Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Démarche

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

What It Means

The word démarche refers to a course of action or a maneuver, and especially to a political or diplomatic maneuver. Démarche is also often used specifically for a petition or protest that is presented through diplomatic channels.

// The speaker urged wealthy nations to heed the démarches of those less powerful countries bearing the brunt of climate change.

DÉMARCHE in Context

“… the two top American diplomats, Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, and Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary, issued a formal démarche to a senior Chinese diplomat, Zhu Haiquan, at the State Department around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 over the balloon, telling him his government had to do something about it.” — Edward Wong, Julian E. Barnes, and Adam Entous, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2023

Did You Know?

When it comes to international diplomacy, it’s important not only to talk the talk but to walk the walk—which makes démarche an especially fitting word for diplomatic contexts. The word comes from French, where it can mean “gait” or “walk,” among other things. In English it was first used in the 17th century generally in the sense of “a maneuver,” and it soon developed a specific use in the world of diplomacy. Some of the other diplomacy-related words we use that come from French include attachéchargé d’affairescommuniquédétente, and agrément—not to mention the words diplomacy and diplomat themselves.

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