Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Debunk

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

What It Means

To debunk something, such as a story, theory, or idea, is to show or expose the falseness of it.

// The article thoroughly debunks the notion that life exists on Mars.

DEBUNK in Context

“The idea that dogs spend every waking moment trying to usurp their human masters and become ‘the alpha’ in the house … [was] first introduced by a wolf ecologist in the mid-20th Century, [and] was later debunked after ecologists realised that the original observations of dominance behaviours were based on captive wolves (unrelated to one another) kept in a zoo enclosure.” — Jules Howard, Science Focus, 19 May 2022

Did You Know?

To debunk something is to take the bunk out of it—that bunk being “nonsense.” (Bunk is short for the synonymous bunkum, which has political origins.) Debunk has been in use since at least the 1920s, and it contrasts with synonyms like disprove and rebut by suggesting that something is not merely untrue but is also a sham—a trick meant to deceive. One can simply disprove a myth, but if it is debunked, the implication is that the myth was a grossly exaggerated or foolish claim.

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