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 15th, 2015
Episode 320 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 15, 2015 is: modicum \MAH-dih-kum\ noun : a small portion : a limited quantity Examples: If you had possessed a modicum of sense, you would have paused to think before accepting such a dangerous job. "If that piece isn't covered with a swath of dressing, a modicum of blue cheese and a crumble of bacon, maneuver your knife to make that happen." David Hagedorn, The National Post, 11 Aug. 2015 Did you know? What does modicum have to do with a toilet? It just so happens that modicum shares the same Latin parent as commode, which is a synonym of "toilet." Modicum and commode ultimately derive from the Latin noun modus, which means "measure." Modicum (which, logically enough, refers to a small "measure" of something) has been a part of the English language since the 15th century. It descends from the Latin modicus ("moderate"), which is itself a descendant of modus. Modus really measures up as a Latin rootit also gave us mode (originally a kind of musical "measure"), modal, model, modern, modify, and modulate. More distant relatives include mete, moderate, and modest.