Start each day with the Word of the Day in your inbox!

Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ aw-ton-uh-mee ] [ ɔˈtɒn ə mi ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions.

learn about the english language

More about autonomy

Autonomy “freedom of the will” comes from Ancient Greek autonomía “independence,” which is based on the adjective autónomos “with laws of one’s own.” Autónomos, in turn, is a compound of the elements autós “self” and nómos “law, custom, management, regulation.” Autós should look all too familiar, as its stems aut- and auto- appear in English terms such as authentic (literally “done by oneself”), automatic (“thinking for oneself”), and autopsy (“seeing for oneself”). Meanwhile, nómos is also the ultimate source of the words astronomy (“star regulation”), Deuteronomy (“second law”), and economy (“household management”). Autonomy was first recorded in English circa 1620.

how is autonomy used?

[Susan] Prendergast, who’s an assistant professor in the University of Victoria’s school of nursing, said Alberta lags behind other provinces such as B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia, where NPs [nurse practitioners] have more autonomy.

Jennifer Lee, “Alberta's nurse practitioners seek autonomy as family doctor shortage worsens,” CBC, June 23, 2022

This freedom has sometimes been a source of friction in political quarters. “This extensive autonomy is desirable for designing and carrying out research, but should not necessarily extend to aspects of personnel,” says Holger Becker, a physicist who is a lawmaker in the German parliament and is on the parliament’s research committee.

Alison Abbott, “Max Planck’s cherished autonomy questioned following criticism of misconduct investigations,” Nature, June 8, 2022
quiz icon
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
arrows pointing up and down
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ drey-koh-nee-uhn, druh- ] [ dreɪˈkoʊ ni ən, drə- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


rigorous; unusually severe or cruel.

learn about the english language

More about draconian

Draconian “unusually severe or cruel” is based on Latin Dracō (stem Dracōn-), plus the adjectival suffix -ian. In ancient Athens, a city-state that is now the capital of Greece, Draco (known to his fellow Athenians as Drákōn) was a statesman who was famous—or infamous—for the unusually harsh laws he enacted. The Latin common noun dracō means “dragon, serpent” and appears in the motto of the school Hogwarts, from the Harry Potter series: Dracō dormiēns nunquam tītillandus, meaning “A sleeping dragon must never be tickled.” Latin dracō, originally an adaptation of Ancient Greek drákōn, is the source of English dragon, dragoon, and drake. Draconian was first recorded in English in the 1810s.

how is draconian used?

Wyatt was both a victim and a collaborator in a new kind of political system: the totalitarian state. The 16th century may have been the golden age of English literature, but it also fostered an increasingly draconian monarchy.

Ed Simon, “Among Tyrants,” Poetry Foundation, November 5, 2018

The U.S. Federal Reserve risks weak economic growth throughout this year due to its backward-looking, “draconian” rate hikes, warned Wall Street’s best-known tech sector bull [Cathie Wood].

Christiaan Hetzner, “Cathie Wood warns the Fed is ignoring dangerous signals as it plows ahead with draconian rate hikes,” Fortune, June 20, 2022
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ dih-sent ] [ dɪˈsɛnt ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


disagreement with the philosophy, methods, goals, etc., of a political party or government.

learn about the english language

More about dissent

Dissent “disagreement with a party or government” comes by way of Middle English and Middle French from the Latin verb dissentīre, “to differ, disagree,” which is based on the prefix dis- “apart” and the verb sentīre “to feel, observe.” Dissent is both a verb and a noun, and the noun sense arose in the late 16th century, well over one hundred years after the verb first appeared in English. The Latin verb sentīre has two stems: sent- and sens-. The first of these is found in English sentence, sentient, sentiment, and sentinel, while the second appears in consensus, sense, sensible, and sensual—all of which relate in some way to feeling, thought, opinion, or observation. Sentīre is also the source of numerous Romance language words and phrases related to emotion and perception, including Spanish lo siento “I am sorry” (literally “I feel it”). Dissent was first recorded in English in the early 15th century.

how is dissent used?

Newsrooms should reflect the country, the world that they are covering, and the world is in the middle of some dissent and disagreement and debate right now. I don’t know how we’re supposed to escape that.

Dean Baquet, as quoted in “Dean Baquet Never Wanted to Be an Editor,” The New Yorker, February 18, 2022

Art not only makes concrete the notion that dissent is possible in times of darkness but also reminds viewers that dissent can manifest itself in beautiful and complex forms. Art is a strategy for political activism.

Emily Jungmin Yoon, as quoted in “Cold Comfort,” Poetry Foundation, October 1, 2018
Word of the Day Calendar
Word of the Day Calendar