Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Imbue

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

What It Means

Imbue can be used as a synonym for endow (“to provide with something freely or naturally”) and can also mean “to permeate or influence” in a way that suggests colored dye permeating cloth fabric. 

// The children were imbued with a passion for nature by their parents, both biologists.

IMBUE in Context

“A radical political commentator who turned to children’s literature late in life, [Carlo] Collodi wrote a complex, unsettling novel—miles away from the morality tale that Pinocchio’s story has become. Collodi’s is a multilayered work of fiction that, although primarily aimed at young readers, is imbued with social criticism and pessimistic humor, and can be read, among other things, as an irreverent attack on established authority.” — Anna Momigliano, The Atlantic, 12 Sept. 2022

Did You Know?

Like its synonym infuseimbue implies the introduction of one thing into another so as to affect it throughout. Someone’s voice can be imbued with pride, for example, or a photograph might be imbued with a sense of melancholy. In the past imbue has also been used synonymously with imbrue, an obscure word meaning “to drench or stain,” but the two words are likely unrelated. Imbue comes from the Latin verb imbuere, meaning “to dye, wet, or moisten.” Imbrue has been traced back through Anglo-French and Old French to the Latin verb bibere, meaning “to drink.”

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