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.



September 8th, 2015

Episode 313 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 08, 2015 is: contiguous \kun-TIG-yuh-wus\ adjective 1 : being in actual contact : touching along a boundary or at a point 2 : adjacent 2 used of angles 3 : next or near in time or sequence 4 : touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence Examples: At 14,494 feet, Mount Whitney, in California's Sierra Nevada range, is the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. "Genghis Khan is undoubtedly one of the most successful military leaders of all time. As leader of the Mongol Empire, which at its height stretched from China to Europe, he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history." Jacob Davidson, Time (online), 30 July 2015 Did you know? You probably won't be surprised to learn that the word contact is a relative of contiguous, but would you believe that contagion and contingent are too? All of those words derive from the Latin contingere, meaning "to have contact with." The words contact and contiguous are fairly easy to connect with contingere, but what of the other two? In its early use, contingent was a synonym of "touching," and if you remember that touching something can pollute it (and that another meaning of contingere was "to pollute"), then contagion logically ties in, too.

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