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 27th, 2015
Episode 269 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 27, 2015 is: yaw \YAW\ verb 1 a : (of a ship) to deviate erratically from a course (as when struck by a heavy sea); especially : to move from side to side b : (of an airplane, spacecraft, or projectile) to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis 2 : alternate Examples: The ship yawed hard to starboard when the rogue wave hit it broadside. "In 2002, contractors explored the wreck using a remotely-operated submarine. They found ropes and lights from previous visits, and worked out how the big plane skipped and yawed across the water before sinking to the bottom." Steve Weintz, Medium.com, February 1, 2015 Did you know? In the heyday of large sailing ships, numerous nautical words appeared on the horizon, many of which have origins that have never been traced. Yaw is one such word. It began showing up in print in the 16th century, first as a noun (meaning "movement off course" or "side to side movement") and then as a verb. For more than 350 years it remained a sailing word, with occasional side trips to the figurative sense "to alternate." Then dawned the era of airplane flight in the early 20th century, and "yawing" was no longer confined to the sea. Nowadays, people who love boats still use yaw much as the sailors of old did, but pilots and astronauts also refer to the "yawing" of their crafts.