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.
March 11th, 2016
Episode 470 of 765 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 11, 2016 is: levigate \LEV-uh-gayt\ verb 1 : polish, smooth 2 a : to grind to a fine smooth powder while in moist condition b : to separate (fine powder) from coarser material by suspending in a liquid Examples: The apothecary levigated zinc oxide and calcium carbonate with linseed oil. "There were water wheels for breaking down porcelain stone, stone stamping poles, stone mortars and different ponds for washing, draining, levigating, kneading, drying, and storing clay." — Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, volume 5, 2004 Did you know? Levigate comes from Latin levigatus, the past participle of the verb levigare ("to make smooth"). Levigare is derived in part from levis, the Latin word for "smooth." Alleviate and levity can also be traced back to a Latin levis, and the levi- root in both words might suggest a close relationship with levigate. This is not the case, however. The Latin levis that gives us alleviate and levity does not mean "smooth," but "light" (in the sense of having little weight). One possible relative of levigate in English is oblivion, which comes from the Latin oblivisci ("to forget"), a word which may be a combination of ob- ("in the way") and the levis that means "smooth."