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.



March 28th, 2015

Episode 149 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 28, 2015 is: persiflage \PER-suh-flahzh\ noun : frivolous bantering talk : light raillery Examples: Since the final round ended sooner than expected, the quiz show host engaged in persiflage with the contestants until it was time to sign off. "The pleasant research I did for this storyin which coffee is equated with romanceled me to discover the famous cafés of Turin. As in Prague, Paris, or Vienna, they have for generations been arenas for aristocratic persiflage, intellectual gossip, even revolutionary ideas." Andrea Lee, Gourmet, May 2004 Did you know? Unwanted persiflage on television might provoke an impatient audience to hiss or boo, but from an etymological standpoint, no other reaction could be more appropriate. English speakers picked up persiflage from French in the 18th century. Its ancestor is the French verb persifler, which means "to banter" and was formed from the prefix per-, meaning "thoroughly," plus siffler, meaning "to whistle, hiss, or boo." Siffler in turn derived from the Latin verb sibilare, meaning "to whistle or hiss." By the way, sibilare is also the source of sibilant, a word linguists use to describe sounds like those made by "s" and "sh" in sash. That Latin root also underlies the verb sibilate, meaning "to hiss" or "to pronounce with or utter an initial sibilant."

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