Words I Didn’t Know

…at the risk of betraying an assumed intellect, here are some fun words I didn’t know:


foment – instigate or stir up
bifurcate – divided into two branches or forks

The New Yorker Magazine

torpid – mentally or physically inactive [Sept 21, 2009, Dutch Touch]

Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow

pericarped – part of the a fruit formed from the wall of the ripened ovary
manse – the house occupied by a minister of a Presbyterian church
licentious – promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters
puerile – childishly silly and trivial
suffragettes – a woman seeking the right to vote through organized protes
obsequies – funeral rites
equipages – a carriage and horses with attendants
miasma – a highly unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapor
apercu – a comment or brief reference that makes an illuminating or entertaining point
amatory – relating to or induced by sexual love or desire
acerb – sharp and forthright
epaulets – an ornamental shoulder piece on an item of clothing
palliate – make less severe or unpleasant without removing the cause
pasha – the title of a Turkish officer of high rank
slattern – a dirty, untidy woman
contrapuntral – of or in counterpoint
athwart – from side to side of
tympanic – resembling or acting like a drumhead
ontological – the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being
lilliputian – trivial or very small

The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

parapet – a low, protective wall along the edge of a roof
strident – loud and harsh
maudlin – self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental
self-abnegation – the denial or abasement of oneself
elucidate – make something clear
magnanimity – very generous or forgiving
gregarious – fond of company
passant – represented as walking, with the right front foot raised
rotogravure – a printing system using a rotary press with intaglio cylinders, typically running at high speed and used for long print runs of magazines and stamps
fluoroscope – an instrument with a fluorescent screen used for viewing X-ray images without taking and developing X-ray photographs
hiccoughs – hiccup
chatelaine – a woman in charge of a large house
petulant – childishly sulky
impertinent – not showing proper respect
plebian – a member of the lower social classes
monolith – a large single upright block of stone
aviatrix – a female pilot

  1. September 13th, 2009 at 23:28 | #1

    I *love* that I’m not the only one left who looks up words. Love the Fountainhead, too. Sad thing is, I can’t recall now if I liked that better or Atlas Shrugged. They’re both on my ‘to re-re-read’ list, but sadly so are countless others. Huzzah!

  2. September 14th, 2009 at 00:16 | #2

    Two books I would highly recommend are William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition” and Neil Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”. I re-read them regularily. – Warning, the second one is quite long, so save it for a holiday week!

  3. April 29th, 2012 at 16:02 | #3

    i frequently hear words that sound familiar but when i look them up they are not at all.

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