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.
May 17th, 2016
Episode 527 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 17, 2016 is: hector \HEK-ter\ verb 1 : to play the bully : swagger 2 : to intimidate or harass by bluster or personal pressure Examples: The judge sternly ordered the attorney to stop hectoring the witness. "For several years now he has been making life easier for every journalist who follows theAffordable Care Actby heroically compiling health insurance enrollmentsunder the law, explaining developments, debunking myths, and hectoring the nearly infinite sources of mis- and disinformation … into getting things right." — Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Hector wasn't always a bully. In Homer's Iliad, the eldest son of King Priam of Troy was a model soldier, son, father, and friend, the champion of the Trojan army until he was killed by the Greek hero Achilles. How did the name of a Trojan paragon become a generic synonym of bully? That pejorative English use was likely influenced by gangs of rowdy street toughs who roamed London in the 17th century and called themselves "Hectors." They may have thought themselves gallant young blades, but to the general populace they were merely swaggering bullies who intimidated passersby and vandalized property. By 1660, hector was being used as a noun for the sort of blustering braggarts who populated those gangs, and as a verb as well.