Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Whimsical

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

What It Means

Something described as whimsical is unusual in a playful or amusing way.

// Her younger sister’s whimsical sense of humor often leaves her friends giggling at the lunch table, as when she built a castle out of her mashed potatoes, complete with a moat.

WHIMSICAL in Context

“You match with an attractive person on a dating app and exchange a few messages. Then, without warning, a dizzying daydream pops in your head. Walks on the beach together, picnic lunches, moonlit city strolls, all leading up to a whimsical wedding fantasy.” — David Oliver, USA Today, 24 May 2023

Did You Know?

Even the origin of whimsical is whimsical: its ultimate source (by way of the noun whimsy) is the now-obscure whim-wham, a noun from the early 16th century that first referred to an ornamental object or trinket, and later to an eccentric impulse or interest—that is, to what in modern terms can be called a whim. The origin of whim-wham isn’t clear, but it’s among a class of words known as reduplications, words that are formed by repeating a word, as in go-go, or by adding to a word one that sounds very similar to it, as in dillydally. (In the case of whim-wham, the original duplicated term has been lost to time.) While whimsical first described those who tend toward whimsy, it now commonly describes things that are unusual in a playful or amusing way, as in “charmed by the book’s whimsical illustrations.”

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