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.
April 7th, 2016
Episode 497 of 823 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 7, 2016 is: ruthless \ROOTH-lus\ adjective : having no pity : merciless, cruel Examples: The country was ruled by a ruthless dictator who could inflict punishment at will on any person who defied his orders. "While Wyatt's business tactics were said to beruthless,they sure were smart." — James Reginato, Vanity Fair, February 2016 Did you know? Ruthless can be defined as "without ruth" or "having no ruth." So what, then, is ruth? The noun ruth, which is now considerably less common than ruthless, means "compassion for the misery of another," "sorrow for one's own faults," or "remorse." And, just as it is possible for one to be without ruth, it is also possible to be full of ruth. The antonym of ruthless is ruthful, meaning "full of ruth" or "tender." Ruthful can also mean "full of sorrow" or "causing sorrow." Ruth can be traced back to the Middle English noun ruthe, itself from ruen, meaning "to rue" or "to feel regret, remorse, or sorrow."