Words About Words

The list below contains words which describe other words. Some of them you will have learned in school; others, more precocious and fun, you may be seeing for the first time. According to some collectors of such terms, there are over 1300 words like these. This list is a brief introduction to some of the rarified terms which described English words and their characteristics.

Abecedarian-1. pertaining to or formed by the letters of the alphabet, 2. one who teaches or learns the letters of the alphabet.
Acronym-a word formed by the first (or the first few) letters of several words. Examples: radar (radio detection and ranging), WHO (World Health Organization), scuba (self contained underwater breathing apparatus).
Adjective-word that describes a noun. Examples: big, soft, colorful.
Adverb-word that describes a verb. Examples: quickly, quietly, softly, very, happily.
Allonym-an assumed name; the name of another person, especially that of a significant historical figure, assumed by somebody, especially a writer.
Ambigram-words that can be turned upside down and still be read the same way. Examples: mow, pod.
Ananym-name written backwards.
Antimetabole-a word or phrase which is repeated in opposite order in the next clause or phrase. Example: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Antonym-a word that means the opposite of another word. Examples: hot/cold, soft/hard, near/far, thick/thin.
Aptronym-a name that matches its owner's occupation or character, often in a humorous or ironic way. Examples: a confectionary salesman named Candy Baggs, a band teacher with the last name Horn, a police chief with the last name Lawless.
Autological-a word that describes itself; a word which embodies the property it denotes. Examples: English, multisyllabic.
Battology-needless and tiresome repetition in speaking or writing.
Buzzword-a fashionable word used more to impress than to inform. Examples: outside the box, sea change, win-win.
Cacophonous-loud, discordant, harsh-sounding words and sounds. Some words used to describe a cacophonous sound are harsh-sounding themselves. Examples: jangly, jarring, raspy, raucous, screeching.
Cacography-poor handwriting; poor spelling, often purposely misspelled for humorous purposes.
Cheville-a meaningless or redundant word or phrase inserted to round off a sentence or complete a verse.
Collocation-a familiar grouping of words that are used together to convey a particular meaning. Example: black and white.
Contranym-a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Example: oversight (which can mean an error or the act of supervision).
Crot-a verbal bit or fragment used as an autonomous unit to create an effect of abruptness and rapid transition.
Dactylic-a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first long or accented, and the others short or unaccented; like the joints of the finger.
Diacritic-a symbol added to a letter to change its pronunciation. Examples: café, mañana.
Eponym-a word based on a person's name. Examples: Celsius,sandwich,gerrymander.
Euphonious-pleasing to the ear. Examples: melodious, lyrical, dulcet, mellow.
Diminutive-a suffix added to a word to mean little, small, or young. Examples: piglet, starlet.
Glottal-a speech sound made by momentarily closing the glottis. Frequently glottal words happen when the t comes after a vowel or r sound, and before an n sound or an m sound. Examples: button, treatment, partner, written.
Grammatolatry-the worship of words or of writing. A grammatolator is a stickler for the forms of words.
Heterological-a word that does not describe itself (as opposed to autological).
Homographs-words written the same way, but having different meanings and different pronunciations. Examples: wind, advocate, bass.
Homonym-a word that is spelled or sounds the same as another word which has a different meaning. Examples: dear/deer, bald/bawled, fair/fare, scene/seen.
Homophones-words spelled differently, but they sound the same. Examples: rain, rein, reign; beach, beech.
Idioglossia-invented speech, a private language. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "a form of dyslalia [or speech impairment] in which the person affected consistently makes substitutions in his speech sounds to such an extent that he seems to speak a language of his own."
Literal-language where the word use does not deviate from their defined meaning, as opposed to figurative language where words may be used symbolically. Examples: Literal. The girl's hair was blonde. Figurative: The girl's hair shone like honey.
Logodaedaly-"Cunning in words," says the OED, or "skill in adorning a speech." However, the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary defines it less favorably as "the arbitrary or capricious coinage of words."
Logomachy-a disagreement about words and their meanings.
Logophile-a person who loves words
Mash-up words-hybrids using parts of two other words Examples: motorcade, Frankenfood, telegenic, radome, sysop.
Malapropism-a humorously misused or mispronounced word.
Minced oath-a euphemism in which a curse word is replaced by something less offensive. Examples: darn instead of damn.
Mneumonic-a word or phrase designed to aid memory. Examples: 1. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. 2. In English, the 7 coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So = FANBOYS.
Monepic-a one-word sentence.
Monosyllabic-a word with only one syllable (longest one in English "squirrelled").
Neologism-a newly coined word. Examples: app, Google, staycation.
Noun-a word naming a person, place, or thing. Examples: dog, Fred, dish.
Obfuscatory-a word designed to hide meaning.
Palindrome-a word which is the same read both forward and backward (longest non-coined palindrome "rotavator").
Phonetic-spelling of a word which mirrors the sounds of a word.
Polysyllabic-words which have more than one syllable. Examples of polysyllabic words: identity, decimal.
Portmanteau word-a word formed from parts of other words. Examples: brunch formed from breakfast and lunch.
Prefix-beginning part of a word. Examples: anti-, in-, a-, dis-, un-.
Proparoxytone-meaning stressed on the antepenultimate, or third-to-last syllable. Pronounced pro-par-OX-y-tone.
Pun-a play or joke using words and their meanings. Examples: 1. A horse is a very stable animal. 2. An elephant's opinion carries a lot of weight. 3. Santa's helpers are subordinate Clauses.
Rhyming-words that end with the same sounds, often used in poems, songs, or verses to create a rhythm. Examples: hug/rug/mug/shrug.
Rumbelow-a meaningless combination of syllables serving as a refrain, such as the sounds "yo ho ho" and "hey ho" of rowing sailors.
Sesquipedalian-term meaning a "long" word; comes from the Latin meaning a foot and a half in length.
Simile-a figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another. Example: a heart as big as a whale.
Suffix-an ending added to a root word. Examples: -ing, -ed.
Synonym-a word which has a similar meaning to another word. Examples: nip/pinch/bite/tweak; hop/jump/leap/skip.
Syntax-sentence structure, the orderly arrangement of words in a sentence to show their relationship.
Tautonym-1. a word that has two identical parts; 2. a taxonomic binomial in which the generic name and specific epithet are alike. Examples: tutu, pompom.
Tmesis-a word or phrase that is split in two and another word is added in the middle. Examples: Fan-freaking-tastic; I am so not going camping.
Verb-a word expressing action or state of being. Examples: ride, swim, write, be, am.
Xenoglossia-speaking or writing in a known language that one has never studied or learned (at least not in any perceivably normal way).

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