Intermediate+ Word of the Day: mole

mole (noun) /moʊl/ LISTEN

A mole is a small spot, usually dark brown in color, on the skin. A mole is also an animal that eats insects and lives underground. Figuratively, a mole is a spy working within the organization he or she is spying on. In chemistry, a mole is a way to express quantity. A mole is also a massive structure of stone, set up in the water.

Example sentences

  • You should always watch for any changes in your moles or any new moles that appear as that could be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Mark bought a trap to get rid of the moles in his garden.
  • There must be a mole in this department; someone keeps leaking information.
  • How many moles of this substance are in the mixture?
  • A mole protects the harbor from storms.

Additional information

Mole is also a spicy Mexican sauce flavored with chocolate, usually served with turkey or chicken. With this meaning, the pronunciation is different: mō′lā or mô′le.

Did you know?

There is a game, originally an arcade game, called whack-a-mole, in which players have to use a tool to whack, or hit, moles as they appear from holes. Of course, every time you whack a mole, another one appears from another hole. Because of this, the expression is sometimes used figuratively to mean that a solution to a problem is just temporary and incomplete; some other problem will crop up before long. Example: “We keep trying to deal with the issues, but really it’s just whack-a-mole!”

The original arcade game looks like this:


As a spy, mole dates back to the second half of the 14th century and comes from the Middle English word molle; it is akin to the Middle Dutch and Middle Low German word mol. To mean ‘a spot on the skin,’ it dates back to before 1000 and first appeared in Middle English; it comes from the Old English word māl and is a cognate with the Old High German word meil, meaning ‘spot,’ and the Gothic word mail, meaning ‘wrinkle.’

Mole was suggested by Helen, from Chicago.

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