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.
August 12th, 2016
Episode 614 of 827 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 12, 2016 is: vestige \VESS-tij\ noun 1 a : a trace, mark, or visible sign left by something (such as an ancient city or a condition or practice) vanished or lost b : the smallest quantity or trace 2 : a bodily part or organ that is small and degenerate or imperfectly developed in comparison to one more fully developed in an earlier stage of the individual, in a past generation, or in closely related forms Examples: There was not a vestige of doubt in the jurors' minds that the defendant was guilty. "The United States is fully lifting the ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam that has been in place for some 50 years.… [T]his change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War." — Barack Obama, quoted on CNN International, 23 May 2016 Did you know? Vestige is derived via Middle French from the Latin noun vestigium, meaning "footstep, footprint, or track." Like trace and track, vestige can refer to a perceptible sign made by something that has now passed. Of the three words, vestige is the most likely to apply to a tangible reminder, such as a fragment or remnant of what is past and gone. Trace, on the other hand, may suggest any line, mark, or discernible effect ("the snowfield is pockmarked with the traces of caribou"). Track implies a continuous line that can be followed ("the fossilized tracks of dinosaurs").