Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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  • coax

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 29, 2023 is:

    coax • \KOHKS\  • verb

    To coax a person or animal is to influence or persuade them to do something by talking in a gentle and friendly way. Coax can also be used when someone is working to bring about something desired with great perseverance and usually with considerable effort.

    // It took almost an hour to coax the cat down from the tree.

    // Our outdoor survival instructor taught us how to coax a fire to burn by blowing on it.

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    “We glimpse their lives through the eyes of Eva (Flomaria Papadaki), a young newcomer who’s joined the dance troupe after fleeing small-town life in Poland. … Eva is more inhibited than the others, and Kalia manages to slowly coax her out of her shell, showing her the ropes of a profession offering escape for both the dancers and their drunken spectators.” — Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Aug. 2023

    Did you know?

    In days of yore, if you wanted to call someone a sap or a dupe, the word cokes was it, what you wanted, the real thing: to make a cokes of someone was to make a fool of them. This now-obsolete noun is believed to be the source of the verb coax. However, the earliest known sense of the verb, appearing in the late 16th century, was not “to make a fool of” (this meaning came later) but rather something sweeter: “to pet or caress; to treat lovingly.” As such an act of coaxing (or “cokesing”) was sometimes done for personal gain or favor, the word soon came to be used to refer to influencing or persuading people by kind acts or words. By the 19th century, the spelling cokes had fallen out of use, along with the meanings “to make a fool of” and “to treat lovingly.”

  • fervid

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 28, 2023 is:

    fervid • \FER-vid\  • adjective

    Fervid is a somewhat formal word describing people or things that express, or are expressive of, strong feelings.

    // Many of the movie franchise’s most fervid fans camped outside of theaters for days leading up to the new installment’s opening night.

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    “Unabashed pop groups with fervid teenage followings tend to get trivialized, at least in the media. They’re dismissed as being slick and calculated and superficial. But there’s a story in ‘Wham!,’ the new Netflix documentary about the quintessential pop duo of the 1980s, that testifies to what a chancy and audacious artist George Michael was even back in his teen-idol days.” — Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 8 July 2023

    Did you know?

    If you’ve ever felt as if your emotions were going to boil over, whether you were overly bubbly or, less happily, you needed to simmer down over something, you should have no trouble understanding the roots of fervid. Fervid comes from the Latin verb fervēre, meaning “to boil” or “to glow,” as well as, by extension, “to seethe” or “to be roused.” In English, this root gave us not only fervid but the similar-sounding and practically synonymous word fervent. But while fervid usually suggests warm emotion that is expressed in a spontaneous or feverish manner (as in “fervid basketball fans”), fervent is reserved for a kind of emotional warmth that is steady and sincere (as in “a fervent belief in human kindness”). Fervid fans of kimchi or sauerkraut (or fervent followers of anything fermented), may appreciate that fervēre is also the root of ferment.

  • nepotism

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 27, 2023 is:

    nepotism • \NEP-uh-tiz-um\  • noun

    Nepotism refers to favoritism based on kinship, and especially to the unfair practice of giving jobs and other favors to relatives.

    // It was strongly believed that nepotism played a role in helping Jessica get the sales manager position at her cousin's store.

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    "Venture to a certain corner of the Internet, and you’ll find an uncanny kind of social satire: that of the wishful work design. There’s the made-up meeting punctuality score, which tells you who among your invitees is most likely to show up to the brainstorm 10 minutes late. Or the fictitious LinkedIn nepotism disclosure, which adds a label to tell you which manager is actually just related to the boss." — Gabriela Riccardi, Quartz, 12 July 2023

    Did you know?

    We happen to have neither Merriams nor Websters on our staff at Merriam-Webster, and familial connections to the company’s founders do not provide an advantage to job applicants. If it were otherwise, we might be accused of nepotism—that is, favoritism based on kinship, especially in professional contexts. English speakers have kept nepotism in the family since the late 1600s, having adopted it from the French, who were inspired by Gregorio Leti's 1667 book Il nipotismo di Roma (English title: The History of the Popes' Nephews). The book explores a practice introduced by Pope Sixtus IV: during his papacy in the late 15th century he granted many special favors to members of his family, in particular to his nephews. This practice of papal favoritism was carried on by his near successors. Today, nepotism is mostly associated with business and politics. In recent informal English use, the shortened form nepo has been hitched to the denigrating term baby to refer especially to celebrities who had a parent (or two) who were also in the entertainment industry.


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