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 18th, 2015
Episode 80 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 18, 2015 is: gratuitous \gruh-TOO-uh-tuss\ adjective 1 : done or provided without recompense : free 2 : not called for by the circumstances : unwarranted Examples: John seems incapable of talking about anything he owns without a gratuitous reference to the amount of money he spent on it. "Each gratuitous 'Mr.,' 'Mrs.,' 'Miss,' or 'Ms.' appeared not so much respectful as nostalgic, a yearning for a return to the days when all but the closest acquaintances addressed one another with titles and surnames." Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2014 Did you know? Like gratitude, grace, and congratulate, gratuitous is a descendant of the Latin word gratus, which means "pleasing" or "grateful." When gratuitous was first used in the middle of the 17th century, it meant "free" or "given without return benefit or compensation." The extended meaning "done without good reason" or "unwarranted" came about just a few decades later, perhaps from the belief held by some people that one should not give something without getting something in return. Today, that extended meaning is the more common sense, often used in such phrases as "a gratuitous insult" or to describe elements of a story that are not relevant to the plot.