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 19th, 2015
Episode 112 of 794 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 19, 2015 is: whammy \WAM-ee\ noun 1 a : a supernatural power bringing bad luck b : a magic curse or spell : jinx, hex 2 : a potent force or attack; specifically : a paralyzing or lethal blow Examples: After making three errors in one inning, Mitch became convinced that someone had put the whammy on his glove. "Finally, Finland is dealing with the double whammy of a loss of trade with Russiaafter the European Union imposed Ukraine-related sanctionsand the decline of its golden goose, Nokia." Michael Booth, Washington Post, January 18, 2015 Did you know? The origin of whammy is not entirely certain, but it is assumed to have been created by combining wham ("a solid blow") with the whimsical -y ending. The first example of whammy in print occurred in 1940, but the word was popularized in the 1950s by the cartoonist Al Capp in the comic strip Li'l Abner. The character Evil-Eye Fleegle could paralyze someone with the sheer power of his gaze. The "single whammy" was a look with one eye, and the fearsome "double whammy" used both eyes. As you may know, "double whammy" has also found a place in English as a general term. It means "a combination of two adverse forces, circumstances, or effects"in other words, a one-two punch.