Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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 19th, 2016

Episode 428 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 19, 2016 is: expatiate \ek-SPAY-shee-ayt\ verb 1 : to move about freely or at will : wander 2 : to speak or write at length or in detail Examples: "By the time the Song Festival rep finished remarks, the orchestra staff promoted the raffle, and the conductor expatiated, it was 25 minutes into the afternoon before the oboe sounded the tuning A." — Donald J. Behnke, The Green Valley (Arizona) News and Sun, 25 Jan. 2015 "Humboldt … decided to deliver a series of lectures on the theme of, well, everything. He expatiatedon meteorology, geology, plant geography, and ocean currents, as well as on fossils, magnetism, astronomy, human migration, and poetry." — Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 26 Oct. 2015 Did you know? The Latin antecedent of expatiate is exspatiari, which combines the prefix ex- ("out of") with spatiari ("to take a walk"), itself from spatium ("space" or "course"). Exspatiari means "to wander from a course" and, in a figurative sense, "to digress." But when English speakers began using expatiate in the mid-16th century, we took "wander" to mean simply "to move about freely." In a similar digression from the original Latin, we began using expatiate in a figurative sense of "to speak at length." That's the sense of the word most often used these days, usually in combination with on or upon.

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