Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Foible

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

What It Means

Foibles are minor flaws or shortcomings in character or behavior. In fencing, foible refers to the part of a sword’s blade between the middle and point, which is considered the weakest part.

// He was amused daily by the foibles of his eccentric neighbor.

FOIBLE in Context

“Films about important historical moments are often marked by a heavy solemnity, a sometimes suffocating respectfulness that can make one forget that these events involved real people, human beings with passions and foibles.” — Michael Ordoña, The Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

Many word lovers agree that the pen is mightier than the sword. But be they honed in wit or form, even the sharpest tools in the shed have their flaws. That’s where foible comes in handy. Borrowed from French in the 1600s, the word originally referred to the weakest part of a fencing sword, that part being the portion between the middle and the pointed tip. The English foible soon came to be applied not only to weaknesses in blades but also to minor failings in character. The French source of foible is also at a remove from the fencing arena; the French foible means “weak,” and it comes from the same Old French term, feble, that gave us feeble.

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