Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Accentuate

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

What It Means

Accentuate means “to make something more noticeable.”

// He likes to wear clothes that accentuate his muscular build.


“With a tunnel of light haloing her from the outside, Brittney Parks is dressed like a ‘90s vixen in baggy jeans and an understated crop top, hair down past her waist, with perfect accessories that accentuate her shine.” — Harmony Holiday, Pitchfork, 13 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

When you accentuate something you put an “accent,” or emphasis, on it. There’s no need to stress out if you don’t know the word’s history, though; its journey into the English language was very straightforward. It comes from Latin accentus, meaning “accent” (which itself comes in part from cantus, meaning “song”), and since the early 18th century, its meanings haven’t changed much. The word was initially used as a synonym of the verb accent to mean “to pronounce with greater stress or force,” which is a small leap from today’s meaning of “to make something more noticeable; to emphasize.” One excellent way to remember not only how to pronounce accentuate but also its etymological connection to song is the classic (and helpfully titled) tune “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, which has been performed by such luminaries as Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, and Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.

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