Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Beguile

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

What It Means

To beguile is to attract or interest someone, or to trick or deceive them.

// He beguiled the audience with his smooth and seductive voice.

// She was cunning enough to beguile her classmates into doing the work for her.

BEGUILE in Context

“Recycling themes from ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ and ‘John Tucker Must Die,’ the movie [Mr. Malcolm’s List] follows two young women as they exact retribution on a snooty bachelor. The more Machiavellian of the pair is Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton), who early on endures a public snubbing by the coveted Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Vexed, Julia summons an old school chum, Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), and enlists her in a vindictive plot to beguile Malcolm and then break his heart as payback.” — Natalia Winkelman, The Boston Globe, 29 June 2022

Did You Know?

A number of English words have traveled a rather curious path from meanings related to deception or trickery to something less unwelcome. A prime example is beguile, which first appeared in English around the 13th century with the meaning “to lead or draw by deception.” For the next several centuries, most of the senses of the verb had to do, in one manner or another, with deceiving. Around the time of Shakespeare, however, a more appealing sense charmed its way into the English language and hasn’t left since: “to attract or interest someone,” or in other words, “to charm.” Nowadays, you’re just as likely to hear beguile applied to someone who woos an audience with charisma, as to a wily trickster who hoodwinks others to get their way.

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