Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Proximate

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

What It Means

Proximate is a formal word that is usually used to describe something that comes or happens immediately before or after something in a way that shows a very close and direct relationship. It can also mean “very near” or “happening soon.”

// The proximate cause of the student protests was the firing of a popular professor, but there had been murmurings of unrest all year.

// Being physically proximate to such an iconic work of art was surprisingly moving.

PROXIMATE in Context

“When I first watched ‘The Last Unicorn’ (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.” — Adrienne Celt, The New York Times, 14 June 2022

Did You Know?

If you’d like to approach a better understanding of proximate, and an approximation of its history, pull up a chair and get cozy with the history of its etymological proximity to other English words. Proximate comes ultimately from the Latin adjective prope, meaning “near,” a source too of approachreproach, and propinquity. Other close relations of proximate are easier to spot: they include proximityapproximation and approximate.

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