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.
October 10th, 2014
Episode 1 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 10, 2014 is: clerisy \KLAIR-uh-see\ noun : intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite: intelligentsia Examples: The book's author claims that a successful society must have both a strong commitment to democratic ideals and a well-established clerisy. "The situation was so dire that it required nothing less than scientific experts freed from constitutional strictures to run the government and the elevation of intellectuals and artists to the status of a new cultural clerisy." Daniel DiSalvo, The Washington Times, February 18, 2014 Did you know? English philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) believed that if humanity was to flourish, it was necessary to create a secular organization of learned individuals, "whether poets, or philosophers, or scholars" to "diffuse through the whole community that quantity and quality of knowledge which was indispensable." Coleridge named this hypothetical group the clerisy, a term he adapted from Klerisei, a German word for clergy (in preference, it seems, to the Russian term intelligentsia which we borrowed later, in the early 1900s). Coleridge may have equated clerisy with an old sense of clergy meaning "learning" or "knowledge," which by his time was used only in the proverb "an ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy."