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.
May 31st, 2015
Episode 212 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 31, 2015 is: perseverate \per-SEV-uh-rayt\ verb 1 : to repeat or recur persistently 2 : to go back over previously covered ground Examples: To ensure the accuracy of his or her data, the scientist necessarily perseverates, repeating each experiment many times and comparing the results. "In a world of sport, where weperseverateon numbers and titles to measure success, Duval's self-measurement is refreshing." Bill Dwyre, Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2012 Did you know? Looking at perseverate and perseveration, you may guess that the latter was formed by adding a suffix to the former, but that is not the case. Perseveration is actually the older term. It has been around since the 1500s, when it was used as a synonym of perseverance (which at one time was pronounced, like perseverate and perseveration, with the stress on sev, instead of on ver). In the early 1900s, psychologists adopted perseveration for the act of repeating a behavior over and over again. (For instance, continually repeating the same syllable or word might be called "verbal perseveration.") Shortly afterward, those scientists wanted a verb for such acts of repetition, so they changed the -tion of perseveration to -ate and perseverate was born.