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.
November 30th, 2015
Episode 387 of 793 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 30, 2015 is: paragon \PAIR-uh-gahn\ noun : a model of excellence or perfection Examples: "What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!" William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1600-1601 "Looking at a broad array of American economic indicators, it's hard to see what investors are afraid of. The United States is a paragon of growth especially the job market." Conrad de Aenlle, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2015 Did you know? Paragon derives from the Old Italian word paragone, which literally means "touchstone." A touchstone is a black stone that was formerly used to judge the purity of gold or silver. The metal was rubbed on the stone and the color of the streak it left indicated its quality. In modern English, both touchstone and paragon have come to signify a standard against which something should be judged. Ultimately, paragon comes from the Greek parakonan, meaning "to sharpen," from the prefix para- ("alongside of") and akonē, meaning "whetstone."