Quick Jumps: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Aeaeae a.
Magic. As in aeaeae artes, the magic arts. The only all-vowel six-letter word known to the author. The derivation is from Aeaeae, which was a surname of the legendary pig-fancier Circe and the name of a small island off the coast of Italy, said to have been her place of abode. Useful for unscrupulous players of parlor word-games. If taken to task for using it in such circumstances, you say: "Well, yes, strictly speaking it is foreign, I suppose -- at least in origin -- but, surely, it's a word everyone knows, isn't it?"
The web color of aeaeae: aeaeae

Afflatus n.
A sudden rush of divine or poetic inspiration. From the Latin afflare- to breathe or blow on. Inspiration itself means a breathing in. Why the ancients should have chosen the breath of the gods or muses -- rather than their touch, voice, etc. -- as the means of communicating super-human knowledge or creativity is not quite clear. While dining out with your beloved, you might suddenly put down your knife and fork, gasp, strike your forehead with your hand, lean forward tensely, and say, in unconcealed agitation: "I think I've just had an afflatus!"

Alopecia n.
Baldness. The Superior Person should always be alert to the potential value of medical terms when properly used in lay conversation. Thus: "My husband's alopecia is very bad this morning, Mr. Purbright; I'm afraid I may not be able to get in to the office before about eleven o'clock."

Anabiosis n.
Revival after apparent death; reanimation after a coma so deep that all the vital signs have become imperceptible. As you read the morning paper and sip your antejentacular (q.v.) coffee. you call out to your firstborn: "Roger, just pop into the bedroom for a moment, will you, and see if anabiosis has set in with your mother yet."

The last but two; penultimate is last but one. Orig. of syllables, but extended to order in place or time. "We act on the authority of the deputy secretary of the antepenultimate governor."

Ante-Jentacular a.
Pre-breakfast (see anabiosis). goes nicely with post-prandial (after dinner).


Barmecide n.
Insincere benefactor; one who holds out illusory offers, or who promises but does not deliver. One degree worse than an Indian Giver, since the latter at least delivers the goods, even if he does expect to get them back again, with interest. The original Barmecide is to be found in The Arabian Nights. A member of a wealthy Persian family, he decided to amuse himself one night by inviting one Schacabac, a wretched, starving beggar, to a sumptuous meal. Barmecide's little jape consisted of presenting Schacabac with a succession of grandly served courses, amid all the trappings of luxury -- ornate bowls and dishes, magnificent table-settings, and so on -- the catch being that there was no actual food in any of the receptacles placed before the hapless guest. The story ends with Schacabac taking it all in good humor and being rewarded for good sportsmanship with a real meal. The unsavory Barmecide was dealt with appropriately by Fate: his family became so magnificent that they aroused the enmity of th e Caliph, who imprisoned or executed them; and the name of Barmecide himself has become synonymous with deceit, illusion, hypocrisy, and the proffering of bounty only to withhold it until the profferer's terms are met.

Battology n.
The continual reiteration of the same words or phrases in speech or writing. A battologer is one who battologizes. One of those words whose lack of wider currency seems underserved and puzzling in the light of its wide potential for application to television commercials, sales pitches by car and encyclopedia vendors, spouse's homilies, etc.

Bellibone n.
Believe it or not, "a woman excelling both in beauty and goodness" (Dr. Johnson's Dictionary). One of a few words that the author has taken the liberty of disintering from the past (even Johnson refers to it as "not in present use") because of their obvious potentialities in polite discourse.


Calefacient a.
A medicinal agent producing a feeling of warmth. "Calefacient, anyone?" you inquire as you pass around the cognac.

Caravanserai n.
The Superior Person's word for a motel. Strictly speaking, a Middle Eastern caravan park, consisting of what Webster calls a "large, rude unfurnished building" surrounding an open courtyard.

Chrematophobia n.
Fear of money. The rarest complaint known to man. Sufferers from this condition, rejoice! Help is now at hand! Send all your money to the author, in a plain wrapper, and you need never know fear again!


Defenestration n.
The act of throwing someone or something out of a window. A word that is neologism's paradigm and justification. If the word were not needed to describe the act, the act would need to be performed to justify the word.

Dragoman n.
Nothing to do with dragons, but an interpreter/guide; one who, in Middle Eastern countries, in the days when the Englishman's castle was never his home, insulated the visiting Old Etonian from the milling autochthons and insured that the former's jodhpur-filled portmanteaus reached more or less the same destinations as he did.

Dolorifuge a.
That which relieves or drives away sadness. A viscerotonic innamorata, for example.

Dyslogy n.
Dispraise; uncomplimentary remarks. The opposite of "eulogy." "Okay, everyone, let's hear it for the retiring President! Let's give him the dyslogy he so richly deserves!"


Ergasiophobia n.
Fear of, or aversion to, work; dffidence about tackling the job. Another good word for using on sick-leave application forms.

Esurient a.
Of a greedy disposition. The preferred usage is metaphorical, of a person's general character, rather than literal, of his eating habits. Rhymes rather nicely with prurient and luxuriant.

Et Hoc Genus Omne phr.
And all that sort of thing. Why say etc. when you can say et hoc genus omne?

Exoteric a.
Intelligible to outsiders, i.e. not estoreic. "I can read you like a book, James; you are totally exoteric."

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Fabulist n.
An elegant euphemism for liar.

Facinorous a.
Exceedingly wicked. "I will speak no ill of my opponent in this election campaign. All of us recognize and accept his truly facinorous nature."

Flagitious a.
Atrocious, heinous, appallingly wicked. Suggested for use where facinorous (q.v.) is not strong enough.

Fustian n. or a.
Ridiculously pompous, bombastic, or inflated language. The essence of fustian is not the use of big or exotic words but the adoption of a declamatory style that is unsuited, by virtue of its high-flown and flowery imagery, or its grandiose delivery, to the purposes for which it is being employed. Thus, any actor's speeck delivered at any Oscar presentation ceremony; any address to a public gathering by any union official; any television commercial for any car or laundry detergent; any tourist guide describing any tourist attraction.


Galactophagous a.
Milk-drinking. Galactophage could serve as a synonym for milksop. "Now listen, you sniveling galactophage. . ."

Galeanthropy n.
The delusion that you have become a cat. Not a particularly common disorder, but its mere existence compensates, at least in part, for the fact that so many cats suffer from the delusion that they have become humans.

Gracile a.
Slender. Not connected etymologically with graceful, but the obvious similarity in spelling inevitably has its effect on the impression conveyed, which is thus one of graceful slender." A beautiful word meriting revivification.

Groak n.
One who stands around while others eat, in the hope that he will be invited to join in. A good name for a female relative's boyfriend. "How's your galatophagous groak these days, young Jennifer?" you inquire patronizingly.


Ha-Ha n.
A boundary to a park or garden, usually in the form of a fence sunk in a ditch. The nature of the term evidently derives from the consideration that a fence without a ditch, or a ditch without a fence, might ordinarily serve the purpose of a boundary, but a fence in a ditch would appear to be broadly comparable, in terms of actual usefulness, with a tower in a well.

Hebetate v.
To grow dull or stupid. "Remember," you say sententiously to the Seventh Grade as they struggle with their arithmetic test, "he who hebetates is last." The verb can also be transitive, meaning to make someone else grow dull or stupid -- a sense of which it is hard to conceive an example except perhaps for the action upon the mind of prolonged exposure to radio talk shows. The noun is hebetude.

Hesternopothia n.
A pathological yearning for the good old days. You know -- when World War II was in full swing, your children got diphtheria, and dentists used slow drills and no anaesthetic.

Hypobulia n.
Difficulty in making decisions. The real difficulty for most of us, of course, is in making the right decisions; but, typically, there doesn't appear to be a word for that.


Indocible a.
Unteachable. "Can't understand why you should have any trouble with 3B, Cartwright. I've always found them utterly indocible."

Ignotum Per Ignotius n.
An explanation which is even more obscure than the thing it purports to explain. Literally, "the unknown by the more unknown." There are two forms -- the unintended and the intended. For an example of the former, see the printed instructions for setting up and operating your wife's sewing machine. The art of the latter should be materially advanced by the lore contained in this book, and could well be cultivated by the Superior Person along with the arts of charientism, and parisology.

Ingravescent a.
Growing worse or more severe. A medical term used of illnesses, a patient's morbid condition or disease, etc. Suggested for use instead as a faintly perjorative descriptive for your less savory acquaintances. "How's Isidore these Days?" "Oh, ingravescent, I'm afraid -- distinctly ingravescent."

Isomorphic a.
Being of the same shape and general appearance, but not of the same ancestry, as something else. As, for example, any pet dog and its owner -- more especially any show-dog and its owner.


Jape n.
A prank or joke. The word has overtones of English public (i.e., private) school humor and the writings of Frank Richards. Should be used in relation to the more tiresome antics of your office comedian. "This is hardly the time for one of your junior-high japes, Plankett."

Jargogle v.
To befuddle or mess up. "Congratulations, dearest; I wouldn't have thought it possible, but you've found something else to jargogle."

Jeofail n.
A mistake made by a lawyer and acknowledged as such by her to the court. There appears to be no comparable word for a mistake made and acknowledged by a judge; but then, when a lawyer becomes a judge, as everyone knows, she ceases to make mistakes.

Juvenescent a.
Becoming youthful. An extraordinary word, when you think of it. After all, no one does this. Why should there be a word for it?


Kakorrhaphiophobia n.
The morbid fear of failure. Imagine a sufferer reporting to the clinic for treatment, knowing that the first thing he will have to do, at the reception desk, is give them the name of his complaint. Think about it.

Kalopsia n.
A state in which things appear more beautiful than they really are. Presumably love.

Kinetosis n.
A fancy name for travel sickness.

Kopophobia n.
Fear of exhaustion. Otherwise known as Lexicographer's Curse.

Krotoscope n.
An applause-measuring instrument. Surely a two-edged sword worthy of comparison with the magic mirror on the wall in Snow White, in that those who have the greatest hunger for its readings are those least likely to be satisfied by them.

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Lallation n.
Unintelligible baby talk. "Denise, I must introduce you to Sandra. You two talk the same language -- I know you'll get on marvelously. Stand back, everone, and let the lallation begin!"

Latibulize v.
To hibernate. Function of a teenager during that part of the morning when papers are being brought in, cats being fed, garbage cans put out, digital clocks being reset after overnight power failures, etc., etc.

Limaceous a.
Sluglike, having to do with slugs. "Keep your hands to yourself, you limaceous endomorph!"

Limophoitos n.
Insanity brought on by lack of food. A condition occurring in older teenages after about ten o'clock at night, causing them to do strange things after the rest of the family have gone to bed, such as eating eight slices of cheese on toast while watching rap videos.


Malnoia n.
A vague feeling of mental discomfort. At last -- the word we all wanted, to describe the way we feel five minutes after waking up in the morning when we realize that we are about to recall yesterday's unresolved problems.

Marchpane n.
Never say marzipan; always say marchpane. The two words are identical in meaning. Marchpane, the less common and therefore the preferable one, is derived from the French; marzipan, from the German.

Mendaciloquent a.
Speaking lies. Congressmen pleasenote: if you say this quickly enough, on the floor of the House, when characterizing another Congressman (and God knows, in that environment you'll have plenty of occasions for so doing), the Speaker just might let you get away with it.

Metrophobia n.
A morbid dread of poetry. It is believed that most cases can be traced back to a specific traumatic incident involving enforced exposure to the genre in concentrated form, e.g., a junior secondary school pupil being compelled to study a Shakespeare play or a Literary Editor being compelled to act as judge in a newspaper poetry competition. Among noted metrophobes of recent times was the lexicographer Ambrose Bierce, who, in defining "incompossible," wrote that two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them but not enough for both, giving as his example Walt Whitman's poetry and God's mercy to man.

Mondegreen n.
Misheard song lyrics. This kind of recognition error was coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954. In childhood, she misheard the last line of an old Scottish ballad called "The Bonny Earl of Murray," and thought it went: "They hae slain the Earl of Murray, And Lady Mondegreen." She was subsequently disappointed to learn the last line was actually: "And hae laid him on the green."
Alive and well: updated link

Monoglot n.
Someone who is fluent in only one language. "I'm sorry, Janita, but I'll have to refrain from indulging in the jellied lambs' brains; I have this medical problem, you see -- I'm a monoglot, and . . ."

Murcid a.
Slothful, shirking work or duty. "Well, Grandpa, when I leave school I plan to do a university course while working part-time. In the medium to longer term, of course, I aspire to full-time murcidity."


Necromimesis n.
A morbid mental state in which the sufferer believes himself to be dead. Not as common as the reverse condition, in which the sufferers believe themselves to be alive.

Necromorphous a.
Feigning death to deter an aggressor. This would explain a lot about the behavior of counter staff in government departments.

Nugacity n.
Triviality, futility. "Why not ask Boris and Deirdre? Add a touch of nugacity to the evening?"

Nuncheon n.
A noon drink. "I'll just leave the accounts till this afternoon if you don't mind, Miles; I find that I'm running late for a nuncheon appointment."


Obambulate v.
To wander or walk about in an aimless fashion. The motion of a male spouse in a Sunday morning flea market or a female spouse in a department store. "For heaven's sake, where's your father got to now? He's gone obambulating again, just when it's time to go home."

Oneirodynia n.
Nightmare. "If it turns out to be a girl, have you thought of giving her one of those lovely, mellifluous, ancient Greek names? Lydia, say, or Persephone? Or perhaps. . . Oneirodynia?"

Orarian n.
Dweller by the seashore. Goes well with otiant.

Orthosis n.
The correction of a neurotic state. "Poor dear! S/he has tried chiropracty, homeopathy, naturopathy, and iridology -- and I remember telling him/her in the first place that all s/he needed was a little orthosis."

Otiant a.
Idle or resting. The author's dearest wish is to be an otian orarian.


Peculate v.
To pilfer or embezzle. Etymologically quite distinct from "speculate," but many do both while under the impression that they are doing only the one or the other.

Phaneromania n.
A compulsion to pick at a skin growth or imperfection. Is there anyone who doesn't suffer from this?

Pleionosis n.
The exaggeration of one's own importance. The only disorder universal to humankind.

Poliosis n.
Premature greying of the hair. A puzzling concept -- after all, what greying of the hair is not premature?

Ponophobia n.
A morbid dread of work. Think about it. A civil servant could get a whole lifetime's sick leave out of this.

Procellous a.
Stormy, tempestuous. "What sort of a mood is he in?" you are asked by the next candidate as you part from the official tester after your driver's license test. "Procellous, distinctly procellous," you reply, with a reassuring smile.

Quick Jumps: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Quadragenarian n.
Someone who is between forty and fifty years of age. Since the word sounds to the uninitiated as though it means simply "forty-year-old," it is particularly suitable for use by forty-nine-year-olds as a self-descriptive.

Quaquaversal a.
Pointing or facing in every direction. In relation to rock formations, the term specifically means sloping down in every direction from a more or less central tip. You might so refer to your Uncle Enderby's cranial structure.

Quisquous a.
Perplexing, puzzling. "How extremely quisquous!: you declare, as you pore over the chessboard.

Quink n.
The common brant (a kind of goose). Conversation Stopper No. 331: "Did you know that the quink was the common brant?"


Refocillation n.
Total refreshment; revival or revitalization. You stagger into the bar, collapse onto the stool immediately facing the bathycolpian barmaid, and gasp: "Refocillate me!" Whether she understands or misunderstands you, there is at least some chance that you will achieve refocillation.

Renitency n.
Reluctance or resistance. "Don't worry, Dad; the idea of a weekly work assignment in return for my allowance is one that I can handle with complete renitency."

Retrobulbar a.
Behind the eyeball. Since this is (more or less) where the brain is, I suppose you could refer to an ideological adversary as being "disadvantaged by a retrobulbar vacancy."

Rhytiscopia n.
A neurotic preoccupation with facial wrinkles. "Elissa, how you've changed! Oh, I do hope you're not troubled by rhytiscopia!"

Roinous a.
Mean, nasty, and comtemptible. "I'll let Adrian speak for himself, and we'll all see just how roinous he can be."


Saxicolous a.
Living or growing among rocks. A geology student.

Scopophobia n.
A morbid fear of being seen. "Scotophobia" is a morbid fear of darkness. How appalling to suffer from both simultaneously! Think about it.

Sicarian n.
A murderer. More specifically, an assassin. You'll find 3B an interesting class this year, Carruthers. Very multicultural. There are some Lebanese, a couple of Croatians and Serbs . . . watch out for the two Irish kids -- they're from opposite sides in Ulster . . . there's a Calabrian and a Sicilian. . . as for the others, they're mainly sicarians, I think."

Sitophobia n.
Morbid fear of eating. Not common in its general form, but often encountered in its various specific forms, e.g., fear of eating your mother-in-law's garlic broccoli, fear of eating your small daughter's rock cakes, etc.

Skulduggery n.
Dirty work. Common words sometimes have uncommon alternative forms and indeed meaning. These the Superior Person always prefers. Thus "skulduddery" and its eighteenth-century of "unchastity" will enable you to add a little life to this somewhat tired pejorative.

Smatchet n.
A small, nasty person, or a nasty child. "Why, Carol -- you've brought the twins! Gosh, when I see them together -- smatchet and smatchet -- I think I'm seeing double!"


Tarsalgia n.
Pain in the foot. Perhaps, using a little creative philology, you could refer to the person of your choice as an arsalgia.

Tegestologist n.
A collector of beer coasters. The species is normally male, falls within the age range of 19 to 23, and certainly does not know that it is so called.

Thrasonical a.
Bragging and boasting. "The test results are back, Mr. Wheelwright, and let me say at once that you have absolutely nothing to be thrasonical about."

Torpillage n.
Electric shock therapy. "Why not try some alternative medicine, dearest, to see if that helps? A little homeopathy, perhaps, some iridology, a course of torpillage?"

Quick Jumps: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Ultrafidian a.
going beyond faith. "I suppose it would be ultrafidian to expect Lewis to arrive on time."

Ultroneous a.
Spontaneous. "Have you done the preliminary research for your ultroneous remarks at the Annual Dinner yet, Percival?"

Unasinous a.
Being equally stupid. "What a lovely marriage ceremony! So rare to see a couple so well-suited, so well-matched -- so unasinous in every respect."

Undergrope v.
To conceive or understand. Readers may wish to devise their own exemplary uses for this term, but are advised to keep them to themselves.

Unthirlable a.
Impenetrable. "Say no more old chap -- your logic is unthirlable."


Vecordious a.
Crazy, senseless, lunatic. "No, darling, of course I'm quite happy for you to choose the color scheme. Just go ahead and trust your own judgment. I just know you can be relied on to come up with something utterly vecordious without any assistance from me."

Ventoseness n.
Flatulence; a tendency to suffer from wind. "Maurice, you take elevator no. 1 -- and remember, we're going to the eighteenth floor. Coralie, you'd better go with Maurice. Anyone else who's at all ventose? O.K., the rest of you come with me in elevator no. 2."

Verrucose a.
Covered in wartlike growths. Suitable for cursing under the guise of blessing. "Bon voyage, Jacinta; may your path be smooth, your mind ever active, and your hands ever verrucose."

Viscerotonic a.
Having an amiable, comfort-loving temperament of the kind normally associated with endomorphy. (An endomorph is a person who by physical type is soft, rounded, and fleshy, and by psychological type warm and sociable.) "Young gentleman wishes to meet viscerotonic millionairess; view comfort."


Wamble n.
A rumbling or similar disturbance of the stomach. A comforting word, which deserves to be more used. "Was that my wamble or yours?"

Weasiness n.
The quality or state of being given to gluttony. Succeeds queasiness lexicographically, but precedes it temporally.

Whimling n.
A weak, childish person. Don't knock it -- whimlings have a lot of fun while strong, adult persons are worrying.

Witzelsucht n.
An emotional state characterized by futile attempts at humor.


Xanthodontous a.
Having yellow teeth. Included here only because of its interest to abecedarians, being the only remotely deprecatory adjective know to the author that begins with x.

Xanthopsia n.
An ophthalmic condition in which everything appears yellow. Condition of a person wearing dark glasses purchased from the "sale" section at the local gas station.

Xenogenous a.
Due to an outside cause. "Most impressed by your clever son's matriculation results, Ivy! Fancy you and Gavin bringing forth such a genius! Absolutely xenogenous!"

Xenomania n.
An obsessive mania for foreign customs, traditions, manners, institutions, fashions, etc. Nowadays this is called multiculturalism.


Yethhounds n.
A pack of phantom hounds pursuing a lady. From old English folklore. Yeth comes from heath. Also called wishhounds. Wisely is it said that the English have a word for everything. How this particular one first came into existence is a mystery to the author, even allowing for the penchant of the English for specialist hunting dogs. There appears to be no equivalent term for a pack of phantom hounds pursuing a gentleman.

Yeuling n.
Walking around fruit trees praying for a good crop. Try it if you wish, but the author can only say that he has found swearing, abuse, and threats of extreme violence to be more effective.

Yirn v.
To whine; to pout, or show petulance by facial grimaces. Pronounced the same as yearn. "My husband is an idealist; he's always yirning for something.

Ylem n.
The primordial substance from which all the elements in the universe were supposed by early philosophers to have been formed. Thought by the ancients to have been water, by the moderns to be hydrogen, and by the Chinese to be monosodium glutamate.


Zemblanity n.
The opposite of serendipity, the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and unexpected discoveries by design; the inexorable discovery of what we don't what to know. Word derived from Zembla, an barren, frigid Artic island -- Nova Zembla -- the site of a nuclear facility now used for testing non-nuclear explosives.

Zelotipia n.
Morbid or fanatical zeal; jealousy. "It's great to see a family where both daughters play the piano. So good for the young people to have something like that, isn't it? Just see what it does for them -- you can see the zelotipia shining in their eyes!"

Zoanthrophy n.
A pathological conviction on the part of a human that he or she is an animal -- or more correctly, a nonhuman animal. "Is Simon's zoanthropy improving at all, now that he's a sophomore?"

Zoilism n.
Carping, destructive criticism. "Ah, Miss Petherbridge, another solo from you on tonight's program, I see! If only I were free to convey to you the full extent of the zoilism that your playing inspires in me!"

Zugzwang n.
A state of play in a game of chess such that any of the various moves open to the player with the next move will damge his position. He is then said to be "in zugzwang." Ther term has obvious potential as a descriptive of certain stock situtations of married life.

Quick Jumps: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Source: Peter Bowler
Superior Person's Book of Words
Dell, New York, © Copyright 1990
The Superior Person's Second Book of Weird & Wondrous Words
D.R. Godine, Boston, © Copyright 1992