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.
January 27th, 2016
Episode 436 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 27, 2016 is: proscribe \proh-SCRYBE\ verb 1 : to publish the name of as condemned to death with the property of the condemned forfeited to the state 2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful : prohibit Examples: The town passed an ordinance that proscribed the ownership of snakes and other exotic pets. "Military law mayproscribeconduct which is otherwise protected in the civilian world due to the different character of the military community and of the military mission." — Capt. Anne C. Hsieh, quoted in The Herald Democrat (Sherman, Texas), 18 Oct. 2015 Did you know? Proscribe and prescribe both have Latin-derived prefixes meaning "before" attached to the verb scribe (from scribere, meaning "to write"). Yet the two words have very distinct, often nearly opposite meanings. Why? In a way, you could say it's the law. In the 15th and 16th centuries both words had legal implications. To proscribe was to publish the name of a person who had been condemned, outlawed, or banished. To prescribe meant "to lay down a rule," including legal rules or orders.