Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Telegenic


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

What It Means

Someone or something described as telegenic is well-suited to the medium of television. Telegenic is often used to describe people whose appearance or manners are particularly attractive to television viewers.

// Her favorite actor is so telegenic that he can make a bad series enjoyable.

TELEGENIC in Context

“[Alison] Roman … learned at Bon Appétit that she was telegenic. She is the rare influencer who projects the same energy in person as she does on camera. Her wit and candor buoy the cooking video genre from informative to outright entertaining. Some of her fans comment that they tune in every week with no intention of making the recipes, just to watch Roman try to dislodge ingredients from her overstuffed refrigerator.” — Eliana Dockterman, Time, 19 Mar. 2023

Did You Know?

Telegenic debuted in the 1930s, a melding of television with photogenic, “suitable for being photographed especially because of visual appeal.” The word photogenic had other, more technical meanings before it developed that one in the early decades of the 20th century, but the modern meaning led to the use of -genic of interest here: “suitable for production or reproduction by a given medium.” (That sense is also found in the rarer videogenic, a synonym of telegenic.) Telegenic may seem like a word that would primarily be used to describe people, but there is evidence of telegenic describing events (such as popular sports), objects, and responses. Occasionally, one even sees reference to a telegenic attitude, presence, charisma, or other intangible.

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