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.
October 6th, 2016
Episode 669 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 6, 2016 is: vulnerary \VUL-nuh-rair-ee\ adjective : used for or useful in healing wounds Examples: "Rebecca examined the wound, and having applied to it such vulnerary remedies as her art prescribed, informed her father that if fever could be averted … there was nothing to fear for his guest's life, and that he might with safety travel to York with them on the ensuing day." — Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, 1820 "St. John’s wort can also help those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to lower sunlight exposure in the winter months. Its anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, astringent, and antimicrobial actions make it a powerful healer for wounds, bruises, burns, sprains, and muscle pain." — Jane Metzger, Mother Earth News, 13 July 2015 Did you know? In Latin, vulnus means "wound." You might think, then, that the English adjective vulnerary would mean "wounding" or "causing a wound"—and, indeed, vulnerary has been used that way, along with two obsolete adjectives, vulnerative and vulnific. But for the lasting and current use of vulnerary, we took our cue from the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. In his Natural History, he used the Latin adjective vulnerarius to describe a plaster, or dressing, for healing wounds. And that's fine—the suffix -ary merely indicates that there is a connection, which, in this case, is to wounds. (As you may have already suspected, vulnerable is related; it comes from the Latin verb vulnerare, which means "to wound.")