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 14th, 2015
Episode 166 of 689 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 14, 2015 is: bilk \BILK\ verb 1 : to block the free development of : frustrate 2 a : to cheat out of something valuable : defraud b : to evade payment of or to 3 : to slip away from Examples: The investigation revealed that the garage had been bilking motorists for repairs that had never been made. "Two women were convicted Thursday of taking part in a scheme in which unnecessary medical procedures were carried out in order to bilk insurance companies out of more than $50 million." Sean Emery, Orange County Register (California), March 7, 2015 Did you know? Initially, "bilking" wasn't considered cheatingjust good strategy for cribbage players. Language historians aren't sure where bilk originated, but they have noticed that its earliest uses occur in contexts referring to cribbage. Part of the scoring in cribbage involves each player adding cards from his or her hand to a pile of discards called the "crib." At the end of a hand, the dealer gets any points in the crib. Strategically, then, it's wisest for the dealer's opponent to discard non-scoring cardsthe ones most likely to "balk," or put a check on, the dealer's score. Etymologists theorize that "bilk" may have originated as an alteration of that card-game "balk."