Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Vox Populi


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

What It Means

Vox populi is a Latin phrase that translates to “the voice of the people” and means, in essence, “popular sentiment or opinion.”

// A successful campaign manager and ardent defender of workers’ rights, Adela dedicates her time to speaking on behalf of vox populi.

VOX POPULI in Context

“Look, there’s plenty of reason to be demoralized. Goodness is not a constant, and the good fight is not always fought, but there is a strength and a resiliency and an eventuality to vox populi. There are events that shake up those Americans who still believe there is a right way to do things.” — Tom Hanks, quoted in The New York Times, 13 June 2022

Did You Know?

In a letter to his wife in June of 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote about General Ulysses S. Grant’s ongoing but successful siege at Vicksburg: “Grant is now deservedly the hero. … He is now belabored with praise by those who a month ago accused him of all the sins in the calendar, and who next week will turn against him if so blows the popular breeze. Vox populi, vox humbug.” Sherman was tweaking the maxim vox populi, vox Dei, a Latin phrase that translates as “The voice of the people [is] the voice of God” and that is used by many people (excepting Sherman, clearly) to mean “the people are always right.” This phrase is often shortened to vox populi when a writer or speaker wishes to invoke what they believe to be the popular opinion of the day, whether real or perceived, rock solid or blowing on the breeze.

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