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.
December 7th, 2015
Episode 394 of 831 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 07, 2015 is: jackleg \JACK-leg\ noun 1 a : characterized by unscrupulousness, dishonesty, or lack of professional standards b : lacking skill or training : amateur 2 : designed as a temporary expedient : makeshift Examples: Bill's only a jackleg carpenter, but he is sufficiently competent to handle less complex jobs. "Local engineers knew even during construction that the canal upgrade was a bit of a jackleg job." Christopher Cooper and Robert Block, Disaster, 2006 Did you know? Don't call someone jackleg unless you're prepared for that person to get angry with you. Throughout its 165-year-old history in English, jackleg has most often been used as a term of contempt and deprecation, particularly in reference to lawyers and preachers. Its form echoes that of the similar blackleg, an older term for a cheating gambler or a worker opposed to union policies. Etymologists know that blackleg appeared over fifty years before jackleg, but they don't have any verifiable theories about the origin of either term.