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.



December 26th, 2014

Episode 57 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 26, 2014 is: desultory \DEH-sul-tor-ee\ adjective 1 : marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose 2 : not connected with the main subject 3 : disappointing in progress, performance, or quality Examples: The gentlemen continued the evening in desultory conversation, punctuated by yawns, until both decided it was time for bed. "Washington State thus finishes a desultory three-win season , while the Huskies are moving in the proper direction under first-year coach Chris Petersen." Larry Stone, Seattle Times, November 29, 2014 Did you know? The Latin adjective desultorius, the parent of desultory, was used by the ancients to refer to a circus performer (called a desultor) whose trick was to leap from horse to horse without stopping. It makes sense, therefore, that someone or something desultory "jumps" from one thing to another. (Desultor and desultorius, by the way, are derived from the Latin verb salire, which means "to leap.") A desultory conversation leaps from one topic to another and doesn't have a distinct point or direction. A desultory student skips from one subject to another without applying serious effort to any one. A desultory comment is a digressive one that jumps away from the topic at hand. And a desultory performance is one resulting from an implied lack of steady, focused effort.