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 6th, 2015
Episode 341 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 06, 2015 is: xeric \ZEER-ik\ adjective : characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture Examples: She is a botanist who primarily studies deserts and xeric shrublands. "As water restrictions were enacted through the metro area, the Kentucky bluegrass in other parts of the park dried up, while the three display beds filled with xeric varieties that don't take much water flourished." Austin Briggs, The Denver Post, 6 Aug. 2015 Did you know? By the late 1800s, botanists were using the terms xerophyte and xerophytic for plants that were well adapted for survival in dry environments. But some felt the need for a more generic word that included both animals and plants. In 1926 a group proposed using xeric (derived from xēros, the Greek word for "dry") as a more generalized term for either flora or fauna. They further suggested that "xerophytic be entirely abandoned as useless and misleading." Not everyone liked the idea. In fact, the Ecological Society of America stated that xeric was "not desirable," preferring terms such as arid. Others declared that xeric should refer only to habitats, not to organisms. Scientists used it anyway, and by the 1940s xeric was well documented in scientific literature.