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.
August 3rd, 2015
Episode 276 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 03, 2015 is: doppelgänger \DAH-pul-gang-er\ noun 1 : a ghostly counterpart of a living person 2 a : a person who closely resembles another living person b : the opposite side of a personality : alter ego c : a person who has the same name as another Examples: Throughout the movie, the main character is frequently mistaken for someone else, and the plot thickens when this doppelgänger turns out to be a wanted criminal. "Astonished, frightened and fascinated, Finkel arranges to meet his deceiving doppelgänger in an Oregon prison." Dann Gire, Chicago Daily Herald, April 17, 2015 Did you know? According to age-old German folklore, all living creatures have a spirit double who is invisible but identical to the living individual. These second selves are perceived as being distinct from ghosts (which appear only after death), and sometimes they are described as the spiritual opposite or negative of their human counterparts. In 1796, German writer Johann Paul Richter, who wrote under the pseudonym Jean Paul, coined the word Doppelgänger (from doppel-, meaning "double," and -gänger, meaning "goer") to refer to such specters.