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.
July 3rd, 2016
Episode 574 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 3, 2016 is: ossify \AH-suh-fye\ verb 1 : to become or change into bone or bony tissue 2 : to become or make hardened or set in one's ways Examples: When a baby is born, many of the bones in its body have yet to ossify. "Bargaining systems that address legitimate problems today mayossifyinto cumbersome bureaucracies over time." — Dante Ramos, The Boston Globe, 27 Mar. 2016 Did you know? The skeletons of mammals originate as soft cartilage that gradually transforms into hard bone (in humans, the process begins in the womb and continues until late adolescence). English speakers have referred to this bone-building process as ossification since the late 17th century, and the verb ossify appeared at roughly the same time. English speakers had begun to use both ossification and ossify for more figurative types of hardening (such as that of the heart, mind, or soul) by the 19th century. Both words descend from the Latin root os, meaning "bone." Os is also an English word that appears in scientific contexts as a synonym of bone, and the Latin term is an ancestor of the word osseous, which means "consisting of or resembling bone."