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

Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ key-ret-soo ] [ keɪˈrɛt su ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a loose coalition of business groups.

learn about the english language

More about keiretsu

Keiretsu “a loose coalition of business groups” is a compound of Japanese kei “series” and retsu “line, row.” As with many words in Japanese, both kei and retsu are originally borrowings from Middle Chinese, which exerted substantial influence on other languages in East Asia, from Japanese and Korean in the north to Vietnamese in the south. Kei is cognate with Mandarin , while retsu is cognate with Mandarin liè—though the common origin is clearer if we compare kei and retsu with Cantonese hai and lit. Because Mandarin gradually lost the majority of final consonants present in Middle Chinese, liè ends with a vowel, while Japanese retsu and Cantonese lit preserve the final “tuh” sound that existed in Middle Chinese. Keiretsu was first recorded in English in the late 1970s.

how is keiretsu used?

At dinner parties in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs brag about having them. At conferences, investors discuss building them. What’s grabbing all the attention? Keiretsu …. The word originated in post-war Japan to describe the powerful groups of intertwined companies that developed as the country rebuilt its economy. The keiretsu replaced the zaibatsu, a system of large, family-held holding companies.

Sarah Tilton, “Keiretsu: An Old Word Brought Back To Life by Today's Internet Gurus,” Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2000

The country’s industrial groups, or keiretsu, are chummy clubs, and banks were willing to quietly bail out a troubled firm with “no questions asked” loans. It was not until the late 1990s that the Japanese government stepped in and began forcing banks to come clean about bad loans.

Eric Weiner, “What the U.S. Can Learn from Japan’s ‘Lost Decade,’” NPR, March 13, 2008
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


[ lawr-ee-it, lor- ] [ ˈlɔr i ɪt, ˈlɒr- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


deserving or having special recognition for achievement, as for poetry.

learn about the english language

More about laureate

Laureate “having special recognition for achievement” is adapted from Latin laureātus “crowned with laurel,” ultimately from laurus “bay tree, laurel.” Though laurus is of uncertain origin and may come instead from a long-lost language of the Mediterranean, a popular theory is that laurus is related somehow to Ancient Greek dáphnē. This theory is partially based on the occasional change of Old Latin d into Classical Latin l, as with lacrima “tear” from earlier dacrima and lingua “tongue” from earlier dingua. Laureate was first recorded in English in the late 14th century.

how is laureate used?

As an assistant editor on the desk, I wrote to the nation’s many state poets laureate—nearly every state has one—and asked them to provide us with some words of gratitude in a relentlessly difficult year …. The nation’s poets laureate have a real sense of mission. They aim to encourage an appreciation for poetry, to challenge us, to generate some buzz for the art form.

Felice Belman, “In a Dark Season, We Went Looking for Poetry,” New York Times, December 2, 2020 ​
[Joy] Harjo, Muscogee Creek, has been tapped by the Library of Congress to serve a second term as U.S. poet laureate. She said the appointment is an honor, “especially during these times of earth transformation and cultural change.”

Sandra Hale Schulman, “Joy Harjo: Poetry reminds us we're all connected,” Indian Country Today, May 6, 2020
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ ahp-zahyl, ab-seyl ] [ ˈɑp zaɪl, ˈæb seɪl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun, verb (used without object)

to descend by moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body.

learn about the english language

More about abseil

Abseil “to descend down an incline by means of a rope” is a borrowing of German abseilen, which is a compound of ab- “down” and seilen “to rope.” Because German and English are related, German ab- is a cognate of English of and off; this makes German Ablaut, which refers to the vowel change in the verb singsangsung, equivalent to English off loud. However, German seilen does not have a relative in modern standard English. Old English had sāl “rope,” but this survives today only in dialectal English as sole “a rope for tying up cattle.” Abseil was first recorded in English in the early 1930s.

how is abseil used?

Over the Easter weekend, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company–based in the heart of London’s principal jewelery quarter–was raided. The circumstances of the case have yet to be established, but initial reports speculate that the perpetrators may have abseiled down an elevator shaft and broken through the wall of the vault with heavy-duty cutting equipment, before finally using drills to get into the deposit boxes.

David Churchill, “Drills, dynamite and derring-do: why we love a diamond heist,” Conversation, April 9, 2015

India, China, Russia, Spain and the United States all have deposits of jet, the pitch-black gem that actually is a form of coal. But the jet found along a seven-and-a-half-mile stretch of rugged coastland around Whitby, a remote Yorkshire fishing town, is considered the world’s best. Jacqueline Cullen, a London designer credited with some of the renewed interest in jet jewelry, gets her supplies from a Whitby resident who abseils down the cliffs to search abandoned Victorian mines, really just small holes chiseled into the rock face.

Felicia Craddock, “A Victorian Fad Has Regained Some of Its Allure,” New York Times, May 13, 2015
Word of the Day Calendar
Word of the Day Calendar