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.
December 3rd, 2014
Episode 34 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 03, 2014 is: haggard \HAG-urd\ adjective 1 a : wild in appearance b : having a worn or emaciated appearance : gaunt Examples: The mountain climbers were hungry and haggard but were otherwise in good shape after having been stranded on the mountain for more than a week. "[Dorothea] Lange's 1936 photographs of California migrant worker Florence Owens Thompson and her children capture the haggard desperation of Thompson and her brood during the Great Depression." Chuck Sudo, Chicagoist, November 7, 2014 Did you know? Haggard comes from falconry, the sport of hunting with a trained bird of prey. The birds used in falconry were not bred in captivity until very recently. Traditionally, falconers trained wild birds that were either taken from the nest when quite young or trapped as adults. A bird trapped as an adult is termed a haggard, from the Middle French hagard. Such a bird is notoriously wild and difficult to train, and it wasn't long before the falconry sense of haggard was being applied in an extended way to a "wild" and intractable person. Next, the word came to express the way the human face looks when a person is exhausted, anxious, or terrified. Today, the most common meaning of haggard is "gaunt" or "worn."