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.
August 20th, 2015
Episode 294 of 830 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2015 is: obeisance \oh-BEE-sunss\ noun 1 : a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission : bow 2 : acknowledgment of another's superiority or importance : homage Examples: "They took their hats off and made obeisance and many signs, which however, I could not understand any more than I could their spoken language " Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897 "College presidents and school officials frequently explain their obeisance to their athletic departments by saying that without big-time sports programs, they'd never get any money out of their alumni." Murray A. Sperber, The Washington Post, March 15, 2015 Did you know? When it first appeared in English in the late 14th century, obeisance shared the same meaning as obedience. This makes sense given that obeisance can be traced back to the Anglo-French verb obeir, which means "to obey" and is also an ancestor of our word obey. The other senses of obeisance also date from the 14th century, but they have stood the test of time whereas the obedience sense is now obsolete.