Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Abandon

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

What It Means

Abandon means “a feeling or attitude of wild or complete freedom,” and is often used synonymously with enthusiasm and exuberance. It also appears in the phrase with reckless abandon to describe something done without fear or concern for consequences.

// In an act of reckless abandon, she quit her job and moved to Tahiti.

ABANDON in Context

“Just as VHS tape users were once asked to be kind enough to consider the next user, [Rachel] Goclawski said foragers should also be mindful of other foragers—both the animal and the people variety—and not be ‘unscrupulous.’ This is especially important to consider during a drought year where animals may already be strapped for resources and plants are under a lot of stress. The exception to that rule is, of course, invasive plants like garlic mustard and autumn olive, which can be harvested with guilt-free abandon …” — Lillian Eden, Metro West Daily News (Framingham, Massachusetts), 9 Sept. 2022

Did You Know?

You may associate this word with the act of leaving and never returning, given the familiarity of the verb abandon. But the noun abandon, with its more pleasant connotations of freedom, is likely here to stay despite being a relative newcomer. It only entered the English language in the early 1800s, as a borrowing from French that goes back to an Old French word meaning “surrender.” (English had borrowed the verb abandon centuries before from the French speakers living in medieval England.) Louisa May Alcott recognized the word’s utility; she used it of Jo in Little Women, writing that “when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or bad weather …”

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