Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 24, 2024 is:

    clandestine • \klan-DESS-tun\  • adjective

    Clandestine describes something done secretly, or in a private place or way.

    // The wedding was a clandestine affair in Las Vegas.

    See the entry >

    Examples:

    "On the surface, it uses the traditional tropes of the spy movie—a secret intelligence network, cryptic codenames, clandestine meetings in public places—but Ghost Trail isn’t exactly thrilling, certainly not in the manner of a John le Carré novel." — Damon Wise, Deadline, 15 May 2024

    Did you know?

    Psst!—if your first instinct, upon being asked what you’ve been up to, is to clam up, your querier may suspect you’ve been involved in some clandestine activities. Clandestine often substitutes for secret and covert, and it is commonly applied to actions that involve secrecy maintained for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose, as in "clandestine activities pursued under cover of night." It comes to English by way of Middle French, from the Latin word clandestinus, which is itself from the Latin adverb clam, meaning "secretly." Note that this clam is not the ancestor of the English word clam, despite how tightly sealed and thus secretive the bivalves may seem.



  • polemic

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 23, 2024 is:

    polemic • \puh-LEM-ik\  • noun

    A polemic is a strong written or spoken attack against someone else’s opinions, beliefs, practices, etc.

    // Her book is a fierce polemic against societal inequalities.

    See the entry >

    Examples:

    “That winter of 1774-1775 could be considered the nadir of the entire American patriot movement. After the closing of the First Continental Congress, North Americans ‘turned upon one another as never before.’ The colonists had never had a single view of Britain or how to respond to the measures it was trying to impose on the American colonies. … Strong polemics against further resistance to the British government spouted from printing presses across the colonies.” — Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, The Age of Revolutions, 2024

    Did you know?

    Diatribe, jeremiad, philippic … the English language sure has a lot of formal words for the things we say or write when we are—to use a decidedly less formal term—big mad. We will refrain from going on a tirade about it, however, especially since it’s good to have options with subtle differences in tone and meaning. Polemic, which traces back ultimately to the Greek word for war, polemos, is the word you want to refer specifically to an aggressive attack on someone’s ideas or principles. Someone who is cheesed off because they don’t like cheese, for example, wouldn’t write a polemic about it. A turophile upset about the gustatory philosophy behind their local cheesemonger’s recent offerings just might.



  • supersede

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 22, 2024 is:

    supersede • \soo-per-SEED\  • verb

    Supersede is a verb meaning "to take the place of (someone or something that is considered old, inferior, or no longer useful)." It is used synonymously with replace and displace.

    // This edition of the manual supersedes the previous one.

    See the entry >

    Examples:

    "The passive-aggressive signals to wind our gatherings down were replaced by point-blank requests to make less noise, have less fun, do our living somewhere else, even though these rooms belonged to us, too. … In those moments, I felt hot with shame and anger, yet unable to articulate why. It took me years to understand that, in demanding my friends and I quiet down, these students were implying that their comfort superseded our joy." — Xochitl Gonzalez, The Atlantic, 1 Aug. 2022

    Did you know?

    Language is constantly evolving, with old spellings and meanings superseded by new ones over time. Naturally, supersede itself has its share of predecessors. Supersede ultimately comes from the Latin verb supersedēre, meaning "to sit on top of" (sedēre means "to sit"), "to be superior to," or "to refrain from," but it came to English through Scots Middle English, where it was rendered superceden and used synonymously with defer. Modern English speakers are often confused about how to spell supersede—it sometimes turns up as supercede. In fact, some of the earliest records of the word in English show it spelled with a c. Though both spellings can be etymologically justified, over time supersede won out as the "correct" version.



 

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