Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



November 30th, 2014

Episode 31 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 30, 2014 is: abbreviate \uh-BREE-vee-ayt\ verb : to make briefer; especially : to reduce to a shorter form intended to stand for the whole Examples: Due to time constraints, the last speaker at the ceremony had to abbreviate her speech. "You know, originally, my team had prepared some remarks. But given the dialogue that we had the last time, I thought it was useful for me to abbreviate my remarks, speak off the cuff at the top and then spend most of the time just having a conversation." Barack Obama, quoted in CNN Transcripts, December 5, 2012 Did you know? Abbreviate and abridge both mean "to make shorter," so it probably will come as no surprise that both derive from the Latin verb brevis, meaning "short." Abbreviate first appeared in print in English in the 15th century and derives from abbreviatus, the past participle of Late Latin abbreviare, which in turn can be traced back to brevis. Abridge, which appeared a century earlier, also comes from abbreviare but took a side trip through Anglo-French before arriving in Middle English as abregen. Brevis is also the ancestor of English brief itself, as well as brevity and breviary ("a prayer book" or "a brief summary"), among others.