Words

I have loved letters and words for as long as I can remember. I love their shapes the way a painter might enjoy the smell of paint.

  • A-G
    • A
      • acquiesce – 1610s, from Middle French acquiescer (16c.), from Latin acquiescere “to become quiet, remain at rest,” thus “be satisfied with,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + quiescere “to become quiet,” from quies (genitive quietis) “rest, quiet”
      • aggrandize – 1630s, “to make larger, increase,” from French agrandiss-, present participle stem of agrandir “to augment” (16c.), ultimately from Latin ad “to” (see ad-) + grandire “to make great,” from grandis (see grand (adj.)). The double -g- spelling in English is by analogy with Latin words in ad-
      • amalgam – c. 1400, “blend of mercury with another metal; soft mass formed by chemical manipulation,” from Old French amalgame or directly from Medieval Latin amalgama, “alloy of mercury (especially with gold or silver),” an alchemists’ word, perhaps an alteration of Latin malagma “poultice, plaster,” probably from Arabic al-malgham “an emollient poultice or unguent for sores (especially warm)” [Francis Johnson, “A Dictionary of Persian, Arabic, and English”], perhaps from Greek malagma “softening substance,” from malassein “to soften,” from malakos “soft.”
      • apocryphal – late 14c., neuter plural of Late Latin apocryphus “secret, not approved for public reading,” from Greek apokryphos “hidden; obscure,” thus “(books) of unknown authorship” (especially those included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but not originally written in Hebrew and not counted as genuine by the Jews), from apo- “away” (see apo-) + kryptein “to hide” (see crypt). Properly plural (the single would be Apocryphon or apocryphum), but commonly treated as a collective singular.
      • askance
      • aspersions – mid-15c., from Latin aspersionem (nominative aspersio) “a sprinkling,” noun of action from past participle stem of aspergere “to sprinkle on,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + spargere “sprinkle, strew” (see sparse). Originally in theology, the shedding of Christ’s blood. Modern sense of “a bespattering with slander” first attested 1590s. To cast aspersions was in Fielding (1749).
      • asynchronous
    • B
      • balkanized
      • bawdy
      • beatific
      • blithe
      • blithely
      • brazen
      • bridled
      • brouhaha
      • brusque
      • bumptious
      • bushel
    • C
      • cabal – 1520s, “mystical interpretation of the Old Testament,” later “society, small group meeting privately” (1660s), from French cabal, in both senses, from Medieval Latin cabbala (see cabbala). Popularized in English 1673 as an acronym for five intriguing ministers of Charles II (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale), which gave the word its sinister connotations.
      • callow
      • cantankerous – 1772, said to be “a Wiltshire word,” probably from an alteration (influenced by raucous) of Middle English contakour “troublemaker” (c. 1300), from Anglo-French contec “discord, strife,” from Old French contechier (Old North French contekier), from con- “with” + teche, related to atachier “hold fast” (see attach). 
      • cardinal – “chief, pivotal,” early 14c., from Latin cardinalis “principal, chief, essential,” from cardo (genitive cardinis) “that on which something turns or depends; pole of the sky,” originally “door hinge,” which is of unknown origin. 
      • caustic – 
      • celestial – late 14c., “pertaining to heaven,” from Old French celestial “celestial, heavenly, sky-blue,” from Latin caelestis “heavenly, pertaining to the sky,” from caelum “heaven, sky; abode of the gods; climate,” which is of uncertain origin; perhaps from PIE *kaid-slo-, perhaps from a root also found in Germanic and Baltic meaning “bright, clear” (compare Lithuanian skaidrus “shining, clear;” Old English hador, German heiter “clear, shining, cloudless,” Old Norse heið “clear sky”). 
      • chutzpah – also hutzpah, 1892, from Yiddish khutspe “impudence, gall.” from Hebrew hutspah. The classic definition is that given by Leo Rosten: “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”
      • claptrap
      • cloddish
      • clutch
      • coalesce – 1540s, from Latin coalescere “unite, grow together, become one in growth,” from com- “together” (see co-) + alescere “to grow up” (see adolescent). 
      • cogent
      • colloquium
      • colossal
      • comeuppance
      • confidante
      • contentious
      • cornucopia – c. 1500, from Late Latin cornucopia, from Latin cornu copiae “horn of plenty,” originally the horn of the goat Amalthea, who nurtured the infant Zeus.
      • credo
      • culmination
    • D
      • debutante
      • declasse
      • dialectic
      • diorama
      • discordant
      • dissuade
      • dogma
      • dreary
      • dryly
    • E
      • ebullience – 1749, from Latin ebullientem (nominative ebulliens) “a boiling, a bursting forth, overflow,” present participle of ebullire “to boil over”
      • edifice
      • effluvia
      • effusive
      • ejecta
      • emancipate
      • epigenetic
      • epoch – 1610s, epocha, “point marking the start of a new period in time” (such as the founding of Rome, the birth of Christ, the Hegira), from Medieval Latin epocha, from Greek epokhe “stoppage, fixed point of time,” from epekhein “to pause, take up a position,” from epi “on” (see epi-) + ekhein “to hold” (see scheme (n.)). Transferred sense of “a period of time” is 1620s; geological usage (not a precise measurement) is from 1802.
      • erudite
      • escort
      • espoused
      • etiology
      • eviscerate
    • F
      • fait accompli
      • firmament
      • foibles
      • fraudulent
    • G
      • gangly
      • gentile
      • glitterati
      • gordian
  • H-O
    • H
      • hankering
      • harrumph
      • hauteur
      • hubris
      • humdrum
      • hypatia
    • I
      • iconoclast
      • impasse
      • impeached
      • imperturbable
      • incandescent
      • incised
      • indoctrinate
      • inveterate
      • irrevocable
    • J
      • journeyman
    • L
      • lecherous
      • lichen
      • lithe
      • litigate
      • litigious
      • loomed
      • loquacious
      • luminaries
    • M
      • magnate
      • marquis
      • mccarthyism
      • medieval
      • menegerie
      • messianic
      • miffed
      • mitigate
    • N
      • nascent
      • nimbus
      • nondescript
    • O
      • obeisance
      • odious
      • orthodox
      • ostensible
      • ostensibly
      • outflank
  • P-Z
    • P
      • paean
      • perfunctorily
      • pervasive
      • petulant
      • phantasm
      • pomposity
      • pontificated
      • precluded
      • primeval
      • primordial
      • proponent
      • protean
      • proximate
      • proxy
      • puerile
      • purplest
    • Q
      • quasar
      • quixotic
    • R
      • raconteur
      • rapprochement
      • reconnoitered
      • recuse
      • regaled
      • repartee
      • repudiating
      • resolute
      • reticence
      • reticence
      • rotund
      • ruminate
    • S
      • savant
      • scintillate
      • scrounge
      • seance
      • seminal
      • shoals
      • sobriquet
      • soiree
      • sparse
      • specious
      • stipend
      • stonewall
      • straitlaced
      • subterfuge
      • suburbs
      • supercilious
      • surmised
    • T
      • talmud
      • technocratic
      • tepid
      • terse
      • tether
      • timorously
      • trite
      • truisms
      • tutelage
    • U
      • umbrage
      • unctuous
    • V
      • vagabond
      • vagary
      • vanguard
      • vehement
      • veldt
      • verisimilitude
      • veritable
      • veto
      • virulent
      • voluble
    • W
      • wane
      • whetted
      • wry
    • X
    • Y
    • Z

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