New Vocabulary, 3rd Edition

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New Vocabulary, 3rd Edition

Editado: Dez 23, 2012, 11:15pm

Thought it was time to start a new thread.....bring on the words!

Jan 4, 2013, 1:31pm

From Toilers of the Sea:

ananke: Greek term for necessity
lozenge pattern: camouflage
autochthonous: indigenous
eclogue: a pastoral poem, often in dialogue form

Editado: Jan 18, 2013, 9:56pm

More from The Toilers of the Sea:

lazaretto: a hospital for those affected with contagious diseases, especially leprosy

pullulate: to send forth sprouts, buds, etc.; germinate; sprout.

Fev 5, 2013, 3:16pm

From Spice: The History of a Temptation:

cubeb - West African pepper aka tailed pepper

galangal - A relative of ginger, used in SE Asian cooking

Fev 10, 2013, 1:52pm

From Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain:

bradawls: an awl for making small holes in wood for brads.

labrick: Labrick is substantially ass, a little enlarged & emphasized; let us say, labrick is a little stronger than ass, & not quite as strong as idiot.

philopena: a custom, presumably of German origin, in which two persons share the kernels of a nut and determine that one shall receive a forfeit from the other at a later time upon the saying of a certain word or the performance of a certain action

Fev 15, 2013, 1:48pm

From Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr:

fescennine: scurrilous, licentious, or obscene

Fev 20, 2013, 10:37am

Another new one.
From Main Street Public Library by Wayne Wiegand:

colporteur: a person who travels to sell or publicize Bibles, religious tracts, etc; a peddler of books.

Fev 20, 2013, 10:48am

From Flashman at the Charge

charpai - a bed platform

Fev 21, 2013, 12:00am

7> I thought Cole Porter was a country singer!

Fev 21, 2013, 8:32pm


Fev 26, 2013, 9:27am

Here's one that my dictionary choked on:

From The Hermit in the Garden by Gordon Campbell:

hurluberlu: a French word meaning a style of hair meant to be both ruffled and eccentric (read as "scatterbrained"), as seen here:

Mar 8, 2013, 9:32am

From Imperial Dreams by Tim Gallagher:

wickiup: (in Nevada, Arizona, etc.) an American Indian hut made of brushwood or covered with mats; (Western U.S.) any rude hut.

Mar 24, 2013, 6:51pm

desman - a species of Eurasian mole
From Clarissa Oakes by Patrick O'Brian. It was a creature that enchanted the young Dr. Maturin when he was a budding naturalist.

Mar 28, 2013, 3:58pm

From Mark by the Book by P.W. Smuts:

pericope: a selection or extract from a book

Abr 18, 2013, 2:48pm

From Get a Grip on Dreams
anodyne - something that relieves pain or distress
Alph - A fictional river in the poem Kubla Khan

Abr 18, 2013, 4:09pm

Thank you, Hemlokgang, for defining philopena. I came across that one in an Anne of Green Gables book. (I think it was Anne of Ingleside)

Abr 19, 2013, 9:03pm

My pleasure!

Maio 29, 2013, 8:49am

From Transatlantic by Colum McCann:

funambulist: a tightrope walker

Jun 18, 2013, 2:40pm

From Flashman and the Angel of the Lord
tiffin - British slang for a light meal, typically a second breakfast or lunch. So, the hobbits didn't invent second breakfast. Hmmm.

Jun 18, 2013, 3:19pm

>19 varielle:
I think what that means is simply that it's a meal taken between breakfast and dinner. In the 18th century in Britain, upper-class people would have had dinner in the early afternoon (cf. Jane Austen), but in India it was far too hot at that time, so dinner was eaten later, and you had something light in the middle of the day to keep you going. What we would call "lunch".

I always assumed it must be a word of Indian origin, but according to Hobson-Jobson it comes from the (now-forgotten) English verb tiff to eat or drink between meals.

Editado: Jun 18, 2013, 3:32pm

Here's another one from Flashman - stingo - apparently getting schnockered on strong beer.

Jun 18, 2013, 3:39pm

>21 varielle:
Isn't stingo just the strong beer? That's how Grose defines it, and Flashman uses it as a noun, although I suppose you could understand it as an adjective: "...the old Africa hands in the hotel were full of foreboding over their pipes and stingo, with the country arse-naked, as one of them put it, and the usual trouble brewing to the north."

Jul 14, 2013, 12:06pm

Okay, Wordlovers......I cannot find a definition for "mooncomb". HELP!!!!

"Yet was the mooncomb the only light he saw by?".....from Miss MacIntosh, My Darling

Jul 14, 2013, 11:36pm

Could you have found a more obscure word?! My OED (and the Additions Series) came up a big goose-egg on this one. After a web search, it seems that Ms. Young is the only person ever to have put this one into fiction. My only guess it that it's a neologism to describe the light from a crescent moon.

There is indeed such an objet d'art called a moon comb from ancient China:

But it's more likely something like this:

Other than that, I got nothin'.

Jul 15, 2013, 10:42pm

Impressive, Nielsen!! Thanks?

Ago 12, 2013, 11:03am

From Clarissa: Or The History of a Young Woman by Samuel Richardson:

asseveration: an emphatic assertion
contumacious: stubbornly perverse or rebellious; willfully and obstinately disobedient
fleer: to grin or laugh coarsely or mockingly

Editado: Set 13, 2013, 12:08pm

More from Clarissa: Or The History of a Young Lady:

rhodomontade: vain and empty boasting
causist: a person who supports or defends a cause, especially a social cause
pelf: money or wealth, especially when regarded with contempt or acquired by reprehensible means

Set 13, 2013, 12:07pm

And more from Clarissa: Or The History of a Young Lady:

gorget: a crescent-shaped ornament worn on a chain around the neck as a badge of rank by officers in the 17th and 18th centuries.
gantlope: gauntlet
caitiff: a base, despicable person

Editado: Out 1, 2013, 11:01am

From Sharpe's Fury - enfiladed - Enfilade is a military maneuver in which fire is directed down the longest axis of the enemy position. In this case the Brits and Spaniards were firing down a column of French troops, so that their fire traveled down the length of the column doing the maximum amount of damage.

spontoon - a half-pike, usually with an elaborate head.

And to refresh the memory of my 30+ year old French lessons the word tirez, a form of the verb tirer. In this situation the French officers were screaming, "Tirez!" meaning FIRE!

Out 1, 2013, 10:21am

Tres bien, varielle!

Out 2, 2013, 2:44pm

I'm still in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, but now with Jack Aubrey in The Yellow Admiral.

wariangle - the red-backed shrike.
superannuated - retired because of age or infirmity.

Out 20, 2013, 6:37pm

Still in the Napoleonic wars, but this time with Richard Sharpe in Spain in Sharpe's Battle. Where the word of the day is voltigeur - a French skirmishing unit which literally means vaulter.

Editado: Out 28, 2013, 1:47pm

aponeurosis - a tendenous expansion connecting muscle to the part of the body that it moves. From The Hundred Days, in which Dr. Maturin is excited to dissect a hand to examine this.

shawm - A medieval woodwind instrument, predecessor to the oboe.

Jan 3, 2014, 12:34pm

oriflamme - "golden flame," the battle standard of the King of France in the Middle Ages from Saints Preserve Us.

Jan 10, 2014, 3:43pm

syces - From the Hindi for a stableman or groom found in Flashman and the Dragon.

Fev 26, 2014, 8:02pm

From The Obscene Bird of Night:

immured: to enclose within walls; seclude; confine

usufruct: the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured.

Fev 28, 2014, 11:45am

From The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes:

lucubration: laborious work, study, thought, etc., especially at night;
the result of such activity, as a learned speech or dissertation; Often, lucubrations. any literary effort, especially of a pretentious or solemn nature.

deliquescent: to become liquid by absorbing moisture from the air, as certain salts;
to melt away.

Mar 1, 2014, 1:35am

From Stoner, by John Williams:

inenarrable: (adj) incapable of being described or narrated.

Mar 9, 2014, 12:05pm

From The Canvas by Benjamin Stein:

mashgiach: guardian of souls, supervises kashrut in community institutions
demantoid: a brilliant green variety of andradite garnet, used as a gem.

Mar 12, 2014, 1:20pm

From The Prestige by Christopher Priest

horripilate - have one's hair stand on end and get goosebumps.

Mar 15, 2014, 1:02pm

From The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

widdershins - anticlockwise

I had a feeling I knew it but checked it anyway as I wasn't confident enough to ignore it.

Abr 7, 2014, 12:55pm

All from Chapter 2 of Big Planet by Jack Vance

fumarole - a hole in or near a volcano from which vapor rises (I knew it was to do with a volcano but not the specifics)

Blouse - now I knew this as a piece of woman's clothing but as it was a man wearing it I looked it up to see if there was another interpretation and it is also used to describe a 'single breasted, semi-fitted, military jacket' - which would be far more in keeping with the way in which it was used here.

Abr 7, 2014, 1:57pm

From Flashman and the Great Game -

sowar - a mounted horseman (in India)

Abr 9, 2014, 6:53pm

Definitely from the Raj...Even today, men in south India get a hot, home cooked lunch, delivered to their offices by tiffinwallas...I take my lunch to work in a tiffin carrier in the good old USofA

Abr 19, 2014, 5:05pm

From Maidenhair:

parvis: a vacant enclosed area in front of a church.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 10:43am

I don't often come across English words I have to look up, but I'm immersed in the early 17th century with Coryat's Crudities at the moment, so they are coming thick and fast (Coryat's spelling first, the OED's in brackets if different):

champaign : landscape of open fields
clavy (clavel) : the lintel over a fireplace
commorant : resident in a certain place, dwelling there
freestone : building stone that can be shaped or cut in any orientation
greese (grece) : a step in a staircase
martlemasse beefe (Martinmas beef) : smoked or salted meat (from an animal slaughtered at the beginning of winter)
sodde(-n) : boiled (fr. obsolete past tense of "seethe")

Editado: Jul 16, 2014, 8:28am

From Flash for Freedom

coffle - A train of animals, prisoners or slaves all tied or chained together.

From The Gods are A-thirst

debouch - Typically a group of soldiers moving from a confined area into a more open space, such as from an alleyway into a plaza.

Ago 8, 2014, 11:49am

aubade: a piece sung or played outdoors at dawn, usually as a compliment to someone.

From The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch

Ago 17, 2014, 6:21pm

pipistrelles: any of numerous insectivorous bats of the genus Pipistrellus, especiallyP. pipistrellus of Europe and Asia.

autarky: the condition of self-sufficiency, especially economic, as applied to a nation

From Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation by Marie Darrieussecq

Set 10, 2014, 10:43am

From I Am A Cat by Soseki Natsume:

cachinnation: to laugh loudly or immoderately.
tarrydiddles: a trifling lie
ulterioity: lying beyond or outside of some specified or understood boundary;more remote
jobbernowl: couldn't find definition
pansophic: universal wisdom or knowledge
nescience: lack of knowledge
skint: having no money; penniless
unpetrine: not similar to Saint Peter
jactitate: couldn't find definition
clobber: to denounce or criticize vigorously
teratoid: resembling a monster
archaiomelesidonophrunicherata: couldn't find a definition
jeremiad: a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint
usufruct: the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use ofsomething that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured.
usucaption: the acquisition of property through long, undisturbed possession
diaskenast: couldn't find definition
eldritch: eerie; weird; spooky
sempeternal: everlasting; eternal
atrabilious: gloomy; morose; melancholy; morbid

Editado: Set 10, 2014, 4:19pm

archaiomelesidonophrunicherata — I was intrigued by that one. It turns out that it's a compound Greek word (ἀρχαῖαμελισιδωνοφρυνιχήρατα - but some places seem to have it as two words: ἀρχαῖα μελισιδωνοφρυνιχήρατα and my Greek is far too rusty to decide which is right) invented by Aristophanes in The wasps. The Loeb edition translates it as "sweet-charming-old-Sidono-Phrynichéan" (Phrynichus being a poet from Sidon). The clever thing about it is that it makes up one entire line of the play. Victor Hugo refers to it in that relation, which might be where Natsume got it from.

Isn't the web fascinating when you have too much time on your hands?

Set 10, 2014, 5:46pm

>51 hemlokgang: I found jactitate on (Because I thought I'd come across it before)

It said ... Verb 1. jactitate - move or stir about violently; "The feverish patient thrashed around in his bed"
thrash about, thresh, thresh about, thrash, convulse, toss, slash
shake, agitate - move or cause to move back and forth; "The chemist shook the flask vigorously"; "My hands were shaking"
whip - thrash about flexibly in the manner of a whiplash; "The tall grass whipped in the wind"

Buoyed up with that success I tried Jobbernowl as well and it means 'blockhead'

Curiosity abounds :D

Set 10, 2014, 9:28pm

Thanks, folks. Your help is much appreciated!!

Editado: Set 11, 2014, 2:57am

>51 hemlokgang: that only leaves diaskenast — I would guess it's a typo for "diaskeuast", which is another Greek-derived word, in this case a noun describing someone who revises a literary text. Most people would probably use "editor" instead: according to the OED it's mainly used for those editors who revised a Greek text in ancient times, and they only have a couple of 19th century examples of actual use in English. It's also listed in Duden as a German word. Judging by what comes up in a Google search - a lot of pages that define the word, but hardly any that use it - it's a word that is best known for being a rare word, but not something you're very likely to find out there in the wild.

Set 11, 2014, 8:55am

Thank you, Thorold!!

Editado: Set 12, 2014, 8:47am

prolixity: to speak tediously and at great length; to mention things that don't need to be mentioned.

From Getting the Words Right

Editado: Set 12, 2014, 8:48am

amanuensis: one who transcribes dictation or copies manuscripts.

From Vanity Fair

Editado: Set 16, 2014, 4:20pm


J. P. Sullivanʻs translation uses
"divine" as the tr. of "divi".*
The adjective "divus" actually means
"deified" (after death). "Good" emperors
were deified; "bad" emperors
had their memories "condemned".
Worshipping a living emperor was not allowed within Italy; elsewhere the emperor-worshipping colonials
had to file a special request to
deify a living emperor.

*The whole title is "Apocolocyntosis
Divi Claudii" "The Pumpkinification of
the Deified Claudius"
(attributed to Seneca, but not all classicists agree with that.)

Set 22, 2014, 10:03pm

I was looking up the definition of unpetrine for the same book, I Am A Cat, and was led here, via google. Great link, of course!

Set 24, 2014, 12:09am


Editado: Nov 22, 2014, 3:56pm

Coulée- from _Flashman and the Redskins a landscape feature typically meaning a drainage area. From Flashman's description of the battlefield at Little Big Horn.

Having finished with Flashy, I've started Wings of the Dove where I found arête- meaning an aggregate of qualities. I don't think I'm going to be a Henry James fan. Back to fix touchstones in a moment.

Editado: Dez 25, 2014, 5:02pm

Aureate- of a golden color from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Dez 26, 2014, 10:55pm

From The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell:

coracle: a small, round, or very broad boat made of wickerwork or interwoven laths covered with a waterproof layer of animal skin, canvas, tar covered or oiled cloth, or the like: used in Wales, Ireland, and parts of western England.

Cathar: (in medieval Europe) a member of any of several rigorously ascetic Christian sects maintaining a dualistic theology.

psychosoteric: created by author

epiphyte: a plant that grows above the ground supported non-parasitically by another plant or object, deriving its nutrients from rain, air, dust....from air

chatoyant: reflecting a single streak of light when cut in a cabochon.

Jan 4, 2015, 6:31am

from Parsifal's Page by Gerald Morris


from Chamber C21st Dictionary - spavin
a) a condition in horses where there is swelling on the leg, in the region of either the shank bone or the hock bone
b) the swelling that causes this condition

Jan 6, 2015, 2:16pm

From the Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy

catafalque - Def. from Wikipedia - A catafalque is a raised bier, box, or similar platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a funeral or memorial service.1 Following a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, a catafalque may be used to stand in place of the body at the Absolution of the dead or used during Masses of the Dead and All Souls Day.2

The term originates from the Italian catafalco, which means scaffolding.3 The most notable Italian catafalque was the one designed for Michelangelo by his fellow artists in 1564.4 An elaborate and highly decorated roofed surround for a catafalque,5 common for grand funerals of the Baroque era, may also be called a castrum doloris.

Editado: Jan 6, 2015, 5:11pm

See above, From Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr

Fescennine: scurrilous, licentious, or obscene

....It sounds more like a haughty attitude one would have on an in-between floor of a hotel.

Editado: Jan 6, 2015, 7:35pm

On 66
Another rare item, varielle et al. -- but
it's Latin, not
English - - is the penultimate word of
66: "castrum".
Rarely (or never noticed by me)
seen in Classical Latin*, it is translated
as "fortified place". It must have come to
mean "Castle" in the Middle Ages, but the
word was said more often in its diminutive
or nickname form with the suffix "-illum".
so it came into Romance languages as
"Castillo", etc. In French it was mangled
into "chateau".
But the plural of "castrUM", castrA", was
a very common Latin word meaniing
( military) "camp". A parallel, structurally
is the British English "digs" meaning
residence. You can have a "digs", but
you can't, in the residential sense. have
one "dig", just as you couldn't usually have
one "castrum" in classical Latin.

In the phrase cited "castrum doloris" it
probably meant "tent of sorrow".

Jan 8, 2015, 9:01am

>68 rolandperkins:
...and of course "castrum/castra" is the source of common British place-name suffixes like -chester, -caster, -cester, etc.

Jan 9, 2015, 1:35am

From Gould's Book of Fish, page 121:

zythepsaries (zythepsary):

a brewery

Jan 9, 2015, 9:57am

From This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila:

paniolo: a person who herds cattle, a cowboy

Jan 18, 2015, 2:58pm

I need help with this one. Cecest - I found this in John Brown's Body but can't find a definition anywhere. Any ideas?

Jan 18, 2015, 2:59pm

>72 varielle: What's the context? Could we see the complete sentence?

Jan 18, 2015, 3:01pm

It's going to be Friday before I can get my hands on the book again. Will be back to post then.

Jan 18, 2015, 3:07pm

>74 varielle: I just followed your link and went from there to "look inside" on Amazon. The search function on Amazon doesn't find the word in that text. Maybe there's a typo somewhere.

Jan 18, 2015, 7:20pm

Hmm. Ok. I'll be back next week.

Jan 23, 2015, 8:08pm

Cannot find a definition for two words:




Jan 23, 2015, 8:23pm

Due to the winter storm that's pounding us it's going to be another week before I can get back to John Brown's Body, so here's what I found about your word. This is from Wikipedia.

English has lost the word 'saltimbank' from current usage; but it is still familiar in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian as 'saltimbanco', and in French as 'saltimbanque', meaning 'street acrobat' or 'entertainer'.1 According to the company's site, the word "saltimbanco" comes from the Italian "saltare in banco", which means "to jump on a bench." The etymology of the word reflects its acrobatic associations. A 'salto' is a somersault in Italian; 'banco' in this connection is a trestle holding a board, set up as a temporary stage for open-air performers. 'Saltimbanchi' were thus those who performed somersaults on a temporary platform—wandering acrobats, performing as buskers in the open air, the platform giving their audience a better view.

Jan 23, 2015, 8:26pm

Also querry is a groom or an equerry. I also found it used as a brand of hard cider.

Editado: Jan 23, 2015, 8:28pm

Thank you, varielle!!

Querry was part of the name of a menu item at a restaurant I was at this evening.....a sort of stew...perhaps it had hard cider in it!

Editado: Jan 24, 2015, 11:44pm

I've not been on the vocabulary thread before. However, there were so many new (to me, anyway) words in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford that it seemed like a good time to start.

Gigot: a) a leg of meat, such as lamb, esp. when cooked or b) a leg of mutton sleeve. The second definition is correct for Mrs. Gaskell, who included a lot of contemporary fashion detail in her book.

Mousseline de laine: a very fine French woolen fabric, usu. printed with a vibrant design.

Sarsenet: a fine, soft, silk fabric used as a lining material and in dress-making.

Paduasoy (alternatively padesoy): luxurious strong corded or silk textile that originated in early modern Europe.

Calash: a large hood worn by women in the 18th century.

Negus: drink made of wine, most commonly port, mixed with hot water, sugared and spiced.

Spadille: the highest trump in various card games, and manille: the second highest trump.

Asseverate: to affirm or declare positively or earnestly.

Jan 25, 2015, 9:40am

I need a calash this morning.

Jan 25, 2015, 6:26pm

>82 varielle: I've needed a calash since my last haircut, when the hairdresser butchered my hair. I've found a new hairdresser, and will be trying her out on Tuesday, and hopefully I can remove the imaginary calash and look halfway decent again. If it's as bad as the last cut, I'll need a litre of negus.

Editado: Jan 26, 2015, 4:56am

>77 hemlokgang:, >79 varielle:, >80 hemlokgang: - querry

The drink with the brand name "¿Querry?" (note the faux Spanish-style question marks) is made from a mixture of apple, pear and quince juice, so they presumably came up with the name by replacing the p in perry with q-for-quince (perry is a cider-like drink made from fermented pear juice). Needless to say it comes from California.

I didn't know until I looked it up that equerry originally meant royal stables. Cf. French écurie - contrary to what classically minded English etymologists used to think it has nothing to do with Latin equus, but refers to the building: the modern Dutch word schuur - shed - comes from the same source. It only seems to have been in the 18th century that the meaning of equerry shifted to describe the people in charge of the royal horses, and from that to the modern use to refer to junior officers serving as PAs in a royal household.

The OED also lists "querry" among the obsolete spellings of quarry n1 - the object of a hunt (originally, it referred specifically to the bits of the animal given to the dogs as a reward)- and n2 - place where stone is taken out of the earth.

I don't see how any of these (other than the cider) could have found its way into a restaurant dish. Unless it was a very roundabout way of telling you that the stew was made from deer offal...

Jan 26, 2015, 8:20am


Jan 26, 2015, 4:12pm

New (to me) words from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds:

erethism: abnormal irritability or sensitivity of an organ or a body part to sensation

cockchafer: is melolantha melolantha, generally called a May bug or a May beetle in the U.K., and strangely, a June bug in North America. I remember seeing them on the grass when I was a child. They are destructive to foliage, flowers, and fruit as an adult, and to plant roots when they are larvae.

heliograph: I guessed that this had something to do with the sun, but I had no idea that using a mirror to reflect off the sunlight was ever used as a communication device.

crammer: a specialized school that trains its students to meet particular goals, most commonly to pass the entrance exams for a university.

tocsin: an alarm or other signal sounded by a bell or bells, or the bell itself

kopjes: small flat-topped hills as in South Africa; the word is Afrikaans.

Editado: Jan 27, 2015, 7:08am

>86 ahef1963: kopjes — interesting: you think of that as being a Boer War word, but The war of the worlds was published in 1898, before the 2nd Boer War officially got started.

Wells must have been absorbing the South African news in the build-up to the war (he's supposed to have started writing WOTW in 1895, around the time of the Jameson Raid).
The most famous kopje in Eng. Lit., in Thomas Hardy's poem "Drummer Hodge" was a year later, in December 1899 ("...His landmark is a kopje-crest | That breaks the veldt around...").

Jan 27, 2015, 11:30am

When my mother was a girl (1920s) her brother used to tie a string to the leg of the June bug and fly it around. I suspect they would have been surprised that it was a cockchafer. ;) Poor bugs.

Jan 28, 2015, 3:50pm

From The Boys in the Boat:

repechage: (in cycling and rowing) a last-chance qualifying heat in which the runners-up in earlier heats race each other, with the winner advancing to the finals.

Editado: Jan 29, 2015, 12:29am

>87 thorold: I'm afraid my attention to historical facts and dates is extremely limited, and I didn't even consider where Wells would have picked up the word kopjes. What does surprise me is that I've never read that poem by Hardy; I thought I'd read them all.

>88 varielle: My childhood memories of June bugs was seeing them around the bases of lamp-posts on the street on which I grew up, and stamping on them, as per instructions from my garden-loving father. They were ugly things, but I rather regret my youthful bug murders.

Jan 30, 2015, 8:10pm

I'm finally back to John Brown's Body and there was a typo, but I'm not any more enlightened. The word is Cecesh. Capitalized. And the reference is to a Cecesh flag. I'm thinking it means the rebel flag but can't find a reference anywhere.

Jan 30, 2015, 9:11pm

>91 varielle: I think Secesh was often used as a short firm of secessionist, so rebel flag sounds about right.

Jan 30, 2015, 9:34pm

Well that makes sense.

Fev 24, 2015, 1:19pm

From Evelina by Frances Burney:

flummering: to flatter
megrims: whim, fancy, fad
Court Calendar bigot: lives by listing of people's royal ranking
toad-eater: derogatory term for person earning their living as a companion....(hence the word toadying?)

Mar 1, 2015, 12:19am

From What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge:
arnica - a perennial plant in the sunflower family, historically used, topically, for the relief of bruising, and today used as a topical ointment to relieve osteoarthritis, although there are doubts about its efficacy.
barege - a sheer fabric made of silk, or of cotton and wool.

From The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, which I only read a little of, before putting it back on the shelf for another time:
zoysia - a genus of creeping grass
breakfront - a cabinet or bookcase whose centre section projects beyond the flanking end sections

So many from my current reading, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander:
runcible spoon - a sharp-edged fork with three curved prongs
trew - a trestle
tacksman - I thought this might be an old-fashioned way of spelling taxman, but was wrong. It's a landholder of intermediate legal and social status in Scottish Highland society.
tynchal - a hunt
croft - land and dwelling of a crofter, who is a person engaged in small-scale food production
drover - a person who moves livestock over large distances
cottar/cotter - a Scottish peasant farmer
taw {plural tawse} - a thong of a whip used for corporal punishment in Scotland, applied to the hand.

Editado: Mar 2, 2015, 3:46am

>95 ahef1963:
runcible spoon - there's more to this, as everyone who's ever memorised "The owl and the pussycat" should know. Runcible was a nonsense adjective invented by Lear — apart from the runcible spoon, which of course is used for eating mince and slices of quince, he also writes about runcible cats and runcible hats, and almost certainly wanted to leave it up to his readers to decide what they wanted to imagine a runcible spoon to be. The application of it to a specific kind of spoon/fork seems to be much later and purely arbitrary. The OED cites an entry in Notes and Queries from 1926 for it.
I always used to imagine the runcible spoon as being a normal-shaped spoon, but made of some special metal particularly suitable for sea voyages.

Mar 3, 2015, 2:35pm

From The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead:

longevous: long-lived, living to a great age

Mar 4, 2015, 11:02am

From The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

tetragrammaton - Four Hebrew letters representing the unspoken name of god or Yahweh.

Mar 7, 2015, 7:33pm

From Get In Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link:

cerclage: The placement of a nonabsorbable suture around the uterine cervix to treat premature dilation of the cervix during pregnancy.

Mar 21, 2015, 8:11pm

A word I'd never (so far as I know) seen before, encountered twice in one day, in two novels written more than a century apart:

1. any of various objects or spaces of crescentlike or semicircular outline or section.
2. Architecture. (in the plane of a wall) an area enframed by an arch or vault.
(and four others)

In the first (Middlemarch, 1874), it's used in a simile: a circumstance was "like a lunette opened in the wall of her prison."

In the second (The Holy Thief, 1993), it's a metaphor: "lowered eyelids and a lunette of brow."

How curious to meet both instances so close together in time. At least in the second occurrence I didn't have to look it up.

Mar 21, 2015, 8:18pm

from The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell

douceur: a gratuity, tip, or bribe
retsina: a strong, resinated white or red wine of Greece and Cyprus

Editado: Mar 21, 2015, 8:35pm

>94 hemlokgang: in one of Robert Aickman's short stories (i think it was "Pages From a Young Girl's Diary"), a 19th-century lady complains of having the "screaming megrims," which i took to mean migraines.

Mar 22, 2015, 1:32pm

>100 Meredy: I've also seen it used in reference to half moon shaped reading glasses.

Editado: Mar 23, 2015, 6:28am

>100 Meredy:, >103 varielle:
Lunettes is the everyday word in modern French for a pair of glasses: that's the first thing that would come into my mind if saw it ("J'ai perdu mes lunettes" is a phrase I've often needed to use!). If you'd asked me out of context what it meant in English, I think I'd have guessed at a technical term in fortification, the sort of thing Uncle Toby builds in his garden in Tristram Shandy. Purely on the basis that it obviously refers to something "moon-shaped", and technical terms in fortification are very often French shape-words. Architecture would probably have been next on my list of guesses.

That phenomenon of seeing an unfamiliar word (or even a name) twice in different contexts in close succession is something that seems to happen all the time. I expect it's a well-known and documented psychological effect. With a word like "lunette", I could imagine that it would be something I wouldn't especially notice as an unfamiliar word the first time it came up, because it's a word whose meaning you can easily guess when you meet it in context (even if you don't know French or Latin, you would probably associate it with things like "lunar"). But it might well ring a bell for me if I happened to see it a second time somewhere quite different, as Meredy did.

Abr 4, 2015, 4:15pm

From The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku

Ch. 1 saccades the rapid jiggling eye movement the brain performs in order to bring peripheral visual information into focus on the fovea.

That's all I got -- just started Ch. 2.

Abr 5, 2015, 10:09am

From the Dedalus Book of Flemish Fantasy

Uragano - Italian for hurricane. Why this word would remain in an English translation of a Dutch/Flemish book is beyond me.

Abr 10, 2015, 6:27pm

toises- a unit of measure in pre-revolutionary France found Alexander Humboldt's Jaguars and Electric Eels.

Editado: Abr 17, 2015, 8:18pm

Astrakhan fur - made from lambs that are less than 10 days old. From Sharpe's Waterloo it was used on a Dutch officer's uniform. PETA doesn't like it.

Cath-dath hose - a red and white checked pattern in the hosiery of Highland attire. It is the war pattern. In this case being worn by Highland Brigades at the battle of Quatre-Bas.

Abr 21, 2015, 11:17am

From Runaway Horses:

chalcedony: a microcrystalline, translucent variety of quartz, often milky or grayish

Abr 21, 2015, 10:57pm

>102 chrysotheme: 'Megrims' in that sense is more like having the blues.

Editado: Maio 28, 2015, 1:31pm

Diapason - from John Brown's Body an organ stop, apparently a deep reverberating one. In this case a reference to battle as the deep diapason throbbed from the earth.

eta - Just realized spell checker had changed diapason to dispassion. Argh.

Maio 12, 2015, 2:47pm

Reading Dracula by Bram Stoker and I've come across a few words that I didn't know over the space of two chapters. Some of them I've not managed to find in the dictionary but from what I have found I'm making guesses as to their meanings...

Zoophagus - couldn't find in the dictionary - but phagous was listed as meaning 'Eating' and 'zoo' as having the original meaning of 'living things' so I'm assuming it means eating living things (which does fit with Renfield).

Next up was Chersonese - I think it means peninsula, although it leaves me curious as to which specific peninsula was being referenced as it was capitalized suggesting a specific place rather than a general one.

Pabulum - food or nutriment is one meaning with material for intellectual nourishment as the second.

coevals - of the same age/date/duration, equally old or coincident or contemporary

Scholomance - couldn't find a meaning for this one - context "They learned his secrets in the Scholomance"

Jul 7, 2015, 1:27pm

From The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima:

isinglass: mica, especially in thin, translucent sheets
cryptomeria: a tree found in Japan and China

Jul 9, 2015, 4:04pm

Palestrina - I picked up that it was music, but learned that Palestrina was a Renaissance composer of sacred music. This came from The Goldfinch, in which the little injured red haired girl is listening to Palestrina on her ipod.

Editado: Set 1, 2015, 9:24am

Bastinado - a means of tying up a victim and beating them on the buttocks with sticks as practiced by the Batbary pirates in The Pirate Coast:Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines and the Secret Mission of 1805.

Ago 31, 2015, 11:40pm

From Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands:

lagniappe:a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.
encomia: a formal expression of high praise; eulogy
kermess: a local, annual outdoor fair or festival
callipygous: having well-shaped buttocks
latifundium: a great estate

Set 1, 2015, 2:50pm

From Corelli's Mandolin:

corybantic (adj): frenzied, agitated, unrestrained

Set 1, 2015, 4:04pm

From The Dead in their Vaulted Arches :

Catafalque : a raised structure on which the body of a deceased person lies or is carried in state (

Set 1, 2015, 4:06pm

From Flood and Fang :

Alembic : a vessel with a beaked cap or head formerly used in distilling

Editado: Set 12, 2015, 4:48pm

Ciborium - a metal cup designed to hold the host for Eucharist or a canopy that covered the altar area in some medieval churches. From Worming the Harpy by Rhys Hughes.

Set 18, 2015, 10:07pm

From Lawrence Durrell's Bitter Lemons.

Theodolite ~ a surveying instrument with a rotating telescope.
Paphiot - a cult of Aphrodite.

Out 4, 2015, 11:48am

I've made it to Gettysburg in my slog through the Civil War in John Brown's Body, so the watchword for the day is:

vedette - a mounted picket or sentry who has to responsibility of conveying information or warnings to the main body of troops.

Editado: Nov 1, 2015, 7:21pm

I've been transcribing a probate record from the 1880s which contains all sorts of wonderful words nobody uses any more.

personalty - someone's personal possessions.
Cucumber tree - a type of wild magnolia in the southern Appalachians. In this case it was used as a survey marker.
Next friend - someone who serves as a guardian ad litem for a minor.

Out 29, 2015, 7:34pm

From The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada and translated by Martha Tennent

melomaniac - one who is passionate about music (

Nov 30, 2015, 1:13am

From H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald:

pickelhaube: Prussian spiked helmet

louche: dubious, shady

accipitrine: raptorial, related to hawks

coracle: a small, round, or very broad boat made of wickerwork or interwoven laths covered with a waterproof layer of animal skin, canvas, oiled cloth, or the like: used in Wales, Ireland, and parts of western England.

brumous: misty, foggy:

Jan 18, 2016, 11:02am

From The Janissary Tree serkasier - a vizier who led troops in the Ottoman Empire.

Fev 18, 2016, 5:30pm

"a lathy youth with salient ears" from The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett

would mean a long, thin youth with prominent ears! (thanks to

Jun 25, 2016, 5:31pm

Fauteuil - a wooden seat in the form of an armchair with open sides and upholstered arms, in this case it was in a sampan from The Race Around the World.

Jul 4, 2016, 11:37am

stroboscope - a device that flashes a light periodically to make moving objects appear to be still, used to study periodic motion or to determine the speed of rotation. From the War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts.

Jul 7, 2016, 6:15pm

gubernatorial - of or relating to a state governor or the office of state governor e.g. a gubernatorial election - from Wolves of the Northern Rift by Jon Messenger

Jul 26, 2016, 4:06pm

From Justinian - excubutor -guards or sentinel of the early Byzantine emperors. It literally means "those out of bed".

Jul 31, 2016, 11:38am

From Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's Race Around the World-
Lascar-a southeast Asian sailor or militiaman employed on European ships in the 19th century.
Organette-a mechanical accordion that played music from rolls of perforated paper.

Ago 13, 2016, 10:52pm

From the 1905 book I am a Cat by Natsume Soseki

Benisons - blessings
Poltroonery - cowardice
Aluroid - feline or catlike characteristics
Scunner- strong dislike
Jactitiation- restless tossing of the body in illness or twitching of the limb or muscle
Gormless- stupid, dull or clumsy

Ago 19, 2016, 5:46pm

I should have known this word.

Prolix - unnecessarily wordy, verbose. From Julie and Julia.

Ago 22, 2016, 6:08pm

congener - from The Drunken Botanist In this case it means a minor chemical constituent, especially one that gives a distinctive character to a wine or liquor or is responsible for some of its physiological effects.

Set 4, 2016, 1:49pm

Boreen or bohereen is a narrow lane or path, usually unpaved, too narrow for wo vehicles to pass. From McCarthy's Bar.

Set 15, 2016, 7:25pm

ophiolatry - the worship of snakes

oneiric - of or relating to dreams

lucubration - laborious work or study especially at night or literary effort of pretentious nature

quern - primitive hand held grain grinding mill

(All encountered so far in The Carnac Alignments by Jean-Pierre Mohen)

Out 20, 2016, 5:03pm

bubo(es)- a swollen, inflamed lymph node in the armpit or groin.

buhl- brass, tortoiseshell, or other material cut to make a pattern and used for inlaying furniture

chiaroscuro- an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something

macadam- broken stone of even size used in successively compacted layers for surfacing roads and paths, and typically bound with tar or bitumen

mammon -wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion

peelers- police officers (This was my favorite new word!)

a competitive test of a horse's ability to jump large obstacles in show jumping.
great power, influence, or prowess.

a predatory marine mollusk with a heavy, pointed spiral shell, some kinds of which are edible.

From Mr. Timothy

Out 29, 2016, 5:40pm

Cicatrization: the process of a wound healing to produce scar tissue.
scarification, a form of body modification that uses cicatrization to create patterns on the skin.

the separation of parts of a compound word by an intervening word or words, heard mainly in informal speech (e.g., a whole nother story ; shove it back any-old-where in the pile ).

from Nobody Told Me Not to Go by Ken Cuthbertson

Nov 23, 2016, 3:43pm

aconite- a member of a genus of poisonous plants that include monkshood from Lindsey Davis' A Dying Light in Corduba.

Dez 10, 2016, 8:06pm

carapace - the hard upper shell of a turtle, crustacean, or arachnid.

from Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre

Dez 11, 2016, 6:48pm

Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century.

Cenotaph is a monument, sometimes in the form of a tomb, to a person or group of persons buried elsewhere.

Panglossian - characterized by or given to extreme optimism, especially in the face of unrelieved hardship or adversity

man·u·mit- release from slavery; set free

punim- the face or frontal part of someone's head. More often in common use, a particularly cute face.

Dez 19, 2016, 9:52pm

caryatid - a stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.

saccade- a rapid movement of the eye between fixation points

solipsism -the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist

exordium - the beginning or introductory part, especially of a discourse or treatise.

catechisc - a teacher of the principles of Christian religion, especially one using a catechism.

sessile-(of an organism, e.g., a barnacle) fixed in one place; immobile.
(of a plant or animal structure) attached directly by its base without a stalk or peduncle.

From The Girl With All The Gifts by MJ Carey

Jan 8, 2017, 11:15am

Spancelled - hobbling a horse or other animal to prevent wandering.

From Wau-Bun the early Days in the North-West

Jan 8, 2017, 6:19pm

chough - a black Eurasian and North African bird of the crow family, with a down-curved bill and broad rounded wings, typically frequenting mountains and sea cliffs

tumulus - an ancient burial mound

From In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages by Max Adams

Editado: Abr 13, 2017, 6:16pm

Morpheme - the smallest grammatical unit in a language.

From The Joy of Books: Confessions of a Lifelong Reader.

Jun 1, 2017, 10:42am

Glad to have found this thread as I'm regretting not noting down new words I've picked up in my reading since becoming active on LT this year. I'm under the illusion that I'll remember it if I write it down. We'll see.

Here's one I've come across in The Third Man by John Buchan and had also spotted it elsewhere - in Dickens' Great Expectations I think.

ulster a long Victorian overcoat, usually with a shoulder cape and sleeves.

Jun 28, 2017, 11:12am

Starets - an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher

From Faberge's Eggs by Tony Faber

Jul 30, 2017, 4:15pm

doubledome - slang for an intellectual or egghead.

From the introduction to The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar.

Set 2, 2017, 10:50am

From Dubliners -

Cretonne-a strong white fabric with a hempen warp and a linen weft. In this case it was curtains.

Editado: Set 2, 2017, 4:23pm

From- Why Shoot a Butler
quixotry is defined as behavior inspired by romantic beliefs without regard to reality.

persiflage is light good-natured talk; banter or
frivolity or mockery in discussing a subject.

kaross A dressed animal skin, or several skins sewed together, used in southern Africa as a cloak, rug, or blanket.

Set 16, 2017, 12:13pm

Pomatumed - from pomatum. Hairdressing in which perfumed oil or ointment is applied.

From Memoirs of a Georgian Rake in which our hero William Hickey gets pomatumed when he lands his first job as a law clerk.

Set 22, 2017, 6:10pm

elided - to have omitted a sound or syllable while speaking. From Courtesans and Fishcakes

Set 30, 2017, 2:15pm

Ticdouloureaux - normally written as two words but in this usage it was written as one. It is trigeminal neuralgia or a stabbing pain to one side of the face. In this case it referenced a new bride suffering such a condition prior to her first conjugal evening. From The Hatless Man: An Anthology of Odd and Forgotten Manners.

Out 8, 2017, 4:39pm

Porcellian Club - an all male club at Harvard. The name comes from their founding in the 1790s and has to do with a roast pig. From The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.

Editado: Out 26, 2017, 10:39am

antimacassar - a cover to protect the back or arms of furniture

hessian - a strong, coarse fabric made from hemp or jute, used for sacks and upholstery

from Children of the Green: True Story of Childhood in Bethnal Green, 1922-37 by Doris M. Bailey

Dez 19, 2017, 3:29pm

gowk - an awkward or foolish person

from Ghostly Tales: Spine-Chilling Stories of the Victorian Age

Jan 2, 2018, 8:14pm

Charabanc - an early 20th century sightseeing motor coach. From Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Roumeli.

Editado: Fev 3, 2018, 8:53pm

Betjak - term for a pedicab commonly used in Indonesia. Found in Java Man by Carl Swisher III et. al.

Fev 3, 2018, 3:50pm

I didnʻt get this from reading, but "betjak" (160) reminds me
of the Tongan term, of the 1980s for a very small taxi: "minimoke". By the ʻ90s, alas, when I was visiting, it seemed the minimokes had gone out of use.

Mar 29, 2018, 6:36pm

Hobson’s choice - an expression meaning you are only given one option. It’s either that or nothing. From So Many Enemies, So Little Time.

Editado: Mar 30, 2018, 5:31pm

>162 varielle:
A little bit of trivia, a movie gem is Hobson's Choice starring John Mills and Charles Laughton.

Mar 30, 2018, 8:29pm

"a movie gem is "Hobsonʻs Choice"

Yes, good reminder; I saw it in the 1950s. After reading 162, I looked for the movie in LT; only found a stage version, the author of which I hadnʻt heard of before, (if that was the source of the movie.)

Abr 5, 2018, 8:39am

empyrean - derived from the highest part of heaven.

From How the Irish Saved Civilization.

Abr 5, 2018, 10:41am

>165 varielle: Interesting that I just came upon that word for the first time myself in The Wine-Dark Sea by Robert Aickman.

Abr 5, 2018, 4:07pm

>164 rolandperkins: There used to be an unwritten rule in Lancashire that at least one local rep theatre had to have Hobson’s choice on the programme every season. It was so prevalent that my father used to claim that the expression “Hobson’s choice” originated in the impossibility of seeing any other play...

(Real story - there was a fashion in the theatre for gritty Northern drama about fifty years before the similar fashion in cinema that led to the David Lean film. Brighouse was one of a whole gang of “Manchester playwrights” active in the years before WWI. HC is just about the only one of those plays that still gets revived regularly.)

Abr 6, 2018, 5:00pm

"... unwritten rule in LANCASHIRE ... "Hobsonʻs Choice" on the program every season. (emphasis added)

Good rule.
On seeing "Hobsonʻs Choice" in the 1950s, I mistook the dialect that occasionally appeared for the southern version of Yorkshire; I wasnʻt too well grounded in English geography

Editado: Jul 11, 2018, 10:13am

From Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff. (One of the best I've read in a long time by the way)

Snailshine - I can't find this in any dictionary, but by the content it seems to mean by moonlight.
glim - a candle or lantern
grallached - disemboweling an animal, especially a deer.
bothy - a small hut or cottage

Editado: Jul 22, 2018, 4:52pm

From Memoirs of a Georgian Rake by William Hickey.

ton - used in reference to the fabric in a dandy's frock coat, apparently meaning an excessive amount of fabric was used in the making.

Editado: Jul 28, 2018, 3:57pm

>170 varielle: ton usually just means fashion, or fashionable style, in that sort of 18th-century context (ton n.3 in the OED). A borrowing from French, as in bon-ton.

Was it this example? “...his dress then being a white coat, cut in the extremity of ton, lined with a Garter blue satin, edged with ermine, and ornamented with rich silver frogs...” - I can see how you might think it meant a lot of fabric!

Ago 4, 2018, 11:31am

>171 thorold: Thanks thorold. That’s it exactly. I was struggling to find a good definition here in the ex-Colonies.

Ago 26, 2018, 9:16am

coquina - a type of sedimentary rock made of sea shell fragments.

From The Americanization of Edward Bok.

Editado: Set 26, 2018, 3:44am

>161 rolandperkins: Mini Moke was actually a specific model of vehicle (originally anyway): . They were built in Australia till 1981, and the ones in Tonga probably came from there. I suspect that the term may have been generalised to other small vehicles.

Out 14, 2018, 7:56am

I need help with the word lala from Jason Goodwin’s The Snake Stone. Whenever I search I keep coming up with a hip hop star. It’s used in reference to the main character Yashim who is a eunuch so at first I thought it was a reference to that. Ive found some reference to it possibly meaning teacher and that it might come from a Persian word for tulip. Anybody able to help?

Out 18, 2018, 2:00pm

Wens - I don't know why I have such a time getting my head around a simple word like this. Perhaps because it's not a condition you see this days and has fallen from use. It's a skin disorder usually boils on the face. From Bernard Cornwell's the Gallows Thief. The executioner was afflicted with this condition.

Out 18, 2018, 2:47pm

>176 varielle: You obviously haven't been reading enough William Cobbett!

Editado: Out 23, 2018, 12:58am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Editado: Dez 18, 2018, 7:14am

bahuvrihi - a compound noun that identifies the thing it’s referring to indirectly, through one of its characteristics (e.g. unicorn, sabre-tooth, flatfoot, blue-stocking). Cf. Synecdoche

This had me completely puzzled because it popped up in the Cambridge history of the English language, volume 1 and I assumed it had to be an Old English word - it’s actually taken from Sanskrit, where it’s a word for “rich person”, literally “much-rice”.

Editado: Fev 10, 2019, 2:37pm

Animadiversions - severe criticism. From Memoirs of a Georgian Rake wherein the citizens of Madras were extremely put out when the garrison failed to fire on a threatening French ship because the key to the munitions storeroom had been misplaced.

Puisne - a legal term meaning inferior in rank.

Mynheer - a polite form of address to a Dutchman or Afrikaner meaning mister.

Banian- a Hindu trader of a particular caste.

Editado: Fev 17, 2019, 12:52pm

From Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood -
prairie oyster - a drink made with a raw egg, worchestershire sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, pepper and sometimes tomato juice. Touted as a hangover cure. In this context the were frequently drunk by Sally Bowles, later made famous by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret.

Editado: Fev 23, 2019, 6:51pm

From Part of Your World by Liz Braswell-

cantrip- witch's trick

amanuensis - secretary

ichor-the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods or a watery discharge from a wound

Fev 25, 2019, 9:42am

A simple word that I had never heard used...

rusk - a twice baked biscuit (cookie), often used for teething babies to chew on. Think Zwieback in the US. From Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.

Editado: Fev 26, 2019, 4:01pm

>183 varielle: That’s fascinating - I never knew that Americans used “Zwieback”, which is what I’m used to it being called in German, or that “rusk” is purely British. Obviously one of those things you only find out if you take a baby across the Atlantic.

Zwieback is a literal translation of French “biscuit” (twice-baked). The OED isn’t sure but suggests rusk might come from Spanish/Portuguese “rosca”. Apparently it was used for ship’s-biscuit before it became the word for baby-type biscuits.

In Dutch baby rusks are “beschuit”, which is obviously just a version of biscuit/biscotti. They are key to the social nightmare of “Beschuit met muisjes”...

There’s the inevitable blog-post about the whole question here:

Fev 28, 2019, 8:28pm

I know rusks as Melba toast...but I also know it as bread that is toasted, left to dry out, and then eaten the next day.

Editado: Mar 3, 2019, 5:13pm

From the short story “Mrs Lorriquer”, from the anthology Voodoo Tales by Henry S. Whitehead

harridan: a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman

surtout: a man's overcoat of a style similar to a frock coat

Mar 23, 2019, 12:21pm

Abatis - a field fortification made of brush and sharpened sticks. From Partisans and Redcoats by Walter Edgar.

Abr 28, 2019, 1:55pm

Brummagem - cheap and shoddy imitations. From John Fante’s Ask the Dust.

Jun 20, 2019, 11:28pm

I would have thought more Einstein?

Jun 20, 2019, 11:30pm


Jun 20, 2019, 11:33pm

All good words!

Jun 28, 2019, 7:18pm

Enology - a variation of oenology, the study of wine. From The Accidental Connoisseur.

Jul 27, 2019, 10:19am

“pass the earings” with one R - from Fanning’s Narrative means performing the hazardous duty of securing the lower corner of a square sail to the yard.

Ago 10, 2019, 12:00pm

Penumbra - I knew it was astronomical but wasn’t sure what it was exactly. The partially shaded outer region of a shadow cast by an opaque object. From A Fortune Teller Told Me.

Ago 22, 2019, 2:46pm

Prosopography - doing historical research by collating data about the careers, family relationships, etc., of lots of individuals. Seems to be a fairly well-known technical term, but for some reason it had never crossed my path before.

Derived from the rhetorical term prosopopoeia, speaking as if with the voice of another person (personification).

From History of the hour.

Ago 22, 2019, 3:32pm

...which reminds me that I meant to look up >193 varielle: in A sea of words. Didn't help much, he simply defines "earing" as "one of a number of small ropes that fasten the upper corner of a sail to the yard". I'm pretty sure there is an explanation of "passing the earing" during reefing in one of the PO'B books, though.

The American naval writer William Brady, in The Kedge-anchor or young sailor's assistant (1848), seems to use "earing" for all short ropes used to fasten any part of a sail to a yard, including the things I always assumed were called "reef-points". When he's talking about the ones in the corners of the sail he uses a more specific term (e.g. "weather earing", "lee earing"). And he consistently uses the verb "pass" in the special sense of attaching the earing to the yard. Which would obviously be a difficult and dangerous job if you were reefing in bad weather.

(cf. here: )

Ago 25, 2019, 11:27am

Ostraka- pottery shard with writing inscribed. Used for voting politicians into exile in Ancient Greece. From Taylor Caldwell’s Glory and the Lightning.

Editado: Ago 28, 2019, 6:15pm

From To Live Forever by Jack Vance

minatory - menacing/threatening

Set 7, 2019, 4:32pm

From The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

machicolated tower

A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones or other material, such as boiling water or boiling cooking oil, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall.

Set 10, 2019, 4:59pm

Another from The Turn of the Screw:

asseverate: declare or state solemnly or emphatically

Set 14, 2019, 8:49am

Adumbrate - to foreshadow, to suggest, to include overshadow. From Xenophon’s Retreat.

Editado: Set 14, 2019, 5:32pm

>201 varielle: Wow - I just saw adumbration in The Turn of the Screw and was going to post it here...

From The Turn of the Screw: expatiation - to enlarge in discourse or writing; be copious in description or discussion

Set 16, 2019, 3:34pm


casus belli - a Latin phrase meaning an act or event used to justify war. From Can You Ever Forgive Me by Lee Israel.

Set 26, 2019, 2:30pm

fug - a warm, stuffy or smoky atmosphere in a room.
from - Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood The book refers to a beer fug. I had never seen the word fug before.

Set 26, 2019, 3:39pm

Set 27, 2019, 6:54am

>204 JulieLill: fug is late-Victorian public school slang, I’d guess it dropped out of widespread use by the 1960s or 70s, and it probably didn’t embed itself in North America as firmly as in Britain anyway. The OED calls it “origin unknown”, but it seems like a reasonable guess that it might be a variant of “fog”

Set 27, 2019, 11:33am

>206 thorold: Thanks for the info!

Editado: Set 27, 2019, 11:46am

I have read a couple of Alison Bechdel graphic novels and enjoyed them. Well, the Merriam-Webster is adding the term bechdel test to their dictionary. Her friend Liz Wallace actually thought up (or created the term)-Bechdel Test.

Out 10, 2019, 7:26am

Gamboge- a yellow pigment often used to dye the saffron robes of Buddhist monks. From The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble.

Out 16, 2019, 10:09am

Effulgence - radiant splendor, brilliance

From Deadlock by Dorothy Richardson

Out 18, 2019, 8:42am

Tufa - a variety of limestone. From Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michele. In this case a group of young girls are carrying tufa stones on their heads.

Out 22, 2019, 9:56pm

Lemniscate - a polar curve whose most common form is a locus of points the product of whose distances a distance 2a away is the constant a squared. I don’t know what that men’s but it has something to do with fortune telling in The Stockholm Octavo.

Out 28, 2019, 3:39pm

Iudex- Latin for a judge from Historical Whodunits.

Editado: Nov 4, 2019, 4:13pm

Ambit- circumference or circuit. From Sacre Blues referencing the habit of Québécois to change apartments every July 1.

Nov 5, 2019, 6:05pm

Apothegm-a concise saying or maxim from Brit Wit.

Nov 16, 2019, 5:38pm

Johnny-ride-a-pony — I missed this in childhood. A game where a line of kids are bent over in a row (the ponies). The riders mount the ponies and the ponies attempt to throw the riders off without standing up. They change places and each team keeps score. From The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski where he makes the analogy that books on a shelf can look like this. I can’t see it myself.

Nov 16, 2019, 9:06pm

Tmesis: infixing one word into another.
Ex: fan-freaking-tastic.

Which leads to words like infix, affix, adfix...

Nov 22, 2019, 9:08pm

Coup de foudre - a sudden unexpected event. From Beyond Market Value.

Dez 22, 2019, 12:07pm

Bathetic - Producing an unintended effect of anticlimax. In this case in response to the French reaction to George W. Bush’s words following 9/11. Found in Who Let the Dogs in? Political Animals I Have Known. I do miss Molly Ivins.

Jan 6, 2020, 10:17am

Noumenon - In Kantian philosophy, a thing that is as it is in itself. From Wagner by Barry Millington. That’s as clear as mud.

Jan 7, 2020, 12:52pm

From Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage 2:

A fine fuliginous pink: sooty, dusky

Pilgrimage 3:

… Mill thought intuition at least as valuable as ratiocination: the process of exact thinking; reasoning

Materialism has the recommendation of being a monism, and therefore a more perfect explanation of the universe than a dualism can be... :a theory or doctrine that denies the existence of a distinction or duality in a particular sphere, such as that between matter and mind, or God and the world.

The grey trottoir, empty of the shawled flower-women and their great baskets, was a quiet haven: sidewalk

She had put on a little black ulster (a man's long, loose overcoat of rough cloth, typically with a belt at the back) and a black close-fitting astrakhan cap (fur hat).

Your ironmongery in my rucksack, and off we'll go. :tools and equipment used in homes or gardens

Switzerland in the summer was an oleograph:a print textured to resemble an oil painting

...decided that it might even be possible to become a sort of chatelaine without the constricted voice: a woman who owns or controls a castle or large house

And to be a little moulded by it would not be atavism: a tendency to revert to something ancient or ancestral.

The coming of the end of the charm of strangeness. Of exogamy: the custom of marrying outside a community, clan, or tribe

as the Lycurgans were the leaven that was to drive through the world of thought... :a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better

He was in the hands of his mondaines: fashionable women

So much new vocabulary for me from this book published in the early 1920's.

Jan 7, 2020, 1:34pm

From The Sugar House by Antonia White

...the next she would swear like a coster:short for costermonger, a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a handcart in the street

Come, let the canikin clink: a small can or cup

The same wintry sun lit up the sallow fields and the pollarded willows by the Severn: cut off the top and branches of (a tree) to encourage new growth at the top.

Well, that's napoo then: used to indicate that something is finished, ruined, or inoperative, or that someone is dead.

Don't titubate: to reel or stumble as if tipsy

Jan 7, 2020, 1:42pm

From Unlocking the Air and Other Stories by Ursula K. LeGuin

Ether, OR: So this is my time, my heyday, my floruit.:the period during which a historical figure lived or worked

Olders: No doubt, Hamid thought, ausculting, now that he breathes once a minute: listening to sounds arising within organs (such as the lungs) as an aid to diagnosis and treatment

The Poacher: So it is that I know now what a castle is, and a king, and a seneschal, and a story, and so can write my own: the steward or major-domo of a medieval great house.

Jan 7, 2020, 2:44pm

From These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

It did not take me long to come to my peroration: the concluding part of a speech, typically intended to inspire enthusiasm in the audience.

He so amused me with his megrims and his sighs: a whim or fancy

The postilions, liveried in black and gold, stood to their heads, because the Duke's horses were not chosen for their docility: a person who rides the leading nearside (left-hand side) horse of a team or pair drawing a coach or carriage, especially when there is no coachman.

He beheld a short, rather stocky youth, dressed in the height of fashion and seated mumchance beside a sprightly lady who was with difficulty restraining a yawn: silent; tongue-tied

Henry, will you fetch me some negus?:a hot drink of port, sugar, lemon, and spice.

He would walk with her in the pleasaunce: a region of garden with the sole purpose of giving pleasure to the senses, but not offering fruit or sustenance.

Mademoiselle, the promised guerdon: a reward or recompense

Jan 7, 2020, 2:58pm

Chlamys - a man’s short cloak from Ancient Greece. Found in The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann in which a character is wearing such a cloak to a masked ball.

Jan 8, 2020, 10:54am

The Plague, by Albert Camus

Jan 8, 2020, 1:07pm

Ramayana the Hindi Indian story by Sarkari Result

Jan 13, 2020, 5:43pm

Grasswidower - a man whose wife is away often. From Wagner by Barry Millington.

Jan 14, 2020, 2:12pm

>228 varielle: There is a word for that - I love it!

Jan 21, 2020, 3:10pm

ambatch - a woody shrub of the African tropics used to make rafts because of its lightness. From Cork Boat by John Pollack.

Jan 23, 2020, 1:49pm

fent — remnants of cloth. From The taming of Nan by Ethel Carnie Holdsworth. One of many bits of Lancashire dialect in the book, but the first one I’ve had to look up.

>228 varielle: You can have endless hours of fun discussing why it’s “grass” in some languages and “straw” in others.

Fev 12, 2020, 12:44pm

Cresset - a metal container filled with oil, wood or charcoal for a light usually mounted on a pole. From Sword of Destiny: Tales of the Witcher.

Fev 29, 2020, 5:09pm

Voivode - an Eastern European military commander in the early Middle Ages. From the Witcher series The Last Wish.

Mar 1, 2020, 2:29pm

calcareous - containing calcium carbonate, chalky: beneath the rock's calcareous sky, from Invisible Cities.

norias - a device for raising water from a stream or river, consisting of a chain of pots or buckets revolving around a wheel driven by the water current: in the windlasses of the norias, also from Invisible Cities

viridian - a bluish-green pigment consisting of hydrated chromium hydroxide; a bluish-green color: an opaque, exciting viridian artificiality, from Clear Horizon

ebullition - the action of bubbling or boiling; a sudden outburst of emotion or violence: to test the nature of the ebullition, also from Clear Horizon

Mar 6, 2020, 6:17pm

Pedipalp - an appendage attached to the thorax of most arachnids. From Season of Storms in which the hero is about to slay a giant arachnid.

Editado: Mar 13, 2020, 12:56pm

>235 varielle: I will not be reading that book! Giant arachnids are terrifying, even if on the pages of a novel!

A few new words from Buried in the Sky, a true story about a disaster on K2, in which eleven people died in one horrific day.

lenticular - shaped like a lentil! "The lenticular (cloud) formation meant brutal weather blowing in."

serac - a pinnacle or ridge of ice on the surface of a glacier and massive hunks of ice that calve from a glacier.

katabatic - used to describe wind that carries high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity.

Mar 13, 2020, 2:41pm

>236 ahef1963: lenticular — you can have fun pondering why the Latin and French words lens and lentille, which both mean the same thing in their languages of origin, split up when they get into English, and one goes into the optics lab whilst the other heads for the kitchen!

Mar 15, 2020, 4:07am

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Mar 16, 2020, 5:14pm

spider — a light, high carriage with large wheels (a kind of phaeton). From The story of an African farm (which also has lots of great Afrikaans words in it, of course).

Mar 17, 2020, 2:15am

Not a new word but an unexpected meaning: treacle. According to Atlas Obscura's page on St Margaret's Well in Oxford, "During the medieval period, the word 'treacle' meant 'healing fluid.'" I gave a snort of derision, but turns out it's almost true: according to the Oxford Dictionary on line here, the original sense was "A medicinal compound, originally a kind of salve, composed of many ingredients, formerly in repute as an alexipharmic against and antidote to venomous bites, poisons generally, and malignant diseases.". The whole Oxford entry is worth browsing for lovers of obscure words.

Mar 17, 2020, 9:59am

Betjemanesque - resembling the work of poet and broadcaster John Betjeman. Never heard of him. From Orwell’s Burmese Days.

Mar 17, 2020, 10:32am

>241 varielle: was that in the text or the introduction? I wouldn’t have thought Betjeman would have been well enough known to become an adjective by the mid-thirties when Orwell was writing. From at least the fifties to the seventies he was a household name in Britain, though.

Mar 17, 2020, 4:42pm

>239 thorold: I have been wanting to read Olive Schreiner's book for years. Please let me know how you like it.

Mar 17, 2020, 5:07pm

>243 ahef1963: There’s a review in my CR thread here: (also on the book page). In short: a bit unfocused, but very interesting.

Mar 18, 2020, 8:29am

>242 thorold: It was in the intro.

Mar 21, 2020, 3:12pm

sedulously - diligent in application or attention; persevering; assiduous. persistently or carefully maintained: 'Bennett plodding sedulously along his encumbered way.' From Clear Horizon

endimanché - in one's Sunday best; from Dimple Hill

spelicans - the game of jackstraws or pick-up sticks: 'keeping me entertained, reading Longfellow, playing spelicans' from Dimple Hill

chaffering - haggling about the terms of an agreement or price of something: 'while still the ancient chaffering went on, had asked one price and refused to bargain.' Also from Dimple Hill.

epergne - an ornamental centerpiece for a dining table, typically used for holding fruit or flowers: 'which perhaps may be the origin of epergnes and other high centrepieces.' Also from Dimple Hill

gimlet - to stare at someone in a piercing manner, or to stare in an extremely watchful manner: 'It is not only because they are comfortable that corner seats are popular, but because they afford a partial escape from gimlets.' Also from Dimple Hill.

I've never before seen this spelling of fiancé: fiongsay… Also from Dimple Hill.

celandine - a common plant of the buttercup family that produces yellow flowers in the early spring, reproducing either by seed or by bulbils at the base of the stems: 'gazing into the brilliant live varnish of the stray celandine encountered on the way to the house.' From March Moonlight

Mar 24, 2020, 10:53am

rachitic -rickety, feeble or in a weakened condition originating from the effects of rickets. From I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasienski. In this case the main character walks into a bar where the potted palms are rachitic.

Mar 26, 2020, 5:23am

fuliginous — sooty
From Dorothy Richardson, Interim (in Pilgrimage 2): “M’yes; a fine . . . fuliginous . . . pink. . . . God’s had a strawberry ice for supper.”

(I wonder if it was a mistake for fulgid — glittery?)

Mar 26, 2020, 8:41am

>248 thorold: I picked that one up also, up in >221 LisaMorr:! There are lots of words for this thread from the volumes of Pilgrimage!

I could see a dusky pink.

Mar 26, 2020, 11:54am

>249 LisaMorr: Great minds... :-)

Mar 27, 2020, 11:57am

hot trod — nothing to do with racing cars, but a pre-Schengen hot-pursuit law that allowed owners of stolen cattle to cross the Scottish border with armed force to get them back, provided they did it within six days of the theft and carried a peat on the point of a spear to indicate what they were about.

Mentioned in Frank Welsh’s A history of South Africa as the prototype of a similar “Spoor law” that applied in the early 19th century when the Great Fish River was the (nominal) border of the colony.

Mar 28, 2020, 8:56am

Jansenist - a proponent of a religious movement in the 17th and 18th centuries which emphasized original sin, human depravity and predestination. In From Dawn to Decadence in which a peasant received his education from a Jansenist school.

Abr 8, 2020, 11:25am

Sententious - given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner. From The Accidental Connoisseur by Lawrence Osborne in which a French tourist was behaving that way while drinking Californian wine.

Abr 8, 2020, 12:19pm

robot — South African English for “traffic light”. Spotted in Cry, the beloved country.
(I’d heard about this use, but I didn’t altogether believe it until I saw it in the wild...)

Abr 8, 2020, 2:49pm

>254 thorold: They kinda of look like little robots.

Editado: Abr 9, 2020, 6:49pm

From The White Plague by Frank Herbert:

rath: a usually circular earthwork serving as stronghold and residence of an ancient Irish chief; 'the simpler laws, the rath and the family at the core of society'

durance: restraint by or as if by physical force; "You have the fellow in durance, interrogators and all that?"

vitiation: faulty or defect, impairment; It possessed only this emptiness, an absolute vitiation, at one with the gnarled willows beneath the elders and the dark bog at the river's edge.

From The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani:

tufa: a porous rock formed as a deposit from springs or streams; twenty funeral beds set inside as many niches in the tufa walls

polychrome: decorated in several colors; and heavily decorated with polychrome stucco figures of the dead

phthisiologist: a physician who specializes in the care, treatment, and study of tuberculosis

antonomasia: the use of an epithet or title in place of a proper name; and of the Jews, in particular, who are the minority by antonomasia

threnody: a song of lamentation for the dead; the monotonous, gray, futile threnody that family and kin were safely intoning around me

glaucous: of a light bluish-gray or bluish-white color; I've always thought of your famous glaucous eyes

From The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler by Norma Lois Peterson:

contumely: an instance of harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt; It was distressing to hear of the "scorn and contumely with which American character and American credit" were treated abroad

Abr 12, 2020, 5:03pm

Hemicrania - a persistent headache occurring at the same point and varying in intensity. From The Master and Margarita.

Abr 24, 2020, 12:17pm

I must not have paid attention in Sunday school -
Aceldama - the place near Jerusalem purchased with the bribe paid to Judas for betraying Jesus. It has come to mean any place of slaughter or bloodshed.

This was from Women's Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present. This came from a letter describing the British occupation of Boston.

Abr 24, 2020, 12:40pm

>258 varielle: I have to admit that I have no memory of that Sunday-school session either! The Aramaic word only seems to appear in Acts 1:19, which should have been memorable, since the previous verse is about Judas splitting open in the middle and all his bowels spilling out...

Abr 28, 2020, 6:12am

vespertine - 1. Relating to, occurring, or active in the evening. 2. A restaurant in Culver City, CA. 3. An album by the Icelandic singer Bjork.

From I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasienski. In this case, the main character has fallen asleep in a bar described as vespertine.

Maio 8, 2020, 6:50pm

Machicolation- in medieval fortifications am opening between corbels from which stones or burning objects can be dropped on attackers. From The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Editado: Jun 7, 2020, 6:40pm

Guisarme - a pole weapon with a curved double-edged blade with a beak at the back from the German literally meaning weeding iron. From Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Also - anserine - of or like a goose.

Editado: Maio 22, 2020, 9:27am

Talus- has multiple definitions. One of which is that it’s part of the ankle bone. However, I encountered it in Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit where it refers to geology i.e. a sloping mass of rock fragments at the foot of a cliff encountered in this usage by the early, intrepid members of the Sierra Club.

Editado: Maio 23, 2020, 1:04pm

Bundy (n. and vb.) — Australian English for a factory time-clock (from the name of the US firm that first made them). To bundy in is to clock in to work.
greige — raw textile material, before bleaching and dyeing
swami silk — knitted fabric made from a cotton and rayon mix, used in underwear before nylon came in; milanese is another, less prestigious, grade of knitted fabric.

— all from The dyehouse by Mena Calthorpe. I'm slightly surprised how few words I had to look up, given that this was a novel set in a highly technical environment on the other side of the world sixty years ago! Needless to say, none of them are in the shorter OED.

Maio 23, 2020, 1:21pm

>264 thorold: Also "punch the bundy". Ah, happy memories.

Maio 24, 2020, 10:54am

What immediately jumped to mind was "hurly-burly."

Maio 24, 2020, 11:00am

"Long Lance:" slang for a devastating Japanese naval torpedo from World War II.

Jun 1, 2020, 2:25pm

Another from Burmese Days - a Terai hat - a type of felt slouch sun hat Favored by the Ghurka regiments.

Editado: Jun 4, 2020, 1:20pm

From Blade Runner aka Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Columbarium - a room or building with niches for funeral urns to be stored.

Jun 5, 2020, 4:15pm

Stelae - an upright stone slab or column bearing a commemoration, sometimes used as a grave marker. From The History of Venice in Painting.

Jun 10, 2020, 2:39pm

Pinny - from pinafore, a sleeveless dress worn over other clothes. From Margaret Drabble’s The Sea Lady.

Editado: Jun 30, 2020, 6:54pm

Mephitis - a foul or noxious smell. From The Sway of the Grand Saloon in which Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted as describing the smell of his ship on a transatlantic voyage. Another definition is the genus of the North American skunk for obvious reasons 🦨

Vallum- part of a Roman camp fortification. It’s made of an earthen ramp topped by a palisade with a deep trench in front. From Eagle in the Snow.

Coypus (coypu) - a nutria - from Tower of Swallows in which our heroine, Ciri, is skinning them.

Editado: Set 18, 2020, 8:32am

Goliard - a group of clergy that wrote satirical Latin poetry in praise of drunkenness and debauchery. From the Witcher finale The Lady of the Lake.

Biretta - a square cap with 3 projections on top worn by catholic clergyman.

Set 12, 2020, 5:31pm

Cayuses-plural - from The Border and the Buffalo in this meaning a native range horse. A pair of Cayuses overturned a wagon after being spooked by a bear. An alternate meaning is a reference to Native American people from Oregon or Washington.

Set 16, 2020, 8:26am

Ogive- 1. In architecture a pointed or Gothic arch. 2. In statistics a cumulative frequency graph. In this case the first definition is found in The Road to Timbuktu.
Este tópico foi continuado por New Vocabulary, 4th Edition.