Fun and useless words to pass the time

Published 6:15 pm Friday, April 3, 2020

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The “stay at home” orders to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 aren’t going away any time soon. But since plenty of regular activities have been canceled, many of us find ourselves with extra time on our hands. I love learning new things, so I’m enjoying being able to have time to actually devote to discovering new facts or brushing up on some old ones.

Recently, I came across some fun tweets from the Merriam-Webster dictionary Twitter account. They’re currently sharing a thread updated every day full of “beautiful, obscure, and often quite useless words.”

For all you language nerds out there and anyone who may just want a new word to impress your friends with, I’m going to share with you the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. Here are several great entries from the folks at Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Solivagant – “a solitary wanderer”; “rambling alone.” This one is perhaps my personal favorite of the list because it feels very relatable. I feel like I’m “rambling alone” every time I write one of these columns each week. (Thank you all for putting up with me so far!). Additionally, the first definition is perfect for these days we’re living in. Until the pandemic threat passes, being a “solitary wanderer” is a good thing.

Filipendulous – “suspended by or strung upon a thread.” The definition of this one isn’t all that exciting, but it’s just a fun word to say out loud. Go on; try it! I’ll wait. Do not, however, accidentally misread this as FLIPendulous like I did the first time I saw it. That’s not actually a word.

Cacography – “bad spelling”; “bad handwriting.” Some of y’all really ought to take this time to work on your spelling errors and terrible handwriting, so there’s less cacography and confusion in the world.

Deipnosophist – “a person skilled in table talk.” A deipnosophist, I am not. I was always told not to talk with my mouth full at the dinner table.

Catillate – “to licke dishes.” Speaking of the dinner table, here’s another interesting one. The Merriam-Webster twitter account points out that this is an obsolete word with an obsolete spelling in the definition. (It comes from a dictionary entry from 1623.) The twitter account, however, does not answer the many questions this word poses. I, for one, would like to know if people were going around licking plain dishes without food on them (as the definition implies), and if so, what did they taste like??

Cachinnate – “to laugh loudly or immoderately.” Though it doesn’t look like it, this word is pronounced “kakenate” which is kind of similar to “cackle” which is, of course, one good description of laughing loudly. Now more than ever, I think the whole world needs a little more cachinnating!

Peristeronic – “of or relating to pigeons.” I just think this word is neat!

Sialoquent – “that spits much in his speech.” This is an obsolete word from a 1656 dictionary entry. But these days we absolutely do not want to be sialoquent! Remember to stay six feet or more away from other people to avoid this (and to avoid spreading the virus).

Ucalegon – “a next-door neighbor, or a neighbor whose house is on fire.” This is an oddly specific definition and Merriam-Webster provides no other explanation for it. I personally need an entire essay detailing the history of this word.

Conjubilant – “shouting together with joy.” Lastly, I will share “conjubilant” with you all. It’s a fun word to say, and it’s a nice feeling to have. Though we may not feel like celebrating right now for a number of very valid reasons, we will eventually get to the light at the end of the tunnel. We will make it through. And when we do, I’m sure “conjubilant” will be the perfect word for us all.

So while you’re stuck at home in the coming weeks, don’t think of it as a punishment. Think of it as an opportunity.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.