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.
May 5th, 2015
Episode 187 of 718 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 05, 2015 is: epigram \EP-ih-gram\ noun 1 : a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event and often ending with an ingenious turn of thought 2 : a terse, sage, or witty and often paradoxical saying 3 : expression marked by the use of epigrams Examples: On the wall of his studio, Jonathan kept a framed print of his favorite epigram from Benjamin Franklin: "Little strokes fell great oaks." "But this is a work that tends to rely on pithy epigrams, rather than build a sturdy narrative arc about a young artist's awakening and an old artist's raging against the dying of the light." Kerry Reid, Chicago Tribune, February 13, 2015 Did you know? Ancient Greeks and Romans used the word epigramma (from Greek epigraphein, meaning "to write on") to refer to a concise, witty, and often satirical verse. The Roman poet Martial (who published eleven books of these epigrammata, or epigrams, between the years 86 and 98 C.E.) was a master of the form: "You puff the poets of other days, / the living you deplore. / Spare me the accolade: your praise / Is not worth dying for." English speakers adopted the "verse" sense of the word when we first used epigram for a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event in the 15th century. In the late 18th century, we began using epigram for concise, witty sayings, even if they didn't rhyme.