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.
June 27th, 2016
Episode 568 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 27, 2016 is: crackerjack \CRACK-er-jack\ adjective : of striking ability or excellence Examples: She is a crackerjack athlete who excels in soccer and softball. "Like a well-made suspense film, Mr. Scovel's jokes have twists you don't see coming and the thrilling tension of a crackerjackplot where you have no idea what will happen next." — Jason Zinoman, The New York Times, 12 May 2016 Did you know? The late 19th-century pairing of crack and jack to form crackerjack topped off a long history for those words. Cracker is an elongation of crack, an adjective meaning "expert" or "superior" that dates from the 18th century. Prior to that, crack was a noun meaning "something superior" and a verb meaning "to boast." (The verb use evolved from the expression "to crack a boast," which came from the sense of crack meaning "to make a loud sharp sound.") Jack has been used for "man" since the mid-1500s, as in "jack-of-all-trades." Crackerjack entered English first as a noun referring to "a person or thing of marked excellence," then as an adjective. You may also know Cracker Jack as a snack of candied popcorn and peanuts. That trademarked name dates from the 1890s.