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 8th, 2015
Episode 70 of 848 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 08, 2015 is: claque \KLAK\ noun 1 : a group hired to applaud at a performance 2 : a group of sycophants Examples: The senator seems to have a claque of influential supporters in the media who are willing to endorse his every move. "But the program has gone by the boards now, the victim of an activist federal judge and a claque of feckless politicians." Bob McManus, The New York Post, July 1, 2014 Did you know? The word claque might call to mind the sound of a clap, and that's no accident. Claque is a French borrowing that descends from the verb claquer, meaning "to clap," and the noun claque, meaning "a clap." Those French words in turn originated in imitation of the sound associated with them. English speakers borrowed claque in the 19th century. At that time, the practice of infiltrating audiences with hired members was very common to French theater culture. Claque members received money and free tickets to laugh, cry, shoutand of course clapin just the right spots, hopefully influencing the rest of the audience to do the same.