Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Fortitude

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

What It Means

Fortitude is a formal word that refers to the strength of mind that enables someone to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. Less formal words with similar meanings include gritfiber, and pluck.

// To reach the summit of Denali requires not only great physical strength and training but the fortitude to persevere no matter the challenge.

FORTITUDE in Context

“This emotional novel about forgiveness honors the immense fortitude manifested by families separated during wartime.” — review, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

Fortitude comes from the Latin word fortis, meaning “strong,” and in English it has always been used primarily to describe strength of mind. For a time, the word was also used to mean “physical strength”; William Shakespeare used it that way in Henry VI, Part 1: “Coward of France! How much he wrongs his fame / Despairing of his own arm’s fortitude.” But despite use by the Bard of Avon, that meaning languished and is now considered obsolete. Even the familiar phrase “intestinal fortitude” is just a humorous way to refer to someone’s courage or mental stamina, not the literal strength of their digestive system. (If you’re looking to describe such a gastrointestinal tract, we might suggest “iron stomach.”)

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