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 13th, 2015
Episode 75 of 875 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 13, 2015 is: ex cathedra \eks-kuh-THEE-druh\ adverb or adjective : by virtue of or in the exercise of one's office or position Examples: When chronic tardiness became a problem among the staff, the manager decided ex cathedra to dock the pay of any employee who arrived late to work. "Today, though, the MFA mafia holds inordinate sway over what gets published and reviewed, which means that the realist tradition dominates American fiction. Thankfully, the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is far too famous and accomplished to worry about the ex cathedra pronouncements emanating from Iowa City." Alexandar Nazaryan, Newsweek, August 3, 2014 Did you know? Ex cathedra is a Latin phrase, meaning not "from the cathedral" but "from the chair." The phrase does have religious origins though: it was originally applied to decisions made by Popes from their thrones. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, a Pope speaking ex cathedra on issues of faith or morals is infallible. In general use, the phrase has come to be used with regard to statements made by people in positions of authority, and it is often used ironically to describe someone speaking with overbearing or unwarranted self-certainty.