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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.

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incisive

April 4th, 2015

Episode 156 of 718 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 04, 2015 is: incisive \in-SYE-siv\ adjective : impressively direct and decisive (as in manner or presentation) Examples: "Albee, 84 and frail from recent heart surgery, smiled broadly as he came on stage to take a bow Saturday. He knows that 'Virginia Woolf' is the play that will forever be synonymous with his name, and he could not have hoped for a more incisive rendering of it." Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times, October 14, 2012 "For more than two decades, Carr focused his considerable talents on media criticism, lacing his columns with incisive commentary and wit." Terrence McCoy and Justin Moyer, Washington Post, February 13, 2015 Did you know? Incisive has meant "impressively direct and decisive" since around 1834 and derives from the Latin verb caedere, meaning "to cut." Its linguistic kin include many cuttings from the fruitful stem caedere, such as scissors, chisel, incise ("to cut into or engrave"), excise ("to remove by cutting"), incisor ("a front tooth typically adapted for cutting"), incision ("cut" or "gash"), precise ("minutely exact"), and concise ("brief"). In addition to the meaning illustrated above, incisive also carries a couple of lesser-known literal meanings relating to cutting: "having a cutting edge or piercing point" (as in "incisive fangs"), and, in dentistry, "of, relating to, or situated near the incisors."

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