Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Brackish

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

What It Means

Brackish is typically used to mean “somewhat salty,” and most often describes water or bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

// The mangrove swamp is home to many species of plants and animals that thrive in brackish water.

BRACKISH in Context

“The Homosassa River is an estuarial waterway that flows through marine wetlands on the western edge of the Florida panhandle, turning brackish as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico.” — Marissa Grunes, Boston Review, 11 Feb. 2022

Did You Know?

When the word brackish first appeared in English in the 1500s, it simply meant “salty,” as did its Dutch parent brak. (English speakers also adopted the synonymous brack from the same source but it gets very little use.) Then, as now, brackish was used to describe water that was a mixture of saltwater and freshwater, such as one encounters where a river meets the sea. Since that time, however, brackish has developed the additional meanings of “unpalatable” and “repulsive,” presumably because of the oozy, mucky, and sometimes stinky (or stinkyish, if you prefer)—not just salty—qualities of coastal estuaries and swamps.

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