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.



August 1st, 2016

Episode 603 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 1, 2016 is: kerfuffle \ker-FUFF-ul\ noun : (chiefly British) disturbance, fuss Examples: I didn't mean to start such a kerfuffle when I suggested that we hold the company picnic at a different location this year. "… there was quite a kerfuffle (in visual-arts circles, anyway) this fall when the Jeff Wall show that was supposed to open the museum was suddenly cancelled by the artist. The works had become unavailable." — Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario), 4 Dec. 2015 Did you know? Fuffle was first used in Scottish English, as early as the 16th century, as a verb meaning "to dishevel." The addition of the prefix car- (possibly derived from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning "wrong" or "awkward") didn't change the meaning of the word considerably. In the 19th century carfuffle, with its variant curfuffle, became a noun, and in the 20th century it was embraced by a broader population of English speakers and standardized to kerfuffle. There is some dispute among language historians over how the altered spelling came to be favored. One theory holds that it might have been influenced by imitative words like kerplunk, where the syllable ker- is simply added for emphasis.