Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Reprehensible


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

What It Means

Reprehensible is a formal word that means “worthy of or deserving blame or very strong criticism.”

// A recent news article called for the mayor’s resignation, citing the recent accusations of bribery as both plausible and reprehensible.


“The extraordinary blooms, visible from the 15 Freeway, led to people parking on the freeway shoulders and blocking city streets to walk into the hills. City officials tried offering shuttle buses and forming lines to the trails to manage the throngs, but some people ignored the trails and just scrambled up the hillsides, wading through the flowers and even dislodging rocks that rolled onto people below, according to news reports. That behavior was reprehensible, [Evan] Meyer said, and potentially devastating to the flowers everyone was clamoring to see.” — Nathan Solis, The Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2023

Did You Know?

It may be easy to grasp that reprehensible is all about blame, but the word’s origins tell a grabbier story. The word comes from the Latin reprehendere (literally “to hold back”), a combination of re- and prehendere, meaning “to grasp.” Prehendere is at the root of other grasp-related words, among them apprehend, used when grabbing hold of bad guys, comprehend, used when it’s concepts that are grasped, and prehensile, used to describe anatomical features—for example, a monkey’s tail or an elephant’s trunk—that grasp especially by wrapping around. Grasp these words, and there’s nothing reprehensible about your grasp on this little corner of the English lexicon.

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