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 16th, 2015
Episode 382 of 720 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 16, 2015 is: talisman \TAL-iss-mun\ noun 1 : an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune 2 : something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects Examples: Ever since he was in grade school, Sarah's grandfather has carried a rabbit's foot in his pocket as a talisman. "Relics are physical possessions that were once touched by saints, or even their clothing or body parts, which for many serve as a talisman of good fortune." Larry Getlen, The New York Post, 6 Sept. 2015 Did you know? Do you believe in lucky charms? Language reflects the fact that many people do. We might have borrowed talisman from French, Spanish, and Italian; all three include similar-looking words for a lucky charm. Those three terms derive from a single Arabic word for a charm, tilsam. Tilsam in turn can be traced to the ancient Greek verb telein, which means "to initiate into the mysteries." While the word talisman, in its strictest use, refers to an object, even a human being can be considered a talismansuch as a player on a team whose mere presence somehow causes magical things to happen.