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aardwolf: n. - a mammal native to southern and eastern Africa that resembles the hyena, has gray fur with black stripes, and feeds mainly on legless lizard mites and insect larvae {image}
abalone: n. - an edible sea mollusk that breathes through holes in its ear-shaped shell; the inside of the shell is lined with a richly colored mother-of-pearl, though the outside is rough and mostly brown {image}
abecedarian: n. (see also adj.) - 1. one who teaches or studies the alphabet: tyro 2. one who is just learning: amateur, beginner, novice
ablution: n. - 1. the act of washing or cleansing; specifically, the washing of a body part or the whole body to clean oneself for a religious rite 2. the water used in cleansing
ablutophobia: n. - fear of washing or bathing
abnegation: n. (see also v.) - 1. the denial or rejection of a doctrine or belief: disavowal, renunciation 2. the denial or rejection of your own desires or rights for the benefit of others: sacrifice, self-denial, self-renunciation, surrender
abulia: n. - (also spelled 'aboulia') an abnormal lack of the ability to make decisions, to act independently, or to set and pursue goals -- characteristic of certain psychotic and neurotic conditions
abutment: n. - 1. the part of a structure that bears the weight or pressure of an arch or the end of a bridge {image} 2. a structure that anchors the cables of a suspension bridge 3. the point of contact between two objects or parts
acacia: n. - the genus Acacia includes 800 or so varieties of spiny shrubs and trees of the mimosa family. They are related to beans and peas, have narrow, feather-like leaves, bear clusters of small yellow or white flowers, and are typically found in tropical or subtropical regions {flowers, tree} [see also: gum acacia]
acarophobia: n. - fear of itching
acclivity: n. - an upward slope, such as a hill: ascent
acedia: n. - laziness or indifference in performing one's religious duty or moral responsibility, also known as the "deadly sin" of sloth: apathy, ennui, inactivity, laziness, slothfulness, torpor
acequia: n. - a canal or ditch for distributing water throughout dry land (usually farm land), especially a community-operated waterway used in the American Southwest for irrigation
acetazolamide: n. - a diuretic drug (meaning that it increases the flow of urine) used to treat edema, glaucoma, and epilepsy
Achilles’ heel: n. - a vulnerable point, especially a critically or uniquely vulnerable point (named for Achilles of the Greek epic The Iliad -- after a mythically impressive career as a warrior, he was finally killed by an arrow through his heel, which was his sole weak spot)
acolyte: n. - 1. historically, a man who has received the highest of the four minor orders in the Roman Catholic church, being ordained to carry the wine and water and the lights at the Mass. Today, the acolyte's duties are done by lay persons as alter servers, both male and female 2. one who assists the clergyman in a liturgical service by performing minor duties 3. a devoted follower or attendant: assistant
acrolect: n. - the speech style that is closest to the standard form of a language, especially in an area where a creole (fusion of two or more languages) is spoken
acrostic: n. - 1. a poem, series of lines, or word puzzle in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a word, phrase, or message. An abecedarius is an acrostic in which the first letter of each line goes in alphabetical order {example} 2. a puzzle shaped like a square grid where letters arranged in the square read the same down as they do across: word square
acumen: n. - the ability to quickly make good decisions and judgments: insight, intelligence, intuition, shrewdness, wisdom
addax: n. - an antelope that has long spiraling horns and lives in desert regions of North Africa
ad hominem attack: n. - (Latin) (Logical Fallacy) in an argument or debate, an attempt to deny the truth of a claim by attacking a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it; commenting negatively on a person's private life, personality, associations, or lifestyle rather than addressing the claim that he or she has made. This is typically an attempt (sometimes purposeful, sometimes subconscious) to avoid a rational debate on the issue at hand by playing to the prejudices, emotions, or special interests of oneself or one's audience. For example, "Dude has to be wrong. He only holds that view because he's a *pinko hippie / corporatist neocon / young kid / old coot / religious nut / atheist / milquetoast moderate* who *went to Yale / flunked out of college / is having an affair*, etc."; literally "to the man," ad hominem could also be understood as "aimed at the man" or "against the person"
aegis: n. - 1. the protection, support, guidance, or control of a particular person, group, or organization -- often used in the phrase "under the aegis of". For example, a humanitarian volunteer might work abroad under the 'aegis' of the Peace Corp: auspices, backing, direction, patronage, safekeeping, shield, sponsorship 2. (Greek Mythology) the shield or breastplate of either Zeus or Athena. Zeus's was made of goatskin, Athena's held the head of Medusa, and both versions were symbols of extraordinariy powerful protection
aerie: n. - 1. the lofty nest of a bird of prey (such as a hawk or eagle) 2. any habitation, house, or stronghold at a high altitude
aesthete: n. - 1. one having or pretending to have great sensitivity to beauty, as in art or in nature; one with an excessive or exaggerated love for beauty in nature or in art 2. someone who makes a show of possessing great love for art, music, poetry, and so on, yet is indifferent toward practical matters
aetiology: n. - [see: etiology]
afflatus: n. - 1. a creative inspiration or strong creative impulse, such as a poet may experience 2. a divine imparting of knowledge, such as a prophet may experience: divine inspiration
affluent: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a person who has great material possessions, money, or wealth 2. (Geography) a stream or river which flows into a larger stream or river: tributary
agave: n. - any plant of the genus Agave native to hot, dry regions of North and South America. They have flowers in tall spikes and tough, thick, sword-shaped, often spiny-margined leaves at the base of the plant. They are grown for ornament, fiber, and food: American aloe, century plant
agglutination: n. (see also adj.) - 1. the gluing together or uniting of separate elements or objects: adhesion 2. a group, clump, or mass formed by the gluing together or uniting of separate elements or objects: clumped mass 3. the clumping together of red blood cells or bacteria, usually in response to a particular antibody 5. the adhesion of wound surfaces in healing 6. (Linguistics) the process of forming compound words, derivatives, or inflections by combining simple words or word components without alteration; for example, 'disestablishment' from 'dis', 'establish', and 'ment'
agitprop: n. - propaganda, especially propaganda spread through literature, drama, music, or art
agnate sibling: n. - siblings who have only their father in common: half-brother, half-sister, agnate brother, agnate sister [see also: brother-german, sister-german, sibling-german, uterine sibling]
agraphia: n. - the loss of the ability to write or to express thoughts in writing, especially because of a brain lesion (damage to the brain due to injury or disease)
ahimsa: n. - (Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism) a doctrine holding that all forms of life are sacred and urging the avoidance of violence, including a vow of noninjury to all living things in thought, word, or deed; in Sanskrit, literally "avoidance of injury" (Mahatma Gandhi embraced this concept and greatly influenced its spread into the West)
aikidō: n. - a Japanese martial art similar to judo which emphasizes blending with an attack and redirecting the attacker's energy, as opposed to meeting force with force. Aikidō; techniques primarily use wrist, joint, and elbow grips to immobilize or throw one's opponent. This skill is only used as a tool of self defense, never aggression. The name combines three Japanese words: ai ("union," "harmony," "mutual," "together," "joining," or "to coordinate"), ki ("spirit," "life force" or "breath control"), and dō; ("way," "path" or "art"). Proponents translate aikidō; as "the way of unifying ki," "the art of adapting the spirit" or "the way of harmony with the spirit of the universe." Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), a Japanese farmer and master martial artist, founded aikidō; sometime between 1922 and 1931, supposedly after a divine revelation. He specifically wanted to create a martial art in which a person could defend himself or herself without injuring the attacker
ailurophile: n. - one who loves cats
ailurophobia: n. - fear of cats
alacrity: n. - cheerful and speedy enthusiasm; brisk eagerness: alertness, celerity, fervor, liveliness, promptness, quickness, readiness, vivacity, zeal [antonyms: apathy, reluctance, reservation]
alameda: n. - a public walkway lined with shade trees, especially in a park or garden: promenade
Albion: n. - an ancient name for England or the island of Britain -- often used poetically
alektorophobia: n. - fear of chickens
alembic: n. - 1. an apparatus formerly used for purifying, refining, or distilling liquids, consisting of two vessels connected by a tube (the larger container is gourd-shaped and is heated from below) {image: 1, 2} 2. anything that transforms, purifies, or refines
algorithm: n. - a precise, step-by-step rule or set of rules for solving a problem: formula, instructions, method, procedure, protocol
alienist: n. - 1. a psychiatrist who specializes in the legal aspects of psychiatry (as determining sanity or capacity to stand trial) 2. [archaic] a doctor specializing in the treatment of mental illness: psychiatrist
Allâh: n. - (Islam) the Arabic name of the one and only God, used among Muslims and Arab Christians; in Islam there are 99 descriptive names of God (such as ar-Rahman, "the Merciful," and ar-Rahim, "the Compassionate") but none of these, including Allâh, are considered proper names. To name God would reduce him into a human framework. The high number of names express the incapacity of man to grasp the total nature of God; literally, "the god"
alliteration: n. - (Rhetoric) the use of the same consonant letter or sound at the beginning of multiple words in a phrase or a sentence, especially at the beginning of each stressed syllable in a line of verse, as in "around the rock the ragged rascal ran" [see also: assonance, consonance]
allodoxaphobia: n. - fear of opinions
alluvial fan: n. - a mass of sand, clay, silt, and so on (collectively called alluvium) gradually deposited by moving water that widens out like a fan due to suddenly slowing down. This occurs when a river or stream reaches flatter land (such as a valley, plain, or the foot of a mountain) or enters another, larger stream. Unlike deltas, alluvial fans are not deposited into a lake, ocean, or other body of standing water {image}
alluvium: n. (see also adj.) - particles of rock, clay, silt, mud or sand carried by rushing streams and deposited where the stream slows down (alluvium can also be carried and deposited by glaciers)
almoner: n. - 1. someone whose job it is to distribute alms (money donated to help the poor) on behalf of an institution, government, or religious group 2. (British) an official in a hospital who monitors the needs of patients; a social worker in a hospital
alopecia: n. - loss of hair, wool, or feathers: baldness
alpaca: n. - 1. a domesticated mammal in Peru, related to the llama and having fine, long wool {image} 2. the wool of the animal alpaca, often mixed with silk or with cotton {image} 3. a thin, glossy fabric of cotton, wool, or rayon made to simulate alpaca cloth
alterity: n. - the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation: otherness
amalgam: n. - 1. an alloy of mercury with another metal or metals, used especially (with silver) as a dental filling 2. a mixture or compound of different things: blend, combination
amaranth: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a plant grown for ornament and sometimes as a grain crop or leafy vegetable. Its flowers have long drooping heads of green, red, or purple 2. according to legend, a flower that never fades 3. a synthetic red food dye
ambergris: n. - a waxy substance secreted by the sperm whale and found floating at sea or washed ashore (sometimes from sixty to two hundred and twenty-five pounds in weight), used in perfume to slow down the rate of evaporation
ambit: n. - 1. an external boundary: circuit, circumference, compass, rim 2. the boundaries or limits of a district or place 3. an area in which something acts, operates, or has power or control: extent, orbit, purview, range, reach, scope, sphere, sweep
amicus curiae: n. - (Latin) (Law) a person or group who advises the court on legal points, usually someone who wants to influence the outcome of a lawsuit but is not an actual party involve in the suit. For example, the ACLU often submits materials to support a person who claims a violation of civil rights even though that person is represented by a lawyer; literally, "friend of the court"
amphigory: n. - a meaningless or nonsensical piece of writing, often in verse, and especially one intended as a parody: nonsense poetry
ampoule: n. - (also spelled 'ampule') a small, sterile bottle or vial (usually of glass, though sometimes made of plastic) that is sealed after being filled with a liquid substance (such as a person's blood, chemicals which react violently when exposed to oxygen, or medicine which will later be injected through a needle) {image}
anabasis: n. - 1. a going or marching up; an advance, especially a military advance: expedition 2. a difficult and dangerous military retreat
anablephobia: n. - fear of looking up
anacampserote: n. - something which can bring back a long-lost love (originally, an herb said to have this ability)
anadiplosis: n. - (Rhetoric) the repetition of the final words of a line or phrase at the beginning of the next, as in "He was tormented by fears - fears that were soon to be realized" or "Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,/ Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain..." —Philip Sidney
anagoge: n. - 1. a spiritual or mystical interpretation of a word or passage rather than a literal or moral one, especially an interpretation that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife in a sacred text 2. an allegorical interpretation of a passage in the Bible as an allusion to or foreshadowing of people or events in the New Testament
anagram: n. - a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase (for example, ‘meat’ is an anagram of ‘team’ and ‘stain’ is an anagram of ‘satin’)
analgesic: n. (see also adj.) - a medicine used to reduce or eliminate pain without the loss of consciousness by the patient: anodyne, painkiller, salve
analysand: n. - a person undergoing psychoanalysis
anamnesis: n. - 1. the act of remembering past occurrences in one's life: recollection 2. recalling past matters from memory, especially quoting someone else's statement from memory 3. (Philosophy) Plato's theory concerning the restoration of knowledge which had been forgotten by the soul in the process of birth: unforgetting 4. (Christianity) a prayer during the celebration of Communion that recalls or commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ 5. the medical or psychiatric history of a patient and of his or her illness, especially when reconstructed using statements by the patient: case history, medical record
anaphora: n. - 1. (Rhetoric) the use of the same word or phrase at the beginning of several successive clauses, sentences, lines, or verses, as in "She didn't speak. She didn't stand. She didn't even look up when we came in" or "we cannot dedicate- we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow this ground" —Abraham Lincoln [see also: epistrophe] 2. (Linguistics) the use of a word to refer back to a word used earlier (often a regular grammatical substitute, such as a pronoun or the verb 'do'), used to avoid repetition. In the sentence "I told Paul to close the door and he did so," the clause "he did so" is an example
anaphylactic shock: n. - a sudden, severe, sometimes fatal allergic reaction that is caused by exposure to a foreign substance, such as a drug or bee venom, after an initial exposure
anaphylaxis: n. - hypersensitivity to a substance, such as foreign protein or a drug, that occurs after a preliminary exposure to it
anastomosis: n. - 1. in a network (such as blood vessels, leaf veins, or rivers and streams), the reconnection of two streams that previously branched out from each other 2. (Geology) the manner in which rivers and streams fan out across the landscape, then merge together again 3. (Biology) the division of arteries into capillaries, which later rejoin into the veins 4. (Biology) a process in evolution in which two species that previously diverged from each other are able to blend together again -- such as through hybridization (as when botanists created hybrid species of related plants) or symbiosis (as when a species is introduced to a location containing a related species) 5. (Medicine) a connection between two organs which normally do not connect with one another, created purposefully through surgery or accidentally through trauma or disease
anastrophe: n. - (Rhetoric) a change in the normal order of words, usually done for the sake of emphasis, as in "troubles, everybody's got" instead of "everybody's got troubles," or "echoed the hills" instead of "the hills echoed"
anathema: n. - [see also: anathematize (v.)] 1. a person or thing that is hated, denounced, shunned, or cursed; an object of loathing; something or someone despised, especially for their evil or contrary ways: abomination, adversary, antagonist, enemy, pariah 2. a forceful curse or denunciation: ban, curse, damnation, denouncement, execration, fulmination, malediction 3. (Christianity) a formal curse declared by church authority which excludes someone from all intercourse with the Christian community (this is a step beyond excommunication, which simply forbids an individual from taking part in Communion and other Christian rites)
anchorite: n. - a person who renounces the world and has retired into seclusion for religious reasons: eremite, hermit, recluse [antonym: cenobite]
androphobia: n. - fear of men
Anemoi: n. - (Greek Mythology) gods of the wind, particularly the wind gods of the four cardinal directions -- Boreas (the cold, harsh north wind of winter), Notus (the stormy south wind of summer and autumn), Zephrus (the gentle west wind of spring and early summer), and Eurus (the east wind, not associated with any season). Lesser Anemoi included gods of the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest winds, the gods of storm winds and hurricanes, and the harpies (the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind)
anemophobia: n. - fear of air
anencephaly: n. - a congenital birth defect that develops when the head end of the neural tube (the structure which gives rise to the central nervous system) fails to close, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain (especially the forebrain, which includes the cerebrum and is necessary for thinking and coordination). The remaining brain tissue is often exposed; it is not covered by bone or skin. Infants born with anencephaly are usually blind, deaf, and unconscious. The fetus usually has a flat head (if there is any skull at all), a shrunken neck (if any), and bulging eyes. Though the lack of a functioning cerebrum permanently rules out the possibility of ever gaining consciousness, some infants with anencephaly may be born with a rudimentary brainstem, allowing reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch to occur. The disorder is one of the most common disorders of the fetal central nervous system. Approximately 1,000 to 2,000 babies are born with anencephaly each year in the U.S. Anencephaly can often be diagnosed before birth through screening of the mother's blood for the level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and a detailed ultrasound examination. The addition of ample vitamin B, folic acid, to the diet of women of child-bearing age significantly reduces the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs), including both anenchephaly and spina bifida (another common and major type of NTD), though it is not known why {diagram & fetus} [see also: myelomeningocele, spina bifida, spina bifida occulta]
anglophobia: n. - fear of Englishness
angry fruit salad: n. - slang for a poorly designed user interface or Web page that uses too many bright colors
angst: n. - 1. an acute feeling of anxiety or dread without a specific cause, often accompanied by depression: anguish, distress, fright, gloom, worry 2. (Philosophy) a generalized anxiety about the state of the world or about personal freedom
anhedonia: n. - (Psychology/Medicine) the inability to experience pleasure, especially during activities that usually produce pleasurable feelings. Anhedonia is an important and common feature of depression, schizophrenia, and some other mental illnesses
anima: n. - (Latin) literally, "spirit" or "mind" 1. (Jungian Psychology) the internal feminine aspect of a man's personality [see also: animus] 2. (Jungian Psychology) the part of the psyche which is directed inwards, in touch with the subconscious; the true inner self as opposed to the outer persona [see also: persona]
animadversion: n. - 1. an unfavorable or harsh comment, especially one meant to criticize someone: accusation, criticism, flak, slur 2. hostile criticism or strong disapproval; the act of criticizing someone else: blame, censure, chastisement, faultfinding, reproof, stricture
animism: n. - 1. the doctrine that all natural objects (including plants and inanimate objects) and the universe itself have individual souls or consciousness 2. the belief in the existence of spirits or souls that can or do exist separately from their bodies 3. the hypothesis holding that an immaterial or supernatural force (such as spirit) animates and organizes the universe
animus: n. - (Latin) literally, "mind" or "soul" 1. an attitude or feeling that motivates somebody's actions; an animating or energizing spirit 2. the intention to do something: disposition, purpose 3. a feeling or display of animosity or strong dislike: antagonism, antipathy, enmity, grudge, hostility, ill will, rancor 4. (Jungian Psychology) the internal masculine aspect of a woman's personality [see also: anima]
anklebiter: n. - 1. a mocking term for a small child: crib lizard, crotchfruit, offspring, rug rat, spawn, semen demon 2. (Stock Investment) stock issued with a relatively low total market value (less than $500 million): small-capitalization stocks [antonym: large-capitalization stocks]
anlage: n. - 1. a fundamental principle, especially one which a certain theory is based or founded; the foundation of a future development 2. (Biology) the initial clustering of embryonic cells from which a part or an organ develops: bud, germ, primordium 3. (Psychology) a genetic predisposition to a given trait or personality characteristic
annelid: n. - a phylum of invertebrate (spineless) organisms with flat bodies that are divided into ringlike segments, such as earthworms, leeches, and various marine worms: segmented worm
anniellidae: n. - legless lizards. These creatures are distinguished from snakes several ways: they possess movable eyelids and external ear openings (snakes don't have either), lack broad belly scales (which snakes do have, and which gives snakes much greater mobility on flat land), and have an inflexible jaw (snakes can "unlock" their jaws to swallow creatures much broader than themselves). Finally, legless lizards have a very long tail (up to two thirds their total length) capable of breaking off from their body as they attempt to escape a predator (while snakes have a long body and short tail which cannot be broken off or regrown). The tail left behind continues to wriggle, then breaks into smaller pieces -- appearing to shatter like glass. Hence, anniellidae are often called "glass lizards." The tail can break off only once and regeneration can take from several months to two years. Also, legless lizards and snakes evolved from separate branches of the evolutionary tree {image (notice the clear, round entrance to its ear just behind its mouth)}
anodyne: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a medicine or drug that relieves pain and suffering, such as aspirin, codeine, opium, and morphine: analgesic, painkiller, pain pill, salve 2. a source of soothing comfort or which relaxes someone
anorak: n. - 1. a hip-length, waterproof, heavy pullover jacket with a hood -- originally made of fur and worn in the arctic, but now made of a variety of weather-resistant fabrics and worn in many regions: parka 2. (derogatory slang) someone deeply or obsessively interested in a solitary hobby that most people think is boring or odd. Usually, this person appears eccentric, has little or no fashion sense, and is socially awkward: dweeb, fanboy, fangirl, geek, otaku
antanaclasis: n. - (Rhetoric) a form of speech in which a key word is repeated and used in a different, often contrary, way for a play on words, as in "The craft of a politician is to appear before the public without craft," or "Your argument is sound...all sound" —Benjamin Franklin, or "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm" —Vince Lombardi
anteambulo: n. - (Latin) literally, "walking before" or "walking in front of" 1. someone employed to conduct others to their seats: doorkeeper, usher 2. (Ancient Greece & Rome) a slave, servant, or client who walked ahead of his or her master or patron through a crowd and compelled people to clear a path for him
anthrophobia: n. - fear of flowers
antibiotic: n. - a medicine or chemical that can destroy or limit the growth of harmful bacteria
anticholinergic drug: n. - a category of drugs used to control stress by inhibiting or blocking the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at a receptor site on a nerve cell. It can also be used to reduce spasms of smooth muscle (for example, spasms of the bladder) [see also: anticholinergic (adj.)]
anti-emetic: n. - a drug or medication which prevents nausea and vomitting, used to treat motion sickness and the side effect of ill feelings or nausea from chemotherapy [antonym: emetic]
antigram: n. - an anagram which means the opposite of the original word or phrase (for example, 'restful' is the antigram of 'fluster' and ‘real fun’ is the antigram of ‘funeral’) [antonym: aptagram]
antiloquist: n. - one who contradicts or denies; a contradictor or opposer
antimetabole: n. - (Rhetoric) a figure of speech in which the same words or ideas are repeated in transposed order (AB-BA), as in "I know what I like, and like what I know" [see also: chiasmus]
antimony: n. - a silvery-white, brittle, yet soft element which has the appearance and physical properties of metal but does not react chemically like a metal. Antimony is used in semiconductors, batteries, anti-friction alloys, tracer bullets, and cable sheathing. Antimony oxide is added to textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire and is also used in paints (especially enamels), ceramics, and fireworks. Exposure to high levels of antimony can cause symptoms similar to those of arsenic poisoning. In small doses, antimony causes headache, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses cause violent and frequent vomiting, and will lead to death in a few days. Antimony is found at low levels in some rivers, lakes, and streams. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows 0.006 parts of antimony per million parts of drinking water (0.006 ppm). Its symbol is Sb and its atomic weight is 120
antinomianism: n. - 1. a belief held by some Protestants that Christians are not bound by established laws, especially moral laws, but should rely on faith and divine grace for salvation 2. the doctrine that moral laws do not apply to Christ 3. the notion that certain persons with privileged status do not have to obey their own dictates, as in "Do as I say, not as I do." 4. the belief that moral laws are relative in meaning and application as opposed to fixed or universal 5. the belief that once a believer is saved, they are not bound to follow moral laws and can sin freely, because they are forgiven of past and future transgressions
antiphon: n. - a verse, hymn, psalm, or song to be chanted or sung in response during a liturgy
antiphoner: n. - a book of hymns or psalms sung or chanted as a response (antiphon)
antipode: n. - 1. a direct or diametric opposite; the exact opposite 2. something occupying a directly opposed position 3. (Chemistry) a molecule whose atoms are arranged in a directly opposite manner
antiquary: n. - an expert or collector of antiquities: antiquarian
antonomasia: n. - 1. the use of a proper name to designate a member of a class (as a "Solomon" for a "wise ruler") 2. the use of an epithet or title in place of a proper name (as "the Bard" for "Shakespeare")
anuptaphobia: n. - fear of staying single
apéritif: n. - a small alcoholic drink (often liquor or wine) served as an appetizer before a large meal, especially when done to stimulate the appetite
aphagia: n. - 1. the inability to swallow 2. the refusal of a person to eat because swallowing is painful
aphasia: n. - partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease
aphelion: n. - the point in the path of a celestial body (as a planet) that is farthest from the sun [antonym: perihelion]
aphenphosmphobia: n. - fear of being touched
aphorism: n. - 1. a concise statement of a principle 2. a short, pithy, instructive saying: adage
aplomb: n. - assurance of manner or of action: confidence, coolness, poise, sang-froid, self-assurance, self-possession, sureness
apogee: n. - 1. the farthest or highest point: culmination 2. the point in the orbit of the moon or of an artificial satellite that is at the greatest distance from the center of the earth [antonym: perigee]
apologia: n. - a formal (usually written) defense or justification of a belief, theory, policy, or action; formerly referred to as an apology
apologism: n. - (Philosophy) the belief that it is wrong for humans to alter the natural conditions of life. It is opposed to the idea that absolute "progress" is a desirable goal for human effort. For example, Social Darwinists who defended the "natural laws" of the economy selecting for the "fittest" individuals to survive and succeed were following apologism, while people who favored aiding the poor and incapacitated through welfare were following meliorism (which is the belief that human effort brings social progress) [antonym: meliorism]
apologist: n. - somebody who argues in defense or justification of a controversial doctrine, policy, belief, or institution
apophasis: n. - an ironic rhetorical device where the speaker or writer emphasizes a fact by saying that it will not be mentioned, or invokes a subject by denying that it should be invoked (can relate to positive or negative qualities); such as, "I will not bring up the question of age now that you are forty," and "She is talented, not to mention rich.": cataphasis, paralipsis, preterition
apophatism: n. - the religious belief that God cannot be known but is completely 'other' and must be described in negative terms (in terms of what God is not: God is not ignorant, God is not a creation, God is not subject to the rules of space or time, God is not knowable, God's essence cannot be spoken of, etc.) [antonym: cataphatism]
apophenia: n. - the perception or belief that unrelated events or circumstances have meaningful connections; or, the tendency to see patterns or signs in random or meaningless data. Examples include believing that blowing on dice can bring a gambler good luck, noticing that a café customer is reading a book on Italy at the very moment you were considering vacationing in Europe and interpreting this to mean you should go, rearranging the words of a long book (such as Moby Dick, War and Peace, or the Bible) into chart form and playing word search with them in order to "prove" said book has prophetic abilities, and a paranoid individual who notices an increased number of men in black suits and interprets this as evidence that he or she is being spied on by the government. In statistics, seeing patterns where none exist is known as a Type I error [see also: pareidolia]
apoptosis: n. - a process in which mechanisms within a cell trigger its own destruction without releasing harmful substances into the surrounding area. This is necessary in order to make room for new cell growth and to rid the body of old, unnecessary, and unhealthy cells. The human body replaces perhaps a million cells a second. When this process does not work right, diseased cells that should be eliminated may hang around and develop into cancer or leukemia. When apoptosis works overly well, it kills too many cells and inflicts grave tissue damage, such as in strokes and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer, Huntington and Parkinson diseases: cell suicide, programmed cell death
apostate: n. - a person who abandons his or her previous religion, political party, social cause, or moral principle -- especially after making a solemn profession of belief: heretic, recreant
apotheosis: n. - 1. elevation to divine status: deification 2. the perfect example: quintessence
appanage: n. - 1. money, land, an official position or title, or other resource given to the younger children of kings and princes, particularly in systems of primogeniture (which gives the biggest part of the inheritance to the first born child): grant, royal inheritance 2. funds given by a state to maintain or support a royal family 3. a necessary accompaniment, commonly expected perk, or bonus that is claimed as someone's due: adjunct, fringe benefit, perquisite, privilege
appellate court: n. - a court with the power to review and reverse the decisions of lower courts: court of appeals
appendectomy: n. - surgical removal of the vermiform appendix
apposition: n. - 1. the position of two things that are next to each other: collocation, juxtaposition 2. (Rhetoric) a grammatical relationship in which a word or phrase is placed next to another in order to qualify or explain it. In the sentence "My son, an actor, lives with me," the phrase "My son, an actor" is an example of apposition 3. (Physiology) growth of a cell wall in which layers of material are deposited onto already existing ones
apraxia: n. - a mental disorder where one is unable to perform purposeful, coordinated movements or manipulate objects, but is not suffering from paralysis or damage to muscles, bone, or sensory organs
aptagram: n. - an anagram in which the new word or phrase has a similar meaning to the original word (for example, "moon starer" is an aptagram of "astronomer" and "dirty room" is an aptagram of "dormitory") [antonym: antigram]
arabesque: n. (see also adj.) - 1. an ornamental style that employs flowers, leaves, fruit, curves, geometric patterns, and sometimes animal and human outlines to produce an intricate pattern of interlaced lines 2. an elaborate or intricate pattern, especially a spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif 3. a piece of classical music characterized by decoratively ornate, fanciful melodies, especially one written for solo piano 4. (Ballet) a posture in which the body is bent forward from the hip on one leg with one arm extended forward and the other arm and leg backward
arachibutyrophobia: n. - fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
arachnoid: n. (see also adj.) - (Anatomy) the middle of the three membranes (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord (so-called because it looks like a cobweb) [see also: dura mater, pia mater]
arbalest: n. - a large medieval crossbow with a steel bow, used to shoot stones, metal balls, arrows, and other missiles. Due to its structure allowing superior leverage, its short arrows were shot with greater power than the longer arrows of the longbow {image}
Areopagus: n. - a hill in ancient Athens where the highest judicial and legislative assembly met
argot: n. - an often more or less secret vocabulary and idiom peculiar to a particular group: jargon, lingo
argy-bargy: n. - (British) 1. a passionate or loud argument or fight 2. animated or noisy fighting; heated arguing
armillary sphere: n. - an early astronomical model made of fixed and movable rings encircling a central sphere, representing the Earth and various circles of the heavens surrounding it (such as the equator, the meridian, and the ecliptic path, as well as rings depicting the supposed path of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars). It was used in both the ancient Greek and Arab civilizations. It was used as early as the third century BCE as both a teaching instrument and an observational tool. In the 17th and 18th centuries, armillary spheres were used to show the difference between an Earth-centered system (Ptolemaic theory) and a Sun-centered system (Copernican theory) of the planets {image: 1, 2} [see also: astrolabe]
arras: n. - a wall hanging or curtain of heavy handwoven fabric with pictorial designs, especially one of Flemish origin: tapestry
arthropod: n. - an invertebrate animal that has jointed limbs, a segmented body, and an exoskeleton made of chitin; this phylum includes insects, arachnids (spiders), myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), and crustaceans (crabs, lobster, etc.)
asafetida: n. - a brownish, bitter, foul-smelling gum resin or juice obtained from the roots of several plants (from Persia and the East Indies) in the parsley family, formerly used in medicine as an antispasmodic
asceticism: n. - the doctrine that a life of extreme self-denial, harsh discipline, abstention from pleasure or comfort, non-indulgence, chastity and austerity will release the soul from bondage to the body and permit union with the divine
Ashkenazi: n. - (Judaism) a member of the branch of European Jews, historically Yiddish-speaking, who settled in central and northern Europe [see also: Sephardim]
ashram: n. - (Hinduism) 1. a secluded retreat where a Hindu guru instructs a group of disciples in the practice of yoga and other Hindu disciplines. Children are often sent there to be educated 2. a commune or communal house whose members share spiritual goals and practices
Asperger's Syndrome: n. - a mild autistic disorder characterized by awkwardness in social interaction, delayed motor milestones (clumsiness), a pretentiously scholarly vocabulary, repetitive behavior patterns, preoccupation with very narrow interests, and sometimes highly above average performance in a narrow field. However, basic language skills, cognitive function, and self-help skills do not suffer delayed development
asperity: n. - 1. something that is hard to endure because of its harshness or severity: hardship, rigor 2. the quality of being severe in the way that you speak and behave: acrimony, brusqueness, gruffness, harshness, ill temper, inflexibility, irritability, roughness, severity, sharpness, strictness 3. the roughness of a surface: bumpiness, unevenness 4. roughness or harshness, as of sound or of a climate 5. a tiny projection from a surface; a point or bump 6. (Earthquakes) an area on a fault that is stuck, often where the earthquake rupture begins
aspersion: n. - 1. a damaging or derogatory remark: slander 2. the act of defaming or slandering 3. a sprinkling with water, especially in religious ceremonies
assonance: n. - (Rhetoric) a style of rhyme in which the same vowel sounds are used with different consonants in the stressed syllables of the two or more words, as in 'penitent' and 'reticence' [see also: alliteration, consonance]
asthenia: n. - an abnormal loss of strength or energy: debility, weakness
astrolabe: n. - a small instrument used by ancient Greeks and Arabs to measure the altitude of stars, planets, the moon, and the sun. A simple astrolabe was a circular disk of wood or metal with the rim marked off in 360 degrees. Usually, there were two or more calibrated disks, each of which could rotate independently. Users took readings from a pointer that pivoted around the center like the hand of a clock. The sailor's (or mariner's) astrolabe was a simple device for determining one's approximate latitude (but not longitude, and therefore not one's exact location) while on a swaying ship. Elaborate astrolabes bore a star map, a circle with the signs of the zodiac, and various other useful or decorative features. Until 1767 (when it was replaced with the sextant), it was used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers as a star-chart, compass, clock, and calendar {images: 1, 2, 3, mariner's astrolabe} [see also: armillary sphere]
asymptote: n. - 1. (Mathematics) a line that draws increasingly nearer to a curve without ever meeting it (usually, a curve approaching infinity), especially when graphing a function in calculus. Sometimes aspymtotes can also be curved; a straight line that is the limiting value of a curve; a line whose distance to a given curve tends to zero {image} 2. the point at which a population reaches numerical stability, when the number of individual people, creatures, plants, etc. is neither growing nor shrinking
asynchrony: n. - the relation that exists when things occur at unrelated times; lack of temporal concurrence; absence of synchronism
asyndeton: n. - (Rhetoric) a stylistic scheme in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a sentence in which they would normally be used to coordinate a series of words or phrases, as in “He has provided the poor with jobs, with opportunity, with self-respect.” Often this is done to punctuate the statement's rhythm or to emphasize strong feeling [antonym: polysyndeton]
atavism: n. (see also adj.) - 1. the recurrence of a genetic feature that has been absent for several generations; the appearance in an individual of characteristics presumed to have been present in some remote ancestor; reversion to an earlier biologic type: throwback 2. the recurrence of or return to a previous style, manner, outlook, approach, or behavior after a period of absence: throwback
ataxia: n. - the loss of full control over one's bodily movements, symptomatic of some nervous disorders; lack of voluntary muscle control or coordination; unsteady movements and a staggering gait
ataxophobia: n. - fear of disorder or untidiness
atelier: n. - a workshop or studio, especially for an artist or designer
atelophobia: n. - fear of imperfection
athazagoraphobia: n. - fear of being ignored or forgotten
atheling: n. - among the ancient Anglo-Saxons, a nobleman or prince -- especially one eligible to become king
atlatl: n. - a rod, board or wooden shaft fitted with a projection (as a hook, thong or socket) at the rear end used to steady the butt of a spear or dart during the throwing motion until the weapon is released. This device usually has finger grips at one end, where stones were often fastened for added weight. It functions as an artificial extension of the thrower's arm, giving him increased leverage and range and allowing him to hurl a spear accurately a much greater distance than he could by unaided hand. Such spear throwers were used in Europe during the Palaeolithic era and throughout the New World in pre-Columbian times prior to the appearance of the bow and arrow, most notably by the Aztecs and in western North America from about 6500 BC till 500 AD. A similar device was used in the Arctic and in Australia, where it is called a woomera {images: 1 & 2}
attrition: n. - 1. a decrease in numbers, size, strength, or resistance -- especially as a result of constant pressure or harassment (often used in the phrase 'war of attrition'): disintegration, reduction 2. the act of rubbing something against something else, especially friction used to wear something down (such as tooth loss due to grinding of the teeth): abrasion, erosion 3. (Business) the gradual reduction of a workforce accomplished by simply not replacing employees who resign, retire or relocate: natural wastage
aubergine: n. - 1. (Brit.) an egg-shaped fruit having shiny skin, typically dark purple but occasionally white or yellow, often cooked and eaten as a vegetable: brinjal, eggplant, garden egg, mad apple {image} 2. (Brit.) a hairy upright herb native to southeastern Asia but widely cultivated for its large glossy edible fruit commonly used as a vegetable: eggplant bush 3. (U.S.) a dark reddish-purple or blackish-purple color
aulophobia: n. - fear of flutes
aureole: n. - 1. a radiance encircling the head or body, as in religious paintings: halo 2. the illuminated area around the sun, etc., as when seen in a mist or during an eclipse; the sun's corona
auroraphobia: n. - fear of the Northern Lights
auscultation: n. - the act of listening to sounds arising within organs (as the lungs) as an aid to diagnosis and treatment
autodidact:n. - one who is self-taught
automatonophobia: n. - fear of wax statues
autophobia: n. - fear of being oneself
axiom: n. - 1. a self-evident, necessary, or universally recognized truth that requires no proof; a proposition whose truth is so evident at first sight that no reasoning or demonstration can make it plainer: postulate 2. (Logic & Mathematics) a proposition that is not susceptible to proof or disproof, whose truth is assumed to be self-evident, usually for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it 3. a saying that widely accepted on its own merits: maxim 4. an established rule or law; a universally accepted principle
axiomatization: n. - (Mathematics) the process of defining or creating a system of axioms (self-evident truths) from which mathematical theories can be derived
axolotl: n. - any of several salamanders of mountain lakes of Mexico and the western U.S. that often retains its external gills as an adult
ayatollah: n. - (Islam) a high-ranking Shiite leader in Iran who is a prominent scholar on religious law and its interpretation and who has political power as well; literally, "sign of God"
azimuth: n. - 1. (Navigation & Astronomy) an angle measured from some reference point on a circle (usually north or south) clockwise along the horizon. When starting from north, an object that is due north has an azimuth of 0 degrees. If due east, its azimuth is 90 degrees. If due west, its azimuth is 270 degrees, etc. Azimuth is used with altitude (height) to describe the position of a star in the sky {image} 2. in a tape deck, the angular relationship between the head gap and the tape path, which must be perfectly aligned at 90 degrees in order for the tape to play smoothly and correctly