Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Umbrage

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

What It Means

Umbrage is a formal word that usually refers to a feeling of being offended by what someone has said or done. It is often used in the phrase “take umbrage.”

// It can be difficult to converse with someone who is ready to take umbrage at the most innocent remarks.

UMBRAGE in Context

“The last time the Hawkeyes played on a Nov. 16 was 2002. The opponent was Minnesota. You of the Hawkeye ilk may recall it. It clinched an unbeaten Big Ten season and share of the league championship for Iowa. It was kind of a big deal. So big, in fact, that Hawkeye fans ripped down the goal posts of the now-gone Metrodome, and actually tried to get them through a revolving door…. The next time an Iowa fan takes umbrage at a Gopher fan about anything, remember that afternoon in Minneapolis.” — Mike Hlas, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 9 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

Umbrage is a word born in the shadows. Its ultimate source (and that of umbrella) is Latin umbra, meaning “shade, shadow,” and when it was first used in the 15th century it referred to exactly that. But figurative use followed relatively quickly. Shakespeare wrote of Hamlet that “his semblable is his mirror, and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more,” and by the 17th century this meaning of “vague suggestion; hint,” had been joined by other uses, including the “feeling of resentment or offense” heard today in such sentences as “many took umbrage at the speaker’s tasteless jokes.” The word’s early literal use is not often encountered, though it does live on in literature: for example, in her 1849 novel, Charlotte Brontë describes how the titular Shirley would relax “at the foot of some tree of friendly umbrage.”

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