Word of the Day : July 20, 2017

crucible

play
noun KROO-suh-bul

Definition

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 made 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.



Examples

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.

"They each also possess, in their own way, a startling self-awareness and self-possession forged by the crucibles they and their families endured." — John Nagy, The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina), 6 May 2017



Word Family Quiz

What adjective is derived from Latin cruc- and means "causing great pain" or "very intense"?

VIEW THE ANSWER

Podcast


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!