Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Gamut

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

What It Means

A gamut is a range or series of related things. When we say that something “runs the gamut,” we are saying that it encompasses an entire range of related things.

// I adore licorice, mints, lollipops, candy corn—the whole gamut of penny candy.

// On that fateful day, her emotions ran the gamut from joy to despair.

GAMUT in Context

“A PEN America paper, published last September, records 2,532 instances of book banning in thirty-two states between July, 2021, and June, 2022. The challenges are spread throughout the country but cluster in Texas and Florida. Their targets are diverse, running the gamut from earnestly dorky teen love stories and picture books about penguins to Pulitzer-winning works of fiction.” — Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2023

Did You Know?

With the song “Do-Re-Mi,” the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music (adapted from the 1958 stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein) introduced millions of non-musicians to solfège, the singing of the sol-fa syllablesdo, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti—to teach the tones of a musical scale. Centuries earlier, however, the do in “Do-Re-Mi” was known as ut. Indeed, the first note on the scale of Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century musician and monk who had his own way of applying syllables to musical tones, was ut. d’Arezzo also called the first line of his bass staff gamma, which meant that gamma ut was the term for a note written on the first staff line. In time, gamma ut underwent a shortening to gamut, and later its meaning expanded first to cover all the notes of d’Arezzo’s scale, then to cover all the notes in the range of an instrument, and, eventually, to cover an entire range of any sort.

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