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.
July 20th, 2016
Episode 591 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 20, 2016 is: winkle \WINK-ul\ verb 1 : (chiefly British) to displace, remove, or evict from a position 2 : (chiefly British) to obtain or draw out by effort Examples: "In 1483 a new English king, Richard III, tried again to winkle Henry out of Brittany, but he found that the young man was now a significant pawn on the European chessboard." — Nigel Calder, The English Channel, 1986 "The reclusive actress, 48, had been winkled out of her New Mexico ranch and flown halfway around the world only to stand there and be ignored as Amal battled with her chiffon frills and the cameras rattled like gunfire." — Jan Moir, The Daily Mail (UK), 20 May 2016 Did you know? If you have ever extracted a winkle from its shell, then you understand how the verb winkle came to be. The word winkle is short for periwinkle, the name of a marine or freshwater snail. Periwinkle is ultimately derived from Latin pina, the name of a mussel, and Old English wincle, a snail shell. Evidently the personnel of World War I's Allied Powers found their duty of finding and removing the enemy from the trenches analogous to extracting a well-entrenched snail and began using winkle to describe their efforts. The action of "winkling the enemy out" was later extended to other situations, such as "winkling information out of someone."