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.
August 24th, 2015
Episode 298 of 717 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 24, 2015 is: cannibalize \KAN-uh-buh-lyze\ verb 1 : to take salvageable parts from (as a disabled machine) for use in building or repairing another machine 2 : to take (sales) away from an existing product by selling or being sold as a similar but new product usually from the same manufacturer; also : to affect (as an existing product) adversely by cannibalizing sales 3 : to practice cannibalism Examples: The company is risking cannibalizing sales of its flagship truck with this impressiveand less expensivenew model. "Of the 71 buses in the district's current fleet, three are no longer operational but are being cannibalized for partseverything from mirrors and batteries to compressors and alternators." Pat Maio, The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 2, 2015 Did you know? During World War II, military personnel often used salvageable parts from disabled vehicles and aircraft to repair other vehicles and aircraft. This sacrifice of one thing for the sake of another of its kind must have reminded some folks of cannibalism by humans and animals, because the process came to be known as cannibalizing. The armed forces of this time were also known to cannibalizethat is, to take away personnel fromunits to build up other units. It didn't take long for this military slang to become civilianized. Since its demobilization, the term has been used in a variety of contexts.