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.
May 16th, 2016
Episode 526 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2016 is: quincunx \KWIN-kunks\ noun : an arrangement of five things in a square or rectangle with one at each corner and one in the middle Examples: The sculptures in the square were arranged in a quincunx with the outer ones marking the perimeter and the middle one serving as the centerpiece. "The towers of Angkor Wat—shaped in a quincunx, five points in a cross—were named after Mount Meru, the home of the gods believed in Indian myth to lie at the center of the world." — William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books, 21 May 2015 Did you know? In ancient Rome, a quincunx was a coin with a weight equal to five twelfths of a libra, a unit of weight similar to our pound. The coin's name comes from the Latin roots quinque, meaning "five," and uncia, meaning "one twelfth." The ancients used a pattern of five dots arranged like the pips on a die as a symbol for the coin, and English speakers applied the word to arrangements similar to that distinctive five-dot mark.