Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Vandalize

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

What It Means

Vandalize means “to deliberately damage or destroy public or private property.”

// The impulse of many graffiti artists is not to vandalize infrastructure but to beautify city environments that are often monotone and nondescript.

VANDALIZE in Context

“Absurd 911 calls are regular fodder for online jokes or clickbait articles. A Google search brings up real, ridiculous situations that prompted emergency calls, such as, ‘a man called saying someone had vandalized his snowman’ or ‘a stolen TV remote.’” — Brittaney Kiefer, Adweek, 23 May 2022

Did You Know?

At one point in Frodo’s journey in The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien depicts an ancient statue overlooking a crossroads: “Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn stone, rudely painted … in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead.” The statue had been vandalized by orcs, but the roots of vandalize have more in common with the name of a Tolkien hero. Vandalize comes from the noun vandal, which was originally capitalized and referred to a member of a Germanic people who lived south of the Baltic Sea and sacked Rome in the year 455 CE. This sacking is what likely led to the use of the lower-case vandal for someone who damages or destroys property. The Late Latin word for such a Vandal was Vandalī, a word probably borrowed from a Germanic verb meaning “wend, turn” that also gave rise to the Old English Ēarendel, the name of a mythological figure that inspired Tolkien’s creation of Eärendil, a mariner who wends his way across the sky of Middle Earth carrying the morning star.

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