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.
December 6th, 2014
Episode 37 of 848 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 06, 2014 is: bouleversement \bool-vair-suh-MAHNG\ noun 1 : reversal 2 : a violent disturbance : disorder Examples: The darkening sky prompted a bouleversement of the captain's order to prepare to set sail. "In fact, [Susan Sontag] had written two novels at the beginning of her career, in the sixties. She didn't like them much, so she became a critic, indeed, the most famous and influential young critic of the sixties and seventies, a central figure in the aesthetic bouleversement of that period." Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, January 10, 2005 Did you know? English picked up bouleversement from French in the latter part of the 18th century (it ultimately traces to Middle French boule, meaning "ball," and verser, meaning "to overturn"), and while not very common, it has steadily remained in use since that time. F. Scott Fitzgerald, for one, used it in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise: "For the second time in his life Amory had had a complete bouleversement and was hurrying into line with his generation." Both Fitzgerald's use and our first example sentence suggest the idea of turning something around, but as shown in our second example, some usage of bouleversement dispenses with this notion and instead implies a general kind of upheaval or dramatic change, as in a revolution.
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