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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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jactitation

June 26th, 2016

Episode 567 of 718 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 26, 2016 is: jactitation \jak-tuh-TAY-shun\ noun : a tossing to and fro or jerking and twitching of the body Examples: "The effect of the first dose was most fortunate. In about ten minutes after it was swallowed, the jactitation ceased." — Edward H. Clarke, The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 16 June 1870 "It is clear that Mrs Y.'s tics are far more complex in form than mere Parkinsonian jerks, jactitations, or precipitations...." — Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 1973 Did you know? In the 17th century, lawyers began tossing around the word jactitation, which can be traced back to the Latin verb jactare, meaning "to throw." Originally, jactitation was used as a word for a false claim or assertion being publicly thrown about to the detriment of another person. Run-of-the-mill slander and false claims of being married to someone were two common types of jactitation brought to court. Before long, jactitation had jumped over to the medical profession, where it continues to serve as a word for restless, jerky, or twitchy body movements. In 1761, British writer Laurence Sterne threw jactitation into his novel Tristram Shandy as a substitute for discussion, but that meaning never caught on.

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