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.
June 23rd, 2016
Episode 564 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 23, 2016 is: genius \JEEN-yus\ noun 1 : a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude 2 : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity 3 : a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; especially : a person with a very high IQ Examples: "An airplane mechanic in World War II, my father had a genius for anything mechanical. He would overhaul an engine at the drop of a hat." — Jack McCall, The Hartsville (Tennessee) Vidette, 28 Apr. 2016 "By the time Purple Rain was released, Prince's overt sexiness, inventive style, technical brilliance, and musical genius had established an irrefutable fact: He was the new James Brown." — Simon Doonan, Slate.com, 26 Apr. 2016 Did you know? The belief system of the ancient Romans included spirits that were somewhere in between gods and humans and were thought to accompany each person through life as a protector. The Latin name for this spirit was genius, which came from the verb gignere, meaning "to beget." This sense of "attendant spirit" was first borrowed into English in the 14th century. Part of such a spirit's role was to protect a person's moral character, and from that idea an extended sense developed in the 16th century meaning "an identifying character." In time, that meaning was extended to cover a special ability for doing something, and eventually genius acquired senses referring particularly to "very great intelligence" and "people of great intelligence."