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Weird Words

By Edited Sep 7, 2015 0 0

Lexophiles are people who love words. They have been known to collect lists of unusual words, aphorisms and atrocious puns. These words are for them.

Note: The italicized form, uh, in the pronunciation guidelines following the word indicates the schwa, the neutral vowel in English such as the a in alone, e in system, i in easily, o in gallop and u in circus.

adiaphorous \ ad-ee-AF-er-uhs\ , adjective:
Doing neither good nor harm, as a medicine. (See commensal below.)

ailurophilia \ ahy-loor-uh-FIL-ee-uh; ey-loor- \  , noun;  

A liking for cats, as by cat fanciers.


Persian kitten
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

alexipharmic \ uh-lek-suh-FAHR-mik

adjective: 1. Warding off poisoning or infection; antidotal; prophylactic.

noun: 2.  an alexipharmic agent, especially an internal antidote.

Note: Tequila, according to my friend Anselmo, is an excellent alexipharmic that contains, as a bonus, wondrous restorative qualities.

anagnorisis \ an-ag-NAWR-uh-sis, -NOHR- \  , noun;  

(in ancient Greek tragedy) The critical moment of recognition or discovery. This usually comes right before the peripeteia which, as you surely know, means a sudden turn of events or unexpected reversal.

anhedonia \ an-he-DOH-nee-uh, noun, Psychology

Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Note: This word is about all I remember from my college psychology class.

anopisthograph \ an-uh-PIS-thuh-graf\ , noun:
Manuscript, parchment, or book having writing on only one side of the pages.

antepenultimate \ an-tee-pi-NUHL-tuh-mit \  , adjective;

Third from the end. Note: If it took you years to find a way to use “penultimate” (meaning next to last) in a conversation, think how long it will take you to fit this word into one!

apopemptic \ ap-uh-PEMP-tik\ , adjective:
Pertaining to leave-taking or departing; valedictory.

biblioklept \ BIB-lee-uh-klept\ , noun:
A person who steals books.

bloviate \ BLOH-vee-eyt \ verb:

To speak pompously. Note: This pseudo-Latin alteration of blow (to boast), was popularized by Warren G. Harding, 29th president of the US, to describe what politicians do. Related form: noun: bloviation

borborygmus \ bawr-buh-RIG-muhs \ noun:

A rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the stomach. Note: This word sounds as offensive as the noise it represents.

boustrophedon \boo-struh-FEED-n\ , noun:  

Ancient form of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and then left to right. Origin: It is named after the farming method followed for millennia in which the farmer turns his ox at the edge of the field to plow another furrow parallel with the one he just finished. It literally translates as “to turn like an ox while plowing,” derived from the Greek boûs for “ox,” and strophÄ“ meaning “to turn.”

Brobdingnagian \ brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn


  1. Of huge size; gigantic, tremendous.


  1.     1.  An inhabitant of Brobdingnag
  2.     2.  A being of tremendous size.

Origin: From Brobdingnab, an imaginary country of giants in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

"Odyssey Polyphemus" by John Flaxman

Odyssey Polyphemus
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

commensal \ kuh-MEN-suhl


  1. Eating together at the same table.
  2. Ecology. (of an animal, plant, microbe, etc.) living with, on, or in another being without injury to either. (Compare adiaphorous above.)


  1. A companion at table.
  2. Ecology. A commensal organism.

coprolite \ KOP-ruh-lahyt \ noun:

A stony mass consisting of fossilized fecal matter. Origin: This word has an interesting history. O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope were mid-19th century American paleontologists who began as friends but became bitter rivals. They were excellent scientists who found tens of thousands of fossils. Darwin himself, in a letter to Marsh in 1880, praised him for his work in validating the theory of evolution. Marsh, upon finding the first chunk of fossilized feces couldn’t resist calling it coprolite. It’s valid scientific terminology: Copro- is a combining form meaning dung and -lite is used in the names of minerals and fossils, but it’s likely that Marsh would have used another form if not for their bitter feud. PBS produced a great documentary about these guys called Dinosaur Wars. It didn’t mention the history of coprolite. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote an article explaining the word’s etymology. (See title essay in BULLY FOR BRONTOSAURUS Reflections in Natural History, by Stephen Jay Gould. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,  Published 1991).

Thanks to award-winning science fiction writer Edward Bryant for giving me this word:

Tzunduko (I know better than to try to give a pronunciation guide)

In Japanese, a clutter of books piled on many pieces of furniture in a room. Too bad there isn’t an English cognate of this word.

Stack of Books
Credit: Wikibooks

And finally...

Feel free to use any of these terms in your next conversation at a cocktail party. People will either think you’re brilliant or that you are an insufferable snob.



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