Word curio icon

Word Curio

August 12, 2020

Word of the Day: Descry

1 CQ

Word of the Day : October 30, 2017

descry \dih-SKRYE\ verb


1 : to catch sight of

2 : find out, discover


In their research, the psychologists descried an association between violent crime and hot weather.

"Recent construction work on the Borough side had uncovered a cache of human bones. Builders soon reported strange noises and moving objects, and some refused to work. A visiting medium claimed to descry hundreds of tortured souls, including the shade of Guy Fawkes." — Matt Brown, Time Out, 20 Feb. 2008

Did You Know?

With descry and the more common decry ("to express strong disapproval of"), we have a case of linguistic double-dipping. That is, English borrowed from the same French root twice. Both words ultimately come from the Old French verb decrier, meaning "to proclaim" or "to decry." English speakers borrowed the term as descry in the 14th century and used it to mean "to proclaim" or "to spy out from a distance" (as a watchman might), and eventually simply "to catch sight of" or "discover." Meanwhile, in French, decrier itself developed into the modern French décrier ("to disparage, to decry"). English speakers borrowed this word as decry in the 17th century. Be careful not to confuse descry and decry. They may be close relatives, but in modern English they have distinct meanings.

Aired October 30, 2017

All Merriam-Webster content is available at

  • Recommended Recommended
  • History & In Progress History
  • Browse Library
  • Most Popular Library

Get Personalized Recommendations

Let us help you figure out what to learn! By taking a short interview you’ll be able to specify your learning interests and goals, so we can recommend the perfect courses and lessons to try next.

Start Interview

You don't have any lessons in your history.
Just find something that looks interesting and start learning!

500 characters max