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.
December 31st, 2014
Episode 62 of 795 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 31, 2014 is: vertiginous \ver-TIJ-uh-nus\ adjective 1 a : characterized by or suffering from vertigo or dizziness b : inclined to frequent and often pointless change : inconstant 2 : causing or tending to cause dizziness 3 : marked by turning Examples: As a window washer for some of the city's tallest skyscrapers, Victor had to quickly master working at vertiginous heights. "The cheapest seat in the housea perch in the vertiginous reaches of the upper balconywould set me back $59." Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader, December 3, 2014 Did you know? Physicians began calling a patient's disordered state in which surroundings seem to whirl dizzily vertigo in the 15th century. Vertiginous, from the Latin vertiginosus, is the adjective form of vertigo, which in Latin means "a turning or whirling action." Both words descend from the Latin verb vertere, meaning "to turn." (Vertiginous and vertigo are just two of an almost dizzying array of vertere offspring, from adverse to vortex.) The "dizzying" sense of vertiginous is often used figuratively, as in this December 9th book recommendation by Thomas Mallon in The New York Times: "Marked by a piercing wit and vertiginous vocabulary, the book is a feat of emotional dexterity, shrewdly dispassionate and carefully felt."