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.
June 1st, 2015
Episode 213 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 01, 2015 is: phreaker \FREE-ker\ noun : one who gains illegal access to the telephone system Examples: This year's annual conference on culture and technology will focus on the subculture of hackers and phreakers. "Wire fraud spiked, and the FBI cracked down on phreakers and their blue boxes." Jose Pagliery, CNN.com, March 11, 2015 Did you know? Phreakers are people who specialize in attacks on the telephone system. The word, which became popular in the mid-1980s, is probably a combination of the words phone and freak. (Phreakers are also known as "phreaks" or "phone phreaks.") In the early days, phreakers whistled or used an instrument to mimic the tones the phone system then used to route calls and identify payment, especially as a way to avoid paying for an expensive call. Modern phreaking involves breaking into and manipulating the phone company's computer system, making it a specialized kind of hacking.