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.
June 10th, 2016
Episode 551 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 10, 2016 is: semelparous \seh-MEL-puh-rus\ adjective : reproducing or breeding only once in a lifetime Examples: The article's author is a scientist who spent years studying semelparous butterflies. "[The century plant's] common name derives from itssemelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life." — Fred Whitley, The St. Augustine (Florida) Record, 3 Oct. 2014 Did you know? The combining form -parous was first used in English by the 17th-century physician and writer Sir Thomas Browne, who wrote about organisms that were multiparous ("producing more than one at a birth"), oviparous ("producing eggs that develop outside the maternal body"), and viviparous ("producing living young instead of eggs from within the body"). The suffix is based on the Latin verb parere, meaning "to give birth to," which is also a relative of the word that gave us parent. Semelparous, the youngest offspring of -parous, was born in 1954. Its other parent is semel, the Latin word for "once."