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 7th, 2015
Episode 159 of 713 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 07, 2015 is: anfractuous \an-FRAK-chuh-wus\ adjective : full of windings and intricate turnings : tortuous Examples: "Dr. X almost never left the boundaries of Old Shanghai, which was part of a separate district; more to the point, he stuck to a small but anfractuous subregion." Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age, 1995 "The anfractuous remainder of the plot is a booby trap for anyone trying to explain it." James MacKillop, Syracuse (New York) New Times, November 9, 2011 Did you know? Plots and paths can be anfractuous. They twist and turn but do not break. Never mind that our English word comes from Latin anfractus (same meaning as anfractuous), which in turn comes from the Latin verb frangere, meaning "to break." (Frangere is also the source of fracture, fraction, fragment, and frail.) The prefix an- here means "around." At first, anfractuous was all about ears and the auditory canal's anfractuosity, that is, its being curved rather than straight. Now anfractuous has been around some 400 years, without a break, giving it plenty of time to wind its way into other applications; e.g., there can be an anfractuous thought process or an anfractuous shoreline.