Hard Words #2

All of the words listed here are ones I encountered ‘in the wild’ – while reading. Not flinty or harsh words, but difficult words; words I trip on. I’m not scanning the dictionary, that would be cheating.
Spellcheck in Word objects to many of these words (anocracy, defeasible), even though the words are recognized without complaint using internet search. Note that spellcheck doesn’t like the word “spellcheck”.
I try to avoid scientific terms, even if they occur in a novel like “Under the Volcano” (for example: tabid, tabes, sprue). Many of the words in this list are from recent reading in novels (Return of the Native, Bleak House), some from the news magazine The Economist.

  • Adumbrate: indicate faintly.
  • Aeromancy: divination conducted by interpreting atmospheric conditions.
  • Alembic: a distilling apparatus, now obsolete, consisting of a rounded, necked flask and a cap with a long beak for condensing and conveying the products to a receiver. See also, Grateful Dead.
  • Anacoluthon: a sentence or construction in which the expected grammatical sequence is absent, for example ‘while in the garden, the door banged shut’.
  • Anocracy: a form of government loosely defined as part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a “regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features”.
  • Apposite: apt in the circumstances, or in relation to something.
  • Chrism: a mixture of oil and balsam, consecrated and used for anointing at baptism and in other rites of Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches.
  • Crepitate: make a crackling sound.
  • Defeasible: open in principle to revision, valid objection, forfeiture, or annulment.
  • Ebriety: intoxication or inebriation, whether regarded as the condition, the process, or the habit.
  • Ecomancy: the style of magic practiced by druids, witches, and ecomancers. Its philosophy emphasizes a connection with nature.
  • Ecopoesis: the “fabrication of a sustainable ecosystem on a currently lifeless, sterile planet”.
  • Emesis: an act or instance of vomiting.
  • Epistemic: relating to knowledge or the study of knowledge.
  • Evergetism: the ancient practice of high-status and wealthy individuals in society distributing part of their wealth to the community.
  • Fulgent: shining brightly.
  • Geomancy: the art of placing or arranging buildings or other sites auspiciously.
  • Jalousie: a blind or shutter made of a row of angled slats.
  • Jugate: paired, for example “jugate busts on a coin”.
  • McGuffin: an object or device in a movie or a book that serves merely as a trigger for the plot. A poor man’s deus ex machina?
  • Nutant: drooping, nodding.
  • Oneiric: relating to dreams or dreaming.
  • Plangent: having a loud reverberating sound.
  • Reboant: resounding or reverberating loudly.
  • Reductive: tending to present a subject or problem in a simplified form, especially one viewed as crude.
  • Sempiternal: eternal and unchanging; everlasting.
  • Sui generis: constituting a class alone – unique, peculiar.
  • Thaumaturgy: the working of wonders or miracles; magic.
  • Thrasonical: bragging, boastful.

The Bottom Line
I read an interesting history of the English language recently, I think it was in CS Lewis’ novel “That Hideous Strength”. English has a Saxon (Germanic) foundation with a layer of French/Latin over the top. Single-syllable words (house) are often Saxon in origin. These single-syllable words often have multi-syllable synonyms (domicile) which are usually French/Latin in origin.

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