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.
December 29th, 2014
Episode 60 of 717 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 29, 2014 is: marshal \MAR-shul\ noun 1 : a person who arranges and directs the ceremonial aspects of a gathering 2 : an officer of the highest rank in some military forces 3 : a federal official having duties similar to a sheriff's 4 : the administrative head of a police or fire department Examples: A judge ordered marshals to seize the cargo. "Thank you to the parade marshal for keeping all of us in our place for the parade and ensuring that the ceremony proceeded on time." Pat Strack, Borehamwood Times (UK), November 20, 2014 Did you know? Although most French words are derived from Latin, a few result from the 3rd-century Germanic occupation of France, and the early French mareschal is one such word. Mareschal is related to Old High German marahscalc, formed by combining marah ("horse") and scalc ("servant"). Our marshal, which comes from mareschal, originally meant "a person in charge of the upkeep of horses" when it was borrowed into Middle English, but by the 13th century it described a high royal official as well. Eventually it came to have other meanings.