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.
May 8th, 2016
Episode 518 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 8, 2016 is: nonplus \nahn-PLUS\ verb : to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do : perplex Examples: The student's unexpected about-face during the class discussion nonplussed the teacher. "Finding out that the new site for your business is home as well to stray cats and assorted wildlife might have nonplussed some people, but Gary Meyer just saw an opportunity to help animals while enjoying their presence." — Joseph P. Smith, The Daily Journal (Vineland, New Jersey), 4 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Does nonplus perplex you? You aren't alone. Some people believe the "non" in nonplus means "not" and assume that to be nonplussed is to be calm and poised when just the opposite is true. If you are among the baffled, the word's history may clarify things. In Latin, non plus means "no more." In the earliest known uses, which date to the 16th century, it was used as a noun synonymous with quandary. Someone brought to a nonplus had reached an impasse in an argument and could say no more. Within a few decades of the first known use of the noun, people began using nonplus as a verb, and today it is often used in participial form with the meaning "perplexed" (as in "Joellen's nasty remark left us utterly nonplussed").