Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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.



January 13th, 2016

Episode 422 of 688 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 13, 2016 is: chirography \kye-RAH-gruh-fee\ noun 1 : handwriting, penmanship 2 : calligraphy Examples: "This envelope had the air of an official record of some period long past, when clerks engrossed their stiff and formal chirography on more substantial materials than at present." — Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850 "The stone bore confusing etchings: Arabic numerals coupled with Roman; the letter 'H' in ancient Spanish chirography; a puzzling mass of ovoid figures, circles and rectangles; and the weblike drawing that gave it its name." — Evan Moore, The Houston Chronicle, 6 May 2001 Did you know? Though some might argue that handwriting is a dying art in the age of electronic communication, this fancy word for it persists. The root graph means "writing" and appears in many common English words such as autograph and graphite. The lesser-known root chir, or chiro-, comes from a Greek word meaning "hand" and occurs in words such as chiromancy ("the art of palm reading") and enchiridion ("a handbook or manual"), as well as chiropractic. Chirography first appeared in English in the 17th century and probably derived from chirograph, a now rare word referring to any of various legal documents. Chirography should not be confused with choreography, which refers to the composition and arrangement of dances.

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