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.



April 30th, 2016

Episode 510 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 30, 2016 is: decorous \DECK-er-us\ adjective : marked by propriety and good taste : correct Examples: Before making her daily announcements, the principal mentioned how proud she was of the students' decorous conduct at their prom. "When, during the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the discussion, polite and decoroustill then, grew rather heated, Benjamin Franklin implored the delegates as follows: 'It has given me a great pleasure to observe that till this point … our debates were carried on with great coolness and temper. If anything of a contrary kind has on this occasion appeared I hope it will not be repeated….'" — Emanuel Epstein, The Davis (California) Enterprise, 5 Feb. 2016 Did you know? The current meaning of decorous dates from the mid-17th century. One of the word's earliest recorded uses appears in a book titled The Rules of Civility (1673): "It is not decorous to look in the Glass, to comb, brush, or do any thing of that nature to ourselves, whilst the said person be in the Room." Decorous for a time had another meaning as well—"fitting or appropriate"—but that now-obsolete sense seems to have existed for only a few decades in the 17th century. Decorous derives from the Latin word decorus, an adjective created from the noun decor, meaning "beauty" or "grace." Decor is akin to the Latin verb decēre ("to be fitting"), which is the source of our adjective decent. It is only fitting, then, that decent can be a synonym of decorous.

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