Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Oracular

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

What It Means

Oracular can describe something that is used to forecast or divine, or that resembles or relates to something used for such purposes. Oracular can also describe a person who resembles an oracle—a person (such as a priestess of ancient Greece) through whom a deity is believed to speak.

// The students admired the professor’s oracular wisdom.

ORACULAR in Context

“Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Victory City, purports to be the summary of a long-lost, 24,000-verse epic poem from 14th-century India. The hero and author of the poem is Pampa Kampana, who as a girl becomes the conduit for a goddess, channeling her oracular pronouncements and wielding her magical powers.” — Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 31 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

When the ancient Greeks had questions or problems, they would turn to the gods for answers by consulting an oracle, a person through whom the gods communicated, usually in the form of cryptic verse. (Oracle also referred to the god’s answer or to the shrine that worshippers approached when seeking advice; the word’s root is the Latin verb orare, which means “to speak.”) English speakers today can use oracle to simply refer to an authoritative pronouncement or to a person who makes such pronouncements—for example, “a designer who is an oracle of fashion.” And the related adjective oracular is used in similar contexts: “a designer who is an oracular voice of fashion.”

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