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.



September 3rd, 2016

Episode 636 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 3, 2016 is: quodlibet \KWAHD-luh-bet\ noun 1 : a philosophical or theological point proposed for disputation; also : a disputation on such a point 2 : a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts Examples: "In Part II the orchestral interlude is Happy Voices, which Del Tredici took in punning fashion and created a raucous fugue followed by a 'quodlibet' of all the tunes from the piece." — Vance R. Koven, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, 27 Mar. 2016 "Of the many musicals I've attended in recent years, among the most enjoyable and perhaps the funniest was Monty Python's Spamalot. The music cues come fast and furious, and in all varieties, from classical quodlibets to Spike Jones-like punctuations—a true challenge for the music director to keep up and maintain the comic timing." — Joseph Church, OUPBlog, 15 Feb. 2015 Did you know? "Whatever." Try to get philosophical nowadays and that may be the response you hear. We don't know if someone quibbling over a minor philosophical or theological point 600 years ago might have gotten a similar reaction, but we do know that Latin quodlibet, meaning "any whatever," was the name given to such academic debates. Quodlibet is a form of quilibet, from qui, meaning "what," and libet, meaning "it pleases." We can't say with certainty how quodlibet went from disputations to musical conglomerations, but English speakers have been using quodlibet for light musical mélanges since the early 19th century.