Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 26, 2021 is:

obeisance • oh-BEE-sunss  • noun

1 : a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission : bow

2 : acknowledgment of another’s superiority or importance : homage


“Even with the smartphone’s on-purpose designed-in distraction notification architecture, our prostration at their non-human feet is the real issue. Our obeisance demotes the advanced human, and we pretend it doesn’t. We don’t take charge of our attention. Our little robots do. And we caress them.” — Nancy Kline, The Guardian (UK), 24 Oct. 2020

“She’s beloved by Gen-Z (when I interviewed a group of grade 12 girls earlier this year, they said her name with the kind of breathless obeisance typically reserved for Taylor Swift)….” — Liz Guber, The Toronto Star, 18 Sep. 2020

Did you know?

When it first appeared in English in the 14th century, obeisance shared the same meaning as obedience. This makes sense given that obeisance can be traced back to the Anglo-French obeir, a verb meaning “to obey” that is also an ancestor of English’s obey. The other senses of obeisance also date from the 14th century, but they have stood the test of time whereas the “obedience” sense is now obsolete.

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