Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 3, 2020 is:

brainiac • BRAY-nee-ak  • noun

: a very intelligent person


“As the Kendall Square Association advocates for transportation fixes, the Cambridge group likes to say that you can’t find the cure for cancer while sitting in traffic. You can’t. But all this congestion might just spur you, or some other brainiac, to find a cure for traffic.” — John Chesto, The Boston Globe, 31 Jan. 2020

“Our goal is to broaden the appeal of STEM tourism making it accessible to all—as in, you don’t have to be a brainiac to enjoy it.” — Michael Novakovich, quoted in The Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington), 26 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

As Superman fans know, Brainiac was the superintelligent villain in the Action Comics series and its spin-offs. His name is a portmanteau of brain and maniac. (For those who believe it comes from a 1950s “computer kit,” fly here, but come back.) You don’t need x-ray vision to see the connection here—etymologists think Superman’s brainy adversary is the likely inspiration for the common noun brainiac. The term was not coined right away though. The comic-book series was launched in 1938 and the character Brainiac debuted in 1956, but current evidence doesn’t show general use of brainiac to refer to a superintelligent person until the 1970s.

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