What is the last word that came up in reading that you had to look up?

Title says it all really. I was reading an article about Bob Dylan, Shakespeare and Nabokov which contained the word prolegomena. Never seen it before.

define: prolegomena in Google got me:

* introductory studies.

What was your last new word?

I don’t recall which word it was, but it was in Donaldson’s Fatal Revenant.

I always need a dictionary nearby when reading Donaldson.



Came across it today when reading a book about the Silk Road in Central Asia. It was discussing problems with early Chinese translations of Buddhist texts.

On edit:

I saw this for the first time a couple of weeks ago going over vocab lists for the GRE’s. The shit you have to learn to get into grad school . . .


Can’t remember the book, but it was military history and it was a few months ago.


Re-reading Master and Commander for like the third time, just today I cam across otiose and had to look it up. Otiose!

I guess I must have glossed over it the first couple of times I read the book.

I came across meretricious used in an unfamiliar way, and discovered its archaic meaning & etymology. (From meretrix, prostitute).

Propinquity, used by Steve Martin in his book Shopgirl.

Parvenu - meaning a social upstart, or person from an obscure background who has risen to wealth or status.

Like Jodi, it’s a word I’ve glossed over many times in the past. It was just that I read it and then heard it (in Miss Potter) within a couple of days and that prompted me to confirm its meaning.


Normally, I’d know what the word means, but in reading stuff for a philosophy class, it was obvious that the usual meaning wasn’t what was being used. So, I went a-Googlin’. It turned out to refer to a problem in inductive inference, wherein the color “grue” is used to describe items which are green before a given time, but will be blue after a certain time.

I don’t think there’s a semester where I’m not scratching my head over the words used in at least one philosophical reading. I was encouraged to just jump into senior-level courses without having intro courses, and I’m holding up well, but the field has a well-developed vocabulary that is baffling to outsiders like me.

“Aedile,” in Robert Harris’ Pompeii. It’s a type of elected municipal officer in the Roman Empire. It’s appeared again in his Imperium, which I’m reading now.

Quondam, used in The Paladin of Souls.

Epistemology. I always have to look up epistemology, I suspect because I don’t really believe there’s any use for such a concept.

Reading, I don’t recall, but after the Presidential debate I had to look up “existential”, “tactics”, and “strategy” because of the odd ways in which they were used by McCain.

“Anomie,” which is “a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and values.” I was reading an article about David Foster Wallace.

Not a word, but a phrase: Happy puppet syndrome

(A genetic disease, kids with it tend to laugh very easily and flap their hands at the wrist.)

salitter - The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I was reading a book in which a man was accused of killing his wife. One of the characters said the man was accused of “wificide.”

After I stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of the word wificide and complaining to my husband that the author could have bothered to look it up and find “uxoricide” rather than just making up a word (and a dumb sounding word at that) I realized I should probably look it up to see if I was the ridiculous one.

‘Tyro’, meaning a beginner.

It was horribly out of character for the character who said it, to be frank…