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.
October 1st, 2016
Episode 664 of 688 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 1, 2016 is: empyreal \em-pye-REE-ul\ adjective 1 : of or relating to the heavens or firmament : celestial 2 : sublime Examples: Night after night, the comet shone brightly against the empyreal tapestry of the sky. "A jar made in Iraq, Syria or Iran, its shape is nothing special, but its color—anempyrealsapphire blue, a version of which will later adorn the domes of Safavid mosques—is out of this world." — Holland Cotter, The New York Times, 24 Dec. 2004 Did you know? Empyreal can be traced back to the Greek word for "fiery," empyros, which was formed from the prefix em- ("in," "within," or "inside") and -pyros, from pyr, the Greek word for "fire." When empyreal entered the English language—via the Late Latin empyreus or empyrius—in the 15th century, it specifically referred to things related to the empyrean, the highest heaven or outermost heavenly sphere of ancient and medieval cosmology, which was often thought to contain or be composed of the element of fire. In the works of Christian writers—such as Dante's Divine Comedy and John Milton's Paradise Lost—this outermost heavenly sphere was associated with the Christian paradise. Empyreal is now also used more broadly in the senses of "celestial" and "sublime."