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.



January 25th, 2016

Episode 434 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 25, 2016 is: harry \HAIR-ee\ verb 1 : to make a pillaging or destructive raid on : assault 2 : to force to move along by harassing 3 : to torment by or as if by constant attack Examples: The young boy harried the kitten until it swiped him with its claws. "Coming off a Thursday schedule packed with practice, a Pearl Harbor visit and a luau, the Aggies shot 54 percent on Friday and harriedthe Rainbow Wahine basketball team into turnovers that fueled an 82-41 rout at the Cannon Activities Center in Laie." — Jason Kaneshiro, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 6 Dec. 2015 Did you know? Was there once a warlike man named Harry who is the source for today's word? One particularly belligerent Harry does come to mind: Shakespeare once described how "famine, sword, and fire" accompanied "the warlike Harry," England's King Henry the Fifth. But neither this king nor any of his namesakes are the source for the verb harry. Rather, harry (or a word resembling it) has been a part of English for as long as there has been anything that could be called English. It took the form hergian in Old English and harien in Middle English, passing through numerous variations before finally settling into its modern spelling. The word's Old English ancestors are related to the Old High German words heriōn ("to lay waste") and heri ("army").