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 16th, 2015
Episode 197 of 825 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2015 is: hinterland \HIN-ter-land\ noun 1 : a region lying inland from a coast 2 a : a region remote from cities b : a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers Examples: The enormous Greenland Ice Sheet covers most of the hinterland of the world's largest island. "I know my country, and my fellow countrymen; the people I was meeting were simple souls, scraping a living in Yemens tough agricultural hinterland. Large political questions were far from their minds." Baraa Shiban, The Guardian (London), April 6, 2015 Did you know? When you're dealing with geography, it helps to know your hinterland from your umland. In the late 19th century, geographer George Chisholm took note of the German word Hinterland (literally, "land in back of") and applied it specifically to the region just inland from a port or coastal settlement. (Chisholm spelled the word hinderland, but English speakers eventually settled on hinterland.) Early in the 20th century, another geographer adopted the German Umland ("land around") to refer to the territory around an inland town. What hinterland and umland have in common is a reference to a region economically tied to a nearby city. But nowadays hinterland has a less technical use as well; it's used for land that's simply out in the sticks.