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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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meticulous

July 23rd, 2015

Episode 265 of 718 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2015 is: meticulous \muh-TIK-yuh-lus\ adjective : marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details Examples: The composer's meticulous, almost obsessive, attention to detail is evident in even the smallest musical flourishes that the average listener will likely never notice. "The Australian-American [Justine] Larbalestier's scholarly background is on full display in her latest novel, with its meticulous attention to detail and strong emphasis on overlooked voices from history." Jennifer Hubert Swan, New York Times, May 31, 2015 Did you know? It may surprise you to learn that meticulous is derived from the Latin word for "fearful"meticulosusand ultimately comes from the Latin noun metus, meaning "fear." Although meticulous currently has no "fearful" meanings, it was originally used as a synonym of frightened and timid. This sense had fallen into disuse by 1700, and in the 19th century meticulous acquired a new sense of "overly and timidly careful" (probably influenced by the French word méticuleux). This in turn led to the current meaning of "painstakingly careful," with no connotations of fear at all. The newest use was controversial among some usage commentators at first, but it has since become by far the most common meaning and is no longer considered an error.

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