Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Fustigate

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

What It Means

Fustigate means “to criticize severely.” Its older, less common meaning is “to beat with or as if with a short heavy club.” 

// The singer’s awards show performance was fustigated by several prominent media outlets. 

// Although they’re sitting atop the standings now, the team went through a rough patch of getting absolutely fustigated by their division rivals.

FUSTIGATE in Context

“This article explores major ways in which comedy exemplifies the power of popular culture to defy political censorship, advance freedom of expression, and contribute to the democratization of political culture in contemporary Africa. … The article does so from the combined perspectives of political history and social philosophy. The latter perspective refers to the comedians’ conjuring up of Islamic and West African religious creeds to fustigate particular social flaws and moral deviancies that affect their society.” — Mohamed Saliou Camara, Nokoko (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada), 1 Jan. 2022

Did You Know?

A modern fustigation won’t leave a bump on your head, but severe criticism can be a blow to your self-esteem. When fustigate first left its mark on the English language in the mid-17th century, it did so with the meaning “to cudgel or beat with a short heavy club”—a sense that reflects the word’s Latin source, the noun fustis, meaning “club” or “staff.” (Beat, “to strike repeatedly,” is also a distant relative of fustis.) The “criticize” sense of fustigate may be more common these days, but the violent use is occasionally a hit with sportswriters who employ it metaphorically to suggest how badly a team has been drubbed by their opponent.

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