Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Jaunty

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

What It Means

Jaunty means “lively in manner or appearance.”

// The server whistled a jaunty tune as she wiped the tables and set out fresh flowers in preparation for the day’s diners.

JAUNTY in Context

“Monty and Rose, who achieved local fame in 2019 as the first federally endangered piping plovers to raise a family in Chicago in almost 60 years, are gone from the North Side beach where they spent three summers. But the hope that the jaunty little shorebirds sparked for their species continues to grow. The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team has announced a record-breaking 2022 breeding season, with 149 wild chicks reaching the fledgling—or flying—stage, the most since official counts began in 1984.” — Nara Schoenberg, The Chicago Tribune, 7 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

Does throwing on a jaunty hat make someone appear more genteel? Maybe, but something more definitive links the words: both jaunty and genteel come from the French word gentil, meaning “of aristocratic birth.” Genteel was borrowed first to describe things associated with aristocratic people. Jaunty joined the language just a few years later in the mid-17th century as a synonym of stylish and also as a synonym for genteel. While genteel has maintained its associations of propriety and high social class, jaunty has traipsed into less stuffy territory as a descriptor of tunes and hats and other things that suggest lively confidence.

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