Sunday, 31 January 2010


Enough of the gout-tastic words. Here's a lovely word that I may well be able to use a bit more frequently:

volucrine adj relating to birds, bird-like. [Origin from Latin volucris a bird, from volare to fly] Chambers, 1998

What a splendid word. Very noble. The polar opposite of chiragra, in fact.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


Here's one of the least romantic words I've found yet, although I think it sounds rather pleasant, like it should be a type of bird, or cloud:

chiragra n gout in the hand. adj chiragric or chiragrical. [Origin from Greek cheiragra, from cheir hand, and agra a catching]

Next week I must start making a more concerted effort to get back to words that can be used on a daily basis. Hand-gout isn't really one of them, is it?

Friday, 29 January 2010


You may notice that I've totally abandoned love week. Flicking through the dictionary to find new words is one thing, narrowing them down to just one topic starts has haystack analogies. Still, this is an interesting one - didn't know there was a word for this:

quincunx n an arrangement of five things at the corners and centre of a square (eg as seen on cards and dice), or of a great number of things (esp trees) spaced in the same way; an aspect of 150 degrees between two heavenly bodeis (astrol). [Origin from Latin quincunx, from quinque five, and uncia a twelfth part]

and also an adjective to go with it:

quincuncial adj of or in a quincunx; (of aestivation) having two leaves overlapping at each edge, two underlapping at each edge, and one overlapping and underlapping (bot)

Will try and keep an eye out for some quincunxes later. Oh, also, aestivation means "a manner of folding in the flower bud". Another new word for me there.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


mamelon n a rounded hill or protuberance. [Origin French, nipple] Chambers, 1998

This seems fairly self-explanatory. The origin makes everything clear. Ooh Mrs Brown, you have got a lovely pair of mamelons etc.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


Well this seems like a suitable word now we're heading towards Valentine's Day - lots of these in the shops:

trangam n a showy, worthless article or knick-knack. [Origin unknown]

What a depressing word. I look forward to owning many of these on shelves when I'm old and have only my dusting to look forward to.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Just a quick one today, for the femme fatale who has every adjective:

funest (obs) adj deadly; lamentable [Origin from French, from Latin funestus destructive] Chambers, 1998

Monday, 25 January 2010


This word should practically be my middle name. Although my middle name is Maria. A lot of the women on my mum's side of the family are called Maria in fact. But back to the word in hand:

ecbole n a digression (rhetoric); the raising or sharpening of a tone (music); adj ecbolic (med) inducing contractions of the uterus leading to childbirth or abortion - n a drug having this effect. [Origin from Greek ekbole throwing out, from ek out of, and ballein to throw] Chambers, 1998

It's pronounced "ek bowl ee", with the stress on the "ek". What a wonderful array of meanings. That reminds me, I met this well-meaning dog once who...

Sunday, 24 January 2010


To continue on the theme of love week, here's another word you may recognise as a feature of long-term relationships:

vapulate vt to flog - vi to be flogged n vapulation a flogging. [Origin from Latin vapulare, -atum to be flogged.] Chambers, 1998

Am thinking along the lines of a strictly metaphorical vapulation by the way. This isn't that kind of blog.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


So, this has been named "love week" by Team 100 days. I've tried my best to find a suitable word for the theme, and think I've come up with a character who should be immediately recognisable to anyone who's ever dated inappropriate people in the past:

cockatrice n a fabulous monster, a serpent with the wings of a bird and the head of a cock; a cock-like monster with a dragon's tail (heraldry); a prostitute (obs); a mischievous or treacherous person (fig). [Origin from Old French cocatris] Chambers, 1998

Paul Frampton. Denmark Road, Exeter. 1996. A world class cock-monster/prostitute if ever I dated one.

Friday, 22 January 2010


I'm going to find an everyday use for this word so help me:

turbary n the right to take peat from another's ground; a palce where peat is dug. [Origin from late Latin turbaria, from turba turf; of Germanic origin]

Nice to see some of the ol' late Latin making an appearance. In my head it's what's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was to The Waste Land. No less revered and important, but an entirely different kettle of - well - cats. (Or peat.)

Thursday, 21 January 2010


pythogenic adj produced by filth [Origin from Greek pythein to rot] Chambers, 1998

I didn't already know this word, but I mostly just wanted to contrast it with the word that's next but one:

Pythonesque adj (of humour) bizarre and surreal, as in the BBC television comedy programme Monty Python's Flying Circus.

It's not from Latin, it's not from Greek, but it's good.

EDIT: Of course it IS from Greek. Whoops!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


This is not a word I'm ever going to be able to legitimately use in conversation, however I've decided to include it here as it provided me with another good "me vs the dictionary" moment. (Actually, I probably will use it in conversation, but only when relating this story.)

bovate n an oxgang Chambers, 1998

What on earth's an oxgang?! I duly flicked over to the "O" section to find out (as I'm guessing an oxgang isn't a herd of oxen with flick knives) only to discover that it isn't even in the dictionary.

So, I thought I would give the internet a go. said it was sorry but it didn't know that word. Then I tried, which told me to "See Bovate". After stifling a scream I clicked over to the bovate page, hoping that it wouldn't simply say "See Oxgang". Anyway, it gave a proper definition and as soon as I read it I
realised just why both of these words might have been selected for gradual phasing out:

bovate n an old English unit of land area measurement equivalent to one-eighth of a carucate.

Ah - so it's about an eighth of a carucate then? I see! Problem solved! If only I KNEW WHAT A CARUCATE WAS.

carucate n an old English unit of land-area measurement, varying from 60 to 160 acres.

Varying from 60 to 160 acres? So a bovate could be anything from 7.5 to 20 acres? That's it - I've had enough of this nonsense! I think this entire set of words deserves to be packed off to a resthome for verbally infirm.

Who'll join me in recasting an oxgang as cows with flick knives?!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Sexy word Tuesday!

exiguous adj scanty; slender adv exiguously n exiguity
n exiguousness. [Origin from Latin exiguus, from exigere to weigh strictly] Chambers, 1998

You can see why "scantily-clad" won the battle against "exiguously-clad".

Monday, 18 January 2010


I can't believe this is a word!

jingbang (slang) n company; collection; lot [Origin unknown] Chambers 1998

Another origin unknown word. Brilliant. Should be making a jingbang of them, really.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Just a quickie - odd looking word:

weasand n the windpipe: the throat [Origin from Old English waesend, wasend] Chambers Students' Dictionary 1980

Saturday, 16 January 2010


Okay, yes, I like the sound of this word, but also I've picked this because I'm confused as to how it could possibly mean both of the things it claims to mean. (I blame having to use a Chambers Student Dictionary from the '80s at my parents' house.)

sackbut n an early form of the trombone: a stringed instrument resembling the guitar. [Origin from French saquebute] Chambers Student Dictionary, 1980

A trombone AND a guitar? Why, that sounds like the best instrument in the world!

Google translate is useless and I don't have a French dictionary to hand. Anyone know what "saquebute" means in French these days?

Friday, 15 January 2010


Some people might pretend they don't need to know this word, but everyone knows what this word means, and everyone needs to know it at some point:

curmurring n a rumbling sound, esp that made in the bowels by flatulence. [Imitative origin] Chambers, 1998


Thursday, 14 January 2010


This word sounds very familiar, but the meaning surprised me so I'm sticking it up here. I think I must have heard it before but just not known quite what it meant.

ultion (obs) n revenge; avengement [Origin from Latin ultio, -onis] Chambers, 1998

I was watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou again recently. What would be the purpose of killing the jaguar shark? Ultion, pure and simple.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


This is a nice oozy word - it rhymes with beach:

queach (obs) n a thicket adj queachy or queechy forming a thicket; boggy; sickly. [Origin obscure] Chambers, 1998

It's another "origin obscure" word, too. I love those. It'd be great to have a dictionary that was only made up of words with obscure origins, like having a dictionary to a fantasy language or something.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Ooh, I've got some friends like this in Italy:

nidicolous adj (of young birds) staying for longer than average in the nest. [Origin from Latin nidus a nest, and colere to inhabit] Chambers, 1998

I think this word is just crying out to be applied to humans, too.

Monday, 11 January 2010


The meaning of this word sounds nice, healthy and organic:

xylophilous adj fond of wood, living on wood [Origin from Greek xylon wood] Chambers, 1998

I'm sure there's some really puerile double entendre waiting to pounce on it though.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


rhopalic adj (of a verse) having each word a syllable longer than the one before n rhopalism [Origin from Greek rhopalikos clublike, rhopalon a club] Chambers, 1998

This pesky syllable experiment
is rather dismally problematic.
It's also acutely irritating.

Enough of that nonsense. Nice sounding word, though.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


A quick celebrational dancing word for the weekend. The best meaning is the second one though:

tripudium n an ancient Roman religious dance in triple time, or dance generally; divination from the hopping of birds feeding, or from the dropping of scraps from their bills. adj tripudiary vi tripudiate to dance for joy; to exult; to stamp n tripudiation. [Origin from Latin tripudium, probably from tres three, and pes, pedis foot.

Divination from the hopping of birds? Mustn't tell my mum about this or she'll start using it to pick lottery numbers.

Friday, 8 January 2010


Ooh, I love this word!

paxwax n the strong tendon in an animal's neck. [Origin from Old English (Anglian) faex (Western Saxon feax) hair, and weaxan to grow] Chambers, 1998

An extremely old word then, and you can tell from the sound. It'd be a lovely little scorer in scrabble if only there was more than one "X" tile.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


I predict this word will be needed once the snow melts away to reveal the earth beneath:

fuscous adj brown; dingy [Origin from Latin fuscus] Chambers, 1998

Mmmm. Lovely brown.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Another grand Scottish word:

kippage (Scot) n a state of displeasure or anger. [Origin from French équipage, probably from Old Norse skipa to set in order, and skip a ship; partly influenced by confusion with Latin equus a horse] Chambers, 1998

I'd say this snow's putting everyone into a right kippage at the moment. We should be rumbustious instead while it lasts!

EDIT: The noble gentleman @simonholmes has tweeted his disappointment that kippage is nothing to do with having a kip. I agree, actually, so have suggested to twitter that we change its meaning to "nap" permanently. Oh dear. This has all the makings of a dysfunctional Facebook group.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


The lovely people at the 100 Days blog have thrown down the gauntlet in response to Matt Sheret's note: “If You’ve Got Something Interesting To Say Then Say It. But Don’t Say It In Glitter.” I've found a great word that's therefore vaguely on topic. Bear with me.

Captain Thesaurus helped me find synonyms for glitter, and somewhere down the bottom of the list (after the flashy, glistering, shimmery words) I found "phlogiston". I dutifully looked it up as I'd never heard of it before. It is an awesome word:

phlogiston n an imaginary element, believed in the 18c to separate from every combustible body in burning. adj phlogistic of, like or containing phlogiston (chem); combustible (archaic); inflammatory (med); fiery.

There's also a verb:

phlogisticate vt to combine with phlogiston [Origins from Greek neuter of verbal adj phlogistos burnt, inflammable, from phlogizein to set on fire] Chambers, 1998

18th century means it's slightly later than the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s, but burnings were still in full swing as capital punishment in many countries. (They only stopped in England after a bill was passed in 1790). Phlogiston was in fact thought to be the element largely responsible for combustion in all flammable materials, and the origins of this theory are tied up with alchemy in the 1600s. I like to call it the Crazy Science. Captain Wikipedia has a bit more random information about it.

Returning to the task in hand though, it's a brilliant word and I imagine it would sparkle like glitter if phlogiston was real; sort of a cross between fireworks and a Star Trek transporter beam.
Phlogiston: Energize!

Monday, 4 January 2010


A quickie this morning:

humdudgeon n an unnecessary outcry (Scot); low spirits (dialect). Chambers, 1998

This leads us to another word of unknown origin:

dudgeon n resentment; offended indignation, esp as in in high dudgeon. [Origin unknown] (second meaning: n the haft of a dagger) Chambers, 1998

If it's unknown, then where did we/the Scots get it from? I demand answers, dictionary!

Sunday, 3 January 2010


I realise I havn't picked any "e" words yet, so on a quick flick here is:

eccoproctic adj laxative, mildly cathartic n a laxative [Origin from Greek ekkoprotikos, from ek out of, and kopros dung] Chambers, 1998

There's three things I like about this word. Firstly, the odd, pseudo-scientific sound of it. Secondly, I think it could be widely applicable to non-dung-related situations (for example, I suspect that completing my tax return will have a fairly eccoproctic effect). Thirdly, it taught me that "kopros" is the Greek word for dung. Hooray!

Saturday, 2 January 2010


In honour of the many friends who have recently announced either engagements or pregnancies (no one's announced both together) I give you the delightfully ambiguous:

pigsney, pigsny or pigsnie (archaic) n a term of endearment (sometimes contempt), esp to a woman; an eye (playfully; obs) [Origin from pig's eye, with prosthetic n (from an eye, mine eye)] Chambers, 1998

Must confess I don't fully understand the origin description, however I know pig comes from Middle English so I'll guess this is a fairly old word. I think it's brilliant that it can be used with both love and contempt.

While we're here though, I must also introduce the delightful:

pigsconce n a pigheaded person Chambers, 1998

Does the English language have too many words for pigheadedness? Internet says: no.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Let's start the new year with another word I feel sure I should have heard before but can't seem to recall:

amanuensis n (pl amanuenses) somebody employed to write from dictation or to copy a manuscript

This is a profession that must have fallen out of favour a long time ago, particularly in terms of the secondary definition. I have someone I occasionally employ to copy my manuscripts, but I call him HP Deskjet.

Happy New Year, everybody.