Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for June 21, 2020 is:

masterful • MASS-ter-ful  • adjective

1 a : inclined and usually competent to act as master

b : suggestive of a domineering nature

2 : having or reflecting the power and skill of a master


“But he hasn’t stopped challenging himself or his players or opponents on the baseball field…. Maddon has earned a reputation as a bright and innovative tactician, but more as a masterful leader and developer of young players in particular.” — Kirk Wessler, The Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois), 9 Oct. 2015

“‘The Last Dance’ surpassed Netflix’s hit ‘Tiger King’ in global popularity after last week’s two episodes (3 and 4)…. [E]ven two decades after their masterful run, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are still so interesting.” — Joe D’Amodio, (Staten Island, New York), 3 May 2020

Did you know?

Some commentators insist that masterful must only mean “domineering,” reserving the “expert, skillful” sense for masterly. The distinction is a modern one. In earlier times, the terms were used interchangeably, with each having both the “domineering” and “expert” senses. The “domineering” sense of masterly fell into disuse around the 18th century, however, and in the 20th century the famous grammarian H. W. Fowler decided that masterful should be similarly limited to a single meaning. He summarily ruled that the “expert” definition of masterful was incorrect. Other usage writers followed his lead. But the “expert” meaning of masterful has continued to flourish in standard prose in spite of the disapproval, and, considering the sense’s long history, it cannot really be called an error.

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