"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 31 October 2010


Carious is an adjective used to describe teeth and means affected with cavities or decay.

Saturday, 30 October 2010



Philoprogenitiveness, from the Greek, means, 'love of offspring'. It is one of the mental faculties of phrenology, developed by Franz Joseph Gall. Philoprogenitiveness, classified phrenologically as an affective propensity, is determined by the formation of the very back of the head.

(Phrenology was the science, now generally discredited, which studied the relationships between a person's character and the morphology (structure) of the skull.)

Friday, 29 October 2010


A winze is an opening in an underground mine that is sunk downward (as opposed to a raise, which is mined upward) from inside to connect lower levels. The top of a winze is located underground, in contrast to a shaft where the top of the excavation is located on the surface.

Thursday, 28 October 2010



A ziggurat is a type of step-pyramid temple first built by the Sumerians 5,000 years ago in southern Mesopotamia, made of sun-dried mud bricks. The peoples of Mesopotamia – the Assyrians and Babylonians continued building ziggurats for thousands of years.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Aphasia is the inability to use or understand language (spoken or written) because of a brain lesion.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


An arhat is one who has attained enlightenment; a worthy one; a Buddhist saint; one of the stages of the ascetic's spiritual evolution, when all passions (anger, ego, deception, greed, attachement, hatred and ignorance) are destroyed. It is also pronounced and written Arahat, Arhan, and Rahat.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Finikin is an adjactive meaning excessively dainty or fastidious, exacting, especially about details. It is a synonym of finicky - fastidious and fussy; difficult to please.

Sunday, 24 October 2010



A coif is a close fitting cap that covers the top, back, and sides of the head; a skullcap worn by nuns under a veil or by soldiers under a hood of mail or formerly by British sergeants-at-law; or even, quite simply, a hair-do.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Subfusc comes from the Latin for "of a dark/dusky colour", and refers to clothing acceptable, by regulation at certain universities, for an examination or official event; the clothes worn with full academic dress in Oxford. Generally, this means, for men:

* Dark suit.
* Black socks and shoes.
* White shirt and collar.
* White bow tie.

For women:

* White blouse.
* Black tie.
* Black skirt or trousers.
* Black stockings or tights.
* Black shoes.
* Dark coat (if desired).

Friday, 22 October 2010


A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures inside the membranes. Any member of a group of organisms that contains all plants and animals apart form bacteria and blue-green algae. Their cells possess a membrane-bound nucleus containing the genetic material. Both animals and plants are eukaryotes (meaning their cells have nuclei to hold their DNA instead of letting it just float around anywhere).

Thursday, 21 October 2010


The Wyvern was a mythical fire-breathing dragon used in medieval heraldry; had the head of a dragon and the tail of a snake and a body with wings and two legs

Wednesday, 20 October 2010



A verger is a church officer who takes care of the interior of the building and acts as an attendant (carrying the verge or mace) during ceremonies.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010



A sexton is a church, congregation or synagogue officer charged with the maintenance of its buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard. Sextons may also be responsible for bell-ringing and grave digging.

Monday, 18 October 2010

You what?

I seldom say a harsh word to any one, but I was not master of myself then, and I spoke right out and called him an anisodactylous plesiosaurian conchyliaceous Ornithorhyneus, and rotten to the heart with holophotal subterranean extemporaneousness.
Mark Twain

Sunday, 17 October 2010



The hippogriff is a mythical creature with an eagle’s head, claws and wings, and a horse’s body.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


Buxom means having a full, voluptuous figure, especially possessing large breasts; plump and comely. According to the Oxford English dictionary it used to mean meek, obliging, kindly, and understanding. Other meanings were blithe, lively and gay, full of health, vigour and good temper.

Friday, 15 October 2010


A shibboleth is a manner of speaking that is distinctive of a particular group of people; any distinguishing practice which is indicative of one's social or regional origin. It usually refers to features of language, and particularly to a word whose pronunciation identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


A conundrum is a difficult question or riddle, especially one using a play on words in the answer; a difficult choice or decision that must be made.

‘The word “conundrum”,’ Preston repeated helpfully, ‘When you say the word, doesn’t it look in your head like a copper-coloured snake, curled up asleep?’ (Terry Pratchett – “I Shall Wear Midnight”)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


The manticore is a mythical man-eating creature with a spiny lion’s body, a scorpion’s tail and human head.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


A prelate is a high ranking church dignitary; a clergyman of high rank and authority, having jurisdiction over an area or a group of people; normally a bishop or an archbishop.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Phynnodderee is sometimes used as a proper name and sometimes as the name of a class of beings. The phynnodderee is like a brownie, hob, or sprite in folklore, particular around the Isle of Man.

Other spellings include fenodyree, phynodderee, fynnoderee or fenoderee or even yn foldyr gastey, which means 'the nimble mower'. He is small and hairy, particularly around the legs, almost like a small satyr. Fenodyree is in fact the term used for 'satyr' in the 1819 Manx version of the Bible (Isaiah 34:14)

The phynnodderee worked very hard from dusk to dawn at agricultural tasks, such as herding, mowing, reaping and threshing.

Fenodyree is also a character in "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen", a wonderful young-adult fantasy set in Alderley Edge in Cheshire by Alan Garner.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Necrosis is the premature death of cells and living tissue. Necrosis is caused by external factors, such as infection, toxins or trauma. This is in contrast to apoptosis, which is a naturally occurring cause of cellular death.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


A word to rival yesterday's for a place at the end of the dictionary is zyxt. The Oxford English Dictionary ends on this nonword, being a long-obsolete Kentish spelling of the second person singular present tense of see!

Friday, 8 October 2010



I would not normally include scientific genera because there are too many and they are not something that most people would be intersted in as words in themselves. But zyzzyva was one I had to put it. Zyzzyva is a genus of tropical South American weevils particularly fond of palm trees.

Thursday, 7 October 2010



A rubric is a title or heading written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
It can also be the direction for the conduct of divine service.
And a third meanng is any established mode of conduct or procedure.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Eonism is the pretence by a man, of being a woman; transvestism.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


A cynosure is a center of attemntion; something that strongly attracts attention and admiration.

Monday, 4 October 2010


A fizgig is an obsolete term for a flighty or frivolous girl. It also meant a spinning top or a firework.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


The word malkin has had a number of different meanings in the past.

It meant a slattern, an untidy woman.
It was also a scarecrow.
It was used for a hare or a cat.
And it also meant a mop of rags tied to a stick.

The related word grimalkin meant an old female cat or an ill-tempered old woman.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Green fingers

To have green fingers means to have a special ability to make plants grow; a seemingly natural gardening ability.

Friday, 1 October 2010

A Fesnying of Ferrets

Whole books have been written about collective nouns for animals. Many of them are words commonly used but some are more unusual.

Among these are:-

A fesnying of ferrets (which also be a busyness of ferrets)
A bob of seals (also plum, pod, rookery, team)
A badling of Ducks (also paddling, team (in the air), flock, plump, sord (on land), sute (on water).
A cete of badgers
A dole of doves (also flight, flock)
An exaltation of larks (also bevy)
A gam of whales (also pod, school)
A husk of hares (also down)
An ostentation of peafowl (also muster, pride)
A nye of pheasants (also nide, bevy)
A rout of wolves (also pack)
A shrewdness of apes
A sedge of herons (also siege)
A singular of boars (also sounder)

Do you have a favourite collective noun?