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.
November 26th, 2014
Episode 27 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2014 is: crabwise \KRAB-wyze\ adverb 1 : sideways 2 : in a sidling or cautiously indirect manner Examples: Rather than asking his parents for a car directly, Noah approached the matter crabwise, stressing how inconvenient it was for them to have to drive him everywhere. "But personally, my bed is just for sleeping in. It is actually 6ft wide, and it is beautiful beyond words. No matter that I have to walk crabwise round the room in order to get in, out or dressed." Lucy Mangan, The Guardian (London), January 4, 2011 Did you know? There's no reason to be indirect when explaining the etymology of crabwise; we'll get right to the point. As you might guess, the meaning of that word is directly related to that sidling sea creature, the crab. If you live near the shore or have visited a beach near the sea, you have probably seen crabs scuttling along, often moving sideways and not taking what humans would consider the most direct route. The modern meanings of crabwise were definitely inspired by the crab's lateral or oblique approach to getting from one place to another. The word crept into English in the mid-19th century and has been sidling into our sentences ever since.