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.
January 15th, 2016
Episode 424 of 848 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 15, 2016 is: limn \LIM\ verb 1 : to draw or paint on a surface 2 : to outline in clear sharp detail : delineate 3 : describe Examples: In his Leatherstocking tales, James Fenimore Cooper limns the frontier adventures of wilderness scout Natty Bumppo. "More than 120 objects [in the museum exhibit]limnthe achievements of the Andean empire in the 15th and 16th centuries." — Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe, 16 Aug. 2015 Did you know? Allow us to shed some light on the history of limn, a word with lustrous origins. Limn traces to the Anglo-French verb enluminer and ultimately to the Latin illuminare, which means "to illuminate." Its use as an English verb dates from the days of Middle English; at first, limn referred to the action of illuminating (that is, decorating) medieval manuscripts with gold, silver, or brilliant colors. William Shakespeare extended the term to painting in his poem Venus and Adonis: "Look when a painter would surpass the life / In limning out a well-proportioned steed…." Soon after, limn began to be used as a word for illustrating or giving detail without a paintbrush.