There’s a Word for That: Hapax Legomenon

atkins-bookshelf-wordsLike an extremely endangered species, a hapax legomenon is a word that occurs only once within the context of the written record of an entire language or the works of a specific author.

The word is derived from the Greek words hapax (meaning “once”) and legomenon, from legein (meaning “to say”); or “something said only once.” The word is pronounced HAY-packs li-GOM-uh-non.

Some examples of hapax legomena in the English language are:

Flother, another word for snowflake, appears for the first time in 1275.

Sassigassity, perhaps meaning audacity, first used by Dickens in “A Christmas Tree”(1850).

Satyr, a creature that is half-man and half-goat, was used only once by Shakespeare in all his work. The word appears in the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1599), when the prince refers to Claudius as a satyr.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: Another Word A Day by Anu Garg (2005)

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