Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 18, 2019 is:

hobbyhorse • \HAH-bee-horss\  • noun

1 a : a figure of a horse fastened about the waist in the morris dance

b : a dancer wearing this figure

2 a : a stick having an imitation horse's head at one end that a child pretends to ride

b : rocking horse

c : a toy horse suspended by springs from a frame

3 a : a topic to which one constantly reverts

b : a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation : hobby


"Apologies for hopping back on my hobbyhorse, but the lifeblood of every program is recruiting. The first thing Tech's next coach must do is rustle up pro-style quarterbacks and tight ends because, for 11 years, Tech hasn't had one." — Mark Bradley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 Nov. 2018

"When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion,—or, in other words, when his Hobby-Horse grows headstrong,—farewell cool reason and fair discretion." — Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, 1759

Did you know?

The hobbyhorse is a toy of yesteryear, dating back to a homespun era predating automobiles. In the 1400s, the word hobby could refer to a real-life horse of small or average size. It soon came to refer to the horse costume worn by a person participating in a morris dance or a burlesque performance, and then, later, to the child's toy. Another meaning of hobbyhorse was "a favorite pursuit or pastime"; our modern noun hobby (referring to an activity that one does for pleasure when not working) was formed by shortening this word. From pastime, the meaning of hobbyhorse was extended to "a subject to which one repeatedly returns." The sense is typically encountered as part of such phrases as "get on one's hobbyhorse" or "ride one's hobbyhorse."



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 17, 2019 is:

maunder • \MAWN-der\  • verb

1 : chiefly British : grumble

2 : to wander slowly and idly

3 : to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly


The bed-and-breakfast was delightful but we felt a bit captive in the morning as our host maundered on while we hovered at the door, hoping to escape before the morning had passed.

"Listening to [Kenneth Branagh playing Hercule Poirot] feels like chatting with your neighbor over the garden hedge, and it's all too easy to be distracted by the foliage, I'm afraid, as he maunders on about knife wounds and sleeping potions and missing kimonos." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2017

Did you know?

Maunder looks a lot like meander, and that's not all the two words have in common—both mean "to wander aimlessly," either physically or in speech. Some critics have suggested that while meander can describe a person's verbal and physical rambling, in addition to the wanderings of things like paths and streams, maunder should be limited to wandering words. The problem with that reasoning is that maunder has been used of the physical movements of people since the 18th century, whereas meander didn't acquire that use until the 19th. These days, meander tends to be the more common choice, although maunder does continue to turn up in both applications.



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 16, 2019 is:

genial • \JEE-nee-ul\  • adjective

1 : favorable to growth or comfort : mild

2 : marked by or freely expressing sympathy or friendliness

3 : displaying or marked by genius


"What country seems more sensible? The even discourse, the reflexive politeness, the brilliant yet genial wit, that easy embrace of hellish cold: Canada is a rock. Canada is the neighbor who helps clean out your garage.… Canada is always so … solid." — S. L. Price, Sports Illustrated, 12 Mar. 2019

"… Sony Pictures confirmed that its upcoming Fred Rogers film will be called 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.' The announcement came by way of Twitter…, with the studio again sharing a picture of its star Tom Hanks seated on a trailer stoop in character as the genial children's programming pioneer—cardigan and all." — Nardine Saad, The Los Angeles Times, 28 December 2018

Did you know?

Genial derives from the Latin adjective genialis, meaning "connected with marriage." When genial was first adopted into English in the mid-16th century, it meant "of or relating to marriage," a sense that is now obsolete. Genialis was formed in Latin by combining the -alis suffix (meaning "of, relating to, or characterized by") with genius, meaning "a person's disposition or inclination." As you may have guessed, Latin genius is the ancestor of the English word genius, meaning "extraordinary intellectual power"—so it's logical enough that genial eventually developed a sense (possibly influenced by the German word genial) of "marked by very high intelligence."



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 15, 2019 is:

belfry • \BEL-free\  • noun

1 : a bell tower; especially : one surmounting or attached to another structure

2 : a room or framework for enclosing a bell

3 : the seat of the intellect : head


"The mission stands a little back of the town, and is a large building, or rather collection of buildings, in the centre of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells…." — Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, 1840

"In 1963, a stone steeple over the belfry was removed after settling of the foundation compromised its integrity." — Stephen Mills, The Times Argus (Barre-Montpelier, Vermont), 12 July 2019

Did you know?

Surprisingly, belfry does not come from bell, and early belfries did not contain bells at all. Belfry comes from the Middle English berfrey, a term for a wooden tower used in medieval sieges. The structure could be rolled up to a fortification wall so that warriors hidden inside could storm the battlements. Over time, the term was applied to other types of shelters and towers, many of which had bells in them. This association of berfrey with bell towers, seems to have influenced the dissimilation of the first r in berfrey to an l, and people began representing this pronunciation in writing with variants such as bellfray, belfrey, and belfry (the last of which has become the standard spelling). On a metaphorical note, someone who has "bats in the belfry" is insane or eccentric. This phrase is responsible for the use of bats for "insane" (as in "Are you completely bats?") and the occasional use of belfry for "head" ("He's not quite right in the belfry").



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 14, 2019 is:

exoteric • \ek-suh-TAIR-ik\  • adjective

1 a : suitable to be imparted to the public

b : belonging to the outer or less initiate circle

2 : relating to the outside : external


As a specialist writing for a broader audience, Annette faces the challenge of producing an exoteric synthesis of complex information.

"Mainstream Judaism is primarily an exoteric, or outwardly oriented, religion, with a focus on reason, philosophy and ethics. Yet it has always had an esoteric side, expressed in the kabbalah and other mystical teachings." — Rodger Kamenetz, The San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Dec. 1990

Did you know?

Exoteric derives from Latin exotericus, which is itself from Greek exōterikos, meaning "external," and ultimately from exō, meaning "outside." Exō has a number of offspring in English, including exotic, exonerate, exorbitant, and the combining form exo- or ex- (as in exoskeleton and exobiology). The antonym of exoteric is esoteric, meaning "designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone"; it descends from the Greek word for "within," esō.



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 13, 2019 is:

triskaidekaphobia • \triss-kye-dek-uh-FOH-bee-uh\  • noun

: fear of the number 13


"We've gathered a list of 13 local theater productions to help you get into that eerie Halloween feeling. Just don't let triskaidekaphobia—fear of the number 13—stop you from seeing one of these theater productions opening across the state this month." — Whitney Butters Wilde, The Deseret News, 1 Oct. 2018

"If you've got triskaidekaphobia, this event is not for you.... On Friday, April 13, some fans of the horror movie 'Friday the 13th' will get a chance to stay overnight at the New Jersey camp where the original film in the slasher series was shot." — Amy Lieu, The New York Post, 21 Feb. 2018

Did you know?

It's impossible to say just how or when the number thirteen got its bad reputation. There are a number of theories, of course. Some say it comes from the Last Supper because Jesus was betrayed afterwards by one among the thirteen present. Others trace the source of the superstition back to ancient Hindu beliefs or Norse mythology. But if written references are any indication, the phenomenon isn't all that old (at least, not among English speakers). Known mention of fear of thirteen in print dates back only to the late 1800s. By circa 1911, however, it was prevalent enough to merit a name, which was formed by attaching the Greek word for "thirteen"—treiskaideka (dropping that first "e")—to phobia ("fear of").



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 12, 2019 is:

wheedle • \WEE-dul\  • verb

1 : to influence or entice by soft words or flattery

2 : to gain or get by coaxing or flattering

3 : to use soft words or flattery


Suzie and Timmy wheedled the babysitter into letting them stay up an hour past their bedtime.

"As we were saying, if you've noticed an increase recently in robocalls—those automated calls to your cellphone or landline with come-ons to lower your credit card debt or ploys to wheedle your Social Security number and other information from you—you're hardly alone." — editorial, The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington), 2 July 2019

Did you know?

Wheedle has been a part of the English lexicon since the mid-17th century, though no one is quite sure how the word made its way into English. (It has been suggested that the term may have derived from an Old English word that meant "to beg," but this is far from certain.) Once established in the language, however, wheedle became a favorite of some of the language's most illustrious writers. Wheedle and its related forms appear in the writings of Wordsworth, Dickens, Kipling, Dryden, Swift, Scott, Tennyson, and Pope, among others.

idée fixe

https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/idée fixe-2019-10-11

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 11, 2019 is:

idée fixe • \ee-day-FEEKS\  • noun

: an idea that dominates one's mind especially for a prolonged period : obsession


"When Byrne arrived, he noticed the trees stood close together—far too narrow a space for something with broad shoulders and big feet to make a clean egress. And there, between three and five feet off the ground, snagged in the bark, he spotted the tuft of hair and piece of skin he hoped would bring him one step closer to his idée fixe, the sasquatch itself, a towering hominid of North American lore." — Reis Thebault, The Washington Post, 6 June 2019

"Though it takes a shocking turn toward the horrific, [Flannery O'Connor's] 'Wise Blood' is in fact a comedy of aberrant humors, in which every character is driven by a compulsive idée fixe." — David Ansen, Newsweek, 17 Mar. 1980

Did you know?

The term idée fixe is a 19th-century French coinage. French writer Honoré de Balzac used it in his 1830 novella Gobseck to describe an obsessive idea. By 1836, Balzac's more generalized use of the term had carried over into English, where idée fixe was embraced as a clinical and literary term for a persistent preoccupation or delusional idea that dominates a person's mind. Although it is still used in both psychology and music, nowadays idée fixe is also applied to milder and more pedestrian obsessions.



Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 10, 2019 is:

blandish • \BLAN-dish\  • verb

1 : to coax with flattery : cajole

2 : to act or speak in a flattering or coaxing manner


"… and all that was left of Pym, it seemed to me, as I wove my lies and blandished, and perjured myself before one kangaroo court after another, was a failing con man tottering on the last legs of his credibility." — John Le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986

"What happened, and what few expected, was the birth of open-access journals that will take just about any paper, for a fee.... They send blandishing emails to scientists, inviting them to publish with them." — Gina Kolata, The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2017

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 October 9, 2019 is:

scapegoat • \SKAYP-goat\  • noun

1 : a male goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur

2 a : one that bears the blame for others

b : one that is the object of irrational hostility


The financial advisor was a convenient scapegoat for some of the ill-fated business ventures that the company had undertaken over the years.

"The French framed [Mata Hari] for espionage, making her the scapegoat for their losses on the Western Front, but it's also clear that some of her inquisitors really believed she was guilty…." — Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Aug. 2019

Did you know?

On Yom Kippur, the ancient Hebrews would sacrifice one goat for the Lord and lead another one into the wilderness bearing the sins of the people. The ceremony is described in Leviticus, where it is said that one lot shall be cast for the Lord and one for "Azazel." Modern scholars usually interpret Azazel as being the name of a demon living in the desert, but ancient biblical translators thought Azazel referred to the goat itself, apparently confusing it with the Hebrew phrase ez ozel, meaning "goat that departs." The mistranslation was carried through Greek and Latin into a 16th-century English translation, where the word for the goat was rendered as scapegoote; that is, "goat that escapes." The extended senses of scapegoat we use today evolved from this biblical use.