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.
June 20th, 2016
Episode 561 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 20, 2016 is: heliolatry \hee-lee-AH-luh-tree\ noun : sun worship Examples: Archeologists believe that the members of the ancient civilization practiced heliolatry because each temple faced east, toward the rising sun. "An observer would assume that all of us—humans and shorebirds alike—are guilty of heliolatry…. We had endured a series of dark, gloomy, winter days, during which the sun had been continually hidden behind dense, rain clouds. Now that the sun has emerged from its cloudy cave, the beach is bathed in brilliant sunshine." — George Thatcher, The Biloxi (Mississippi) Sun Herald, 22 Jan. 2013 Did you know? The first half of heliolatry derives from hēlios, the Greek word for "sun." In Greek mythology, Hēlios was the god of the sun, imagined as "driving" the sun as a chariot across the sky. From hēlios we also get the word helium, referring to the very light gas that is used in balloons and airships, and heliocentric, meaning "having or relating to the sun as center," as in "a heliocentric orbit." The suffix -latry, meaning "worship," derives via Late Latin and French from the Greek latreia, and can be found in such words as bardolatry ("worship of Shakespeare") and zoolatry ("animal worship"). A person who worships the sun is called a heliolater.