Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Transmogrify

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

What It Means

Transmogrify means “to change something significantly and often with humorous or jarring effect.”

// If all goes as planned, the school’s gym will be transmogrified into a spooky gallery of Halloween delights.


“[Adam Lambert] was easily the starriest star this show ever had. … Week by week, you couldn’t wait to see what Adam would get away with next. He could hijack any tune and transmogrify it in his own glam image, whether that meant ‘Mad World’ or ‘Feelin’ Good’ or ‘School’s Out.’” — Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 10 June 2022

Did You Know?

We know that the prefix trans-, meaning “across” or “beyond,” appears in many words that evoke change, such as transform and transpire, but mogrify is a bit of a mystery. Regardless of the word’s origins, writers have found transmogrify useful for centuries. English dramatist Aphra Behn’s 1671 comic play The Amorous Prince features an early example of the word, and about a century later, Scottish poet Robert Burns used it in his poem “Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous.” And in the late 20th century, cartoonist Bill Watterson’s comic strip series Calvin and Hobbes featured an invention called a “transmogrifier” (the first iteration was a cardboard box; later a water pistol was a “transmogrifier gun”) that had various transmogrification functions.

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