Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 26, 2020 is:

emollient • ih-MAHL-yunt  • noun

: something that softens or soothes


“It was a nasal emollient called Ponaris. It was once, the packaging advertised, a NASA staple—included in the agency’s medical space kit on every Apollo mission.… The package promised that it would help rose fever, which I’d become convinced I had gotten from all that potpourri, so I bought it.” — Chantel Tattoli, The Strategist, 18 May 2020

“The good news is it’s not impossible or even terribly hard to mix up some of your own hand sanitizer. Commercial variants are little more than a whole lot of ordinary alcohol and a generous dollop of some kind of emollient to keep the skin from drying out.” — Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 1 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

Emollient derives from the present participle of the Latin verb emollire, which, unsurprisingly, means “to soften or soothe.” Emollire, in turn, derives ultimately from mollis, meaning “soft.” Another descendant of mollis is mollify (essentially meaning “to make softer in temper or disposition”). A more distant relative is mild, which can be traced back to the same ancient source as mollis. The adjective emollient first appeared in print in English in the early 1600s; the noun arrived on the scene soon after.

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