Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Gainsay

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

What It Means

Gainsay is a formal word that means “to deny or disagree with something,” or “to show or say that (something) is not true.”

// Although the defendant initially denied involvement in the incident, there was no gainsaying the evidence that the prosecutor presented at the trial.

GAINSAY in Context

Nineteen Eighty-Four has not just sold tens of millions of copies—it has infiltrated the consciousness of countless people who have never read it. … No work of literary fiction from the past century approaches its cultural ubiquity while retaining its weight. Dissenting voices … have argued that Nineteen Eighty-Four is actually a bad novel, with thin characters, humdrum prose and an implausible plot, but even they couldn’t gainsay its importance.” — Dorian Lynskey, The Guardian, 19 May 2019

Did You Know?

You might have trouble figuring out the meaning of gainsay if you’re thinking of our modern word gain plus say. It should help to know that the gain part comes to us from the Old English word gēan-, meaning “against” or “in opposition to.” In Middle English, gēan- was joined to seyen (“to say”) to form gein-seyen, which led to the modern word gainsay. So when you see gainsay, think “to say against”—that is, “to deny” or “to contradict.”

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