Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Funambulism

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is funambulism. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Funambulism means “tightrope walking.” That sense led to people applying the word for “a show of mental agility.”  

// The show features funambulism, which the audience oohs and aahs over.

// The game-show contestant amazed the audience with her funambulism, answering every question correctly.


“Jason Kenney is a deft exponent of funambulism—the fine art of political tightrope walking. The Alberta premier’s high wire act requires him to be suitably outraged at Ottawa’s anti-energy policies but not so aggrieved that he incites what he calls ‘the fear and anger roiling the Prairies.'” — John Ivison, The National Post (Canada), 10 Dec. 2019

Did You Know?

Back in ancient Rome, tightrope walking was a popular spectacle at public gatherings. The Latin word for “tightrope walker” is funambulus, from Latin funis, meaning “rope,” and ambulare, “to walk.” Over time, this fancy word for an impressive act of physical skill and agility also came to mean an impressive act of mental skill or agility.

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