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 29th, 2016
Episode 539 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 29, 2016 is: ken \KEN\ noun 1 a : the range of vision b : sight, view 2 : the range of perception, understanding, or knowledge Examples: The author advised the aspiring writers in the crowd to develop an authoritative voice by sticking to subjects within their ken. "The council appeared to be moving toward putting more money into the concession area so that it could be used to serve more than hot dogs and nachos…. But suddenly, that fell apart for reasons beyond the public's ken." — Perry White, Watertown (New York) Daily Times, 25 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Ken appeared on the English horizon in the 16th century as a term of measurement of the distance bounding the range of ordinary vision at sea—about 20 miles. British author John Lyly used that sense in 1580 when he wrote, "They are safely come within a ken of Dover." Other 16th-century writers used ken to mean "range of vision" ("Out of ken we were ere the Countesse came from the feast." — Thomas Nashe) or "sight" ("'Tis double death to drown in ken of shore." — Shakespeare). Today, however, ken rarely suggests literal sight. Rather, ken nowadays almost always implies a range of perception, understanding, or knowledge.