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.
December 30th, 2015
Episode 409 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 30, 2015 is: wormhole \WERM-hohl\ noun 1 : a hole or passage burrowed by a worm 2 : a hypothetical structure of space-time envisioned as a long thin tunnel connecting points that are separated in space and time Examples: Some science fiction writers speculate that wormholes will become the intergalactic highways of the future. "Sci-fi fans who hope humanity can one day zoom to distant corners of the universe via wormholes, as astronauts do in the recent film 'Interstellar,' shouldn't hold their breath." — Mike Wall, Space.com, 24 Nov. 2014 Did you know? If you associate wormhole with quantum physics and sci-fi, you'll probably be surprised to learn that the word has been around since Shakespeare's day—although, admittedly, he used it more literally than most modern writers. To Shakespeare, a wormhole was simply a hole made by a worm, a more down-to-earth sense which is still used today. But even the Bard subtly linked wormholes to the passage of time; for example, in The Rape of Lucrece, he notes time's destructive power "to fill with worm-holes stately monuments." To modern astrophysicists, a wormhole isn't a tunnel wrought by a slimy invertebrate but a theoretical tunnel between two black holes or other points in space-time, providing a shortcut between its end points.