Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Tour of the Alphabet

adj. & n.adj. preventing or curing scurvy. • n. an antiscorbutic agent or drug.
n. & v.n. 1 a the almost flat part of a ship's bottom, inside or out. b (in full bilge-water) filthy water that collects inside the bilge. 2 sl. nonsense; rot (don't talk bilge). • v. 1 tr. stave in the bilge of (a ship). 2 intr. spring a leak in the bilge. 3 intr. swell out; bulge. ¤ bilge-keel a plate or timber fastened under the bilge to prevent rolling. [prob. var. of BULGE]
n. & v.n. a machine in which cloth, paper, etc., is pressed by rollers to glaze or smooth it. • press in a calender. [F calendre(r), of unkn. orig.]
disembogue & intr. (disembogues, disembogued, disemboguing) (of a river etc.) discharge (waters) into the sea etc. [Sp. desembocar (as DIS-, en in, boca mouth)]
ex silentio
adv. by the absence of contrary evidence. [L, = from silence]
n. (also furmety) hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with cinnamon, sugar, etc. [ME f. OF frumentee f. frument f. L frumentum corn]
n. 1 a cake made with treacle or syrup and flavoured with ginger. 2 (often attrib.) a gaudy or tawdry decoration or ornament. ¤ take the gilt off the gingerbread strip something of its attractions.
n. 1 a layer of leather in a shoe heel. 2 liquor left at the bottom of a glass after drinking.
adj. that cannot be doubted. ¤ indubitably adv. [F indubitable or L indubitabilis (as IN-¹, dubitare to doubt)]
n. Brit. colloq. deceitful or dishonest dealing, trickery. [cf. Sc. joukery-pawkery f. jouk dodge, skulk]
n. a riddle used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning. [Jap., = public matter (for thought)]
n. (also lèse-majesté) 1 treason. 2 an insult to a sovereign or ruler. 3 presumptuous conduct. [F lèse-majesté f. L laesa majestas injured sovereignty f. laedere laes- injure + majestas MAJESTY]
Metonic cycle
n. a period of 19 years (or 235 lunar months), after which the new and full moons return to the same day of the year. It was the basis of the ancient Greek calendar, and is still used for calculating movable feasts such as Easter. [Gk Meton, Athenian astronomer (5th c. BC)]
nuncupate declare (a will or testament) orally, not in writing. ¤ nuncupation n. nuncupative adj. [L nuncupare nuncupat- name]
adj. 1 serving no practical purpose; not required; functionless. 2 archaic indolent; futile. ¤ otiosely adv. otioseness n. [L otiosus f. otium leisure]
v.intr. literary cry querulously or weakly; whine, whimper. [16th c.: prob. imit.: cf. F piauler]
n. 1 a person cooperating with an occupying enemy; a collaborator or fifth-columnist. 2 a traitor. ¤ quislingite adj. & n. [Vidkun Quisling, Norwegian Army officer and Nazi collaborator (1887-1945)]
adj. poet. coming, blooming, etc., early in the year or day. ¤ rathe-ripe 1 ripening early. 2 precocious. [OE hræth, hræd f. Gmc]
n. Ind. 1 hist. a policy of passive resistance to British rule advocated by Gandhi. 2 passive resistance as a policy. [Skr. f. satya truth + agraha obstinacy]
n. 1 a state of annoyance. 2 a fuss; a petty quarrel. [F f. tracasser bustle]
adj. 1 (of behaviour, speech, etc.) unpleasantly flattering; oily. 2 (esp. of minerals) having a greasy or soapy feel; oily. ¤ unctuously adv. unctuousness n. [ME f. med.L unctuosus f. L unctus anointing (as UNCTION)]
n. a handbook etc. carried constantly for use. [F f. mod.L, = go with me]
adv. (also withershins) esp. Sc. in a direction contrary to the sun's course (considered as unlucky). [MLG weddersins f. MHG widdersinnes f. wider against + sin direction]
adj. Biol. sword-shaped. ¤ xiphoid process Anat. the cartilaginous process at the lower end of the sternum. [Gk xiphoeides f. xiphos sword]
int. (also hoicks) a cry used by fox-hunters to urge on the hounds. [orig. unkn.: cf. hyke call to hounds, HEY¹]
n. a figure of speech using a verb or adjective with two nouns, to one of which it is strictly applicable while the word appropriate to the other is not used (e.g. with weeping eyes and [sc. grieving] hearts) (cf. SYLLEPSIS). ¤ zeugmatic adj. [L f. Gk zeugma -atos f. zeugnumi to yoke, zugon yoke]

Note: All definitions are taken from the second edition of the Oxford English Reference Dictionary. I left out the pronunciation guides, and substituted or omitted some symbols and accents (e.g. I substituted the currency sign ¤ for a square).


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