A contronym is a word that has opposite meanings. For example, when Michael Jackson said that he was ‘bad’ in his video “Bad”, he meant that he was really good (in a bad sort of way).
“bound” – noun form: a leap / a limit (amongst several meanings)
“bullock” – an uncastrated male bovine in American English and a castrated one in British English.
“circular” – roundish (verb form) and yet rectangular (noun form).
“cleave” – Related to ‘cleave’, ‘cleavage’ refers to the space between the breasts (the ‘cut apart’ sense of cleave) – but it is created or enhanced by pushing the breasts together (the ‘stick together’ sense).
“dust” – .
“grounds” – .
‘pass’ can mean ‘to skip over, to not do’ or can mean ‘to enact (legislation)’
to secrete = to hide or to exude
Colors and Patterns
“bistre” – A dark greyish black to a soot brown. 1727 is the first recorded use in English.
“brindle pattern” = a coat pattern of a cat or other animal in which the colors are streaked. The color streaks in a brindle pattern are not as distinct as the striping in a mackerel coat or the patches in a calico (or tortoiseshell) coat. The usage for brindle / brindled is a ‘brindle pattern’ but a ‘brindled grey cat’. Though ‘brindled’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘tabby’ (which shares its origin with taffety (taffeta; moire silk): Attabiya, Iraq), in the US tabby patterns consist of distinct stripes and spots.
People Nouns and Adjectives
“bumptious” = offensively self-assertive; as used in a movie review, “The other miscreants… are a bumptious lot” (a dweeb, a jokester, and a klepto)
“dipsomania” = essentially an older term for alcoholism but with the focus on periodic bouts of extreme binge drinking as opposed to chronic drunkenness. Used by Oliver Sachs in a case study in “An Anthropologist on Mars”. (A ‘dispo’ is a drunk; a sot.)
“dyspeptic” = morose, gloomy, and irritable – as with someone suffering chronic indigestion (one meaning of dyspepsia)
hirsute – hairy, bushy
“psychopomp” = an entity who escorts newly deceased souls to the afterlife.
Miscellaneous New and New-ish Nouns
“mondegreen” – incorrectly stated song lyric based on a mishearing. For example, mishearing the song lyric “She’s got skills” as “She’s got Skittles”. Billy Joel’s great “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” contains a number of mondegreens including “Brenda Renetti” instead of “Brenda and Eddie”.
“ecotone” = transitional zone between two major (plant) ecologies; e.g. the Sierra Foothills
“equipoise” = an equal distribution of weight, emotional forces, or other element.
Miscellaneous Old Nouns
“agora” – original a central, open-air, public meeting place in ancient Greek cities; evolved into also hosting markets.
“arpax” – harpax; closely related to corvus. A device used by a pirate to forcibly board a ship.
“brigand” – In some cases a brigand is akin to a terrorist: those on the side of the brigand consider themselves to be freedom fighters resisting invaders. More often brigands have profited from unrest through ransom, extortion, and plunder. Usually brigands band together in outlaw bands, operating in the manner of an irregular military.
“caltrop” – A is a twisted cluster of two or more spikes used to defend against incoming horses or tires. Not to be confused with the plant water caltrop, so named because its fruit somewhat resembles the weapon clusters.
‘clew’ = ball of yarn or thread
“cynosure” – an object of attention, something that serves as a guide
“fascinator” – Originally a fine, lacy head covering with feathers; in contemporary times it is a headpiece (generally with feathers) usually worn as a substitute for a hat at formal occasions.
“furuncle” – a boil; a ‘carbuncle’ is a cluster of boils.
“gorse” – In Western Europe, a a hardy shrub with yellow flowers and sharp spines instead of needles. It is related to the invasive Scotch broom with which Northern California gardeners do battle.
‘istle’ = textile fiber from yucca or agave
“jobation” – a scolding
“lanai” – a roofed, open porch originating in Hawaii; similar to a veranda, loggia, and an engawa or nure’en (Japanese).
“leading strings” –
“monisto” – A necklace in 1600 – 1800 Russia consisting of a string of coins (or pearls). The word ‘monisto’ is of Indo-European origin with a root that means ‘neck’. ‘monisto’ Pinterest board with several Middle European jewelry photos. A jewelry company out of Kiev, Ukraine. Gypsy and Ukrainian coin necklaces. A Russian gypsy band (musical group).
Description of a monisto on etsy.com: “Natural genuine Baltic amber necklace with sterling silver. “Monisto” – it’s a folklore name. This colourful necklace made of transparent many-coloured natural genuine Baltic amber beads threaded on a sterling silver jewelry rope and pendants of coin-shaped textured sterling silver circles. Necklace-“Monisto” made in oriental (eastern) style. Combination sunny-yellowish and dark-cognac colour amber gems very pleasant for eyes. Necklace 42.5 cm (16 1/2″) long. Amber gems size – 1,4 х 0,8 сm (9/16″ X 5/16″) and 1,1 х 0,7 сm (7/16″ X 5/16″).”
ouroboros = constant cycle of regeneration such as the Phoenix
“palanquin” – French and Indian name for a litter, a type of human-powered vehicle used to transport humans. In Japan, kago were used to transport those below the level of samurai, and norimono (very similar to palanquin) were used to transport samurai and nobility.
“chatière” = pet door in French
“prophyry” = a purple-red stone flecked with large, whitish grains of fledspar or quartz. The Winter 2013 Legion of Honor Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette exhibit included two vases (urns?) that I felt looked liked they were made of dark chocolate. The placard referred to prophyry so I incorrectly concluded that the word referred to a type of vase rather than to the type of stone from which the vases were made. (A ‘krater’ is also a large vase; Ancient Greeks used kraters to mix water and wine.)
“revanchism” – nationalist policy to regain (or revenge for) lost territory (or standing)
“stoat” = ermine or short-tailed weasel. Per Wikipedia, the stoat is one of the world’s top 100 invasive species.
“synecdoche” = a part of something is used to refer to the whole of something, or vice-versa; ‘Amazon’ is used to refer to ‘Amazon Web Services’.
Miscellaneous Old Verbs
“deliquesce” = to melt away. ‘deliquescent materials‘ are often used as desiccants due to their ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. With sufficient exposure these materials change to a liquid state.
“entailed” – x
Miscellaneous Old Adverbs and Adjectives
Miscellaneous New Words
Hibermake – 2021 COVID-caused.
“TCB” = taking care of business
“x” – x
Clothing and Textiles
“Brioni tuxedo” – As described in Fury’s Kiss by Karen Chance, a Brioni tuxedo has more snob appeal than one from Armani. Brioni and Armani are both high-end Italian fashion companies but Brioni focuses on men’s suits and their suits are handmade while Armani consists of several ready-to-wear lines covering a range of goods and price points. (The Armani Prive may offer handmade men’s suits but they are much more well known for their haute couture gowns – such as those worn on the red carpet on Oscar night.)
“LBDs” – little black dresses. In Fury’s Kiss, Karen Chance describes the crowd at an exclusive Manhattan party as “lounge suits and LBDs”.
lisle = smooth cotton thread used in lingerie
“pussy bow” – also known as a ‘pussy cat bow’. The floppy, wide ribbon of matching fabric tied around the neck of so many ‘dress-for-success’ (without really succeeding) women’s suit blouses in the 1980s.
spatterdash = akin to a gaiter; 18th century for leather leggings worn by men to protect their garments below-the-knee from mud while riding.
“white tie and tails” – Most formal dress code for men and women. The white tie tuxedo consists of a black tailcoat with silk facings, pants, and silk top hat; and a white waistcoat, shirt, wing collar shirt, and bow tie. The main differences between traditional white tie and ‘black tie‘ tuxedos are the color of the bow tie (white vs. black) and the jacket bottom hem (tails vs. straight across at about the first knuckle). Also, a black tie tuxedo may replace the waistcoat with a cummerbund – or eschew it altogether. Properly, white or black tie is only worn after 6pm; ‘morning dress‘ is the daytime formal wear standard.
Interesting Terms and Phrases
“energy unrestricted” = unlimited calories (in a diet)
“high society” is slang for the highest denomination poker chip at a gambling establishment. A “stack of high society” is typically worth US$10,000 (500 chips x US$500 $/chip)
“melanin-enriched” – from an undecided US voter interviewed in an article in the 2012 September 16 print edition of the Christian Science Monitor.
“splatstick” – from the Wikipedia article on the 2007 New Zealand film Black Sheep.
“throw shade” = A term used by Tom and Lorenzo in talking about a segment on RuPaul’s Drag Race in which the contestants ‘threw shade‘ in a staged “RuPaul Roast”. The term means to verbally disrespect (diss) a person; depending on the context, it may additionally mean that the person ‘talking smack’ is the one who is diminished more in the minds of the speaker’s audience.
“slowly, slowly, catchy monkey” – patience and deliberate movements will enable you to achieve your objective. “The phrase is an anglicisation of “softly, softly catchee monkey” which Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scout movement) learnt from the people of Ghana.“
“voir dire” – xx
“mendicant ronin” – from Volume 11 of Usagi Yojimbo. Refers to a masterless samurai who depends on handouts (who begs for a living).
“moe” = (my interpretation) a helpless and hapless individual whose cuteness enables him / her / it to survive by triggering a protective response in others. (As a companion to a Birman cat, I totally understand this definition: a google of ‘birman’ and ‘clumsy’ returns 492,000 hits.)
wabi-sabi = an aesthetic that accepts transience and imperfection. The unfinished Temple of the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto is an example of wabi-sabi.