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.
January 7th, 2015
Episode 69 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 07, 2015 is: virtuoso \ver-choo-OH-soh\ noun 1 : an experimenter or investigator especially in the arts and sciences 2 : one skilled in or having a taste for the fine arts 3 : one who excels in the technique of an art; especially : a highly skilled musical performer Examples: "A virtuoso with words, [Thomas Jefferson] invariably produced easily read and readily comprehensible drafts that usually included some memorable phrases." John Ferling, Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, 2004 "But the heart of the program was Beethoven, the Quartet in E Minor, Opus 59, No. 2, 'Razoumovsky.' This is where the modern string quartet begins, quartets that became the property of virtuosos instead of amateurs, quartets that wanted to be symphonies." Ken Keaton, Palm Beach Daily News, December 12, 2014 Did you know? English speakers borrowed the Italian noun virtuoso in the 1600s. It comes in turn from the Italian adjective virtuoso, which means both "virtuous" and "skilled." In English, virtuoso can be pluralized as either virtuosos or virtuosi, and it is often used attributively ("a virtuoso performer"). The first virtuosos were individuals of substantial knowledge and learning ("great wits," to quote one 17th-century clergyman). The word was then transferred to those skilled in the fine arts, and by the 18th century it had acquired its specific sense applied to musicians. In the 20th century, English speakers broadened virtuoso again to apply to a person skilled in any pursuit.