Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Haywire


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

What It Means

Haywire means “being out of order or having gone wrong” or “emotionally or mentally upset or out of control.” It is often used in the phrase “go haywire.”

// The company’s emailing system went haywire and sent out multiple copies of the advertisement to its subscribers.

HAYWIRE in Context

“Something, I suspect, is going haywire in the frying process, an interaction that leads to those off-putting aromas. Is the oil not hot enough, thereby clinging to the [French toast] sticks and leaving behind the flavors of whatever was fried in it previously? Were they fried too long?” — Tim Carman, The Washington Post, 17 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

The noun haywire refers to a type of wire once used in baling hay and sometimes for makeshift repairs. This hurried and temporary use of haywire gave rise to the adjective (and sometimes adverb) haywire. When the adjective was first used in the early 20th century, it was primarily found in the phrase “haywire outfit,” which originally denoted a poorly equipped group of loggers, and then anything that was flimsy or patched together. This led to a “hastily patched-up” sense, which in turn gave us the now-common meaning, “being out of order or having gone wrong.” The “crazy” sense of haywire may have been suggested by the tendency of the relatively weak and rust-prone wire to fail at inopportune times, or to get tangled around legs, or possibly to the disorderly appearance of the temporary repair jobs for which it was used.

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