Thursday, September 30, 2010


Lucifugous \loo-see-FOO-guhs\ , adjective;
1. Avoiding light

Interesting word of the day, especially since I spent the evening watching lucifugous vampires doing naughty thing on True Blood. This word conjures up a feeling of evil since the luci- beginning is reminiscent of lucifer

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
It comes from the Latin word lucifug-us, which is formed by lux + fug-ere. Lux forms luc(i)- in combination and literal "light" + "fly" means "shunning the light"

Looking around I realize that this word is mainly a natural history term, but it's occasionally used in poetic-sounding writing. It is the name of a book I haven't read, so I can't vouch for it being good or not. I don't think my initial inclination about this being an evil-sounding word has any merit, but it does sound kind of cool so I'll have to keep it in mind if I ever write a vampire or other creature-of-the-night story.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Thursday, September 30

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Confiscable \kuhn-FIS-kuh-buhl\ , adjective;
1. Liable to be taken by an authorized party

This word doesn't exist on and the OED entry is equally bland. What is interesting though, is that the etymologies of confiscate and confiscation are surprisingly different:

Confiscate goes back to the 1550's and originally meant "to appropriate from the treasury." It comes from the Latin word confiscatus, which is the past participle of confiscare. Com- + fiscus ("together" + "public treasury") combine to make confiscare, which literally translates to "money basket".

Confiscation goes back to the 1540's and is derived from the Middle French word confiscation. Confiscation comes from Latin confiscationem, for which the nominative is confiscatio, and is a noun of action from confiscare.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Wednesday, September 29

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Efface \ih-FAYS\ , transitive verb;
1. To cause to disappear by rubbing out, striking out, etc.; to erase; to render illegible or indiscernible
2. To destroy, as a mental impression; to wipe out; to eliminate completely
3. To make (oneself) inconspicuous

This word is weird to me because it seems pretty common, but I didn't know what it meant. I may have guessed there was something destructive involved because of it's outward similarity to deface...but without the benefit of hindsight, that seems like kind of a stretch.

According to
Efface has been around since the late 15th century and is derived from Middle French effacer, which comes from Old French esfacier. This Old French word is from the 12th century and it means "to wipe out, destroy." The literal translation is "to remove the face" from es- + face ("out" + "appearance"). This face comes from Latin facies, meaning "face".

So maybe my association with deface wasn't such a stretch after all. This etymology is pretty predictable and makes sense...especially when you take into account our love for adopting French words into English.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
1. a. To rub out, obliterate (writing, painted or sculpted figures, a mark or stain) from the surface of anything so as to leave no distinct traces.
1. b. In wider sense: To cause to disappear entirely, do away with (a visible feature or object).
2. To expunge, erase (words or sentences) from a written composition or document. No only in [figurative] sentences.
3. [figurative] To obliterate, wipe out (a memory, a mental impression); to 'blot out', pardon, obtain oblivion for (an offence); to abolish, destroy (distinctive characteristics, etc.).
4. a. [figurative] To cast utterly into the shade, reduce to virtual nonentity
4. b. [reflexive - after French s'effacer] To reduce oneself to insignificance; to abandon or forfeit one's claim to consideration.

So I read 4.b. and thought, "Aha! That's why I thought I knew that word...self-efficacy!" I quickly realized that I was dead wrong. Self-efficacy means you believe in yourself. Self-effacing isn't related either, it means you're really shy. Oh well, so I'm an idiot on this one...stranger things have happened.

Because the OED is such a massive volume - 20 books! - they can't exactly re-print it every year (in fact, they are only 28% done with the third's been in print since 1928). Language evolves pretty fast though, so in order to keep up, the wonderful OED people write yearly 'additions series' so they can add new words. In the 1993 addition series, efface got a new medical meaning:
5. [Obstetrics] To distort (the cervix, umbilicus, etc.) to such an extent that it is unrecognizable or indistinguishable, usually through the distention of and adjacent organ in the course of labour.

Okay, say it with me: "OUUUUUUUCH!" That sounds horrible, is that common?

Turns out it's not only common, it's a necessary step in child birth. The medical definition is not nearly as scary sounding...whew!

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Tuesday, September 28

Monday, September 27, 2010


Rigmarole \RIG-muh-rohl\ , noun;
1. An elaborate or complicated procedure
2. Confused, incoherent, foolish, or meaningless talk

Well definition 2 certainly seems to apply to most of discourse these days, doesn't it? I like this word, but I was sort of off on the meaning. I thought it was more like jumping through hoops to get something accomplished or a round-about description of something...well, maybe I wasn't that far off.

According to
Attributed from 1736 as "a long, rambling discourse," from an altered Kentish colloquial survival of ragman roll, meaning "long list or catalogue" and dating to the 1520's. Ragman roll derives from a Middle English (medieval) game of chance called Rageman involving a long roll of verses describing personal characters. Rageman probably derives from Anglo-French Ragemon le bon ("Ragemon the good"), which was the heading of one set of the verses, referring to a character by that name. Using rigmarole to mean something like "foolish activity or commotion" is cited in 1955, but it was used orally as early as the 1930's

Typing this word into different search engines I notice something funny: misspelled it! The word is entered as rigmorole, even though the rest of the post spells it rigmarole (which is correct). Silly dictionary, how can I ever trust you again?

The Oxford English Dictionary has all kinds of info on this word; it's a noun, adjective, and verb! Since this particular post lists rigmarole as a noun, I'll stick to that here:
1. a. An unduly protracted, involved, or diffuse piece of speech or writing; a story, explanation, etc., regarded as unintelligible or incoherent. Now rare.
1. b. Without article: language or discourse characterized by elaboration or (excessive) length; (in later use also) rambling or incoherent speech or writing. Now rare.
2. A long, involved, or tedious procedure, or set of these; fuss, 'palaver'

The OED's etymology of this word also refers to Ragman Roll.

I've always thought this word was kind of interesting, but I never really used it because I didn't trust myself to spell it correctly and wasn't sure I knew exactly what it meant. Now I see why, even the dictionaries can't entirely agree! I think it is safe to say that if you're describing something is unnecessarily complicated or confusing, this is the perfect word.

***Editor's note: people must have commented or someone noticed the error, because the misspelling has been corrected...but I swear it was spelled rigmorole this morning!

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Monday, September 27

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Aeon \EE-uhn\ , noun;
1. (in Gnosticism) one of a class of powers or beings conceived as emanating from the Supreme Being and performing various functions in the operations of the universe
2. Eon

According to
Aeon originates in the 1640's and comes from Latin aeon, which comes from Greek aion, meaning "age, eternity"

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
1. An age of the universe, an immeasurable period of time; the whole duration of the world, or of the universe; eternity 
2. The personification of an age. In [Platonic Philosophy], A power existing from eternity; and emanation, generation, or phase of the supreme deity, taking part in the creation and government of the universe
3. [Geology] [Usually] eon. The largest division of geological time, composed of several eras
4. [Geology] and [Astronomy] One thousand million years

I love this word. It's sort of strange for the English language because we don't typically have three vowels grouped together, but it's meaning conveys such an immeasurable vastness that you don't mind that the word itself is atypical. As you might imagine, an online search of this word results in a lot of hits - this word is used by corporations, insurance agencies, and so much more - there is even a death metal band named Aeon. I also happen to know, from personal experience, that this word is often used in crossword puzzles.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Sunday, September 26

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Hobbledehoy \HOB-uhl-dee-hoy\ , noun;
1. An awkward, gawky young fellow

According to
The definition, "clumsy or awkward youth," is attributed from at least 1540. The first element, hob, indicates a sense of "clown, prankster" (like hobgoblin). The second element probably comes from Middle French de haye, which is literally "of the hedge," but it really means "worthless, untamed, wild."

So a 'worthless, untamed, wild clown or prankster' is a dorky teenager?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
1. A youth at the age between boyhood and manhood, a stripling; [especially] a clumsy or awkward youth
2. Locally applied by children to a large clumsy top

The etymology offered by the OED is somewhat cumbersome, so I didn't copy it above. It's main idea is that this is a colloquial word and the origin is debatable. The 1540 attribution is mentioned, but so are a few from the 1700's and words such as hoberdidance, hobbididance, and hobidy-booby are listed as possible relatives. It suggest that the word is now frequently associated with hobble, therefore making reference to an awkward of clumsy gait.

To me this word obviously indicates awkwardness of some form - hobble, wobble, bobble; these words all indicated something unsteady. It's the association with a teenager (or a male teenager specifically) that's not outwardly apparent. I suppose teenagers are sort of the epitome of awkwardness, but I digress...

Looking around on the internet, is looks like this word is listed in a bunch of online dictionaries and not much else. It is the name of a montessori school in California, someone's blog (of course), and (like frabjous) an online yarn store. Apparently yarn people like to reach into the random, old-fashioned parts of dictionaries for their store names.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Saturday, September 25

Friday, September 24, 2010


Frabjous \FRAB-juhs\ , adjective:1. Wonderful, elegant, superb, or delicious

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
A nonsense-word invented by 'Lewis Carroll' (C.L. Dodgson), [apparently] intended to suggest 'fair' and 'joyous'; used vaguely by others in various contextual senses. Hence 'frabjously', adv. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Upon discovering the etymology of this word, I was annoyed. Sure it's a word and sure the OED has attributions for it's use through 1970, but as a 'word of the day' it's irritating. I suspect that any attempt to actually use this word will require an assumed common knowledge of Jabberwocky, which is not a fair assumption. Plus, if you do use this word and are questioned on it's meaning, you sound like a literary snob.
Annoyance aside, I did click around a bit to see if there are any contemporary, non-Lewis Carroll-related usages and found a blog that uses it, plus two instances where the name 'Frabjous' has been applied. The first is a beautiful and mathematical sculpture made out of 30 identical s-shaped pieces. This thing is absolutely gorgeous and deserving of a whimsical name, so a word out of Lewis Carroll's head seems apropos. The second is a category of yarn sold on an online fiber shop. The yarns are certainly bright, colorful, and interesting, so again, a whimsical name works.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Friday, September 24