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 1st, 2015
Episode 153 of 870 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 01, 2015 is: diapause \DYE-uh-pawz\ noun : a period of physiologically enforced dormancy between periods of activity Examples: Although insects most often enter diapause when they are pupae, diapause can occur during any life stage. "Last week I discovered dozens of Monarch butterfly eggs at the ranch when a cold front pushed migrants down to the Texas funnel. The early moving butterflies broke their reproductive diapause to lay hundreds of eggs." Monica Maeckle, MySanAntonio.com, September 25, 2015 Did you know? Diapause, from the Greek word diapausis, meaning "pause," may have been coined by the entomologist William Wheeler in 1893. Wheeler's focus was insects, but diapause, a spontaneous period of suspended animation that seems to happen in response to adverse environmental conditions, also occurs in the development of crustaceans, snails, and other animals. Exercising poetic license, novelist Joyce Carol Oates even gave the word a human application in her short story "Visitation Rights" (1988): "Her life, seemingly in shambles, ... was not ruined; ... injured perhaps, and surely stunted, but only temporarily. There had been a diapause, and that was all...."