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 3rd, 2015
Episode 124 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 03, 2015 is: thanatology \than-uh-TAH-luh-jee\ noun : the description or study of the phenomena of death and of psychological mechanisms for coping with them Examples: One of the seminal texts on thanatology is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's On Death and Dying, which outlines the five stages of grief. "In her eight-week yoga for grief course, Stang uses her background in thanatologythe scientific study of death, dying and bereavementto educate participants about death and normalize their experiences." Anna Medaris Miller, U.S. News & World Report, January 7, 2015 Did you know? In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personification of death and the twin brother of Hypnos (Sleep). The ancient Greeks eventually came to use thanatos as a generic word for "death." Thanatology is a direct linguistic heir of the Greek term and was first documented in English in the mid-1800s. As a science, thanatology examines attitudes toward death, the meaning and behaviors of bereavement and grief, and other matters. In 1935, the word thanatos itself made its debut in English, ushered in with psychoanalytic theory to describe an unconscious tendency toward self-destruction.