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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.

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overweening

February 15th, 2015

Episode 108 of 713 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 15, 2015 is: overweening \oh-ver-WEE-ning\ adjective 1 : arrogant, presumptuous 2 : immoderate, exaggerated Examples: With her overweening ego, the actress expected to be recognized and flattered by everyone she met. "The idea that an overweening federal government is a threat to both freedom and equality (not to mention prosperity) goes back to Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry and some other fairly respectable personages." Jonathan Rauch, The New York Times, January 4, 2015 Did you know? "The overweening conceit which the greater part of men have of their own abilities is an ancient evil remarked by the philosophers and moralists of all ages." So wrote Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations. But while overweening conceit might be an age-old evil, the word overweening has only been part of English since the 14th century. It developed from the Middle English overwening, the present participle of the verb overwenen, which meant "to be arrogant." That term derived in turn from wenen, which meant "to think" or "to imagine." Today, the adjective overweening is the most widely used of the wenen descendants, but historical texts also occasionally include overween, a term for thinking too highly of your own opinion.

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