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.
November 16th, 2014
Episode 20 of 688 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 16, 2014 is: meliorism \MEE-lee-uh-riz-um\ noun : the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment Examples: The author's meliorism is evident in such statements as, "I believe that peace is inevitable." "Eric Schlosser's fine Fast Food Nation wavered between a pragmatic meliorism, devoted to reforming the meatpacking and restaurant industry, and a visionary despair over the conditions of modern American life." Stephen Metcalf, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2001 Did you know? In 1877, British novelist George Eliot believed she had coined meliorist when she wrote, "I don't know that I ever heard anybody use the word 'meliorist' except myself." Her contemporaries credited her with coining both meliorist and meliorism, and one of her letters contains the first documented use of meliorism, but there is evidence that meliorist had been around for 40 years or so before she started using it. Whoever coined it did so by drawing on the Latin melior, meaning "better." It is likely that the English coinages were also influenced by another melior descendant, meliorate, a synonym of ameliorate ("to make better") that was introduced to English in the mid-1500s.