Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Hiatus

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

What It Means

In general contexts, hiatus usually refers to a period of time when something, such as an activity or program, is suspended. In biology, hiatus refers to a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ, and in linguistics, it denotes the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound.

// The band has been on hiatus for three years, but is returning to live performance this summer.

HIATUS in Context

“With the release of The Mandalorian season 3 just over six weeks away, after a two-year hiatus, Lucasfilm dropped a new trailer on Monday, giving us a glimpse of what’s next in the adventures of Din Djarin and Grogu.” — Oli Welsh,, 16 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

This brief hiatus in your day is brought to you by, well, hiatus. While the word now most often refers to a temporary pause, hiatus originally referred to a physical opening in something, such as the mouth of a cave, or, as the 18th century British novelist Laurence Sterne would have it, a sartorial gap: in the wildly experimental novel Tristram Shandy, Sterne wrote of “the hiatus in Phutatorius’s breeches.” Hiatus comes from the Latin verb hiare, meaning “to open wide,” which makes it a distant relation of both yawn and chasm. And that’s all we have for now—you may resume your regular activities.

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