Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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.



March 20th, 2016

Episode 479 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 20, 2016 is: nidifugous \nye-DIFF-yuh-gus\ adjective : leaving the nest soon after hatching Examples: "Little is known about the mortality of nidifugous shorebird chicks." — Hans Schekkerman et al., The Journal of Ornithology, January 2009 "These sites are very vulnerable to predators and this may be one reason why almost all freshwater birds have nidifugous young." — Christopher Perrins, New Generation Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, 1987 Did you know? Nidifugous hatched from the Latin words nidus, meaning "nest," and fugere, meaning "to flee." Its contrasting word nidicolous, meaning "reared for a time in a nest," combines nidus with the English combining form -colous ("living or growing in or on"). Another relevant term is precocial. A precocial bird is capable of a high degree of independent activity as soon as it emerges from the egg. While all nidifugous birds are also necessarily precocial, some nidicolous birds are also precocial—that is, they are capable of leaving the nest soon after hatching, but instead they stick around. Other nidicolous birds are altricial, which is to say they are hatched in a very immature and helpless condition and require care for some time.