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.



February 20th, 2015

Episode 113 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 20, 2015 is: histrionic \his-tree-AH-nik\ adjective 1 : deliberately affected : theatrical 2 : of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater Examples: The candidate declared that he would not stoop to address his opponent's histrionic and patently untrue accusations. "When we listen in on one-sided telephone conversations in the movies, often the behavior is not quite human. Rather, it becomes an actor's showcase for histrionic tears or smiling through tearsa good old-fashioned wallow in capital-O Overacting." Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, January 16, 2015 Did you know? The term histrionic developed from histrio, Latin for "actor." Something that is histrionic tends to remind one of the high drama of stage and screen and is often stagy and over-the-top. It especially calls to mind the theatrical form known as melodrama, where plot and physical action, not characterization, are emphasized. But something that is histrionic isn't always overdone; the word can also describe actors, acting, or the theater, and in that sense it becomes a synonym of thespian. The related plural noun histrionics is similarly bifurcated. It can refer to either theatrical performances or to a deliberate display of emotion for effect.

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