Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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.



July 24th, 2015

Episode 266 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2015 is: umbra \UM-bruh\ noun 1 : a shaded area 2 a : a conical shadow excluding all light from a given source; specifically : the conical part of the shadow of a celestial body excluding all light from the primary source b : the central dark part of a sunspot Examples: During the eclipse, the moon was in the umbra of the earth's shadow for about 90 minutes. "When the moon passes into the penumbra, it darkens the surface of the moon, making it look as if a 'bite' has been taken from the lunar surface. 'Totality' occurs when the moon is completely submerged in the umbra, and takes on a deep red hue." Maria Rovito, The Snapper: Millersville University, April 9, 2015 Did you know? The Latin word umbra ("shade, shadow") has given English a range of words in addition to umbra itself. An umbrella can provide us with shade from the sun. So can an umbrageous treein this case, umbrageous means "affording shade." The connection to shade or shadow in other umbra words is less obvious. When we say someone takes umbrage, we mean they take offense, but in times past people used the word as a synonym of shade or shadow. Those two senses of umbrage influenced umbrageous, which can mean "inclined to take offense easily" as well as "affording shade."