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.
January 23rd, 2015
Episode 85 of 718 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 23, 2015 is: anabasis \uh-NAB-uh-sis\ noun 1 : a going or marching up : advance; especially : a military advance 2 : a difficult and dangerous military retreat Examples: Reluctantly, the general ordered a hasty anabasis in the face of overwhelming opposing forces. "This German and Austro-Hungarian withdrawal from the Balkan Peninsula in the autumn of 1918 would presage a similar German anabasis." R. C. Hall, Balkan Breakthrough, 2010 Did you know? The first sense of anabasis follows logically enough from its roots. In Greek, the word originally meant "inland march"; it is derived from anabainein, meaning "to go up or inland," which is formed by combining the prefix ana- ("up") and bainein ("to go"). The second and opposite sense, however, comes from an anabasis gone wrong. In 401 B.C., Greek mercenaries fighting for Cyrus the Younger marched into the Persian Empire only to find themselves cut off hundreds of miles from home. As a result, they were forced to undertake an arduous and embattled retreat across unknown territories. Xenophon, a Greek historian who accompanied the mercenaries on the march, wrote the epic narrative Anabasis about this experience, and consequently anabasis came to mean a dramatic retreat as well as an advance.