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.
August 27th, 2016
Episode 629 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 27, 2016 is: plinth \PLINTH\ noun 1 : the lowest part of the base of an architectural column 2 : a usually square block serving as a base; broadly : any of various bases or lower parts 3 : a course of stones forming a continuous foundation or base course Examples: An empty plinth remains where the statue of the toppled dictator once commanded. "Fabio Mauri (1926-2009) grew up in Mussolini-era Italy and his art consistently examines the ways in which the traumas of war and fascism are assimilated by history. For the most part it's the simpler works that resonate—such as a lone artillery shell on a plinth." — Time Out, 26 Jan. 2016 Did you know? "These ivy-clad arcades — / These mouldering plinths ... are they all — / All of the famed, and the colossal left…?" In these lines from "The Coliseum," Edgar Allan Poe alludes to a practical feature of classical architecture. The plinth serves the important purpose of raising the base of the column it supports above the ground, thus protecting it from dampness and mold. The humble plinth is usually a mere thick block. It's humbly named, too, for the Greek word plinthos means simply "tile" or "brick." English writers have used plinth, a shortened version of the Latin form plinthus, since the mid-16th century. The word's meaning was later extended to bases for statues, vases, or busts.