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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.

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cozen

May 4th, 2015

Episode 186 of 720 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 04, 2015 is: cozen \KUZ-un\ verb 1 : to deceive, win over, or induce to do something by artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery 2 : to gain by artful coaxing or tricky deception Examples: The young man used his charm to cozen elderly victims into pouring their savings into his investment scheme. "The BBC stated in its coverage of the decision that some satirical content had been mistaken for the truth in the past, including one instance in 2013 when the Washington Post was cozened into reporting that Sarah Palin signed onto Al-Jazeera as a correspondent." Chandra Johnson, Deseret News, August 20, 2014 Did you know? "Be not utterly deceived (or to speak in plainer terms, cozened at their hands)." Denouncing the evils of the times, 16th-century Puritan pamphleteer Philip Stubbes thus warned against unscrupulous merchants. Cozen may not seem a "plainer term" to us, but it might have to the horse-dependent folks of the 16th century. Some linguists have theorized that cozen traces to the Italian noun cozzone, which means "horse trader." Horse-trading, as in the actual swapping of horses, usually involved bargaining and compromiseand, in fact, the term "horse-trading" has come to suggest any shrewd negotiation. It seems safe to assume that not all of these negotiations were entirely on the up-and-up. Given its etymological association with horse traders, therefore, it's not too surprising that cozen suggests deception and fraud.

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