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.
July 16th, 2016
Episode 587 of 825 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 16, 2016 is: caesura \sih-ZYUR-uh\ noun 1 : a break in the flow of sound usually in the middle of a line of verse 2 : break, interruption 3 : a pause marking a rhythmic point of division in a melody Examples: "The Anglo-Saxon idiom of Beowulf sounds particularly alien to modern ears: four stresses per line, separated in the middle by a strong pause, or caesura, with the third stress in each line alliterating with one or both of the first two." — Paul Gray, Time, 20 Mar. 2000 "Whenever anyone asks what I studied in school, the caesura of a deep breath inserts itself before the next line—the time it takes to summon the strength it takes to summon the word: 'poetry.'" — Michael Andor Brodeur, The Boston Globe, 14 June 2016 Did you know? Caesuras (or caesurae) are those slight pauses one makes as one reads verse. While it may seem that their most obvious role is to emphasize the metrical construction of the verse, more often we need these little stops (which may be, but are not necessarily, set off by punctuation) to introduce the cadence and phrasing of natural speech into the metrical scheme. The word caesura, borrowed from Late Latin, is ultimately from Latin caedere meaning "to cut." Nearly as old as the 450-year-old poetry senses is the general meaning of "a break or interruption."