Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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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.



September 30th, 2016

Episode 663 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 30, 2016 is: woebegone \WOH-bih-gahn\ adjective 1 : strongly afflicted with woe : woeful 2 a : exhibiting great woe, sorrow, or misery b : being in a sorry state Examples: "I simply wanted to be left alone to cry. I wanted the opposite of conversation, because for this brief, woebegone interlude, what was there to say?" — Wesley Morris, The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2016 "On a 68-degree afternoon, the Giants (71-59) took out their frustrations on the Braves' woebegone pitching staff in record-setting fashion. Denard Span added a solo homer and Eduardo Núñez also went deep, giving the Giants their first four-homer game at AT&T Park in six years." — Andrew Baggarly, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 28 Aug. 2016 Did you know? At first glance, woebegone looks like a word that has its meaning backwards; after all, if begone means "to go away," shouldn't woebegone mean "devoid of woe," or "happy"? Not exactly. The word derives from the Middle English phrase wo begon. The wo in this phrase simply means "woe," but begon (deriving from Old English began) is a past participle meaning "beset." Someone who is woebegone, therefore, is beset with woe. Since the early 19th century, the word has also been used to describe things that appear to express sadness, as in "a woebegone face."