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.
March 29th, 2015
Episode 150 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 29, 2015 is: discomfit \diss-KUM-fit\ verb 1 : to frustrate the plans of : thwart 2 : to put into a state of perplexity and embarrassment : disconcert Examples: Jacob was discomfited by his curious young son's forward, probing questions. "For more than two decades, the work of this British artist has dazzled and discomfited, seduced and unsettled, gliding effortlessly between high and low, among cultures, ricocheting off different racial stereotypes and religious beliefs." Roberta Smith, New York Times, October 31, 2014 Did you know? Disconcerted by discomfit and discomfort? Here's a little usage history that might help. Several usage commentators have, in the past, tried to convince their readers that discomfit means "to rout" or "to completely defeat" and not "to discomfort, embarrass, or make uneasy." In its earliest uses discomfit did in fact mean "to defeat in battle," but that sense is now rare, and the extended sense, "to thwart," is also uncommon. Most of the recent commentaries agree that the sense "to discomfort or disconcert" has become thoroughly established and is the most prevalent meaning of the word. There is one major difference between discomfit and discomfort, thoughdiscomfit is used almost exclusively as a verb, while discomfort is much more commonly used as a noun than a verb.