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.



April 20th, 2015

Episode 172 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 20, 2015 is: ailurophile \eye-LOOR-uh-fyle\ noun : a cat fancier : a lover of cats Examples: Ailurophiles, young and old, are sure to love the art museum's new exhibit featuring paintings and photographs of felines, ranging from tabbies to man-eaters. "Yes, it's book one of a series. And yes, the primary villain is a cat, whereas I'm an unashamed ailurophile. But none of that mattered when I closed the back coverI just wanted more, more, more." Katie Ward Beim-Esche, Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 2014 Did you know? Although the word ailurophile has only been documented in English since the early 1900s, ailurophiles have been around for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians were perhaps history's greatest cat lovers, pampering and adorning felines, honoring them in art, even treating them as gods. But the English word ailurophile does not descend from Egyptian; rather, it comes from a combination of the Greek word ailouros, which means "cat," and the suffix -phile, meaning "lover." If Egyptian cat-loving sentiments leave you cold and you're more sympathetic to medieval Europeans who regarded cats as wicked agents of evil, you might prefer the word ailurophobe (from ailouros plus -phobe, meaning "fearing or averse to"). That's a fancy name for someone who hates or fears cats.

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