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.
March 4th, 2015
Episode 125 of 830 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 04, 2015 is: sprightly \SPRYTE-lee\ adjective 1 : marked by a cheerful lightness and vivacity (as of movement or manner) : spirited 2 : having a distinctively piquant taste Examples: Uncle Jack, a sprightly man nearing 90, was an avid storyteller, and we all listened with rapt attention as he regaled us with his newest tale. "The somber, pensive orchestral prelude to Act III was magnificent. And Mr. Levine actually seemed to gain energy during the long final scene in the meadow, with the sprightly country dances and celebratory marches." Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, December 3, 2014 Did you know? Sprightly comes from spright, an archaic version of the word we now use for an elf or fairy: sprite. Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest and the leprechaun of Irish mythology are often referred to as sprites, and it's no coincidence that both are characterized by their light, flitting movements and mannerisms. Sprite derives via Middle English and Old French from the Latin spiritus, which of course gives us spirit as well. A similar-looking adjective that can describe someone who is nimble and energetic is spry, but that word is believed to be of Scandinavian origin.