. Here’s an example of it in use: After several years of living with Cheryl, I’ve gathered a jeremiad I’ve been wanting to share with her. I only hope her list of complaints about me isn’t longer than mine. 

Feb 23

Jardiniere is a noun that refers to an ornamental pot or stand for plants for flowers.  Our word of the day is a loan word that comes directly from the French word for ‘gardener.’ It’s been used since the mid-19th century to describe places to display plants or flowers. Here’s an example: When I first saw that jardiniere, I assumed it was from someplace exotic like the Far East. It turned out to be just a pot from Cleveland. I wish I had known that before I paid two hundred dollars for it.

Feb 22

Schlep is a verb that means to haul or carry in an awkward way.  Our word of the day comes from the Yiddish word ‘shepn’ (SHLEP - in.) which means ‘to drag.’ Its English offspring has been around since the early 20th century. Here’s an example: Next year when we go on vacation, I think I’ll leave my computer at home. It’s too much trouble to schlep that thing all the way to Florida. 

Feb 21

Jactitation is a noun that refers to the restless tossing of a body.  The Latin word jactare (jock TAR ay) means ’to toss.’ Its English variation has been around since the 16th century, getting most of its use in a medical context. Here’s an example: All that jactitation I heard on the other side of the bed had me worried about my wife’s health. But it turned out all that tossing and turning didn’t come from her. It was just our Golden Retriever, Rex joining us in the middle of the night. 

Feb 20

Jacquerie is a noun that refers to a peasant’s revolt.  Our word of the day comes from the French name ‘Jacques’ (zhock) which was a common name among the poor and working class. The term was first used to describe a revolt that took place against the ruling class in the 14th century. It later came to refer to any sort of revolt or protest. Here’s an example: If conditions at the office don’t get better, well have to stage a jacquerie. I don’t usually like such radical actions, but there’s only so much I can take of not having diet soft drinks available in the vending machine. 

Feb 19

Presentism is an attitude toward the past dominated by present-day beliefs.  A recent addition to the English language, presentism emerged in the late 20th century to describe a tendency to view the past through the lens of current conventions. It combines the word ‘present,’ a word of Middle English origin with the suffix I-S-M, which denotes a distinctive practice or philosophy. Here’s an example of presentism in use:- All the presentism in history class made it difficult to truly understand things from the point of view of ancient civilizations. I wish we could have just ditched our current way of viewing things. 

Feb 17

Endarken is a verb that means to make dark or darker.  You can think of the word endarken as a counterpoint to ‘enlighten.’ Both take words of Old English origin and add the prefix E-N which expresses entry into a specified state or location. Here’s an example of endarken in use: Every time we start talking about camping our friend Sam seems to endarken the conversation by talking about all the dangerous creatures lurking in the woods. That guy has a way of making almost any conversation needlessly dark. 

Feb 16

Forgettery is a noun that refers to the tendency to forget.  Our word of the day is a neologism, meaning it’s a recent addition to the English language. Forgettery combines a word of Old English origin that means ‘fail to remember’ with the suffix E-R-Y which denotes a behavior. We see this also in words like bravery, tomfoolery and archery. Forgettery isn’t usually used in formal contexts. Here’s an example of where it is best used: I come from a long line of people skilled in the art of forgettery. We even have our own Facebook that celebrates our inability to remember stuff. The only problem is nobody can recall the group’s password. 

Feb 15

Scroyle is a noun that refers to a scoundrel or a mean fellow.  Our word of the day’s origin is unknown, but we know it’s not a word you’d ever want to be called. It’s a synonym of such unfriendly words as rascal, charlatan and reprobate. Here’s an example: I’ve been called a scroyle for this, but I really don’t like people making too much noise near my house. Come to think of it, I’m not crazy about birds making noise near my house either.

Feb 14

Contiguous is an adjective that means sharing next or together in sequence.  The Latin word contiguus (con TEE goose) means ‘touching.’ Our word of the day is derived from this adjective and has been around the English language since the early 16th century. Here’s an example of its use The contiguous businesses had a difficult time getting along. Maybe there was something about two touching buildings that made them too close for comfort. 

Feb 13

Bioluminescence is a noun that refers to the ability to naturally glow.  Our word of the day comes from two Latin words, ‘bio’ (BEE oh), meaning ‘life,’ and ‘lumin,’ (LOO men) which means ‘light.’ Its descendent, bioluminescence has been around since the early 20th century describing a wide array of glowing creatures. Here’s an example: Bugs that can glow in the dark have often creeped me out, but when I get lost in the woods, I’m happy to have them around. Without the bioluminescence of my tiny friends, I might get lost in the dark. 

Feb 12

Echolocation is a noun that refers to the location of objects by reflected sound.  Our word of the day combines two words of Greek origin. Echo, which refers to the reflection of sound that occurs when sound bounces off a surface, and location, which means ‘place.’ Animals like bats that possess the ability to locate things without seeing, are skilled at echolocation. Here’s an example of its use: Learning about bats at school was both fascinating and disappointing. It was fascinating to learn about the echolocation that these animals do because of their limited vision. But it was disappointing to not learn anything about Batman.

Feb 11

Legerdemain is a noun that refers to sleight of hand.  The French phrase ‘legerete de main’ (lay ZHEY ray de mahn) translates to ‘lightness of hand.’ It’s a synonym for ‘dextrous’ and it’s often used to describe magicians or others skilled with hand trickery. Our word of the day comes directly from this term. Example: Mike’s legerdemain would have made him a great illusionist. But unfortunately, he chose a different career path. Somehow I don’t think his chosen profession of pickpocket is nearly as appreciated by people. 

Feb 10

Intendiment is a noun that refers to consideration or attention.  Our word of the day shares its Latin roots with words like ‘intention’ and ‘intend.’ Intendiment, however, is a synonym for words like ‘attention.’ Here’s an example: When the TV commercial announced a buy one, get one free sale, they had my intendiment right away. But when I saw they were selling private jets, they lost me. 

Feb 09

Abulia is a noun that refers to an absence of willpower.  The Greek word boule (boo LEE) means ‘the will.’ By adding an ‘A’ to our word of the day, we get a word that means ‘without will.’ Abulia has been with us since the mid 19th century. Here’s an example of it in use: Last night there was no time for abulia. I know we were hungry, but to me, when a restaurant refuses to give us free fortune cookies, that’s when it’s time to choose another restaurant. 

Feb 08

Syncope is a noun that refers to the temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure.  Our word of the day comes almost directly from a Greek word that means ‘strike’ or ‘cut off.’ By the Late Middle English period, syncope had been adopted into English. Here’s an example: Having a significant drop in blood pressure may not seem like a huge problem. But frankly, it would terrify me to experience the syncope that often comes with it. I can’t imagine anything scarier than losing consciousness. 

Feb 07

Sternutation is a noun that refers to the act of sneezing.  The Latin word ‘sternuere’ (stern you AIR ay) means ‘to sneeze.’ After a few modifications, this word moved into the English language in the Late Middle English period. Here’s an example of sternutation in use. After my eye surgery, the doctor told me to avoid sternutation if possible for a few days. As you can imagine, it was quite a challenge. I mean, how do you avoid something as natural and inescapable as a sneeze?

Feb 06

Villatic is an adjective that means rural.  The Latin word villa (WILL uh) has given birth to English words ‘village’ and our word of the day villatic. It’s been around since the late 16th century. Here’s an example of it in use: The villatic surroundings of my uncle’s home were a little unusual for me. But after about three months, living in a small town began to feel perfectly normal. 

Feb 05

Ballyrag is a verb that means to intimidate by bullying.  The origin of our word of the day is unclear, but you can think of it as a synonym for words like ‘berate,’ ‘scold,’ and, of course, ‘bully.’ Here’s an example: I tried to ballyrag everybody in the office into allowing me to listen to non-stop polka music. It didn’t work out so well. I guess there are some things people just can’t get bullied into.

Feb 04

Eclat is a noun that refers to a brilliant display or effect.  Our word of the day comes almost directly from the French word for ‘burst out.’ Since the late 17th century, it’s been used as a noun to refer to anything that bursts out in a prominent or audacious way. Here’s an example of it in use: Say what you will about George, but he sure has eclat. When he showed up for work in a sequined tuxedo, he caught everybody’s eye immediately. 

Feb 03

Misbegotten is an adjective that means badly conceived or planned.  The Middle English word ‘beget’ means ‘to produce offspring.’ Our word of the day originally referred to people who were born out of wedlock. But more recently, it refers to ideas or things that weren’t planned well. For example: My plans to have an office party were horribly misbegotten. Not only did I not properly plan the entertainment, but I didn’t realize that a pool party in December wouldn’t make much sense in Minnesota. 

Feb 02

Obnubilate is a verb that means to darken or obscure.  The Latin word obnubilare (ob new be LAR ay) means ‘to hide’ or ‘to obscure.’ Since the late 16th century our word of the day has been carrying out the same function in English. Example: People thought the scarf I was wearing was an attempt to be fashionable. But in truth, I was just hoping to obnubilate that coffee stain on my shirt. You’d be surprised how much of my clothing choices are really just attempts to mask my clumsiness.

Feb 01

Zhuz is a verb that means to make something more lively.  Our word of the day has been around since the 1960s, but nobody knows for certain where it came from. Here’s an example of it in use: I was hoping my ten-gallon hat would zhuzh up my swimming trunks. But it just made me look like a really confused cowboy. 

Jan 31

Operose is an adjective that means displaying much effort.  The Latin word opus (OH poose) means ‘work,’ since the mid-18th century, our word of the day has been used to describe someone hard at work. Here’s an example of operose in use: Kevin could be pretty operose at the factory, but personally, I never felt he showed much industry when it mattered most — at the company’s annual softball tournament. 

Jan 30

Buccula is a noun that refers to a fold of flesh known as a double chin.  Our word of the day comes directly from the Latin word for ‘little cheek.’ For centuries it’s been used to describe an extra fold of skin under someone’s face. Here’s an example: I could tell I had gained a little weight when I looked up to see I had a double chin. Some people may find buccula attractive, but it’s never been a look I’ve cultivated.

Jan 29

Figmental is an adjective that means imaginary.  The Latin word fignare (feeg NARE ay) means ’to form’ or ‘contrive.’ By the late Middle English period, the word ‘figment’ came to mean something formed through our imagination. Our word of the day is the adjective form of the word. Here’s an example of it in use: As a kid, I had a number of figmental conversations with people who weren’t actually there. I understood they were imaginary, but I was just having too much fun to let reality get in my way. 

Jan 28

Brachiate is a verb that means to swing from branches like a monkey.  Our word of the day comes from the Latin word brachium (BRA key oom) meaning ‘arm.’ Since the mid-18th century, its variant, brachiate has been used to describe anyone — or anything — using their arms to swing through branches. I never understood most of the exercises we did in gym class. For example, why did they have us brachiate through the monkey bars? Unless we were training for a spot in the local zoo, it seemed pretty pointless.

Jan 27

Corniche is a noun that refers to a road running along the coast.  Our word of the day comes directly from French. Since the mid 19th century it’s been used to describe a road along the edge of a cliff or the coast. Here’s an example: Taking the corniche to San Francisco may be a little more time-consuming, but the view makes it worth it. Whoever decided to put a road along the coast gets my vote for the state Governor. 

Jan 26