\ BAH-mee \  , adjective;

  1. mild and refreshing; soft; soothing: balmy weather .

On and off and on and off until he was laughing at the magic of the running water and the chicken and bread that lay balmy  in his stomach.

— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun , 2006

Imagine now, while the curtain’s falling, that it’s a fine balmy  day and the smell of clams coming in from the bay.

— Henry Miller, Black Spring , 1936


Balmy  is the adjectival form of balm , which originally referred to an aromatic resin and came to mean anything that heals. Balmy  entered English in the late 1400s.


\ AHR-der \  , noun;

  1. great warmth of feeling; fervor; passion: She spoke persuasively and with ardor .
  2. intense devotion, eagerness, or enthusiasm; zeal: his well-known ardor for Chinese art .
  3. burning heat.

How could that not speak to a million moviegoers? If they embraced Hoffman with ardor , it was in part because he looked so uncool, and so unbeautiful, and because he so obviously hailed from the same tribe as they did, and because there was a kind of beauty, after all, in the flame of feeling that got stoked inside that sweaty heft and pallor.

— Anthony Lane, “The Master,” The New Yorker , Feb. 17, 2014

Although I had a gift for self-pity, I knew her case would then be worse than mine; for it would be worse to see, as she would see, the ardor  in his eyes give place to kindliness than never to have ardor  there.

— Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier , 1918


Ardor  comes from the Latin ārd(ēre)  meaning “to burn” and the suffix -or , which often occurs in loanwords from Latin and denotes a condition or property of things. In Middle English, this word was often spelled ardure .


\ LAM-buhnt \  , adjective;

  1. dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful: lambent wit .
  2. running or moving lightly over a surface: lambent tongues of flame .
  3. softly bright or radiant: a lambent light .

American Literature would surely be the poorer if the great Boston Brahmin had not enlivened it with his rich humor, his lambent  wit and his sincere pathos…

— William Lyon Phelps (1865–1943), edited by Harold Bloom, “Mark Twain,” Mark Twain , 2009

The sea that night gleamed with the moon’s lambent  silver and drew to its surface many squids dazed and fascinated by the light.

— Rachel Carson, “The Edge of the Sea,” Life , Vol. 32, No. 15, 1952


Lambent  comes from the Latin term lambere  meaning “to lick.” It entered English in the mid-1600s.


\ in-DEL-uh-buhl \  , adjective;

  1. that cannot be eliminated, forgotten, changed, or the like: the indelible memories of war; the indelible influence of a great teacher .
  2. making marks that cannot be erased, removed, or the like: indelible ink .

Alone among the celebrity journalists of the sixties… he has both given us indelible  portraits of living people and brought ideas to vivid, eccentric life.

— Rhoda Koenig, “Tom Wolfe Rattles the Foundations of Modern Architecture,” New York , 1981

How had she remembered it all? She hadn’t made an effort–how had every dish remained so indelible  after all conversations and glances had faded?

— Andrew Sean Greer, How It Was for Me: Stories , 2000


Indelible  can be traced to the Latin indēlēbilis  meaning “indestructible.” It entered English in the mid-1500s.

mot juste

\ moh ZHYST \  , noun;

  1. French . the exact, appropriate word

I felt very bad because here was the man I liked and trusted the most as a critic then, the man who believed in the mot juste —the one and only correct word to use—the man who had taught me to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain given situations…

— Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast , 1964

I felt that something might be learned of what I wanted from Flaubert and the mot juste  so admired by Ford and Pound.

— A. S. Byatt, “Still Life/nature morte,” Passions of the Mind , 1991


Mot juste  is a borrowing from the French word of the same spelling and meaning. It entered English in the late 1800s.


\ SLIP-shod \  , adjective;

  1. careless, untidy, or slovenly: slipshod work .
  2. down-at-heel; seedy; shabby.

… Buck saw a slipshod  and slovenly affiar, tent half stretched, dishes unwashed, everything in disorder…

— Jack London, The Call of the Wild , 1903

At intervals were heard the tread of slipshod  feet, and the chilly cry of the poor sweep as he crept, shivering, to his early toil…

— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby , 1839


Slipshod  is formed with the verb sense of slip  “to move, flow, or go smoothly or easily” and shod , an adjective meaning “wearing shoes.” Slipshod  entered English in the late 1500s.


\ KATS-paw \  , noun;

  1. a person used to serve the purposes of another; tool.

Intrigue followed her wherever she went, because more powerful personalities wanted her for a cat’s-paw . Once queen she might have proven a difficult cat’s-paw , however.

— Jonathan Schneer, The Thames , 2005

I found out later what he’d done — used me for a cat’s-paw  to keep this company I’d bought from selling out to someone else and spoiling another deal he had on the fire.

— Cameron Hawley, “Fast Millions from East Deals” (excerpt from Cash McCall ), Life , Vol. 39, No.1, 1955


Cat’s-paw  finds its origin in a fable called “The Monkey and the Cat” in which a monkey uses a cat’s paw to draw chestnuts out of a fire. The term entered English in the mid-1600s.


\ bruhsk \  , adjective;

  1. abrupt in manner; blunt; rough: A brusque welcome greeted his unexpected return .

Her voice is soft and low, at odds with her bigness and her brusque  movement.

— Katherine Dunn, Geek Love , 1989

Rachel understood only that Uncle Pono was sick in the hospital, but when she asked if they could go see him, her mother snapped out a brusque  ” No ” and changed the subject.

— Alan Brennert, Moloka’i , 2003


Brusque  is borrowed from French and adapted from the Italian word brusco  meaning “tart.” It entered English in the early 1600s.


\ des-i-DEER-ee-uhm \  , noun;

  1. an ardent longing, as for something lost.

I think as seldom as I can of what I loved or esteemed in it, to avoid the desiderium  which of all things makes life most uneasy.

— Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), Letter to Alexander Pope  on June 28, 1715, The Works of Jonathan Swift , 1859

Whoever should study the mood of desiderium  in England during the eighteenth century might find corroboration for the sense of restrained poignancy which often underlies the good poetry of the age…

— Arthur Raleigh Humphreys, William Shenstone: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait , 1937


Desiderium  comes from the Latin verb dēsīderāre  meaning “to long for; require.” It entered English in the early 1700s.


\ VOH-tiv \  , adjective;

  1. offered, given, dedicated, etc., in accordance with a vow: a votive offering .
  2. performed, undertaken, etc., in consequence of a vow.
  3. of the nature of or expressive of a wish or desire.

Behind the barricades–made of paving stones, or chairs, or the carcasses of cars–people had built makeshift altars, with votive  candles, incense, and framed pictures, to commemorate killed protesters where they had fallen.

— Jon Lee Anderson, “Revolutionary Relics,” The New Yorker , May 1, 2014

“I have promised a votive  offering to Poseidon,” I said to one of the sailors as we marched downward again. “But he’s not one of my favourite gods, I have to say.”

— Margaret Doody, Aristotle and the Secrets of Life , 2002


Votive  shares a root with the word vote  in the Latin term vōtum  meaning “vow.” Votive  entered English around 1600.


\ EE-thos, EE-thohs, ETH-os, -ohs \  , noun;

  1. Sociology . the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period: In the Greek ethos the individual was highly valued .
  1. the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.
  2. the moral element in dramatic literature that determines a character’s action rather than his or her thought or emotion.

These stories and countless others attest to the democratic ethos  of social mobility and fluidity, heavily inflected by the Romantic ethos  of “rugged individualism” and, however reductivist, Emersonian “self-reliance.”

— Ann Lauterbach, The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience , 2005

Irony is not dead–it’s (ahem) a useful rhetorical tool–but it’s certainly not the ethos  of our age.

— Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, “Sincerity, Not Irony, Is Our Age’s Ethos,” The Atlantic , Nov. 20, 2012


Ethos  comes from the Greek term meaning “custom; habit; character,” and provides the root for the term ethics . It entered English in the 1600s.


\ puhl-kri-TOOD-n-uhs, -TYOOD- \  , adjective;

  1. physically beautiful; comely.

Jazz buffs with glorious vocabularies wrote long and often boring tributes to the pulchritudinous  Lady Day, her phrasing and incredibly intricate harmonics.

— Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman , 1981

The years have not appreciably dimmed his pulchritudinous  luster.

— Evans Peck, “The Many-Sided McLean,” Cosmopolitan , 1910–1911


Pulchritudinous  is built on the Latin word for “beautiful,” pulcher . The noun pulchritude  entered English in the mid-1400s; pulchritudinous  did not gain traction in the US until the late 1800s.


\ puh-RIK-uh-pee \  , noun;

  1. a selection or extract from a book.
  2. a portion of sacred writing read in a divine service; lesson; lection.


\ trawth, trohth \  , noun;

  1. one’s word or promise, especially in engaging oneself to marry.
  2. faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty: by my troth .
  3. truth or verity: in troth .


\ OS-kyuh-leyt \  , verb;

  1. to kiss.
  2. to bring into close contact or union.

And the Marquis, whose rough, red beard was trembling with emotion, effusively osculated  the ducal paw.

— P. W. Wilson, “The Three Young Citizens,” Boy’s Life , December 1924

A person should be particular whom they osculate  with.

— “Miscellaneous Matter,” The Critique , 1909


Osculate  is formed with the Latin word for “mouth,” ōs , and a suffix used to create English verbs from Latin, -ate . It entered English in the mid-1600s.




1. a medicine that relieves or allays pain.

2. anything that relieves distress or pain:

The music was an anodyne to his grief.


[in-ter-reg-nuh m]

noun, plural interregnums, interregna 


1. an interval of time between the close of a sovereign’s reign and the accession of his or her normal or legitimate successor.

2. any period during which a state has no ruler or only a temporary executive.

3. any period of freedom from the usual authority.

4. any pause or interruption in continuity.

Postwar interregnum as conflicting plans for central intelligence are shakendown into a presidential directive.

There was an interregnum, a period of diffuse groping and stumbling.

The college, ultimately, was seized by parliament during the interregnum.



noun, plural oeuvres 

[œ-vruh] (Show IPA). French.

  1. the works of a writer, painter, or the like, taken as a whole.
  2. any one of the works of a writer, painter, or the like.

And his oeuvre didn’t exactly get less sensational or surreal from there.

And, by the way, the oeuvre exists outside our own interpretations.

Slight as his oeuvre had been, it proved impossible to forget.



verb (used with object), concatenated, concatenating.

  1. to link together; unite in a series or chain.


  1. linked together, as in a chain.

An immoderate fondness for dress, for pleasure, and for sway, are the passions of savages; the passions that occupy those uncivili zed beings who have not yet extended the dominion of the mind, or even learned to think with the energy necessary to concatenate that abstract train of thought which produces principles…. that women from their education and the present state of civilized life, are in the same condition, cannot … be controverted.

– Mary Wollstonecraft




verb (used with object), vetted, vetting.

to appraise, verify, or check for accuracy, authenticity, validity, etc.:

An expert vetted the manuscript before publication.



verb (used with object)

  1. to understand thoroughly and intuitively.

verb (used without object)

  1. to communicate sympathetically.

coined by Robert A. Heinlein in the science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

So here’s my list of stuff you may not grok about our nearest star.

Again, that’s the only true way to understand this concept, to grok it.

“to understand empathically,” 1961, arbitrary formation by U.S. sciencefiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) in his book “Stranger in aStrange Land.” In popular use 1960s; perhaps obsolete now except ininternet technology circles.


[sahr-tawr-ee-uh l, –tohr-]


  1. of or pertaining to tailors or their trade:

sartorial workmanship.

  1. of or pertaining to clothing or style or manner of dress:

sartorial splendor.

 They even share a sartorial tie: the devout in both faiths wear special undergarments.

But the sartorial façade of sophistication was a flimsy one.

We scavenged our search results for reports on the screenings,implications of sartorial missteps, and expressions of sisterhood.


\ PROOD-ns \  , noun; 

  1. caution with regard to practical matters; discretion.
  2. the quality or fact of being prudent.
  3. regard for one’s own interests.
  4. provident care in the management of resources; economy; frugality.


\ uh-NON \  , adverb; 

  1. in a short time; soon.
  2. at another time.
  3. Archaic. at once; immediately.

And anon  when his breathing had become deep and regular, we may creep into his bedroom and catch him at his dreams.

— H. G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance , 1896

He waved good-bye and told me he’d call anon . Thattime, I didn’t fall for the anon  thing.

— Patricia A. Marx, Him Her Him Again the End of Him, 2007


Anon  comes from the Old English phrase on āne meaning “in one (course)” or “straightaway.”


\ pri-VAHYZ \  , verb; 

  1. to foresee.
  2. to forewarn.

‘Tis the novelty of the experiment which makes impressions on their conceptive, cogitative faculties;that do not previse  the facility of the operation adequately, with a subact and sedate intellection, associated with diligent and congruous study.

— François Rabelais, translated by J. M. Cohen,Gargantua and Pantagruel , 1693, translationpublished in 1955

In Blanche Yurka’s road company of “The Wild Duck,”Miss Davis played the role of Hedvig, after nearly missing the part because of an attack of measles which Mrs. Davis had failed to previse .

— Janet Flanner (1892-1978), edited by IrvingDrutman, Janet Flanner’s World , 1981


Previse  is derived from the Latin word praevidēre  which means “to foresee.”


\ pan-i-JIR-ik, -JAHY-rik \  , noun; 

  1. a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy.
  2. formal or elaborate praise.

And I hope this little panegyric  will not be offensive to their ears, since it has the advantage of being only designed for themselves.

— Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub , 1704

Then had come Lord Henry Wotton with his strange panegyric  on youth, his terrible warning of its brevity.

— Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray , 1891


Panegyric  comes from the Greek word panḗgyr (is) meaning “solemn assembly.” It entered English at the end of the 1500s.


\ AM-byuh-luhnt \  , adjective; 

  1. moving from place to place; itinerant; shifting.
  2. Medicine/Medical. not confined to bed; able or strong enough to walk. b. serving patients who are able to walk.

…rolling, ambulant  streets where nothing stands still, nothing is fixed, nothing is comprehensible except through the eyes and mind of a dreamer.

— Henry Miller, Sexus , 1949

The encounter with these ambulant  highnesses had been fatal — Lansing now perceived it — to Mrs. Hick’s principles.

— Edith Wharton, The Glimpses of the Moon , 1922


Ambulant  comes from the Latin ambulāre  meaning “to walk.” It entered English in the mid-1600s.\


\ KLEM-uhnt \  , adjective; 

  1. mild or merciful in disposition or character; lenient; compassionate: A clement judge reduced his sentence .
  2. (of the weather) mild or temperate; pleasant.

Truly men say of Titus that he is clement  and merciful, and therein differs much from Vespasian his father, and the clemency which he showed to the people of Gischala and other places which he has taken proves that is so…

— G. A. Henty, For the Temple: A Tale of the Fall ofJerusalem , 1888

“Yet I am a clement  man, Francesco, and sorely though that dog has wronged me by his silence, I thank Heaven for the grace to say—God rest his vile soul!”

— Rafael Sabatini, Love-At-Arms , 1907


Clement  came to English in the mid-1400s from the Latin word meaning “gentle, merciful.”


\ RAHYD-nt \  , adjective; 

  1. laughing; smiling;
  2. He flashed her a smile, but she didn’t miss the fact that this rident expression did nothing to alter the bleakness in his eyes.
  3. — Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind , 1997
  4. Hetty was radiant and rident . It was quite like an evening at home at Oakhurst. Never for months past, never since that fatal cruel day, that no one spoke of, had they spent an evening so delightful.
  5. — William Makepeace Thackeray, The Virginians ,1857–1859
  6. Origin:
  7. Rident came to English in the early 1600s from the Latin rīdēre  meaning “to laugh.”


\ ES-tuh-veyt \  , verb; 

  1. to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.
  2. Zoology. to spend a hot, dry season in an inactive, dormant state, as certain reptiles, snails, insects,and small mammals.

So as the people we knew back East die, or are institutionalized, or take themselves off to Tucson or Sarasota or Santa Barbara to estivate  their last years away as we are doing here, our contacts here shrink,too.

— Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird , 1976

Hibernate. Or estivate . Depends on whether I do so inthe winter or the summer.

— Ian Watson, Lucky’s Harvest , 1993


Estivate  derives from the Latin aestīvāre , with aestīvus meaning “relating to the summer.”


\ KRAP-yuh-luhs \  , adjective; 

  1. given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating.
  2. suffering from or due to such excess.

They asked what she did in London and she explained how she helped run an arts festival, and it sounded feyand crapulous . So she told the story of the drunken newsreader they’d booked the previous year…

— Mark Haddon, A Spot of Bother , 2006


\ preyt \  , verb; 

  1. to talk excessively and pointlessly; babble: They prated on until I was ready to scream .
  2. to utter in empty or foolish talk: to prate absurdities with the greatest seriousness .


  1. act of prating.
  2. empty or foolish talk.

“…What is prudence but avarice? What is generositybut a deceit? And yet men prate of themselves as ifthey were deities.”

— Anonymous, Herbert Wendall: A Tale of the Revolution , 1835

The stones of Cambridge no longer prate of thywhereabout! Death hath removed thee,—may it not be to that bourne where alone thy oaths can be outdone!

— Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Pelham: or, Adventures of a Gentleman , 1828


Prate  finds its roots in the Middle Dutch praeten meaning “to speak.” It came to English during the time when Middle English was spoken.


\ pri-VAR-i-key-ter \  , noun; 

  1. a person who speaks falsely; liar.
  2. a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth; quibbler; equivocator.

“Whose words are now false? You twist-tongued prevaricator, did I not see with these very eyes that man you speak of save you from those three peasants—”

— Rebecca Reisert, The Third Witch , 2001


Prevaricator  came to English in the mid-1500s from the Latin praevāricātor  meaning “unfaithful advocate.”


\ too-MUHL-choo-er-ee, tyoo- \  , adjective; 

  1. confused; disorderly; haphazard: tumultuary habits of studying .
  2. tumultuous; turbulent.

…she chiefly possessed by solicitude about any reopening of his wound, he struggling with a tumultuary  crowd of thoughts that were an offence against his better will.

— George Eliot, Daniel Deronda , 1876

Those who were less interested, rushed into a tumultuary discussion of chances and possibilities. Each gave his opinion, and each was alternately swayed by that of the others.

— Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering , 1815


Tumultuary  comes from the Latin tumultuārius meaning “pertaining to bustle or hurry.”


\ hahy-POK-uh-riz-uhm, hi- \  , noun; 

  1. a pet name.
  2. the practice of using a pet name.
  3. the use of forms of speech imitative of baby talk, especially by an adult.

This must be an offshoot of my brother’s enthusiasm for hypocorism . He was always inventing idiotic nicknames for people.

— Adam Davies, Goodbye Lemon , 2006

Powsoddy, a now obsolete name for a pudding, was also used as a hypocorism  in the late sixteenth century, paralleling the affectionate use of the word pudding itself in our own century, though lovers usually alter the pronunciation to puddin.

— Mark Morton, The Lover’s Tongue , 2003


Hypocorism  entered English in the 1840s from theGreek word hypokórisma  meaning “pet name.” It camefrom the verb hypokor(ízesthai)  meaning “to play thechild, call by endearing names.”


MEEL-yuh-riz-uhm, MEE-lee-uh- \ , noun;

  1. the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.

For a life worthy to be lived is one that is full of active aspiration, for something higher and better; and such a contemplation of the world we call meliorism .

— Paul Carus, Monism and Meliorism , 1885

The leaders rejected the soft meliorism of more secular activists, the idea that significant progress could be made through consciousness-raising and education campaigns, through consensus and gradual reform.

— David Brooks, “The Ideas Behind the March,” The New York Times , 2013


Meliorism entered English in the late 1800s. It comes from the Latin word melior meaning “better.”


em-BROIL \ , verb;

  1. to bring into discord or conflict; involve in contention or strife.
  2. to throw into confusion; complicate.

Did he wish to embroil himself in the troubles of Miss Lemon’s sister and the passions and grievances of a polyglot hostel?

— Agatha Christie, Hickory Dickory Dock , 1955

I determined not to be stirred by your presence or by the passing through of those who, like you, would embroil me.

— Rebecca Stott, Ghostwalk , 2007


Embroil entered English at the turn of the 17th century and comes from the Middle French embrouiller .


PER-i-grin, -green, -grahyn \ , noun;

  1. foreign; alien; coming from abroad.
  2. wandering, traveling, or migrating.

…an unmeasurable Profundity of Knowledge in the most peregrine and sublime Disciples…

— Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter Motteux, The Works of Mr. Francis Rabelais, Vol. 2 , 1864

“Salisbury Cathedral really is the ancestral home of the ‘urban’ peregrine , with records dating from the mid 1800s,” he said.

— “Salisbury Cathedral spire peregrine falcon chicks hatch,” BBC , 2014


Peregrine entered English in the late 1300s from the Latin peregrē literally meaning “beyond the borders of the field.”


taw-TOL-uh-jee \ , noun;

  1. needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness, as in “widow woman.”
  2. an instance of such repetition.
  3. Logic . a. a compound propositional form all of whose instances are true, as “A or not A.” b. an instance of such a form, as “This candidate will win or will not win.”

If “When they’re gone they’re gone” is just a straight tautology then nobody finds it in the least bit informative. It isn’t, because it is tautology . But if it’s really not a tautology then that is to say it’s metaphorical.

— Edited by Theodore G. Ammon, Conversations with William H. Gass , 2003

Tautology . Yes, I know, it’s an ugly word. But so is the thing. Tautology is this verbal device which consists in defining like by like (“Drama is drama”).

— Roland Barthes, translated by Annette Lavers, Myth Today , 1972


Tautology comes from the Greek tautología , and is formed with tauto- meaning “same” and -logy meaning “writing” or “discourses.”


NET-l \ , verb;

  1. to irritate, annoy, or provoke.
  2. to sting as a nettle does.


  1. any plant of the genus Urtica, covered with stinging hairs. Compare nettle family.
  2. any of various allied or similar plants.

The high and lofty airs of these patricians always nettled him.

— Hopkinson Smith, “The Fortunes of Oliver Horn,” Scribner’s Magazine , 1902

Kennedy was so nettled by Halberstam’s dispatches… that the president was still seeking, just a week before the November 1963 coup, to have Halberstam transferred away from Saigon.

— Francis X. Winters, The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam , 1999


Nettle may share a base with the word net , a connection that can be traced to the use of the fiber of the nettle plant for weaving.


ey-bee-see-DAIR-ee-uhn \ , noun;

  1. a person who is learning the letters of the alphabet.
  2. a beginner in any field of learning.


  1. of or pertaining to the alphabet.
  2. arranged in alphabetical order.
  3. rudimentary; elementary; primary.

Instead, Hirsch breathes new life into the abecedarian by pointing out its relationship to prayer and how poets as varied as Gertrude Stein and Harryette Mullen have stretched — and been stretched by — the form.

— Elizabeth Lund, “‘A Poet’s Glossary,’ by Edward Hirsch,” The Washington Post , 2014

Henry Barnard, commenting on the work of the abecedarian , in the early nineteenth century, says: “If a child be bright, the time which passes during this lesson is the only part of the day when he does not think. Not a single faculty of the mind is occupied except that of imitating sounds; and even the number of these imitations amounts to only twenty-six.”

— Edited by Paul Monroe, A Cyclopedia of Education , 1911


Abecedarian entered English in the early 1600s. It can be traced to the Latin abecedarium meaning “alphabet” or “primer.”


MET-uh \ , adjective;

  1. pertaining to or noting a story, conversation, character, etc., that consciously references or comments upon its own subject or features, often in the form of parody: A movie about making movie is just so meta—especially when the actors criticize the acting .
  2. pertaining to or noting an abstract, high-level analysis or commentary, especially one that consciously references something of its own type.


  1. a consciously and playfully self-referential story, conversation, etc.: That dialogue was an example meta at its best .
  2. an abstract, high-level analysis or commentary: writing a meta to explain the character’s motivation .


  1. to analyze or comment on something in a meta way: I spend more time metaing about the show than actually watching it .

This is all meant to be very meta . In one arc, the Doom Patrol is able to stop an imaginary world from taking over the real world when the team finds a black book that tells the story of a black book about an imaginary world taking over the real world.

— Noah Berlatsky, “Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol: The Craziest Superhero Story Ever Told,” The Atlantic , 2014

The meta craze in criticism soon reached a point of parody about self-conscious parody.

— William Safire, “What’s the Meta?” The New York Times Magazine , 2005


Meta can be traced to the Greek preposition of the same spelling meaning “with,” “after,” “between.” It entered English in the late 1800s in the context of chemistry.


\ KOH-tuh-ree \  , noun; 

  1. a group of people who associate closely.
  2. an exclusive group; clique.
  3. a group of prairie dogs occupying a communal burrow.

The coterie  world of Bloomsbury or the Strand isvicarious, but all reading provides vicarious participation in a social group.

— Robert DeMaria Jr., Samuel Johnson and the Life ofReading , 1997

Sturges also had a brilliant eye for finding unconventional talent, and often cast from the same coterie of quirky actors to makes his films feel textured, like a world of their own.

— Hampton Stevens, “‘It’s like a Hollywood Ending’: When Judd Apatow Met Graham Parker,” The Atlantic, 2012


Coterie is French in origin, originally used to refer to an association of tenant farmers. It entered English in the mid-1700s.


\ DIK-shuhn \  , noun; 

  1. style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words: good diction .
  2. the accent, inflection, intonation, and speech-sound quality manifested by an individual speaker, usually judged in terms of prevailing standards of acceptability; enunciation.

But the main characters themselves are not credible, with their mythic passions, expressed in diction  more formal and flowery than would ever issue from a boy of the slums and a girl from the world of pampered inanity.

— Rhoda Koenig, “Rio Is Rich,” New York , 1994

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things; so that picturesque language is at once a commanding certificate that he who employs it is a man in alliance with truth and God.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature,” 1836


Diction  stems from the Latin dīcere  meaning “to say.”The term entered English in the early 1400s.


\ VUR-buh-sahyd \  , noun; 

  1. the willful distortion or depreciation of the original meaning of a word.
  2. a person who willfully distorts the meaning of a word.

Life and language are alike sacred. Homicide and verbicide –that is, violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning, which is its life–are alike forbidden.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Autocrat of theBreakfast-Table,” The Atlantic Monthly , 1857

Men often commit verbicide  because they want to snatch a word as a party banner, to appropriate its ‘selling quality’.

— C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words , 1960


Verbicide joins a variant of the Latin verbum , meaning”word,” with -cide , a suffix used in the formation ofcompound words that means “killer” or “act of killing.”


\ bel-es-PREE \  , noun; 

  1. a person of great wit or intellect.

She was the most hospitable and jovial of old vestals, and had been a beauty in her day, she said… She was a bel esprit , and a dreadful Radical for those days.

— William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair: A NovelWithout a Hero , 1847-1848

A man of genius will only write a history, or aromance; moral, or poetical essays; but his performances remain with the language, while the reputation of a bel esprit , like some artificial fires, become suddenly extinct.

— Isaac D’Israeli, An Essay on the Manners andGenius of the Literary Character , 1795


Bel-esprit  entered English from French in the mid-1600s. Esprit  can be traced back to the Latin spiritus  meaning “spirit.”



  1. adverse in tendency or effect; unfavorable; harmful:

a climate inimical to health.

  1. unfriendly; hostile:

a cold, inimical gaze.




  1. insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.
  2. the private language of the underworld.
  3. the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession, etc.:

the cant of the fashion industry.

  1. whining or singsong speech, especially of beggars.

verb (used without object)

  1. to talk hypocritically.
  2. to speak in the whining or singsong tone of a beggar; beg.


/ˈɑr goʊ, -gət/


  1. a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class or group of people, especially that of an underworld group, devised for private communication and identification:

a Restoration play rich in thieves’ argot.

  1. the special vocabulary and idiom of a particular profession or social group:

sociologists’ argot.


/ˈpæt wɑ, ˈpɑ twɑ; French paˈtwa/

noun, plural patois

  1. a regional form of a language, especially of French, differing from the standard, literary form of the language.
  2. a rural or provincial form of speech.
  3. jargon; cant; argot.