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.
November 22nd, 2014
Episode 23 of 823 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 22, 2014 is: shrive \SHRYVE\ verb 1 : to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to 2 : to free from guilt Examples: "Once every three months, Pancho took his savings and drove into Monterey to confess his sins, to do his penance, and be shriven and to get drunk, in the order named." John Steinbeck, The Pastures of Heaven, 1932 "Members of Congress, a generally spineless lot, like nothing better than to be shriven of responsibility for the edicts that come out of Washington." editorial, The Eagle-Tribune (Andover, Massachusetts), January 30, 2014 Did you know? We wouldn't want to give the history of shrive short shrift, so here's the whole story. It began when the Latin verb scribere (meaning "to write") found its way onto the tongues of certain Germanic peoples who brought it to Britain in the early Middle Ages. Because it was often used for laying down directions or rules in writing, 8th-century Old English speakers used their form of the term, scrīfan, to mean "to prescribe or impose." The Church adopted scrīfan to refer to the act of assigning penance to sinners and, later, to hearing confession and administering absolution. Today shrift, the noun form of shrive, makes up half of "short shrift," a phrase meaning "little or no consideration." Originally, "short shrift" was the barely adequate time for confession before an execution.