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 6th, 2015
Episode 68 of 689 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 06, 2015 is: ombudsman \AHM-boodz-mun\ noun 1 : a government official who investigates complaints made by individuals against public officials 2 : one that investigates, reports on, and helps settle complaints Examples: The newspaper's ombudsman responded to the many angry letters the article had generated. "My 18-month hitch as ESPN ombudsman ends later this year, so this column begins my goodbye tour." Robert Lipsyte, ESPN.com, November 4, 2014 Did you know? Ombudsman was borrowed from Swedish, where it means "representative," and ultimately derives from the Old Norse words umboth ("commission") and mathr ("man"). In the early 1800s, Sweden became the first country to appoint an independent official known as an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government officials and agencies. Since then, other countries (such as Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand), as well as some U.S. states, have appointed similar officials. The word ombudsman was first used in English in the late 1950s; by the 1960s, it was also being used to refer to a person who reviews complaints against an organization (such as a school or hospital) or to someone who enforces standards of journalistic ethics at a newspaper.