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.



September 29th, 2015

Episode 334 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 29, 2015 is: askew \uh-SKYOO\ adverb or adjective : out of line : awry Examples: He said he was fine but he looked as if he'd been in a fight: his hair and clothes were disheveled and his glasses were askew on the bridge of his nose. "Even so, the impact of the collision damaged the interior wall of the building and sent post office boxes askew." Jon Johnson, The Eastern Arizona Courier (Safford, Arizona), 17 Aug. 2015 Did you know? It's believed that askew was formed simply by attaching the prefix a- (meaning, among other things, "in (such) a state or condition") to skew. The word skew, which derives via Middle English from Anglo-French eschiver, meaning "to escape or avoid," can be a verb, adjective, or noun. But at the time of the first appearance of askew in English, in the middle of the 16th century, skew had only been established as a verb meaning "to take an oblique course or direction." At least one etymologist has suggested that askew might have been influenced by an Old Norse phrase, and that the same phrase might have also given us askance. In the past, askew was used synonymously with askance, as in "She looked at me askew after my ill-timed joke."