Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Caucus

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

What It Means

caucus is “a meeting of members of a political party for the purpose of choosing candidates for an election.” It also refers to “a group of people who meet to discuss a particular issue or to work together for a shared, usually political goal.” 

// Members of the caucus debated long and hard to come to a unified position on the issue.

CAUCUS in Context

“Doors open to committee members, candidates and their guests at 10 a.m. and the caucus is expected to begin at 11 a.m. … At the caucus, each candidate will be allowed three minutes to speak to the committee members. They also will be allowed to invite someone to speak on their behalf in a two-minute introduction.” — Carley Lanich, South Bend (Indiana) Tribune, 18 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origins of caucus, but some scholars think the word may have developed from an Algonquian term for a group of elders, leaders, or advisers. An early example of the word in use comes from John Adams, who in February of 1763 reported that the Boston “caucus club,” a group of politically active city elders, would soon meet and that, at the meetings, those present would “smoke tobacco till you [could not] see from one end of the garret to the other.” A similarly opaque smoke screen seems to cloud the history of caucus to this day.

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