Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Gauche

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

What It Means

Gauche means “having or showing a lack of awareness about the proper way to behave.” When describing a person or a behavior, gauche can mean “socially awkward” or “tactless”; when describing an object (such as a product with a vulgar image or slogan on it) it can mean “crudely made or done.”

// Some people view giving cash in lieu of a wrapped present to be terribly gauche, but I like knowing that my friends and family will be able to pick out something they truly want.

GAUCHE in Context

“When he completed his performance, [Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen] punched the air in celebration. Normally I find this display of open emotion a little bit gauche, but for Nathan, I’ll allow it. He was exquisite.” — Chris Schleicher, Slate, 8 Feb. 2022

Did You Know?

Although it doesn’t mean anything sinister, gauche is one of several words (including sinister) with ties to old suspicions and negative associations relating to the left side and use of the left hand. In French, gauche literally means “left,” and it has the extended meanings “awkward” and “clumsy.” These meanings may have come about because left-handed people could appear awkward trying to manage in a mostly right-handed world, or perhaps because right-handed people appear awkward when trying to use their left hand. Regardless, awkwardness is a likely culprit. Fittingly, awkward itself comes from the Middle English awke, meaning “turned the wrong way” or “left-handed.” On the other hand, adroit and dexterity have their roots in words meaning “right” or “on the right side.”

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