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







gamut • \GAM-ut\ • noun 1 : the whole series of recognized musical notes 2 : an entire range or series Examples: "Possibly the most interesting man-made structural material is reinforced concrete…. It is economical, available almost everywhere, fire-resistant, and can be designed to be light-weight to reduce the dead load or to have a whole gamut of strengths to satisfy structural needs." — Mario Salvadori, Why Buildings Stand Up, 1990 "[Beverly] Long, whose previous novels run a...



assail • \uh-SAIL\ • verb 1 : to attack violently : assault 2 : to encounter, undertake, or confront energetically 3 : to oppose, challenge, or criticize harshly and forcefully 4 a : to trouble or afflict in a manner that threatens to overwhelm b : to be perceived by (a person, a person's senses, etc.) in a strongly noticeable and usually unpleasant way Examples: Most worthwhile achievements require that one persevere even when assailed by doubts. "What does it even mean to be...



empirical • \im-PEER-uh-kul\ • adjective 1 : originating in or based on observation or experience 2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory 3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment 4 : of or relating to empiricism Examples: "'We have really good empirical research dating back to the 1980s demonstrating that kids who are restricted around treat foods often just want to eat them more,' said Charlotte...



longueur • \lawn-GUR\ • noun : a dull and tedious passage or section (as of a book, play, or musical composition) — usually used in plural Examples: The otherwise crisp pacing of the movie is marred by some unnecessary longueurs that do little to advance the main story. "Small, clever musicals are fragile things, though, and I don't want to oversell this one in praising it. 'Scotland, PA' still needs to cure a few structural hiccups (the first act seems to end twice) and to address...



homonymous • \hoh-MAH-nuh-mus\ • adjective 1 : ambiguous 2 : having the same designation 3 : of, relating to, or being homonyms Examples: "The Chelyabinsk meteorite became a media celebrity after the videos of its explosion in mid-air, occurring in February 2013 near the homonymous city, went viral on social networks." — Luca Maltagliati, Nature, 17 Feb. 2017 "Like the bird homonymous with his name, 'Cro' operates like he's under the cover of night. Though Cromartie's numerically...



instigate • \IN-stuh-gayt\ • verb : to goad or urge forward : provoke Examples: "The big thing about effective advertising is that it uses data effectively to instigate behavior." — Nicole Ortiz, Adweek, 14 Apr. 2020 "In his usual genuine and silly fashion, [Chris] Martin sincerely explained his intent for making the live video and instigating a new series of live Instagram performances. 'What would be nice would be to check in with some of you out there and see how you're doing…....



xeriscape • \ZEER-uh-skayp\ • noun : a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (such as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation) Examples: After the severe drought led to local water restrictions, some residents began to look into xeriscape for more easily maintainable yards. "This perennial has evergreen leaves from 2­-3 feet in length while the flower stalks can rise up to 5 feet...



shaggy-dog • \shag-ee-DAWG\ • adjective : of, relating to, or being a long-drawn-out circumstantial story concerning an inconsequential happening that impresses the teller as humorous or interesting but the hearer as boring and pointless; also : of, relating to, or being a similar humorous story whose humor lies in the pointlessness or irrelevance of the plot or punch line Examples: "Like most of Irving's other books, 'Owen Meany' is kind of a shaggy-dog story. It wanders all over...



preen • \PREEN\ • verb 1 of a bird : to groom with the bill especially by rearranging the barbs and barbules of the feathers and by distributing oil from the uropygial gland 2 : to dress or smooth (oneself) up : primp 3 : to pride or congratulate (oneself) on an achievement 4 : to make oneself sleek 5 : to behave or speak with obvious pride or self-satisfaction Examples: "Adding a water source to your yard also will attract birds, providing not only drinking water for them but a...



cowcatcher • \KOW-ketch-er\ • noun : an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track Examples: For his entry in the town parade, John outfitted his black truck with a cowcatcher and smoke stack to resemble a 19th-century locomotive. "Not in this show, unfortunately, is the amazing 'Galloping Goose,' which Springer photographed. Until the early 1950s its modified truck-boxcar mashup—with a cowcatcher in front—lumbered from Ridgway to...



neoteric • \nee-uh-TAIR-ik\ • adjective : recent in origin : modern Examples: "From the runways of Paris to the boutiques of New York to the time-sucking scroll of my social media-feeds, it seemed as if every few weeks I encountered some neoteric innovation that made me smirk or scratch my head, sometimes simultaneously." — Jacob Gallagher, The Wall Street Journal, 30 Dec. 2019 "The projects I have designed mirror the correlation between past and present, always celebrating the old...



disabuse • \diss-uh-BYOOZ\ • verb : to free from error, misconception, or fallacy Examples: "While it's difficult to predict how the practice of hiring will evolve over time, one thing is clear: it is extremely difficult to disabuse people of their biases, especially when those biases become cultural norms." — Mark Travers, Forbes, 22 Mar. 2020 "[Anton] Chekhov has a way of disabusing us of our specialness, of making us realize that our problems are, in fact, just like everyone...



exiguous • \ig-ZIG-yuh-wus\ • adjective : excessively scanty : inadequate Examples: New computer equipment would be prohibitively expensive, given the rural school's exiguous resources. "[Adam] Smith's death was the subject of rather little interest, in England and even in Scotland. The published obituaries were exiguous…." — Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments, 2001 Did you know? Exiguous is so expansive sounding that you might expect it to mean "extensive" instead of...



malapropism • \MAL-uh-prah-piz-um\ • noun : the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context Examples: "A malapropism is using the wrong word, but one that sounds similar to the right word—like saying that medieval cathedrals are supported by flying buttocks. A good malapropism can throw you off, so that you scrape your head trying to figure out...



bodacious • \boh-DAY-shuss\ • adjective 1 Southern & Midland : outright, unmistakable 2 : remarkable, noteworthy 3 : sexy, voluptuous Examples: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made a bodacious name for himself on several fronts. The California lawmaker has now set an all-time annual fundraising record for any Republican…." — Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times, 29 Jan. 2020 "The other period elements, as always, remain intact: jousting on horseback, outrageous cockney...



stymie • \STYE-mee\ • verb : to present an obstacle to : stand in the way of Examples: "Ventura County supervisors are reviving an effort to build a bicycle path for commuting and recreation in a railroad corridor that parallels Highway 126, a project that's been stymied in the past by agricultural interests who say it could jeopardize their crops." — Kathleen Wilson, The Ventura County (California) Star, 23 Mar. 2020 "A bout with polio when she was 18 months old has left her...



refulgence • \rih-FULL-junss\ • noun : a radiant or resplendent quality or state : brilliance Examples: "Looking back, … I am inclined to date the burgeoning refulgence of our love to something more like the calendar equivalent of April." — Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22, 2010 "In reality, Poinsettia's bracts, like holly's berries, only said 'blood' to the very devout. Most people saw in their scarlet a warmth, cheeriness and opulence that made it the season's special hue…. In the...



pelagic • \puh-LAJ-ik\ • adjective : of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea : oceanic Examples: "Smith counted 10 rock pigeons and another red-breasted merganser, along with a thin-billed pelagic cormorant and three Brandt's cormorant." — Paul Rowley, The Vashon-Maury Island (Washington) Beachcomber, 14 Jan. 2020 "Bait fish schools usually long gone at this juncture are still fairly thick in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and out in the Gulf as well. Most of the...



flotsam • \FLAHT-sum\ • noun 1 : floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly : floating debris 2 a : a floating population (as of emigrants or castaways) b : miscellaneous or unimportant material c : debris, remains Examples: The young couple's apartment was adorned with the flotsam and jetsam of thrift stores and yard sales. "The set is one room—but what a room, stuffed with the furniture, flotsam and jetsam of a half-century. And it's not like the stage crew could go out...



aggrandize • \uh-GRAN-dyze\ • verb 1 : to make great or greater : increase, enlarge 2 : to make appear great or greater : praise highly 3 : to enhance the power, wealth, position, or reputation of Examples: "I read [Ball Four by Jim Bouton] when I was 14, and, although I've never gone back to re-read or study it, it changed my view of the so-called heroes that played and play sports at a high level. They were and are great at what they do…. But they are only human, with remarkable...