Tag Archives: unique words

Utterly Unique Words

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe editors of Dictionary.com are fond of diving into the depths of the sea of words, looking for truly dazzling and unique treasures to haul up to the surface. Here are some recent discoveries that they titled “utterly unique”:

dreamt: this past tense of dream is the only verb in English to end with “mt”

hydroxyzine: one of only two words in the English language that has an X, Y, and Z in alphabetical order; refers to a versatile medication that reduces activity in the central nervous system; specifically, it acts as an antihistamine and sedative. (Incidentally, the other word is xyzzor, a nematode worm. Gross!)

queue: a line; it is the only word in English that is pronounced the same if you remove the last four letters.

syzygy: The alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line; most commonly the Earth, Sun, and Moon; the only word in the English language that contains three “y”s.

tmesis: the insertion of one or more words between a word, compound word, or a phrase (eg, abso-freaking-lutely, fan-bloody-tastic, legend-wait for it-dary); the only English word that begins with “tm.”

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry

For further reading: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole
A Word A Day by Anu Garg


Definition: Adjective. Something strange or bizarre; also something mildly indecent or risqué.

Etymology: The word was coined by Victor Neuburg, an English poet and writer ( 1883 – 1940). The word, literally translated means “full of rich dirt,” is formed from the Greek word ostro (meaning “rich”) and the English word bog (meaning “dirt”) and the Latin diminutive suffix -ulus (meaning “full of”).

For further reading: www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-ost1.htm

Word of the Year 2012

Recently the esteemed editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced 2012’s word of the year: omnishambles. The word, coined by the writers of BBC political satire in 2009 means a situation that is chaotic or disorganized from every conceivable angle. “It was a word everyone liked, which seemed to sum up so many of the events over the last 366 days in a beautiful way,” explained one of the lexicographers. “It’s funny, it’s quirky, and it has broken free of its fictional political beginnings, firstly by spilling over into real politics, and then into other contexts. If influence is any indication of staying power, it has already staked its claim by being linguistically productive in its own right, producing a number of related coinages (e.g., Romneyshambles or omnishambles). While many of them are probably humorous one-offs, their very existence shows that the omnishambles itself has entered at least the familiar parlance, if not quite the common parlance.”

The runner-ups for 2012 word of the year included:
Eurogeddon: the threatened financial collapse in the eurozone
Mummy porn: a new genre of erotic literature inspired by the 50 Shades trilogy
Green-on-blue: military attacks by neutral forces
To medal: a verb, that means to win a medal in an athletic competition, inspired by the London Olympics
Second screening: to watch TV while working on a computer or mobile device at the same time
Yolo: Textese for “you only live once”
Pleb: an ordinary person, often belonging to lower social class

For further reading: http://www.oed.com. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20309441


Definition: Adjective. Having way hair.

Etymology: from the ancient Greek, kuma, meaning “wave” and trikh, a stem of thrix, meaning “hair.”

Pronuciation: sy MO truh kus

Trivia: Cymotrichous is notable, not only because there are so many cymotrichous people, but because it was the winning word in the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 2, 2011. Sukanya Roy, then 14 years old, spelled the word correctly, beating out 275 top spellers, for the coveted title and $40,000 in cash and prizes. And no, her hair is not wavy.


When asked “What is the first word listed in a dictionary?” most people correctly answer correctly: A (used commonly as a noun, article, or preposition). The followup question is not so easily answered: “What is the last word in a dictionary?”

That distinction belongs to Zyzzyva. Nope — it isn’t an illness; nor is it one of those alphabet-soup appellations belonging to a startup technology or social media company (of course, it will only be a matter of time…). The Zyzzyva (pronounced “ziz – uh – vuh”) is the genus of the South American weevil that is destructive to plants. The Zyzzyva is a beetle with a short beak, not much longer than an ant. The weevil was discovered in Brazil by entomologist Thomas Casey, Jr. in 1922. It is not certain how Casey arrived at this curious word, however one entomologist has speculated that this name would ensure that it would be memorable since it would be listed last in field guides — not to mention just about every dictionary.

For further reading: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th Edition), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011). http://www.wikipedia.com.



Definition: Noun. The verticle groove on the median line of the upper lip.

Etymology: From the Greek Philtron (dimple in upper lip).

For further reading: Thingamajigs and Whatchamacallits: Unfamiliar Terms for Unfamiliar Things by Rod Evans, Perigree Books (2011).

%d bloggers like this: