Being a compendium of words either awesome to roll across the tongue, or of which it is startling to consider the meaning, or curious etymology.
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. 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 acroynm 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.
The existence of PIE was originally 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."
Please also excuse any variations in style of definition/etymology, as standardizing data is not within my bailiwick. And of course some of these words really don’t need definitions...
"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
Addlepated - befuddled, confused, eccentric, senseless, mad. (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")
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.
Asterix - (*; from Latin asteriscus, from Greek: ἀστερίσκος, asteriskos, "little star") it is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star. Computer scientists and mathematicians often pronounce it as star (as, for example, in the A* search algorithm), or, more informally, splat. It can be used to censor out swear words or objectionable text.
Axiom - from Greek axioma "authority," lit. "that which is thought worthy or fit," from axios "worthy, worth, of like value, weighing as much," from ProtoIndoEuropean adjective *ag-ty-o- "weighty,"
Buckaroo - 1) Cowboy. American English, from bakhara (1827), from Spanish vaquero "cowboy," from vaca "cow," from Latin vacca. (`vaquero' is used especially in southwestern and central Texas and `buckaroo' is used especially in California.) 2) A style of cowboy boot with a high and uniquely tapered heel. 3) A reckless, headstrong person. “Don't run in looking for a fight like some kind of buckaroo.” 4) A dollar (variation of buck). “That'll be twenty buckaroos, buddy.”
1963's "Act Naturally" became Owens and the Buckaroos' first No. 1 hit. The Beatles later recorded a cover of it in 1965, with Ringo Starr as lead singer. Ringo Starr later re-recorded the song as a duet with Owens in 1988.
Blimp - 1916, 1) a small nonrigid airship used for observation or as a barrage balloon.Common theory is that it is from designers' prototype nickname Type B-limp, in the sense of "without internal framework," as opposed to Type A-rigid. 2) any elderly pompous reactionary ultranationalistic person (after the cartoon character created by Sir David Low) [syn: Colonel Blimp]
Blackguard - scullion, kitchen knave. Perhaps once an actual military or guard unit; more likely originally a mock-military reference to scullions of noble households, of black-liveried personal guards, and of shoeblacks. By 1736, sense had emerged of "one of the criminal class." Hence the adjectival use (1784), "of low or worthless character."
Boondoggle - 1935, American English, of uncertain origin, popularized during the New Deal as a contemptuous word for make-work projects for the unemployed. Said to have been a pioneer word for "gadget;" it also was by 1932 a Boy Scout term for a kind of woven braid.
Borborygmus - 17c., from Greek borborygmos, from borboryzein "to have a rumbling in the bowels," (imitative.)
Cuckoo - mid-13c., from Old French cocu "cuckoo," also "cuckold," echoic of the male bird's mating cry (cf. Greek kokkyx, Latin cuculus, Middle Irish cuach, Sanskrit kokilas). Slang sense of "crazy" (adj.) is American English, 1918, but noun meaning "stupid person" is first recorded 1580s, perhaps from the bird's unvarying, oft-repeated call.
Callipygian - "of, pertaining to, or having beautiful buttocks," 1800, Latinized from Greek Kallipygos, name of a statue of Aphrodite at Syracuse, from kalli-, combining form ofkallos "beauty" + pyge "rump, buttocks." Sir Thomas Browne (1646) refers to "Callipygæ and women largely composed behinde."
Cattywampus - (Cattiewhompus, Caddwampus, Catawampus, etc.)1) diagonally, obliquely,askew, awry, in disarray or disorder. 2) across diagonally from; "catty cornered". Origin uncertain. But then there are other completely different definitions; from the Dictionary of American Slang, by Eric Partridge : Catawampus (Catawamptious) : 1) Avid: fierce, eager: violently destructive. 2) Vermin and insects, esp. the stingers and biters... 1870 Orig. US.
Consilience - from the latin, consilire - to jump together. The concurrence of generalizations from separate classes of facts. In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence are very strong on their own. See E. O. Wilson’s book named Consilience - Wilson believes that all knowledge is intrinsically unified and that eventually all the separate academic disciplines from science to the arts would be seen to derive from a master set of natural laws.
Capricious - subject to, led by, or indicative of caprice or whim; erratic. Given to changes of attitudes according to whim or passing fancies. Although there are quibbles about the derivation, with some dictionaries insisting the word is derived from the head of hedgehog! the OED sources the Italian: "Italian capriccio sudden start, motion, or freak, apparently < capro goat, as if ‘the skip or frisk of a goat’".
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 con- "with" + teche, related to atachier "hold fast". Alt Etym: Perhaps derived from earlier contenkerous, from contentious +rancorous.