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 5th, 2015
Episode 67 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 05, 2015 is: fallible \FAL-uh-bul\ adjective 1 : liable to be erroneous 2 : capable of making a mistake Examples: Though parts of it are well-written, the essay is marred by too many fallible generalizations. " [Atul] Gawande has combined his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling to remind readers that despite stunning technical advances, doctors are humanand as fallible as any of us." Jennifer Day, Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2014 Did you know? Errare humanum est. That Latin expression translates into English as "To err is human." Of course, cynics might say that it is also human to deceive. The word fallible simultaneously recognizes both of these human character flaws. In modern usage, it refers to one's ability to err, but it descends from the Latin verb fallere, which means "to deceive." Fallible has been used to describe the potential for error since at least the 15th century. Other descendants of the deceptive fallere in English, all of which actually predate fallible, include fallacy (the earliest, now obsolete, meaning was "guile, trickery"), fault, false, and even fail and failure.