Tag Archive | thesaurus

240 color names in English

From snow to jade, if you are struggling to describe a color or you just want to broaden your vocabulary.

(Although the blacks seem all the same to me.)2 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


The Politically Incorrect Etymologies of 10 Words and Phrases

At various moments in its life, a word will hop languages, change meanings, travel through sinister moments and land in pleasant ones. But no matter how many times it’s superimposed, and how far it gets from its original source, a word doesn’t let go of its memories easily. Here are 11 modern English words with socially insensitive origins.


hysteria meaning

1. Hysteria (n.) – a wild, irrational eruption of fear or emotion

Hysteria begins in the womb, or so thought the medical scholars of the 1610s, who named the condition after the Latin hystericus, meaning “of the womb.” Those who’ve studied the Victorian era, or read The Awakening in high school, may know that the go-to prognosis of the time for just about every female’s symptom from the occasional hissy fit to chronic seizures was a pesky wayfaring uterus. The condition was thought to be caused by sexual frustration and cured by intercourse or pelvic massage, the latter often performed by physicians and midwives. When doctors finally got fed up with the tedious task in the late 19th century, the personal vibrator was created to take their place. Read More…

35 Modern Words Recently Added to the Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary Online is a warehouse of over 600,000 words. Despite this large arsenal, we continue to coin, clip, and blend new words into existence, and the Oxford folks pump some of these new words into their dictionaries. Here are some more recent additions with their official definitions.

1. Bling (n): Expensive, ostentatious clothing and jewelry.
2. Bromance (n): A close but non-sexual relationship between two men.
3. Chillax (v): Calm down and relax.

Read More…

9 Novel English neologisms



The slang term nerd means an intelligent but single-minded person, obsessed with a certain hobby or pursuit, e.g. a computer nerd. But the word that has been the bane of so many elementary schoolers’ existence was actually invented by their king: none other than Dr. Seuss himself! The word first appeared in print in Seuss’ 1950 picture book, If I Ran the Zoo, though Seuss’ “nerd” is a small animal from the land of Ka-Troo, not a pale kid with glasses taped together.


[yah-hoo, yey-, yah-hoo]


The origin of this word may add some unexpected irony to the well-known internet browser. Originally coined by Jonathan Swift in his 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, Yahoo refers to the brutish race of homo sapiens ruled by the Houyhnhnm, a noble race of speaking horses. Swift’s Yahoos display all of the vices of humanity with none of the virtues, thus it makes sense that the word has come to mean “a coarse or brutish person.” If you say “yahoo” loud enough you might be moved to experience our next neologism.




Lewis Carroll coined this funny term for a gleeful chuckle in his 1872 novel, Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the novel, the word appears in a verse poem titled “The Jabberwocky,” in which Alice finds a book that can only be read using a mirror. The old man in the poem “chortles in his joy” when his son beheads the terrible monster. Today the word is widely thought to be a combination of “chuckle” and “snort.”


[kwawrk, kwahrk]


A quark can be any group of elementary particles that combine to become a subatomic particle such a neutron or proton. In other words, quarks are some of the smallest building blocks of an atom. In 1964 the U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann named the particle after a word he found in James Joyce’s novel, Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce’s quotation reads, “Three quarks for Muster Mark,” with “quark” referring to the cry of the seagull.




Utopia is the title of Sir Thomas More’s whimsical and satirical book written in 1516. More envisions a perfect society situated on an island that he names Utopia. Developing the word from the Greek topos for “place,” More chose the prefix ou- or u- meaning “not” or “no.” Thus the name Utopia quite literally means no place at all. Even though More might have his reservations about the achievability of a perfect world, our next neologism might be the closest thing to a perfect sound.



learn English

The American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe coined this onomatopoetic word in his 1849 poem “The Bells.” The poem was published shortly after Poe’s death, and though the four sections of the piece become progressively darker as Poe describes four different types of bells, tintinnabulation characterizes the joyous sound of silver sleigh bells, foretelling “a world of merriment.” The word is derived from the Latin tinnire meaning “to ring” combined with the instrumental suffix “bulum.”




Do you feel like nobody groks you? Don’t worry, Robert A. Heinlein does. In his 1961 best-selling science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein coined the term to mean an understanding so thorough that “the observer becomes a part of the observed–to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.” But in common usage the term means to communicate sympathetically or to “drink in” understanding. If you’re reading this slideshow off a screen, you’ll definitely grok our next neologism.




Though you might not want to build a house there, anyone with a computer has a stake in cyberspace. Coined by the science fiction writer William Gibson, cyberspace first appeared in a 1982 short story. The word combines the terms “cybernetics” (the use of mechanical and electronic systems to replace human function) and “space” (an area or realm). Together they form “cyberspace,” the realm of electronic communication or virtual reality. If you’ve ever thought “virtual reality” was a bit of an oxymoron, you might be familiar with our final neologism.



catch 22

The deal sounds great, but what’s the catch?” Have you heard something like this? Then you’d better hope the catch isn’t a Catch-22. The phrase represents a frustrating situation in which one is trapped by contradictory regulations or conditions. Catch-22 is the title and central problem of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, and in Heller’s context the catch represents a simultaneously dangerous and idiotic military regulation that maddens the poor characters tangled in his Catch-22.

8 Tantalizing Terms for Eating



gobbleThere are many different ways to partake in a meal: if your appetite is slight, then you might peck and nibble, but if you’re famished, you’re more likely to gobble. This word, which means both “to eat hastily” and “to make the throaty cry of a male turkey,” is thought to be a formation from the word gob, which is slang for mouth. Both definitions could be fun to try out at the dinner table.


[dih-vouuhr, –vou-er]

devourAnother term for the ravenous, the word devour conjures a beastly manner of eating. The word is often invoked to express a degree of barbarous consumption, as in this passage from Robinson Crusoe about men so hungry they’d lost command of themselves: “The poor Creatures rather devour’d than eat it.”



scarfMore than a festive fashion accessory, scarf can also mean “to eat, especially voraciously“. It’s often paired with a helping word, such as up or down, and implies a rapid or frenzied feeding. Those who scarf up their meals are often the first ones at the table to finish, and, as a result, the first ones to nap.



grubOne of the more versatile words on this list when it comes to discussing cuisine, grub can be used to refer to food itself, to the supplying of food, and to the eating of food. Needless to say, it’s a handy word to have in your back pocket at a family meal. But beware: in its noun form, this wily word can also mean “a dull, plodding person“, or the “sluggish larva, as of a scarab beetle“. Use this term wisely at the dinner table.

Chow Down


chowAssociated more with meals of substance than snacks, the phrase chow down incorporates the word chow, which was perhaps brought to us from the Chinese pidgin English word chow-chow meaning “food.”



gorgeThis word, which comes to us from the Old French verb gorger, means both “to eat greedily” and “to stuff with food.” In its noun form, gorge can refer to a gluttonous meal or the throat. So remember: the next time you gorge on a gorge, be sure to wash it down with water; we wouldn’t want anything to get stuck in your gorge.



noshUnlike devour and gorge, this word for eating implies a lighter and more casual consumption. Nosh means “to snack or eat between meals” or “to snack on.” It came to English from the Yiddish nashn meaning “to nibble”.


[v. gawr-muhn-dahyz]

gormandizeThose who gormandize at the dining table eat in a particularly greedy or ravenous manner. The word comes to us from the Middle French gourmand, meaning “glutton.” In English, the noun gourmand has the slightly less pejorative sense of “a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminately and to excess.”


Simple but Intelligent Word Choices

#10: Lucid


very clear and easy to understand; able to think clearly

Words It Might Replace:

clear, logical, orderly (describing an explanation); rational (describing a person). The word’s original meaning, by the way, is “suffused with light.”


“But instead of a lucid narrative explaining what happened when the economy imploded in 2008, why, and who was to blame, the report is a confusing and contradictory mess…” – Frank Partnoy, The New York Times, January 29, 2011

#9: Austere


marked by rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self–denial

Words It Might Replace:

simple or plain, especially when you’re describing something that is strict or without comfort


“This is the austere beauty of the desert: limitless vistas, clear skies, dramatic topography, an unforgiving environment for life of any kind.” – James Fallows, The Atlantic, October 2008

#8: Volatile


likely to change in a very sudden or extreme way; having or showing extreme or sudden changes of emotion

Words It Might Replace:

unstable; emotional; unpredictable


“Prosecutors want to demonstrate that Bonds treated those around him in an abusive and hostile manner and that his volatile nature was also the result of steroid use.” – Christian Red, New York Daily News, March 17, 2011

#7: Stoic


showing no emotion especially when something bad is happening

Words It Might Replace:

unemotional; uncomplaining; cold


“Hockey also gives normally staid, stoic and polite Canadians license to be aggressive.” – Stuart Weinberg, Wall Street Journal (, November 30, 2010

#6: Caustic


marked by sharp or biting sarcasm; very harsh and critical

Words It Might Replace:

critical, hostile, snarky; nasty; sarcastic


“This world loves bickering buddies…. [T]here’s plenty of fondness for comedies built around caustic and amusing back–and–forths between two people that, at the drop of a hat, either want to kill each other or cuddle.” – Christopher Bell,, April 27, 2011

#5: Maudlin


showing or expressing too much emotion especially in a foolish or annoying way

Words It Might Replace:

sappy; schmaltzy; overly emotional


“His daughter’s account of his final days manages to capture the emotion without becoming maudlin.” – Glenn C. Altschuler,, April 28, 2011

#4: Lurid


causing horror or revulsion; involving sex or violence in a way that is meant to be shocking

Words It Might Replace:

shocking; sensational; gruesome


“Like articles about drug busts, this sort of story [about a prostitution ring] produces lurid, boldface headlines that catch the reader’s eye.” – Mark Drought, Stamford Advocate, April 13, 2011

#3: Glib


said or done too easily or carelessly; marked by ease in speaking to the point of being deceitful

Words It Might Replace:

careless; insincere


“A time may come when Tiger Woods will be glib and ebullient and full of witty observations about golf. But I doubt it.” – David Jones,, April 15, 2011

#2: Cavalier


having or showing no concern for something that is important or serious

Words It Might Replace:

thoughtless or careless, especially when you’re describing a disregard for consequences


“Many took issue with [Kristen] Stewart’s rather cavalier use of the term [“rape”], even if it was used in a metaphorical sense…” – Michael Jordan, BlackBook, June 4, 2010

#1: Demure

Long and exotic words (like defenestration or sesquipedalian) are often more fascinating than useful. By comparison, this list offers words that can enrich a conversation without sounding ridiculous.


not attracting or demanding a lot of attention; not showy or flashy; quiet and polite

Words It Might Replace:

modest; unassuming; shy; coy


“As William and Kate sang prayers from the specially designed hymn sheets, the two sisters looked on unassumingly. But despite their demure appearance, rumours even began to surface today that one of the women was a secret ‘ninja nun’ intended to protect the Royal couple by pouncing on any intruders.” – Daily Mail, May 1, 2011

Read more…

18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.


High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”


Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.


Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.


“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?


“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.


Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”


“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.


Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?


Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”


Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”


“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.


“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”


Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.


“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.


“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.


Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.


“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.


Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

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10 Ways to Improve Your SCRABBLE Game

#1: QI


: the vital force that in Chinese thought is inherent in all things (plural: QIS)

About the Word:

Devoted SCRABBLE players use the dictionary as their arsenal. Every variation of a word – plural forms, alternate spellings – can be used to gain the edge in competition.

Although it’s most commonly spelled CHI in standard usage, the variant form QI is the single most-played word in SCRABBLE tournaments, according to game records of the North American SCRABBLE Players Association (NASPA).

#2: ZA


: pizza (plural: ZAS)

About the Word:

ZA (often styled in print as ‘za) is a slang shortening of the word pizza. You may be surprised at the slang found on the tournament SCRABBLE board: BRO, HOMEY, and YO are all accepted words.

ZA is the most played word containing the letter Z (and the only playable two-letter word with the letter Z) in tournament SCRABBLE play.

Incidentally, .za is the country code for South Africa (Zuid-Afrika is Dutch for “South Africa”), but abbreviations and codes are not acceptable on the SCRABBLE board

#3: Phoney

About the Word:

You probably associate bluffing with poker, but it is just as much a part of serious SCRABBLE play. Tournament players will often make up words that look legitimate to the untrained eye – fake compounds like OUTMANAGE, or plausible misspellings like EJECTER.

The choice to play a phoney is a strategic one. (And note: the spelling of the SCRABBLE-specific noun is not the usual phony.) If your opponent doesn’t challenge you, your bluff can earn you points and strengthen your position. If you lose a challenge, you lose your turn.

“People win games by taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. Knowing the idiosyncrasies of our language is a huge advantage over those who do not,” says SCRABBLE champ Chris Cree.



: plural of RETINA, a membrane of the eye

About the Word:

Getting a rack with these seven letters can be viewed as a SCRABBLE bulls-eye. RETINAS has eight accepted anagramsANESTRI, ANTSIER, NASTIER, RATINES, RETAINS, RETSINA, STAINER, and STEARIN – which means nine different words can be played using those same seven letters.

The strategic player will evaluate which anagram scores the most, which might most likely be challenged, and which might best accomplish the player’s desired board strategy.

#5: XU


: a monetary unit of Vietnam (plural: XU)

About the Word:

X is a very powerful tile: all five vowels work with the eight-point X to make two-letter words (AX, EX, XI, OX are the four other words). When the X tile is used in an overlapped two-letter play with the X on a triple letter score, the player will almost always score at least 52 points.



: a monetary unit of Poland (plural: ZLOTYS)

About the Word:

Most foreign currencies, like the previously mentioned XU, plus COLON (plural: COLONES), FRANC, KORUN (plural: KORUNAS, KORUNY, or KORUN), PESETA, NAKFA) are acceptable words. ZLOTY is powerful both because it has the valuable ten-point Z and because it has the unusual -YS plural.

#7: Hook

About the Word:

The SCRABBLE sense of hook isn’t found in standard dictionaries, but it’s defined on the North American SCRABBLE Players Association as:

a letter that can be played at the front or the back of another word to form a new word; also : the word formed by such an action

SCRABBLE players don’t limit themselves to adding S to the end of a word. A single letter can make for surprising changes in the meaning or sound of a word. G can be hooked to the back of ASPIRIN to form ASPIRING and P can be hooked to the front of IRATE to form PIRATE.

Members of the NASPA Facebook community shared some of their favorite hooks:




: a stuffed and fried pocket of dough (plural: GYOZAS)

About the Word:

Many culinary words from around the world are acceptable in SCRABBLE play. The Japanese GYOZA, with the ten-point Z, is particularly valuable.


#9: Bingo

About the Word:

A SCRABBLE play that uses all seven tiles is also known as a bingo. Tournament SCRABBLE players count on bingos in every game, because laying down a seven-tile word earns a “bingo” bonus of 50 points.

Players building up their SCRABBLE skills might memorize the six-letter bingo stems that can create the most bingos. For instance, the letters AEINST can be used to create 70 different bingos with 23 different seventh letters.

And count yourself extremely lucky if you start a game with MUZJIKS. This word (definition: Russian peasants) is the highest scoring opening word possible—128 points, when played without any blanks.

#10: AMIGO


: a friend (plural: AMIGOS)

About the Word:

While it’s true that the category of “foreign words” is not acceptable in SCRABBLE tournament play, words of foreign origin that are widely used in English are.

In addition to AMIGO, the OSPD includes: AMIGA, AMI, AMIE, ADIOS, ADIEU (plurals: ADIEUS, ADIEUX), and SAYONARA.

Special thanks to Chris Cree and John Chew of North American SCRABBLE Players Association for their guidance and suggestions for this list.


113 words for different things one could eat

These words generally end in “phagous“, from the Greek phagein, or “vorous“, from Latin vorare, both verbs meaning “to eat“. Which suffix you want to use depends on whether you feel like having souvlaki or spaghetti.



allotriophagy craving for strange foods
androphagy cannibalism
anthropophaginian cannibal
anthropophagous (again) eating humans
aphagia inability to eat or swallow
apivorous eating bees
arachnivorous feeding on spiders
autocoprophagy eating one’s own feces
autophagy feeding on body’s own tissues
baccivorous eating berries
batrachivorous frog-eating
bibliophagist one who devours books, literally or figuratively
calcivorous feeding on or living in limestone
cardophagus donkey; something that eats thistles
carnivorous eating flesh
carpophagous fruit-eating
cepivorous onion-eating
chthonophagia eating dirt
comburivorous consuming by fire
coprophagous eating feces
creatophagous carnivorous; flesh-eating
creophagous flesh-eating; carnivorous
detritivore animal that eats decomposing organic matter
dysphagia pathological difficulty in swallowing
endophagy cannibalism within a tribe; eating away from within
entomophagous eating insects
equivorous consuming horseflesh
exophagy cannibalism outside one’s own group
foliophagous eating leaves; eating folios of books
formivorous eating ants
fructivorous feeding on fruit
frugivorous eating fruit
fucivorous eating seaweed
galactophagist milk drinker
gamophagia destruction of one gamete by another
geophagy practice of feeding on soil; dirt-eating
glossophagine eating using the tongue
graminivorous feeding on grass or cereals
granivorous feeding on seeds
gumnivorous feeding on tree saps
herbivorous eating only plant matter
hippophagy feeding on horses
homnivorous eating humans
hylophagous eating wood
hyperphagia eating too much
ichthyophagous fish-eating
insectivorous eating insects
kreatophagia eating of raw meat
larvivorous feeding on larvae
lignivorous feeding on wood
limivorous eating mud
lithophagous stone-swallowing; rock-boring; eating rock
lotophagous feeding on lotuses; indolent; lazy; dreamy
mallophagous eating wool or fleece
meconophagist consumer of opium or heroin
meliphagous feeding upon honey
mellivorous honey-eating
merdivorous dung-eating
microphagous feeding on small creatures or plants
monophagous feeding on only one type of food
mucivorous feeding on plant juices
mycophagous eating fungus
myristicivorous feeding upon nutmegs
myrmecophagous feeding on ants
necrophagous feeding on the dead
nectarivorous feeding on nectar
nucivorous nut-eating
omnivorous eating anything; eating both plant and animal matter
omophagy eating of raw flesh as a ritual observance
onychophagist nail-biter
ophiophagous eating snakes
oryzivorous rice-eating
ossivorous feeding on bones
ostreophagous oyster-eating
ovivorous eating eggs
ovivorous eating sheep
paedophage eater of children
pagophagia eating trays of ice to help offset iron deficiency
panivorous bread-eating
pantophagy omnivorousness
phthirophagous lice-eating
phyllophagous leaf-eating
phytivorous feeding on plants
phytophagous feeding on vegetable matter
piscivorous fish-eating
placentophagy eating of the placenta
plantivorous plant-eating
plasmophagous consuming plasma
poephagous eating grass or herbs; herbivorous
poltophagy prolonged chewing of food
polyphagous eating many types of food
psomophagy swallowing food without thorough chewing
radicivorous eating roots
ranivorous eating frogs
rhizophagous root-eating
rhypophagy eating filth
sanguivorous blood-drinking
saprophagous feeding on decaying material
sarcophagous feeding on flesh; carnivorous
saurophagous eating lizards
scatophagous dung-eating
seminivorous seed-eating
stercovorous feeding on dung or excrement
thalerophagous feeding on fresh vegetable matter
theophagy sacramental consumption of a god
toxicophagous eating poison
toxiphagous poison-eating
univorous living on only one host or source of food
vegetivorous eating vegetables
vermivorous eating worms
xerophagy eating of dry food; fast of dry food in the week preceding Easter
xylophagous wood-eating
zoophagy eating animals
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