Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Jejune

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

What It Means

Jejune is a formal word often used as a synonym of juvenile to describe things (such as behaviors, attitudes, etc.) that are immature, childish, or simplistic. It can also mean “uninteresting” or “boring.”

// Her rude and jejune remarks about the painting were entirely unbefitting someone of her stature in the art world.

// The movie adaptation employed surreal visual effects to tell the story, making the plot, jejune in the novel, archetypal rather than artless.

JEJUNE in Context

“These formulations—’rise up or submit,’ ‘insist on your autonomy’—border on the jejune. Yes, we live in a world of laws, drudgery, interdependence. But we also live in a world rife with real injustice and, like any concept, freedom is always contextual.” — William Finnegan, The New York Times, 17 May 2021

Did You Know?

Starved for excitement? You won’t get it from something jejune. The term comes to us from the Latin word jejunus, which means “empty of food,” “hungry,” or “meager.” When English speakers first used jejune back in the 1600s, they applied it in ways that mirrored the meaning of its Latin parent, lamenting “jejune appetites” and “jejune morsels.” Something that is meager rarely satisfies, and before long jejune was being used not only for meager meals or hunger, but also for things lacking in intellectual or emotional substance. It’s possible that the word gained its now-popular “juvenile” or “childish” sense when people confused it with the look-alike French word jeune, which means “young.”

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