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.



June 19th, 2016

Episode 560 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 19, 2016 is: dolorous \DOH-luh-rus\ adjective : causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief Examples: With his dolorous songs about hard-bitten people down on their luck, Johnny Cash garnered legions of fans across generations. "I felt myself sinking now and then into adolorousstate in which I allowed myself to succumb to a deep despair about life here…." — Alan Cheuse, Song of Slaves in the Desert, 2011 Did you know? "No medicine may prevail … till the same dolorous tooth be … plucked up by the roots." When dolorous first appeared around 1400, it was linked to physical pain—and appropriately so, since the word is a descendant of the Latin word dolor, meaning "pain" as well as "grief." (Today, dolor is also an English word meaning "sorrow.") When the British surgeon John Banister wrote the above quotation in 1578, dolorous could mean either "causing pain" or "distressful, sorrowful." "The death of the earl [was] dolorous to all Englishmen," the English historian Edward Hall had written a few decades earlier. The "causing pain" sense of dolorous coexisted with the "sorrowful" sense for centuries, but nowadays its use is rare.