A Word To The Wise
As the Literature Muse I have found that the everyday vocabularies of people as a whole are severely lacking. This baffles me, as I had simply assumed that everyone read the dictionary for fun. But, then, I thought, maybe not everyone has access to a dictionary as exciting as mine. Maybe not everyone has time to memorize obscure words and confusing definitions. I was filled with the deepest shame for my presumption, and vowed to do my part to make the world a kinder place for the grammatically-challenged.
If there is a word that makes your toes curl with happiness that I have failed to include on this page, by all means let me know.
Abrogate - v. 1. to abolish by authoritative action; annul. 2. to treat as nonexistent.
Abscond - to depart in a sudden and secret manner, esp. to avoid capture and legal prosecution.
Acrohypothermy - condition of feeling coldness in the extremities, esp. the feet.
Ad Hominem - adj - 1. appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect. 2. marked by an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.
Agape - 1. the love of God or Christ for humankind. 2. the love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind. 3. unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love.
Agentive - Gram 1. pertaining to, or productive of, a form that indicates an agent or agency. 2. (in case grammar) pertaining to the semantic role or case of a noun phrase that indicates the volitional or primary causer of the action expressed by a verb.
Ailurophile - n. - a cat fancier; lover of cats.
Amphigory - a poem which at first appears to be meaningful, but upon examination is found to be nonsense.
Anchorite - one who lives in seclusion (usually for religious reasons).
Anomaly - n. 1. the angular distance of a planet from its parihelion as seen from the sun. 2. deviation from the common rule; irregularity. 3. something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified.
Antitransubstantiationalist - someone who doubts that consecrated bread and wine actually change into the body and blood of Christ.
Aphallatosis - Mental disorder resulting from lack of a sex life.
Aphorism - a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation.
Aposiopesis - significant breaking off so that the hearer must supply the unsaid words.
Apotheosis - n. 1. elevation to divine status; deification. 2. the perfect example; quintessence.
Apparatchik - n. 1. a member of a Communist apparat. 2. an official blindly devoted to superiors or to the organization.
Archetype - 1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype. 2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
Argent - silver, money (French)
Ascian - one that has no shadow; specifically: an inhabitant of the torrid zone where the sun is vertical at noon twice a year.
Assyria - an ancient empire in SW Asia; greatest extent from ab. 750 to 612 BC. Capital Nineveh.
Balneal - of or pertaining to baths or bathing.
Bambino - 1. a small child or baby. 2. an image of the infant Jesus.
Bandersnatch - 1. an imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition. 2. a person of uncouth or unconventional habits, attitudes, etc. esp. one considered a menace, nuisance, or the like.
Bandicoot - 1. any of several large East Indian rats of the genus Nesokia. 2. any of several insectivorous and herbivorous marsupials of the family Peramelidae, of Australia and New Guinea; some are endangered.
Basiate - (Obs) to kiss.
Bastard eigne - (Old Eng Law) the first-born illegitimate son of parents whose second son was legitimate.
Bedeguar - a gall on roses, esp. the sweetbriar, produced by a gall wasp.
Belle Epoque - a period of high artistic or cultural development; specifically: such a period in France around the end of the 19th century.
Belonoid - needlelike; styloid.
Beriberi - (Pathol) a disease of the peripheral nerves caused by a deficiency of the vitamin B, characterized by pain and paralysis of the extremities, and severe emaciation or swelling of the body.
Bosporous - a strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. 18 mi (29 km) long.
Bumbershoot - umbrella.
Cerulean - 1. deep blue; sky blue; azure. 2. (Heraldry) a sky-blue tincture, used esp. on the Continent.
Circumscribe - 1. to draw a line around; encircle. 2. to enclose within bounds; limit or confine, esp. narrowly. 3. to mark off; define; delimit. 4. (Geom.) to draw (a figure) around another figure so as to touch as many points as possible.
Circumscript - 1. (rare) limited or confined. 2. (obs) enclosed or encompassed. It's too bad no one uses this word anymore.
Clytemnestra - (Class myth) the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda, wife of Agamemnon, and the mother of Orestes, Electra, and Iphigenia. She killed Agamemnon and was herself killed, along with her lover, Aegisthus, by Orestes.
Conundrum - a perplexing question or problem; riddle.
Crepuscular - relating to or resembling twilight; dim.
Dangling participle - (Gram) a participle or participle phrase, often found at the beginning of a sentence, that appears from its position to modify an element of the sentence other than the one it was intended to modify (misplaced modifier).
Debacle - 1. a great disruption. 2. a complete failure; fiasco.
Declivity - n. 1. downward inclination. 2. a descending slope.
Defenestration - the act of throwing someone or something out a window.
Deus Ex Machina - n. 1. a god introduced by means of a crane in ancient Greek and Roman drama to decide the final outcome. 2. a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly or unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.
Didactic - 1. intended for instruction; instructive. 2. inclined to teach or lecture others too much. 3. teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson.
Diffident - adj. 1. hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence. 2. reserved, unassertive.
Dilatory - 1. tending or intended to cause delay. 2. characterized by procrastination; tardy.
Droit du seigneur - the supposed right claimable by a Feudal lord to have sexual relations with the bride of a vassal on her first night of marriage.
Edacious - adj. - voracious.
Encomium - n. - glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise; also, an expression of this.
Enmity - a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism.
Ennead - a group of nine.
- 1. a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also
usually considered to be a measure of the system's disorder and that is a property of the
system's state and is related to it in such a manner that a reversible change in heat in
the system produces a change in the measure which varies directly with the heat change and
inversely with the absolute temperature at which the change takes place; broadly:
the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system. 2. a: the degradation of the
matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity. b:a process of
degradation or running down or a trend to disorder. 3. chaos, disorganization,
Ephemeral - 1. lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory. 2. lasting but one day. 3. anything short-lived, as certain insects.
Epiphany - 1. (Cap) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the person of the Magi; twelfth-day. 2. an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity. 3. a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by a simple, homely, pr commonplace occurrence or experience. 4. a literary work or section of work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of reflection and insight.
Epigone - an indistinguished imitator, follower, or successor of an important writer, painter, etc.
Equilibrium - 1. a state of rest or balance due to the equal action of opposing forces. 2. equal balance between any powers, influences, etc.; equality of effect. 3. mental or emotional balance; equanimity. 4. (Chem) the condition existing when a chemical reaction and its reverse reaction proceed at equal rates.
Equivocal - 1. allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, esp. with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous. 2. of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious. 3. of uncertain significance; not determined.
Equivocate - to use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead; prevaricate or hedge.
Erythromania - excessive and uncontrollable blushing.
Esculent - adj. - edible.
Exegsis - n. - exposition, explanation; especially, an explanation or critical interpretation of a text.
Exiguous - adj. - excessively scanty; inadequate.
Expiate - to atone for; make amends or reparation for.
Fatuous - complacently or inanely foolish; silly.
- the estimation of something as valueless (usually encountered as an example of one of
the longest words in the English language).
Fustigate - 1. to cudgel; beat; punish severely. 2. to criticize harshly; castigate.
Gadzookery - n. - the use of archaisms (as in a historical novel).
Gloaming - twilight, dusk.
Gnosticism - the thought and practice esp. of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis.
Habeus corpus - 1. any of several common-law writs issued to bring a party before a court or judge; especially: habeus corpus ad subjiciendum. 2. the right of a citizen to obtain a writ of habeus corpus as a protection against illegal imprisonment.
Hegira - a journey especially when taken to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation; exodus.
Heiromania - abnormal interest in priests.
Hemidemisemiquaver - a musical note with the time value of 1/64 of a whole note; sixty-fourth note.
Hermetic - 1. (often cap) a: of or relating to the Gnostic writings or teachings arising in the first three centuries a.d. and attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. b: relating to or characterized by occultism or abstruseness; recondite. 2. (from the belief that Hermes Trismegistus invented a magic seal to keep vessels airtight) a: airtight. b: impervious to external influence. c: recluse, solitary.
Hobson's choice - an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative.
Hypnagogic - adj - of, relating to, or associated with the drowsiness preceding sleep.
Iconoclast - 1. the breaker or destroyer of images, esp. those set up for religious veneration. 2. a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc. as being based on error or superstition.
Ides - (used with a singular or plural v)(in the ancient Roman calendar) the fifteenth day of March, May, July or October, and the thirteenth day of other months.
Idiopathic - (Pathol) of unknown cause, as a disease.
Illeism - reference to oneself by use of the third person.
Imputrescible - not liable to decomposition or putrification; incorruptible.
Inundate - 1. to flood; cover or overspread with water; deluge. 2. to overwhelm.
Insalubrious - not conducive to health.
Ipsilateral - (Anat) pertaining to, situated on, or affecting the same side of the body.
Jesse - 1. the father of David (1 Sam. 16). 2. a male given name, from a Hebrew word meaning "God exists".
Jessica - a female given name, form of Jesse.
Kilroy - a fictitious American male, created by American troops who left the inscription "Kilroy was here" on walls, property, etc., all over the world in the years during and after World War II.
Kismet - fate, destiny.
Lacuna - n. 1. a blank space or a missing part; gap. 2. a small cavity, pit, or discontinuity in an anatomical structure.
Laissez-faire - n. 1. a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights. 2. a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference especially with individual freedom of choice and action.
Laodicean - lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics.
Librium - a brand of chlordia zepoxide.
Lord of misrule - a master of Christmas revels in England, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Lorelei - According to German legend, there was once a beautiful young maiden, named Lorelei, who threw herself headlong into the river in despair over a faithless lover. Upon her death she was transformed into a siren and could from that time on be heard singing on a rock along the Rhine River, near St. Goar. Her hypnotic music lured sailors to their death. The legend is based on an echoing rock with that name near Sankt Goarshausen, Germany.
Lucubration - 1. laborious or intensive study. 2. the product of such study.
Luddite - n. - one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying labor-saving machinery as a protest; broadly, one who is opposed to especially technological change.
Magnanimous - 1. showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit. 2. showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind.
Megrim - n. 1. a) migraine. b) vertigo, dizziness. 2. a) fancy, whim. b) (plural) low spirits.
Memento mori - a reminder of mortality
Mitigate - 1. to lessen in force or intensity, as wrath, grief, harshness, or pain; moderate. 2. to make less severe.
Monasticism - the monastic system, condition, or way of life.
Moot - 1. a. open to question; debatable. b. subjected to discussion; disputable. 2. deprived of practical significance; made abstract or purely academic.
Nacreous cloud - a rarely seen, luminous, iridescent cloud shaped like a cirrus or altocumulus, approximately 15 mi (24 km) above the earth, and of unknown composition.
Nadir - n. 1. Astron the point of the celestial sphere directly beneath a given position or observer and diametrically opposite the zenith. 2. Astrol the point of a horoscope opposite the midhaven: the cusp of the fourth house. 3. the lowest point: point of greatest adversary or despair.
Naissance - a birth, an organization, or a growth, as that of a person, an organization, an idea, or a movement.
Naive realism - Philos the theory that the world is perceived exactly as it is.
Narthex - n. 1. Archit an enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.
Nascent - adj. - coming or having recently come into existence.
Necromimesis - n. Psychiatry a pathological state in which a person believes himself or herself to be dead.
Nescience - 1. lack of knowledge; ignorance. 2. agnosticism.
Nike - in Greek religion, the goddess of victory.
Nosocomial - adj. - originating or taking place in a hospital.
Obeisance - 1. a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or similar gesture. 2. deference or homage.
Obelisk - 1. a tapering, four-sided shaft of stone, usually monolithic and having a pyramidal apex. 2. something resembling such a shaft. 3. an obelus.
Obelus - a mark (- or ÷) used in ancient manuscripts to point out spurious, corrupt, doubtful, or superfluous words of passages.
Obfuscate - 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy. 2. to make obscure or unclear. 3. to darken.
Obloquy - 1. a strongly condemnatory utterance; abusive language. 2. the condition of one that is discredited; bad repute.
Occam's razor - a scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.
Omphaloskepsis - the act of contemplating one's navel.
Ossify - 1. to become or change into bony tissue. 2. to become or make hardened or set in one's ways.
Palipsest - a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.
Palliate - 1. to relieve or lessen without curing; mitigate; alleviate. 2. to try to mitigate or conceal the gravity of (an offense) by excuses, apologies, etc.
Palter - 1. to talk or act insincerely or deceitfully; lie or use trickery. 2. to bargain with; haggle. 3. to act carelessly; trifle.
Parasite - 1. a person who exploits the hospitality of the rich and earns welcome by flattery. 2. an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism. 3. something that resembles a biological parasite in dependence on something else for existence or support without making a useful or adequate return.
Parse - v. 1. to analyze a sentence by naming its parts and their relations to each other. 2. to give the part of speech of a word and explain its relation to other words in a sentence. 3. to examine in a minute way; analyze critically.
Participle - (Gram) an adjective or compliment to certain auxiliaries that is regularly derived from the verb in many languages and refers to participation in the action or state of the verb.
Peripatetic - adj. (Cap) Aristotelian. 2. a) of, relating to, or given to walking. b) moving or traveling from place to place; itinerant.
Pestiferous - 1. carrying or propagating infection. 2. troublesome, annoying.
Philotheoparoptesism - the practice of "roasting over a slow fire" those who have suffered the church's displeasure.
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis - an obscure term ostensibly referring to a lung disease caused by silica dust, sometimes cited as one of the longest words in the English language.
Pragmatic - 1. of or pertaining to a practical point of view or practical considerations. 2. (Philos) of or pertaining to Pragmatism (def 2). 3. of or pertaining to pragmatics (defs 1,2). 4. treating historical phenomena with special reference to their causes, antecedent conditions, and results. 5. of or pertaining to the affairs of state or community.
Pragmatic theory - (Philos) the theory of truth that the truth of a statement consists in its practical consequences, esp. in its agreement with subsequent experience.
Pragmatics - (used with a singular verb) 1. (Logic, Philos) the branch of semiotics dealing with the causal and other relations between words, expressions, or symbols and their users. 2. (Ling) the analysis of language in terms of the situational context within which utterances are made, including the knowledge and beliefs of the speaker and the relation between the speaker and the listener. 3. practical considerations.
Prevaricate - to speak falsely or misleadingly; deliberately misstate or create an incorrect impression; lie.
Prodigal - 1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant. 2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish. 3. lavishly abundant. 4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.
Prodigal Son - a figure in the parable of Jesus (Luke 15: 11-32); a wayward son who squanders his inheritance but returns home to find that his father forgives him.
Prosaic - 1. commonplace or dull; matter-of-fact or unimaginative. 2. of or having the character of prose rather than poetry.
Puerile - adj. 1. juvenile. 2. childish, silly.
Qua - in the capacity or character of; as.
Quiddity - 1. whatever makes something the type that it is; essence. 2. a) a trifling point; quibble. b) crotchet, eccentricity.
Quisling - traitor, collaborator.
Quodlibet - n. 1. a philosophical or theological point proposed for disputation; also, a disputatin on such a point. 2. a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts.
Refulgence - n. a radiant or resplendent quality or state; brilliance.
Repugn - v. - to contend against; oppose.
Roister - to engage in noisy revelry; carouse.
Schwarmerei - n. - excessive or unwholesome sentiment.
Sedulous - 1. involving or accomplished with careful perseverance. 2. diligent in application or pursuit.
Semantics - (used with a singular verb) 1. (Ling) a. the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form. 2. (also called significs) the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote. 3. the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.
Semiotic - 1. of or pertaining to signs. 2. of or pertaining to semiotics. 3. (Med) of or pertaining to symptoms; symptomatic.
Semiotics - (used with a singular verb) 1. the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior; the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, clothing. 2. a general theory of signs and symbolism, usually divided into the branches of pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics.
Smite - 1. to strike or hit hard, with or as with the hand, stick, or other weapon. 2. to deliver or deal (a blow, hit, etc.) by striking hard. 3. to strike down, injure, or slay. 4. to afflict or attack with a deadly or disastrous affect. 5. to affect mentally or morally with a sudden pang. 6. to affect suddenly or strongly with a specified feeling. 7. to impress favorably; charm; enamour.
Soporific - adj. 1. a) causing or tending to cause sleep. b) tending to dull awareness or alertness. 2. of, relating to, or marked by sleepiness or lethargy.
Sui Generis - adj. - constituting a class alone; unique, peculiar.
Susurrous - adj. - full of whispering sounds.
Sybarite - a self-indulgent person; a wanton.
Sycophant - a servile, self-seeking flatterer; fawning parasite.
Syllogism - Deduction, from two propositions containing three terms of which one appears in both, of a conclusion that is necessarily true if they are true. Example:
Synechia - (Med Pathol.) any adhesion of parts of the body, as of the iris to the cornea.
Synesis - (Gram) a construction in which an expected grammatical agreement in form is replaced by an agreement in meaning.
Syntactics - (used with a singular verb) (Ling) the branch of semiotics dealing with the formal properties of languages and systems of symbols. Also called logical syntax.
Syzygy - 1. (Astron) the alignment, either in conjunction or opposition, of three celestial bodies within the same gravitational system, esp. the sun, moon, and earth. 2. (Classical Prosody) a metrical unit having two feet. 3. any two things considered together, either as similar or opposite.
Tacit - 1. understood without being openly expressed; implied. 2. silent, saying nothing. 3. unvoiced or unspoken.
Tarantism - n. - a dancing mania or malady of late medieval Europe.
Tawdry - 1. (of finery, trappings, etc.) gaudy; showy and cheap. 2. low or mean; base. -n. 3. cheap, gaudy apparel.
Tergiversate - 1. to change repeatedly one's attitudes or opinions with respect for a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate. 2. to turn renegade.
Threap - (Scot. and North Engl.) 1. an argument; quarrel. 2. a hostile charge, accusation. (v.t.) 3. to rebuke, scold. 4. to argue, bicker.
Thurification - the act of burning incense.
Triradius - (Physical Anthropol.) a Y-shaped group of ridges on the palm of the hand at the base of each finger.
Troglodyte - 1. a member of a primitive people dwelling in caves. 2. a person resembling a troglodyte (as in reclusive habits or reactionary attitudes).
Tub-thumper - n. - a vociferous supporter (as of a cause).
Tumulus - 1. (Archaeol.) an artificial mound, esp. over a grave; barrow. 2. (Geol.) a domelike swelling or mound formed in congealed lava.
Turophile - a connoisseur of cheese; a cheese fancier.
Ubiety - the property of having a definite location at any given time; state of existing and being localized in space.
Ubique - (Latin) everywhere.
Ubiquitous - 1. the state or capacity of being everywhere, esp. at the same time; omnipresence. 2. (cap., Theol) the omnipresence of God or Christ.
Usufruct - n. 1. the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another. 2. the right to use or enjoy something.
Venal - capable of being bought or bribed.
Verbigeration - (Pathol) the constant or obsessive repetition of meaningless words or phrases.
Verbicide - 1. the willful distortion or depreciation of the original meaning of a word. 2. a person who willfully distorts the meaning of a word.
Vercund - (Archaic) bashful, modest.
Vexillologist - one who studies flags.
Vicar - 1. (Church of England) a. a person acting as priest of a parish in the place of the rector, or as representative of a religious community to which tithes belong. b. the priest of a parish the tithes of which are impropriated and who receives only the smaller tithes or a salary.
Vicissitude - n. - a change or succession from one thing to another; especially, an often unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance.
Visceral - 1. of or pertaining to the viscera. 2. affecting the viscera. 3. of the nature of or resembling viscera. 4. characterized by or proceeding from instinct rather than intellect. 5. characterized by or dealing with coarse or base emotions; earthly; crude.
Vitreous - of the nature of or resembling glass, as in transparency, brittleness, hardness, glossiness, etc.
Vitreous humor - (Anat) the transparent gelatinous substance filling the eyeball behind the crystalline lens.
Vitrescent - 1. becoming glass. 2. tending to become glass. 3. capable of being formed into glass.
Vituperation - verbal abuse or castigation; violent denunciation or condemnation.
Vivisection - 1. the action of cutting into or dissecting a living body. 2. the practice of subjecting living animals to cutting operations, esp. in order to advance psychological and pathological knowledge.
Wafture - 1. the act of wafting. 2. something wafted.
Wamble - v.i. 1. to move unsteadily. 2. to feel nausea. 3. (of the stomach) to rumble; growl. -n. 4. an unsteady or rolling movement. 5. a feeling of nausea.
Whinge - to complain fretfully; whine.
Whited Sepulcher - n. - a person inwardly corrupt or wicked but outwardly or professedly virtuous ot holy; hypocrite.
Wight - 1. a human being. 2. (Obs) a. a supernatural being, as a witch or a sprite. b. any living being; a creature.
Wigwam - an American Indian dwelling, usually of rounded or oval shape, formed of poles overlaid with bark, mats, or skins.
Williwaw - n. 1. a) a sudden violent gust of cold land air common along mountainous coasts of high latitudes. b) a sudden violent wind. 2. a violent commotion.
Xenial - of, relating to, or constituting hospitality or relations between host and guest especially among the ancient Greeks between persons of different cities.
Xenogenesis - (Biol) 1. Heterogenesis (def 1). 2. the supposed generation of offspring completely and permanently different from the parent.
Xeric - adj. - characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture.
Zeitgeber - n. - an environmental agent or event (as the occurence of light or dark) that provides the stimulous setting or resetting a biological clock of an organism.