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.
January 17th, 2016
Episode 426 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 17, 2016 is: nettle \NET-ul\ verb 1 : to strike or sting with or as if with nettles 2 : to arouse to sharp but transitory annoyance or anger Examples: "Steve Jobs may not have led Apple to global dominance if he'd had the company's new watch nettling him with notifications." — Alexander C. Kaufman, The Huffington Post, 14 Mar. 2015 "He seemed to have lost interest in their conversation, and strolled away again, apparently forgetting her.His indifference nettled her, and she picked up her work, resolved not to offer him the least assistance." — Edith Wharton, Summer, 1917 Did you know? If you've ever brushed against nettles, you know those weeds have stinging hairs that can leave you smarting and itching. The painful and irritating rash that nettles cause can last for days, but at least it is a rash with a linguistic silver lining. The discomfort caused by nettles can serve to remind one that the verb nettle is a synonym of irritate. Nettle originated as a plant name that we can trace to the Old English word netel. Eventually, people likened the nagging itch caused by the plant to the nagging aggravation of being annoyed, and nettle became a synonym of vex, peeve, and of course irritate.