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 28th, 2015
Episode 270 of 689 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2015 is: pachyderm \PAK-ih-derm\ noun : any of various nonruminant mammals (such as an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus) of a former group (Pachydermata) that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin; especially : elephant Examples: "The archetypal Seuss hero was Horton, a conscientious pachyderm who was duped by a lazy bird into sitting on her egg." Eric Pace, New York Times, September 26, 1991 "Each month, as Nandi bounds closer to her first birthday on Aug. 20, we will keep you in the know on whats new with this precious pachyderms progress." Johanna Willett, Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2015 Did you know? Pachydermos in Greek means literally "having thick skin" (figuratively, it means "dull" or "stupid"). It's from pachys, meaning "thick," and derma, meaning "skin." In the late 1700s the French naturalist Georges Cuvier adapted the Greek term as pachyderme and used it for any one of a whole assemblage of hoofed animals having thickish skin: elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, tapirs, horses, pigs, and more. English speakers learned the word from French in the early 1800s. The adjective pachydermatous means "of or relating to the pachyderms" or "thickened" (referring to skin). Not too surprisingly, it also means "callous" or "insensitive" (somewhat unfairly to elephants, which are actually known to be rather sensitive).