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.
March 15th, 2016
Episode 474 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 15, 2016 is: golem \GOH-lum\ noun 1 : an artificial being in Hebrew folklore endowed with life 2 : someone or something resembling a golem: such as a : automaton b : blockhead Examples: "Honestly I don't remember all that much about how the golem looked; it had big feet, each with five clay toes…." — Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends, 2008 "But the reality is that [Ronda] Rousey is human, not an infallible, laser-eyed fighting golem made for good television." — Dan Bisno, The Oberlin Review, 20 Nov. 2015 Did you know? The Hebrew ancestor of the word golem meant "shapeless mass," and the original golems started as lumps of clay that were formed into figures and brought to life by means of a charm or a combination of letters forming a sacred word. In the Middle Ages, golems were thought to be the perfect servants; their only fault was that they were sometimes too literal or mechanical in fulfilling their masters' orders. In the 16th century, the golem was thought of as a protector of the Jews in times of persecution. But by the late 1800s, golem had acquired a less friendly second sense, referring to a man-made monster that inspired many of the back-from-the-dead creations of classic horror fiction.