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 17th, 2015
Episode 322 of 828 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 17, 2015 is: quondam \KWAHN-dum\ adjective : former, sometime Examples: Many people were surprised to learn that the quondam poet and professor had since become an accountant. "It was in that spirit that Vladimir Putin, the quondam KGB man who rules Russia, addressed his nation and the world Tuesday on the annexation of Crimea." Charles Lane, The Washington Post, 20 Mar. 2014 Did you know? Looking for an unusual and creative way to say "former"? Quondam (which came to English in the 16th century from Latin quondam, meaning "at one time" or "formerly") certainly fits the bill. Or maybe you'd prefer one of its synonyms: whilom, ci-devant, or preterit. Or you could really go crazy with umquhile, a word that is extremely rare even in its more natural Scots English setting. Quondam itself isn't exactly ubiquitous, but it's used more than any of the other words above. If you're looking for something a bit more pedestrian, you might try yet another synonym: erstwhile. Despite its wonderfully archaic flavor, erstwhile is a highly favored alternative.