Word of the Day: Bivouac

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a well-known...

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I first learned this word bivouac from Vocabulary.com, my favorite gamification of the verbal section of the SATs.  From their site, boasting of the fastest dictionary online, I am more inclined to love their etymology section:

Bivouac comes from the eighteenth-century German word biwacht, and originally meant a patrol of ordinary citizens who helped the town’s night watchmen. Nowadays, you’ll most often see it used as a noun, but it can be a verb too––and it’s often associated with soldiers, though that’s not essential. You might not want to bivouac at the edge of that cliff when you sleepwalk every night. Make your bivouac in the meadow instead.

At first, the word sounded so alien to me.  I can’t recall a single time that this word’s been uttered.  Apparently it’s somewhat more common than I had originally thought, when I heard it used once in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

According to Google N-grams, the usage of bivouac peaked roughly towards the end of the American Civil War.


Although the usage of the bivouac has been in steady decline since the 1900’s, it’s managed to cling on to even pop culture!

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