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.



August 18th, 2016

Episode 620 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2016 is: panoptic \pan-OP-tik\ adjective : being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view Examples: The new security cameras installed in the jewelry store capture panoptic views of the entrance and display cases. "Interweaving the narratives of an aristocratic uptown family, an underground punk band, a Long Island adolescent, a black gay aspiring writer, and a journalist determined to uncover the obscure connections between them all, the more-than-900-page novel … casts a panopticlens on 1970s New York City…." — Lauren Christensen, Vanity Fair, October 2015 Did you know? The establishment of panoptic in the English language can be attributed to two inventions known as panopticons. The more well-known panopticon was conceived by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. Bentham’s panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which guards could see the inmates at all times. The other panopticon, also created in the 18th century, was a device containing pictures of attractions, such as European capitals, that people viewed through an opening. Considering the views that both inventions gave, it is not hard to see why panoptic (a word derived from Greek panoptēs, meaning "all-seeing") was being used by the early 19th century.