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.
October 16th, 2016
Episode 679 of 825 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 16, 2016 is: lavation \lay-VAY-shun\ noun : the act or an instance of washing or cleansing Examples: "… we cannot keep the skin healthy without frequent lavations of the whole body in pure water. It is impossible to calculate the benefits of this simple practice." — Walt Whitman, "Bathing, Cleanliness, Personal Beauty," June 1846 "In Maycomb County, it was easy to tell when someone bathed regularly, as opposed to yearly lavations…." — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960 Did you know? It sounds logical that you would perform a lavation in a lavatory, doesn't it? And it is logical: both words come from Latin lavare, meaning, appropriately, "to wash." English picked up a few other words from this root as well. In medicine, the therapeutic washing out of an organ is lavage. There is also lavabo (in Latin, literally, "I shall wash"), which in English can refer to a ceremony at Mass in which the celebrant washes his hands, to the basin used in this religious ceremony, or to other kinds of basins. Even the word lavish, via a Middle French word for a downpour of rain, comes to us from lavare.