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.
March 20th, 2015
Episode 141 of 720 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 20, 2015 is: zephyr \ZEFF-er\ noun 1 a : a breeze from the west b : a gentle breeze 2 : any of various lightweight fabrics and articles of clothing Examples: "There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds." Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, 1876 "Strangely enough, by the end of a Maine winter, a 32-degree breeze feels like a palm-scented zephyr from Bali." Brett Willis, Portland (Maine) Press Herald, January 8, 2015 Did you know? For centuries, poets have eulogized Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind, and his "swete breeth" (in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer). Zephyrus, the personified west wind, eventually evolved into zephyr, a word for a breeze that is westerly or gentle, or both. Breezy zephyr may have blown into English with the help of William Shakespeare, who used the word in his 1611 play Cymbeline: "Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet." Today, zephyr is also the sobriquet of a lightweight fabric and the clothing that is made from it.