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Word Matters

Merriam-Webster, New England Public Media

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Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who's curious about the English language. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is our language.
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 19, 2024 is: sequester • \sih-KWESS-ter\ • verb To sequester a person or group is to keep them separate or apart from other people. Sequester is also often used to mean “to bind or absorb (carbon dioxide) as part of a larger chemical process or compound.” // The jury was sequestered until a verdict was reac…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 18, 2024 is: artifice • \AHR-tuh-fus\ • noun Artifice refers to dishonest or insincere behavior or speech that is meant to deceive someone. It can also be used to mean "clever or artful skill." // We found ourselves tremendously moved by his apology, which he made without artifice or pretense. See the entry…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2024 is: lucrative • \LOO-kruh-tiv\ • adjective Something described as lucrative produces money or wealth. // The author parlayed the success of her books into a lucrative second career as a public speaker. See the entry > Examples: "A vibrant commercial Off Broadway sector existed decades ago, but it s…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2024 is: debacle • \dee-BAH-kul\ • noun Debacle is usually used synonymously with fiasco to mean “a complete failure.” It can also refer to a great disaster (though typically not one that causes significant suffering or loss). // After the debacle of his first novel, he had trouble getting a publisher f…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2024 is: wane • \WAYN\ • verb To wane is to become smaller or less, or in other words, to decrease in size, extent, or degree. // The national scandal caused her popularity to wane. See the entry > Examples: “In 2023, Royal Caribbean's bookings hit an all-time high ahead of the launch of its newest ship…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 14, 2024 is: caveat • \KAV-ee-aht\ • noun A caveat is an explanation or warning that should be remembered when you are doing or thinking about something. In legal contexts, caveat refers to a notice to a court or judicial officer to suspend a proceeding until the opposition can be heard. // All investment a…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 13, 2024 is: instigate • \IN-stuh-gayt\ • verb To instigate something is to cause it to happen or begin by urging or goading others. Instigate is a synonym of provoke. // The pair was accused of instigating a plot to oust the newly elected mayor. See the entry > Examples: "The image of John, Paul, George an…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 12, 2024 is: torrid • \TOR-id\ • adjective Torrid can be used to describe something that is literally hot (such as a region near the Earth’s equator) or figuratively hot (such as a romance). // The tabloids were relentless in covering every minor detail of the celebrity couple’s torrid affair. See the entry…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 11, 2024 is: zhuzh • \ZHUZH (the U is as in PUSH)\ • verb To zhuzh something up is to improve its flavor or appearance by way of a small improvement, adjustment, or addition. // He likes to zhuzh up his outfits with brightly-colored ties. See the entry > Examples: “Ever since my sister introduced me to this…
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 10, 2024 is: bogart • \BOH-gahrt\ • verb To bogart something is to use or consume it without sharing. // Nelson advised his friends not to bogart all the snacks before the rest of the party guests arrived. See the entry > Examples: "Producers of individual shows should not be allowed to shape any content bu…
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