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.
October 10th, 2015
Episode 345 of 795 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 10, 2015 is: wooden \WOOD-un\ adjective 1 : made or consisting of wood 2 : lacking ease or flexibility : awkwardly stiff Examples: In the early days of basketball, baskets were often attached to balconies over which interfering spectators could leanuntil wooden backboards made that interference impossible. "Nick is a fascinatingly flawed and sometimes explosive good-guy personality with his own demons. It's this deep character development that distinguishes this novel from those in which wooden characters are only there to move the plot along." Nancy Ward, The Alaska Dispatch News, 23 Aug. 2015 Did you know? Humans have been making objects out of wood since before there was an English language, but the adjectival use of wood didn't come into being until the 14th century, and wooden didn't appear until the 16th. (The word wood has ancient roots, but it originally existed only as a noun.) In Middle English, the adjective of choice was tree or treen, as in a "tree vessel" or "treen shoes." Treen in turn came from the Old English word trēowen, from the noun trēow ("tree") and the suffix -en, which was used to indicate that something was composed of a certain material. As far as we know, no one ever used treen figuratively to describe things that are stiff as a board, but wooden was put to broader use soon after it was first recorded.