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.
June 30th, 2016
Episode 571 of 796 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 30, 2016 is: nadir \NAY-deer\ noun 1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and vertically downward from the observer 2 : the lowest point Examples: Only once the novel's protagonist reaches her nadir does she arouse the reader's empathy, and we root for her to climb back to respectability. "Thenadircame in the MLS Cup Final, when a gaffe in front of his net led to a Portland goal just 27 seconds after the opening whistle." — Shawn Mitchell, The Columbus Dispatch, 4 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Nadir is part of the galaxy of scientific words that have come to us from Arabic, a language that has made important contributions in the vocabulary of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. Nadir derives from an Arabic word meaning "opposite"—the opposite, that is, of the zenith, or the highest point of the celestial sphere, the one vertically above the observer. (The word zenith itself is a modification of another Arabic word that means "the way over one's head.") The English poet John Donne is first on record as having used nadir in the figurative sense of "lowest point" in a sermon he wrote in 1627.