Having claimed myself a lexivore, or one who eats words like bon-bons, I herewith begin to unwind the reel of my 101 favorite words…which will include definitions, etymologies and usages. Of course some of these words really don’t need definitions but are included because I love the sound of them, the oddity of them… Unless otherwise noted, all sentences showing possible word usages are of my own devising.
“It is often forgotten that dictionaries are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.”
Jorge Luis Borges
(Most of these definitions and etymologies have been hybridized from a number of sources. Thanks to askdefine.com, an amazing online resource, and wordswarm.net which aggregates definitions from countless other dictionaries. Major nods also to Webster’s Third International and Wikipedia for some definitions and backstories, and in the greatest part to the Online Etymology Dictionary etymonline.com)
Re the occasional use of the acronym PIE: The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans. PIE was the first proposed proto-language to be widely accepted by linguists. The existence of PIE was first postulated in the 18th century by Sir William Jones, who observed the similarities between Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, and Latin. Scholars estimate that PIE may have been spoken as a single language (before divergence began) around 3700 BC, though estimates by different authorities can vary by more than a millennium.
Mainstream scholarship places the Proto-Indo-Europeans in the forest-steppe zone immediately to the north of the western end of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in Eastern Europe. By the late 3rd millennium BCE, offshoots of the Proto-Indo-Europeans had reached Anatolia, the Aegean, Western Europe, Central Asia and southern Siberia. These same speakers were the original domesticators of the horse.
Note: in the interest of brevity, often the intermediary languages between current English and say Greek, are left out. Usually words travel from Greek to Latin to French or Greek to Middle English, etc… The occasional inclusion of this abbreviation: cf. comes from L. confer “compare.” In other words, “see this entry for more information.”
(Some of these words were previously posted on Realize Magazine, but sans quotes and anyhow I didn’t get that far in the alphabet before other topics pre-empted this quaint hobby of mine:)
What better place to begin than at the beginning?
Addlepated – befuddled, confused, eccentric, senseless, mad. (Addle from OldEnglish adela ‘liquid filth’ related to German adel ‘mire, puddle.’) (Pate: “top of the head,” early 14c. of unknown origin; perhaps a shortened form of Old French patene or Medieval Latin patena, both from Latin patina “pan, dish”)
He was a crackpot, an addlepated old fool whose senses had long ago left the barn, all except for the damn cock, who wouldn’t stop crowing!
Antediluvian – of or relating to the period before the flood, as described in the Bible. One who lived before the Flood, one who is behind the times.
It is a sad thing indeed when one’s nation is left to a ruler whose idea of a hairstyle dates back to the Jetsons and whose worldview is antediluvian because he gets his news from a conch shell whispering his own origin myth.
Anxigenic – adj. Any substance, event, or individual that produces anxiety to others. Coined by the author utilizing earlier variations of allergy/allergen/allergenic.
She tried for years to accommodate her mother-in-law’s irritating manner, her intrusive ways, her rampant borderline personality disorder, but in the end, the woman proved far too anxigenic to be endured and thusly ended the marriage.
Asterisk – a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star. (*; from Latin asteriscus, from Greek: ἀστερίσκος, asteriskos, “little star.”) Computer scientists and mathematicians often pronounce the symbol as “star” (for example when speaking about the A* search algorithm) or, more informally, as “splat.” The asterix can be used to censor out swear words or objectionable text.
Take that sweet little asterisk of yours and mosey on over here, darlin’!
Axiom – a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. From Greek axioma “authority,” lit. “that which is thought worthy or fit,” from axios “worthy, worth, of like value, weighing as much,” from the ProtoIndo-European (PIE) adjective ag-ty-o, “weighty.”
Sadly, it has become an axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely.