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New Vocabulary, 3rd Edition

This is a continuation of the topic New Vocabulary, 2nd Edition.

What Are You Reading Now?

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Edited: Dec 23, 2012, 11:15pm Top

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

Jan 4, 2013, 1:31pm Top

From Toilers of the Sea:

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

Edited: Jan 18, 2013, 9:56pm Top

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.

Feb 5, 2013, 3:16pm Top

From Spice: The History of a Temptation:

cubeb - West African pepper aka tailed pepper

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

Feb 10, 2013, 1:52pm Top

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

Feb 15, 2013, 1:48pm Top

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

fescennine: scurrilous, licentious, or obscene

Feb 20, 2013, 10:37am Top

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.

Feb 20, 2013, 10:48am Top

From Flashman at the Charge

charpai - a bed platform

Feb 21, 2013, 12:00am Top

7> I thought Cole Porter was a country singer!

Feb 21, 2013, 8:32pm Top


Feb 26, 2013, 9:27am Top

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 Top

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 Top

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 Top

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

pericope: a selection or extract from a book

Apr 18, 2013, 2:48pm Top

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

Apr 18, 2013, 4:09pm Top

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)

Apr 19, 2013, 9:03pm Top

My pleasure!

May 29, 2013, 8:49am Top

From Transatlantic by Colum McCann:

funambulist: a tightrope walker

Jun 18, 2013, 2:40pm Top

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 Top

>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.

Edited: Jun 18, 2013, 3:32pm Top

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

Jun 18, 2013, 3:39pm Top

>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 Top

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 Top

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 Top

Impressive, Nielsen!! Thanks?

Aug 12, 2013, 11:03am Top

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

Edited: Sep 13, 2013, 12:08pm Top

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

Sep 13, 2013, 12:07pm Top

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

Edited: Oct 1, 2013, 11:01am Top

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!

Oct 1, 2013, 10:21am Top

Tres bien, varielle!

Oct 2, 2013, 2:44pm Top

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.

Oct 20, 2013, 6:37pm Top

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.

Edited: Oct 28, 2013, 1:47pm Top

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 Top

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

Jan 10, 2014, 3:43pm Top

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

Feb 26, 2014, 8:02pm Top

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.

Feb 28, 2014, 11:45am Top

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 Top

From Stoner, by John Williams:

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

Mar 9, 2014, 12:05pm Top

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 Top

From The Prestige by Christopher Priest

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

Mar 15, 2014, 1:02pm Top

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.

Apr 7, 2014, 12:55pm Top

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.

Apr 7, 2014, 1:57pm Top

From Flashman and the Great Game -

sowar - a mounted horseman (in India)

Apr 9, 2014, 6:53pm Top

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

Apr 19, 2014, 5:05pm Top

From Maidenhair:

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

Edited: May 22, 2014, 10:43am Top

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")

Edited: Jul 16, 2014, 8:28am Top

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.

Aug 8, 2014, 11:49am Top

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

Aug 17, 2014, 6:21pm Top

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

Sep 10, 2014, 10:43am Top

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

Edited: Sep 10, 2014, 4:19pm Top

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?

Sep 10, 2014, 5:46pm Top

>51 hemlokgang: I found jactitate on thefreedictionary.com (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

Sep 10, 2014, 9:28pm Top

Thanks, folks. Your help is much appreciated!!

Edited: Sep 11, 2014, 2:57am Top

>51 hemlokgang:
...so 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.

Sep 11, 2014, 8:55am Top

Thank you, Thorold!!

Edited: Sep 12, 2014, 8:47am Top

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

From Getting the Words Right

Edited: Sep 12, 2014, 8:48am Top

amanuensis: one who transcribes dictation or copies manuscripts.

From Vanity Fair

Edited: Sep 16, 2014, 4:20pm Top


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.)

Sep 22, 2014, 10:03pm Top

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!

Sep 24, 2014, 12:09am Top


Edited: Nov 22, 2014, 3:56pm Top

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.

Edited: Dec 25, 2014, 5:02pm Top

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

Dec 26, 2014, 10:55pm Top

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 Top

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 Top

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.

Edited: Jan 6, 2015, 5:11pm Top

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.

Edited: Jan 6, 2015, 7:35pm Top

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 Top

>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 Top

From Gould's Book of Fish, page 121:

zythepsaries (zythepsary):

a brewery

Jan 9, 2015, 9:57am Top

From This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila:

paniolo: a person who herds cattle, a cowboy

Jan 18, 2015, 2:58pm Top

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 Top

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

Jan 18, 2015, 3:01pm Top

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 Top

>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 Top

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

Jan 23, 2015, 8:08pm Top

Cannot find a definition for two words:




Jan 23, 2015, 8:23pm Top

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 Top

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

Edited: Jan 23, 2015, 8:28pm Top

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!

Edited: Jan 24, 2015, 11:44pm Top

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 Top

I need a calash this morning.

Jan 25, 2015, 6:26pm Top

>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.

Edited: Jan 26, 2015, 4:56am Top

>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 Top


Jan 26, 2015, 4:12pm Top

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.

Edited: Jan 27, 2015, 7:08am Top

>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 Top

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 Top

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.

Edited: Jan 29, 2015, 12:29am Top

>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 Top

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 Top

>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 Top

Well that makes sense.

Feb 24, 2015, 1:19pm Top

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 Top

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.

Edited: Mar 2, 2015, 3:46am Top

>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 Top

From The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead:

longevous: long-lived, living to a great age

Mar 4, 2015, 11:02am Top

From The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

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

Mar 7, 2015, 7:33pm Top

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 Top

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 Top

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

Edited: Mar 21, 2015, 8:35pm Top

>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 Top

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

Edited: Mar 23, 2015, 6:28am Top

>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.

Apr 4, 2015, 4:15pm Top

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.

Apr 5, 2015, 10:09am Top

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.

Apr 10, 2015, 6:27pm Top

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

Edited: Apr 17, 2015, 8:18pm Top

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.

Apr 21, 2015, 11:17am Top

From Runaway Horses:

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

Apr 21, 2015, 10:57pm Top

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

Edited: May 28, 2015, 1:31pm Top

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.

May 12, 2015, 2:47pm Top

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 Top

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 Top

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.

Edited: Sep 1, 2015, 9:24am Top

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.

Aug 31, 2015, 11:40pm Top

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

Sep 1, 2015, 2:50pm Top

From Corelli's Mandolin:

corybantic (adj): frenzied, agitated, unrestrained

Sep 1, 2015, 4:04pm Top

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 (dictionary.com)

Sep 1, 2015, 4:06pm Top

From Flood and Fang :

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

Edited: Sep 12, 2015, 4:48pm Top

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.

Sep 18, 2015, 10:07pm Top

From Lawrence Durrell's Bitter Lemons.

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

Oct 4, 2015, 11:48am Top

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.

Edited: Nov 1, 2015, 7:21pm Top

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.

Oct 29, 2015, 7:34pm Top

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

melomaniac - one who is passionate about music (dictionary.com)

Nov 30, 2015, 1:13am Top

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 Top

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

Feb 18, 2016, 5:30pm Top

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

would mean a long, thin youth with prominent ears! (thanks to dictionary.com)

Jun 25, 2016, 5:31pm Top

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 Top

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 Top

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 Top

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

Jul 31, 2016, 11:38am Top

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.

Aug 13, 2016, 10:52pm Top

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

Aug 19, 2016, 5:46pm Top

I should have known this word.

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

Aug 22, 2016, 6:08pm Top

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.

Sep 4, 2016, 1:49pm Top

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

Sep 15, 2016, 7:25pm Top

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)

Oct 20, 2016, 5:03pm Top

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

Oct 29, 2016, 5:40pm Top

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 Top

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

Dec 10, 2016, 8:06pm Top

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

from Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre

Dec 11, 2016, 6:48pm Top

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.

Dec 19, 2016, 9:52pm Top

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 Top

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 Top

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

Edited: Apr 13, 2017, 6:16pm Top

Morpheme - the smallest grammatical unit in a language.

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

Jun 1, 2017, 10:42am Top

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 Top

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 Top

doubledome - slang for an intellectual or egghead.

From the introduction to The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar.

Sep 2, 2017, 10:50am Top

From Dubliners -

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

Edited: Sep 2, 2017, 4:23pm Top

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.

Sep 16, 2017, 12:13pm Top

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.

Sep 22, 2017, 6:10pm Top

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

Sep 30, 2017, 2:15pm Top

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.

Oct 8, 2017, 4:39pm Top

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.

Edited: Oct 26, 2017, 10:39am Top

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

Dec 19, 2017, 3:29pm Top

gowk - an awkward or foolish person

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

Jan 2, 2018, 8:14pm Top

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

Edited: Feb 3, 2018, 8:53pm Top

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

Feb 3, 2018, 3:50pm Top

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 Top

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.

Edited: Mar 30, 2018, 5:31pm Top

>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 Top

"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.)

Apr 5, 2018, 8:39am Top

empyrean - derived from the highest part of heaven.

From How the Irish Saved Civilization.

Apr 5, 2018, 10:41am Top

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

Apr 5, 2018, 4:07pm Top

>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.)

Apr 6, 2018, 5:00pm Top

"... 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

Edited: Jul 11, 2018, 10:13am Top

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

Edited: Jul 22, 2018, 4:52pm Top

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.

Edited: Jul 28, 2018, 3:57pm Top

>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!

Aug 4, 2018, 11:31am Top

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

Aug 26, 2018, 9:16am Top

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

From The Americanization of Edward Bok.

Edited: Sep 26, 2018, 3:44am Top

>161 rolandperkins: Mini Moke was actually a specific model of vehicle (originally anyway): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Moke . 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.

Oct 14, 2018, 7:56am Top

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?

Oct 18, 2018, 2:00pm Top

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.

Oct 18, 2018, 2:47pm Top

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

Edited: Oct 23, 2018, 12:58am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 7:14am Top

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”.

Edited: Feb 10, 2:37pm Top

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.

Edited: Feb 17, 12:52pm Top

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.

Edited: Feb 23, 6:51pm Top

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

Feb 25, 9:42am Top

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.

Edited: Feb 26, 4:01pm Top

>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: https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2008/08/zweiback-rusks-and-more-...

Feb 28, 8:28pm Top

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.

Edited: Mar 3, 5:13pm Top

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, 12:21pm Top

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

Apr 28, 1:55pm Top

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

Jun 20, 11:28pm Top

I would have thought more Einstein?

Jun 20, 11:30pm Top


Jun 20, 11:33pm Top

All good words!

Jun 28, 7:18pm Top

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

Jul 27, 10:19am Top

“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.

Aug 10, 12:00pm Top

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.

Aug 22, 2:46pm Top

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.

Aug 22, 3:32pm Top

...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: https://books.google.nl/books?id=MjJkAAAAcAAJ&lpg=PA137&ots=1luR4Zbmnr&a... )

Aug 25, 11:27am Top

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

Edited: Aug 28, 6:15pm Top

From To Live Forever by Jack Vance

minatory - menacing/threatening

Sep 7, 4:32pm Top

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.

Sep 10, 4:59pm Top

Another from The Turn of the Screw:

asseverate: declare or state solemnly or emphatically

Sep 14, 8:49am Top

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

Edited: Sep 14, 5:32pm Top

>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

Sep 16, 3:34pm Top


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

Sep 26, 2:30pm Top

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.

Sep 27, 6:54am Top

>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”

Sep 27, 11:33am Top

>206 thorold: Thanks for the info!

Edited: Sep 27, 11:46am Top

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.


Oct 10, 7:26am Top

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

Oct 16, 10:09am Top

Effulgence - radiant splendor, brilliance

From Deadlock by Dorothy Richardson

Oct 18, 8:42am Top

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.

Group: What Are You Reading Now?

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