The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is aftermath. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.
What It Means
Aftermath refers to the period of time shortly following a destructive event, or to a negative consequence or result.
// It was almost noon before I felt ready to clean up the mess that remained in the aftermath of the previous night’s festivities.
AFTERMATH in Context
“The ballad, stacked with layers of harmonies, establishes her independence in the aftermath of a relationship coming to an end.” — Larisha Paul, The Rolling Stone, 14 Apr. 2023
Did You Know?
At first glance, one might calculate aftermath to be closely related to mathematics and its cropped form math. But the math of mathematics (which came to English ultimately from Greek) and the math of aftermath grew from different roots. Aftermath dates to the late 1400s and was originally an agricultural term, an offshoot of the ancient word math, meaning “a mowing.” The original aftermath came, of course, after the math: it was historically the crop cut, grazed, or plowed under after the first crop of the season from the same soil. (Math is still used in some parts of the United Kingdom to refer to a mowing of a grass or hay crop, as well as to the crop that is mowed.) It wasn’t until the mid-1600s that aftermath came to have the meanings now familiar to us, referring to the period of time following a destructive event, or to a negative consequence or result.
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