Thursday, December 31, 2009


breviary \ˈbrē-və-rē\ noun: 1. a book of the prayers, hymns, psalms and readings for the canonical hours, 2. a brief summary

Etymology: Middle English breviarie, from Medieval Latin breviarium, from Latin, summary, from brevis brief, short

A breviary figures in Abbé Faria’s telling of the history of the treasure in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


cantankerous \kan-ˈtaŋ-k(ə-)rəs,\ adjective: difficult or irritating to deal with {a cantankerous mule}

Etymology: perhaps irregular from obsolete contack contention

What example could Merriam-Webster use but a mule?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


stertor \ˈstər-tər\ noun: the act or fact of producing a snoring sound; snoring

Etymology: Latin stertere to snore

Boring, coring, flooring, goring, mooring, pouring, roaring, snoring, touring, whoring. Now I feel like a two-cent rhyming dictionary, but it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, December 28, 2009


stertorous \ˈstər-tə-rəs\ adjective: characterized by a harsh snoring or gasping sound

Etymology: Latin word stertere to snore

Would you use this word to describe your car? Your pet? Your repressed thoughts?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


circumvolution \sər-ˌkəm-və-ˈlü-shən, ˌsər-kəm-vō-ˈlü-shən\ noun: an act or instance of turning around an axis

Etymology: Middle English circumvolucioun, ultimately from Latin circum- + volvere to roll

Circumvolution sounds like a circumlocution; can’t we just say rotation?

Saturday, December 26, 2009


circumlocution \ˌsər-kəm-lō-ˈkyü-shən\ noun: 1. the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea,
2. evasion in speech

Etymology: Middle English circumlocucyon, from Latin circum- around, about (from circus circle) + locutio speech (from loqui to speak)

I’m surprised circumlocution hadn’t been featured in Sklonklish before today.

Friday, December 25, 2009


humbug \ˈhəm-ˌbəg\ noun: 1. something designed to deceive and mislead, 2. a willfully false, deceptive or insincere person,
3. an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception,
4. nonsense; drivel

Etymology: hum delude, impose, cajole + bug specter, goblin

This etymology really delivers the goods. What more could you want?

Thursday, December 24, 2009


lumbago \ˌləm-ˈbā-(ˌ)gō\ noun: acute or chronic pain (as that caused by muscle strain) in the lower back

Etymology: Latin, from lumbus

Lumbago sounds like the name of dance, although dancing might be the last thing on your mind if you suffered from it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


parlous \ˈpär-ləs\ adjective: 1. (obsolete) dangerously shrewd or cunning, 2. full of danger or risk; hazardous {the parlous state of the country}

Etymology: Middle English, alteration of perilous

You and your parlous parlor games…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


freshet \ˈfre-shət\ noun: 1. (archaic) stream, 2. a great rise or overflowing of a stream caused by heavy rains or melted snow, 3. a swelling quantity; influx {summer brings a freshet of tourists}

Etymology: Archaic English fresh stream or pool of freshwater + -et small one

A fleshet is an overflowing of meat.

Monday, December 21, 2009


tumescent \tü-ˈme-sənt\ adjective: somewhat swollen {tumescent tissue}

Etymology: Latin tumescent-, tumescens, present participle of tumescere to swell up, inchoative of tumēre to swell

You guessed it — tumor shares an etymology.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


tumid \ˈtü-məd\ adjective: 1. marked by swelling; swollen; enlarged {a badly infected tumid leg}, 2. protuberant; bulging {sails tumid in the breeze}, 3. bombastic; turgid

Etymology: Latin tumidus, from tumēre to swell

It’s not the teat — it’s the tumidity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


turgid \ˈtər-jəd\ adjective: 1. being in a state of distension; swollen; tumid {turgid limbs},
2. excessively embellished in style or language; bombastic; pompous {turgid prose}

Etymology: Latin turgidus, from turgēre to be swollen

Would you rather have turgid limbs or turgid prose?

Friday, December 18, 2009


hirsute \ˌhər-ˈsüt, ˈhər-ˌsüt \ adjective: 1. hairy, 2. covered with coarse stiff hairs {a hirsute leaf}

Etymology: Latin hirsutus; akin to Latin horrēre to bristle

Compare hirsute to glabrous.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


chivy \ˈchi-vē\ transitive verb: 1. to tease or annoy with persistent petty attacks,
2. to move or obtain by small maneuvers {chivy an olive out of a bottle}

Etymology: English chivy (noun) chase, hunt

Olives hate to be teased or annoyed with persistent petty attacks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


mephitis \mə-ˈfī-təs\ noun: 1. a noxious, pestilential or foul exhalation from the earth, 2. stench

mephitic \mə-ˈfi-tik\ adjective: 1. of, relating to, or resembling mephitis, 2. foul-smelling {mephitic vapors}

Etymology: Latin

Mefitis (or Mephitis) was the Roman goddess of volcanic vapors and other noxious fumes from the earth. Mephistopheles (or Mephisto) was the devil to whom Faust sold his soul.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


blasé \blä-ˈzā\ adjective: 1. apathetic to pleasure or excitement as a result of excessive indulgence or enjoyment; world-weary, 2. sophisticated, worldly-wise, 3. unconcerned

Etymology: French

Remember “Café Blasé” T-shirts from the ‘70s?

Monday, December 14, 2009


ludic \ˈlü-dik\ adjective: of, relating to, or characterized by play; playful {ludic behavior, a ludic novel}

Etymology: French ludique, from Latin ludus game, play, sport (from ludere to play, mock, tease)

Ludic does not refer to ludes. (Or, um, does it?) Ludic is not related to lewd. (Or, um, is it?)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


viscus \ˈvis-kəs\ noun: an internal organ of the body, especially one located in the cavity of the trunk

Etymology: Latin

Viscera is the plural, and visceral describes an experience felt as if originating in the viscera.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


misology \mə-ˈsä-lə-jē\ noun: a hatred of argument, reasoning or enlightenment

Etymology: Greek misologia, from miso- dislike, hatred + -logia, from logos word, reason

If I had known about misology in college, I would have majored in it.

Friday, December 11, 2009


aureate \ˈor-ē-ət\ adjective: 1. of a golden color or brilliance {aureate light},
2. marked by grandiloquent and rhetorical style {aureate diction}

Etymology: Middle English aureat, from Medieval Latin aureatus decorated with gold, from Latin aureus

Can you compose a sentence in which aureate appears only once but where both definitions make sense?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


frustum \ˈfrəs-təm\ noun: a cone or pyramid whose tip has been truncated by a plane parallel to its base

Etymology: Latin frustum piece, bit

This way you can sit on top without hurting yourself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


jocose \jō-ˈkōs, jə-\ adjective: 1. given to joking; merry, 2. characterized by joking; humorous

Etymology: Latin jocosus, from jocus joke

I hear people use jocular more often than jocose.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


parlous \ˈpär-ləs\ adjective: 1. obsolete: dangerously shrewd or cunning,
2. full of danger or risk; harzardous {the parlous state of the country}

Etymology: Middle English, alteration of perilous

Don’t be fooled by definition #1’s obsolescence — it’s dangerously shrewd or cunning that way.

Monday, December 7, 2009


argot \ˈär-gət, -(ˌ)gō\ noun: an often more or less secret vocabulary and idiom peculiar to a particular group

Etymology: French

Don’t confuse argot with ergot, a fungal disease of rye and other grasses whose consumption can induce hallucinations (among other nasty symptoms).

Sunday, December 6, 2009


terraqueous \te-ˈrā-kwē-əs, tə-, -ˈra-\ adjective: consisting of land and water

Etymology: Latin terra land + English aqueous

Is it land? Is it water? It’s terraqua!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


illiquid \(ˌ)i(l)-ˈlik-wəd\ adjective: 1. not being cash or readily convertible into cash {illiquid holdings},
2. deficient in liquid assets {an illiquid bank}

Etymology: Latin il- not + liquid (from Latin liquēre to be fluid)

So ice is not illiquid water?

Friday, December 4, 2009


ambisinistrous \ˌam-bi-ˈsi-nəs-trəs\ adjective: lacking facility in both hands

Etymology: Latin ambi- both + sinister on the left

I don’t need to point out that ambisinistrous (literally “having two left hands”) is antonymous with ambidextrous (“having two right hands”). Thanks to reader Vicki Peter for suggesting this entry word.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


snickersnee \ˈsni-kə(r)-ˌsnē\ noun: a large knife

Etymology: obsolete snick or snee to engage in cut-and-thrust fighting, alteration of earlier steake or snye, from Dutch steken of snijden to thrust or cut

What a cute word!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


facetiae \fə-ˈsē-shē-ˌē, -ˌī\ plural noun: witty or humorous writings or sayings

Etymology: Latin, from plural of facetia jest, from facetus elegant, witty

Sometimes the only difference between facetiae and feces is the point of view of the reader.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


eldritch \ˈel-drich\ adjective: weird, eerie

Etymology: perhaps from Middle English elfriche fairyland, from Middle English elf + riche kingdom, from Old English rīce

What a weird word for weird.