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About this site

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or change their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

This is the archive of pieces that have appeared in the free newsletter. Weekly issues include much more than appears here, including comment by readers, serendipitous encounters with unfamiliar language, and tongue-in-cheek tut-tuttings at errors perpetrated by sloppy writers.

New this week

Porphyrogeniture If we had this inheritance principle in Britain, Prince Charles would lose his pre-eminent right to succeed to the throne to his younger brother Andrew. That’s because porphyrogeniture ...
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Set one’s cap at It’s often set one’s cap at, though both forms now feel rather dated. The idiom conventionally refers to a woman who sets out to gain the affections of a man, often with a view to marriage. The ...
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Randomly chosen

Spifflicate The usual dictionary definition for this now rather rare word — “treat roughly or severely” — hardly does justice to the history of a slang term that has had several meanings. Its origins lie in the ...
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The next website update

The next update is due on 27 September 2014. You should then be able to read about the Scots word, peely-wally, and the story of the idiom draw a line in the sand. If you subscribed to my newsletter, you would already have seen it, and more besides.

Recently added pages

Epicaricacy; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Furthest and farthest; Jentacular; Raparee; Footloose and fancy free; Animadvert; Vigorish; Corybantic; Going spare; Epilimnion; Nail; Lucubration; Bounding main; Blooper; Precrastination; File; Logocidal; Bat an eyelid; Gyre; Skeleton in the closet; Closet versus Cupboard; Nuciform; Colporteur; Red rag to a bull; Hail fellow well met; London to a brick; Busman’s holiday; Kith; Opusculum; Marthambles; Nipcheese; Flammable; Odd.

Last updated 20 Sep. 2014.

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 20 September 2014.