Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Pacify

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

What It Means

The verb pacify has several related definitions. Among the most common are “to soothe the anger or agitation of” (as in “pacify a crying child”) and “to appease” (“trying to pacify the enemy”).

// Whenever there’s a thunderstorm I find that letting my dog sleep at the foot of the bed helps to pacify her.

PACIFY in Context

“Sometimes, I like to pretend I have an extremely refined palate when picking an ice cream flavor, but sometimes, my taste buds just want to be pacified.” — Madeline Wells,, 29 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

Pacify is the oldest of a set of soothing words that floated into English on the buoy of Latin pac- or pax, meaning “peace.” It arrived in the 15th century, and was followed by pacifier and pacific in the subsequent century. These words and other pac-/pax relations have proven useful. While 16th century pacifiers soothed and subdued in general ways, by the turn of the 20th century pacifier was being used with a new meaning referring specifically to a device for a baby to suck on. Also dating to around the turn of the 20th century are pacifist and pacifismPay also comes ultimately from this root (by way of Latin pacare, meaning “to pacify”), as does the gentlest of this lexical family, the word peace itself.

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