Word of the Day



1. one of the large teeth at the back of your mouth, used for chewing food

Origin and usage

This word came into use in Late Middle English, with the origin of molar stemming from the Latin ‘molaris’, the root ‘mola’ meaning ‘millstone’.


The grinding motion that mammals use to chew is where the Latin root of the word molar arises from. A molar is typically flat and the molars on the top and bottom jaws work together to crush the coarser foods that make up an omnivorous diet of both meat and vegetables. In the case of humans, most adults have twelve molars in total, three per side on top and bottom.

The backmost molars, colloquially known as wisdom teeth, usually erupt from the gums between the ages of 17 and 25. Most adult mouths contain four wisdom teeth, one in each corner of the back of the mouth but, depending on various factors such as genetics, some people may have more or less. It is thought by anthropologists that the purpose of the late-erupting molars was to replace teeth that would become worn down by the tough diet eaten by humankind’s early ancestors.


“The last teeth to come in man are molars called ‘wisdom-teeth’, which come at the age of twenty years, in the case of both sexes. Cases have been known in women upwards of eighty years old where at the very close of life the wisdom-teeth have come up, causing great pain in their coming; and cases have been known of the like phenomenon in men too. This happens, when it does happen, in the case of people where the wisdom-teeth have not come up in early years.”



wisdom tooth, tooth

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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