Archives for category: Words

Yes, this is long overdue…


[lahy-sen-shuh s]


1. sexually unrestrained; lascivious; libertine; lewd.

2. unrestrained by law or general morality; lawless; immoral.

3. going beyond customary or proper bounds or limits; disregarding rules.


[free-sohn; French free-sawn]

noun, plural frissons

[free-sohnz; French free-sawn]

1. a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill:

The movie offers the viewer the occasional frisson of seeing a character in mortal danger.


[joo-vuh-nes-uh nt]


1. being or becoming youthful; young.

2. young in appearance.

3. having the power to make young or youthful:

a juvenescent elixir.

The thought of spring, when it did come, gave to Miss Freeling the same sort of halcyon, salutatory, juvenescent feeling that Richard had, and this made them seem like old friends.

— Sylvester Judd, Richard Edney and the Governor’s Family , 1850


Juvenescent is related to the word juvenile. It is from the Latin present participle of juvenēscere which meant “to become youthful.”




1. a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating.


2. of, relating to, or characteristic of a mythomane.

“Having lived with a mythomane ,” she wrote, “I know they believe everything they say; they are not conscious liars, they invent to increase everything about themselves and their lives and believe it.”
— Nicholas Shakespeare, “A Life Less Ordinary,” Granta , 1998,


[rey-ahl-poh-li-teek, ree-]


1. political realism or practical politics, especially policy based on power rather than on ideals.

Alas, when one advances blindly across the boggy ground of realpolitik , when pragmatism takes up the baton and conducts the orchestra, ignoring what is written in the score, you can be pretty sure that, as the imperative logic of dishonor will show, there are still, after all, a few more steps to descend.

— José Saramago, Death with Interruptions , 2005


Realpolitik comes directly from the German word of the same spelling which means “politics of realism.” It emerged in English in the 1910s.


[ig-zig-yoo-uh s, ik-sig-]


1. scanty; meager; small; slender:

His exiguous nautical pension is hardly enough to pay for the one cockroach infested room which he inhabits in the slum area behind Tatwig Street…

— Lawrence Durrell, Justine , 1957


Exiguous is related to the term exigent and comes from the Latin word exiguus  meaning “scanty in measure or number.”



verb (used with object)
1. to confine in retirement; seclude.


1. a covered walk,especially in a religious institution, having an open arcade or colonnade usually opening onto a courtyard.

2. a place of religious seclusion, as a monastery or convent.

3. any quiet, secluded place.


[thoh-nee-uh n]

adjective, Classical Mythology

1. of or relating to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.

Perhaps the smell of blood, dark and chthonian , at the precisemomentthat the bird screamed, awakened somethingdeepandintrinsic in what remained of Pan’s consciousness.

— Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume , 1984


Chthonian entered English in the 1840s from the Greek word chthṓn meaning “earth.”


[beyl-fuh l]


1. full of menacing or malign influences; pernicious.

2. Obsolete. wretched; miserable.

A few looked up to shoot quick baleful  glances at Padillo.

— Ross Thomas, Twilight at Mac’s Place , 1990


Baleful stems from the Old English word bealu-full meaning”dire, wicked, cruel.”


[krip-tuh s-thee-zhuh, -zhee-uh, -zee-uh]

noun, Psychology

1. allegedly paranormal perception, as clairvoyance or clairaudience.

Some experts attribute the jerking of the rod to cryptesthesia , some to divine or devilish inspiration, others to unconscious muscular activity, “sympathy,” they call it, between the diviner and the object.

— Michael Knight, Divining Rod , 2010


Coined in the 1920s, cryptesthesia is a combination of crypt(o)- , meaning “hidden,” and esthesia referring to “capacity for sensation or feeling.”


[œ-vruh] French

noun, plural oeuvres

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.

I am very fond of our body of work together, our oeuvre , even though logging 24-hour days for years on end for a band is not the easiest way to lead a life that could have been very creative in its own right.

— Ian Faith, interviewed by Chick Hadrian, “Spinal Tap: The Unauthorized Sequel,” Spy , July/August, 1992


Oeuvre comes to English by way of French and can ultimately be traced to the Latin word for “work,” opus . It entered English in the late 1800s.




1. a person who sees the gloomy side of things; pessimist.

Ordinarily Encore would have suggested, with amiable malice, that Gottlieb was a “crapehanger” who wasted time destroying the theories of other men instead ofmakingnewonesofhisown.

— Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith , 1925


Crapehanger is an Americanism with roots in the custom of hanging crepe paper as a sign of mourning. It came into popular usage in the1920s.

[uh-pok-ruh-fuh l]


1. of doubtful authorship or authenticity.

2. false; spurious:

He told an apocryphal story about the sword, but the truth was later revealed.

his dialogue is fictitious, apocryphal , and libellous, and also deeply immoral, it respects neither throne nor altar…

— José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero, Baltasar and Blimunda , 1987


[pyoo-suh-lan-uh-muh s]


1. lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.

2. proceeding from or indicating a cowardly spirit.

…in the intervals of their debauches of brutality they are oily and ingratiating, make favorites, offer pusillanimous apologies, protest humane intentions ,and allege absurd excuses for past outages.

— Julian Hawthorne, The Subterranean Brotherhood , 1914


Pusillanimous is derived from the Latin words pusillis meaning “small” and animus meaning “spirit.” It entered English in the late1500s.


[nos-tuh-mey-nee-uh, -meyn-yuh]


1. intense homesickness; an irresistible compulsion to return home.

The nostomania of Odysseus arose from a yearning for what he already knew, already possessed.

— Eric Ormsby, “The Dark Regime of Paradise,” David Solway: Essays on His Works , edited by Carmine Starnino, 2001


Nostomania shares a root with the word nostalgia in the Greek term nóstos , whichmeans “a return home.” It entered English in the mid-1800s.


[pab-yuh-luh m]


1. something that nourishes an animal or vegetable organism; food; nutriment.

2. material for intellectual nourishment.

He had two papers to provide for; papers diverse in character, papers published a hundred and fifty miles apart, papers to which expectant thousands looked for their weekly supply of mental pabulum .

— James Parton, The Life of Horace Greeley , 1868


Pabulum is derived from the Latin verb pāscere meaning “to feed.” The suffix -bulum is used in formation of instrumental nouns. Pabulum entered English in the mid-1600s.


[hoo t-spuh, khoo t-]

noun, Slang.

1. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall.

2. audacity; nerve.

That’s chutzpa ,” Levy said admiringly, “pure, unadulterated chutzpa .” “What’s chutzpa ?” “Yiddish for gall, nerve, arrogance—whatever…”

— Howard Fast, The Immigrants , 1977


Chutzpa came to English from Yiddish in the 1890s.




1. relationship by descent from a common ancestor; kinship (distinguished from affinity ).

2. close relationship or connection.

Simply there was Rip, perfectly amiable, soft hat, some sort of Government credentials; there was also a lanky whey-faced youth of 16, presence unexplained save by consanguinity .

— Ezra Pound, Indiscretions, or Une Revue de Deux Mondes , 1923


Consanguinity came to English in the 1300s. It is derived from Latin word sanguis meaning “blood.”


[koj-i-tey-shuh n]


1. concerted thought or reflection; meditation; contemplation:

After hours of cogitation he came up with a new proposal.

2. the faculty of thinking:

She was a serious student and had a great power of cogitation.

3. a thought; design or plan:
to jot down one’s cogitations.

How could I suggest anything, do you think I know what I have in mind, the captain responded whimsically after long cogitation, shaking his head for emphasis.

— Péter Nádas, translated by Imre Goldstein, Parallel Stories , 2011


Cogitation is derived from the Middle English word cogitaciun . The suffix -ion denotes action or conditions, as in opinion .



\ 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.
ac·cre·tion [uhkree-shuhn] 


1. an increase by natural growth or by gradual external addition; growth in size or extent.


[law-guhreeuh, log-uh]


1. pathologically incoherent, repetitious speech.

2.incessant or compulsive talkativeness; wearisome volubility.

au·to·tel·ic [aw-tuhtel-ik] 
(of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.
Etymology: Greek autotelēs, from aut- + telos, meaning self + goal.
“An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so muchof what he or she does is already rewarding.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
im·pri·ma·tur [im-pri-mah-ter, –mey-, -prahy-] 

2. sanction or approval; support: Our plan has the company president’s imprimatur.




1. having or showing great warmth or intensity of spirit, feeling, enthusiasm, etc.; ardent: a fervent admirer; a fervent plea.

2. hot; burning; glowing.




  1. touching; in contact.
  2. in close proximity without actually touching; near.
  3. adjacent in time: contiguous events.


[noh-et-ik] adjective

1. of or pertaining to the mind.

2. originating in or apprehended by the reason.



noun Psychology

one whose personality type is intermediate between extrovert and introvert.




colorless; without coloring matter.


[vas-ti-tood, -tyood, vah-sti-] Show IPA


1. vastness; immensity: the vastitude of his love for all humankind.

2. a vast expanse or space: the ocean vastitude.



adjective, glib·ber, glib·best.

1. readily fluent, often thoughtlessly, superficially, or insincerely so: a glib talker; glib answers.

2. easy or unconstrained, as actions or manners.


[pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh-]


1. of little value or account; small; trifling: a picayune amount.

2. petty, carping, or prejudiced: I didn’t want to seem picayune by criticizing.



noun, plural scher·zos, scher·zi [skert-see] Music.

a movement or passage of light or playful character, especially as the second or third movement of a sonata or a symphony.




1. pertaining to or of the nature of an axiom; self-evident; obvious.

2. aphoristic.



verb (used without object), ef·flo·resced, ef·flo·resc·ing.

1. to burst into bloom; blossom.




known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric: She knew a lot about Sanskrit grammar and other arcane matters.



[gar-uh-luhs, gar-yuh-]


1. excessively talkative in a rambling, roundabout manner, especially about trivial matters.
2.wordy or diffuse: a garrulous and boring speech.




1. sweetly or smoothly flowing; sweet-sounding: a mellifluous voice; mellifluous tones.
2. flowing with honey; sweetened with or as if with honey.

schatzi \SHAHT-see\, noun:

Slang. sweetheart, darling.

Schatzi is derived from the German word for “treasure,” schatz, which entered English as a term of endearment for a woman in the early 1900s.


\ WEY-fair-er \  , noun;

1. a traveler, especially on foot.


2 [kol-uhm-bahyn, -bin]


1. of a dove.

2. dovelike; dove-colored.


\ kok-uh-LAWR-uhm, -LOHR- \  , noun;

  1. a self-important little man.


\ sahy-AM-uh-kee \  , noun;

1. an act or instance of fighting a shadow or an imaginary enemy.


\ muh-LING-ger \  , verb;

1. to pretend illness, especially in order to shirk one’s duty, avoid work, etc.



1. the mouth, throat, or gullet of an animal, especially a carnivorous mammal.

2. the crop or craw of a fowl.

3. the stomach, especially that of an animal.

4. a cavernous opening that resembles the open jaws of an animal: the gaping maw of hell.

5. the symbolic or theoretical center of a voracious hunger or appetite of any kind: the ravenous maw of Death.



verb (used with object), dul·ci·fied, dul·ci·fy·ing.

1. to make more agreeable; mollify; appease.

2. to sweeten.




1. a person given to voluble, empty talk.

2. nonsense; blather.



1. truth, reality, or fact.




1. inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic: an august performance of a religious drama.

2. venerable; eminent: an august personage.

riposte \ri-POHST\, noun:

1. a quick, sharp return in speech or action; counterstroke: a brilliant riposte to an insult.

banal \buh-NAL, -NAHL, BEYN-l\, adjective:

devoid of freshness or originality; hackneyed; trite: a banal and sophomoric treatment of courage on the frontier.

perspicuous \per-SPIK-yoo-uhs\, adjective:

1. clearly expressed or presented; lucid.
2. perspicacious.

This perspicuous presentation makes possible that understanding which consists just.
— Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, 1992

litigious \li-TIJ-uhs\, adjective:

1. inclined to dispute or disagree; argumentative.
2. of or pertaining to litigation.
3. excessively or readily inclined to litigate: a litigious person.

misology \mi-SOL-uh-jee, mahy-\, noun:

distrust or hatred of reason or reasoning.

The ultimate consequence of misology is a kind of self-destruction in which what is destroyed is that aspect of the self represented by active reason.
— David A. White, Myth and Metaphysics in Plato’s Phaedo, 1989

echt \ekht\, adjective:

real; authentic; genuine.

This is true or echt because I used a calculator.
— Patricia Wood, Lottery, 2008

mot \moh\, noun:

1. a pithy or witty remark; bon mot.
2. Archaic. a note on a horn, bugle, etc.

Mot comes from the French word of the same spelling, which in turn is rooted in the Latin word muttum which meant “utterance.” It is related to the word motto.

wamble \WOM-buhl, -uhl, WAM-\, verb:

1. to move unsteadily.
2. to feel nausea.
3. (of the stomach) to rumble; growl.

comport \kuhm-PAWRT, -POHRT\, verb:

1. to bear or conduct (oneself); behave: He comported himself with dignity.
2. to be in agreement, harmony, or conformity (usually followed by with): His statement does not comport with the facts.

terminus \TUR-muh-nuhs\, noun:

1. the end or extremity of anything.

Terminus comes from the Latin word of the same spelling which meant “boundary, limit, end.”

delitescent \del-i-TES-uhnt\, adjective:

concealed; hidden; latent.

“I am a delitescent writer.” “What does that mean?” It means I didn’t start the book.
— Rex Stout, Double for Death, 1939

inchoation \in-koh-EY-shuhn\, noun:

a beginning; origin.

Three things cannot but exist towards all animated beings from the nature of divine justice; co-sufferance in the circle of inchoation, because without that none could attain the perfect knowledge of any thing…
— John Williams, The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the Cymry, 1844

advent \AD-vent\, noun:

1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
2. (usually initial capital letter) the coming of Christ into the world.

Advent came to English in the 1100s from the Latin adventus meaning “arrival” or “approach.”

crepuscule \kri-PUHS-kyool, KREP-uh-skyool\, noun:

twilight; dusk.

But when he awoke at length there was a great Phoenix brooding with spread wings above his prostrate form, its white plumage like a ghostly crepuscule and its red eyes glowing close against his own pallid and fervent face.
— Arthur Edward Waite, The Quest of the Golden Stairs, 1893

promulgate \PROM-uhl-geyt, proh-MUHL-geyt\, verb:

1. to make known by open declaration; publish; proclaim formally or put into operation (a law, decree of a court, etc.).
2. to set forth or teach publicly (a creed, doctrine, etc.).

I think it means that we promulgate simple and comprehensible laws so that people know where they stand.
— Tom Clancy, Executive Orders, 1996


[ver-boht-n; German fer-boht-n]


forbidden, as by law; prohibited.


[v. en-er-veyt; adj. ih-nur-vit]

verb (used with object), en·er·vat·ed, en·er·vat·ing.

1. to deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken.
Synonyms: enfeeble, debilitate, sap, exhaust.




1. urgent or persistent in solicitation, sometimes annoyingly so.




1.friendly; agreeable: a convivial atmosphere.


[oh-vahyn, oh-vin]


pertaining to, of the nature of, or like sheep.


[tur-pi-tood, -tyood]


1. vile, shameful, or base character; depravity.
2. a vile or depraved act.




1. a feeling of humiliation or shame, as through some injury to one’s pride or self-respect.
2. a cause or source of such humiliation or shame.
3. the practice of asceticism by penitential discipline to overcome desire for sin and to strengthen the will.


[pee-kuhnt, -kahnt, pee-kahnt]


1. agreeably pungent or sharp in taste or flavor; pleasantly biting or tart: a piquant aspic.
2. agreeably stimulating, interesting, or attractive: a piquant glance.
3. of an interestingly provocative or lively character: a piquant wit.
4. Archaic. sharp or stinging, especially to the feelings.


[er-zahts, -sahts, er-zahts, -sahts]


1. serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial: an ersatz coffee made from grain.

2. an artificial substance or article used to replace something natural or genuine; a substitute.

de ri·gueur

[duh ri-gur; French duh ree-gœr]


strictly required, as by etiquette, usage, or fashion.


[in-tem-per-uhns, -pruhns]


1. excessive or immoderate indulgence in alcoholic beverages.
2. excessive indulgence of appetite or passion.
3. lack of moderation or due restraint, as in action or speech.

si·ne qua non

[sahy-nee kwey non, kwah, sin-ey; Latin si-ne kwah-nohn]


an indispensable condition, element, or factor; something essential: Her presence was the sine qua non of every social event.




1. well-suited for the occasion, as an action, manner, or expression; apt; appropriate: The chairman’s felicitous anecdote set everyone at ease.
2. having a special ability for suitable manner or expression, as a person.



noun Hinduism.

a thousand cycles of Maha Yugas.




1. an opening, as a hole, slit, crack, gap, etc.


[in-kuhl-keyt, in-kuhl-keyt]

verb (used with object), in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing.

1. to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly (usually followed by upon  or in  ): to inculcate virtue in the young.
2. to cause or influence (someone) to accept an idea or feeling (usually followed by with  ): Socrates inculcated his pupils with the love of truth.




1. resisting control or restraint in a difficult manner; unruly.
2. noisy, clamorous, or boisterous: obstreperous children.



verb (used with object), ed·i·fied, ed·i·fy·ing.

to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually; uplift: religious paintings that edify the viewer.



verb (used without object), con·doled, con·dol·ing.

1. to express sympathy with a person who is suffering sorrow, misfortune, or grief (usually followed by with  ): to condole with a friend whose father has died.




1. a length of yarn or thread wound on a reel or swift preparatory for use in manufacturing.
2. anything wound in or resembling such a coil: a skein of hair.
3. something suggestive of the twistings of a skein: an incoherent skein of words.
4. a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.
5. a succession or series of similar or interrelated things: a skein of tennis victories.


[in-vey-guhl, –vee]

verb (used with object), in·vei·gled, in·vei·gling.

1. to entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements (usually followed by into  ): to inveigle a person into playing bridge.
2. to acquire, win, or obtain by beguiling talk or methods (usually followed by from  or away  ): to inveigle a theater pass from a person.




1. having the same border or covering the same area.
2. being the same in extent; coextensive in range or scope.




1. the seaward, subsurface flow or draft of water from waves breaking on a beach.
2. any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in a direction different from that of the surface current.


[ree-kuhnoi-ter, rek-uh] 

verb (used with object)

1. to inspect, observe, or survey (the enemy, the enemy’s strength or position, a region, etc.) in order to gain information for military purposes.
2. to examine or survey (a region, area, etc.) for engineering, geological, or other purposes.



verb (used with object)

1. to confuse and deject; disconcert: to be discomfited by a question.
2. to frustrate the plans of; thwart; foil.
3. Archaic. to defeat utterly; rout: The army was discomfited in every battle.




1. lack of energy or vitality; sluggishness.
2. lack of spirit or interest; listlessness; stagnation.
3. physical weakness or faintness.
4. emotional softness or tenderness.




1. wise or judicious in practical affairs; sagacious; discreet or circumspect; sober.

2. careful in providing for the future; provident




1. full of fear; fearful: The noise made them timorous.
2. subject to fear; timid.
3. characterized by or indicating fear: a timorous whisper.




1. lithesome or lithe, especially of body; supple; flexible.
2. agile, nimble, or active.

1. favorable to or promoting health; healthful.
2. promoting or conducive to some beneficial purpose; wholesome.




1. exhaustion from lack of nourishment; starvation.
2. lack of vigor; lethargy.




3. Psychology . of or pertaining to ideas that arise independently of the individual’s own train of thought and seem instead to have some alien or external agency as their source.


[sing-kri-tiz-uhm, sin-]


1.the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.




1. promising success; propitious; opportune; favorable: an auspicious occasion.
2. favored by fortune; prosperous; fortunate.


[puh-remp-tuh-ree, per-uhmp-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]


1. leaving no opportunity for denial or refusal; imperative: a peremptory command.
2. imperious or dictatorial.
3.positive or assertive in speech, tone, manner, etc.
4. Law.

a.that precludes or does not admit of debate, question, etc.: a peremptory edict.
b. decisive or final.
c. in which a command is absolute and unconditional: a peremptory writ.




1. having the power of softening or relaxing, as a medicinal substance; soothing, especially to the skin: emollient lotions for the face. Synonyms: relieving, palliative, healing, assuasive.

2. an emollient medicine, lotion, salve, etc.



3. the capacity of one person or thing to react with or affect another in some special way, as by attraction or the facilitation of a function or activity




1. the development or evolution of a particular group of organisms.
2. the evolutionary history of a group of organisms, especially as depicted in a family tree.


[dis-kuhm-fit] Show IPA

verb (used with object)


to confuse and deject; disconcert: to be discomfited by a question.

to frustrate the plans of; thwart; foil.

Archaic. to defeat utterly; rout: The army was discomfited in every battle.

 verisimilitude \ver-uh-si-MIL-i-tood, -tyood\, noun:

1. the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability: The play lacked verisimilitude.
2. something, as an assertion, having merely the appearance of truth.

The intention of the unities is to enhance the verisimilitude of dramatic works by making the time the spectator is watching the performance coincide with the time in which the entire action takes place (unity of time)…
— Federica Brunori Deigan, Alessandro Manzoni’s The Count of Carmagnola and Adelchis, 2004

Todorov argues most persuasively that verisimilitude is not to be confused with truth in narrative, and indeed truth is dispensable while verisimilitude is not.
— Terry J. Peavler, Individuations, 1987

Verisimilitude comes from the Latin roots vērum + similis literally meaning “likeness to truth.”

misoneism \mis-oh-NEE-iz-uhm, mahy-soh-\, noun:

hatred or dislike of what is new or represents change.

But it is necessary to note that hereditary anomaly, if it provokes an anomaly in the moral sense, also suppresses misoneism, the horror of novelty which is almost the general rule of humanity.
— Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, 1907

Misoneism comes from the Greek miso- + neos meaning “hatred” and “new.”

oeillade \œ-YAD\, noun:

an amorous glance; ogle.

“Please?” Significant pause and oeillade. Eugene thought of his hopes with Rapunzel, of badly wanting to start a clean slate, baleful of all the miseries Laura had caused whenever they had resumed even a friendship…
— Alexander Theroux, Laura Warholic, or, The Sexual Intellectual, 2007

Oeillade entered English in the late 1500s from the French oeillide, and ultimately comes from the Latin ocuclus meaning “eye.”

dissilient \dih-SIL-ee-uhnt\, adjective:

bursting apart; bursting open.

I imagined the dissilient pod of rumours a creative bureau chief up for promotion might hatch. Stories, once sprung, would snowball out of control, growing more damaging with each repetition.
— Susan Daitch, L.C., 2002

Dissilent comes from the Latin word dissilīre meaning “to leap apart.”

percipient \per-SIP-ee-uhnt\, adjective:

1. having perception; discerning; discriminating: a percipient choice of wines.
2. perceiving or capable of perceiving.

1. a person or thing that perceives.

“You’re more percipient than you look,” she said with a grin. “And percipient enough not to use that word instead of perceptive, which is what it really means.”
— Carolyne Aarsen, Love Is Patient and A Heart’s Refuge, 2010

Percipient entered English in the mid-1600s from the Anglo-Norman perceivre meaning “to take notice of.”

demimonde \DEM-ee-mond; Fr. duh-mee-MAWND\, noun:

1. a group characterized by lack of success or status: the literary demimonde.
2. (especially during the last half of the 19th century) a class of women who have lost their standing in respectable society because of indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity.
3. a demimondaine.
4. prostitutes or courtesans in general.
5. a group whose activities are ethically or legally questionable: a demimonde of investigative journalists writing for the sensationalist tabloids.

Demimode comes to English from the French demi- + monde literally meaning “half world.” The phrase was coined and popularized by Alexander Dumas, fils.

wroth \rawth, roth or, especially Brit., rohth\, adjective:

1. stormy; violent; turbulent: the wroth sea.
2. angry; wrathful (usually used predicatively): He was wroth to see the damage to his home.

You are wroth with me because I have used you; because I have offended against your innate right to be a useless cyst on the hindquarters of life.
— Stephen Burst, Issola, 2002

Wroth is derived from the Old English wrāth which comes in turn from the Old Norse word reithr which meant “angry.” It is related to the word writhe.

sundry \SUHN-dree\, adjective:

various or diverse: sundry persons.

Sundry first appeared in English before the year 900. It is derived from the Old English syndrig meaning “separate,” “apart,” and “special.”\

qualm \kwahm, kwawm\, noun:

1. an uneasy feeling or pang of conscience as to conduct; compunction: He has no qualms about lying.
2. a sudden feeling of apprehensive uneasiness; misgiving: a sudden qualm about the success of the venture.

A soft qualm, regret, flowed down his backbone, increasing.
— James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922

The etymology of qualm is uncertain. It may come from the Old English cwealm, which means “torment,” “pain,” and “injury,” but scholars believe there is not enough evidence to assume a direct connection between these terms.

ingratiate \in-GREY-shee-eyt\, verb:

to establish (oneself) in the favor or good graces of others, especially by deliberate effort (usually followed by with): He ingratiated himself with all the guests.

Derived from the Latin in gratiam literally meaning “into favor,” ingratiate entered English in the first half of the seventeenth century.

machinate \MAK-uh-neyt\, verb:

to contrive or plot, especially artfully or with evil purpose: to machinate the overthrow of the government.

Machinate entered English from the Latin machina in the first half of the fifteenth century.

jocose \joh-KOHS, juh-\, adjective:

given to or characterized by joking; jesting; humorous; playful: a jocose and amusing manner.

Jocose comes from the Latin jocōsus meaning “joking.” It entered English in the 1600s.

anfractuous \an-FRAK-choo-uhs\, adjective:

characterized by windings and turnings; sinuous; circuitous: an anfractuous path.

Anfractuous is a back formation of the word anfractuosity meaning “a winding bend.”

novitiate \noh-VISH-ee-it, -eyt\, noun:

1. the state or period of being a beginner in anything.
2. the state or period of being a novice of a religious order or congregation.
3. the quarters occupied by religious novices during probation.
4. a novice.

Moreover, in carrier training the tests confronted the candidate, the eternal novitiate, in more rapid succession than in any other form of flying.
— Tom Wolfe, The Purple Decades, 1982

Novitiate comes from the Medieval Latin word meaning “novice.”

phantasmagoric \fan-tax-muh-GAWR-ik, -GOR-\, adjective:

1. having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.
2. having the appearance of an optical illusion, especially one produced by a magic lantern.
3. changing or shifting, as a scene made up of many elements.

The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by the artificial introduction of a strong continual current of wind behind the draperies—giving a hideous and uneasy animation to the whole.
— Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia,” 1838

saccharine \SAK-er-in, -uh-reen, -uh-rahyn\, adjective:

1. exaggeratedly sweet or sentimental: a saccharine smile; a saccharine song of undying love.
2. of the nature of or resembling that of sugar: a powdery substance with a saccharine taste.
3. containing or yielding sugar.
4. a very sweet to the taste; sugary: a saccharine dessert.
5. cloyingly agreeable or ingratiating: a saccharine personality.

Saccharine comes from the Sanskrit word śarkarā meaning “sugar.”

espousal \ih-SPOU-zuhl, -suhl\, noun:

1. adoption or advocacy, as of a cause or principle.
2. Sometimes, espousals. a. a marriage ceremony. b. an engagement or betrothal celebration.

Espousal came to English in the 14th century from the Latin sponsa meaning “spouse.” It is common for Latin words to gain an initial e- when borrowed by Old French.

esse \ES-se; Eng. ES-ee\, noun:

being; existence.

The esse of the life of every man, which he has from his father, is called the soul, and the existence of life thence derived is called the body.
— Emanuel Swedenborg, The Earths in Our Solar System, 1758

According to Berkeley, the esse of things is percipi. They exist as they are perceived.
— Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, 1818

Esse comes from the Latin word of the same spelling meaning “to be.” It has been in English since the 1600s.


droll \drohl\, adjective:

1. amusing in an odd way; whimsically humorous; waggish.

1. a droll person; jester; wag.

1. Archaic. to jest; joke.

Adah would, of course, say something more droll, such as “Why, Rachel, your interest in personal hygiene has truly become a higher calling.”
— Barbara Kingslover, The Poisonwood Bible, 1998

It’s a droll juxtaposition, and it denotes Ms. Drury as a product of our multitasking, wide-sampling age.
— Rob Weinert-Kendt, “Writes Well With Others,” The New York Times, April 16, 2013

Droll originally comes from the Middle Dutch word drol referring to “a fat little man.” The word came to English through the French droll which meant “pleasant rascal.”

finagle \fi-NEY-guhl\, verb:

1. to trick, swindle, or cheat (a person) (often followed by out of): He finagled the backers out of a fortune.
2. to get or achieve (something) by guile, trickery, or manipulation: to finagle an assignment to the Membership Committee.
3. to practice deception or fraud; scheme.

But the law’s the law now, and not a contest between a lot of men paid to grin and lie and yell and finagle for whatever somebody wanted them to grin and lie and yell and finagle about.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano, 1952

Finagle likely comes from the English dialect term fainaigue meaning “to cheat.” It entered English in the 1920s.

quibble \KWIB-uhl\, verb:

1. to equivocate.
2. to carp; cavil.

1. an instance of the use of ambiguous, prevaricating, or irrelevant language or arguments to evade a point at issue.
2. the general use of such arguments.
3. petty or carping criticism; a minor objection.

Don’t quibble. You’re in deep enough now, young man.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968

I didn’t quibble about the price. No man can say that. I just wanted peace; I paid them their price without quibbling.
— William Faulkner, Light in August, 1932

Quibble is related to the more common word quip. They both come from the Latin word quibus meaning “indeed.”

habiliment \huh-BIL-uh-muhnt\, noun:

1. Usually, habiliments. a. clothes or clothing. b. clothes as worn in a particular profession, way of life, etc.
2. habiliments, accouterments or trappings.

At this very moment, perhaps, Toad is busy arraying himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear to him, which transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking Toad into an Object which throws any decent-minded animal that comes across it into a violent fit.
— Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908

Habiliment comes from the French word of the same spelling. It’s from the root habiller meaning “to dress.”

somnambulism \som-NAM-byuh-liz-uhm, suhm-\, noun:


Somnambulism came to English in the late 1700s from the Latin somnus + ambulare literally meaning “sleep” + “to walk.”

abdicate \AB-di-keyt\, verb:

1. to give up or renounce (authority, duties, an office, etc.), especially in a voluntary, public, or formal manner: King Edward VIII of England abdicated the throne in 1936.
2. to renounce or relinquish a throne, right, power, claim, responsibility, or the like, especially in a formal manner: The aging founder of the firm decided to abdicate.

Abdicate comes from the Latin abdicare meaning “to disown,” “to disavow,” or “to reject.” The transitive sense entered English in the 1500s, though the intransitive sense didn’t appear until 100 years later.

dither \DIHTH-er\, verb:

1. to act irresolutely; vacillate.
2. North England. to tremble with excitement or fear.

1. a trembling; vibration.
2. a state of flustered excitement or fear.

You make mistakes, don’t you–dither, get things wrong…?
— Penelope Lively, Pack of Cards, 1978-86

Dither entered English in the 1600s. It’s a phonetic variation of the Old English didder, though its ultimate origins are unknown.

ambulate \AM-byuh-leyt\, verb:

to walk about or move from place to place.

The woman walked slowly, with a halting gait, as if she’d been forced to ambulate with a pair of swim fins for shoes.
— Sue Grafton, “E” is for Evidence, 1988

Ambulate comes from the Latin ambulāre meaning “to walk.” It entered English in the 1600s.

gibbous \GIB-uhs\, adjective:

1. Astronomy. (of a heavenly body) convex at both edges, as the moon when more than half full.
2. humpbacked

Saturday is full moon, so we will celebrate—if we are lucky with the weather—by the light of a waxing gibbous moon.
— A. S. Byatt, The Children’s Book, 2009

The stars and the gibbous moon demanded to be looked at, and when one meteorite had streaked across the sky, you could not help waiting, open-eyed and alert…
— Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow, 1921

Gibbous entered English late 14th or early 15th century from the Latin gibbus meaning hump.


waif \weyf\, noun:

1. a person, especially a child, who has no home or friends.
2. something found, especially a stray animal, whose owner is not known.
3. a stray item or article: to gather waifs of gossip.

Waif likely finds its roots in the Old Norse veif meaning “waving thing” or “flag.”

largesse \lahr-JES, LAHR-jis\, noun:

1. generous bestowal of gifts.
2. the gift or gifts, as of money, so bestowed.

Largesse comes from the Latin largus meaning “abundant.” It shares a root with the word large.


misoneism \mis-oh-NEE-iz-uhm, mahy-soh-\, noun:

hatred or dislike of what is new or represents change.

But it is necessary to note that hereditary anomaly, if it provokes an anomaly in the moral sense, also suppresses misoneism, the horror of novelty which is almost the general rule of humanity.
— Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, 1907


[free-sohn; French free-sawn]

noun, plural fris·sons [-sohnz; French -sawn]

a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill: The movie offers the viewer the occasional frisson of seeing a character in mortal danger.




a person of great learning in several fields of study


[boh-hee-mee-uh n]


2. ( usually lowercase  ) a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.



[soh-bruh-key, -ket, soh-bruh-key, -ket; French saw-bree-ke]

noun, plural so·bri·quets [-keyz, -kets, -keyz, -kets; French -ke]

a nickname.




verb (used without object)

1. to agree or concur; subscribe to (often followed by to  ): to assent to a statement.

2. to give in; yield; concede: Assenting to his demands, I did as I was told.



[par-uh k-siz-uh m]


1. any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion: paroxysms of rage.

2. Pathology . a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of a disease, usually recurring periodically.




1.a person who purveys, provides, or supplies: a purveyor of foods; a purveyor of lies.




1.the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such.




1. keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.


[kwee-es-uhnt, kwahy-]


being at rest; quiet; still; inactive or motionless: a quiescent mind.


[sheek] adjective, chic·er, chic·est.

1. attractive and fashionable; stylish: a chic hat.




1. Music. a more or less independent passage, at the end of a composition, introduced to bring it to a satisfactory close.

2. Ballet. the concluding section of a ballet, especially the final part of a pas de deux.

3. a concluding section or part, especially one of a conventional form and serving as a summation of preceding themes, motifs, etc., as in a work of literature or drama.

4. anything that serves as a concluding part




1. Astronomy . the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of a man-made satellite at which it is farthest from the earth. Compare perigee.

2. the highest or most distant point; climax.



verb (used with object), as·sev·er·at·ed, as·sev·er·at·ing.

to declare earnestly or solemnly; affirm positively; aver.




1. rock in small particles or other material worn or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice.

2. any disintegrated material; debris.




1. a medicine that relieves or allays pain.

2. anything that relieves distress or pain: The music was an anodyne to his grief.




1. lacking confidence in one’s own ability, worth, or fitness; timid; shy.

2. restrained or reserved in manner, conduct, etc.



verb (used with object)

1. to give evidence of; indicate: to betoken one’s fidelity with a vow; a kiss that betokens one’s affection.

2. to be or give a token or sign of; portend: a thunderclap that betokens foul weather; an angry word that betokens hostility.


[mahr-tn-et, mahr-tn-et]


1. a strict disciplinarian, especially a military one.

2. someone who stubbornly adheres to methods or rules.


[proh-bi-tee, prob-i-]


integrity and uprightness; honesty.




1. associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.



verb (used with object), vi·ti·at·ed, vi·ti·at·ing.

1. to impair the quality of; make faulty; spoil.

2. to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.

3. to debase; corrupt; pervert.

4. to make legally defective or invalid; invalidate: to vitiate a claim.




incapable of being evaded; inescapable: an ineluctable destiny. Synonyms: inevitable, unavoidable, irrevocable, unpreventable, unstoppable, inexorable.


[fas-il or, esp. British, -ahyl]


1. moving, acting, working, proceeding, etc., with ease, sometimes with superficiality: facile fingers; a facile mind.

2. easily done, performed, used, etc.: a facile victory; a facile method.

3. easy or unconstrained, as manners or persons.

4. affable, agreeable, or complaisant; easily influenced: a facile temperament; facile people.




1. disconcertion; confusion; embarrassment.

2. frustration of hopes or plans.




1. truthful; veracious.

2. corresponding to facts; not illusory; real; actual; genuine.


[pan-uh-ram-uh, -rah-muh]


1. an unobstructed and wide view of an extensive area in all directions.

2. an extended pictorial representation or a cyclorama of a landscape or other scene, often exhibited a part at a time and made to pass continuously before the spectators.

3. a building for exhibiting such a pictorial representation.

4. a continuously passing or changing scene or an unfolding of events: the panorama of Chinese history.

5. a comprehensive survey, as of a subject.


[vi-sis-i-tood, -tyood]


1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something.

2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things.

3. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs: They remained friends through the vicissitudes of 40 years.


[jer-uh-mahy-uhd, -ad]


a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint.


[drohl] adjective, droll·er, droll·est, noun, verb


1. amusing in an odd way; whimsically humorous; waggish.


[pahrs, pahrz] verb, parsed, pars·ing.

verb (used with object)

1. to analyze (a sentence) in terms of grammatical constituents, identifying the parts of speech, syntactic relations, etc.
2. to describe (a word in a sentence) grammatically, identifying the part of speech, inflectional form, syntactic function, etc.
3. to analyze (something, as a speech or behavior) to discover its implications or uncover a deeper meaning: Political columnists were in their glory, parsing the president’s speech on the economy in minute detail.
verb (used without object)

5. to be able to be parsed; lend itself to parsing: Sorry, but your concluding paragraph simply doesn’t parse.


[fyoo-suh-leyd, -lahd, -zuh-]

noun, verb, fu·sil·lad·ed, fu·sil·lad·ing.

1. a simultaneous or continuous discharge of firearms.
2. a general discharge or outpouring of anything: a fusillade of questions.


[ri-mon-streyt] Show IPA verb, re·mon·strat·ed, re·mon·strat·ing.

verb (used with object)

1. to say or plead in protest, objection, or disapproval.


[ek-skuhl-peyt, ik-skuhl-peyt]

verb (used with object), ex·cul·pat·ed, ex·cul·pat·ing.

to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.


[uh-proh-bree-uh m]


1. the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy.

2. a cause or object of such disgrace or reproach.


[kuh m-pawrt, -pohrt]

verb (used with object)

1. to bear or conduct (oneself); behave: He comported himself with dignity.

verb (used without object)

2. to be in agreement, harmony, or conformity (usually followed by with  ): His statement does not comport with the facts.