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.
September 23rd, 2016
Episode 656 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 23, 2016 is: mettle \MET-ul\ noun 1 a : vigor and strength of spirit or temperament b : staying quality : stamina 2 : quality of temperament or disposition Examples: "People aren't trying to hide their prosthetics like they once did. There is a sense of community, being proud of who you are and showing off your mettle." — Rebekah Spielman, quoted in The San Diego Union Tribune, 21 Aug. 2016 "In the dozen years since Fantasia Barrino claimed victory on 'American Idol,' the singer has more than proved her mettle.She has sold millions of records, released a New York Times best-selling memoir, won a Grammy, anchored a hit reality series and become a Broadway star." — Gerrick D. Kennedy, The Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2016 Did you know? Originally, mettle was simply a variant spelling of the word metal (which dates to at least the 13th century), and it was used in all of the same senses as its metallic relative. Over time, however, mettle came to be used mainly in figurative senses referring to the quality of someone's character. It eventually became a distinct English word in its own right, losing its literal sense altogether. Metal remained a term primarily used for those hard, shiny substances such as steel or iron, but it also acquired a figurative use. Today, both words can mean "vigor and strength of spirit or temperament," but only metal is used of metallic substances.