Weird word - if anyone knows it, Dopers will


Mom found this in a British mystery she was reading, used as an adjective. Anyone around here heard of it?

Can we have the whole sentence? It might be just a typo. found no matches for erenctic, but found one for elenctic. Does that meaning make sense in the context?

Could you post the sentence in which it was used? The closest I can find is orectic, which means “of or pertaining to desire”.

No matches in the OED. The word might be eremitic.

Or it could be a hapax legomenon. Man, I have been waiting years to use that in a sentence.

Are you sure it’s an English word? Maybe the author has a habit of using foreign words and decided to not italicise that one.

Or, perhaps, the copyeditor let his blue pencil slip from out his grasp and neglected to nix yon non-existent nomenclature.

A sentence would be very useful.

I concur that it must either be a typo or mum’s eyesight. No hits on over 10 web search engines.


[People here can be cold. **I’ll[/] ask.]

Saranga, what is a hapax legomenon?

Hey, pal, what’s the deal? Don’t have a decent dictionary???

Try this then:

But to put in context, I think he’s implying that the author coined the word, if indeed it was spelled as given. Remember that none of us have (or should it be “has”) seen the printed page that this word is on, nor do we know what book supposedly contained it.

Actually, a very good one AND I usually keep one open on line for the thesaurus (I know it’s lazy but I can never remember exactly the word I want).

But Saranga obviously wanted someone to ask and now you’ve gone and ruined it for S.

Like I said, people here can be cold.

Yeah, tell me about it. Some people’s threads I refuse to open because any time I try it, the furnace kicks on.

I hate when that happens.

Go here:

ultrafilter had it right - Mom misread it and it was actually elenctic. Which is a real word even if it doesn’t sound like one.

The book is Death’s Jest Book, by Reginald Hill

There was also eidetic, which I knew vaguely; pantechnicon, which is some sort of vehicle; and delation, which I find in

So the problem wasn’t that they weren’t real words, just really, really obscure ones. If Mom don’t know them, they have to be obscure. She reads even more than I do.

A pantechnicon is a moving van.

A hapax legomen is a word that appears in a whole body of literature only once. If it isn’t defined in its one occurrence, its meaning has to be surmised using context or perhaps etymology.

The term is usually used by philologists of dead languages poring over ancient scrolls, since the input into that literature is closed and there’s little chance of ever seeing the word used again. For a living, growing language like English, there’s always a good chance any given word will be used again. Once an odd word starts to get attention in English, Safire will write a column about it in the New York Times Magazine. Send him this one and see if he’ll bite.

P.S. — I think the term for the word in question, “erenctic,” is “ghost word.” A ghost word is one that only seems to exist because it arose from a misreading of something else.

One of the most notorious examples of ghost words is “dord.” It happened during the preparation of a dictionary. An editor picked up one of those cards used by lexicographers to compile entries. Handwritten on it was the following: “D or d — Density.” Of course it referred to the letter D (either capital or lowercase) as an abbreviation for density used by physicists. But the editor, who must have been working overtime late at night and bleary-eyed, overlooked the spaces and had the entry “Dord. n. Density” printed in the dictionary.

Outstanding, Saranga!

Any idea which dictionary and which edition? Sounds apocryphal.

[sigh] Ah, you Dopers with your neverending chant of “Cite? Cite? Cite?” Come on. You know me, good old Jomo. I’ve been a Doper for 4 years and my posts are widely acknowledged as linguistically on the ball. I don’t write checks with my keyboard that my cites can’t cash. Haven’t I earned your trust by now, that you can take my word for once?


OK, it was Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1934. Still don’t believe me? Would you like to see a fac-simile of the offending entry?