Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Stultify

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

What It Means

Stultify means “to cause someone or something to become dull or ineffective.”

// With a government as stultified by bureaucracy as that one, even the simplest records request can take weeks.

STULTIFY in Context

“The more time one spends in these galleries, the more we appreciate the astonishing level of detail [Jona] Frank has conjured to narrate the story of her childhood growing up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It also attests to the power of memory and to the indelible psychic imprints left by parents who, constricted by their own ideas of how things should be—and by the aspirations they often live out through their children—unconsciously stultify the natural life force of their offspring.” — Jorge S. Arango, The Portland (Maine) Press Herald, 10 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

Foolish or absurd behavior often makes us laugh. Take the 2006 comedy film Idiocracy, for instance, which depicts the United States in a dystopian future stultified by centuries of anti-intellectualism and crass commercialism. This description of the movie showcases one sense of stultify, “to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical.” But there is nothing especially funny about the now-archaic original usage of the word. In mid-1700s legal contexts, if you stultified yourself, you claimed to be of unsound mind and thus not responsible for your actions. Nor is there humor in the most common current meaning of stultify, which refers to rendering someone or something dull or ineffective.

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