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 2nd, 2015
Episode 154 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 02, 2015 is: capricious \kuh-PRISH-us\ adjective : governed or characterized by caprice : impulsive, unpredictable Examples: The court ruled that the punishment was arbitrary and capricious. "Some of her songs are humorous, even capricious, though many reflect on the more hidden of life's injustices." St. Augustine (Florida) Record, February 27, 2015 Did you know? The noun caprice, which first appeared in English in the mid-17th century, is a synonym of whim. Evidence shows that the adjective capricious debuted about sixty years before caprice; it's likely, however, that both words derived via French from the Italian capriccio, which originally referred not to a sudden desire but to a sudden shudder of fear. Capriccio in turn derives from the Italian capo, meaning "head," and riccio, the word for "hedgehog." Someone who shuddered in fear, therefore, was said to have a "hedgehog head"meaning that his or her hair stood on end like the spines of a hedgehog.