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 19th, 2015

Episode 171 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 19, 2015 is: desiccate \DESS-ih-kayt\ verb 1 : to dry up or become dried up 2 : to preserve (a food) by drying : dehydrate 3 : to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality Examples: Weeks of blazing heat along with a prolonged lack of rain have desiccated many of the plants in our garden. "Since these insects desiccate easily, they will build tunnels to provide themselves the moisture they need." Paula Weatherby, Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), February 7, 2015 Did you know? Raisins are desiccated grapes; they're also dehydrated grapes. And yet, a close look at the etymologies of desiccate and dehydrate raises a tangly question. In Latin siccus means "dry," whereas the Greek stem hydr- means "water." So how could it be that desiccate and dehydrate are synonyms? The answer is in the multiple identities of the prefix de-. It may look like the same prefix, but the de- in desiccate means "completely, thoroughly," as in despoil ("to spoil utterly") or denude ("to strip completely bare"). The de- in dehydrate, on the other hand, means "remove," the same as it does in defoliate ("to strip of leaves") or in deice ("to rid of ice").