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.
September 10th, 2015
Episode 315 of 823 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2015 is: ersatz \AIR-sahts\ adjective : being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation Examples: If I'm going to eat ice cream, I want the real thing, not some non-fat ersatz version of it. "Re-enactors dressed as British redcoats confront a group of ersatz militiamen, demanding they 'disperse at once.'" Chris McDaniel, The Peninsula Daily News (Port Angeles, Washington), 17 July 2015 Did you know? Ersatz can be traced back in English to 1875, but it really came into prominence during World War I. Borrowed from German, where Ersatz is a noun meaning "substitute," the word was frequently applied as an adjective in English to items like ersatz coffee (from acorns) and ersatz flour (from potatoes)products resulting from the privations of war. By the time World War II came around, bringing with it a resurgence of the word along with more substitute products, ersatz was wholly entrenched in the language. Today, ersatz can be applied to almost anything that seems like an artificial imitation, as in this quote from the August 10, 2012, issue of The Week: "The whole movie feels ersatz and expedient."