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 8th, 2016
Episode 498 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 8, 2016 is: batten \BAT-un\ verb 1 a : to grow or make fat b : to feed gluttonously 2 : to grow prosperous especially at the expense of another — usually used with on Examples: There have always been unscrupulous individuals who batten on the misfortunes of others. "At the same time, others who had battened on the business of originating mortgages—thousands of small-time mortgage brokers—went out of business." — Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance, 2010 Did you know? The origin of today's word is believed to be the Old Norse verb batna, meaning "to improve." Batna is akin to Old Norse betr and Old English betera, from which we get the modern English word better. Batten entered the English language in the 1500s, with the meaning "to improve," and was especially used in the sense of improving or thriving by feeding. It is not related to the verb batten (3batten) found in expressions such as "batten down the hatches." This latter batten comes from the noun batten, which denotes, among other things, an iron bar used to secure the covering of a hatchway on a ship. This batten has Latinate rather than Germanic origins and can be traced back through Anglo-French batre to the Latin verb battuere ("to beat").