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 16th, 2016

Episode 475 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 16, 2016 is: obnubilate \ahb-NOO-buh-layt\ verb : becloud, obscure Examples: The writer's essay includes some valid points, but they are obnubilated by his convoluted prose style. "Early street lighting had the disconcerting effect ofobnubilatingas well as illuminating urban space." — Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, 2015 Did you know? The meaning of obnubilate becomes clearer when you know that its ancestors are the Latin terms ob- (meaning "in the way") and nubes ("cloud"). It's a high-flown sounding word, which may be why it often turns up in texts by and about politicians. This has been true for a long time. In fact, when the U.S. Constitution was up for ratification, 18th-century Pennsylvania statesman James Wilson used obnubilate to calm fears that the president would have too much power: "Our first executive magistrate is not obnubilated behind the mysterious obscurity of counsellors…. He is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people."