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 24th, 2016
Episode 565 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 24, 2016 is: hermetic \her-MET-ik\ adjective 1 : relating to or characterized by occultism or abstruseness : recondite 2 a : airtight b : impervious to external influence c : recluse, solitary Examples: The infomercial claimed that the new containers used modern technology to guarantee a hermetic seal that would keep food fresh for months. "Later, as Western Europe welcomed foreign guest workers, Central Europe remained in thehermeticenclosure of Soviet rule." — Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Hermetic derives from Greek via the Medieval Latin word hermeticus. When it first entered English in the early 17th century, hermetic was associated with writings attributed to Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom. Thoth, whom the Greeks called Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-great Hermes"), was believed to be the author of a number of mystical, philosophical, and alchemistic works. The obscure subject matter of these works may have made them difficult to wade through, for soon English speakers were also applying hermetic to things that were beyond ordinary human comprehension. Additionally, Hermes Trismegistus was said to have invented a magic seal that could keep vessels airtight. Hermetic thus came to mean "airtight," both literally and figuratively. These days, it can also sometimes mean "solitary."