Category Archives: Noun

Covey

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Covey \ˈkə-vē\

noun: a mature bird or pair of birds with a brood of young; also : a small flock; Company, group

I’ve been editing a lot lately (hence the less-than-usual number of posts), and in my editing I’ve found some absolutely lovely words–not all of which were meant to be written. But, of course, that makes them all the more fun to find! The best kind of typo is an amazing-vocabulary-inducing typo–and such was covey.

Covey really is a lovely word–it even sounds lovely, like a pet name shared amongst friends. C’mon, coveys, let’s go! And that is actually a pretty good false use of this word–it’s indicative of a cozy little grouping of birds, or people, with a close relationship.

Aw, how sweet.

So, how to use it? How about:

The covey of friends never used their superpowers for evil, only for good.

Or:

Exploring my barn the other day, I found a covey of pigeons holed up in one of the rafters–I just hope the cat doesn’t find them!

So this wonderful word, where did it come from? It’s still pretty true to its original, literal, meaning, as it turns out–it was first used in the 14th century, back when everyone spoke Middle English and it meant “brood of partridges,” but before that it was French, covee (brood), and before that Gall-Romanic, cubata (hatchling), and before that Latin, cubare–to sit, incubate, or hatch.

So it’s always been a bird word. But one that’s definitely worth using! Whether or not it’s done intentionally.

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Qaid

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Qaid

noun: variant form of caid

Why, always, with these epic words? OK, fine, then:

Caid

…and so descends the wall of subscription-requiring content. This word is quite slippery. Well, fine, then, Merriam-Webster, I’ll go elsewhere:

Caid /kɑˈið, kaɪð/

noun: (in North Africa) a Muslim tribal chief, judge, or senior official.

I’ll be honest: there is one and only one reason that I know this word, and it is Words with Friends. I’ll be even more honest: I don’t even really know it from there, or at least I didn’t before I took a wild stab in the dark with a Q and a potentially very high-scoring word (48 points, anyone?).

To use it? Well, use it in Scrabble. Or Words with Friends. Or Bananagrams. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, you mean you still want examples? OK, hm, how about:

Who does he think he is, a qaid or something? Give a guy a hall monitor position, and it all just goes straight to his head.

Or…nope, that’s just about it. Don’t know that it’s really possible to get too creative with this one.

Things I’ve learned about this word: the Internet hates it. So, courtesy of Wiktionary, here’s the most I can tell you about its etymology: it’s Arabic. Yup, that’s about it.

So, the takeaway: place QAID in Scrabble! Get lots of points! And, bonus, actually have an answer when your word stickler friends say “What does that even mean?” Then, hope they don’t ask you to use it in a sentence.

Hadj

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Hadj

noun: variant of Hajj, Hajji

Hm. Okay, then:

Hajj \ˈhaj\

noun: the pilgrimage to Mecca prescribed as a religious duty for Muslims

I’ve been playing a lot of Words with Friends and Bananagrams lately, and let me tell you, when I get to play this word, I celebrate just a bit. Even if played without any bonuses, this word will grab you a cool 16 points in any Scrabble-type game.

But I digress.

I must say, one of my favorite things about the English language–though, admittedly, it is also one of the things that makes it so difficult for others to learn–is the many far-flung origins of its vocabulary. Erin, a good high school friend of mine, once described English as “a language that lurks in back alleyways, mugging other languages and rummaging through their pockets for spare vocabulary.” I quite agree–and see it as the best possible way for a language to function. How else would we end up with such a marvelous and Scrabble-friendly word as hadj?

So, how to use this word? Well, to copy a friend’s reply on a questionable Words with Friends play:

I just played the word “hadj.”

More seriously, though, I see no reason not to use this word as a synonym for pilgrimage. Maybe try using it like this:

Alison’s epic hadj ended at last, her need for ice cream finally satiated by the local Baskin Robbins.

Or:

I felt as if I had completed a hadj or something when I finally returned from abroad. I felt exhausted, of course, but also confirmed in my new path.

Or, of course, there’s the traditional sense of the word, which would look like this:

Tyler made his hadj last year, and was delayed on the way back–I was almost worried he wouldn’t make it back in time for the wedding!

However you use it, hadj‘s origins are both obvious and obtuse–it comes directly from the Arabic, but information on its date of origin in English is either unknown or unreported. And, apparently, this nifty word hasn’t only left its mark on English and Arabic–it’s also related to the Hebrew words haghagh (he made a pilgrimage) and hagh (gathering).

So apparently English isn’t the only language with sticky fingers–or, perhaps, a penchant for Scrabble.

Tomfoolery

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Tomfoolery \ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē, -ˈfü-lə-\

noun: playful or foolish behavior

When I was college, my roommate and I became slightly obsessed with this word. She saw it in a movie at some point–for the life of me, I don’t know which one–and we decided that we should start each and every day by leaping out of bed and asking each other: “What sort of tomfoolery should we get into today?”

Sadly, this never actually happened. But! It could have.

So obviously, that’s one way to use tomfoolery. Here are a few more:

Their  tomfoolery finally reached such heights that I had to coax Raul off the roof with a sandwich, for fear he’d hurt himself. The things my husband will do for a sandwich…

or:

Lisa had never liked clowns. Which is why, I suppose, she decided it would be a good idea to stand up in the middle of their performance and shout “I hate this stupid tomfoolery!” It’s just so unfortunate she happened to do this right as they started throwing the cream pies…

or:

I’ve never understood why pool signs say “No running, no diving.” Why don’t they just say “No tomfoolery,” and be done with it?

Be careful how you use it, though; the word tomfoolery is pretty new, with a first usage around 1812, but the person form, tomfool, dates from the 1640s, and derives from the 14h century Middle English term Thom Foole, meaning an insane person. Not exactly PC.

Buuuut I’m guessing that since no one really knows that part, you can feel free to start calling your friends tomfools with no repercussions.

In any case, let the tomfoolery begin!

Swelter

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Swelter \ˈswel-tər\

1: (verb) to suffer, sweat, or be faint from heat

2: (noun) a state of oppressive heat

Coming off the heels of what was supposed to be the hottest day of Oregon’s summer yesterday, I couldn’t think of a better word than swelter to initiate this new blog. In particular, I like the noun form, which sees use much less frequently than its verb twin. But just imagine the possibilities of the noun swelter in your daily conversation!

You’ll often hear the verb form this way:

“It’s sweltering outside! I guess this is where all that global warming stuff comes from, huh?”

But how much better is it to see the noun form, like this:

The summer swelter was oppressive to Blaire, who wanted nothing more than to step outside without drowning in his own sweat.

Or, even better, like this:

The swelter of his gaze could have melted ice–or, in any case, made it dribble a little. I wanted nothing more than to talk to him, and I would have–had I not been wearing nothing but a clown wig and bikini.

And where did this wonderful word come from? It’s been in the English language since the 1400s, and comes from Old English sweltan, to die; that, in turn, came from the Proto-Germanic swel, to burn slowly.

Well that’s graphic.

So please, no more “This heat is killing me!” Who needs it, when you can say, essentially, “This heat is burning me slowly to death!” In other words–“This heat is sweltering!