Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Weal

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

What It Means

Weal is a somewhat old-fashioned word that refers to “a state of being happy, healthy, and successful.” Weal is usually ascribed to large groups of people, rather than individuals, as in the phrases “common weal” or “public weal.”

// Before presenting the bill to the legislature, the senator spoke of her devotion to the general weal.

WEAL in Context

“… the [National Research Council’s] independent status was by design. While seeking to press science into service for the public weal, [astronomer George Ellery] Hale nevertheless wished to preserve science’s independence—a wish shared by many of his fellow scientists at the time.” — M. Anthony Mills, The New Atlantis, Summer 2021

Did You Know?

Weal has, since the dawn of English, referred to well-being. It’s most often used in the phrase “common weal” to refer to the general good—that is, to the happiness, health, and safety of everyone in a community or nation. A closed form of this phrase, commonweal, has since the 14th century carried the same meaning, but it once also referred to an organized political entity, such as a nation or state. This job (among others) is now done by the word’s close relation, commonwealth. At one time, weal and wealth were synonyms; both meant “riches” (as in “all their worldly weal”) and “well-being.” Both words stem from wela, the Old English word for “well-being,” and are closely related to the Old English word for “well.” An unrelated word weal is a synonym of welt in its painful application.

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