Words of the week

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Imagine how varied your vocabulary would be if you were able to learn one new word each week.

Week commencing 7 March 2016


pronunciation: fuhb-zee

adjective: British Dialect. Short and stout.

origin: Fubsy is formed on the basis of the obsolete term fubs or fub, used as a term of endearment meaning ‘chubby person’. It entered English in the late 1700s.

Week commencing 29 February 2016


pronunciation: ‘manspred

verb: to adopt a posture, characteristic of some men, of sitting with the legs wide apart, with the result that the person takes up more than his fair share of room on public transport, at a dinner table, etc.

Week commencing 22 February 2016


pronunciation: uhb’steemeeuhs

adjective: 1. moderate in the use of food and drink; sparing in diet; temperate. 2. characterised by abstinence. 

origin: Latin abst?mius

Week commencing 15 February 2016


pronunciation: loo-dik

adjective: playful in an aimless way: the ludic behavior of kittens.

origin: Ludic stems from the Latin verb lud?re meaning ‘to play’. It entered English in the mid-1900s.

Week commencing 8 February 2016


pronunciation: poleemath

noun: a person of great and varied learning.

origin: Greek polymath?s knowing many things, from poly- many + math? learning

Week commencing 1 February 2016


pronunciation: sin-ee-ast, sin-ey-

noun: any person, especially a director or producer, associated professionally with filmmaking.

originCineaste comes from the French cinéaste. It entered English in the early 1900s.

Week commencing 25 January 2016


pronunciation: myoo-nif-uh-suh ns

noun: the quality of being munificent, or showing unusual generosity – e.g. The museum’s collection was greatly increased by the munificence of the family’s gift.

originMunificence finds its roots in the Latin word m?nus meaning ‘gift’.

Week commencing 18 January 2016


pronunciation: bon-uh-mee, bon-uh-mee; French baw-naw-mee

noun: frank and simple good-heartedness; a good-natured manner; friendliness; geniality.

originBonhomie entered English from French and is related to the French term bonhomme meaning ‘good-natured man’.

Week commencing 11 January 2016


pronunciation: suh-loo-bree-uh s

adjective: favourable to or promoting health; healthful: salubrious air.

origin: Salubrious finds its roots in the Latin word for health: salus. It entered English in the mid-1500s.

Week commencing 4 January 2016


pronunciation: gam-buh l 

verb: To dance and skip about in play; to frolic. 

origin: Gambol is related to the Middle French term gambade meaning ‘a leap or spring’. It entered English around 1500.

Week commencing 14 December 2015


pronunciation: sluhg-uh-bed

noun:a lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.

originSlugabed is formed from the word slug meaning ‘to be slow’ and the rare adverb abed meaning ‘in bed’.

Week commencing 7 December 2015


pronunciation: sap-uh-rif-ik

adjective: producing or imparting flavour or taste.

originSaporific stems from the Latin word sapor meaning ‘savour’. The combining form -fic means ‘making’, ‘producing’, ‘causing’, and appears in adjectives borrowed from Latin.

Week commencing 30 November 2015


pronunciation: fran-juh-buh l

adjective: easily broken; breakable: Most frangible toys are not suitable for young children.

origin: Frangible entered English by way of Old French and ultimately derives from the Latin frangere meaning ‘to break’. The more common adjective fragile also finds its roots in this Latin verb.

Week commencing 23 November 2015


pronunciation: taf-uh-foh-bee-uh

noun: Psychiatry. An abnormal fear of being buried alive.

originTaphephobia is a combination of the Greek word taphe, meaning ‘grave’, and the combining form -phobia meaning ‘fear’.

Week commencing 16 November 2015


pronunciation: kuht-l-buh

noun:Informal. rumor or gossip.

Nautical. a. an open cask of drinking water. b. a drinking fountain for use by the crew of a vessel.

origin: Scuttlebutt entered English in the late 1700s from the word scuttle, referring to a hatch in the deck of a ship, and butt in the sense of a cask or barrel. The informal sense arose in the early 1900s.

Week commencing 9 November 2015


pronunciation: maw-kish

adjective: characterised by sickly sentimentality; weakly emotional; maudlin.

having a mildly sickening flavor; slightly nauseating.

origin: Mawkish entered English in the late 1600s from the now-obsolete word mawk meaning “maggot.”

Week commencing 2 November 2015


pronunciation: pahr-vuh-noo, -nyoo, pahr-vuh-noo, -nyoo

noun: a person who has recently or suddenly acquired wealth, importance, position, or the like, but has not yet developed the conventionally appropriate manners, dress, surroundings, etc.

origin: Parvenu entered English in the 1700s from the French word of the same spelling meaning ‘upstart’. It comes from the French verb parvenir, which means ‘to arrive, reach’.

Week commencing 26 October 2015


pronunciation: am-fi-gawr-ee, -gohr-ee

noun: a meaningless or nonsensical piece of writing, especially one intended as a parody.

originAmphigory entered English in the early 1800s from the French wordamphigouri, but its origin in French remains unknown.

Week commencing 19 October 2015


pronunciation: krak-er-jak

noun: (informal) a person or thing that shows marked ability or excellence.

adjective: of marked ability; exceptionally fine.

origin: Crackerjack is an Americanism that came to English in the late 1800s.

Week commencing 12 October 2015


pronunciation: ‘hootspah

noun: (colloquial) impudence; gall; audacity.

origin: Yiddish

Week commencing 5 October 2015


pronunciation: tom-ee-rot

noun: nonsense; utter foolishness.

origin: tommyrot entered English in the late 1800s and is related to the word tomfool, a term that describes a grossly foolish or stupid person.

Week commencing 28 September 2015


pronunciation: uh-proh-bree-uh s

adjective: outrageously disgraceful or shameful: opprobrious conduct.

origin: Opprobrious can be traced to the Latin opprobrare meaning ‘to reproach; taunt’. It entered English in the mid-1300s.

Week commencing 21 September 2015


pronunciation: zeer-i-skey-ping

noun: environmental design of residential and park land using various methods for minimising the need for water use.

origin: Xeriscaping emerged in the 1980s. The word xeric means ‘of, relating to, or adapted to a dry environment’, and is derived from the Greek term xerós meaning ‘dry’.

Week commencing 14 September 2015


pronunciation:drag-uh-muh n

noun:(in the Near East) a professional interpreter.

plural, dragomans, dragomen.

origin: Dragoman is related to the Arabic word tarjuman meaning “interpreter.” It entered English in the 1300s.

Week commencing 7 September 2015


adjective: feelings of excitement when you see the subject of your affection, smitten

origin: first used in the Disney movie, Bambi

Week commencing 31 August 2015


pronunciation: mon-di-green

noun: a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard

origin: coined in 1954 by US writer, Sylvia Wright. The line ‘laid him on the green’, from a Scottish ballad was misinterpreted to be ‘Lady Mondegreen’.

Week commencing 24 August 2015


pronunciation: cur·mud·geon

noun: a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains


Usage example: “Only a grumpy old curmudgeon could fail to be moved by the random act of kindness bestowed upon him.”

Week commencing 17 August 2015


pronunciation: ‘naybob

noun:1. any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person. 2. Also, nawab. a person, especially a European, who has made a large fortune in India or another country of the East. 3. a viceroy or deputy governor under the former Mogul empire in India.

origin: Nabob entered English in the early 1600s from the Hindi word nawab meaning ‘viceroy’.                                                                                                                              

Usage example: “Working out of uniform, in the British society of the Indian city, the boy from Georgetown had managed to embroil himself in a contretemps with a young woman, the headstrong second daughter of a prominent nabob.”

Week commencing 10 August 2015


pronunciation: fluhm-uh-did-l

noun: 1. utter nonsense 2. worthless frills

origin: Flumadiddle is an Americanism that arose in the 1840s as a combination of flummery, meaning ‘complete nonsense’, and diddle, meaning ‘to fool with’.                                                                                                                                

Usage example: This flumadiddle’s got to stop; I’m not having it any more.

Week commencing 3 August 2015


pronunciation: pree-‘prandeeuhl

adjective: before a meal, especially before dinner.

origin: preprandial came to English in the early 1800s from the Latin prandium meaning ‘luncheon, meal’.

Week commencing 27 July 2015


pronunciation: kwik’sotik

adjective: extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary; impracticable.

origin: Quixotic is an eponym based on the character Don Quixote from Miguel de Cervantes’s book of the same name in which a delusional would-be knight-errant roams the countryside in search of adventure.

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Total Comments: 7
  1. 0

    Just to be nit-picky, Quixotic is ACTUALLY pronounced “key-hotik”. It’s Spanish. That’s a country near Europe.

    Must have got the stuff from an American source. They can’t spell or pronounce anything properly.

    Where is the world coming to? Ain’t nobody gunna talk proper no more? Are we becoming an American State? Is this the end of life as we know it??

    • 0

      Hey Janus, believe it or not Quixotic is listed in every dictionary I could find (English, Australian or American) as being pronounced kwik’sotik.
      Regardless of these facts I will continue to pronounce it as “key-hotik”, the way Cervantes would have wanted!

  2. 0

    Sorry, but that is not correct. Try putting Quixotic into Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries on line and look and listen to the pronunciation.

  3. 0

    oh, boy!! this word was used a lot by my late mother to us 4 kids if she didn’t agree with the ‘story’ she was being told (school telltales!). I haven’t used it nor do I think my siblings do but “thanks for the memory” today 🙂

  4. 0

    I can’t believe that Janus says that Spain is a country “near” Europe.
    In fact Spain is and always has been an European country 100%.
    And by the way, it is admitted and allowed to say “Quixotic” as the Spanish grammar allows for an x to be exchanged with a j. So Quijote can be said as Quixote and it was so pronounced and even written in the old literary papers and old Spanish grammar.
    Therefore “Quixotic” is as normal as “Quijotic” or as Janus says, :key-hotic.
    When people makes critical comments about anything they should get their information straight and mind their deficient culture, specially referring to other countries.
    I am a language teacher and interpreter as well as a lecturer in European cultures, in case anyone wonders.

    • 0

      Alexia x I was sitting here smiling to myself and thinking this subject is so not worth commenting on until I read your comment and I have to congratulate you. Yes you are 100% correct in what you have said.
      There are of course many words, in both English and other languages that also can be and are correctly pronounced differently world wide , just as I suspect you would of course know.

  5. 0

    Re scuttlebutt: I have always pronounced the s and final t and so do the recordings provided by Google (though final t was a little difficult to hear) and Oxford dictionaries. Thanks for the great column.



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