Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Morass

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

What It Means

Morass is used literally to refer to an area of soft, wet ground, especially a marsh or swamp. It is also often used figuratively to mean “a complicated or unpleasant situation that is difficult to get out of or to move through.”

// I’m often late getting to work when mud season turns my dirt road into an all but impassable morass.

// Social media can make it difficult to discern the truth of something amid the morass of misinformation.

MORASS in Context

“The tax credits are actually a confusing morass of eligibility requirements and sourcing provisions that may ultimately limit what people purchase.” — Andrew J. Hawkins,, 17 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

We won’t swamp you with details: morass comes from the Dutch word moeras, which itself derives from an Old French word, maresc, meaning “marsh.” Morass has been part of English for centuries, and in its earliest uses was a synonym of swamp or marsh. (That was the sense Robert Louis Stevenson used when he described Long John Silver emerging from “a low white vapour that had crawled during the night out of the morass” in Treasure Island.) Imagine walking through a thick, muddy swamp: it’s easy to compare such slogging to an effort to extricate yourself from a sticky situation. By the mid-19th century, morass had gained a figurative sense, and could refer to any predicament that was as murky, confusing, or difficult to navigate as a literal swamp.

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