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NOUNS (O-P)

obloquy: n. - 1. strong verbal abuse, criticism, or condemnation done in public or by the public: aspersion, calumny, censure, denunciation, invective, maledictum, phillipic, scolding, slander, tirade, tongue-lashing 2. the disgrace of having been condemned or shamed by the public: ignominy, ill repute, infamy, opprobrium, shame, vituperation
obsequies: n. - a ritual or set of rites for celebrating, remembering, or blessing the life of someone who has recently died (typically right before the body is buried or entombed, unless it has been lost or already been cremated); funeral rites; a funeral ceremony
obsidian: n. - a hard, black volcanic glass that is chemically similar to granite and is formed by the rapid cooling of molten lava. It is primarily jet-black, but is transparent in thin pieces and displays shiny, curved surfaces when fractured. It was used by early civilizations for making tools and ceremonial objects, and now is often used as a gem {image}
occasionalism: n. - (Philosophy) a theory, developed in the 17th century and popularised by Nicholas Malbranche, that there is no natural interaction between mind and matter. Instead, God causes physical actions and reactions to match each individual's perceptions and intentions
occultism: n. - a belief in or study of supposedly supernatural powers and the possibility of subjecting them to human control: magic, sorcery, witchcraft
ocher: n. - ('ochre' in Britain) 1. a moderate orange-yellow color 2. any of several impure earthy ores of iron occurring in yellow, brown, or red and used as pigments
ochlocracy: n. - government by the masses: gang rule, mob rule, mobocracy
octogenarian: n. - an eighty year old person; someone whose age is in the eighties
octophobia: n. - fear of the number eight
oculus: n. - 1. the organ of sight: eye, peeper 2. an eye-like opening or ornament, especially a round window or a circular opening at the top of a dome
oenophile: n. - a lover or connoisseur of wine
oeuvre: n. - (French) the complete body of work created by a single artist, composer, or author; literally, "work"
offal: n. - 1. the parts of a butchered animal, especially internal organs such as the heart, liver, brains, and tongue, sometimes regarded as unpalatable or inedible by humans though often they are safe to eat 2. the leather trade term for the shoulders, bellies, cheeks, face, or tail rounded from the choicer parts of a cowhide 3. something thrown away or discarded: refuse, rubbish
ombrophobia: n. - fear of rain: pluviophobia
ombudsman: n. - 1. a government appointee, especially in Scandinavian countries and Britain, who is responsible for impartially investigating and resolving complaints by private persons against the government or its functionaries 2. a person who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or students and an institution, organization, or company
ommatophobia: n. - fear of eyes
omnium-gatherum: n. - a miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons)
omphaloskepsis: n. - 1. contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation 2. disinclination to motion, exertion, or change: inertia
onanism: n. - 1. manual stimulation of the genital organs (of yourself or another) for sexual pleasure: ipsism, masturbation, self-gratification 2. a method of birth control in which coitus is initiated but the penis is deliberately withdrawn before ejaculation: coitus interruptus, pulling out [Named for Onan, a character in the Bible (Genesis 38:9). Onan was commanded by his father to impregnate the widow of his slain brother and to raise the offspring of the union. In order to avoid raising descendants for his late brother, however, during sex Onan would pull out before ejaculation and spilled his semen onto the ground.]
onboard speaker: n. - a small speaker located inside the computer's case. Though the onboard speaker can generate crude beeps, buzzes and honks, it is entirely unsuitable for multimedia applications. A sound board and auxiliary speakers provide much better sound output than the onboard speaker
oneirogmophobia: n. - fear of wet dreams
ontology: n. - 1. the most general branch of metaphysics, concerned with the nature of being and existence 2. a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of existence (dualism, monism, and pluralism are examples of ontologies) 3. something that identifies, in the most general terms, the kinds of things that actually exist; a systematic account or inventory of what exists
onus: n. - 1. the responsibility or duty to do something, especially a difficult or disagreeable task: burden, encumbrance, load, obligation 2. the blame for something 3. (Law) the burden of proof
oolong: n. - a dark Chinese tea that is partly fermented before being dried
Oort cloud: n. - (Astronomy) a huge, globe-shaped swarm of dust, rocks, and comets theorized to orbit the sun at the edge of the solar system (50,000 times the distance of the Sun to the Earth at its closest, at least one light-year away), far beyond even the Kuiper belt. Long-period comets (whose orbits last longer than 200 years) that pass through the inner solar system may be Oort cloud objects whose orbit has been dislodged by the gravitational pull of a passing star. The Oort cloud may date from the formation of the solar system. The cloud is named for the Dutch astronomer Jan Hendrix Oort, who proposed its existence in 1950 (see also: Kuiper belt) {diagram}
ophiology: n. - the branch of zoology that is concerned with studying snakes
ophthalmia: n. - an inflammation of the membranes or coats of the eyeball: conjunctivitis, pinkeye
ophthalmology: n. - the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, functions, diseases, and treatment of the eye
ophthalmophobia: n. - fear of being stared at
oppidan: n. (see also adj.) - a resident of a town: city dweller, townie, urbanite
opprobrium: n. - 1. a state of extreme dishonor or disgrace as a result of shameful conduct: ignominy, infamy, vilification 2. severe criticism or contempt: reproach, scorn
optophobia: n. - fear of opening one's eyes
ordinal: n. (see also adj.) - 1. (Mathematics) any number that indicates a particular position in a numbered order or series, such as "first," "3rd," "fifteenth," or "129th" 2. (Catholicism) an instruction booklet that lists the order of services in the Mass 3. (Christianity) an instruction booklet that outlines rules and ceremony for the ordination of Christian ministers, priests, bishops, deacons, nuns, etc.
ordure: n. - 1. solid waste produced by the bowels: dung, excrement, feces, manure, poop 2. something considered degrading or morally offensive: filth
orison: n. - a prayer
ormolu: n. - any brass, copper, zinc or tin alloys resembling gold in appearance and used to ornament furniture, moldings, architectural details, and jewelry; an imitation of gold
ornithopter: n. - an aircraft designed to derive its chief support and propulsion from flapping wings
orrery: n. - a mechanical model representing the positions and motions (with accurate relative speeds) of the planets, moons, and perhaps other bodies of the solar system. The relative sizes and distances of the celestial bodies are, of necessity, inaccurate. It became a popular amusement and teaching tool, and was originally a device of arms, balls, and gears, run by clockwork. The Earth typically completed one orbit in about ten minutes. The simplest kind of orrery includes only the sun, earth, and moon: planetarium {images: 1 & 2}
Orthodox Judaism: n. - the most conservative branch of Judaism, which teaches strict adherence to traditional observances and to the Mosaic Law as interpreted in the Talmud. This branch does not believe there is a need to update Judaism to fit modern times, and also accepts without reservation that the Torah was directly handed down from God to Moses [see also: Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism]
orthography: n. - the art or study of proper spelling
oscillation: n. (see also v.) - 1. the act of swinging or swaying regularly back and forth 2. one instance of a back and forth swing of something regularly swinging from one extreme to another (for example, one tick-tock of a grandfather clock's pendulum)
osculation: n. - the act of kissing
ossature: n. - 1. the underlying structure or framework that supports a building or sculpture: framework 2. the arrangement of bones in the body or in a part: skeleton
Overton Window, the: n. - 1. (Politics) the "window" or range of policies that a politician can support without being considered "too extreme" to be electable. This theory is named for the man noted for advocating it: John P. Overton (former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy) 2. for a given issue, the "window" of socially acceptable perspectives or proposed solutions. Views outside this window are seen by the general public as too radical to be taken seriously
pablum: n. - 1. (Pablum) a brand of bland, soft cereal for infants 2. a diet that does not require chewing (advised for those with intestinal disorders): soft diet, pap, spoon food 3. trite, worthless, or simplistic writing, speech, or ideas: intellectual pap
pabulum: n. - (Latin) literally, "food" - 1. any substance that can be eaten as food, but especially a suspension or solution of nutrients in a state suitable for absorption: food, nourishment, nutrient 2. a piece of writing or speech that is simplistic, bland or trite
paean: n. - 1. (Ancient Greece) a song giving praise or thanks to Apollo (a sun god sometimes called Paian) 2. a song or lyric poem expressing thanks, praise, joy or triumph, especially in honor of a specific deity or person: anthem, hymn, ode, tribute 3. an impassioned expression of praise 4. a formal expression of praise: encomium, eulogy, panegyric
paladin: n. - 1. a knight-errant; a distinguished champion of a medieval king or prince 2. a champion of a cause
palanquin: n. - an inclosed, covered seat for one passenger (commonly about eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high) carried on poles held parallel to the ground on the shoulders of two or four bearers, used in former times to transport an important person, especially in East Asia
palaver: n. - 1. a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or different levels of sophistication; a parley between European explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in Africa 2. a conference or meeting between different parties: discussion 3. loud, confused, empty talk; prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion; idle chatter: hot air, empty words, rhetoric 4. talk intended to charm, beguile, or mislead, especially through flattery: blandishment, cajolery
paleontologist: n. - a scientist who studies fossil remains in order to learn more about past geological periods
palimpsest: n. - 1. a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often still legible 2. an object or place whose older layers or aspects are apparent beneath its surface 3. something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form
pallet: n. - (also spelled 'pallete') 1. a narrow hard bed or straw-filled mattress 2. a shovel-like or knife-like hand tool with a flat, wooden blade used by potters for mixing and shaping clay 3. a board on which ceramic pieces are dried 4. a portable platform or open-ended box for storing or moving goods that are stacked on it 5. a metal tool used for printing on book bindings 6. a tool for manipulating gold leaf in gilding 7. a valve on a musical organ that opens in order to let air into a pipe 8. (Art) a flat board on which artists mix paints; the range of colors found on such a board; the range of color characteristic of a particular artist, painting or school of art
palp: n. - a jointed, elongated sensory limb near the mouth of many invertebrate animals, such arthropods and mollusks, used to grab, hold, or taste food: antenna
palpation: n. (see also adj. & v.) - 1. a method of medical examination using gentle pressure of the fingers to detect tenderness, abnormal growths, changes in the size or firmness of underlying organs, and unusual tissue reactions to pressure: tactual exploration 2. an act of feeling or perceiving by the sense of touch
panache: n. - 1. a dashing or distinctive sense of style: elegance, flair, flamboyance, spirit, style, swagger 2. a plume of feathers on a hat or helmet (such as on King Henry IV of France)
panentheism: n. - the doctrine that the world is part of God, but is not all of his being; in this philosophy, God transcends the material universe and is both the creator and the original source of universal morality
pangram: n. - a sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet; especially, such a sentence in which each letter is used only once
panjandrum: n. - a self-important, pompous, pretentious official
pannier: n. - 1. a large wicker basket (used commonly in pairs), especially one carried on a person's back or shoulders, or on either side of a pack animal 2. a basket or pack, usually one of a pair, that fastens to the rack of a bicycle and hangs over the side of one of the wheels 3. a framework of wire, bone, or other material formerly used to expand a woman's skirt at the hips; a skirt or an overskirt puffed out at the hips 4. a shield of basket work formerly used by archers as a shelter from the enemy's missiles
panophobia: n. - fear of everything
pantheism: n. - 1. translates both as "God is All" and "All is God"; the view that the universe is divine and that God and the world are one (a) the belief that the universe and its phenomena conceived of as a whole is God (b) the belief that the universe is a manifestation of God or that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe (c) the belief that God and the material world are one and that God is present in everything 2. worship that admits or tolerates all gods; the belief in and worship of all or many deities
papaphobia: n. - fear of the Pope
papyrophobia: n. - fear of paper
papyrus: n. - 1. a tall water reed shaped roughly like an umbrella and having small flowers, native to southern Europe and the Nile valley, but much more common hundreds of years ago {image} 2. thin strips of the papyrus reed laid together, soaked, pressed, and dried, used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans as writing material, particularly from the 4th century BCE to the 4th century CE. Papyrus is remarkable for its sturdiness and flexibility. If treated right, and kept in a completely dry environment (such as the sands of Egypt), it holds up well to the passage of time (even thousands of years, the oldest known papyrus document is an account sheet from the reign of the Egyptian king Assa, dated c. 2600 BCE.). Without care, or in the presence of moisture, it deteriorates and crumbles
paralipsis: n. - (Rhetoric) an ironic figure of speech in which one draws attention to something in the very act of pretending to pass it over, such as "... and I'm not even going to mention my opponent's horrible civil rights record": apophasis, cataphasis, preterition
parapet: n. - 1. a wall or bank used to screen troops from frontal enemy fire, sometimes placed along the top of a rampart (an embankment of earth) 2. a low wall or railing, as along a balcony
paraphilia: n. - an abnormal sexual activity or the need for unusual sexual stimulation, especially when involving extreme or dangerous activities (such as a sadistic or masochistic practice)
paraplegic: n. (see also adj.) - a person who is paralyzed from the waist down
paraskavedekatriaphobia: n. - fear of Friday the 13th
pareidolia: n. - the tendency to interpret a random or indistinct image or sound as meaningful or clear. Examples include seeing the image of a boat in the clouds, interpreting marks on Mars as a system of canals, and hearing supposedly hidden messages in reversed music. Especially common is finding human faces in natural phenomena -- such as in a muffin, a stain, a rocky ledge, or (perhaps most famously) the "Man in the Moon." The Rorschach inkblot test is designed to take advantage of pareidolia by determining a person's mental or emotional state based on their interpretation of a complex, abstract or non-representative image [see also: apophenia]
parkour: n. - an athletic sport or physical discipline in which participants run, leap, climb, roll, swing, or perform various gymnastic moves to travel through an urban environment in the most efficient way possible. They must overcome obstacles such as walls, buildings, and staircases. David Belle developed this activity in the 1980-90s; no equipment is used and it is non-competitive: free running
parlance: n. - 1. a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language; the style of speech or writing used by people in a particular context or profession: idiom, vernacular 2. a way of using words associated with a particular subject (for example, medical parlance) 3. speech, especially in a conversation, parley, or formal debate: diction, discourse, phrase, talk
parley: n. (see also v.) - a conference or discussion, especially with an enemy, as with regard to a truce or other matters
parousia: n. - (Greek) (Christian) the reappearance of Jesus on Earth for the Last Judgment; literally, "presence": the Second Advent, the Second Coming (of Christ)
paroxysm: n. - 1. a sudden attack, intensification, or recurrence of a disease: convulsion 2. a sudden and violent emotion or action: fit, outbreak, outburst
parthenogenesis: n. - 1. the growth and development of an embryo or seed without fertilization by a male, occurs naturally in some lower plants, insects, invertebrates, and some vertebrates (e.g. lizards, salamanders, some fish, turkeys) 2. human conception without fertilization by a man: virgin birth
parthenophobia: n. - fear of young girls or virgins
pasquinade: n. (see also v.) - a lampoon or satire posted in a public place, especially one that ridicules a specific person
pastiche: n. - a creative work in literature, drama, music, or art that is a mixture of themes, styles, or selections obviously borrowed from other works. [Imitation with the intent to mock the original is parody rather than pastiche.]: collage, hodgepodge, medley
patchouli: n. - 1. a small southeast Asian shrub in the mint family having leaves that yield a fragrant oil used in the manufacture of perfumes 2. a perfume made from the oil of this plant
paternalism: n. - the attitude (in politics, business or personal relationships) that certain people should be controlled or protected in a fatherly way for their own good, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights, responsibilities or access to influential information
patois: n. - 1. a regional form of a language (especially French) used informally and usually containing nonstandard forms, especially one without a literary tradition and disdained by some as substandard; examples include the French-English creoles of New Orleans and the Caribbean: dialect 2. the characteristic or special speech of a group: argot, cant, dialect, jargon, lingo, slang, vernacular 3. nonstandard speech
patriarch: n. - 1. the male head of a tribe or family 2. one of the biblical men traditionally thought to be fathers of a people or of the whole human race, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and others
patriarchy: n. - a social system in which the father is the head of the family, men have authority over women and children, inheritance goes from father to son, and society favors having men in positions of power or authority [antonym: matriarchy]
patrician: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a noble man or woman in ancient Rome. (Only upper-class men could hold high public offices, such as senator) 2. somebody with the qualities and manners traditionally associated with the upper class
patrimony: n. - 1. property, traditions or values inherited from one's ancestors, especially from one's father or male ancestors 2. an estate or endowment that belongs to a church
patron: n. - 1. someone who often shops at a certain business or store; a regular customer: client 2. somebody who gives money or other support to an organization, person or cause, especially in the arts: sponsor 3. in ancient Rome, somebody who had freed a slave but still retained some legal rights over the former slave
patzer: n. - somebody who is thought to play chess badly or like an amateur: timber shifter
peccadillo: n. - a slight offense; a petty fault
pediment: n. - a decorative arhitectural structure used in classic Greek architecture: a triangular space above an entrance, window, doorway, fireplace, portico, etc. {images: 1 & 2}
pediophobia: n. - fear of dolls
pedophilia: n. - 1. a sexual perversion in which an adult has sexual desire or fantasies about children, often this becomes an obsession 2. the crime of an adult sexually molesting a child
pejorative: n. (see also adj.) - a disparaging or belittling word or expression
peladophobia: n. - fear of bald people
pelerine: n. - a short cape for a woman, it has points in front and is longer in front than behind, usually made of fur {image: 1, 2, 3}
pelf: n. - money or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired: gain, lucre, moolah, profits
penchant: n. - a strong and continued inclination: leaning, liking, proclivity, propensity
Pentateuch: n. - (Judaism) the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (or, Old Testament of the Bible): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The faithful believe the books were written by Moses. These are the primary scriptures of Judaism; literally, "five containers": Torah
perdition: n. - 1. total and irretrievable loss 2. spiritual ruin: damnation
peregrination: n. - traveling from place to place: wandering
perennialism: n. - (Education) the view that students should be taught ideas of everlasting importance to all people, that learning principles (such as scientific reasoning) is more important than learning facts (especially facts with unknown or shifting details), that developing people as human beings is more important than teaching them job skills. This view argues that by studying profound and enduring ideas, students come to appreciate learning for its own sake and become true intellectuals
perennial philosophy: n. - the view that certain philosophical insights are found throughout history and regardless of cultural differences because they are universal truths. Often, these recurring ideas concern the nature of reality, humanity and consciousness and are found in both traditional lore and in highly developed world religions. Common precepts of the perennial philosophy are that the world is divided into two aspects (the invisible, mystical world and visible, material reality), that the soul connects humanity with divine reality, and that mankind's ultimate purpose is to gain knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being
perestroika: n. - the restructuring of the Soviet economy and bureaucracy that began in the mid 1980s
perigee: n. - the point in the orbit of the moon or of an artificial satellite that is at the least distance from the center of the earth [antonym: apogee]
perihelion: n. - the point in the path of a celestial body (as a planet) that is nearest to the sun [antonym: aphelion]
peripatetic: n. (see also adj.) - 1. one who walks about; a pedestrian; an itinerant 2. a follower of Aristotle; an Aristotelian
peripeteia: n. - a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation, especially in a literary work
periwig: n. - a powdered wig for men fashionable in 17th-18th centuries: peruke
perpend: n. (see also v.) - (Masonry) a large stone or brick passing through the entire thickness of a wall in order to strengthen it or bind the two sides: bondstone, perpend stone, through binder, through stone
perquisite: n. - 1. an incidental benefit awarded for certain types of employment in addition to a regular wage or salary (especially if it is regarded as a right): bonus, gratuity, perk, tip 2. something claimed as an exclusive right: birthright, privilege, prerogative
persiflage: n. - 1. a teasing kind of banter; light and friendly mockery: badinage 2. lighthearted talk: chatter, small talk 3. a light, flippant, or frivolous manner of treating a subject, especially one normally treated seriously
persimmon: n. - 1. any of a genus of trees of the ebony family with hard fine wood, oblong leaves, and small bell-shaped flowers; especially an American tree or a Japanese tree 2. a sweet juicy orange-red fruit with a slightly tough outer skin that is edible only when fully ripe
persona: n. - (Latin) literally, "a mask worn by an actor, character" - 1. (Psychology) in Jungian psychology, the aspect of a person's character that is presented to or perceived by others; the image of character and personality that somebody wants to show the outside world [see also: anima] 2. (Literature) the narrating voice or character which some authors assume in a given literary work 3. an identity or role that somebody assumes, especially a role or character adopted by an actor
perspicacity: n. - clearness of understanding: discernment, insightfulness, penetration
pert: adj. - 1. stylish in a way that is bold or full of fun "attitude": chic, dapper, jaunty 2. healthy and high-spirited: animated, breezy, bright-eyed, confident, lively, perky, self-assured, sprightly, vivacious 3. having an amusing boldness or lack of seriousness: bold, brazen, charming, cheeky, cocky, forward, sassy, saucy, stimulating 4. small, yet attractive and well-formed: cute, dainty
peruke: n. - a powdered wig for men fashionable in 17th-l8th centuries: periwig
petabyte: n. - one quadrillion bytes or 250 (exactly 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes)
petard: n. - a small, bell-shaped grenade filled with gunpowder and set off with a fuse -- formerly used to breach or burst open a gate or wall. (To be "hoist with one's own petard" means to be blown up by one's own bomb. If the petard went off too soon, the explosion would lift or "hoist" any nearby soldiers off the ground.): bomb, explosive
petit jury
: n. - (U.S. Law) the old-fashioned name for the jury which hears the facts of a lawsuit or criminal case in order to render a verdict (either 'guilty' or 'not guilty' in the case of criminal trial). Federal and state criminal juries are made up of 12 persons. Federal civil juries have only six persons, and the number of jurors varies for state civil cases. The jury is selected through a process called voir dire, in which jurors are asked questions in order to determine their biases and opinions. Each side can reject a certain number of potential jurors. Verdicts must be unanimous in federal courts, but thirty-three states allow non-unanimous verdicts in civil cases and two permit them in criminal cases. The trial jury is called "petit" (small) to distinguish it from a "grand" jury, which hears evidence to determine whether or not a case should be allowed to go to trial: trial jury
phagophobia: n. - fear of eating, or swallowing, or of being eaten
phantasmagoria: n. - 1. a series of strange or bizarre images seen as if in a dream 2. any constantly changing scene
phenomenology: n. - (Philosophy) 1. the philosophical investigation and description of conscious experience in all its varieties without concern for whether what is experienced is objectively real (proposed by Edmund Husserl) 2. the study of phenomena, things as they are perceived, as opposed to the study of being, the nature of things as they are 3. the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness
phial: n. - a glass vessel or bottle, especially a small bottle for medicines
philately: n. - the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps: stamp collecting
philemaphobia: n. - fear of kissing
phillipic: n. - abusive or bitter language -- especially a fiery, damning speech condemning a particular political figure: censure, diatribe, disparagement, invective, malediction, obloquy, screed, tirade, tongue-lashing, vituperation
philologist: n. - one versed in classical scholarship or historical linguistics
philomath: n. - a lover of learning; a scholar
philophobia: n. - fear of falling in love or being in love
philosopher's stone: n. - a hypothetical substance that the alchemists believed to be capable of changing base metals into gold without changing its own composition, also thought (by some) to cure all ills and ailments, to allow its possessor to achieve immortality, and to be a universal solvent: elixir, sorcerer's stone
philter: n. (see also v.) - 1. a potion or charm supposed to cause the person taking it to fall in love 2. a potion or charm believed to have magic power
phlebotomy: n. - the letting of blood for transfusion, diagnosis, or experiment, and especially formerly in the treatment of disease: bloodletting, venesection
phlegm: n. (see also adj.) - 1. thick mucus secreted in abnormal quantity especially in the nose and throat 2. one of the four humors in early physiology that was considered to be cold and moist and to cause sluggishness
phobophobia: n. - fear of phobias
phonogram: n. - 1. any written symbol which represents a sound, syllable, or word 2. a sequence of letters that have the same pronunciation in several different words (for example, "ear" in "earth," "heard," and "learn")
phonophobia: n. - fear of voices, noises, speaking aloud, or telephones
photon: n. - a discrete particle (called a quantum) of electromagnetic radiation (such as visible light) demonstrating both particle and wave properties. A photon has no mass and no electric charge, but possesses energy and momentum and has an indefinitely long lifetime
photophobia: n. - fear of light
phrontistery: n. - a place for study, contemplation, or learning (sometimes including modern universities)
phthisis: n. - 1. any disease or condition marked by wasting of the body 2. any of several diseases of the respiratory system, especially asthma or tuberculosis (archaic)
phylactery: n. - 1. (Judaism) one of two small square leather boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptural passages traditionally worn on the left arm and on the head by Jewish men during morning weekday prayers 2. an ornament often inscribed with a magic incantation or symbol to aid the wearer or protect him against evil, disease or witchcraft: amulet, charm
pia mater: n. - (Anatomy) the innermost and most delicate of the three membranes (meninges) that surround the brain and the spinal cord. This membrane covers the brain very closely, even extending into its folds and wrinkles [see also: arachnoid, dura mater]
pica: n. - an abnormal desire to eat substances not normally eaten (like chalk or ashes)
piece de resistance: n. - 1. the outstanding item or main exhibit in a collection; the best part or feature of something: feature performance, highlight, magnum opus, main attraction, masterpiece, prize piece, showpiece 2. the most important or noteworthy dish in a meal: entree, main course
piffle: n. (see also v.) - silly, foolish, futile or trivial talk or ideas: balderdash, drivel, fiddle-faddle, nonsense, twaddle
pigsney: n. - one especially cherished; a word of endearment for a girl or woman: darling, honey, pet, sweetie
pilaster: n. - a rectangular psuedo-column projecting only slightly from a wall as an ornamental motif {diagram, photograph}
pillion: n. - 1. a pad or cushion for an extra rider behind the saddle on a horse or motorcycle, in the past it was particularly intended for a female passenger 2. a temporary replacement for an amputated leg
pilocarpine: - a colorless or yellow poisonous compound which promotes the outflow of saliva, urine, sweat, and tears from the body; used to induce sweating, promote salivation, and treat glaucoma
pinko: n. - one who leans very left politically, but not far enough left to be communist (a true communist is referred to as a 'red')
pinnace: n. - 1. a small, light boat larger than a lifeboat carried by a larger ship. It was propelled by oars or by sails, and was usually used to carry people, supplies, or messages between the ship and shore or between several ships in a fleet. It was also sometimes used as a guide for merchant and war vessels {image} 2. a kind of boat developed by the Dutch in the 17th century having a shallow draught, two or three masts, and a short stern. They were used as merchant vessels, pirate vessels and small warships {image}
pinochle: n. - a game of cards for two to six persons, played with a special deck of 48 cards (two decks of cards that do not include two through eight), with points being scored by taking tricks and forming certain combinations
pipit: n. - a small songbird in the wagtail family, resembling the lark, with brown speckled plumage and a long tail
pique: n. (see also v.) - 1. a feeling of hurt or resentment awakened by a social slight or injury; irritation of the feelings, as through wounded pride: displeasure, grudge, irritation, spite, vexation 2. keenly felt desire; a longing
pissant: n. (see also adj.) - (offensive) 1. someone who is or who is thought to be insignificant or of no importance 2. someone who pays too much attention to small details
piste: n. - 1. (Fencing) a long, narrow strip where a fencing match is held 2. a downhill track or area of densely packed snow that provides good skiing conditions
pittance: n. - a small portion, amount, or allowance; a meager wage or remuneration
plaint: n. - 1. an expression of unhappiness or frustration: complaint, fuss, whine 2. an utterance of grief or sorrow: lamentation, moan, wail 3. (British Law) a written statement to the court asking for redress of a grievance: accusation, allegation, charge
plenum: n. - (Latin) literally, "full space" - 1. a space completely filled with matter [antonym: vacuum] 2. an assembly or meeting in which all members of a group are present 3. (Philosophy) the whole of space regarded as being filled with matter 4. (Physics) an enclosure containing a gas (usually air) at higher pressure than the surrounding atmosphere: plenum chamber 5. (Architecture) a space below the floor or above the ceiling that distributes heated or cooled air throughout a building. It may also contain electrical wiring
pleonasm: n. - the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea, especially when the idea expressed is repeated. Though often done in error or accidentally, this may be done intentionally to emphasize a point (ex. "I saw it with my own eyes," "a tiny little child," "ATM machine," "it was a free gift," or "the resources are sufficient enough")
Pleroma: n. - according to Gnosticism, the nonmaterial world of transcendental light above our own world (which is lower Creation, thought to be an imperfect reflection or copy of the Pleroma), occupied by spiritual beings such as aeons and archons
plinth: n. - the bottom block or slab upon which a column, pedestal, statue or vase is based {diagram, photograph}
plinth course: n. - a continuous course of stones supporting a wall
plumb line: n. - a weight, usually made of lead, attached to a line and used to find the depth of water or to verify a true vertical alignment: plumb bob
plushie: n. - someone who has sex with a stuffed animal
plutocracy: n. - 1. government by the wealthy; a government or state in which the wealthy 2. a government system where wealth is the principal basis of power 3. a wealthy class that controls a government
pluviophobia: n. - fear of rain: ombrophobia
pneuma: n. - the soul or vital spirit
pogonip: n. - a dense winter fog containing frozen particles that is formed in deep mountain valleys of the western U.S.
pogrom: n. - an organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group (especially of Jews)
politicophobia: n. - fear of politicians
poltroon: n. (see also adj.) - an utterly shameful coward: craven, chicken, milquetoast, pansy, scaredy-cat, sissy, wuss, yellow belly
polyglot: n. (see also adj.) - one who speaks several languages: multi-linguist
polygraph: n. - an electrical device that measures and records several physical processes at the same time, such as heart rate and perspiration (sweating). Changes in these measurements are used to know when someone is lying: lie detector
polymath: n. - a person of great or varied learning; one acquainted with various subjects of study
polyptoton: n. - (Rhetoric) the repitition of a word, but in different forms, cases, numbers, genders, etc., as in "My own heart's heart, and ownest own, farewell" ―Alfred Lord Tennyson, or "Not as a call to battle, though embattled we are" ―John F. Kennedy
polysyndeton: n. - (Rhetoric) the use of multiple conjunctions in a series of coordinate words, phrases, or clauses, especially where some might be omitted, as in "we have men and arms and planes and tanks." Often this is done to call attention to the list of words or phrases by slowing down the tempo or rhythm, and therefore add the effect of persistence or intensity or emphasis [antonym: asyndeton]
poniard: n. (see also v.) - a dagger with a slender blade: bodkin {image: 1, 2}
popinjay: n. - a strutting supercilious person
populist: n. (see also adj.) - someone who supports the rights, interests or opinions of ordinary people, especially in politics or the arts
porphyrophobia: n. - fear of the color purple
portcullis: n. - a grating of iron or wooden bars suspended in the gateway of a castle or fortified town, could be lowered to block passage {image}
portmanteau: n. - a large traveling bag made of stiff leather that opens like a book into two hinged compartments: Gladstone bag
portmanteau word: n. - a word that is a combination of two other words in form and meaning (eg. smog = smoke + fog, twirl = twist + whirl, etc.) [coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass]
poshlust: n. - (also spelled 'poshlost') (Russian) this word, popularized by Vladimir Nabakov, signifies objects or ideas that are obviously trashy, cheap, inferior, petty, vulgar, or false though they pretend to be important, beautiful, clever, or noble. In Nabakov's own words, poshlust is: "not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive."
postern: n. (see also adj.) - a small gate or entrance at the back of a building, especially a castle or a fort
postilion: n. - somebody riding the left-hand front horse in order to guide a team of horses pulling a carriage (especially one without a coachman)
potable: n. (see also adj.) - a drinkable liquid; a beverage, especially an alcoholic beverage
potomania: n. - an intense persistent desire to drink alcoholic beverages to excess: alcoholism, dipsomania
POTS: n. - acronym for Plain Old Telephone System (or Service)
poultice: n. - a warm, soft, moist and sometimes medicated mass (such as clay, flour, plant material, bread, meal, or other adhesive substance) spread on cloth and placed on a sore, a cut, an aching muscle, or inflamed body part to ease pain, improve circulation, sooth irritation, prevent infection, or hasten the expression of pus: cataplasm, plaster
prat: n. - 1. the part of the human body between the back of your thighs and the small of your back, which you sit on: ass, backside, buttocks, derriļæ½re, posterior, rear end 2. an incompetent or stupid person: dolt, fool, idiot, imbecile
pratfall: n. - 1. a fall backward in which one lands on the buttocks or in a sitting position, commonly seen as humiliating, sometimes done purposefully for slapstick humor 2. a humiliating mistake, failure, or defeat -- especially when seen as comical by others: blooper, blunder, boner, bungle, howler, fuck up
precedent: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a past action or decision that can be used as a model for future, similar circumstances: example, guideline 2. an established custom or practice 3. (Law) a reported decision or opinion of an appeals court (federal or state), which establishes the legal standard or rule that lower courts must follow when considering cases on the same legal question [see also: case law, stare decisis]
precession n. - 1. (Physics) the motion of something spinning (such as a top) which wobbles, causing the axis of rotation to sweep out a cone -- especially due to an outside force acting on the axis 2. (Astronomy) a slow gyration or wobble of the Earth's axis (similar to the wobble of a top whose spinning is slowing) caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun, Moon, and other planets. A full circle of Earth's precession takes nearly 26,000 years. Because of this wobble, the rising constellation at the moment of the equinoxes and solstices moves backwards through the zodiac. Also, though Polaris is our pole star now, this is not permanent because of precession. There are millenia when no "North Star" exists {image} 3. the act of preceding in time, order or rank (as in a ceremony)
prelate: n. - a high-ranking member of the clergy having authority over the lower clergy, especially a bishop
prelature: n. - 1. the office or position of a prelate 2. prelates considered as a group
prepotency: n. - 1. the quality or condition of having superior power, influence, or force: predominance 2. (Biology) the capacity, on the part of one of the parents, as compared with the other, to transmit more than his or her own share of characteristics to their offspring
prescriptivism: n. - 1. (Ethics) the theory that moral utterances have no truth value but prescribe attitudes to others and express the beliefs of the speaker 2. (Ethics) the view that the function of ethics is to tell us what we should do, not just describe what we actually do, and that the use of moral language implies a commitment to act accordingly (ex. saying "killing is wrong" should lead to avoidance of killing) 3. (Linguistics) the belief that some styles of language, and some words, are recommended as better than others (for beauty, practicality, conformity, intelligence, etc.)
preterism: n. - a belief that some or all of the end-time events specified in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) have already been fulfilled, particularly during the Roman-Jewish war of 66 to 73 CE
preterition: n. - 1. suggesting by deliberately concise treatment that much of significance is omitted; the rhetorical technique of mentioning something by saying that one is not going to mention it, such as "... and I'm not even going to mention my opponent's horrible civil rights record": apophasis, cataphasis, paralipsis 2. the act of passing over something, leaving something out, disregarding or omitting something 3. (Law) neglect of a testator to mention a legal heir in his or her will 4. the Calvinist doctrine that God neglected to designate those who would be damned, positively determining only the elect who were predestined for Heavenly salvation
priapism: n. - a medical condition characterized by a persistent, usually painful erection of the penis, especially as a consequence of disease and not related to sexual arousal
primeisodophobia: n. - fear of losing one's virginity
primogeniture: n. - 1. the right of the first-born child, especially the oldest living son, to inherit the parents' entire estate (the oldest daughter usually inherited the estate only when she had no living brothers, and sometimes uncles or nephews were preferred over granting female inheritance) 2. the principle that a monarchy must be passed down to the ruler's eldest child (perferably the oldest son) 3. the state of being the first-born child of a set of parents
probity: n. - having confirmed or unquestionable integrity, honesty or ethics; being morally above criticism; adherence to the highest principles and ideals: goodness, honor, incorruptability, rectitude, righteousness, trustworthiness, uprightness, virtue
proboscis: n. - 1. a long flexible snout or trunk, as of an elephant 2. the slender, tubular feeding and sucking organ of certain invertebrates, such as insects, worms, and mollusks 3. a human nose, especially a prominent one
procatalepsis: n. - (Rhetoric) the anticipation and answering of an objection or argument before one's opponent has put it forward: prolepsis
proclivity: n. - an inherent inclination toward something, especially toward something objectionable: penchant, predilection, predisposition, propensity
procrustean bed: n. - an arbitrary standard of conformity that is strictly or violently enforced without regard to individuality or relevant circumstances. The origin of the word is Procrustes, a son of Poseidon, who stretched or cut off the legs of visiting travelers who stayed with him in order to make them fit his iron bed (in later versions, two beds -- one short and the other long) [see also: procrustean (adj.)]
prolepsis: n. (see also adj.) - 1. (Rhetoric) a figure of speech in which a future event or condition is referred to as if it has already happened or already exists, such as "he was a dead man when he entered" and "to iron a shirt smooth": anticipation 2. (Rhetoric) the anticipation and answering of an objection or argument before one's opponent has put it forward: procatalepsis 3. an error in chronology, especially the representation of something as existing before its proper or historical time (for example, the "precolonial United States"): anachronism 4. (Philosophy) the ancient concept (used in particular by Epicurus and by the Stoics) of a pre-theoretical notion or fundamental assumption arising spontaneously in the mind without conscious reflection, particularly one which can lead to true knowledge of the world 5. (Medicine) the return of symptoms (especially spasms or a fever) of a recurrent disease before the expected time or at intervals that progressively become shorter
pronunciamento: n. - a formal announcement or declaration: manifesto, proclamation, pronouncement
proprietary: n. (see also adj.) - 1. an owner or a group of owners: proprietor 2. a drug or other product made and sold under the legal protection of a trademark or patent, so that no other person or company can make a generic or competitive version of that product 3. information about a product that a company has kept secret, especially design features or manufacture techniques that would allow other companies to copy it or make a generic version 4. an unincorporated business owned by a single person who is responsible for its liabilities and entitled to its profits: proprietorship 5. the owner of a proprietary colony (for example, William Penn when he owned the colony of Pennsylvania) 6. a kind of school organized as a profit-making venture primarily to teach vocational skills or self-improvement techniques, often called a proprietary school 7. (hacker slang) a product not conforming to open-systems standards. Proprietary products (often software) are controlled by a single company, are not usually compatible with the products of other companies, third parties are not free to work on and improve the product, and often the customer is stuck paying high prices on necessary services and upgrades after the initial sale
proselyte: n. - someone who has recently joined or changed to a particular doctrine or religion -- originally, a gentile (non-Jew) who joined the Jewish faith: convert, recruit [see also: proselytize (v.)]
prototype: n. - 1. an original model on which something is patterned: archetype 2. an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type 3. a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction (as an airplane)
provenance: n. - 1. place where found or produced: birthplace, derivation, origin, provenience, source 2. proof of authenticity or of past ownership (of art works and antiques)
provenience: n. - place where found or produced: birthplace, derivation, origin, provenance, source
provost: n. - 1. a university administrator of high rank 2. the highest official in certain cathedrals or collegiate churches 3. the keeper of a prison 4. the chief magistrate of certain Scottish cities
psellismophobia: n. - fear of stuttering
psephologist: n. - a sociologist who studies election trends
public key encryption: n. - a unique form of scrambling data that requires two separate passwords (or keys): a private key and a public key. The private key can scramble and unscramble data that was scrambled with the public key. The public key can only scramble data. For example, if your favorite FBI agent wants to send you a message, he must use your public key, but only you can unscramble and read the message using your private key
pugilist: n. - one who fights with the fists, especially professionally: boxer, prize fight