From Quiz Revision Notes

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Abasia – inability to walk

Abaya – loose robe covering most of the body, worn in Saudi Arabia

Ablutophobia – fear of washing

Absolution – remission of sins

Accolade – an embrace formerly used in conferring knighthood

Achluphobia – fear of darkness

Achromatopsia – the inability to see colour

Acre – the amount of ground an ox could plough in a day

Acrophobia – fear of heights

Acrostic – a poem or other form of writing in an alphabetic script, in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message

Acrylic – a clear plastic used as a binder in paint and as a casting material in sculpture

Adimadvert – to criticize

Adobe – a sun-dried, unburned brick of clay and straw

Adumbrate – to outline

Advertorial – an advertisement written in the form of an objective opinion editorial, and presented in a printed publication

Advocate – barrister in Scotland

Aedile – an elected official of ancient Rome who was responsible for public works and games and who supervised markets, the grain supply, and the water supply

Aegrotat – an unclassified university degree granted to a candidate who is prevented by illness from attending examinations

Aeolipile – a rocket-like jet engine invented in the first century by Hero of Alexandria. It is considered to be the first recorded steam engine and reaction steam turbine

Aestivation – summer hibernation

Affidavit – a written declaration made under oath

Affiliation Order – forces fathers of illegitimate children to pay maintenance

Affinity – related by marriage

Affirmation – taken by people who cannot swear on oath for religious reasons

Affluenza – an extreme form of materialism resulting from the excessive desire for material goods

Afterburner – a device for augmenting the thrust of a jet engine by burning additional fuel with the uncombined oxygen in the exhaust gases

Aftermath – a new growth of grass following one or more mowings

Aibohphobia – fear of palindromes

Agister – looks after New Forest ponies. To agist is, in English law, to take cattle to graze, for remuneration

Agitprop – agitation and propaganda used to educate people after 1917 Russian Revolution

Agora – the public open space that formed the heart of ancient Greek cities

Ague – fever in which sufferer feels alternately hot and cold

Ailurophile – cat-lover

Ailurophobia – fear of cats

Alb – a white vestment worn by clergy and servers in some Christian churches

Alektorophobia – fear of chickens

Alethiometer – device which measures the truth. Featured in The Golden Compass

Algophobia – fear of pain

Alkaloid – a naturally occurring chemical compound

Allegory – word with an alternative symbolic meaning. For example, an eagle can represent the abstract concept of ‘freedom,’ a witch can represent ‘evil’

Allegory – fable: a short moral story (often with animal characters)

Allision – ship collides with a stationary object

Alliterate – a person who can read, but chooses not to do so

Alliteration – when a number of words begin with the same letter, e.g. Peter Piper Picked

Alloy – a mixture or solid solution composed of a metal and another element

Allusion – a figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, a place, event, literary work, myth, or work of art, either directly or by implication

Almoner – an official in a hospital who looks after the social and material needs of the patients

Altruism – the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others; behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense

Amethyst – purple or violet form of transparent quartz used as a gemstone. Means ‘not intoxicating’

Ammonite – the coiled, flat, chambered fossil shell of an extinct cephalopod mollusk.

Named after the Egyptian god Ammon

Amortisation – the process of decreasing, or accounting for, an amount over a period

Amphora / Ampulla – a two-handled pottery jar with a narrow neck used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to carry liquids, especially wine and oil

Ampoule – a small sealed glass capsule containing a liquid, especially a measured quantity ready for injecting

Anabasis – a large-scale military advance, specifically the Greek mercenary expedition across Asia Minor in 401 BC

Anadrome – a word which forms a different word when spelled backwards. Portmanteau of anagram and palindrome

Anaglypta – wallpaper designed to be painted over

Analogous – structures which perform similar functions but have different evolutions, e.g the wing (see homologous)

Anaphora – a type of expression whose reference depends upon another referential element

Anathema – detested

Angelica – licorice flavored stalks from the Angelica plants are candied and used primarily in pastry making. Angelica is also used to flavor liqueurs

Angelus – a devotional prayer in the Roman Catholic Church at morning, noon, and night to commemorate the Annunciation

Anglish – linguistic purism in the English language. A movement that promotes using words of native (Anglic, West Germanic) origin

Aniline – oil-based solvent (quick drying) used in the preparation process of dyes and inks

Anime – a style of animation characterised by colourful art, futuristic settings, violence and sex

Anisotropy – having properties that differ according to the direction of measurement, e.g. conductivity

Annual – a plant that flowers and dies within a period of one year from germination

Annunciation – the revelation to Mary, the mother of Jesus by the archangel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God

Anodyne – capable of soothing or eliminating pain

Anomie – a lack of social norms

Anosmic – relating to an impairment or loss of the sense of smell

Anoxia – a total decrease in the level of oxygen, an extreme form of hypoxia

Anthology – a compilation of verse by different poets, Greek for flower collection

Anthropometry – the study of human body measurement for use in anthropological classification and comparison

Anthroposophy – a system of beliefs and practice based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and maintaining that by correct training and personal discipline one can attain experience of the spiritual world

Anthropothegy – cannibalism

Antinomy – contradiction or opposition, especially between two laws or rules. Used in the philosophy of Kant

Antioxidant – a chemical compound or substance that inhibits oxidation

Antipenultimate – last but two

Antiques – are over 100 years old

Antonyms – word pairs that are opposite in meaning, e.g. fast and slow

Apocryphal – of questionable authorship or authenticity

Aphorism – a tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage

Aposematism – most commonly known in the context of warning colouration, describes a family of antipredator adaptations where a warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators

Apostasy – the state of having rejected your religious beliefs or your political party or a cause (often in favour of opposing beliefs or causes)

Apostle – held gunpowder for muskets. 12 were carried on a bandolier

Apostle spoon – has an image of an apostle or other Christian religious figure as the termination of the handle

Applique – material is cut out and sewn, embroidered or pasted onto another material

Apse – a semicircular recess in a church covered with a hemispherical vault

Aptonym – (or aptronym) a name aptly suited to its owner, e.g. Chip Beck

Aquaponics – a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment

Arbitrage – the purchase of securities on one market for immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a price discrepancy

Archer – slang for £2000

Arctophile – collects teddy bears

Argot – the jargon or slang of a particular group or class

Arguido – named suspect in Portugal

Aruthophobia – fear of blushing

Aryan – Indo-Iranian. A member of the people who spoke the parent language of the Indo-European languages

Asceticism – a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing spiritual goals

Asdic – an acronym for ‘antisubmarine detection investigation committee’ (see sonar)

Ashram – a religious hermitage

Assegai – spear used by Zulus

Assemblage – making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects

Assonance – repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words, e.g. Do you like blue?

Astraphobia – fear of thunder and lightning

Astrobleme – meteorite crater

Astrolabe – a historical astronomical instrument used by classical astronomers and astrologers. It was the chief navigational instrument until the invention of the sextant in the 18th century

Astrometry – the branch of astronomy that deals with the measurement of the position and motion of celestial bodies

Astrophysics – the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical and chemical properties of celestial bodies

Astroturfing – political, advertising or public relations campaigns that are designed to mask the sponsors of the message to give the appearance of coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant

Atavism – the tendency to revert to ancestral type

Atrium – a rectangular court

Atropine – alkaloid extracted from Deadly Nightshade, named after the Fate (Atpopos) who chose how a person was to die

Aumbry – a cabinet in the wall of a Christian church or in the sacristy which was used to store chalices and other vessels

Auscultation – the action of listening to sounds from the heart, lungs, or other organs, typically with a stethoscope

Autocracy – government by one individual (see ochlocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, stratocracy, theocracy)

Autological – a word (also called homological word) is a word expressing a property which it also possesses itself (e.g., the word ‘short’ is short. The opposite is a heterological word; one that does not apply to itself (e.g., ‘long’ is not long)

Auroch – large, extinct type of cattle, originally prevalent in Europe

Autarky – the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. The latter are called closed economies

Autodidactism – self-directed learning

Autopsy – examination of a dead body to determine or confirm the cause of death. Means ‘seeing with one’s own eyes’

Avuncular – like an uncle in kindness or indulgence

Axilla – armpit

Axiom – a self-evident or universally recognized truth; a maxim


Backburning – lighting small fires to keep a larger fire under control

Backdraft – situation when a fire that has absorbed all available oxygen explodes suddenly when more oxygen is introduced, e.g. by opening a door

Backronym or bacronym – a phrase constructed after the fact to make an existing word or words into an acronym

Badinage – banter

Bailiwick – the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff. The term survives in administrative usage in the Channel Islands, which for administrative purposes are grouped into the two bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey

Bajans – inhabitants of Barbados

Bakelite – a mouldable plastic invented by Leo Baekeland in 1909. It was used in jewellery extensively during the US Great Depression of the 1930's

Balconing – an activity that involves jumping from a balcony towards a swimming pool

Baldachin – a canopy of state over an altar or throne

Baldric – a belt worn over one shoulder that is typically used to carry a weapon (usually a sword)

Ballista – a device, resembling a large mounted crossbow, used in ancient warfare to hurl heavy stones and similar missiles

Banderilla – a decorated barbed dart that is thrust into the bull's neck or shoulder muscles by a banderillero in a bullfight

Bang – a fringe

Banlieue – suburb of a city

Banjolele – a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. Played by George Formby

Banshee – a creature in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology

Bantustan – a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid

Barette – hair-slide

Bargello – a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs

Barista – a person who prepares and serves coffee

Barograph – a recording instrument that provides a continuous trace of air pressure variation with time

Bassinet – helmet, in heraldry

Bast – fibrous material from the phloem of a plant, used as fibre in matting, cord, etc.

Bastinado – beating the soles of the feet

Batholith – a large mass of igneous rock that has melted and intruded surrounding strata at great depths

Batik – a method of printing patterns on cloth, in which wax is put on the cloth before it is put in the dye

Battle royal – term originated in cock fighting

Beam – of a ship is its width at the widest point

Beatification – a stage in the process of canonization

Bedlam – from the lunatic asylum of St Mary of Bethlehem, in London

Beeswax – the yellow to grayish-brown wax secreted by the honeybee for constructing honeycombs

Beguine – popular ballroom dance in St Lucia and Martinique

Beliebers – fans of Justin Bieber

Benchmark – surveyor’s mark cut in a rock

Benediction – a short prayer for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.

Biannual – twice a year

Bicameralism – the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers

Biennial – every two years

Bioethanol – a biofuel derived from the fermentation of sugars from cereals or sugar-producing plants. In the European Union, bioethanol can be blended with gasoline in a proportion of up to 5%

Biga – two-horse chariot

Bigot – a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own

Bimestrial – occurring once every two months

Bijouterie – a collection of trinkets or jewellery

Binge-watching – the practice of watching television for longer time spans than usual, usually of a single television show

Biodiesel – a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived from usually vegetable sources (as soybean oil)

Biometrics – the technique of studying physical characteristics of a person such as finger prints, hand geometry, eye structure or voice pattern

Bionics – (also known as biomimicry, biomimetics) is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology

Biopsy – the removal and examination of a sample of tissue from a living body for diagnostic purposes

Biltong – dried and salted meat in South Africa

Bindi – red sticker worn on forehead by Hindu women

Bindle – the bag, sack, or carrying device stereotypically used by American hobos

Biogenesis – the process of life forms producing other life forms, e.g. a spider lays eggs, which develop into spiders

Birching – a corporal punishment with a birch rod, typically applied to the recipient's bare buttocks

Biretta – a square cap with three or four ridges or peaks, sometimes surmounted by a tuft, traditionally worn by Roman Catholic clergy. Different colours according to rank

Blackdamp – a noncombustible carbon dioxide mixture occurring as a mine gas

Black Knight – makes hostile takeover approach for a company

Blapping – the act of slapping someone across the face with your penis

Blessed – someone who has gone through beatification

Blobject – a design product, often a household object, distinguished by smooth flowing curves, bright colors, and an absence of sharp edges

Blowout – the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well or gas well after pressure control systems have failed

Blue on Blue – friendly fire

Bocage – a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, with tortuous side-roads and lanes bounded on both sides by banks surmounted with high thick hedgerows limiting visibility. During the Battle of Normandy bocage made fighting and forward progress against entrenched opposition extremely difficult

Bodega – a small Hispanic shop selling wine and groceries

Bodhran – Irish drum

Bonanza – a rich vein of precious ore

Borsalino – type of felt hat

Boscage – a mass of trees or shrubs; a thicket

Bossa nova – a style of popular Brazilian music derived from the samba but with more melodic and harmonic complexity and less emphasis on percussion

Bothy – small Scottish cottage

Botnet – a large number of compromised computers that are used to create and send spam or viruses or flood a network with messages as a denial of service attack. Short for ‘robot network’. Also called a ‘zombie army’

Botox – commercial name for botulinum, a powerful toxin that causes botulism

Botryoidal – shaped like a bunch of grapes

Bower – a place enclosed by overhanging boughs of trees or by vines on a trellis

Bower – heaviest anchor of a ship

Bowline – type of knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope

Bowser – mobile water dispenser

Bowsprit – a spar projecting from the bow of a vessel

Boyar – a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes, from the 10th century through the 17th century

Brachial – of the arm

Brachiate – move by using the arms to swing from branch to branch

Braising – slow cooking of inexpensive cuts of meat

Brake horsepower – power needed to stop an engine

Brassard – or armlet, is an armband or piece of cloth or other material worn around the upper arm, used as an item of military uniform to which rank badges may be attached instead of being stitched into the actual clothing

Breastsummer – in timber-building, a beam in the outward part of the building, and the middle floors, (not in the garrets or ground floors) into which the girders are framed. In the inner parts of a building, such beams are called ‘summers’

Bridge – a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument and transmitting the vibration of those strings to some other structural component of the instrument

Brindisi – drinking songs in operas

Brindled – tawny or greyish with streaks or spots of a different colour

Brocade – a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in coloured silks and with or without gold and silver threads

Broch – an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure of a type found only in Scotland

Bromatology – study of food (or ailments)

Bronco – an untrained horse or one that habitually bucks

Brony – a male who watches My Little Pony

Brumby – free-roaming feral horse in Australia

Brunoise – vegetables cut into cubes

Bruxism – grinding of the teeth

Bryology – the branch of botany concerned with the scientific study of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts)

Buccal – of or relating to the cheeks or the mouth cavity

Buckler – type of shield

Buckram – coarse cotton fabric heavily sized with glue, used for stiffening garments and in bookbinding

Bulla – papal seal, hence papal documents are called papal bulls

Bumsters – low-cut trousers

Bunraku – a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre, founded in Osaka in 1684

Bunyip – (usually translated as ‘devil’ or spirit’) is a mythical creature from Australian folklore

Buoyancy – the phenomenon (discovered by Archimedes) that an object less dense than a fluid will float in the fluid

Burgee – the name of the distinguishing flag, regardless of its shape, of a recreational boating organization

Burh – Anglo-Saxon name for a fortified town or other defended site, such as a hill fort

Burka – a loose garment (usually with veiled holes for the eyes) worn by Muslim women

Burkini – Muslim swimsuit

Bustle – a type of framework used to expand the fullness or support the drapery of the back of a woman's dress

Byssus – both the silky filaments by which certain bivalve molluscs attach themselves to hard surfaces, and a rare fabric, also called sea silk made from that fibre source


Cabal – a small group of secret plotters, as against a government or person in authority. The term took on its present meaning from a group of ministers of King Charles II

Caballero – Spanish gentleman

Cabana – a small hut built with a thatched roof

Cacophony – opposite of euphony

Cabotage – the right to operate sea, air, or other transport services within a particular territory

Cadency – any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family

Caduceus – a short herald's staff entwined by two serpents in the form of a double helix, and sometimes surmounted by wings. Carried by Hermes

Cakewalk – a dance developed from the ‘Prize Walks’ held in the late 19th century, generally at get-togethers on slave plantations in the Southern United States

Caesura – a complete stop in a line of poetry

Caja – Spanish savings bank

Calculus – tartar on teeth, body stones

Calends – the first days of each month of the Roman calendar

Caliph – a leader of Islam, the title literally means the successor to Mohammed

Calumet – a ceremonial smoking pipe used by some Native American Nations. Known as a ‘peace pipe’

Calumny – defamation

Calx – a residual substance, sometimes in the form of a fine powder, that is left when a metal or mineral combusts

Cam – an eccentric or multiply curved wheel mounted on a rotating shaft, used to produce variable or reciprocating motion

Canon – a priest who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule

Canonization – the act of admitting a deceased person into the canon of saints

Canophile – dog lover

Cant – a secret language used only by members of a group

Canticle – a hymn taken from the bible

Cantor – an ecclesiastical officer leading liturgical music in several branches of the Christian church

Capacitance – an electrical phenomenon whereby an electric charge is stored

Capella – without instrumental accompaniment

Capellmeister – the musical director in royal or ducal chapel; a choir-master

Capon – a rooster or cockerel that has been castrated

Capotain – a tall-crowned, narrow-brimmed, slightly conical hat, usually black. Associated with Puritan costume in England in the years leading up to the Civil War

Carpology – the study of fruits and seeds

Caprine – of, relating to, or characteristic of a goat

Caravel – a small, highly manoeuverable, two or three-masted ship used by the Portuguese and Spanish for long voyages of exploration from the 15th century

Careen – to put (a ship or boat) on a beach especially in order to clean, caulk, or repair the hull

Caricature – a representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect

Carolean, Caroline – refers to reign of Charles I and Charles II

Cartophilist – collects cigarette cards

Cartouche – an oval which was drawn to contain the hieroglyphs that spelt out a king's or queen's name

Casus belli – justification for acts of war

Cat bearding – holding a cat in front of the face to make it look like a beard

Catechism – a Christian doctrinal manual often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized

Cathedra – bishop’s chair or throne

Caucus – a meeting of supporters or members of a political party or movement

Cauterization – sealing wounds by heating or freezing

Caveat – caution: a warning against certain acts

Cay – a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of coral reefs

Celadon – a term for ceramics denoting both a type glaze, and a ware of a specific jade-green colour, also called celadon

Ceroplastics – modelling in wax

Cerulean – sky-blue colour

Chador – loose black robe covering most of the body, worn in Iran

Chalumeau – forerunner of the clarinet

Chandler – candle maker

Charcoal – a black, porous, carbonaceous material, 85 to 98 % carbon, produced by the destructive distillation of wood

Centuria – consisted of originally 100, later 80, men distributed along 10 contubernia. Each contubernium lived at the same tent

Changeling – the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or legendary creature that has been exchanged for a human child

Chantry – chapel founded by endowments from a benefactor

Chapters – canons who administer a cathedral

Charivari – a French folk custom in which the community gave a noisy, discordant mock serenade, also pounding on pots and pans, at the home of newlyweds

Chasuble – a long sleeveless vestment worn by a priest when celebrating Mass

Cheroot – a cylindrical cigar with both ends clipped during manufacture

Chessel – press used to make cheese

Chevauchee – a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory

Chiasmus – the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point, e.g. ‘...ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’

Chickenhawk – epithet used in the United States to criticize a politician, bureaucrat, or commentator who strongly supports a war or other military action, but has never personally been in a war

Chignon – popular type of French bun hairstyle

Chillaxing – a state of ultimate chill and relaxation

Chine – a steep-sided river valley where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea

Chinoiserie – the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture

Chionophobia – fear of snow

Chiromancy – palm reading

Chitin – a tough semitransparent horny substance; the principal component of the exoskeletons of arthropods and the cell walls of certain fungi

Chitting – a method of preparing potatoes or other tubers for planting. Most of the sprouting parts are removed, leaving the strongest growths only

Chorophobia – fear of dancing

Chrometophobia – fear of money

Chryselephantine – the sculptural medium of gold and ivory

Chthonic – pertains to deities or spirits of the underworld

Chugger – charity street collector

Chullo – an Andean style of hat with earflaps

Chuppah – a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony

Cist – a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead

Clemmed – starved

Clepsydra – water clock

Clerihew – a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Cliometrics – the systematic application of economic theory, econometric techniques, and other formal or mathematical methods to the study of history

Circumlocution – using many words when only a few are needed

Cloisonne – enamelware in which coloured areas are separated by thin metal strips

Cloister – a covered walk with an open colonnade on one side, running along the walls of buildings that face a quadrangle

Cloy – disgust or sicken (someone) with an excess of sweetness, richness, or sentiment

Coasteering – exploring the coast by swimming, jumping and climbing cliffs

Codex – a manuscript volume, especially of a classic work or of the Scriptures

Cognomen – a nickname

Cohort – 480 infantrymen. Divided into six centuries of 80 men, each commanded by a centurion

Colloquial – characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation

Colonnade – series of evenly spaced columns

Compline – the final church service (or Office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours

Compote – a dessert of stewed fruits

Concordance – an alphabetical list of the principal words used in a book or body of work, with their immediate contexts

Concretion – the act or process of concreting into a mass; coalescence

Condenser – a piece of laboratory glassware used to cool hot vapours or liquids

Condign – (of punishment or retribution) appropriate to the crime or wrongdoing; fitting and deserved

Condominium – rule of a territory by two or more other states

Coney – rabbit

Consanguinity – related by blood

Consecotaleophobia – fear of chopsticks

Consonance – a harmony, chord, or interval considered stable (at rest), as opposed to a dissonance

Consul – the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. New consuls were elected every year. There were two consuls and they ruled together by mutual consensus

Contemnor – someone who commits contempt of court

Contessa – an Italian countess

Contingent Legacy – in a will, a bequest that takes place only if a specific event takes place

Contretemps – an unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things; an inopportune occurrence. Term originally used in fencing

Contusion – a bruise

Conurbation – coined as a neologism in 1915 by Patrick Geddes in his book Cities In Evolution

Convection – the transfer of heat through a fluid (liquid or gas) caused by molecular motion

Convenience users – pay off debts (see revolvers)

Coombe – steep-sided valley

Coping – the capping or covering of a wall

Copita – tulip-shaped sherry glass

Copoclephilsit – collects keyrings

Copra – the kernel of a coconut used to extract coconut oil

Coprolite – fossilized animal dung

Copyleft – putting a program into the public domain and choosing not to enforce any copyright on the program. Formerly known as GPL (general public license)

Corbel – a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any extra weight

Cordilera – an extensive chain of mountains or mountain ranges, especially the principal mountain system of a continent or large island

Cordwainer – shoe maker

Cordite – a smokeless explosive made from nitrocellulose, nitroglycerine, and petroleum jelly

Corniche – a road on the side of a cliff or mountain, with the ground rising on one side of the road and falling away on the other

Corniculate – horn-shaped

Cornucopia – or horn of plenty, is a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce

Corollary – a proposition that follows with little or no proof required from one already proven

Corroborative evidence – supporting evidence

Corsage – a bouquet of flowers worn on a woman's dress or worn around her wrist

Cortisol – hormone produced principally in response to physical or psychological stress and secreted by the adrenal glands

Corvus – a Roman military boarding device used in naval warfare during the First Punic War against Carthage. Gangplank with a spike that was designed to pierce the enemy ship's deck when the boarding-bridge was lowered

Cosmogeny – any scientific theory concerning the coming into existence (or origin) of either the cosmos (or universe), or the so-called ‘reality’ of sentient beings

Cosset – a lamb reared by hand, which then becomes a family pet

Cotillion – a type of patterned social dance that originated in France in the 18th century. It was originally made up of four couples in a square formation, the forerunner of the quadrille

Cougar – woman over 40 who pursues younger men

Coulrophobia – fear of clowns

Countersinking – process of making a cone shaped enlargement at the entrance of a hole

Coven – 13 witches

Covenant – a solemn agreement to engage in or refrain from a specified action. It is commonly found in religious contexts, where it refers to sacred agreements between a god and human beings

Coverture – refers to a woman’s legal status during marriage

Cowrie – type of sea snail. Shells of certain species have historically been used as currency and jewellery in several parts of the world

Crankshaft – converts linear piston motion into rotational motion

Crapulent – suffering from excessive eating or drinking

Cravate – necktie worn by Croatian mercenaries in the service of France

Creationism – a religious belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their original form by a deity or deities (often the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam), whose existence is presupposed

Creel – large wicker basket, used for fish

Creosote – a colourless or yellowish oily liquid obtained by distillation of wood tar

Crepe – a silk, wool, or polyester fabric of a gauzy texture, having a peculiar crisp or crimpy appearance

Crepuscular – twilight

Cretonne – a strong, white French fabric

Crew cut – named after rowing crews

Crinoline – originally a stiff fabric with a weft of horse-hair and a warp of cotton or linen thread. The fabric first appeared around 1830, but by 1850 the word had come to mean a stiffened petticoat or rigid skirt-shaped structure of steel designed to support the skirts of a woman’s dress into the required shape

Crochet – a quarter note

Crowdfunding – the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations

Crowdsourcing – the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call

Crozier – staff carried by a bishop

Cruciverbalist – crossword compiler

Cryogenics – the science that deals with the production of very low temperatures and their effect on the properties of matter

Cryptid – a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but that is unrecognized by a scientific consensus, and whose existence is regarded as highly unlikely

Cryptozoology – the search for animals whose existence has not been proven

Cuckold – a married man with an adulterous wife. Cuckolds have sometimes been written as ‘wearing the horns’

Cud – a portion of food that returns from a ruminant's stomach in the mouth to be chewed for the second time

Cultivar – a cultivated plant that has been selected and given a unique name because it has desirable characteristics (decorative or useful) that distinguish it from otherwise similar plants of the same species

Cuneate – wedge-shaped

Cuneiform – the earliest standardized writing system, first used in ancient Mesopotamia, and later throughout the Ancient Near East. A form of writing on wet clay tablets using a wedge-like writing tool called a stylus

Cupidity – excessive desire

Cupola – a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building

Curia – a governing body and name of the building which housed it. The Curia was a meeting place for the Senate or the town council of a Roman town

Cursive – style of writing with successive letters joined together

Cryophobia – fear of cold

Cuvee – contents of a vat

Cyberloafing – employees who surf the net, write e-mail or other Internet-related activities at work that are not related to their job

Cybernetics – the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems

Cyberphobia – fear of computers

Cyberpunk – a science fiction genre noted for its focus on ‘high tech and low life’. The name is derived from cybernetics and punk

Cyborg – a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts

Cynophobia – fear of dogs


Dabbawallah – Mumbai tiffin-box carrier

Dactylography – fingerprinting

Dactylology – (or fingerspelling) is the representation of the letters of a writing system, and sometimes numeral systems, using only the hands

Dado – lower part of an interior wall

Damask – a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibres, with a pattern formed by weaving

Dargason – English folk-tune, used from the 16th century onwards for a country dance or as a ballad tune

Davenport – writing desk

Deadlock – requires a key to open and close

Dead Sea fruit – term used for something that dissolves when touched

Decantation – a process for the separation of mixtures, by removing a top layer of liquid from which a precipitate has settled

Decennial – every ten years

Decurved – curved downwards

Deemster – a judge in the Isle of Man

Defibrillator – an electrical device used to counteract fibrillation of the heart muscle and restore normal heartbeat by applying a brief electric shock

Deglazing – a technique for removing and dissolving browned food residue from a pan to make a sauce

Deltiology – collecting picture postcards

Demagogue – a leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace

Demonym – denotes the members of a people or the inhabitants of a place. In English, a demonym is often the same as the name of the people's native language: e.g., the ‘French’

Demurrage – a charge payable to the owner of a chartered ship in respect of failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed

Denouement – a series of events that follow the climax of a drama or narrative, and thus serves as the conclusion of the story

Deontic – of, relating to, or concerning duties or obligations

Deposition – a painting showing Christ being taken down from the cross

Derby – American name for a bowler hat

Dermatoglyphics – the study of the whorls and loops and arches in the fingertips and on the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet

Dewclaw – a vestigial digit of the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles

Dhol – a two-sided drum, played with two sticks (one held in each hand). Associated with the Punjab

Dhoti – loin cloth

Dhow – generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region

Diacritic – an ancillary glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph

Diadem – jewelled crown

Dianetics – Church of Scientology

Digestif – a drink, especially an alcoholic one, drunk before or after a meal in order to aid the digestion

Diorama – a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures

Diarchy – a form of government in which two individuals, the diarchs, are the heads of state

Diastema – gap or space between teeth

Dibber – makes holes to plant seedlings

Dicennial – every 10 years

Diffusion – the movement of molecules from a high concentration to a low concentration

Digerati – the elite of the computer industry and online communities

Digraph – a pair of characters used to write one phoneme (distinct sound) or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined, e.g. Ll in Welsh

Dihedral – the angle between an upwardly inclined aircraft wing and a horizontal line

Dioptre – a unit of measurement of the optical power of a lens or curved mirror, which is equal to the reciprocal of the focal length measured in metres

Diphthong – a vowel that changes quality during its pronunciation, or ‘glides’, with a smooth movement of the tongue from one articulation to another, as in the English words eye, boy, and cow

Dirndl – a type of traditional dress worn in Germany and Austria

Discombobulate – to throw into a state of confusion

Dissonance – lack of harmony among musical notes

Distemper – has a variety of meanings for paints used in decorating and as a historical medium for painting pictures

Dithyramb – an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility

Ditloid – a type of word puzzle, in which a phrase, quotation, date, or fact must be deduced from the numbers and abbreviated letters in the clue, e.g. 26 L of the A

Doctrinaire – dogmatist: a stubborn person of arbitrary or arrogant opinions

Doctrine – a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions

Dog rose – from belief that it could cure rabies

Dojo – martial arts training hall

Doko – rattan basket

Dole – grain supply to the city of Rome

Dolly Varden – hat named after a character in Barnaby Rudge

Dorsal – of, on, or near the back

Doublet – a close-fitting jacket, with or without sleeves, worn by European men between the 15th and17th centuries

Doughnuting – surrounding an MP by colleagues to give the impression of a packed House of Commons

Doula – a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, and/or after childbirth

Dowager – a widow holding property received from her deceased husband

Dowry – (also known as trousseau or tocher) the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage

Dowsing – a form of divination involving a rod or wand, especially the art of finding underground supplies of water

Dragoman – an interpreter and guide in the Near East

Drone – male honey bee that develops from an unfertilized egg

Dross – the scum formed by oxidation at the surface of molten metals

Drumhead – a court-martial held on a battlefield

Drunkorexia – self-imposed starvation or binge eating/purging combined with alcohol abuse

Drupe – a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell of hardened endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside

Dyad – a group of two people

Dryad – a tree nymph, or female tree spirit, in Greek mythology

Dubbin – tallow mixed with oil; used to make leather soft and waterproof

Dumbledore – a bumble bee

Dutch barn – tall open sides and a curved roof

Dynasty a succession of rulers who belong to the same family for generations. A dynasty is also often called a house

Dysphemism – purposefully unpleasant or objectionable language. Opposite of euphemism

Dysphonia – any impairment of the voice or speaking ability

Dystopia – a fictional society where the conditions are extremely bad. Opposite of Utopia


Earworm – a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing

Easement – a right that a person has on another person’s land

Ebullism – the formation of gas bubbles in bodily fluids due to reduced environmental pressure, for example at high altitude

Echolocation – animals sending out a high-pitched sound, and using its echo to locate an object

Eclectic – deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources

Ectotherm – cold-blooded animal

Ecumenical – representing a number of different Christian churches

Ecdysiast – a stripper

Edacity – greed

Eden – black homburg hat

Edentulous – without teeth

Egestion – defaecation

Eggshell – paint with a finish midsheen between matt and gloss

Ekphrasis – the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art

Electra complex – female equivalent of Oedipus complex

Elision – refers to when a sound or syllable is lost or omitted e.g. I will to I’ll

Emendation – a correction by emending; a correction resulting from critical editing

Emeritus professor – retired, but allowed to keep the title

Emery – a very hard rock type used to make abrasive powder. It largely consists of the mineral corundum (aluminum oxide)

Emoji – ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages

Empiricism – all knowledge is derived from experience

Emulsion – a suspension of small globules of one liquid in a second liquid with which the first will not mix

Enamel – a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing

Enclave – any portion of a state that is entirely surrounded by the territory of one other state. When an enclave additionally borders a body of water that is not enclosed by a different state, it is termed a pene-enclave or "practical" enclave

Encomium – poem in praise of a person

Encyclical – a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Christian church

Endemic – of or relating to a disease constantly present to greater or lesser extent in a particular locality, or the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location

Endogamy – the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group

Engram – a hypothetical permanent change in the brain accounting for the existence of memory; a memory trace

Enochlophobia – fear of crowds

Ensiform – having sharp edges and tapering to a slender point, having a shape suggesting a sword

Ensign – name given to the boy who carried the regimental colours

Enteric – relating to the intestines

Entomophily – a form of pollination whereby pollen or spores are distributed by insects

Entrepot – a term used for international trade where goods are shipped to a centre for re-export. Hong Kong engages in significant amounts of this form of trade

Envoi – a short stanza at the end of a poem

Epidemiology – the study of the patterns, causes, and control of disease in groups of people

Epiglottis – the flap that covers the trachea during swallowing so that food does not enter the lungs

Epigraph – a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document

Epigram – a short, witty poem expressing a single thought or observation. A concise, clever, often paradoxical statement

Epistemology – concerned with knowledge

Epistle – a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually a letter

Epitasis – the middle part of a play that develops the action leading to the catastrophe

Epithalamia – song celebrating marriage

Eponym – noun named after a person or town

Equerry – an officer of honour. A personal attendant, usually upon a Sovereign, a member of a Royal Family, or a national representative

Ergometer – a device which measures the amount of energy or work performed

Ertzaintza – Basque police

Eschatology – a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind

Escrow – safekeeping of money with a third party

Esquire – an attendant and shield bearer to a knight; a candidate for knighthood

Ethnography – a qualitative research method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group

Ethology – the scientific study of animal behavior, especially as it occurs in a natural environment

Etui – a woman's ornamental case, usually carried in a pocket or purse

Etymology – origin and history of words

Eucharist – a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine

Euphemism – a mild word of phrase which substitutes for another which would be undesirable because it is too direct, unpleasant, or offensive

Euphobia – fear of hearing good news

Everglades – sawgrass marsh

Exclave – a portion of a state geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory. Many enclaves are also exclaves

Exonym – name given to a place by foreigners, e.g. the French call London ‘Londres’

Extrait – a weak perfume

Extremophiles – organisms that live in extreme conditions

Exurbia – the region outside a city and its suburbs where wealthier families live

Eyas – an unfledged hawk


Facet – cut surface of a gemstone

Factoid – a spurious statement formed and asserted as a fact, but with no veracity. Factoid was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe

Fado – a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal

Faience – tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff body

Fallacy – a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning

Fanlight – window, often semicircular, with radiating glazing bars suggesting a fan that is placed over a door

Farthingale – a term applied to any of several structures used under Western European women's clothing in the late 15th and 16th centuries to support the skirts into the desired shape

Fasces – bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade protruding; in ancient Rome it was a symbol of a magistrate's power

Fatwa – ruling on a point of Islamic law

Fecundity – the potential reproductive capacity of an organism or population

Fedora – a soft felt hat that is creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched in the front on both sides. It was invented in the 1910s. Known as a trilby in Britain. Comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou, Fedora, written for Sarah Bernhardt

Fellahin – a peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country

Fellow traveller – name given to a non-card carrying member of the Communist Party in the 1950s. Term was coined by Leon Trotsky

Felt – a fabric of matted, compressed animal fibres, such as wool or fur, sometimes mixed with vegetable or synthetic fibres

Felucca – Nile sailing boat

Feretory – holds the relics of a saint

Fermentation – a process that converts sugar to acids, gases, and/or alcohol

Fess – wide horizontal band on a heraldic shield

Fiat – decree: a legally binding command or decision entered on the court record

Fibril – a small slender fibre or filament

Fifth column – a clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy's military and political aims

Fiasco – a traditional Italian straw-covered wine bottle

Filigree – fine wires soldered onto a design, often gold or silver

Finial – carved in stone and employed decoratively to emphasize the apex of a gable or any of various distinctive ornaments at the top, end, or corner of a building or structure. Smaller finials can be used as a decorative ornament on the ends of curtain rods

Firedamp – a mixture of gases (mostly methane) that form in coal mines and become explosive when mixed with air

Firth – estuary

Flageolet – a small flute blown at the end, like a recorder but with two thumb holes

Flaneur – rich Parisian ‘stroller’ in 1860s

Flash – lake caused by excavation of mining works

Flipping – a technique whereby a Member of Parliament switches his second home between several houses, which has the effect of allowing him to maximize his taxpayer funded allowances

Flocking – the process of depositing many small fibre particles (called flock) onto a surface

Floret – small flower which is part of a much larger compound flower head

Flotsam – goods which float upon the sea after a ship is sunk (see jetsam and lagan)

Fluke – either of the two horizontally flattened divisions of the tail of a whale

Focimeter – measures the focal length of a lens

Foliage – leaf mass of a tree

Foley – the reproduction of everyday sounds for use in filmmaking

Foot – basic unit of a line of poetry. Common types – iamb (a short syllable followed by a long one), trochee (a long syllable followed by a short one), dactyl (a long syllable followed by two short ones), anapest (two short syllables followed by a long one), spondee (two long syllables)

Forcene – heraldic term for rearing

Foreclosure – US equivalent of house repossession

Formateur – a politician who is appointed by the head of state to lead the formation of a coalition government, after either a general election or the collapse of a previous government

Forthwith – as soon as can be reasonably done

Fortification – adding alcohol to wine, e.g. Madeira, port and sherry

Fossicking – prospecting by sifting, e.g. for gold

Fragging – the act of deliberately assassinating another member, or members of the military, particularly a members of one’s own command or fighting squad

Frangipane – almond-flavoured paste, named after noble Frangipani family of Rome

Fratricide – the killing of one’s own brother

Freedman – a man who has been freed from slavery

Freeganism – involves choosing to salvage discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters. The word ‘freegan’ is a portmanteau of ‘free’ and ‘vegan’

Freemium – a business model that works by offering a game, product or service free of charge while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services. Portmanteau of the two aspects of the business model: ‘free’ and ‘premium’

Fret – a raised portion on the neck of a stringed instrument, that extends generally across the full width of the neck

Frog – part of a horse’s hoof

Fromologist – a person who collects cheese labels

Fronting – parents saying they are main driver of children’s cars to cut insurance costs

Froogle – Google shopping site

Frost – ice crystals formed by condensation on surfaces below freezing

Frotteurism – an interest in rubbing, usually one's pelvis or erect penis, against a non-consenting person for sexual gratification

Frugivore – a fruit eater

Fruit – a structure of a plant that contains its seeds

Funambulist – tightrope walker

Fusilatelist – phone-card collector


Gaff – a pole with a sharp hook on the end that is used to stab a large fish

Galette – a type of pastry

Gallimaufry – a hotchpotch

Galvanize – to stimulate or shock with an electric current

Galvanometer – detects and measures electric current

Gamophobia – fear of marriage

Gamp – umbrella, named after the nurse (Sarah Gamp) in Martin Chuzzlewit

Gazanging – seller withdraws the property at the last minute

Gazette – an official journal

Gazundering – homebuyers reducing their offer at the last minute

Gearing – used to describe the relationship between debt and equity and is calculated by dividing the company debt by common shareholders equity

Gematria – assigning numeric values to letters of the alphabet in order to find some hidden meaning in them

Genal – of the cheeks

Generalissimo – Commander of a large force, consisting of more than one Army, or both Land and Naval forces with their Air units included. Term was applied to Franco

Genophobia – fear of sex

Gentle – a maggot used as bait in angling

Genuflection – bending on one knee as a sign of reverence, in Roman Catholic Church

Geocaching – participants use a GPS receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called ‘geocaches’, anywhere in the world

Geocentric – earth is at the centre of the Universe

Geoengineering – proposals to deliberately manipulate the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions

Geoglyph – figure or shape produced on the ground by the clearing of stones or the building of stone alignments, e.g. Nazca lines in Peru

Geomancy – handful of dust thrown to ground and read, as a prophecy

Geomatics – the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering of geographic information, or spatially referenced information

Georgette – a thin silk or crepe dress material

Georgic poem – describes rural life

Geribanger – a woman who furthers her career by seducing older men

Gerontology – the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging

Gerrymander – portmanteau of Gerry and salamander

Gerund – the usage of a verb as a noun (for example, the verb ‘learning’ in the sentence ‘Learning is an easy process for some’

Gesso – a preparation of plaster of Paris and glue used as a base for low relief or as a surface for painting

Gewgaw – a decorative trinket; a bauble

Ghetto – originally used to refer to the Venetian Ghetto in Venice where Jews were forced to live

Gibbet – gallows on which prisoners were hung

Gig – boat in the Scillies

Gigolo – a man who has a continuing sexual relationship with and receives financial support from a woman

Gigue – a lively piece of music in the style of a dance

Gild the lily – to adorn unnecessarily something that is already beautiful or perfect. From Shakespeare’s King John

Glair – egg white

Glaive – type of sword

Glamping – glamorous camping

Gleave – tool used to catch eels

Glengarry – a boat-shaped cap without a peak

Globophobia – fear of balloons

Glyph – an element of writing: an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written

Gnomon – finger on a sundial

Golem – in Jewish folklore, an animated being created entirely from inanimate matter

Gonfalon – a type of heraldic flag or banner, often pointed, swallow-tailed, or with several streamers, and suspended from a crossbar

Googleganger – a person with your name who shows up when you Google yourself

Googlewhacking – using a search engine to find fewer results, or exactly one result

Googol – one followed by 100 zeroes

Gorget – a steel or leather collar designed to protect the throat

Gorgon – female monster with sharp fangs and hair of living, venomous snakes

Gouache – or bodycolour, is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water (see tempera)

Graft – a form of political corruption, the unscrupulous use of a politician's authority for personal gain

Grammagram – a word (or words) which, when pronounced, consists entirely of letter sounds, e.g. INVU is ‘I envy you’

Grapeshot – a cluster of small projectiles fired together from a cannon to produce a hail of shot

Grapheme – a fundamental unit in a written language. Examples of graphemes include alphabetic letters, numerical digits, and punctuation marks

Greave – a piece of armour that protects the leg

Griffin – a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle

Grist – grain that has been separated from its chaff in preparation for grinding

Grok – to intimately and completely share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity. Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in the book Stranger in a Strange Land

Growler – smallest type of iceberg

Gubernatorial – relating to a governor

Gustatory – relating to the sense of taste

Gymnophobia – fear of nudity

Gynaecide – killing a woman

Gynophobia – fear of women

Gyre – any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis Effect


Haboob – a type of sandstorm or dust storm

Hacienda – an estate or plantation with a dwelling-house

Hacktivism – breaking into a computer system, for a politically or socially motivated purpose

Hadith – oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad

Hafiz – person who knows the Koran by heart

Haiku – mode of Japanese poetry with the pattern 5, 7, 5

Hair shirt – a coarse haircloth garment worn next to the skin by religious ascetics as penance

Halberd – a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries

Halftone – the reprographic technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size, in shape or in spacing

Halter – a device made of rope or leather straps that fits around the head or neck of an animal and is used to lead or secure the animal

Halyard – a rope for raising or lowering a sail or flag

Hamman – Turkish bath

Hand planing – bodysurfing but with a small float

Hapaxanthic – flowers only once

Haptics – any form of interaction involving touch

Hardwood – the wood of broad-leaved dicotyledonous trees

Hart – male red deer over five years old

Hasema – Islamic swimwear

Hawk – plasterer’s mortar board

Hazing – to force (a new or potential recruit to the military, a college fraternity, etc.) to perform strenuous, humiliating, or dangerous tasks

Heddlu – Welsh police

Hedging – taking a position in a futures market opposite to a position held in the cash market to minimize the risk of financial loss from an adverse price

Hegemony – leadership or dominance, especially by one country or social group

Heifer – a young female cow that has not borne any young

Helot – one of a class of serfs in ancient Sparta, neither a slave nor a free citizen

Henge – large prehistoric earthwork

Hentai – sexually explicit anime

Hermeneutics – the art and science of text interpretation

Herpetology – study of reptiles and amphibians

Hessian – a coarse woven fabric usually made from jute or other vegetable fibres

Heteronym – one of two or more words with identical spelling, but different meanings and pronunciations, e.g. bow (the front of a ship) and bow (a type of knot). Subset of homographs

Heuristics – experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or 'optimal solution'

Hexameter – line of poetry with six metrical feet

Hibakusha – survivors of atomic bombs in Japan

Hidalgo – lowest rank of the Spanish nobility

Highball – a family of mixed drinks that are composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer

Hijab – a scarf that many Muslim women use to cover their hair

Hilt – (sometimes called the haft) of a sword is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel

Hinny – the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey (jennet or jenny) (see mule)

Hippogriff – a legendary creature, supposedly the offspring of a griffin and a mare

Hobnail – heavy nail used in horseshoes

Hogwash – originally swill fed to swine that had no nutritional value

Holocaust – a burnt sacrifice; an offering, the whole of which was consumed by fire

Holograph – written entirely by the author, e.g. a will

Homecoming – the tradition of welcoming back alumni of a school

Homeopathy – a system for treating disease based on the administration of minute doses of a drug. Based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ (the law of similars)

Homiletics – the application of the general principles of rhetoric to the specific department of public preaching

Homochronous – only one colour

Homograph – a word with multiple meanings, based upon how it is pronounced, e.g. minute

Homologous – structures which have a common evolutionary origin, but perform different functions, e.g. forearms (see analogous)

Homophone – a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose and rose, or differently, such as caret and carrot. Homophones that are spelled the same are known as homonyms

Honeydew – a sweet sticky substance excreted by various insects, especially aphids, on the leaves of plants

Hongi – Maori greeting of rubbing noses

Hoplite – foot soldier in ancient Greece. Hoplites were primarily armed as spear-men and fought in a phalanx formation

Hoplophobia – fear of firearms

Hostelaphilist – collects pub signs

Hotspot – a site that offers Internet access over a wireless local area network through the use of a router connected to a link to an Internet service provider

Hotte – picking basket worn on the back of French grape pickers

Howdah – a seat for riding on the back of an elephant or camel

Hubris – excessive pride or self-confidence

Hulling – removing green calyx from strawberries, and shelling peas

Humblebrag – a statement on social media in which you pretend to be modest but which you are really using as a way of telling people about your success or achievements

Humidor – a container designed for storing cigars or other tobacco products at a constant level of humidity

Hydrophilic – having an affinity for water; readily absorbing or dissolving in water

Hyetometer – measures rainfall

Hygrometer – measures humidity

Hyperbole – use of exaggeration for effect, e.g. I’ve told you a hundred times

Hypertension – high blood pressure

Hypnophobia – fear of sleep

Hypocaust – underfloor heating

Hyponym – a word whose meaning is included in that of another word: scarlet, vermilion and crimson are hyponyms of red

Hypotension – low blood pressure

Hysterisis – the lagging of an effect behind its cause, as when the change in magnetism of a body lags behind changes in the magnetic field


Ichor – the ethereal golden fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals

Ichthys – a symbol consisting of two intersecting arcs, the ends of the right side extending beyond the meeting point so as to resemble the profile of a fish, used by early Christians as a secret Christian symbol. Known as the ‘Jesus fish’

Iconoclast – one who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions

Idiom – a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language

Idyll – a short poem, descriptive of rustic life

Imbroglio – an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

Impeachment – the first of two stages in a specific process for a legislative body to remove a government official without that official's agreement. The second stage is called conviction

Impedance – electric resistance: a material's opposition to the flow of electric current; measured in ohms

Imperialism – a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force

Imprecate – to invoke evil upon; curse

Inch – small island in Scotland

Inchoate – incomplete documents in law

Incipit – first few words or opening line of a book, poem or song

Incubus – a demon in male form who lies upon sleepers, especially women, in order to engage in sexual activity with them

Inculpate – to accuse

Incunabula – a book printed before 1501

Indenture – Scots and Irish moving to US in 18th century for low wages

Indictment – a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime

Infomercial – direct response television commercial which generally includes a phone number or website

Infrasound – a wave phenomenon sharing the physical nature of sound but with a range of frequencies below that of human

Inro –a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects, suspended from the obi

Insolation – exposing to sunlight

Intaglio – glyptic art consisting of a sunken or depressed engraving or carving on a stone or gem (as opposed to cameo)

Interferometer – an instrument that combines the signal from two or more telescopes to produce a sharper image than the telescopes could achieve separately

Intercalation – the insertion of a leap day, week or month into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases

Intercession – prayer on behalf of someone else

Intermercial – Internet commercial

Interpol – International Criminal Police Organisation. HQ in Lyon

Interregnum – the interval of time between the end of a sovereign's reign and the accession of a successor

Interrobang – punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of the question mark (also called the ‘interrogative point’) and the exclamation mark or exclamation point (known in printers’ jargon as the ‘bang’)

Interstice – an empty space or gap between spaces full of structure or matter

Intarsia – a knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours. As with the woodworking technique of the same name, fields of different colours and materials appear to be inlaid in one another, but are in fact all separate pieces

Intifada – an uprising by Palestinian Arabs (in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) against Israel, beginning in 1987

Invagination – to fold inward or to sheath

Iridescent – displaying a play of lustrous colours like those of the rainbow

Isogloss – the geographical boundary of a certain linguistic feature

Isogram – word in which no letter appears more than once (see pangram)

Isometrics – a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction

Isopleth – contour lines that depict a variable which cannot be measured at a point, but which instead must be calculated from data collected over an area. An example is population density

Isotonic – having the same salt concentration as blood

Isotropy – having physical properties that are the same regardless of the direction of measurement. Opposite of anisotropy

Isthmus – a narrow strip of land connecting two larger masses of land


Jacinth – a red transparent variety of zircon used as a gemstone

Jack – press used for Monterey Jack cheese

Jainism – an ascetic religion of India, founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against Hinduism

Japanning – the European imitation of Asian lacquer work, originally used on furniture

Jardiniere – flower box

Jeggings – tight-fitting stretch trousers for women, styled to resemble a pair of denim jeans. Portmanteau of jeans and leggings

Jejune – not nourishing; barren; not interesting or satisfying; dull or empty; childish

Jerky – meat that has been cut into strips, trimmed of fat, marinated in a spicy, salty, or sweet liquid, and dried or smoked with low heat, or is just salted and sun-dried

Jetsam – goods thrown overboard (see floatsam and lagan)

Jilbab – the outer cloak that woman are commanded to wear in Surah al-Ahzab. It covers the woman's entire body from her head to her feet

Job’s comforter – someone who tries to make you feel happier but makes you feel worse instead

John Hancock – a signature in USA

Jota – a genre of music and the associated dance known throughout Spain, most likely originating in Aragon

Juju – a supernatural power ascribed to an object

Jurisprudence – the branch of philosophy concerned with the law


Kalevala – epic poem from Finland

Kamal – a celestial navigation device that determines latitude. The kamal was used primarily by the Chinese and Arabs in the 18th and 19th centuries

Kanji – a Japanese system of writing based on borrowed or modified Chinese characters

Kaolin – china clay

Kata – a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs

Katana – samurai sword

Kazoo – simple musical instrument (membranophone) that adds tonal qualities when the player hums into it

Kelpie – water spirit in the form of a horse

Kenning – term in poetry associated with Old Norse

Keraunothnetophobia – an abnormal fear of being hit by man-made satellites

Kerning – the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font

Kerosene – American name for paraffin. Thin oil distilled from petroleum or shale oil, used as a fuel

Kettling – a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area

Kilim – Turkish rugs, look like tapestry

Kinaesthesia – the perception of body position and movement and muscular tensions

Kinesics – body language and gestures

Kissing crust – crust that overhangs the upper crust of bread

Kleptocracy – a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class at the expense of the population

Kleptoparasitism – a form of feeding in which one animal takes prey or other food from another that has caught, collected, or otherwise prepared the food, including stored food (e.g. cuckoo bees). The term is also used to describe the stealing of nest material or other inanimate objects from one animal by another

Klezmer – a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe

Kohl – used as eyeliner. A black powder used by Saudi Arabian women that goes on the eyelid of the eye to enhance the beauty of a woman

Kora – a 21-string harp-lute used extensively by peoples in West Africa

Kosher – food prepared for consumption according to Jewish laws (See trefah)

Kraken – believed to have been a giant squid

Kris or keris – Malaysian dagger

Krumping – a form of dancing that originated in the African-American community of South Central Los Angeles

Kunqu – ancient Chinese opera

Kyle – narrow passage of water between islands, or between islands and mainland


Lac – a resinous substance secreted by various scale insects

Laconic – using few words; terse or concise

Lacuna – a gap in a manuscript, inscription, text, painting, or a musical work

Ladino – language of Sephardic Jews

Lagan – goods cast to a buoy and thrown into the sea (see flotsam and jetsam)

Lagares – traditional troughs used in the production of sherry and port

Lagoon – a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs

Lapidary – an artist who forms stone, mineral, and gemstones into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos

Lapidation – stoning to death

Larboard – an archaic version of port (opposite of starboard)

Larceny – a crime involving the wrongful acquisition of the personal property of another person

Larrikinism – the name given to the Australian folk tradition of irreverence, mockery of authority and disregard for rigid norms of propriety

Larvae – any young insect from the time that it hatches

Lateen – a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction

Latex – a milky fluid found in many plants which exudes when the plant is cut and coagulates on exposure to the air

Lather – a worker who installs the strips used in lath and plaster wall construction

Laudanum – also known as opium tincture or tincture of opium, is an alcoholic herbal preparation of opium. It is made by combining ethanol with opium latex or powder

Layette – clothing etc. for a new baby

Legalism – a philosophy emphasizing strict obedience to the legal system. It was one of the main philosophic currents during the Warring States period of China

Legal tender – money that must be accepted in payment of debts

Legerdemain – sleight of hand

Legion – ten cohorts, i.e. 4800 men

Lei – welcome garland in Hawaii

Leitmotif – a theme or other musical idea that represents or symbolizes a person, object, place, idea, state of mind or supernatural force in a dramatic work. An idea used widely throughout German opera, though associated with Richard Wagner in most of his operas

Lek – an aggregation of males that gather to engage in competitive displays (lekking) that may entice visiting females who are surveying prospective partners for copulation

Lemniscate – a figure that looks like the infinity symbol

Lese Majeste – the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state

Lesion – any abnormality in the tissue of an organism, usually caused by disease or trauma

Leucipottomy – the cutting of White Horses on hillsides

Leveraging – investing with borrowed money as a way to amplify potential gains (at the risk of greater losses)

Lex Scripta – written or statute law

Liberty horse – riderless horse in a circus

Libido – a Freudian term for sexual urge or desire

Lictor – a Roman functionary who carried fasces when attending a magistrate in public appearances

Lien – a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt

Ligament – fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones (see tendon)

Ligature – two or more letter-forms are joined as a single glyph, e.g. ae

Lightermen – workers who transferred goods between ships and quays, aboard flat-bottomed barges called lighters in the Port of London

Lights – the lungs of game or livestock as used in cooking and butchery

Lignin – substance in trees that holds cellulose fibres together

Limelight – a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. Also known as calcium light

Liminality – the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete

Limner – an illuminator of manuscripts

Lingua Franca – a common language used by speakers of different languages

Lintel – a horizontal support of timber, stone, concrete, or steel across the top of a door or window

Lipogram – a composition from which the writer systematically omits a certain letter or certain letters of the alphabet

Litany – prayer dialogue in which the worshippers take responsive parts

Lithography – a printing process in which the image to be printed is rendered on a flat surface, as on sheet zinc or aluminum, and treated to retain ink while the non-image areas are treated to repel ink

Litmus  – a water-soluble mixture of different dyes extracted from lichens, especially Roccella tinctoria

Litotes – use of understatement for effect. Opposite of hyperbole

Locovore – someone who is interested in eating food that is locally produced

Lodestone – a piece of intensely magnetic magnetite that was used as an early form of magnetic compass

Loggia – a gallery or room with one or more open sides

Logrolling – exchanging political support for political favours, especially by members of Congress and other legislatures

Loiner – a native of Leeds

Lords Spiritual – leading clergy in House of Lords

Lorelei – siren on river Rhine

Lorette – In France, a name for a woman who is supported by her lovers

Lorimer – a person who makes the bits and other metal parts of a horse's bridle, and other small metal pieces

Loupe – special magnifying glass that enables you to take a closer look at a gemstone or other object

Luciferin – a class of light-emitting biological pigments found in organisms that causes bioluminescence

Lupa – she-wolf. Roman slang for prostitute

Lurker – one who frequents a message board without participating in discussions

Lusophone – Portuguese speaker

Lustrum – a term for a five-year period in Ancient Rome

Luthier – maker or repairer of stringed instruments

Lycanthrope – person who turns into a werewolf

Lycra – trademark for Spandex


Macaroni – an English fop or dandy

Maccaboy – a type of snuff

Machiavellian – a term describing someone who aims to deceive and manipulate others for personal advantage

Macrame – decoratively knotted rope or cord forming a harness-like structure for hanging pots

Mahdi – a messianic leader who (according to popular Muslim belief) will appear before the end of the world and restore justice and religion

Mahout – a person who works with, rides, and tends an elephant

Maulstick – or mahlstick, is a stick with a soft leather or padded head, used by painters to support the hand that holds the brush

Makoro – a type of canoe commonly used in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Mamading – a contest in which women are encourage to perform as many public blow-jobs in as short a time possible – all in exchange for free drinks. Popular in Magaluf

Mamaguy – to deceive

Manga – Japanese word for comics and print cartoons. Outside of Japan, it usually refers specifically to comics originally published in Japan

Mandir – Hindu temple

Manger – a trough or box of carved stone or wood construction used to hold food for animals

Mangonel – large catapult

Maniple – narrow embroidered band worn hanging from left arm by celebrant priest

Maniple – two centuria within a single cohort

Mankini – a type of sling swimsuit worn by men. Popularized in the film Borat

Mantique – an antique or collectible that appeals mainly to men

Mantle – an ecclesiastical garment, joined at the neck, sleeveless and open in the front, that is worn over the outer garments

Mantra – a religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language

Manumission – the formal act of freeing from slavery

Maquette – a small model of a planned sculpture or building

Maracas – made from dried Cuban gourds, filled with beans

Marchpane – original English name for marzipan

Margrave – lord or military governor of a German medieval border province

Marimba – a percussion instrument set up in the form of a keyboard whose bars are made of wood. Similar to a xylophone

Marination – also known as marinating, is the process of soaking foods in a seasoned, often acidic, liquid before cooking

Mariticide – killing one’s husband

Marquetry – inlaying of multi-coloured woods

Martinet – whip with a wooden handle

Martlet – a heraldic charge depicting a stylized bird similar to that of a house martin or swallow, though missing legs

Mastaba – a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with outward sloping sides

Matelot – sailor’s dance from Holland

Matilda – (as in ‘Waltzing Matilda’) is a knapsack

Matins – service of Morning Prayer

Matricide – killing one’s mother

Matzah – (or matzo) Jewish unleavened bread eaten during Passover

Maverick – cowboy who refuses to brand his cattle

Mavis – poetic name for song thrush

Mazarine – deep rich blue colour

Megacity – a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people

Meiosis – a euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something

Mellification – the making or production of honey

Mellotron – an electro-mechanical, polyphonic keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham in the early 1960s. It superseded the Chamberlin, which was the world's first sample-playback keyboard

Mendacious – lying

Menhir – a large upright standing stone. Menhirs may be found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones

Mercer – trader in textiles

Mercerization – a treatment for cotton fabric and thread that gives fabric or yarns a lustrous appearance and strengthens them

Meridian – line of longitude

Meritocracy – a political philosophy which holds that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively according to merit

Merkin – a pubic wig

Mesmerism – a strong or spellbinding appeal; fascination. Hypnotic induction believed to involve animal magnetism. Named after German physician Franz Mesmer

Mestizo – a term traditionally used in Spain and Spanish-speaking America to mean a person of combined European and Native American descent

Metallic – resembling metal or metals

Metallography – the study of the structure of metals and alloys

Metaphor – an expression in which a word is used in a non-literal sense, e.g. life is a minestrone

Methitic – foul

Metonym – the use of a word for a concept with which the original concept behind this word is associated, e.g. Downing Street is used to mean the Prime Minister

Metopic – of the forehead

Metrology – the science of weights and measures

Metrosexual – a heterosexual male who is acutely aware of appearance and upholds that image through clothing and personal grooming

Mezzotint – printmaking process of the intaglio family. It was the first tonal method to be used

Miasma – poisonous or toxic atmosphere. Referred to the fog over London in the 1850s

Mica – a silicate mineral group

Microbiome – the ecological community of microorganisms that literally share our body space

Microcredit – the extension of very small loans to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty

Microkini – very small bikini

Micromort – a unit of risk measuring a one-in-a-million probability of death

Midden – also known as kitchen middens. A dump for domestic waste

Mihrab – niche in the wall of a mosque or a room in the mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca

Milt – the seminal fluid of fish, mollusks, and certain other water-dwelling animals who reproduce by spraying this fluid, which contains the sperm, onto roe (fish eggs)

Minaret – tower on a mosque from which calls to prayer are made

Minim – a half note

Minnesinger – one of the German lyric poets and singers in the troubadour tradition who flourished from the 12th to the 14th century

Minster – any of certain cathedrals and large churches; originally connected to a monastery

Minuscule – manuscript used by monks

Misandry – the hatred or dislike of men or boys

Misericord – sometimes named mercy seat, is a small wooden shelf on the underside of a folding seat in a church, installed to provide a degree of comfort for a person who has to stand during long periods of prayer

Misfeasance – improper and unlawful execution of an act that is itself lawful and proper

Misogyny – hatred of women

Mocha – type of coffee, and a seaport in Yemen

Mondegreen – the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It most commonly is applied to a lyric in a song

Monochromosy – colour blindness

Monocoque – a metal structure, such as an aircraft, in which the skin absorbs all or most of the stresses to which the body is subjected

Monoglot – only speaks one language

Monokini – the lower part of a bikini worn without the upper part

Mononym – person known by a single name, e.g. Voltaire

Monopsony – only one buyer for a product

Montage – a cinematic device used to show a series of scenes, all related and building to some conclusion

Montera – hat worn by bullfighters

Moped – portmanteau of motor and pedal

Mortician – US funeral director

Monseigneur – a title or form of address used of or to a French-speaking prince, cardinal, archbishop, or bishop

Mossad – Israeli secret security service

Mote – a particle or speck of dust

Motley – clothes worn by a jester

Moue – a pout

Muddler – a bartender's tool, used like a pestle to mash – or muddle – fruits, herbs, and/or spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavour

Mudlark – someone who scavenges in river mud for items of value, a term used especially to describe those who scavenged this way in London during the late 18th and 19th centuries

Mufti – person responsible for interpreting Muslim law and was held in high esteem by the population

Mukluks – or Kamik, are a soft boot traditionally made of reindeer skin or sealskin and were originally worn by Arctic natives, including the Inuit and Yupik

Mule the offspring of a male donkey (jackass or jack) and a female horse (see hinny)

Muleta – the stick that the red cloth hangs from in a bullfight

Mullet – five or more pointed star, in heraldry

Mulligan – in a game, happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action, e.g. golf

Mullion – a vertical member, as of stone or wood, dividing a window or other opening

Muriform – resembling courses of bricks or stones in squareness and regular arrangement

Museology – study of museums

Muzzle – wire around a champagne cork

Myrmecochory – seed dispersal by ants

Mysophobia – fear of dirt


Nabob – formerly, a provincial governor or viceroy who lived luxuriously in India. Later, an Englishman who returned wealthy from a tour of duty in India

Nacelle – a cover housing (separate from the fuselage) that holds engines, fuel, or equipment on an aircraft

Nacre – mother of pearl

Naevus – birthmark

Namby Pamby – a satire on the poetry of Ambrose Phillips

Naming – procedure whereby the speaker or one of his deputies proposes a vote on the suspension of a member of the House whom he believes has broken the rules of conduct of the House of Commons

Nanotechnology – the science and technology of building electronic circuits and devices from single atoms and molecules. Precision engineering of substances at the molecular and atomic level

Nawab – a deputy ruler or viceroy in India

Neat – in a drink, pure or undiluted

Necromancer – a person who practices necromancy, a discipline of black magic used to communicate with the dead to foretell the future

Necrosis – the premature death of cells and living tissue

Nectar – a sugar-rich liquid produced by plants. It is produced in glands called nectaries

Negus – former ruler of Ethiopia

Nelson’s Blood – rum

Neroli – from the orange

Netsuke – miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th century Japan to serve a practical function, i.e. to hold personal belongings

Neuroeconomics – combines neuroscience, economics, and psychology to study how we make choices

Newel – the upright post which supports the handrail of a stair banister

Nickelodeon – only cost a nickel to get in

Nidification – nest building

Ninja – a member of a class of 14th century Japanese mercenary agents who were trained in the martial arts and hired for espionage or sabotage or assassinations

Niqab – face veil, worn with a hijab. May cover the lower half of the face only, or the entire face with exception of the eyes, or may cover the face including the eyes

Nizam – title of the native sovereigns of Hyderabad State

Nocebo – a negative placebo effect as, for example, when patients taking medications experience adverse side effects unrelated to the specific pharmacological action of the drug

Nome – a subnational administrative division of ancient Egypt

Nomophobia – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact

Nosology – a branch of medicine that deals with classification of diseases

Notary – someone legally empowered to witness signatures and certify a document's validity

Notaphilist – collects banknotes

Noumenon – a posited object or event that is known (if at all) without the use of the senses. Contrasted with phenomenon

Novella – a prose fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novel

Nugatory – of little value

Nuggar – sailing vessel used to navigate Nile

Numeronym – a number-based word, e.g. K9

Numismatist – collects coins and medals

Nuncio – diplomatic representative of the Pope

Nyctophobia – fear of darkness


Obelus – division sign

Obelus – alternative name for the dagger typographical symbol

Obfuscation – the concept of concealing the meaning of communication by making it more confusing and harder to interpret

Obi – a sash for traditional Japanese dress

Oblast – type of administrative division in Slavic countries and in some countries of the former Soviet Union

Oblateness – the flattening of a planet from spherical form because of the centrifugal effect of rotation

Oboe – an improved navigational device based on radar that increased bombing accuracy

Obsidian a usually black or banded, hard volcanic glass that displays shiny, curved surfaces when fractured and is formed by rapid cooling of lava

Obverse and Reverse – sides of a coin

Occidentalism – stereotyped and sometimes dehumanizing views on the Western world

Ochlophobia – fear of crowds

Ochlocracy – rule by the mob

Octoroon – has one black and seven white great grandparents (see quadroon)

Ocularist – makes artificial eyes

Oculus – an eyelike opening or ornament; a round window, or a circular opening at the apex of a dome

Odalisque – a virgin female slave, who could rise in status to being a concubine or a wife in Ottoman Seraglios, but most of whom tended to the harem of the Turkish sultan

Odeon – ancient Greek and Roman buildings built for singing exercises, musical shows and poetry competitions

Odometer – an instrument that indicates distance travelled by a vehicle

Oenology – study of wine making

Oenomel – an ancient Greek beverage consisting of honey and unfermented grape juice

Ogee – a curve shaped like an S, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite senses. In architecture, the principal use of the term is to describe an arch composed of two ogees

Ogive – the roundly tapered end of a two-dimensional or three-dimensional object

Oligarchy – government by the few (see autocracy, plutocracy, stratocracy, theocracy)

Olivine – a greenish or yellow mineral, a silicate of magnesium and iron found in mafic and ultramafic igneous rock

Ombrophobia – fear of rain

Ombudsman – Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

Omerta – code of silence used by the Mafia

Onager – a wild ass related to donkeys and horses used in ancient Sumer to pull chariots

Onager – a torsion-powered siege engine used by the Romans to catapult heavy projectiles such as rocks

Oneiromancy – divination by dreams

Oneirophobia – fear of dreams

Onesie – a one-piece garment combining a top with trousers, worn by adults as leisurewear

Onomastics – or onomatology, the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names

Ontology – branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being

Ophiophobia – fear of snakes

Ophthalmoscope – a lighted instrument used to examine the inside of the eye, including the retina and the optic nerve

Or – gold, in heraldry

Orientalism – the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists

Ormolu – an 18th century English term for applying finely ground, high-carat gold in a mercury amalgam to an object of bronze

Ornithopter – an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings

Orrery – a mechanical device that illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the solar system in the heliocentric model

Orthography – a standardized system for using a particular writing system (script) to write a particular language

Orthotics – the science and technology of braces, especially when supporting weak or injured joints and muscles

Ossuary – a container or receptacle, such as an urn or a vault, for holding the bones of the dead

Osteoarchaeology – the study of bones from archaeological sites

Osteopathy – emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body and recognizes the body's ability to heal itself

Ostracon– a piece of pottery (or stone), usually broken off from a vase or other earthenware vessel

Outcrop – a visible exposure of bedrock on the surface of the Earth

Outspan – an area on a South African farm kept available for travellers to rest and refresh animals

Overner – anyone not native to Isle of Wight

Overtone – any frequency higher than the fundamental frequency of a sound


Pacyderm – any of various non-ruminant hoofed mammals having very thick skin: elephant; rhinoceros; hippopotamus

Painter – a rope that is attached to the bow of a boat and used for tying up or for towing

Palaeography – study of ancient and medieval writings

Palaeontology – study of fossil animals and plants

Paleopathology – the study of disease of former times (as inferred from fossil evidence)

Palfrey – a type of horse highly valued as a riding horse in the Middle Ages

Palimpsest – a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text

Palmate – web-footed

Pandiculation – the act of yawning and stretching simultaneously

Pangram – a sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet (see isogram)

Panjandrum – an important or self-important person

Panjandrum – a massive, rocket-propelled, explosive-laden cart designed by the British military during World War II

Pannage – ancient tradition allowing pig farmers to graze their animals through the New Forest, eating acorns which could prove deadly to ponies

Pantile – roofing tile with a S-shape; laid so that curves overlap

Pantograph – collects current from overhead wires, on a train

Paper tiger – the nature of a person or organization that appears powerful but is actually powerless and ineffectual

Papilla – a small nipple-like projection

Parabasis – a point in a play when all of the actors leave the stage and the chorus is left to address the audience directly

Parable – a short moral story

Paraclete – the Holy Spirit as advocate or counselor

Paradiddle – type of drum roll

Paragon – a model of excellence or perfection of a kind; a peerless example: a paragon of virtue

Paralanguage – the non-verbal elements of communication used to modify meaning and convey emotion

Paramagnetism – a form of magnetism which only occurs in the presence of an externally applied magnetic field

Paramour – an adulterous lover

Paraphilia – sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation

Parapraxis – Freudian slip. A slip of the tongue

Parataxis – a literary technique, in writing or speaking, which favors short, simple sentences

Parthenocarpy – the development of a fruit without fertilization or seeds

Paraskavedekatriaphobia – fear of Friday the thirteenth

Pardoner – sold papal indulgences. A person who had a license to sell pardons for sins committed

Pariah – a social outcast

Paronomasia – pun, or play on words

Partisan – a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation

Partwork – series of magazines on a particular topic

Parvenu – a person who has suddenly risen to a higher social and economic class and has not yet gained social acceptance by others in that class

Pasha – a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political system, typically granted to governors, generals and dignitaries

Pashmina – a type of fine cashmere wool and the shawls made from it. The wool comes from the pashmina goat

Passant (of predators) – walking: standing on three feet, one forefoot raised

Pastel – an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder

Pastiche – describes a literary or other artistic genre. The word has two competing meanings, meaning either a ‘hodge-podge’ or an imitation

Pastrami – spiced, smoked beef

Patchouli – a small Southeast Asian shrub in the mint family, having leaves that yield fragrant oil used in the manufacture of perfumes

Paternoster – a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping

Patina – the change in an object's surface resulting from natural aging due to wear and oxidation

Patka – a piece of cloth which fits snugly over the kesh, as worn by Monty Panesar

Patna – city giving its name to long-grained rice

Patrician – the original aristocratic families of Ancient Rome

Patristics – or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers

Patten – holds the bread at a communion service

Patrial – person who has right of abode in UK

Patrilineality – a system in which one belongs to one's father's lineage

Payola – in the American music industry, is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio

Payot – the Hebrew word for sidelocks or sidecurls

Pavee – Irish travelers

Paywall – a system that prevents Internet users from accessing webpage content without a paid subscription

Peal – a ringing of a set of bells, especially a change or set of changes rung on bells

Pebbledash – cement or plaster with small stones embedded in it, used as a coating for exterior walls

Peculation – embezzlement of public funds or property

Pedagogue – a schoolteacher; an educator                

Pedagogue – one who instructs in a pedantic or dogmatic manner

Pedalophobia – fear of bald people

Peel – long-handled pole used by a baker

Peerage – the peers of a kingdom considered as a group

Pejorative – tending to make or become worse. Disparaging; belittling

Pelagianism – the theological doctrine propounded by Pelagius, a British monk, and condemned as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church in 416 AD. It denied original sin and affirmed the ability of humans to be righteous by the exercise of free will

Pelotherapy – therapeutic treatment using mud

Pellucid – transparent

Pemmican – a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. Used by Arctic and Antarctic explorers

Peng – slang for an attractive girl

Penology – the study, theory, and practice of prison management and criminal rehabilitation

Penrose tiles – pattern of tiles, discovered by Roger Penrose and Robert Ammann, which could completely cover an infinite plane, but only in a pattern which is non-repeating (aperiodic)

Pentadactyl – having five fingers or toes on each hand or foot

Pentimento – an underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting, or original draft, that shows through

Pentasyllabic – having or characterized by or consisting of five syllables, e.g. 77

Peon – day labourer in Spanish countries

Peripatetic – teacher who works at more than one college. Also – walking or travelling about. Of or pertaining to Aristotle, or the Aristotelian school of philosophy, who taught philosophy while walking in the Lyceum in ancient Athens

Periphrasis – a roundabout way of saying something, e.g. he’s passed away

Peristyle – a columned porch or open colonnade in a building surrounding a court that may contain an internal garden

Periwig / Peruke – wig fashionable in 17th and18th centuries

Persona – a character played by an actor. Term coined by Jung

Personification – giving human qualities to an inanimate object or an abstract idea, e.g. Keats’s To Autumn

Pescetarian – a person who eats seafood, but not the flesh of other animals

Petard – an explosive device used to break down doors or walls. Hence – hoist

on ones... Used by Shakespeare in Hamlet

Petiole – the small stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem

Petrology – study of rocks

Pettifogger – a quibbler of details. Used to refer to lawyers

Pewter – any of numerous silver-grey alloys of tin with various amounts of antimony, copper, and sometimes lead

Phalanx – an ancient military formation of infantry in close, deep ranks with shields overlapping

Pharology – study of lighthouses

Phasmophobia – fear of ghosts

Philippic – a fiery, damning speech, or tirade, delivered to condemn a particular political actor. The term originates with Demosthenes, who delivered several attacks on Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC. Cicero consciously modeled his own attacks on Mark Antony, in 44 BC and 43 BC, on Demosthenes’ speeches

Philophobia – fear of love

Phishing – scammers fishing for account information by sending email, e.g. pretending to be a bank

Phizog – slang term for face

Phonology – study of the sound systems of a particular language

Photomontage – the process (and result) of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs

Photometry – the science of measurement of light, in terms of its perceived brightness to the human eye

Photophore – a light-producing organ in certain fishes and other animals

Phreaking – phone hacking

Phrenology – a pseudoscience primarily focused on measurements of the human skull, based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions

Phylactery – either of two small leather cases containing texts from the Hebrew Scriptures

Physiology – study of the functions of living organisms and their parts

Picador – a horseman in a bullfight who lances the bull's neck muscles

Picaresque – romantic novel that deals with rogues and rascals

Piccadilly – 17th century word for a shirt collar

Pied – having two or more colours

Pied-noir – a term for the former French colonists of North Africa, especially Algeria

Pieta – artwork or sculpture which portrays the Virgin Mary cradling the lifeless body of Christ upon her lap

Pigeon Pair of twins – one boy, one girl

Pilaster – rectangular column with a capital and base, projecting only slightly from a wall as an ornamental motif

Pilcrow – also called the paragraph mark, is a typographical character commonly used to denote individual paragraphs. Looks like a backwards P

Pillory – a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation

Pilum – a Roman legionary's six foot javelin

Pinata – a container, ofen a donkey, filled with sweets or toys at Mexican festivals

Pirogue – canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk

Pizzo – protection money paid to the Mafia

Planchet – a round metal disk that is ready to be struck as a coin. An older word for planchet is flan

Plantigrade – walking with the entire sole of the foot on the ground, as humans, bears, raccoons, and rabbits do

Plasticity – a property of a material to undergo a non-reversible change of shape in response to an applied force. Plastic deformation occurs under shear stress, as opposed to brittle fractures which occur under normal stress

Platen – the roller in a typewriter that serves as the backing for the paper against which the type bars strike

Platitude – a worn-out cliche

Plebiscite – a direct vote in which the entire electorate is invited to accept or refuse a proposal

Pleonasm – the use of more words or word-parts than is necessary for clear expression: e.g. burning fire

Pluralism – the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body

Plus fours – so called due to an extra 4” of material

Plutocracy – government by the wealthy (see autocracy, oligarchy, stratocracy, theocracy)

Pnyx – hill near the Acropolis where the Assembly of the Athenians held its meetings

Podcast an audio broadcast that has been converted to an MP3 file or other audio file format for playback

Polemic – a controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine

Polemology – study of conflict and war

Polenta – a dish made from boiled cornmeal

Polari – a form of cant slang used in the gay subculture in Britain. It was revived in the 1950s and 1960s by its use by camp characters Julian and Sandy in the popular BBC radio shows Beyond our Ken and Round the Horne

Polity – a state or one of its subordinate civil authorities, such as a city, or district. It is generally understood to mean a geographic area with a corresponding government

Polka – an energetic Bohemian dance performed in the round in 2/4 time

Pollard – animal without horns

Polonaise – a stately, marchlike Polish dance, primarily a promenade by couples

Polyandry – woman married to more than one man

Polychromy – the use of many colours in decoration, especially in architecture and sculpture

Polygamy – man married to more than one woman

Polygon – a closed plane figure bounded by three or more line segments

Polyphobia – fear of many things

Polyptych – painting which is divided into four or more sections, or panels

Polysemy – the capacity for a sign (e.g., a word, phrase, etc.) or signs to have multiple meanings, e.g. crane. Similar to homonymy

Pomade – from apples. Used to style hair

Pommel – counterweight at the top of the handle of a sword

Pontoon – floating bridge

Portmanteau word – formed by combining both sounds and meanings from two or more words, e.g. smog, genome (gene and chromosome), animatronics (animation and electronics)

Porphyrophobia – fear of the colour purple

Postprandial – after a meal

Potwalloper – an archaic term referring to a borough constituency returning members to the House of Commons before 1832 and the Reform Act

Praetor – an ancient Roman magistrate ranking below a consul

Praxis – practical application or exercise of a branch of learning; Habitual or established practice

Pratfall – a ridiculous tumble in which someone, especially a clown or comedian, lands on their bottom

Prebendary – a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon who receives a prebend (a stipend) for serving the church

Precession – the motion of the axis of a spinning body, such as the wobble of a spinning top or the wobbling effect of the earth on its axis, when there is an external force acting on the axis

Prehensility – the quality of an organ that has adapted for grasping or holding. Examples of prehensile body parts include the tails of New World monkeys and opossums, the trunks of elephants, the tongues of giraffes, the lips of horses and the proboscides of tapir

Prelapsarian – of or relating to the period before the fall of Adam and Eve

Pressgang – the act of forcibly conscripting people to serve as sailors, abolished in 1853

Pret-a-porter – ready to wear fashion

Priest – a mallet used to kill fish caught when angling

Printer’s devil – young apprentice at a printers, covered in ink

Primogeniture – the common law right of the first-born son to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings

Privateer – a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime

Proa – a type of multihull sailing vessel in Micronesia

Probate – proving a will

Probiotics – dietary supplements of live bacteria or yeasts thought to be healthy

Progeria – premature aging

Prolegomenon – an introduction

Proletariat – the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live

Prolix – tending to speak or write at excessive length

Prone – lying down with the face down

Propylaea – any monumental gateway based on the original Propylaea that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens

Prorogation – period between two sessions of a legislative body

Proscenium – arch in a theatre separating the stage from the auditorium

Proscribe – 1. To denounce or condemn. 2. To prohibit; forbid

Prose – not written in ‘poetic style’ – it is written normally

Proselyte – a new convert; especially a gentile converted to Judaism

Prosody – the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Includes poetical metre

Prosopagnosia – inability to recognize faces

Prosthetics – replacement of body parts with artificial parts

Protagonist – chief character in a play

Prophylactic – intended to prevent disease

Protoscience – historical philosophical disciplines which existed prior to the development of scientific method, which allowed them to develop into science proper, e.g. alchemy or astrology

Provenance – a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality

Provost – mayor in Scotland

Psephology – scientific analysis of political elections and polls

Pteridology – study of ferns

Pterophobia – fear of flying

Publican – a collector of public taxes or tolls in the ancient Roman Empire

Pudenda – the human external genital organs, especially of a woman

Puggle – a crossbreed dog with a beagle parent and a pug parent

Pukao – hats or topknots formerly placed on top of some moai statues from Easter Island

Pullet – a female chicken (sometimes applied to other species) under one year of age

Punic – Carthaginian: of or relating to or characteristic of ancient Carthage or its people or their language

Punkah – a type of fan

Punty – tool used in glassblowing

Purdah – screening women from the public eye

Purga – strong winter wind of central Asia

Pusillanimous – lacking courage; cowardly

Putative – commonly accepted as true on inconclusive grounds

Putsch – uprising or insurrection

Puttee – a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee, consisting of a long narrow piece of cloth wound tightly and spirally round the leg

Putto – figure of a small boy or cherub

Pyrography – the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker

Pyromancy – divination by fire

Pyrometer – device which measures high temperatures

Pyx – a small container holding the consecrated bread in church


Quadriga – four-horse chariot

Quadrille – a historic dance performed by four couples in a rectangular formation, and a precursor to traditional square dancing

Quadroon – has one black and three white grandparents (see octoroon)

Quaestor – any of several public officials of ancient Rome (usually in charge of finance and administration

Quant – a pole used to propel a barge or punt through water

Quarrel – crossbow bolt

Quatrain – a poem or a stanza within a poem that consists of four lines

Quaver – an eighth note

Quenching – the rapid cooling of a workpiece to obtain certain material properties

Quincunx – tactical formation for a Roman legion. The pattern corresponds to the five-spot on dice

Quinquagesimal period – 50 days

Quintain – used by medieval knights for jousting practice, commonly using a shield on a pole as the target

Quipu – recording devices used by Incas. Consists of coloured threads with numeric and other values encoded by knots

Quixotism – impracticality in pursuit of ideals. Named after Don Quixote


Radiometry – the science of measurement of light in terms of absolute power

Raga – Indian music, from Sanskrit word meaning ‘colour’

Rampant – standing on left hind foot, other feet raised to fight

Rational number – a real number that can be expressed as a ratio of two integers

Rawhide – a hide or animal skin that has not been exposed to tanning

Realpolitik – politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions, e.g. Nixon’s dealings with China

Rebec – forerunner of the violin

Recess – legislative bodies – such as parliaments, assemblies and juries – that are released to reassemble at a later time

Recidivist – habitual criminal

Rector – an Anglican cleric who has charge of a parish and owns the tithes from it

Redaction – a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and altered slightly to make a single document

Redemption – the deliverance of Christians from sin

Red letter day – originates from medieval church calendars. Illuminated manuscripts often marked initial capitals and highlighted words in red ink, known as rubrics

Red tops – tabloid newspapers

Reduplicative – words that repeat themselves, e.g. bye bye

Reed – vegetable tissue that vibrates, in a musical instrument

Reflux – the flowing back of a liquid, especially that of a fluid in the body

Regicide – killing a monarch

Rehook – a film which is so powerful and appealing that cinema goers go back for repeat viewings

Reification – making something real, bringing it into being, or making something concrete

Renegade – someone who rebels and becomes an outlaw

Reredos – a screen or decoration behind the altar in a church, usually depicting religious iconography or images and also called an altarpiece

Resinite – technical term for amber

Restitution – the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner

Retiarius – a gladiator armed with a piece of netting and a trident

Reticulated – net-like

Reticule –a drawstring handbag

Revolvers – don’t pay off debts (see convenience users)

Rheology – the study of the flow of matter, primarily in the liquid state

Rhetoric – the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively

Rider – list of requirements demanded by celebrities before they appear on a TV show

Riff – a repeated chord progression, pattern, refrain or melodic figure

Rifling – the process of making spiral grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile. Hence – rifle

Rolling – dog fights

Rondeau – a short, lyrical poem of usually fifteen lines (three stanzas)

Ronin – a roving, mercenary samurai who serves no master or warlord

Rostrum – platform for public speakers in ancient Rome, adorned with beaks of captured ships

Rowel – wheel on a spur

Rubenesque – plump ladies, derived from ‘in the style of Rubens’

Ruminant – a mammal that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal's first compartment of the stomach, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, now known as cud, and chewing it again

Runcible spoon – has two sharp prongs and a curved prong

Rupophobia – fear of rubbish or dirt

Rutabaga – American name for swede

Rutilant – glowing red

Ryokan – a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan's highways

Ryu – a school of Japanese martial art


Sable – a small carnivorous mammal, closely related to the martens. It has historically been harvested for its highly valued fur

Sabra – slang term that refers to Israeli Jews born in Israel

Sabrage – opening a champagne bottle with a sabre

Sacrament – a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of divine grace, in particular

Safranin – any of a class of chiefly red organic dyes

Saga – ancient Icelandic literature

Sakoku – the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner or Japanese could enter or leave the country on penalty of death

Salient – a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory

Samovar – Russian tea urn

Saponification – process used to make soap

Sarabande – a dance in triple metre

Sardonic – grimly mocking, or cynical

Sarisa – five metre long spear used in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic warfare. It was introduced by Philip II of Macedon and was used in the traditional Greek phalanx formation

Satrap – the name given to the governors of the provinces of ancient Median and Persian Achaemenid empires and in several of their heirs, the Sassanid and later Hellenistic empires

Satsuma – type of Japanese pottery

Scale – a sequence of musical notes in ascending and descending order

Scallywag – a Southern white who joined the Republican Party in the ex-Confederate South during Reconstruction

Scapular – a short monastic cloak covering the shoulders

Scarab – a dung beetle worshipped by the ancient Egyptians as an embodiment of the god Khepri. Also, an amulet modeled upon the dung beetle

Schadenfreude – malicious enjoyment at the expense of others

Schlock – cheap or inferior goods or material

Scholasticism – the system of theological and philosophical teaching predominant in the Middle Ages

Sciagraphy – the art or science of projecting or delineating shadows as they fall in nature

Scion – a descendant (of a notable family), a son or daughter

Sciophobia – fear of shadows

Scotopic – night vision

Scotophobia – fear of darkness

Scrag-end – a cut of mutton from the neck

Screever – artist who draws chalk pictures on pavements

Scripophilist – collects stocks and paper money

Scrivener – a person who could read and write or wrote letters to court and legal documents

Scrunchie – a fabric-covered elastic hair tie, commonly used to fasten long hair

Scutorium – room for copying manuscripts

Secession – the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity

Securitization – a structured finance process, which involves pooling and repackaging of cash flow producing financial assets into securities that are then sold to investors

Sedilia – seats, usually made of stone, found on the liturgical south side of an altar, often in the chancel, for use during Mass

Seersucker – a thin, all-cotton fabric, commonly striped or checkered, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear

Seigneur – hereditary ruler of Sark

Selachophobia – fear of sharks

Semantics – the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning

Semiotics – the study of signs and symbols

Semisomnia – low grade exhaustion caused by inadequate rest

Sendal – a thin light silk used in the Middle Ages for fine garments, church vestments, and banners

Sepoy – an indigenous soldier serving in the army of a foreign conqueror, especially an

Indian soldier serving under British command in India

Seraglio – the sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines in a Turkish household

Sestina – a structured 39-line poetic form

Sexting – the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between mobile phones

Serendipity – the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. Coined by Horace Walpole in 1754

Sericulture – production of silk. Named after the Chinese people called the Seres, who produced silk in ancient times

Shagreen – a type of roughened untanned leather, formerly made from a horse's back, or that of an onager (wild ass), and typically dyed green. Shagreen is now commonly made of the skins of sharks and rays

Shaman a member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic

Shambles – an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market

Shamisen – three-stringed fretless lute used in Japanese traditional music

Shantung – a heavy fabric made with raw silk or with cotton substitutes

Shebeen – an illicit bar or club where excisable alcoholic beverages were sold without a licence

Shellac – a purified lac in the form of thin yellow or orange flakes

Shill – a person who is paid to help another person or organization to sell goods or services. The shill pretends to have no association with the seller/group and gives onlookers the impression that he or she is an enthusiastic customer. Shills are used in auctions to place phony bids

Shire – old word for a county

Shiv – a slang term for any sharp or pointed implement used as a knife-like weapon

Shtetl – a small town with a large Jewish population

Shoddy – woollen yarn made from scraps or used clothing, with some new wool added

Shofar – a horn, traditionally that of a ram, used for Jewish religious purposes

Shogun – ,a military rank and historical title in Japan. The rank is equivalent to general

Shoji – a door, window or room divider consisting of translucent paper over a frame of wood which holds together a lattice of wood or bamboo

Shotcrete – concrete conveyed through a hose and pneumatically projected at high velocity onto a surface

Showrooming – the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item

Sibyl – prophetic woman resident at shrines or temples throughout the Classical World

Sidewinder – snake, and surface-to-air missile

Sienna – a form of limonite clay most famous in the production of oil paint pigments. Its yellow-brown colour comes from ferric oxides contained within

Sigillography – study of wax seals

Simile – a figure of speech that expresses itself as a comparison, e.g., dead as a dodo

Simony – the buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons, offices, or emoluments

Simulcast – shorthand for ‘simultaneous broadcast’, refers to programs or events broadcast across more than one medium

Sindoor – a red powder usually worn by married Indian women on the parting of the hair on the head

Sinus – cavity without a bone

Sirloin – between rump and fore-rib

Size – thin, weak glue

Skeuomorph – a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique, e.g. pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal

Skirt – a cut of beef

Slamming – moving a customer from one phone company to another without them knowing

Slip – a suspension in water of clay and/or other materials used in the production of ceramic ware

Snowclone – a type of cliche which uses an old idiom formulaically in a new context, e.g. ‘grey is the new black’

Sockpuppet – an online identity used for purposes of deception

Softwood – the wood of a coniferous tree

Solenoid – a magnetic switch that closes a circuit, often used as a relay

Solidus – gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams

Solidus – forward slash (/) punctuation mark

Soliloquy – actor’s speech only heard by the audience, and not by other actors

Solitaire – the mounting of a single gemstone on jewellery

Sonar – a measuring instrument that sends out an acoustic pulse in water and measures distances in terms of the time for the echo of the pulse to return; sonar is an acronym for ‘sound navigation ranging’ (see asdic)

Sonnet – poem of 14 lines

Sophism – can mean two very different things: In the modern definition, a sophism is a confusing or illogical argument used for deceiving someone. In Ancient Greece, the sophists were a group of teachers of philosophy and rhetoric

Sophistry – a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone

Soring – the practice of applying irritants (including objects such as nails) or blistering agents to the front feet or forelegs of a horse, making it pick its feet up higher in an exaggerated manner

Sororicide – the act of killing one’s own sister

Soundtrack – can refer to the physical area of a film that contains the synchronized recorded sound

Souq – (also souk) is a commercial quarter in an Arab, Berber, and increasingly European city. The term is often used to designate the market in any Arabized or Muslim city

Spacionaut – French astronaut

Spall –  flakes of a material that are broken off a larger solid body and can be produced by a variety of mechanisms, including as a result of projectile impact, corrosion, or weathering, Spalling and spallation both describe the process of surface failure in which spall is shed

Spandex – a synthetic fibre or fabric made from a polymer containing polyurethane, used in the manufacture of elastic clothing

Speakeasy – drinking den in prohibition era

Spectrometer – an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum

Spelter – zinc treated to look like bronze and used as an inexpensive substitute in Art Nouveau applique ornament and Art Deco figures

Spermophile – collector of trivia

Spillway – the channel around or over a dam through which excess water is released or ‘spilled’ past the dam without going through the turbines

Spindrift – spray, particularly the spray blown from cresting waves

Spinneret – a silk-spinning organ of a spider

Splicing – joining two ropes by interweaving of strands

Spokeshave – a tool used to shape and smooth wooden rods and shafts

Spraints – otter droppings

Sprites – bolts of positive lightning from the upper atmosphere

Spurtle – wooden dowel used for stirring porridge

Squamous – covered with or formed of scales

Stabile – an abstract sculpture, usually of sheet metal, resembling a mobile but having no moving parts

Staycation – vacation at home and day trips, rather than going away

Steelbook – a casing in steel for either a DVD or a Blu-ray movie

Steer – castrated bull. Also known as a bullock

Stele – a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes

Stepwell – well in which the water can be reached by descending a set of steps. Common in the west of India

Stetson – Philadelphia hat maker

Stevedore – docker who loads and unloads ships

Stigmata – marks on the body, like those on Christ’s body

Stimpmeter – measures speed of a golf green

Stipend – settled pay or compensation for services. Salary paid to a vicar

Stipendiary – salaried magistrates

Stockman – person who drives stock, in Australia

Stola – female toga

Stoop – the high-speed attack dive of a bird of prey

Strand – sandy beach or shoreline in Ireland

Stratocracy – government by the armed forces (see autocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, theocracy)

Stridulation – to produce a shrill grating, chirping, or hissing sound by rubbing body parts together

Stromatolite – a sedimentological and biological ‘fossil’ representing colonies of bacteria alternating with layers of sediments

Stupa – earliest Buddhist religious monument

Subclavian – below the clavicle

Subwoofer – a woofer that is dedicated to the reproduction of low-pitched audio frequencies known as bass

Sucker – a shoot or cane which grows from a bud at the base of a tree or shrub or from its roots

Subduction – the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate, sinking into the Earth's mantle, as the plates converge

Sublime – of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth

Sufism – Islamic mysticism

Sulky – used in harness racing

Supercilia – eyebrows

Superfluid – a fluid, such as a liquid form of helium, exhibiting a frictionless flow at temperatures close to absolute zero

Super-injunction – stops journalists writing about legal proceedings, and forbids them mentioning the injunction as well

Supine – lying down with the face up

Surd – irrational root of an integer

Swami – an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order founded by some religious teacher

Swatch – a textile sample

Swazzle (swatchel) – a device made of two strips of metal bound around a cotton tape reed. The device is used to produce the distinctive harsh, rasping voice of Punch and is held in the mouth by the Professor (performer) in a Punch and Judy show

Sweepstake – a form of gambling where the entire prize may be awarded to the winner

Swishing – swapping items of clothing or shoes or an accessory with friends or acquaintances

Switch – a flexible rod which is typically used for corporal punishment, similar to birching

Syllabub – a beverage made from a mixture of sweetened milk/cream, wine and spices

Syllogism – a kind of logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two others (the premises) of a certain form, i.e. categorical proposition

Syncretism – the attempt to reconcile contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought

Synecdoche – a form of metonymy, but specifically ‘a whole for the part of a part for the whole’, e.g. describing a complete vehicle as ‘wheels’

Synesthesia – a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are coupled. In a form of synesthesia known as grapheme color synesthesia, letters or numbers may be perceived as inherently coloured, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities

Synonyms – word pairs that have a similar meaning, e.g. spooky and scary


Tabard – a short coat, either sleeveless, or with short sleeves or shoulder pieces, which was a common item of men's clothing in the Middle Ages, usually for outdoors

Tabloid – comes from the name given by the London based pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Co. to the compressed tablets they marketed as ‘Tabloid’ pills in the late 1880s

Tachograph – a device fitted to a vehicle that automatically records its speed and distance

Tachometer – an instrument measuring the rotation speed of a shaft or disk, as in a motor or other machine. Rev counter

Tachycardia – a heart rate that exceeds the normal range for a resting heart rate

Tacking – sailing into the wind with a zig-zag movement

Tajine – a type of North African dish (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) as well as the special pot to cook them in. Tajine dishes are slow cooked at low temperatures, resulting in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce

Talkbox – an effects unit that allows musicians to modify the sound of a musical instrument

Tallit – a Jewish prayer shawl

Tallow – hard fat obtained from parts of the bodies of cattle, sheep, or horses, and used in foodstuffs or to make candles, leather dressing, soap, and lubricants

Tankini – a two piece bathing suit with the upper portion resembling a tank top

Tannoy – abbreviation of tantalum alloy

Tantalize – to tease, after Tantalus, a son of Zeus who was punished by being ‘tantalized’ with hunger and thirst in Tartarus

Tantalus – wooden display cabinet that holds decanters of spirits

Tantra – any of a comparatively recent class of Hindu or Buddhist religious literature written in Sanskrit and concerned with powerful ritual acts of body, speech, and mind

Taphophilia – a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries

Taphophobia – fear of being buried alive

Tarantass – a four-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle on a long longitudinal frame. It was widely used in Russia in the first half of the 19th century

Tatami – a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms

Tatting – a decorative form of lace, usually made by hand with a small shuttle

Tautology – needless repetition of the same sense in different words

Taxol – a chemical substance derived from a yew tree of the Pacific Coast: used experimentally as a drug in the treatment of cancer

Technosexual – an individual who has a strong aesthetic sense and a love of gadgets. Also used to refer to robot fetishism

Tegestologist – collector of beer mats

Telesphobia – fear of coming last

Telly Novella – term used for a soap opera

Tempera – a water-based paint that uses egg, egg yolk, glue, or casein as a binder. Many commercially made paints identified as tempera are actually gouache

Tempering – a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. It is also a technique used to increase the toughness of glass

Temple – either of the flat surfaces alongside the forehead, in front of each ear

Tempura – Japanese deep fried batter-dipped seafood and vegetables

Tenderfoot – first rank US scout

Tendon – a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone. Also known as sinew (see ligament)

Teratology – the study of abnormalities of physiological development

Teratophobia – fear of monsters

Termagant – scalding woman

Tercentenary – 300 years

Terry towelling – a fabric with loops that can absorb large amounts of water. Also known as terrycloth

Terylene – a synthetic polyester fibre or fabric based on terephthalic acid, characterized by lightness and crease resistance

Tessellation – a repeated geometric design that covers a plane without gaps or overlaps

Tessera – an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic

Tester – canopy above a four poster bed

Thalassophobia – fear of the sea

Thane – between a Freeman and a Noble

Theocracy – government by religious law (see autocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, stratocracy)

Theodicy – a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil

Theremin – musical instrument played by moving the hands around antennae

Thinning – a term used in agricultural sciences to mean the removal of some plants, or parts of plants, to make room for the growth of others

Three-line whip – compulsory note to an MP to attend a vote

Threshold – the sill of a door

Tines – parallel or branching spikes forming parts of various tools, e.g. forks. Tines also form the branched bony antlers of deer

Tipstaff – arrests people in contempt of court

Tithe – a tenth part of one's annual income contributed voluntarily or due as a tax, especially for the support of the clergy or church

Titian – shade of brownish orange named after the artist

Titration – a procedure which is used to determine the concentration of an acid or base

Tittle – a small distinguishing mark, such as a diacritic or the dot on a lowercase i or j

Tocsin – an alarm bell or signal

Tog – Measure of thermal insulation

Tog – Terry Wogan fan (Terry’s old geezers)

Toilette – cloth cover for a ladies’ dressing table

Tombstoning – jumping into the sea off cliffs

Tom Swifty (or Tom Swiftie) – a phrase in which a quoted sentence is linked by a pun to the manner in which it is represented as having been said, e.g. ‘Pass me the shellfish,’ said Tom crabbily

Tonga – a kind of horse-drawn taxi formerly used in northern India

Tonitrophobia – fear of thunder

Tonsure – the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics

Toponymy – the scientific study of toponyms (place-names)

Toque – chef’s hat

Torero – a bullfighter in Spain

Torii – a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine

Torpor – is a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate

Torquetum or turquet – a medieval astronomical instrument designed to take and convert measurements made in three sets of coordinates: Horizon, equatorial, and ecliptic. In a sense, the torquetum is an analog computer

Toxiphobia – fear of poison

Tracery – an architectural term used primarily to describe the stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window

Transept – either of the two parts forming the arms of the cross shape, projecting at right angles from the nave

Transfiguration – a marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis

Transliteration – the conversion of a text from one script to another

Transpiration – loss of water by evaporation in terrestrial plants

Transom – the horizontal member which is framed across a window, dividing it into stages or heights

Trebuchet – large catapult

Treen – small objects made of wood

Trefah or treif – opposite of kosher. Means ‘torn’

Trepanation – surgical operation involving the removal of a disc of bone from the skull

Triangulation – the process of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline

Tribadism – commonly known by its scissoring position, is a form of non-penetrative sex in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner's body for sexual stimulation

Tribology – the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion. It includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear

Tribune – an official in ancient Rome chosen by the plebeians to protect their interests

Triclinium – a formal dining room in a Roman building with three couches

Tricolon – a sentence with three clearly defined parts (cola) of equal length, usually independent clauses and of increasing power

Triforium – a gallery of arches above the side-aisle vaulting in the nave of a church

Triga – three-horse chariot

Triglyph – an architectural term for the vertically channeled tablets of the Doric frieze

Trimmer – politician who changes allegiances

Tripoint – (also known as tri-border area) is a geographical point at which the borders of three countries or subnational entities meet

Trireme – an ancient Greek or Roman galley or warship, having three tiers of oars on each side

Triumvirate – a political regime dominated by three powerful political and/or military leaders

Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13

Troika – a committee consisting of three members (Russian)

Troika – a Russian carriage pulled by three horses abreast

Troll – a commenter whose sole purpose is to attack the views expressed on a blog and incite a flamewar

Trope – a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression

Troubadour – one of a class of 12th century and 13th century lyric poets in southern France, northern Italy, and northern Spain, who composed songs about courtly love

Trousseau – clothes collected by a woman for her marriage

Trug – a shallow oblong basket made of strips of wood, traditionally used for carrying garden flowers and produce

Truthiness – the quality of knowing something in your gut, or your heart, as opposed to in your head

Trypanophobia – fear of needles

Trypophobia – fear of objects with small holes

Tsarevich (czarevich) – the title of the heir apparent or heir presumptive to the emperors of Russia

Tubercle – a wart-like projection

Tulle – a lightweight, very fine netting, which is often starched. Tulle is most commonly used for veils, gowns (particularly wedding gowns), and ballet tutus

Tumbi – a traditional high pitched, single string plucking instrument from the Punjab region

Tumbril – cart that took prisoners to the guillotine at the time of the French Revolution

Tup – male sheep

Tuque – Canadian knitted woolen cap

Turpentine – a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees

Tweeter – a speaker driver designed to reproduce high frequencies (see woofer)

Twerking – to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance

Twilight – the time of day immediately following sunset

Twine – a light string or strong thread composed of two or more smaller strands or yarns twisted together

Twinsie – has three legs, four arms, two hoods. Onesie for two people

Tyrant – one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis


Ultrasound – cyclic sound pressure with a frequency greater than the upper limit of human hearing. It is approximately 20 kilohertz

Umbilicus – navel or belly button

Unciform – hook-shaped

Undercroft – church crypt

Ulama – group of scholars in Islam

Ululation – a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trilling quality. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied with a rapid movement of the tongue and the uvula

Umami – a savory taste which is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami is a loanword from Japanese

Umrah – a pilgrimage to Mecca

Unicameralism – the practice of having only one legislative or parliamentary chamber

Unitarianism – a religious theological movement named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism, which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one being

Urtication – flogging with nettles

Ushanka – a Russian fur cap with ear flaps

Uxoricide – killing one’s wife

Uxorious – excessive devotion to the wife


Valentines – love notes

Vaporetto – a motorboat for transporting people along the canals in Venice

Vascular – in zoology and medicine means ‘relating to blood vessels’. In botany, plants with a dedicated transport system for water and nutrients are called vascular plants

Vector – an organism that transmits diseases or infections

Vedette – a mounted sentry or outpost, who has the function of bringing information, giving signals or warnings of danger, etc., to a main body of troops

Vedic – the language of the Vedas, an early form of Sanskrit

Veduta – a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting or, actually more often print, of a cityscape or some other vista

Veilkini – an Islamic swimsuit similar in style to the Burkini

Veldt – open grassland in South Africa

Venal – open to bribery; mercenary

Verbosity – speech or writing which is deemed to use an excess of words. Adjectival forms are verbose, wordy, prolix and garrulous

Verecund – modest

Vermeil – a combination of sterling silver, gold, and other precious metals, commonly used as a component in jewellery

Vermicide – pesticide for worms

Vernacular – the everyday language spoken by a people

Vernissage – preview of art exhibition

Verso – even pages, Recto – odd pages of a book

Vespers – evening church service

Vestibule – a lobby, entrance hall, or passage between the entrance and the interior of a building

Vexilology – study of flags

Vicarious – felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another

Vicenarian – a person aged 20 to 29

Vintitulist – collects wine labels

Virion – a complete virus particle

Visceral – coming from strong emotions and not from logic or reason

Vishing – voice phishing, the criminal practice of using social engineering over the telephone system to gain access to private personal and financial information from the public

Viscosity – the thickness or resistance to flow of a liquid

Vitrine – a glass-paneled cabinet or case for displaying articles

Vizier – a high-ranking political advisor or minister

Volar – palms of the hands, or soles of the feet

Volkskammer – was East German parliament

Vomitorium – a passage situated below or behind a tier of seats in an amphitheatre, through which crowds can ‘spew out’ at the end of a performance

Vuvuzela – horns blown at African football matches


Wackaging – portmanteau of wacky and packaging

Wain – a usually large and heavy vehicle for farm use; a hay wain

Wainscoting – wood panelling

Wainwright – wagon maker

Wampum – beads of shells strung in strands and used by American Indians as money

Wanderlust – a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world

Warp – threads that run lengthwise along a cloth (see weft)

Wassailing – carol singing

Watermen – river workers who transfer passengers across and along city centre rivers and estuaries

Wattle – a mat of woven (willow) sticks and weeds; used in wall and dike construction

Wayland – a supernatural blacksmith and king of the elves

Webcast a broadcast of an event or a recording of an event over the World Wide Web

Webinar – portmanteau of web and seminar

Webisode – an episode of a TV programme that is shown first on the Internet

Weft – horizontal threads interlaced through the warp in a woven fabric

Wheelbase – the distance from the centre of the front wheel to that of the rear wheel in a motor vehicle

Wherry – type of boat particularly associated with the River Thames

Whey – watery part of milk that is separated from the curd in making cheese

Whitebait – the young of various fishes, especially the herring

Wicker – hard woven fibre formed into a rigid material, usually used for baskets or furniture

Wiki – a website or similar online resource which allows users to add and edit content collectively

Winnowing – the act of separating grain from chaff

Woad – blue dye used by ancient Britons to colour clothes and skin

Wonk – an overly studious person, particularly student; a nerd

Woofer – a speaker driver designed to reproduce low frequencies (see tweeter)

Wrangler – a student who gains first-class honours in the third year of Cambridge University’s undergraduate degree in mathematics


Xenia – the ancient Greek concept of hospitality

Xiphoid – sword-shaped


Yakuza – members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan

Yarmulke – Jewish skullcap. Also known as a kippah

Yashmak – double veil worn in public, only the eyes are uncovered

Yazidi – primarily ethnic Kurds, mostly living in the Mosul region of northern Iraq

Yodeling – a form of singing that involves singing an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch


Zambo – an individual in the Americas who is of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry

Zealot – a member of an ancient Jewish sect in Judea in the 1st century who fought to the death against the Romans

Zeugma – a figure of speech describing the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or noun

Zucchetto – small skullcap. The Pope's zucchetto is white, those worn by cardinals are red, bishops wear violet, and priests and deacons wear black