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lachanophobia: n. - fear of vegetables
lacuna: n. - 1. a blank space or a missing part: gap 2. a small cavity, pit, opening, depression, or discontinuity in an anatomical structure
lagan: n. - cargo or equipment thrown into the sea but attached to a float or buoy so that it can be recovered: ligan [see also: flotsam, jetsam, jettison]
lagniappe: n. - (chiefly southern U.S., especially New Orleans) a small gift from a merchant to a paying customer, given as a token of appreciation or as a friendly gesture: bonus
laliophobia: n. - fear of speaking
laminak: n. - fairies who are related to the Little People in Celtic lore whom were supposed to have lived underground in beautiful castles
lampas: n. - 1. an ornately patterned cloth resembling damask, especially one made of silk, that is used for upholstery 2. an inflammation and swelling of the soft parts of the roof of the mouth immediately behind the fore teeth of a horse
landau: n. - 1. a four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage with front and back passenger seats that face each other, a roof in two sections that can be lowered or detached, and a raised seat for the driver at the front {image} 2. a style of automobile with a roof in two sections that can be lowered or detached
lanugo: n. - a layer of fine, soft hairs that covers some mammals when they are in the womb and shortly after birth. The human fetus normally sheds this hair before birth, but sometimes it is present for a short time afterwards
lapidary: n. (see also adj.) - someone whose job is to cut, polish, or engrave precious stones: gem-cutter, jeweler
largesse: n. - 1. liberal giving or generosity, especially in a lofty or condescending manner 2. something given liberally as if to an inferior: gift, present
lariat: n. - a long, slender rope tied in a noose (often made of hemp or strips of hide), commonly used two ways: a) for catching cattle, horses, and other livestock: lasso b) for tying a horse to a post so that it can graze without wandering: tether
lassitude: n. - lack of vitality or energy: listlessness, weariness
lateen sail: n. - a triangular sail hung on a long yard that is attached at an angle to the top of a short mast
Lebensraum: n. - (German) additional territory considered by a nation, especially Nazi Germany, to be necessary for its society to survive or prosper. This idea was used by the Nazis to justify their expansion of Germany (initially, their invasion of Poland); literally, "living space; living room"
legerdemain: n. - 1. sleight of hand 2. a display of skill, trickery, or artful deception
leitmotif: n. - 1. a melodic phrase that accompanies each recurring appearance of a particular character, idea, or emotion (as in Wagner's operas) 2. a dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel
lemniscate: n. - a shape (such the number eight [8] and the infinity symbol [∞]) that can be described as two symmetrical loops meeting at a point or as a circle or oval twisted at the center. There are many different mathematical methods for generating a lemniscate. The word comes from the Latin lēmniscātus, meaning "decorated with ribbons" {explore a few examples here}
lenity: n. - the state or quality of being lenient; gentleness of treatment: leniency, mildness
leucotomy: n. - (also spelled 'leukotomy') a surgical operation that involves cutting nerve fibers in the frontal lobe (white matter) of the brain. It is now performed only very rarely, as a treatment for severe psychiatric disorders. The procedure often results in marked cognitive and personality changes: frontal lobotomy, prefrontal lobotomy
leukophobia: n. - fear of the color white
leviathan: n. - 1. (Bible) (capitalized) a huge sea monster or sea serpent which has existed since the beginning of time and is regarded as evil. Its source is in the Mesopotamian myth of Yamm and Baal 2. something incredibly large and powerful, especially in comparison with others of its kind
Levirate marriage: n. - a type of marriage in which a widow and her deceased husband's brother must marry if her first marriage produced no children, done to ensure that the family line is continued. Levirate marriage has usually been practiced by societies in which marriage outside the clan was forbidden. The term is a derivative of the Latin word levir, meaning "husband's brother"
levity: n. - 1. lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate or excessive: frivolity 2. lack of steadiness or constancy: changeableness
levophobia: n. - fear of things to the left side of the body
lexicographer: n. - someone who writes or edits a dictionary (also known as a "lexicon")
liana: n. - any luxuriantly growing, woody, tropical vine that roots in the ground and climbs, as around tree trunks
libation: n. - 1. the pouring of a liquid offering (especially wine or oil) in a religious ritual, in honor of a god or a dead person 2. the act of drinking an alcoholic beverage 3. (humorous) an alcoholic drink
libretto: n. - the words of a dramatic musical work such as an opera or musical play, including both the spoken and sung parts
lien: n. - 1. (Law) the right to keep another person's property until a debt owed by that person is repaid, or to sell that property if they fail to repay their debt: mortgage, security 2. a large dark-red oval organ on the left side of the body between the stomach and the diaphragm; it produces cells involved in immune responses: spleen
ligan: n. - cargo or equipment thrown into the sea but attached to a float or buoy so that it can be recovered: lagan [see also: flotsam, jetsam, jettison]
ligature: n. (see also v.) - 1. the act or process of tying or binding something 2. a cord, wire, or bandage used for tying or binding 3. a thread, wire, or cord used in surgery to close vessels (as to constrict the flow of blood) or tie off ducts 4. (Music) a group of notes intended to be played or sung as one phrase, and therefore connected by a slur 5. (Music) a metal band used to attach a reed to the mouthpiece of a clarinet or saxophone 6. a character, letter, or type formed by combining two or more letters into one (such as ash: ďż˝) 7. something that unites; a bond
ligyrophobia: n. - fear of loud noises
limerence: n. - a highly intense feeling of being in love or infatuation characterized by: (a) near-constant, intrusive thoughts of the beloved one, (b) a desperate need for returned affections, (c) an unrealistically idealized image of the loved person (to the point of thinking of their vices as virtues), (d) mood swings of euphoria or depression depending on whether or not actions of the loved person are interpreted as showing the possibility of returned affections, (e) fear of rejection causing incapacitating shyness, (f) a physical sensation of "heartache," (g) temporary relief from unrequited passion through imagining reciprocation, (h) inability to react with similar infatuation to more than one person at a time, and (i) a general intensity that leaves other concerns in the background; the feeling is involuntary, non-logical and seems to simply 'happen' beyond one's control (there is no reason or choice involved although it is heavily rationalized); usually lasts between a couple of months to a year and a half, when this may change into disillusionment or true (unselfish) love depending on circumstances
lineament: n. - a distinguishing or characteristic feature of a body or figure, especially of the face
Linear A: n. - an undeciphered writing system dating from the 18th to the 15th century B.C.E. and found on clay tablets, pottery, etc. on Crete and other Greek islands [see also: Linear B]
Linear B: n. - a syllabic script found on clay remains on the island of Crete and the Greek mainland, mostly from the 14th to the 12th century B.C. (Mycenaean Greece). It was deciphered by Michael Ventris around 1952 {graphic, photo} [see also: Linear A]
lipogram: n. - a composition, long or short, that omits any word containing a particular linguistic symbol, such as that fifth symbol of our 26 of which typical Anglo-Saxon vocabulary consists (Ouch)
litany: n. - 1. a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation 2. a resonant or repetitive chant; a usually lengthy recitation or enumeration
lithograph: n. - a method of printing in which a flat stone or metal surface is treated with chemicals so that ink sticks to some areas and not others, creating a pattern, picture or text which can then be copied
lithotomy: n. - the surgical removal of a stone (called a calculus) that cannot be passed through the urinary tract, especially a kidney or bladder stone
liticaphobia: n. - fear of lawsuits
loam: n. (see also v.) - 1. a rich, mixed soil consisting of sand, clay and decaying organic materials 2. a mixture of moist clay, sand, and often straw used in making bricks and foundry molds
lodestone: n. - 1. a piece of magnetic iron ore (magnetite) possessing polarity like a magnetic needle 2. something that attracts
lodestar: n. - 1. a star by which one directs one's course; especially the North Star 2. a guiding principle or ideal
logizomechanophobia: n. - fear of computers
logomachy: n. - 1. a dispute over or about words 2. a controversy marked by verbiage
logophobia: n. - fear of words: verbophobia
logorrhea: n. - excessive talkativeness or wordiness: loquaciousness
logos: n. - 1. Jesus Christ as the word of God, the personification of the wisdom of God and divine wisdom as the means for human salvation 2. (Judaism) the divine wisdom of the word of God 3. in pre-Socratic philosophy, the controlling principle of reason in the universe 4. among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves 5. in Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos: nous 6. the source of all activity and generation and the power of reason residing in the human soul, identified with God
Lojban: n. - an artificial language with a grammar and vocabulary based on rules of formal logic and sourced from Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. The goal was to create a language catering to logical thought expressed without cultural or linguistic bias. Though it shares similarities with programming languages, it can also be used to make everyday conversation. The name "Lojban" is a combination of 'loj' and 'ban', which are short forms of 'logji' (logic) and 'bangu' (language), respectively. Its predecessor is Loglan, the original logical language by James Cooke Brown
longanimity: n. - a disposition to bear injuries patiently: forbearance
lorry: n. - 1. a large, low truck or cart (usually without sides) designed to deliver barrels or other heavy loads: camion 2. a large, low horse-drawn wagon without sides: dray
lothario: n. - a man whose chief interest is seducing women
lucre: n. - monetary gain, often in a bad sense: money, profit, riches, wealth
lucubration: n. - (from Latin "lucubrare," which means "to work by lamplight/artificial light") 1. the act of studying or meditating long and hard, especially late at night: cogitation 2. (often plural) a serious speech, dissertation, or other written work (often a pretentious one) produced by long, hard efforts of study or meditation
Luddite: n. - 1. one of the English workmen who (from 1811-1816) rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery that they thought would cause them to lose their jobs. (The word comes from Ned Ludd, a British textile worker who supposedly destroyed weaving machinery in a fit of rage during the late 1700s. Whenever machinery was broken, workers would jokingly blame Ned Ludd, who eventually became a figure of folklore.) {image} 2. anyone who opposes technological progress or change, or who refuses to use new technology: diehard, fossil, fuddy-duddy, mossback, old fogy, old guard, reactionary, stick-in-the-mud
lummox: n. - a big, clumsy, stupid person; someone who is awkward and lumbering: butterfingers, clod, klutz, idiot, oaf, spaz
lunula: n. - 1. a narrow crescent-shaped structure, body part, or marking -- especially the visible part of the nail matrix (the living part of fingernails and toenails), which looks like a pale, thin half-moon at the base of toenails and fingernails 2. one of a pair of parentheses
lupus: n. - 1. (Medicine) a kind of autoimmune disease, meaning that unusual antibodies in the person's blood fight against their own body tissues, which can affect many organ systems, and often involves body sores and inflamed connective tissue 2. (Capitalized) a constellation of stars in the Southern Hemisphere near Centaurus and Scorpius (the wolf)
lustration: n. - 1. a cleansing ceremony, often involving a sacrifice or ritual washing, through which cities, fields, armies, or people which have been defiled by crimes, pestilence, or other uncleanness, were purified: ablution 2. a ceremonial purification performed before entering a holy place, usually involving washing the body in a ritual manner 3. in post-Communist countries: the political cleansing of former Communist officials
luthier: n. - a maker of stringed instruments, originally of lutes
lutraphobia: n. - fear of otters
lycanthropy: n. - 1. a delusion that one has become a wolf 2. the assumption of a wolf's form and characteristics, possible by witchcraft or magic
lyceum: n. - 1. an institution or building which provides public lectures, debates, concerts, and so on for the benefit of popular education 2. (Lyceum) the gymnasium (school of physical and intellectual education) and walking garden near ancient Athens in which Aristotle taught philosophy, named for the nearby temple of Apollo Lyceus
lychnobite: n. - a person who sleeps during the day and works at night
lygophobia: n. - a fear of darkness or of the night
macedoine: n. - 1. a confused mixture: medley 2. a mixture of fruits or vegetables served as a salad or cocktail or in a jellied dessert or used in a sauce or as a garnish
mackintosh: n. - (Brit.) 1. a raincoat 2. a lightweight, waterproof fabric that was originally of rubberized cotton (named for its inventor)
macramé: n. - 1. a coarse lace or fringe made by knotting threads or cords in a geometrical pattern 2. the art of tying knots in patterns
macrocosm: n. - 1. the entire world; the universe 2. a system manifesting on a large scale the results of multiple smaller systems [antonym: microcosm]
madrasah: n. - (Arabic) a school or college, especially one that is attached to a mosque where young Islamic men study theology (found primarily in Bangladesh or Pakistan.) Due to administrative mishandling, radical political indoctrination of students and adopting a more conservative view of the simple teachings of Islam, especially in certain Muslim countries such as Pakistan, the madrasahs nowadays are sometimes deemed as ideological and political training grounds for hatred against the West
maelstrom: n. - 1. a large, powerful, circular current of water (usually the resulting of conflicting tides) sucking in objects within a given radius: whirlpool, vortex 2. a violent, disordered, or turbulent state of affairs
magnum opus: n. - a great work, especially the greatest achievement of an artist or writer
mahatma: n. - 1. a person to be revered for high-mindedness, wisdom, and selflessness; a mentor in spiritual and philosophical topics: guru, sage 2. a person of great prestige in a field of endeavor 3. (Mahatma) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the great leader who helped guide India to independence in 1947
Mahdi: n. - (Islam) literally, "divinely guided one" 1. (Shiite) an awaited messianic leader descended from Muhammad who will rule before the end of the world, establish a reign of peace and righteousness, restore the purity of Islam, and lead the faithful to salvation in anticipation of the last day 2. (Sunni) a religious leader who is recognized as the Mahdi of tradition by his followers and assumes a messianic role in order to unify Islam and institute a reign of virtue
major-domo: n. - 1. the chief man servant in the household of a sovereign or great noble: seneschal 2. a steward or butler 3. one who makes arrangements or directs affairs for another
malaise: n. - 1.a general feeling of unease, ill health, or low spirits, sometimes of no medical significance and sometimes marking the onset of a disease 2. a general feeling of worry, discontent, or dissatisfaction, often resulting in lethargy
malediction: n. - a curse or execration
malfeasance: n. - wrongdoing, misconduct, or misbehavior (especially by a public official)
mal-parry: n. - (Fencing) a parry that fails to prevent a hit from the opponent
Manichaeism: n. - a religious doctrine based on the separation of matter (which was evil) and spirit (which was good) that originated in 3rd-century Persia and combined elements of Babylonian folklore, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and (heretical) Christianity; it taught the release of the spirit from matter through asceticism, and was begun by the prophet Mani, who was known as the "Apostle of Light" and supreme "Illuminator"
manikin: n. - 1. a person who is very small but who is not otherwise deformed or abnormal; an offensive term for a very short person: dwarf, homunculus, midget, pygmy 2. an anatomical model of the human body used in teaching art or medicine, especially one with removable pieces: dummy 3. an alternative spelling for mannequin (a usually life-size model of the human body used to display or fit clothes)
manitou: n. - 1. a supernatural force or spirit believed by Algonquian peoples (a Native American tribe) to permeate the world, possessed in varying degrees by spiritual beings, human beings, other living beings, and inanimate objects 2. a deity or spirit
manticore: n. - a legendary animal with the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a dragon or scorpion (some accounts also mention porcupine quills, poisonous spikes, and tail as having a serpent's head)
martinet: n. - 1. a military officer who demands absolute adherence to military rules and behavior 2. somebody who imposes strict discipline on others; one who demands absolute adherence to forms and rules; a rigid or harsh disciplinarian who enforces total conformity 3. a short whip that has multiple tails, usually made of leather or soap-stiffened cords, and a small wooden handle. It is a traditional instrument of physical punishment for unruly children, used in France and other European countries. This whip was often applied on the calves of the legs (for children did not have to disrobe that way) or directly on the bare buttocks, adding a dose of humiliation to the physical pain.It is also often still carried demonstratively by Zwarte Pieten ("Black Peters"; male black assistants of Saint Nicholas, the European original of Santa Claus, celebrated on December 6; this character draws strong criticism for its racist elements) to chastise very naughty kids instead of leaving presents. Martinets are still sold in the pet section of French supermarkets, though it is generally believed that most of those sold are meant for use on children, not pets, or at least to threaten them. This tool is also used in erotic spanking scenes, as a lighter alternative to a flogger {image}
matanuki: n. - (Japanese) piercing one's own thigh with a sword or sharp object, done by ancient samurai as a demonstration of courage
materialism: n. - 1. (Philosophy) the theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena: physicalism [antonym: idealism] 2. the theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life 3. a doctrine that economic or social change is materially caused 4. an excessive desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in intellectual, ethical or spiritual matters: philistinism
matriarch: n. - 1. the female head of a family, community, or people 2. a woman who holds a position of authority, leadership or respect, especially a powerful older woman
matriarchy: n. - a social system in which the mother is the head of the family, women have authority over men and children, inheritance goes from mother to daughter, and society favors having women in positions of power or authority [antonym: patriarchy]
matrix: n. - 1. an environment or material in which something develops: birthplace, cradle, origin, womb 2. a substance in which something is embedded or enclosed, especially one which gives protection 3. (Biology) the substance surrounding cells and from which tissue develops. (In cancerous tissue, the matrix between cells is drastically different from the matrix in normal tissue) 4. (Anatomy) the cells or tissue which fingernails, toenails, or teeth grow out of 5. (Geology) a mass of soil or fine-grained rock in which harder or coarser crystals, gems, or fossils are embedded 6. a mold from which casts are made 7. (Computer Science) the growing mass of interconnected networks in which cyberspace (e-mail, the Internet, virtual reality, etc.) is being created 8. (Mathematics) a set of numbers, characters, or data laid out in a table (in rows and columns), which can be manipulated in order to solve a problem
matron: n. - 1. a woman, especially a married woman of middle age or later, who has had children and is thought of as being mature, sensible, and of good social standing 2. a female prison officer, especially a female warden in a prison for women
maven: n. - a person who has special knowledge, experience or skill: ace, expert, genius, hotshot, star, virtuoso, whiz, wizard
Maxwell's Demon: n. - an imaginary creature created by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell as a thought experiment. The demon controls a small hole in a wall dividing a chamber filled with gas. It allows fast molecules to move in one direction through the hole and slow molecules to move in the other direction. This would result in one side of the container becoming warmer and the other cooler, thus decreasing entropy and violating the second law of thermodynamics. However, such a creature is impossible since the act of observing the molecules to detect their speed must add energy to the system
medomalacuphobia: n. - fear of losing an erection
medorthophobia: n. - fear of an erect penis
melange: n. - a mixture often of incongruous elements: hodgepodge, medley, pastiche, potpourri
meliorism: n. - (Philosophy) 1. the idea that the world can be made better by human effort; the belief in social progress through human effort [antonym: apologism] 2. the idea or belief that human society has a natural tendency to improve
melisma: n. - (Music) 1. a decorative phrase in vocal music in which one syllable of lyrics is sung as several notes of the melody, used in a variety of musical styles (RnB, Gregorian chant, some Near Eastern music, etc.) It is often used to show off the skill of the performer, as in a singing competition or in celebrity performances of The Star Spangled Banner: vocal run 2. an elaborate solo passage of virtuoso (dazzlingly skilled musician or singer) playing or singing near the end of a section or piece of music, sometimes improvised by the soloist: cadenza
melophobia: n. - fear of music
ménage: n. - a group of people living together
menagerie: n. - 1. a collection of wild animals, especially for exhibition 2. a varied mixture
mendicant: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a beggar 2. a member of an order of friars forbidden to own property in common, who work or beg for their living (includes Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians)
meniscus: n. - 1. the curved upper surface of a still liquid in a tube, curved inward (concave) if it wets the walls of the container (as water does) but curved outward (convex) if the liquid does not "wet" the walls of the container (eg. mercury does not wet the walls of its container) or if the liquid reaches above the rim. This is caused by surface tension {images: 1 & 2} 2. a crescent-shaped cartilage pad at the knee, between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia), designed to absorb shock {images: 1 & 2} 3. (Optics) a lens that curves inward (is concave) on one side and curves outward (is convex) on the other, such as a contact lens for the eye {image} 4. something crescent-shaped
menophobia: n. - fear of menstruation
Menorah: n. - (Judaism) 1. a ceremonial candleholder consisting of a central stem surrounded by six curved branches (originally it burned olive oil, not candles), used in the Jewish Temple to symbolize the seven days of the Creation which is also used as a symbol of Judaism and the state of Israel 2. a candelabrum consisting of a central stem surrounded by eight curved branches (originally it burned olive oil, not candles), used in celebration of Hanukkah
mere: n. - a body of standing water, such as a lake, pond, pool or marsh
mescaline: n. - an alkaloid drug obtained from the buttons of a small cactus, it causes hallucinations
mesomorph: n. - a person with a robust, muscular body (caused by the predominance of structures developed from the embryonic mesodermal layer)
metacognition: n. - knowledge about your own thoughts and the factors that influence your thinking
metaphysics: n. - 1. the philosophical study of being, knowing, time, space, causality, and the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value 2. the ultimate underlying principles or theories of a particular discipline (such as, the metaphysics of law) 3. speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment 4. excessively subtle or scholarly mystical reasoning; abstract discussion or thinking
metonymy: n. - 1. (Rhetoric) a figure of speech in which the name of something is replaced with something else associated with it (for example, using "the press" to stand for all news media, "Hollywood" to represent the film industry, "the White House" to mean the President and his or her staff, or a "dish" referring to a set of food) 2. in schizophrenia, a language disturbance in which an inappropriate but related word is used in place of the correct one
métier: n. - 1. a trade, profession, or occupation; especially, the work that one is particularly suited for 2. one's area of expertise or strength: forte
metrophobia: n. - fear of poetry
mezzanine: n. - 1. a low-ceilinged story between the ground floor and the first floor of a building, especially one in the form of a balcony: entresol 2. in British theater, a room or floor beneath the stage 3. the lowest balcony in a theater
mezzotint: n. - 1. a method of engraving a copper or steel plate by scraping and burnishing areas to produce effects of light and shadow 2. a print produced by an engraving that has been scraped to represent light or shade
miasma: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a poisonous, foul-smelling atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and decaying matter and to cause disease: effluvium, noxious fumes, marsh gas, polluted air, putrid atmosphere, swamp gas 2. a thick, obscuring vapor: emanation, fog, haze, mist, smog 3. an unhealthy, poisonous, foreboding, corrupt, or oppressive atmosphere or influence
miasma theory: n. - (Historical Medicine) the former theory that diseases traveled through the air--particularly, through bad-smelling air generated by rotting matter. It was a step toward understanding the connection between cleanliness and health and was the inspiration for the first practices in sanitation. However, since it acknowledged the spread of disease only through the air (not through touch), it actually slowed the acceptance of hand washing among the medical community. The miasma theory was discarded in the 1880s with the acceptance of germ theory, which acknowledges disease transmission through both the air and through a variety of forms of physical contact via microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc.)
microcosm: n. - a miniature model of something [antonym: macrocosm]
mien: n. - somebody's facial expression, bearing, posture, or general appearance, taken as an indication of his or her mood, character, or personality: appearance, comportment, conduct, demeanor, manner
mihrab: n. - (Islam) an empty niche within a mosque which indicates the direction of Mecca, used during times of prayer {image}
milieu: n. - the environmental condition: setting, surroundings
millenarianism: n. - 1. the belief in the millennium of Christian prophecy, that at Jesus Christ's Second Coming he will reign on earth for 1,000 years: chiliasm, millennialism, millenniumism 2. the belief in a coming ideal society, especially one created by revolutionary action 3. belief that the end of the world is near
milliner: n. - one that makes, trims, designs, or sells hats
milquetoast: n. - someone who is timid, unassertive or spineless -- especially, a meek or easily intimidated man or boy: coward, pansy, sissy
mimesis: n. - 1. (Biology) a plant or animal with an appearance which imitates its surroundings (such as a walking stick) or another animal (such as the 'eye spots' on the wings of some butterflies): imitation, mimicry 2. (Art & Literature) the realistic representation of the world or nature, whether in artistic technique or subject matter: simulation [antonym: diegesis] 3. (Rhetoric) the imitation or reproduction of another person's words in a speech: impersonation 4. (Medicine) (a) any disease that shows symptoms characteristic of another disease (b) the appearance of symptoms of a disease which the patient doesn't have
minaret: n. - (Islam) a tall, slender tower attached to a mosque, having one or more projecting balconies from which a muezzin summons the people to prayer fives times each day {image}
minbar: n. - (Islam) a domed box with a door at the top of a staircase in the mosque (often ornately decorated), used as a pulpit by the imam (prayer leader) for the Friday sermon, originally the caliph's seat of authority and judgment; located to the right of the mihrab, the niche that indicates the direction of prayer (i.e. towards Mecca) {image}
misanthrope: n. - a person who hates or distrusts all people
miscegenation: n. 1. sexual relations between people of different races or different skin colors (particularly of white and non-white individuals), especially when it leads to the birth of mixed-race children. This term has frequently been used in the context of ethnocentric or racist attitudes and laws against interracial sexual relations and intermarriage, as well as various white-supremacist organizations. As a result, "miscegenation" is often a loaded word, and is usually considered condescending, racist, and highly offensive 2. marriage or cohabitation between people of different races (again, due to the history of this word, its connotations are strongly offensive and insulting)
mise en scčne: n. - 1. arrangement of performers and properties on a stage for a theatrical production or before the camera in a film: stage setting 2. physical environment: surroundings
misericorde: n. - 1. a small projection on the bottom of a hinged church seat that gives support to a standing worshiper when the seat is turned up 2. a dagger used in the Middle Ages used for giving the death stroke (coup de grace) to a wounded knight
Mishnah: n. (Judaism) - 1. the first portion of the Talmud, which contains the written version of the Oral Law given to Moses and the Torah, compiled about 200 C.E.; literally, "repetition" [see also: Gemara] 2. a paragraph from the first section of the Talmud 3. the teaching of a rabbi or other noted authority on Jewish laws
misnomer: n. - an inaccurate, misleading, or inappropriate name; a name or label mistakenly applied to someone or something it does not fit
misogyny: n. - the hatred of women
missive: n. - a written message; a letter
miter: n. (mitre, in Britain) - 1. (Catholicism) a tall pointed hat with peaks in front and back worn by the pope, cardinals, and bishops on formal occasions {image} 2. (Judaism) the ceremonial headdress worn by ancient Jewish high priests 3. a joint or junction that forms a corner, usually both sides are cut at a 45-degree angle to form a 90-degree corner: miter joint {image}
mnemophobia: n. - fear of memories
modicum: n. - a small portion; a limited quantity
moiety: n. - 1. one of two equal parts: half 2. an indefinite part; a small portion or share 3. one of two basic tribal subdivisions
monism: n. - 1. the doctrine that reality consists of a single basic substance, essence or energy; a theory denies the existence of a distinction or duality, such as that between matter and mind [antonym: dualism, pluralism] 2. the view that reality is one unitary organic whole with no independent parts 3. a theory or point of view that attempts to explain everything in terms of a single principle 4. the origin of diverse individuals or kinds (as of language) by descent from a single ancestral individual or kind: monogenesis 5. the doctrine that only one ultimate being or god exists (thus, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monistic religions)
monkeyshines: n. - mischievous or playful tricks, jokes, or pranks
monomania: n. - 1. pathological obsession with a single subject or idea 2. excessive concentration of interest upon one particular subject or idea
monomyth: n. - the cyclical journey undertaken by the standard mythological hero, as described by Joseph Campbell in his book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" (1948). The core concept of the monomyth is: "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow men." Structurally it is divided into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. This pattern shows up in all world mythologies, and even in some of today's Hollywood blockbusters: Hero's Journey
mono no aware: n. - (Japanese) the awareness of the temporary nature of all things, which increases appreciation of their beauty and inspires deeper sadness at their passing: awareness, deep feeling, empathy, pathos, poignancy, sensitivity
moraine: n. - (Geology) a mound or hill of earth and rock debris (boulders, dirt, clay, sand, etc.) carried down and deposited by a glacier, often forming a long ridge. Moraines generally remain at the front edge (terminal moraine) and sides (lateral moraines) of the where the glacier was after it melts away {diagram}
morass: n. - 1. an area of soft, low-lying, soggy ground that sinks underfoot: bog, marsh, quagmire, swamp 2. a frustrating, confusing, or overwhelming situation that impedes or prevents progress, or which it is difficult to free oneself from: entanglement
mordant: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a substance put onto a fabric before a dye is applied in order to permanently fix or set the new color. (It was thought that the mordant was "biting" into the fabric to prepare it for the dye.) 2. an acid or other corrosive liquid used to etch out designs in metals
morpheme: n. - (Linguistics) a meaningful linguistic unit consisting of a word (such as 'man') or a word element (such as -ed in 'walked') that cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts
mosque: n. - (Islam) a building in which Muslims worship, though it can also be meeting places for military, political, judicial, and purely social purposes in Islamic communities; "Masjid" is the name used by Muslims, while "Mosque" is a French word and is now the term most often used in English; literally, "a place of prostration" {image}
Mosque of Umar: n. - (Islam) the famous, beautiful domed shrine in Jerusalem which is one of the holiest sites in Islam due to its association with Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. The rock within the structure is believed to be the point from which Muhammad was miraculously ascended through the seven heavens to the throne of God in 619 CE. It was named after the location where the 2nd Caliph Umar prayed following the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, though it is not actually a Mosque. The shrine was built around 691 C.E. by the Umayyad caliph Abd aI-Malik. It is located within the site of the Jewish Temple and is thus a source of friction between Muslims and Jews {images: 1 & 2}: Dome of the Rock
mot juste: n. - (French) the perfect word or most appropriate expression for a given idea, occasion, or circumstance; literally, "word (that is) correct"
mountebank: n. - a salesman who tricks people (often involving flamboyant public performances, stories, jokes, and affected charm) into buying quack medicine or into paying high prices for ordinary products -- orignally, a tricky salesman who stands on a bench or stage to sell in a public space: charlatan, fraud, hawker, pitchman, quack, snake-oil salesman
MPEG: n. - acronym for Motion Picture Experts Group, a file format for storing video images. MPEG files compress video images so that what would have been a 100MB video file on disk takes up maybe 1MB. MPEG video can also be displayed full screen, unlike some other video formats that appear in only a small box on-screen. Unfortunately, MPEG files require specific equipment and take a long time to compress
muezzin: n. - (Islam) a mosque servant who calls out from a minaret, calling Muslims to prayer five times a day, as well as calling them to the Friday service: crier
mufti: n. - 1. (Islam, capitalized) a scholar who interprets Muslim religious law, particularly in cases where there is doubt over how the Qur'an should be interpreted. The decision or legal opinion which a Mufti makes is called a fatwa 2. ordinary dress as distinguished from that denoting an occupation or station, especially civilian clothes when worn by a person in the armed forces
mugwump: n. - 1. somebody who takes an independent or neutral position, especially in politics: fencesitter 2. a U.S. Republican who refused to support the party's candidates in the 1884 presidential election [see also: neo-mugwump]
mullah: n. - (Islam) a member of the Muslim clergy who has studied the Qur'an and the Hadith, and is considered an expert in the interpretation of Islamic theology and sacred law. Mullahs are considered to be able to give direction and make legal judgments based on their religious studies 2. a term of respect for a Muslim man who is thought to be very wise: sage
mullein: n. - a tall plant (native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in the United States) having hairy or woolly leaves and tall spikes with flowers of yellow, lavender, or white {image}
mummer: n. - 1. an actor who communicates entirely by gesture and facial expression: mime, pantomimist 2. one who goes merrymaking in disguise during festivals: masker, reveler
mummery: n. - 1. a performance by mummers (actors, mimes, clowns, etc.) 2. frolic in disguise: buffoonery, masking, revelry 3. a pretentious, meaningless, or hypocritical ceremony or flattery
mumpsimus: n. - [antonym: sumpsimus] 1. the act of insisting on a certain belief, behavior, or use of language despite the clearest evidence that it is wrong or unreasonable 2. a person who stubbornly persists in a clearly mistaken practice, belief, or verbal expression 3. an erroneous word or spelling that, through long usage, has become absorbed into the language
muntin: n. - a wooden or metal bar separating and supporting side-by-side panes of glass in a window: glazing bar, sash bar {image}
muscadine: n. - native grape of southeastern United States; origin of many cultivated varieties
Muslim: n. - (Islam) any person who accepts the creed and the teachings of Islam, especially the Five Pillars; literally, "one who submits (to Allāh)"
myasthenia: n. - 1. a rare autoimmune disease marked by chronic, progressive weakness and exhaustibility of voluntary muscles without atrophy or sensory disturbance (especially in the face and neck), and caused by the blocking of the receptors for acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter that causes muscular contraction): myasthenia gravis 2. any abnormal muscular weakness or fatigue
myelomeningocele: n. - a congenital birth malformation of the neural tube (the structure which gives rise to the central nervous system) in which there is a bony defect in the vertebral column so that part of the spinal cord, which is normally protected within the vertebral column, is exposed outside the body. This results in lower body paralysis, severe learning problems, bladder and bowel incontinence, and additional problems. The risk of myelomeningocele varies according to country, ethnic group and socioeconomic status. In the US as a whole, this condition occurs in about one in every 1-2,000 births. The risk of this and other neural tube defects, such as anencephaly, can be decreased by women taking folic acid (vitamin-B) supplements before they conceive and during the first months of their pregnancy, though it is not known why. Neural tube defects (NTDs) can usually be detected during pregnancy by alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screening or a detailed fetal ultrasound. To prevent further drying and damage of the nervous tissue and to prevent infection, doctors operate as soon as possible to close the opening on the back, but there is no operation that can fix damaged nerves, and there is no cure for this condition: spina bifida {image} [see also: anencephaly, spina bifida occulta]
myriapod: n. - an arthropod with a head, one pair of antennae, a long segmented body, and at least nine pairs of legs, such as a centipede or millipede
myrmecophobia: n. - fear of ants
myrmidon: n. - 1. [Capitalized] a member of a warlike Thessalian people who followed Achilles on the expedition against Troy 2. a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity
nabe: n. - 1. a neighborhood movie theater 2. (slang) a shortening or clipping of the word 'neighborhood'
nabob: n. - (also called: nawab) 1. someone very rich or powerful, especially a European who made their fortune in India or another country of the East 2. a viceroy or deputy governor in India during the Mogul Empire
nadir: n. - 1. (Astronomy) the point on the ground directly below a spacecraft or other observer; the point directly below you in space {image} [antonym: zenith] 2. an extreme state of adversity or despair 3. the lowest point of anything (eg. the lowest point of a lake, the lowest blood count after chemotherapy, the lowest CD4 cell count an AIDS victim can reach, etc.): low-water mark 4. (Astrology) the lowest point in the sky that a planet can travel relative to the horizon. For example, if you were born at midnight then the sun would be found near the nadir of your birth chart
naturalism: n. - (Philosophy) the belief that there is no such thing as the supernatural, divine, or miraculous; that there is no divine intention, purpose, or design found in nature; that meanings and explanations are best found in naturalistic, scientific causes (not results or "final causes"); and that the natural world is all that exists [antonyms: teleology, vitalism]
naumachia: n. - an ancient Roman spectacle representing a naval battle
Nazarite: n. - (also spelled 'Nazirite') (Biblical) a member of a Jewish religious group in biblical times considered specially consecrated to God and, therefore, set apart from others. They were bound by a vow to leave their hair uncut, to abstain from wine and strong drink, to keep away from dead bodies (even those of family members), and to practice extraordinary purity and devotion. Normally, the Nazarite vow lasted only thirty days (one hundred days at the most), but in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures three people were committed to the Nazarite vow for life: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist
neckerchief: n. - a square scarf worn around the neck
necromancy: n. - 1. the practice of attempting to communicate with the spirits of the dead in order to magically reveal the future or influence the course of events 2. magic in general; the belief in magical spells that harness occult forces or evil spirits to produce unnatural effects in the world: black art, black magic, divination, enchantment, sorcery, witchcraft
necrophilia: n. - 1. obsessive fascination with death and corpses 2. erotic attraction to or sexual contact with corpses
necrosis: n. - localized death of living tissue
neologism: n. - 1. a new word, usage or expression 2. a meaningless word coined by a psychotic
neo-mugwump: n. - this word represents centrist Republicans of the George W. Bush administration who disapprove of the more extreme elements in their party, such as the Christian Right and the Neoconservatives. They tend to have a more liberal view on social issues such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and may oppose (or at least lament) the war hawk tendencies of mainline Republicans. They are also mockingly known as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). Arnold Schwartzenegger, Olympia Snowe, Mary Bono, and John McCain are examples [see also: mugwump]
Neoplatonism: n. - (Philosophy) a philosophical and religious system dating from the 3rd century BCE which modified the ideas of Plato through the influences of Aristotle, Plotinus, and oriental mysticism (especially of India), and which was one of the last surviving pagan wisdom traditions to compete with Christianity in ancient Europe. During the past two thousand years, this tradition has influenced many movements, including the Romantic movements in 19th century Britain and the U.S. Basic beliefs include: (a) the natural world is a series of emanations from the One with whom the soul is capable of being reunited in trance or ecstasy, (b) a revival and reinterpretation of Plato's doctrine of essential, pre-existing "forms," (c) the First Principle and source of reality transcends being and thought and is naturally unknowable, (d) reason can reveal an understandable order in the universe, (e) resistance to the possibility that there could be more than one interpretation of goodness, truth, etc.
neoteny: n. - (Biology) 1. when an adult creature continues to have juvenile or immature features. For example, the adult axolotl (a salamander) retains the external gills of its larval form 2. when a creature in its larval stage is able to reproduce sexually -- seen in certain amphibians and insects, this is sometimes a result of environmental stresses
nepotism: n. - favoritism shown to relatives, especially in appointment to desired political or professional positions
nescience: n. - lack of knowledge or awareness: ignorance
nettle: n. (see also v.) - 1. a wild herb with jagged leaves covered in fine hairs or spines that sting when touched. The various species of nettles belong to the genus Urtica, and are found worldwide {image} 2. a wild plant with jagged leaves like a stinging nettle, but without the stinging hairs, especially a dead nettle, which is found especially in northern temperate regions
neuralgia: n. - severe, throbbing or sharply stabbing pain extending along the course of one or more nerves, especially when there is no physical change in the nerve itself, often occurring in the head or face
neural tube: n. - (Biology) the hollow tube of tissue in the embryo of humans and other vertebrates that develops into the central nervous system (the spinal cord and the brain)
Newbery Award: n. - the award given by the American Library Association to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published the previous year, restricted to authors who are citizens or residents of the United States [see also: Caldecott Award]
niche: n. - 1. a small or shallow hollow space in a wall (especially a half-circle hollow with an arch at the top) made to hold a statue, bust, urn, vase, or other decorative ornament: cavity, corner, nook, recess [antonym: apse] 2. a job, position or activity very well suited to the personality, talents or interests of the person doing it: calling, role, vocation 3. a highly specialized market or a distinct segment within a market, especially one with unique appeal and profitability; a "niche market": specialty 4. (Ecology) the function an organism plays within its habitat (such as its role as producer and consumer of food resources) and the environmental conditions which define its ability to survive alongside other organisms in the same habitat. No two species can fill exactly the same ecological niche since one would ultimately be eliminated by natural selection 5. any hollow or cavity, such as in a rock formation: cranny, crevice, recess
nidstang: n. - (also called a “nithing pole” or “niding pole") (Norse) a wooden pole or post nine feet (2.75 meters) long used in an ancient Scandinavian custom to formally curse or hex someone. Runes of a poetic curse were carved onto the pole and a freshly cut horse’s head or skull was mounted on it. Sometimes the skin of the horse was laid over the pole. Then it was erected with a ceremony and turned to face the direction of the target's house, with the hope of arousing the anger of earth spirits inhabiting the ground below the accursed person's home. Today, it is possible to find "virtual" nidstangs on the Internet; literally, a nišstang (spelled, as it originally was, using the runic 'eth' [š] symbol) is a "curse pole" or "scorn post" {images: 1 and 2} [see also: nithing]
nihilism: n. - (Philosophy) 1. the doctrine that nothing can be known or communicated and that there is no objective basis for truth; the most extreme form of skepticism that denies all knowledge and all existence 2. a belief that life is pointless and human values are worthless 3. the complete rejection of all established authority, institutions, social conventions, and beliefs -- especially of morality and religion 4. a revolutionary doctrine that advocates destruction of the social system for its own sake; the belief that all established authority is corrupt and must be destroyed in order to rebuild a just society 5. (Capitalized) a revolutionary political movement of mid to late 19th-century Russia that scorned authority and tradition, believed in reason and materialism, and sought to bring about a socially just new society by destroying the existing one through acts of terrorism and assassination 6. engagement in acts which are totally destructive to one's own purposes and those of one's group
nihilistic delusion: n. - (Psychiatry) a delusion experienced in some mental disorders that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist
nihil obstat: n. - (Latin) literally, "nothing hinders" 1. an attestation by an official censor in the Roman Catholic Church that a book contains nothing damaging to faith or morals and contains no offense that merits censorship, usually appearing on the verso of a book's title page in publications which present official Catholic doctrine: cum licentia, cum privilegio, imprimatur, nihil obstat 2. official approval, especially of an artistic work
nimfadoro: n. - an effeminate fellow, especially one who is well-dressed
nimiety: n. - the state of being too much: excess, overkill, plethora, preponderance, redundancy, superfluity, surfeit, surplus
nimrod: n. - 1. (Biblical Nimrod) the great-grandson of Noah, a Babylonian king noted as a great hunter 2. an expert or mighty hunter; someone devoted to hunting 3. (slang) a person regarded as silly, foolish, or stupid: geek, klutz, simpleton
nithing: n. - (also spelled 'niding' in modern usage; originally spelled 'nīšing,' which used the runic 'eth' [š] symbol) (Norse) a despicable person completely without honor, such as an oathbreaker, traitor, murderer, or abject coward: villain, wretch [see also: nidstang]
nixie: n. - in German mythology, a female water spirit that can appear in human form or as half-human, half-fish
: n. - (also spelled 'Noh') the classical drama of Japan that presents an ancient or religious story using stylized masks, rhythmic music, chanted lyrics, elaborate costumes, and dance moves that are slow and dramatic. The stage is bare with the exception of the "kagami-ita", a painting of a pine-tree at the back of the stage. Nō flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries, and its development was influenced by Zen Buddhism
noblesse oblige: n. - (French) the idea that people of high social class or noble birth must behave in a noble and moral manner, particularly by behaving in an honorable, responsible, and generous manner toward the lower classes ("noblesse oblige" is often used ironically or sarcastically); literally, "nobility is an obligation" or "nobility obligates"
noctambulist: n. - someone who walks about in their sleep: sleepwalker, somnambulist
nolo contendre: n. - (Latin) (Law) a plea in which a defendant does not explicitly admit guilt, but also does not contest the charges against them. Under this plea, the defendant is punished as though they had pled guilty, but their plea is not regarded as an admission of guilt for any other purpose. In particular, the alleged facts cannot be used in any other legal proceedings which the defendant may be involved in. For example, the defendant may plea nolo contendre when there is also a lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the alleged criminal conduct (such as reckless driving). Since this plea does not admit guilt, it cannot be used in the civil lawsuit as an admission of fault. Often, nolo contendre is offered as a part of a plea bargain; literally, "I do not wish to contend" or "I will not defend it": no contest
nomatophobia: n. - fear of names
non sequitur: n. - 1. an inference that does not follow from the premises 2. a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from anything previously said
nonage: n. - 1. the period during which one is legally underage 2. a period of youth or immaturity
nonagenarian: n. - a ninety year old person; someone whose age is in the nineties
nosegay: n. - a small bunch of flowers, often round and tightly bound: bouquet, posy
nostrum: n. - 1. a medicine of secret composition and unproven or dubious effectiveness; a quack medicine: cure-all 2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme
nous: n. - (Philosophy) 1. in Neoplatonism, the image of the absolute good and pure intelligence, which is derived from the world soul responsible for the rational order of the cosmos 2. in Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos: logos 3. that which is responsible for one's thoughts and feelings; the rational part of the individual human soul 4. in ancient Greek philosophy, the capacity to reason and acquire knowledge, as distinguished from sense perception; intellectual ability 5. (British) common sense, good sense, practical intelligence, shrewdness
nudnik: n. - (Yiddish) an obtuse, boring, or bothersome person: bore, nuisance, pest, twit
numen: n. - 1. a spirit believed to inhabit a place or living object (such as a tree), especially in ancient Roman religion [see also: numinous (adj.)] 2. a guiding force or influence; a creative energy: genius