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.
February 20th, 2016
Episode 455 of 790 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 20, 2016 is: weird \WEERD\ adjective 1 : of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural : magical 2 : of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic Examples: "Again was I suddenly recalled to my immediate surroundings by a repetition of the weird moan from the depths of the cave." — Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917 "And yes, I know it's all in my head. But my head is aweird,wonderful place that does a lot of things I wish it wouldn't." — Erin Stewart, The Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), 20 Jan. 2016 Did you know? You may know today's word as a generalized term describing something unusual, but weird also has older meanings that are more specific. Weird derives from the Old English noun wyrd, essentially meaning "fate." By the 8th century, the plural wyrde had begun to appear in texts as a gloss for Parcae, the Latin name for the Fates—three goddesses who spun, measured, and cut the thread of life. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Scots authors employed werd or weird in the phrase "weird sisters" to refer to the Fates. William Shakespeare adopted this usage in Macbeth, in which the "weird sisters" are depicted as three witches. Subsequent adjectival use of weird grew out of a reinterpretation of the weird used by Shakespeare.