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.
October 12th, 2016
Episode 675 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 12, 2016 is: phlegmatic \fleg-MAT-ik\ adjective 1 : resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm 2 : having or showing a slow and stolid temperament Examples: "She said 'Good morning, Miss,' in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; and taking up another ring and more tape, went on with her sewing." — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847 "You are aware of the finality of fate, and tend to have a phlegmatic and sometimes unhappy compromise with your life, even when you long for a definitive resolution."— Molly Shea, The New York Post, 31 Aug. 2016 Did you know? According to the ancient Greeks, human personalities were controlled by four bodily fluids or semifluids called humors: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Each humor was associated with one of the four basic elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Phlegm was paired with water—the cold, moist element—and it was believed to impart the cool, calm, unemotional personality we now call the "phlegmatic type." That's a bit odd, given that the term derives from the Greek phlegma, which literally means "flame," perhaps a reflection of the inflammation that colds and flus often bring.