Word of the Day : January 14, 2012


noun KROO-suh-bul


1 : a vessel in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted

2 : a severe test

3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

Did You Know?

"Crucible" looks like it should be closely related to the Latin combining form "cruc-" ("cross"), but it isn't. It was forged from the Medieval Latin "crucibulum," a noun for an earthen pot used to melt metals, and in English it first referred to a vessel of a very heat-resistant material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. But the resemblance between "cruc-" and "crucible" probably encouraged people to start using "crucible" to mean "a severe trial." That sense is synonymous with one meaning of "cross," a word that is related to "cruc-." The newest sense of "crucible" ("a situation in which great changes take place" -- as in "forged in the crucible of war") recalls the fire and heat that would be encountered in the original heat-resistant pot.


Living in the crucible that was Paris in the spring of 1968, Remi got to witness firsthand the angry confrontations between workers, students, and government.

"'Desire' -- it's the perfect name for Pedro Almodóvar's production company, the crucible for all his films including Law of Desire, the movie that helped make a star out of a young Spanish actor named Antonio Banderas." -- From a film review by Lawrence Osborne in Newsweek, October 3, 2011

Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "Stacy hinted to her husband that she was __________ to the idea of staying home on New Year’s Eve instead of going out"? The answer is ...


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!