Vocabulary Building #1

The other day, I was talking with another author about the use of obscure words in writing.  I certainly don’t think rare words should be used for their own sake, but when they produce the best effect or have the most appropriate definition, I definitely support utilizing them rather than a plain, boring word.  Some readers may complain about the use of words that are new to them, but isn’t that how we grow as readers?  When we started out, we knew zero words, and now we know thousands, and the infinite differentiations in connotation between words, going from angry to mad to infuriated, give us a better reading experience than if we were stuck with just “upset.”

To that end, and because I absolutely love words and language, I’m going to try to do a few Vocabulary Building posts, and present a few words that I think writers may find useful and readers may find interesting.  If you have your own suggestions, include them in the comments!  Enjoy!  And thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary for definitions!

  • susurrus, n.-A low soft sound as of whispering or muttering; a whisper; a rustling.
    I probably overuse this word in my writing, but I just love it.
  • tatterdemalion, n.-A person in tattered clothing; a ragged or beggarly fellow; a ragamuffin.
  • zaftig, adj.-Of a woman: plump, curvaceous, ‘sexy’.
  • hapax legomenon, n.-A word or form of which only one instance is recorded in a literature or an author.
    I really like this concept a lot, actually.  I might do a post just about Sostratus, my favorite hapax legomenon in history.
  • condottiere, n.-A professional military leader or captain, who raised a troop, and sold his service to states or princes at war; the leader of a troop of mercenaries. The name arose in Italy, but the system prevailed largely over Europe from the 14th to the 16th c.
  • Drachenfutter, n.-a gift husbands give to wives up make up for poor behavior; from German
  • euhemerism, n.-The method of mythological interpretation which regards myths as traditional accounts of real incidents in human history.
    Another concept I like.  I confess, I think it’s interesting to imagine that the beings later worshipped as gods began life as mortal men and women. 
  • hierodule, n.-A slave (of either sex) dwelling in a temple, and dedicated to the service of a god.
  • limerence, n.-The state of being romantically infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.
  • sleeping dictionary, n.-a foreign woman with whom a man has a sexual relationship and from whom he learns her language.
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