Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Enthrall

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

What It Means

Enthrall means “to hold the attention of someone by being very exciting, interesting, or beautiful,” or in other words, “to charm.” It is often used in its past participle form, as in “I was enthralled by the beauty of the landscape.”

// A captivating take on the human experience, the movie has enthralled audiences across the country.

ENTHRALL in Context

“Judy Blume’s books have captivated generations of readers. Anyone who has held one of her countless paperbacks will immediately recall her name. Blume’s startling honesty has comforted and enthralled readers for decades …” — Casey Abline, TAPinto (Elizabeth, New Jersey), 23 Apr. 2023

Did You Know?

The history of enthrall appeals far less than the word as we use it today might suggest. In Middle English, enthrallen meant “to deprive of privileges; to put in bondage.” Thrall then, as now, referred to bondage or slavery. An early figurative use of enthrall appeared in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape.” But we rarely use even this sense of mental or moral control anymore. More often, the word simply suggests a state of being generally captivated or delighted by some particular thing. Enthrall is commonly found in its past participle form enthralled, which can mean “spellbound,” as in “we listened, enthralled, to the elder’s oral history.”

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