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.
September 7th, 2016
Episode 640 of 795 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 7, 2016 is: untoward \un-TOH-erd\ adjective 1 : difficult to guide, manage, or work with : unruly, intractable 2 a : marked by trouble or unhappiness : unlucky b : not favorable or propitious : adverse 3 : improper, indecorous Examples: I eyed the stranger suspiciously, but I had to admit that there was nothing untoward about his appearance. "The circulation staff will no longer be able to process credit card payments at the front desk…. There are too many possible legal and financial fraud issues for the library if somethinguntowardwere to occur." — The Milford (Massachusetts) Daily News, 5 July 2016 Did you know? More than 700 years ago, English speakers began using the word toward for "forward-moving" youngsters, the kind who showed promise and were open to listening to their elders. After about 150 years, the use was broadened somewhat to mean simply "docile" or "obliging." The opposite of this toward is froward, meaning "perverse" or "ungovernable." Today, froward has fallen out of common use, and the cooperative sense of toward is downright obsolete, but the newcomer to this series—untoward—has kept its toehold. Untoward first showed up as a synonym of unruly in the 1500s, and it is still used, just as it was then, though it has since acquired other meanings as well.