Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 18, 2020 is:

vicarious • vye-KAIR-ee-us  • adjective

1 : experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another

2 a : serving instead of someone or something else

b : that has been delegated

3 : performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another : substitutionary

4 : occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one


“‘Gravity’ is a brilliantly realized, completely riveting, dread-drenched science fiction thriller about two astronauts stranded in orbit around Earth. And it turns out to be one amazing vicarious experience, simultaneously dream and nightmare, with a set of cinematic illusions that simply—well, maybe not so simply—astounds.” — Bill Wine, The Chestnut Hill Local (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 15 Nov. 2019

“What kind of a play might Shakespeare have written if Lady Macbeth, rather than her husband, had been given the leading role? This is the premise of Kally Lloyd-Jones’s bold and haunting new work, in which she tries to imagine the full story of a woman so deprived of purpose, so hell-bent on vicarious power, that she will goad her husband to commit regicide.” — The Guardian (London), 9 Aug. 2017

Did you know?

If you act in someone’s stead, you take his or her place, at least temporarily. The oldest meaning of vicarious, which dates to the first half of the 1600s, is “serving instead of someone or something else.” The word vicarious derives from the Latin noun vicis, which means “change,” “alternation,” or “stead.” Vicis is also the source of the English prefix vice- (as in “vice president”), meaning “one that takes the place of.”

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