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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.

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megillah

October 12th, 2014

Episode 3 of 713 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 12, 2014 is: megillah \muh-GHIH-luh\ noun : slang a long involved story or account Examples: Instead of just saying she was running late, Lynette went into the whole megillah of why her appointment would have to be rescheduled. "It takes place far below the surface of the earth, among dripping stalactites, and if you're a fan of Tolkien's mythos in any of its versions, you know it's perhaps the most pivotal moment in the whole megillah: the scene where Bilbo gets his paws on That Ring." Ty Burr, The Boston Globe, December 13, 2012 Did you know? Although megillah is a slang word in English, it has perfectly respectable Hebrew origins. Megillah derives from the Yiddish megile, which itself comes from the Hebrew word mĕgillāh, meaning "scroll" or "volume." (Mĕgillāh is especially likely to be used in reference to the Book of Esther, which is read aloud at Purim celebrations.) It makes sense, then, that when megillah first appeared in English in the mid-20th century, it referred to a story that was so long (and often tedious or complicated) that it was reminiscent of the length of the mĕgillāh scrolls. The Hebrew word is serious, but the Yiddish megile can be somewhat playful, and our megillah has also inherited that lightheartedness.

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