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.
January 7th, 2016
Episode 417 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 7, 2016 is: dross \DRAHSS\ noun 1 : the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal 2 : waste or foreign matter : impurity 3 : something that is base, trivial, or inferior Examples: "'Jerry on Jerry' may not be for the casual Grateful Dead fan. It takes some patience to wade through thedrossof verbiage for the nuggets of wit and wisdom, but they're there." — Paul Liberatore, The Marin (California) Independent Journal, 26 Nov. 2015 "Good actors making poor choices—especially when the actor isNicolas Cage—is nothing new, but I worry that thedrossin his career ledger is rapidly outpacing the gold." — Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2015 Did you know? Dross has been a part of the English language since Anglo-Saxon times; one 19th-century book on Old English vocabulary dates it back to 1050 A.D. Its Old English ancestors are related to Germanic and Scandinavian words for "dregs" (as in "the dregs of the coffee"), and, like dregs, dross is a word for the less-than-desirable parts of something. Over the years, the relative worthlessness of dross has often been set in contrast to the value of gold, as for example in British poet Christina Rossetti's "The Lowest Room": "Besides, those days were golden days, / Whilst these are days of dross" (1875).