After a very, very long time, Practical Sesquipedalia,
Protector of the Words, Defender of the Eloquent, has returned!
(Want to know more? Click here). New words added every weekend (hopefully).
RIP, scaling title image.
This week's word is Rantipole, a noun meaning "A wild, ill-behaved, boisterous, or disorderly man or woman", as well as an adjective describing such a person and a verb meaning to act as such a person. The etymology is uncertain, although "-pole" seems to come from "poll," an Old English word referring to the top of the head, the etymology of which is further uncertain. Similar words include doddypole, noddypole, and clodpole, all of which mean "a stupid person or blockhead." Use in a sentence might be "I referred to those ne'er-do-wells as rantipoles, because it seemed more genter-neutral and thus politically correct than calling them ragamuffins."
If you would like to subscribe to Abe's Word of the Week,
just send an email to PracticalSesquipedalia@yahoo.com with "subscribe" somewhere in it.
Mizzle, in its most commonly-cited definition, is an intransitive verb meaning "to rain lightly," as well as a noun meaning "misty rain or drizzle." The word is still in use today in isolated regions of the U.S. While mizzle would seem to be a portmanteau of "mist" and "drizzle," this is in fact not the case. Rather, mizzle comes from the Dutch "mieselen," meaning the same thing and spelled "mizzelen" or "mijzalen" in the Flemish dialect; this in turn is from the Low German "museln," of which further etymology is uncertain. Use in a sentence might be, "The weather would have been nice were it not for the mizzle."
Hizzle is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an intransitive verb meaning "to make a hissing or whizzing noise." Usage seems to have died out in the late 19th century. Etymology derives from the verb "hizz," meaning roughly the same thing, and most likely a combination of "hiss" and "whizz," although possibly onomatopoetic in origin. Use in a sentence might be, "As the water was poured onto the fire, the coals began to hizzle."
Heezy is defined by the OED as a noun meaning "the action of hoisting or raising." Usage seems to have died out in the early 19th century. Etymology derives from the verb "heeze," meaning "to lift, with exertion." Interestingly, hizz, hizzle, and heeze all first appeared in 16th-century English translations of Vergil's Aenead, though hizz and hizzle first appeared in 1583 in Richard Stanyhurst's translation, while heeze first appeared in Bishop Gavin Douglas' earlier translation in 1513. Heeze, it seems, derives from the old English "hysse," meaning roughly the same thing, which is also the root of the verb "hoist." For use in a sentence, it seems best to borrow from John Scott, who in A Visit to Paris in 1814 writes, "I would have lent him a heezy."
Circumforaneous, an adjective, describes literally "one who walks from marketplace to marketplace," and by extension can also mean "vagrant," "wandering," "mountebank," or "tourist." Circomforaneous comes from the Latin "circum-," around, and "forum," marketplace. Use in a sentence might be "Percival, ever the erudite traveler, nevertheless felt a bit incensed by association to be called circumforaneous; for one thing, he wasn't even xenizating."
Zabernism is a noun meaning "a misuse of military power or authority; bullying, aggression" according to the OED. To commit such an act is to (intransitively) zabernize. The name comes from the French town of Saverne, called Zabern in German, where such an abuse of power, the "Saverne Affair," occured in 1913 and was made briefly famous. Use in a sentence might be, "The Third Amendment to the U.S. constitution was a direct response to perceived British zabernism during the Seven Years War, or at least it would have been if the word 'zabernism' had existed 200 years ago."
Apositic is an adjective that means "causing a decrease in appetite." The word comes from the Greek "apo-" meaning away from, and "sitos," food. Use in sentince might be, "Saw V was so horrifying it nearly became apositic."
The noun Laker in its older form refers to someone who plays around or dilly-dallies in an idle and useless fashion. The word comes from the verb lake, which can mean "to play, sport, or slack off," among other similar definitions. Etymologically, the word traces its roots back to the Teutonic laiko-, meaning "to play," coming from the prehistoric root leik-r of similar definition. Use in a sentence might be, "The L.A. Lakers really do seem to have a fitting name..."
Squilgee is originally the term for a 19th-century nautical cleaning tool used for swabbing decks. As a verb, it means the action of using such a device. However, there is a more interesting definition of this word: according to Admiral William Henry Smyth's 1867 Sailor's Word-Book, squilgee also means "a lazy mean fellow." How squilgee became a slang term for such a person is unknown, as is the etymology of squilgee itself; all that's known for certain is that the word is somehow related to squeegee. Use in a sentence might be "Hey man, don't be a squilgee!"
The verb Engrail almost always appears in the past participial form "engrailed." The primary definition of engrail is "to indent the end of (something) with a series of curvilinear notches;" that is, a repeated curvy pattern. In other uses, it can mean "to serrate," "to carve out a small amount of" and "to adorn with a mixture of colors." Etymology is not well documented, but the common theory is a combination of the prefix "en-," referring to the act of putting something in a specific state + "gresle," French for hail; that is, literally "to pelt with hail." Use in a sentence might be "Armed with naught but a pen-knife, Mr. Preston began to boldly engrail the entire contents of his desk-top 'IN' box."
Splendiferous, despite what many people think, is, in fact, a real word, with the OED placing the word's first usage in 1460 (making it approximately 400 years older than "exceptional" and 500 years older than "awesome"). The word is an adjective, meaning "full of splendor," from the Latin roots splendor, "splendor" + fer, "bearing." Related words include floriferous, "bearing flowers," sanguiferous, "full of and/or covered in blood," and feriferous, "full of iron." Use in a sentence might be, "Aww dude, that last wave was totally splendiforous!"
Traythly is an adverb whose meaning and etymology are unknown. In fact, it is a good example of a hapax legomenon: that is, a word that only occurs once in the history of a given language. Only known usen i a sentence: "...entyses hym to tene more traythly then euer In Iuda." Translation into modern English, "Entices him to teen more traythly then ever in Juda." Now, teen is an Old English verb meaning either to "destroy" or "lose;" evidently the word traythly has something to do with either enticement, destruction, or loss.
Moral of the story: from now on, whenever you entice someone to destroy or lose something, be sure to entice them to do it traythly!
from the Latin floccus, "flock of sheep" + -ulentus, "abounding in," is
an adjective meaning "wooly and/or cottony," although "wooly" is a much
more common connotation than "cottony." A similar word is gossypine,
which usually means "cottony" but occasionally means "wooly." Use in a
sentence might be "Farmer Fred didn't know what to do: his sheep were
usually flocculent and his cotton gossypine, not vice-vera!" Or,
alternately, "You momma's so flocculent..."
The adjective Venal
means "open to bribery, easily bought, or extremely
corrupt." Venal comes from the Latin "venum," meaning sale, from the
PIE root "wes-" to buy. Use in a sentence might be, "After seeing Sally
slyly turn in a $20 bill instead of a paper, Jason suddenly realized
just how venal his teacher was." Or, alternately, "Yo' momma's so venal..."
Contumely, a noun, means "Insolent or offensive language or treatment" or "contemptuous humiliation." There is somewhat of a disagreement about how to pronounce this word; some scholars pronounce it as "CON-tume-ly" while others pronounce it "con-TUM-e-ly." Use in a sentence might be, "Jason considered it something of a contumely when his teacher called him a 'thickheaded troglodyte.'"
Crapulous, contrary to what it sounds like, means either "intoxicated with alcohol" or "prone to inbibing considerable quantities of alcohol." Crapulous comes from the Latin "crapula," meaning drunkenness. Synonyms include inebriated, intoxicated, sodden, boozy, drunk as a skunk, loaded, plastered, zonked, and quite possibly "crunk." Use in a sentence might be "Alfred was rather disappointed to learn that he had been using the word 'crapulous' improperly." Or, alternately, "Yo' momma's so crapulous..."
is an adjective that means, literally "turning red." Interestingly,
this word can refer to turning red out of anger or blushing. Erubescent
comes from the Latin "erubescere," to become red, from the roots "e-,"
out of + "rubeus," red. Use in a sentence might be, "'At the sound of
this remark, Mr. Dithers was positively erubescent...' Eustace put down
the book for a second, unsure whether Mr. Dithers had been angered or
flattered to the point of blushing, shook his head, and sighed."
This week's word is Scaramouche, "a boastful but cowardly fellow." Scaramouche (also spelled scaramouch) comes from the commedia dell'arte character of the same name, who brags about his ability yet is in practice quite foolish and cowardly; this character's name comes from the Italian scaramuccia, meaning "a skirmish." Use in a sentence might me, "I see a little silhouetto of a man... scaramouche, scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?"
Verisimilitude is "the quality of appearing to be true or real." Verisimilitude comes from the Latin verisimilis, a combination of verum, "true" and similis, "similar to." Something that appears to be true (whether or not it is) could be described as verisimilar or verisimilitudinous (from the Latin -osus, "full of"). Use in a sentence might be, "The blurry photo Jim took of the 'Loch Ness Monster' did not exactly radiate verisimilitude."
(Yes, the meaning of "verisimilar" is very similar to
Tergiversate, an intransitive verb, means "to turn one's back on a cause or faction in favor of an opposing one." Hence tergiversator,
"one who has turned their back on a cause; a turncoat or renegade."
Tergiversate comes from the Latin verb tergiversare, meaning roughly
the same, from tergum, "back" + versum, "turned." Use in a sentence
might be, "After Bert sold his PC computer and bought a Macintosh, many
of his friends accused him of tergiversation."
a noun, is defined as "a person who is extremely skilled at dinner
conversation." The word is a combination of the Greek "deipnos," dinner
+ "sophist," a wise man. Use in a sentence might be, "Although Mildred
did enjoy hearing about the Franco-Prussian war during lunch, she still
wished that the deipnosophist wouldn't try to speak and eat
simultaneously, as it was rather unsightly.
is "the action of staying somewhere as a stranger." This word comes
from the Greek root "xenos," meaning a stranger. Use in a sentence
might be, "The man with the word 'FELON' tattooed across his forhead
has found xenization to be quite difficult."
Mordacious is an adjective that can mean "biting" either in the metaphorical sense, i.e. "sarcastic, fierce," or in the literal sense, i.e. "prone to biting others." The word is a combination of the Latin "mordax" , meaning a bite, from the P.I.E. root "mer," meaning harm, + the Latin "-osus," meaning full of. Use in a sentence might be, "Many people tried to avoid Jenna on account of her mordacious tendecies; this was not due so much to her lack of etiquette as to their fear of rabies."
is a noun that means "Emotional relief gained from using indecent
and/or vulgar language." The word is a combination of the Greek
"lalia," meaning speech, and "chezo," to relieve oneself. Use in a
sentence might be, "Timmy's parents rewarded his blatant lalochezia by
sending him to his room."
an adjective, means, "Having an extremely large belly and a gluttonous
appetite." The word is a compound of the Latin "venter," stomach +
"potens," powerful or able. Use in a sentence might be, "After
Thanksgiving dinner, the horizontally gifted man discovered, with a
rude shock, that he was now too ventripotent to fit through the door. "
Or, alternately, "Yo' momma's so ventripotent..."
is a noun that means "collective hissing, as of a disapproving
audience." This word is a combination of the Latin prefix "ex-" away
from + "sibilare," to hiss. Use in a sentence might be, "Much to his
consternation, the balloon juggler's act was met with considerable
(alternate spelling logorrhœa) means "an excessive, incessant, or
incoherant use of words." Logorrhea comes from the Greek "logos," word
+ "rhein," which means "to flow or run." Interestingly enough,
logorrhea was also the final word in the 1999 National Spelling Bee,
featured in the documentary Spellbound. Use in a sentence might be,
"Thanks to the speaker's interminable logorrhea, I was soon able to
enjoy the bliss of uninterrupted sleep."
describes "a person who pretends to know more than he or she actually
does in order to impress others." The term comes from the Latin
"philosophia," philosophy + "-cul," a dimunitive ending (which in this
case serves to belittle said philosophy). Use in a sentence might be,
"By the time Gerard started reciting 'one of George Washington's less
famous poems,' I had begun to suspect a certain degree of
Tarantism is usually used to mean "an uncontrollable urge to dance." This "disorder" was first diagnosed in Italy during the 15th century, and was believed by many at the time to be caused by the bite of a tarantula, hence the name. Use in a sentence might be, "While his excessive tarantism may have been unfortunate for him, it certainly made the party more interesting for us."
is a noun referring to "someone who fakes a smile, such as on
television," according to answers.com. The word was coined by the
writer Florence King. Use in a sentence might be, "Boy, did I give that
eccedentesiast working customer service something to not smile about!"
is a verb that can be used transitively to mean "to criticize harshly,
scold, berate," or intransitively to mean "use harsh or abusive
language". Vituperate comes from the Latin "vituperare," which means
roughly the same thing. Use in a sentence might be, "I used to like rap
music, but lately the blatant vituperation has really began to irk me."
an adjective, means "given to laughter, particularly incessant or
foolish merriment." The name comes from the ancent Greek town Abdera,
hometown of the philosopher Democritus (although nobody know exactly
why it came to mean what it does). An antonym is agelast
(pronounced AY-jel-ast), meaning "somebody who never laughs," from the
Greek agelastos, meaning "not laughing." Use in a sentence might be,
"On Christmas Eve, Timmy was so surprised by the
red-suited ventripotent abderian standing in his living room that
he almost forgot to call 911 and report the intruder."
Carp: while many people merely know it as a fish, carp can also be used as an intransitive verb, meaning "To argue, complain, or find fault," or as a noun, meaning "a querulous*, censorious**, or captious*** speech." Carp is derived from the Old Norse "carpa," to boast. Synonyms include cavil, niggle, nitpick, and pettifog. Use in speech might be, "If you two are going to carp all over the place, please do it outside..."
*Querulous: "Prone to complaining"
means either "to render ineffectual" or "to cause to appear foolish."
It comes from the Latin "stultus," a fool, and -ficare, "to make." Use
in a sentence might be, "The senator's campaign speech was rather
ineffectual, as the 'kick me' sign that Albert had taped to his back
had a strong, stultifying effect."
(also spelled bletherskate) is "one who talks a great deal about
nothing." It can also mean "worthless nonsense." Blatherskite is a
combination of "blather," worthless talk, and "skitr," a Norse word for
excrement; the word originally meant "a BSer" in the truest sense. Use
in a sentence might be, "When the customer service man asked me if I
had calibrated my gigaflops, I began to suspect that he was something
of a blatherskite."
A Fysigunkus is "a person completely devoid of curiosity." Etymology is uncertain. Use in a sentence might be, "The cat was such a fysigunkus that it lived to be 23."
is the belief that inanimate objects have a natural hostility towards
human beings; the official motto of resistentialism is "Things are
against us." While this philosophy may have existed since the first
slice of toast landed butter-side down, the name was coined by British
writer Paul Jennings as a combination of the Latin "res," or thing, the
French "resister", meaning resist, and the concept of existentialism.
Use in a sentence might be, "Jared has been a firm believer in
resistentialism ever since the day that his telephone bit him."
(pronoundced ak-SIZ-muhs), is the act of feigning disinterest in
something while actually desiring it. It comes from the Greek
"akkismos," meaning coyness or affectation. Use in a sentence might be,
"With great accismus, he exclamed, 'Oh! You shouldn't have gotten me
that new car...'"
means, literally, "having a hairy rear end." It comes from the Greek
"dasy-" meaning hairy, and "puge," meaning one's posterior. (A related
word is callipygian, "having a beautiful rear end"). Use in a sentence might be, "Yo' mama's so dasypygal..."
Bloviate is an intransitive verb meaning "To speak pompously, overexpansively, or with undue ostentation*; to discourse at length in a bombastic**, grandiloquent***, or rodomontade† manner." It is a mock-Latinate mutation from the English word "blow." Use in a sentence might be, "The bloviating speaker failed to make an impact, as his orotund‡ self-endorsement put most of the audience to sleep."
* Ostentation: "Boastful display"
which can be used as either a noun or an adjective, means literally "a
fair-skinned person with light hair." It comes from the Greek
"xanthos," meaning yellow. Use in a sentence might be, "Hey, dude, know
any good inane xanthochroid jokes?
Zemmiphobia is the "fear of the great mole rat." It is, supposedly, a "scientifically documented,"* though logically irrational fear. Zemmiphobes anticipate and imagine the great mole rat lurking around the corner or hiding in drawers. It comes from a corruption of the root "zemni," meaning mole-rat. Use in a sentence might be, "I can't go to the Portland Zoo; I'm zemmiphobic!"
*It has come to Abe's attention that this is most likely actually a hoax. Ah well, the word at least is real.
Ignivomous is an adjective, meaning either "vomiting or spewing forth fire," or "prone to vomiting or spewing forth fire." Etymologically, it comes from the Latin "ignis" fire + "vomitare" to vomit (from the Indo-European wem, which also means to vomit) + "osus" meaning full of. Ignivomous is usually only used in literature in relation to volcanoes or dragons. However, use in everyday speech could go something like… umm… okay, so this word has no practical uses, but it’s still cool.
Rumless is an adjective defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "Destitute of alcoholic beverage." The word rumless is derived by adding the Old English word "rum" to the suffix "-less," meaning lacking. Use in a sentence might be, "Weary and footsore, the rumless travelers came upon a small tavern, and yea, there was much rejoicing and merry-making."
Honorificabilitudinitatibus, a word first that may have been invented by Shakespeare, is a noun, meaning roughly "ability to be honored." Use in a sentence might be, "When the Mormon missionary rattled on about the honorificabilitudinitatibus of his faith, I slammed the door in his face."
An Aglet is the plastic thing on the end of your shoelace that keeps it from fraying. Use in a sentence might be, "Henry absentmindedly chewed the aglets off his sweatshirt drawstrings."
Kakistocracy is defined as "government ruled by the least qualified, most stupid members." From Greek "kakisto," worst, + "-crasy," government. Not to be confused with the related word kleptocracy, "government ruled by thieves or cheapskates," from the Greek "klepto" for thief. Use in a sentence might be, "Some say our country is in a state of kakistocracy."
Pink is a transitive verb meaning "to perforate, stab, or puncture with a pointed weapon such as a dagger" (or a noun, meaning "a prick from a knife"). Pink comes from the Latin "pungere," to puncture, from the Proto-Indo-European "peuk-," meaning to prick. Use in sentence might be, "Jared accidentally pinked himself in the arm with his pencil."
Frutescent is an adjective meaning "relating to, resembling, or assuming the form of a shrub; shrubby," according to the American Heritage Dictionary. It comes from the Latin "frutex," meaning shrub. Use in a sentence might be, "The Bushman was arrested for his frutescent charades." Or, alternately, "Yo' momma's so frutescent..."
Absquatulate is an intransitive verb meaning
What's this all about?
It all started about a year ago, when I told a kid in my math class to "go absquatulate."
His confused response made me realize just how many words in the English language
seem to go unused. Thus, "Word of the Week" highlights one such unusual but still
useful word every week—the goal is to help today's English-speakers have a
more colorful vocabulary. Because, after all, you shouldn't need a degree in Etymology
to be a sesquipedalian.