Confessions of a Certifiable Word Nerd

I love words. I love the sound of them, learning the meaning of them and the joy of finding just the perfect word when I am writing or speaking. I love to play what my family calls Dictionary games; where you open the dictionary to a random page, find a word you don’t know and tell everyone all about it. I love that moment when I am reading a book and find a word I don’t know. I eagerly run to the dictionary or to google if my dictionary isn’t handy (I prefer the Webster’s Collegiate personally, but Oxford English is nice too!) and find out more about the word, and often write it in my planner if I really like it. My word of the year for last year was pulled straight from Neil Gaiman speaking about his friend Tori Amos, Coruscate which means to sparkle or reflect the light back. As an amateur etymologist and self professed word nerd, I thought I would share with you ten of my absolute favorite words. All definitions are pulled from Google Dictionary because my Websters is not handy at the moment.

  1. Zeitgeist : noun. origin – German, meaning: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.  “The story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s”  Literal Translation: Time Spirit
  2. Kerfuffle: noun. origin – British, meaning: a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views. “There was a kerfuffle over the chairmanship” 
  3. Petrichor: noun. origin – English, meaning: a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. “other than the petrichor emanating from the rapidly drying grass, there was not a trace of evidence that it had rained at all.”
  4. Onomatopoeia: noun. origin – Greek, meaning: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what it is named (eg. cuckoo, sizzle)
  5. Schadenfreude: noun. origin – German. meaning: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. “a business that thrives on schadenfreude” 
  6. Metanoia: noun. origin – Greek. meaning: change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion. “what he demanded of people was metanoia, repentance, a complete change of heart” 
  7. Susurrus: noun. origin – Latin. meaning: whispering, murmuring or rustling. “The susurrus of the stream”
  8. Brazen: adjective. origin – Old English. meaning: bold and without shame. “he went about his illegal business with a brazen assurance” 
  9. Hyperbole: noun. origin – Greek. meaning: exagerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. “he vowed revenge with oaths and hyperboles” 
  10. Quixotic: adjective. origin – English. meaning: exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical. ” a vast and perhaps quixotic project” 

What are some of your favorite words? Why? What do you love most about words; the sounds, the meanings, the way they feel when you say them?


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