Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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 20th, 2015

Episode 201 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2015 is: quisling \KWIZ-ling\ noun : one who commits treason : traitor, collaborator Examples: "This is a country that can force you to garden, where the parish or your neighbors can twist your arm, make you delve like Adam on behalf of the common neatness. Best-kept village competitions turn stockbroker dormitory towns into little Stalingrads, where baskets of lobelia and geranium hang from lampposts in symbolic place of deserters and quislings." A. A. Gill, The Angry Island, 2008 "Liu's works also serve as commentary on current events. For example, a central character in the trilogy sides with the aliens in their struggle against humanity. She becomes a 'terrestrial quisling' because Maoists persecuted her during the Cultural Revolution." Anthony Kuhn, KPBS.org, April 9, 2015 Did you know? Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian army officer who in 1933 founded Norway's fascist party. In December 1939, he met with Adolf Hitler and urged him to occupy Norway. Following the German invasion of April 1940, Quisling served as a figurehead in the puppet government set up by the German occupation forces, and his linguistic fate was sealed. Before the end of 1940, quisling was being used generically in English to refer to any traitor. Winston Churchill, George Orwell, and H. G. Wells used it in their wartime writings. Quisling lived to see his name thus immortalized, but not much longer. He was executed for treason soon after the liberation of Norway in 1945.

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