There’s A Word for That: Nubivagant

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you are an adrenaline junkie you could be described this way. However, even if you are risk averse, you could also be described this way. Although this adjective has a rather harsh sound, nubivagant (pronounced “noo buh VAH gent”, it does have a rather lovely meaning: “wandering in the clouds”. The word is formed from the Latin word nubes (meaning “clouds”) and vagant (meaning “wandering”). The Oxford English Dictionary records its first use in writing in 1656. Although the English language is constantly expanding, it does shed words from time to time, and this is one of its victims. The word is rarely used except in books of rare, archaic words. But given the fact that so many people participating in airborne activities like flying planes and ultralights, hang gliding, parachuting, paragliding, skydiving, and wing suit flying, the word nubivagant certainly deserves a comeback.

When was the last time you were nubivagant?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
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There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
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Rare Words to Describe People

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWord lovers take delight in using rare words to describe everyday things and people. The more arcane, the better. This was the inspiration for lexicographer David Grambs dictionary of rare and unusual words for people, titled Dimboxes, Edopts, and Other Quidams: Words to Describe Life’s Indescribable People. Grambs dusted off some old dictionaries and word books from the 1800s to find some fascinating specimens for his “bestiary of people words.” In chapter ten, Grambs list some very rare words for troublemakers (annoyers, meddler, intruders, upstarts, and bores):

agitprop: a vociferous propagandistic agitator, particularly now with leftist or Marxist sympathies.

ami de cour: (from the French, meaning “friend at court”) a fair-weather friend; an insincere friend.

bashi-bazouk: an out-of-control, undisciplined person who is oblivious to laws; a wild person.

bitter-ender: a very stubborn person who refuses to compromise or apologize.

blateroon: a chatterbox.

crosspatch: a person who is disagreeable and ill-natured.

Dogberry: (derived from a character from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) a smug official who is dumb and inept.

marplot: a person who interferes, well-meaning or not, and ruins things.

mauvais sujet: (from the French, meaning “bad subject”) a thoroughly untrustworthy person

quidnunc: a gossip and newsmonger.

scattergood: a person who wastes time or money (or both).

smell-feast: a person who invites himself to a meal.

stormy petrel: a person who instigates a fight or an argument.

Once you learn them, you can start dropping these words into your conversations or texts and enjoy the reactions.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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Words Related to Drinking

atkins-bookshelf-wordsLexicographer Paul Dickson has been collecting words his entire life and he goes to great lengths to find interesting and rare words: “I confess that in the name of collecting I have labored through the pages of the driest scholarly publications… I have dug deeply into the trash barrels at the post office looking for odd catalogs.” While most people visit the local pub for a pint and a good tale, Dickson manages to, um, stumble upon esoteric words related to drinking. Here are a few words to impress your drinking pals, if they are sober enough to appreciate your expansive vocabulary.

Agrages (or coiffe): the metal cage that surrounds a champagne cork
Barm (or fob): the froth of a beer
Bibulous: overly fond of drinking alcohol
Billet: the thumb piece of a stein’s lid
Départ: the final taste of wine in your mouth
Nerver: (or liquid courage) a drink that gives someone courage
Oenology:  the science and art of wine making
Punt: the concave area at the bottom of a bottle
Stillion: the stand for a wine cask or beer keg
Weeper: a bottle that leaks through the cork
Worm: the curly part of a corkscrew

Read related post: Three Sheets to the Wind

For further reading: Words by Paul Dickson, Delacorte Press (1982)

There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist

atkins-bookshelf-wordsDefinition: a person who is a great or witty conversationalist at the dinner table.

Related word: raconteur

Etymology: From the Greek word deipnosophistes that translated literally means “one learned in the affairs of the kitchen.” The word is formed from the Greek words deipno (“dinner”) and sophistes (master of a craft, expert). The word was introduced by the Greek rhetorician, Athenaeus, in his 15-volume work titled The Deipnosophistae (circa 3 AD).

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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Abecedarian Insult

A multiple-word insult where the words are arranged in alphabetical order. As lexicographer Peter Bowler, author of The Superior Person’s Book of Words, notes, “Words are not only tools, they are weapons.” Bowler suggests this exquisite example: “‘You are an apogenous, bovaristic, coprolalial, dasypygal, excerebrose, facinorous, gnathonic, hircine, ithyphallic, jumentous, kyphotic, labrose, mephitic, napiform, oligophrenial, papuliferous, quisquilian, rebarbative, saponaceous, thersitical, unguinous, ventripotent, wlatsome, xylocephalous, yirning zoophyte.” Translated from highbrow English to regular English, the insult reads like this: “‘You are an impotent, conceited, obscene, hairy-buttocked, brainless, wicked, toadying, goatish, indecent, stable-smelling, hunchbacked, thick-lipped, stinking, turnip-shaped, feeble-minded, pimply, trashy, repellant, smarmy, foul-mouthed, greasy, gluttonous, loathsome, wooden-headed, whining, extremely low form of animal life.” Most likely the recipient of such an insult will be challenged to come up with a respectable comeback.

Read related post: Esprit de l’escalier

For further reading: The Superior Person’s Book of Words by Peter Bowler, Godine Press (1982)


Definition: Adjective. Something strange or bizarre; also something mildly indecent or risqué.

Etymology: The word was coined by Victor Neuburg, an English poet and writer ( 1883 – 1940). The word, literally translated means “full of rich dirt,” is formed from the Greek word ostro (meaning “rich”) and the English word bog (meaning “dirt”) and the Latin diminutive suffix -ulus (meaning “full of”).

For further reading:

Rare Anatomy Words

Kim Kardashian’s ubiquitous presence in the world has created two entrenched camps: the loyal fans that love her and the growing legion of critics that lampoon her (not to mention an industry that has developed around her — reality shows, tabloids, paparazzi, endorsement deals, etc.) Following in the footsteps of Heidi Montag (despite being attractive at the age of 23, Montag underwent 10 plastic-surgery procedures in one day), Kim Kardashian stepped into the limelight in late 2012, after “having some work done” — providing fresh fodder for the media, and encouraging concerned discussions about narcissism and body dysmorphia. In the spirit of Senator James Watson’s famous line “If you can’t lick em, join em!” logophiles should not miss an opportunity for a teachable moment — dusting off some very rare, but colorful, anatomical words that might describe the always entertaining bathycolpous reality star as well as other people in the limelight:

Bathycolpous: having large breasts
Bathycolpian: having large breasts or deep cleavage
Bourdonnement: the sloshing, gurgling sound that breast implants make during their break-in period
Callipygian: having beautiful buttocks
Kakopyge: having ugly buttocks
Daspygal: having hairy buttocks
Hermipygic: possessing only one buttock
Steatopygic: having extreme accumulation of fat on the buttocks
Amphirhine: having two nostrils
Zygomatic bone: the cheekbone
Gonion: the points on each side of the jaw as it turns up toward the ears
Vermilion Border: where the skin meets the lips
Cupid’s Bow: the slight dip in the middle of the upper lip
Stomion: the middle of the mouth, where the two lips meet
Canthus: the place where the upper and lower eyelid come together
Retrousee: a turned up nose
Philtrum: the depression below the nose running to the top of the mouth
Nasion: the point where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead
Mentolabial Sulcus: the slight depression below the lower lip and chin
Leptorrhine: having a long narrow nose
Gnathion: the  lowest point on the chin

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Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
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For further reading: Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology and Trivia by Charles Hodgson, St. Martin’s Griffen (2007); The Logodaedalian’s Dictionary of Interesting and Unusual Words by George Saussy, University of Southern Caroline Press (1989).,,20336472,00.html


Definition: Adjective. Having way hair.

Etymology: from the ancient Greek, kuma, meaning “wave” and trikh, a stem of thrix, meaning “hair.”

Pronuciation: sy MO truh kus

Trivia: Cymotrichous is notable, not only because there are so many cymotrichous people, but because it was the winning word in the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 2, 2011. Sukanya Roy, then 14 years old, spelled the word correctly, beating out 275 top spellers, for the coveted title and $40,000 in cash and prizes. And no, her hair is not wavy.

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist

atkins-bookshelf-wordsA macroverbumsciolist is a person who is ignorant of large words or who pretends to know what a word means. Is considered a nonce word, i.e., a word that was coined for a particular occasion or use that is not expected to occur again. Nonce words are generally not found in conventional dictionaries. The word is derived from the Greek macro, “large” and Latin verbum, “word” and the Late Latin sciolus, “smatterer, pretender of knowledge” (diminutive of scius, “knowing”).

Related words: dabbler, dilettante, ultracrepidarian

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

For further reading: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford University Press (1991).


Definition: Noun. The desire or fondness for buying things, or more generally for spending money.

Etymology: From the Latin emaciates, “the desire to buy.”

Related words: shopaholic, conspicuous consumer

From the Urban Dictionary:
Shopping: buying a whole lot of stuff that you don’t really need.
Shoplete: one who shops for sport

For further reading: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford University Press (1991).


When asked “What is the first word listed in a dictionary?” most people correctly answer correctly: A (used commonly as a noun, article, or preposition). The followup question is not so easily answered: “What is the last word in a dictionary?”

That distinction belongs to Zyzzyva. Nope — it isn’t an illness; nor is it one of those alphabet-soup appellations belonging to a startup technology or social media company (of course, it will only be a matter of time…). The Zyzzyva (pronounced “ziz – uh – vuh”) is the genus of the South American weevil that is destructive to plants. The Zyzzyva is a beetle with a short beak, not much longer than an ant. The weevil was discovered in Brazil by entomologist Thomas Casey, Jr. in 1922. It is not certain how Casey arrived at this curious word, however one entomologist has speculated that this name would ensure that it would be memorable since it would be listed last in field guides — not to mention just about every dictionary.

For further reading: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th Edition), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011).