Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Foray

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

What It Means

A foray is an initial and often tentative attempt to do something in a new or different area of activity, as in “the novelist’s foray into nonfiction.” In martial contexts, foray means “a sudden or irregular invasion or attack for war or spoils.”

// The professional wrestler’s surprise foray into ballet was at first met with skepticism, but he eventually proved himself a dancer of grace and poise.

FORAY in Context

“My first foray into Marie Kondo’s efficient way of living began when I bought an incredibly messy former roommate her breakout book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a few years ago. (It’s safe to say that neither of us ended up reading it, and the book got lost within his ‘stuff’ pile.)” — Maria Geyman, Vogue, 9 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

For centuries, foray referred only to a sudden or irregular invasion or attack, but in the late 19th century it began to venture into gentler semantic territory. While the newer sense of foray still involves a trek into a foreign territory, the travel is figurative: when you make this kind of foray, you dabble in an area, occupation, or pastime that’s new to you. Take the particularly apt example (stay tuned) of mushroom hunting. The likely ancestor of foray is an Anglo-French word referring to the violent sort who do invasion forays, but that word could also refer to a forager—that is, one who wanders in search of food. (Forage has the same etymological source.) Interestingly, foray has seen a resurgence of use connected to its foraging roots, as evidenced by the growing popularity of mycophile-led mushroom “forays” that have been lately popping up like toadstools.

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