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.
July 18th, 2015
Episode 260 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 18, 2015 is: neophyte \NEE-uh-fyte\ noun 1 : a new convert : proselyte 2 : novice 3 : tyro, beginner Examples: As a neophyte to chess, Brock was still learning the rules and basic strategies of the game. "Abby Wambach taught a soccer neophyte named David Letterman (whatever happened to him?) the intricacies of the sport by booting balls into moving New York taxis." Martin Rogers, USAToday.com, June 14, 2015 Did you know? Neophyte is hardly a new addition to the English language (it's been part of the English vocabulary since the 1400s), but it wasn't in general use before the 19th century. When it was used in a 16th-century translation of the Bible, some folks derided it as pretentious and Latinate. One critic lumped it with other "ridiculous inkhorn terms" and another went as far as to write, "Neophyte, to a bare Englishman is nothing at all." The criticisms of neophyte weren't entirely justified, given the word's long history in English, but it is true that neophyte has classical roots. It traces back through Late Latin to the Greek word neophytos, meaning "newly planted" or "newly converted."