Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 18, 2024 is:

    brainiac • \BRAY-nee-ak\  • noun

    A brainiac is a very intelligent person.

    // Her ability to solve almost any puzzle within minutes secured her place as the brainiac of the family.

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    Examples:

    "In this modern, adult-oriented take on the classic 'Scooby-Doo' franchise, the series follows the origin story of Velma Dinkley (Kaling), the brainiac of the Mystery Inc. gang. After a corpse is found in her high school, Velma teams up with Daphne (Constance Wu), Shaggy (Sam Richardson) and Fred (Glenn Howerton) to solve the murder." — Michaela Zee, Variety, 21 Dec. 2022

    Did you know?

    As Superman fans know, Brainiac was the superintelligent villain in the Action Comics series and its spin-offs. His name is a portmanteau of brain and maniac. You don't need x-ray vision to see the connection here—etymologists think Superman's brainy adversary is the likely inspiration for the common noun brainiac. The term was not coined right away though. The comic-book series was launched in 1938 and the character Brainiac debuted in 1958, but current evidence doesn't show general use of brainiac to refer to a superintelligent person until the 1970s.



  • apocryphal

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 17, 2024 is:

    apocryphal • \uh-PAH-kruh-ful\  • adjective

    Something described as apocryphal is of doubtful authenticity; the term is often applied to stories or legends that are often repeated but likely not true. Apocryphal can also describe something resembling or relating to the Apocrypha, the ancient Jewish books that are not part of the Hebrew Bible but are considered canonical in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. In the biblical use, the word is often capitalized.

    // The legend of how the song was fully composed while the singer was in a deep fever state is probably apocryphal.

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    Examples:

    "There is a likely apocryphal story about how Michelangelo, upon getting criticism about David's nose being too big, climbed a ladder and pretended to chisel it." — Rita Bullwinkel, The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2024

    Did you know?

    In biblical study, Apocrypha refers to books outside an accepted canon of scripture. In modern use, the term refers specifically to a group of ancient Jewish books that are not part of the Hebrew Bible but are considered canonical in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches; Protestant churches follow Jewish tradition in considering these books noncanonical. Both apocrypha and apocryphal come, via Latin, from the Greek word apokrýptein, meaning "to hide (from), keep hidden (from)," which in turn comes from krýptein, "to conceal, hide." Both words entered English in the 16th century with their nonbiblical meanings, apocrypha referring to writings or statements of dubious authenticity, and apocryphal describing such things. Apocryphal is now the more common word. It most often describes an oft-repeated tale that is almost certainly not true.



  • paradigm

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 16, 2024 is:

    paradigm • \PAIR-uh-dyme\  • noun

    Paradigm is a formal word that refers to a pattern or example, and especially to an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype. It can also refer to a theory or group of ideas about how something should be done, made, or thought about.

    // Her latest book provides us with a new paradigm for modern biography.

    // Several speakers at the conference focused their presentations on challenging what has been a dominant educational paradigm.

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    Examples:

    “In a music paradigm that’s increasingly focused on individual tracks, artists still have a chance to make a bigger statement about the world, and themselves, through larger collections that can explore a variety of styles and emotions.” — Tom Roland, Billboard, 23 Jan. 2024

    Did you know?

    Paradigm comes from the Greek verb paradeiknynai, meaning “to show side by side.” It has been used in English to mean “example” or “pattern” since the 15th century. There is debate, however, about what kind of example qualifies as a paradigm. Some people say it’s a typical example, while others insist it must be an outstanding or perfect example. The scientific community has added to the confusion by using paradigm to mean “a theoretical framework,” a sense popularized by American scientist Thomas S. Kuhn in the second edition of his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in 1970. Some usage commentators now advise avoiding the term entirely on the grounds that it is overused, but we contend that it can sometimes make a useful, conversation-enriching replacement for idea, theory, or concept, as in “an article about sandwiches that shifts the paradigm by including hot dogs.”



 

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