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.
June 6th, 2016
Episode 547 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 6, 2016 is: welter \WEL-ter\ verb 1 a : writhe, toss; also : wallow b : to rise and fall or toss about in or with waves 2 : to become deeply sunk, soaked, or involved 3 : to be in turmoil Examples: "As debris weltered in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, the landfill company River Birch Inc. used helicopter tours to argue against the government's reopening of Old Gentilly Landfill in eastern New Orleans." — Richard Rainey, NOLA.com, 5 June 2011 "He liked social democracy, thought it a good promoter of liberty, urged on its expansion of higher education, but found that this too weltered in bureaucracy in the end." — The Economist, 25 June 2009 Did you know? Welter can be used both as a noun (meaning "turmoil" or "chaos") and a verb. The verb is the older of the two; it has been part of English since at least the 1300s, while the earliest uses of the noun date from the late 1590s. Both noun and verb have roots related to Dutch and Germanic terms meaning "to roll," and both have found a place in historical English literature. The verb helps demonstrate extreme despair in the early Arthurian legend Morte Arthure ("He welterys, he wristeles, he wrynges hys handes!"), and in 1837 Thomas Carlyle used the noun in The French Revolution ("I leave the whole business in a frightful welter: … not one of them understands anything of government").