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.



September 12th, 2016

Episode 645 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 12, 2016 is: flippant \FLIP-unt\ adjective : lacking proper respect or seriousness Examples: The singer's fans were not amused by his flippant remark in response to the tragedy. "Earlier this year, [Hope] Solo said she might not take part in the Olympics because of the [Zika] virus. She ultimately decided that she would, but more recently she put up a couple of Twitter posts that seemed to take a flippant attitude toward the problem. One post showed a picture of Solo in what looked like a beekeeper’s mask. Another showed an assortment of repellents spread out on a bed." — Jay Schreiber, The New York Times, 3 Aug. 2016 Did you know? Flippant did something of a flip-flop shortly after it appeared in English in the late 16th century. The word was probably created from the verb flip, which in turn may have originated as an imitation of the sound of something flipping. The earliest senses of the adjective were "nimble" and "limber." One could be flippant not only on one's feet, but also in speech—that is, someone flippant might have a capacity for easy, flowing speech. Such flippancy was considered a good thing at first. But people who speak freely and easily can sometimes seem too talkative, and even impertinent. By the end of the 18th century, the positive sense of flippant had slipped from use, and the "disrespectful" sense had taken its place.