Favourite Words A to Z

I have read every word and entry of the unabridged Second Edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and during that time I kept notebooks on hand to make note of words that captured my interest. Some I liked how they sounded, some I liked the definition, some made me laugh, some stirred up memories and nostalgic moments, some made me contemplate aspects of society, and so I ended up filling two notebooks of words that impacted me in some way. This list is the very condensed version of those two notebooks.

Acidulous – sharp tongued, sour-tempered

Acrimonious – extremely bitter in manner or temper

Afflatus – a divine creative impulse; inspiration

Affluenza – pursuit/obsession with wealth, material things, an affluent lifestyle to a degree that is detrimental to one’s mental health and to society as a whole

Ahimsa – (in Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist tradition) respect for all living things and avoidance of violence against others in thought and deed

Akimbo – (of the arms) with hands on the hips and elbows turned outwards

Alfresco – in the open air

Alligator Pear – an avocado

Almighty Voice – Jean-Baptise, who held off 100 cops for 2 days because he illegally butchered a cow in 1897

Alpenglow – rosy light of the setting or rising sun on high mountains

Alterity – state of being other or different

Amen – so be it

Animal spirits – natural exuberance

Anxious – uneasy in the mind

Arcane – mysterious; secret; understood by few

Ardour – burning enthusiasm, passion

Arsenic hour – the period in the late afternoon when youngsters become particularly cranky and unmanageable

Auld lang syne – times lost past

Azoic – having no trace of life

Badinage – humorous or playful ridicule

Bafflegab – official or professional jargon which confuses more than it clarifies

Banjax – ruin, incapacitate

Barf – an attack of vomiting

Barley sandwich – a beer

Bedazzle – confuse by excess of brilliance

Bibliomania – an extreme enthusiasm for collecting and possessing books

Blood and thunder – sensational, melodramatic

Bob’s your uncle – an expression of completion or satisfaction

Bone shaker – 1. A type of bike with solid tires 2. A decrepit or uncomfortable old vehicle

Boondoggle – work of little or no value done merely to appear busy

Brobdingnagian – gigantic, colossal (from Gulliver’s Travels)

Go bush – leave one’s usual surroundings; run wild

Cadaverous – 1. Corpse-like 2. Deathly pale or gaunt

Caprice – an unaccountable or whimsical change of mind or conduct

Careworn – showing the effects of prolonged worry

Carpe diem – seize the day; enjoy the present and give little thought to the future (Latin)

Catachresis – an incorrect use of words

Catawampus – askew, awry

Confute – prove (a person) to be in error

Constellate – 2. adorn as with stars

Contumacy/contumacious – stubborn refusal to obey or comply

Corduroy road – a road made of tree trunks laid across muddy or swampy ground

Corpulent – portly; fat

Create – 1a. cause to exist; make (something) new or original

Crepuscular – 1a. of twilight b. dim

Crocodile – 2. A line of school children etc walking in pairs

Dalliance – 1. A leisurely or frivolous passing of time

Dance of death (also danse macabre) – a medieval dance in which a personified Death is represented as leading all to the grave

Darkling – in the dark; in the night

Defenestration – the action of throwing (esp. a person) out of a window

Delete – remove or obliterate (written or printed matter)

Devastating – crushingly effective

Dinkum oil – the honest truth

Disabuse – 1. Free from a mistaken idea 2. Disillusion, undeceive

The dogs of war – the havoc accompanying war

Dolce far niente – pleasant idleness (Italian for “sweet doing nothing”)

Dream in colour – be wildly unrealistic

Effulgent – radiant, resplendent, or shining out brilliantly

Egg beater – a helicopter

Egghead – a person regarded as intellectual or highbrow

Eldritch – 1. Weird, spooky 2. Hideous

Elegiac – 1. Having a pleasing quality of gentle and wistful mournfulness

Empurple – 2. Make angry

Empyrean – the visible heavens

Ennui – boredom or mental weariness from lack of occupation or interest

Ephemeron – 1b. a short lived thing

Eructation – the act or an instance of belching

Ex nihilo – out of nothing (Latin)

Fantods – a state or attach of uneasiness or unreasonableness

Fart – 2. An annoying or unpleasant person

Fie – (archaic) expressing disgust, shame, or a pretense of outraged propriety (Old French from Latin, fi, an exclamation of disgust at a stench)

Formication – a sensation as of ants crawling over the skin

Frankenfood – a genetically modified food

Fuddle duddle – go to hell; drop dead

Fugacious – 1. Fleeting, evanescent, hard to capture or keep

Futureshock – a state of distress or disorientation due to rapid social or technological change

Galoot – a person, esp. a strange or clumsy one

Galumph – 2. Go prancing in triumph

Goober – a peanut

Gourmandize – 1. Eat or devour voraciously

Grandiloquent – 1. Pompous or inflated in language 2. Given to boastful talk

The great unwashed – the mass or multitude of ordinary people

Hell’s half acre – a great distance

Hirsutism – the excessive growth of hair on the face and body

Hoodwink – deceive, delude

Iconoclasm – 1. The breaking of images 2. The assailing of cherished beliefs or conventions

Ill-starred – unlucky; destined to failure

Inkhorn – 2. (of a term, word, language, etc) obscure; literary

Intestinal fortitude – courage; guts

Kiss of death – an act or situation (often apparently friendly) which causes ruin

Limpid – 2. (of writing) clear and easily comprehended

Lower the boom on – 1. Inflict a physical defeat on (a person)

Magniloquent – grand or grandiose speech

Moonstruck – 1. Romantically captivated 2. Mentally deranged

Nimrod – a skilled hunter

Normal school – a school or college for training teachers

Nullity – 2a. the condition of being non-existent b. a mere nothing

Obscurantism – opposition to knowledge and enlightenment

Obstinate – 3. Inflexible, self-willed

Obstreperous – 1. Unruly, resisting control 2. Noisy, vociferous

Odium – 1. A general or widespread dislike or reprobation incurred by a person or association with an action. 2. Hatred

Offence – 2. A wounding of the feelings

Olivaceous – olive green; of a dusky yellowish green

Otiose – serving no practical purpose; not required; functionless

Palooka – an oaf or lout (origin unknown)

Paper tiger – an apparently threatening but ineffectual person or thing

Peregrinate – travel; journey, esp. extensively or at leisure

Perfervid – impassioned; very intense

Perishing – freezing cold, extremely chilly

Pinguid – fat, oily, or greasy

Perspicacious – having or showing discernment or insight; perceptive

Phantasmagoria – a shifting series of real or imaginary figures as seen in a dream or as created as an effect in a film, etc

Poisoned chalice – an assignment, award, honour, etc which is likely to prove a disadvantage or source of problems to the recipient

Pugnacious – quarrelsome; disposed to fight

Purple – 2. (of writing, speech, etc) excessively elaborate or ornate

Pyrrhic – (of a victory) won at too great a cost to be of use to the victor

Redivivus – (placed after a noun) come back to life

Refulgent – shining, radiant; gloriously bright

Rusticate – 1. Retire to or live in the country

Saturnine – 1. A sluggishly gloomy temperament 2. Dark and brooding

Sayonara – goodbye (Japanese, lit. “if it be so”)

Scintillate – 1. Talk cleverly or wittily; be brilliant

Self-willed – obstinately pursuing one’s wishes

Snafu – 1. A confused, muddled, or messed up condition or state (acronym from Situation Normal: All Fucked (or Fouled) Up)

Snarf – eat or drink greedily

Sough – make a moaning, whistling, or rushing sound as of the wind in trees, etc; a gentle rushing or murmuring sound

Suggest itself – (of an idea, etc) come into the mind

Svelte – slender, graceful, elegant

Tatterdemalion – a person in ragged or tattered clothing; ragged or tattered, dilapidated

Tenebrous – dark, gloomy

Thunder mug – a chamber pot

Timorous – 1. Timid; easily alarmed 2. Frightened

Transmogrify – transform or be transformed esp. in a magical or surprising manner

Triskaidekaphobia – fear or superstition regarding the number 13

Troglodyte – 2a. a person regarded as living in wilful ignorance, esp. of current trends and subjects; a conservative or old-fashioned person

Truculent – 1. Vehemently defiant

Tube steak – a wiener

Unctuous – 1. Unpleasantly flattering

The Unknown – the postulated absolute or ultimate reality

Vacuity – 1a. absolute emptiness 2a. complete absence of ideas; vacancy of mind or thought

Veracious – 1. Speaking or disposed to speak the truth

Verdant – green, fresh-coloured

Welkin – (archaic) sky; the upper air

Weltschmerz – a feeling of pessimism; an apathetic or vaguely yearning outlook on life (German from welt world + schmerz pain)

Wisdom – 2. Experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them critically or practically

Word painting – a vivid description in writing

The worm turns – a meek person retaliates after being pushed too far

Wound – 3. (literary) the pangs of love

Wunderkammer – a place where a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited (German, lit. “wonderchamber”)

Xanadu – used to convey an impression of a place as almost unattainably luxurious or beautiful

Yaffle – an armful or small load, esp. of cod, firewood, etc

Zeitgeist – 1. The spirit of the times

Zephyr – (literary) a mild gentle wind or breeze

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Dictionary Challenge Week Four: The Almighty Ant-lion

It’s been an arduous process, but it’s nothing my ardour for words can’t handle as I ardently flip each page and learn the arcana of the dictionary with a merely modest level of aplomb.

If that sentence doesn’t give it away… I’ve made it to the ar – section and I’m on the fast-track to B for the upcoming week. Again, there were a lot of potentials to make my top 5, so this week I decided to give a few honourable mentions: antimacassar (a covering on furniture, especially a chair, to protect it from grease in the hair); annus horribilis (a year of disaster or misfortune); go apeshit (become crazy); arf (a representation of a dog’s bark); arcadian (an idealized peasant or country dweller.)

Clearly go apeshit and arf struck a similar chord. When I think of the dictionary, I think of this massive set of big, difficult words and I forget that slang makes its way in there and that odd little words are still words. Or that the letter “H” isn’t just spelled h. It’s aitch. It seems obvious, but that one blew my mind just a little bit.

Now that I’ve given enough due to the runners up, here are the winners in no particular order:

  1. Ant-lion: any dragonfly-like Cartoon of a false ant-lionpredatory insects from the Myrmeleontidae whose larvae (also called doodlebug) live beneath small pits they build to trap insects
  2. Antsy: agitated, impatient, fidgety
  3. Apple-cheeked: having round, rosy cheeks (especially as a sign of good health)
  4. Apple polisher: a person who curries favour
  5. Aquiline: of or like an eagle; (of a nose) curves like an eagle’s beak

So ant-lion is a 2-for-1. First off, they already have the name dragonfly which is pretty deadly, but now they get a second ferocious name of ant-lion, but then that must have been too much because their larvae are called…. Doodlebugs? There has to be some sort of initiation process to go from doodlebug to ant-lion. Like killing a sibling or something. Those dragonflies are hard-core gangster. I mean, from that definition, it kind of looks like they use their babies as bait.

The thing that brought antsy up to the big leagues of the top five isn’t so much the definition, but the fact that it’s beginning is so humble. I’m used to all the word origins being something like French from Latin from French again. Not so this time. Antsy simple comes from the expression “ants in your pants.” So obvious and yet I still didn’t see it coming. Apple-cheeked is just such a cute word and I already know I’ll be pulling this one out the next time I see a baby or a toddler running around. Sort of like antsy, apple polisher made the list because it essentially means brown noser and comes from children who brought apples for their teachers.

I got to use apple polisher last night. For a Super Geek, I felt pretty awesome. Really. Whenever the opportunity arises that I get to seamlessly plug in one of my new words, I get kind of pumped up. Most of the time I just talk about the interesting things I’ve learned, but when I get to use the words in everyday conversation, well, that’s pretty rad.

I need a new word for rad.

Last up, there’s aquiline. While this isn’t a new word for me, it was nice to stumble across it and be reminded of its existence. I envision a tall, dark-haired, almost impossibly skinny man with hooded eyes, angular features and, of course an aquiline nose. And you know that guy is up to no good…

An acephalous body crept past in the moonlight as a dark figure stood amongst the shadows, watching – invisible, but for the aquiline silhouette of his nose protruding into the streetlamp’s dirty light.

Week Four Stats

Starting word: annuity                 Ending word: argentiferous

Pages: 53-68                                 Total Pages: 68/1815

Ahead/Behind: -72 pages

And for those of you wondering what APOCRYPHAL means…

  1. of doubtful authenticity 2. Invented, mythical

Dictionary Challenge Week Two: Sometimes I’m Not As Good As I Think I Am

With a title like that you know I’ve been doing some self-reflection. Most of the challenges are things I’ve never done before and some (like the dictionary challenge) I don’t think anyone has done before. Probably because everyone has better things to do. The point is that I never truly know what I’m getting myself into until I’ve embarked. With two weeks under my belt, I realize how badly I have erred in setting out the dictionary challenge parameters.Me standing next to the stack of books I read in one year.

While I’m no mathematician, I crunched a few numbers and realized that I had taken on the equivalent of a novel a week. A novel comprised entirely of definitions. Now, I have already actually done a book a week for a year challenge and, as I was ever so gently reminded, my final words on that one were: I’m glad I did it…. But I am never doing that again.

And look at that stack. That would be all dictionary. Well, half of it for a 6 month challenge.

But, this is different. In a mad haste to devour the necessary amount of pages, I have found myself speed reading, jumping ahead, and getting so focused on quantity that I didn’t even know what word I had just read the definition of. So I’m going to do something I’ve never done before.

I’m going to change the challenge parameters.

This is a tough thing for me. I always consider myself an underdog and I love the process of overcoming adversity as well as the triumph that comes with doing something I thought was borderline impossible. Sometimes the worse or harder something is the more excited I am. Such is the case now. However, I realize that I wasn’t realistic about the demands of this challenge.

The problem lies in the fact that this book is over 2 million words of reference material.

So instead of 6 months I’m extending the duration to 12 months. Which is the equivalent of reading a novel sized dictionary every two weeks. It would be like reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon every two weeks if, instead of great writing with an awesome story-line, they were pages and pages of definitions.

It’s still going to be one heck of a tough slog, but I might stand a fighting chance. No matter what happens time-wise, I am going to read the entire dictionary. It might take me a year, it might take me 2 years, or it might (though highly unlikely) take me less than a year. But I will read it all.

And I will be the smartest person in the world! Mwahahaha!

Yeah. Right.

Anyways, feel free to let me know what you think about my changing of the game. I hope my acceptance of reality trumps any disappointment anyone feels. You can hit me up on facebook, twitter, or in the comments.

Week Two Stats

Starting word: Acidify                    Ending word: Ahmadabad

Pages: 11-26                                    Total Pages: 26/1815

Ahead/Behind: -44 pages

The Reveal

dic•tion•ary noun (pl. ies) 1 a a book that lists (usu. in alphabetical order) and explains the words of a language or gives equivalent words in another language.

chal•lenge noun 1 a a summons to take part in a contest or a trial of strength etc. b a summons to prove or justify something. 2 a a demanding or difficult task (getting out of bed on time is a challenge). b a difficult but stimulating task.Bicep curling the Canadian Oxford Dictionary

You got it folks. This time around the only thing physical is going to be the act of toting around this hulking 4.6 pound behemoth of words… The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Second Edition.

Starting March 16th at the crack of midnight (not that I’ve got the hustle to bust this bad boy open in the middle of the night on Day 1) the Dictionary Challenge begins. I will have 6 months to read every entry – including all biographies and encyclopedic information. The introductions and appendices aren’t included in the challenge, but I might read them anyways. There are 1,815 pages and 300,000 definitions alone.

For those of you who have been avidly reading my challenges, you’ve probably noticed my repertoire of words could use a little updating. Like maybe I’ll find a replacement for the word delve. Or repertoire.

The average adult apparently only has 20,000-35,000 words in their…. repertoire. That’s really not a lot. This dictionary has 300,000 by itself. The Oxford English Dictionary 20 Volume set contains 615,100 definitions (plus an impressive amount of other references and information.) So just think for a moment. If all of these words exist, how are we accurately communicating anything when we’re only using 3-5% of the words in our language?

I’m sure you’ve all been there when you want to describe something to someone else, but your words fail to actually show them what you mean or felt or saw. Doesn’t that suck? Doesn’t that create this gap in understanding. You can see it on their faces. They have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. Maybe if you read the dictionary you’d know what words to use and instead of crushing confusion, you’d see the lightbulb of understanding flash in their eyes like a great piercing hallelujah!

Maybe.