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.
May 31st, 2016
Episode 541 of 765 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 31, 2016 is: tousle \TOW-zul\ verb : to make untidy : dishevel, rumple Examples: The cats got into a loud scuffle, tousling the clean sheets that Hugh had just put on the bed. "In person, removed from the dank interiors he typically haunts on 'Game of Thrones,' Mr. Rheon's face is more cherubic than demonic, with a rakish scruff and artfully tousled hair that gets more so as he runs his hands through it in conversation." — Jeremy Egner, The New York Times, 20 Apr. 2016 Did you know? Tousle is a word that has been through what linguists call a "functional shift." That's a fancy way of saying it was originally one part of speech, then gradually came to have an additional function. Tousle started out as a verb back in the 15th century. By the late 19th century, it was also being used as a noun meaning "a tangled mass (as of hair)." Etymologists connect the word to an Old High German word meaning "to pull to pieces."