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NOUNS (Q-S)

quacksalver: n. - somebody who falsely claims to have specialized knowledge, especially of medications, salves, or other medical knowledge: charlatan, mountebank, quack
quagmire: n. - 1. an area of soft, low-lying, soggy ground that sinks underfoot: bog, marsh, morass, swamp 2. a difficult or inextricable position
quakebuttock: n. - a quivering coward
quay n. - a platform where boats are loaded and unloaded, whether lying alongside the bank or projecting into the water: dock, landing, levee, pier, wharf
queue: n. - (see also v.) 1. a row of people or things waiting for a turn at something or for admittance to a place 2. a series of messages or jobs waiting to be processed automatically one after the other by a computer system 3. a list of computer data constructed and maintained so that the elements are inserted at one end and deleted from the other in first in, first out fashion 4. a short braid of hair worn at the back of the neck by soldiers and sailors in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
quid: n. - 1. a wad of something chewable, as tobacco 2. the basic unit of money in Great Britain, equal to 100 pence: British pound, pound sterling
quid pro quo: n. - (used often in Law) 1. an equal exchange or trade 2. something given or received for something else
quiddity: n. - 1. the essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity of a thing: quintessence 2. a hairsplitting distinction; a trifling point: quibble, quodlibet 3. an odd feature: crotchet, eccentricity
quidnunc: n. - a person who seeks to know all the latest news or gossip: busybody
quincunx: n. - an arrangement of five objects in a square or rectangle, with four at the corners and one in the center, like the "five" faces on a pair of dice {image}
quipu: n. - a record-keeping device used by the ancient Inca empire (of Peru). It consisted of knotted strings and cords attached to a base rope. The color and thickness of each cord, as well as the size, configuration and position of each knot, had a special meaning. Information was encoded in this device for conveying messages, recording historic events, keeping financial accounts, etc. So complex was the system that a special class of workers, quipu-camayoq (quipucamoyac), kept the imperial records on quipu. The Incas did not have writing. A modified form is still used by some Andean herdsmen {image}
quodlibet: n. - 1. a philosophical point proposed for disputation; a disputation on such a point 2. a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts
quorum: n. - 1. such a number of the officers or members of any body as is legally competent to transact business 2. a select group
quotidian: n. (see also adj.) - a fever, especially malaria, in which attacks of the illness recur every day
Qur'an: n. - (Islam) the word Qur'an means "the recitation" or "the reading," and refers to the divinely revealed scripture of Islam. It consists of 114 s�rahs (chapters) revealed by God to Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years. The Qur'an continues to be recited by Muslims throughout the world in the language of its revelation, Arabic, exactly as it was recited by Prophet Muhammad nearly fourteen hundred years ago. The Qur'an is viewed as the authoritative guide for human beings, along with the Sunnah (reports of Muhammad's sayings, actions, and reactions to the behavior of others). Translations of the Qur'an are considered explanations of the meaning of the Qur'an, but not the Qur'an itself. Similarly to how Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate, Muslisms believe that the Qur'an is God in-literate. The spelling "Koran" is phonetically incorrect. The more accurate Qur'an should be used
raconteur: n. - one who is skilled in telling stories or anecdotes. Not only are the stories themselves good (displaying witty humor, captivating drama, stunning plot twists, and the like), but also the person makes an unusually good presentation of them (skillfully using vocal inflection, body language, and so on): charmer, spinner of yarns, storyteller
radula: n. - on some mollusks (not clams, oysters or other bivalves), a horny band or ribbon that has very tiny teeth for tearing food
rake: n. - an unrestrained or immoral pleasure seeker; someone who frequently indulges in vice: bon vivant, Casanova, debauchee, degenerate, Don Juan, epicure, floozy, harlot, hedonist, heartbreaker, ladies' man, lady-killer, lecher, libertine, lothario, man-about-town, philanderer, playboy, player, prodigal, Romeo, seducer, sensualist, skirt chaser, swinger, tomcat, tramp, trollop, voluptuary, wanton, whorehound, womanizer
rale: n. - an abnormal sound heard accompanying the normal respiratory sounds on auscultation of the chest
Ramad�n: n. - (Islam) the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, it is the holiest time of year for Muslims because it is the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad. The month is spent fasting from dawn to sunset to develop piety and self-restraint
rantipole: n. (see also adj.) - a wild, romping young person
rapine: n. - the violent or forced taking of another's property, especially during war: looting, plunder, robbery, theft, thievery
rapport: n. - 1. a relation marked by harmony, emotional affinity, or mutual trust 2. a feeling of sympathetic understanding: accord, compatibility
rapprochement: n. - a re-establishing of positive relations, as between two countries: reconciliation
rara avis: n. - a rare or unique person or thing
ratiocination: n. - the process of reasoning: thought
razzmatazz: n. - 1. a flashy action or gaudy display intended to bewilder, confuse, distract, or deceive: razzle-dazzle 2. showiness that is designed to be impressive and exciting, especially in the context of a stage show or other spectacle 3. language that is intended to confuse and conceal: double-talk 4. bubbly, excited energy or vitality: effervescence, enthusiasm, exuberance, spirit, verve, vigor, vim, zing
Reaganonmics: n. - the free-market economic approach espoused by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, involving tax cuts, low social service spending, high military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets -- contributed to low interest rates, low inflation, and large budget deficits: supply-side economics [antonym: demand-side economics, Keynesian Economics]
rebec: n. - a pear-shaped, two-stringed or three-stringed medieval instrument played with a bow
recidivism: n. - a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior, especially relapse into criminal behavior
recrudescence: n. - a new outbreak after a period of abatement or inactivity: renewal, resurgence
rector: n. - 1. (Roman Catholicism) a priest appointed to be the managerial and spiritual head of a church congregation, seminary, university, or other institution 2. (Church of England) a member of the clergy who is in charge of a parish, formerly rectors were entitled to the tithes from their parish [see also: vicar] 3. (Episcopal Church) a clergyman who is in charge of a parish: vicar 4. a person authorized to conduct religious worship: curate, minister, parson, pastor 5. the head or principal of some schools, colleges, or universities
red envelope: n. - in Asia (especially in China) children and young unmarrieds receive a red envelope stuffed with money as a token for the New Year (the red symbolizes good fortune, love, and appreciation)
redoubt: n. - 1. a small and usually temporary defensive fortification 2. a defended position or protective barrier 3. a secure place of refuge or defense: stronghold
refectory: n. - a community or social room where meals are served, especially in a monastery, convent, or college: dining hall
Reform Judaism: n. - the most liberal branch of Judaism, which does not follow the Talmud strictly or require strict observance of traditional religious law and ritual; it began in 19th century Germany, actively seeks to reconcile historical Judaism with modern life, and rejects the belief that Moses was literally given the Torah by God [see also: Conservative Judaism and Orthodox Judaism]
refresh rate: n. - the speed (measured in Hertz) at which a monitor redraws an image on the screen. The faster the rate, the less likely the screen is to flicker, which saves wear and tear on your eyeballs and brain. (Eyeball frazzle is the unofficial term given to those who read too much information on the World Wide Web.) The faster the refresh rate, the more expensive the monitor
regolith: n. - (Geography and Astronomy) the layer of loose rock, soil, and dust particles that covers the solid rock (bedrock) of most land on Earth and other solid planets, moons, and asteroids. This layer is produced by the effects of weather and meteorite bombardment on bedrock. The term comes from two Greek words, rhegos "blanket; rug" and lithos "rock; stone"
reification: n. - 1. treating something abstract (as a word or idea) as though it had concrete or tangible existence: hypostasization 2. (Marxism) representing a human being as a physical object deprived of personal qualities or individuality, especially treating people as marketable commodities
repast: n. - food served for one occasion of eating: feast, meal, snack
repatriate: n. (see also v.) - 1. someone who, after living abroad a long time, has returned to the country where they were born 2. someone who, after losing their citizenship, has had their citizenship restored
respite: n. (see also v.) - 1. a short-lived interval of rest, relief or recovery between periods of exertion; an interruption in the intensity or amount of something, especially something disagreeable: abatement, break, delay, hiatus, intermission, pause, postponement, recess, suspension 2. the temporary relief from punishment, harm, or discomfort: reprieve 3. (Law) the temporary suspension of a death sentence: reprieve
revenant: n. - one who returns after death (as a ghost) or after a long absence
rhabdomancy: n. - divination by means of a wand or rod, especially for discovering underground water or ores
rhabdophobia: n. - fear of being criticized severely, or of beaten by rod or instrument of punishment
rheometer: n. - 1. an instrument for measuring the velocity of flowing liquids, such as blood 2. an instrument for measuring the intensity of currents, especially of electrical currents: galvanometer
rhinoplasty: n. - plastic surgery of the nose. Tissue may be transplanted from the patient's cheek, forehead, arm, etc., or even from another person
rhoncus: n. - a rattling sound, somewhat like snoring or wheezing, heard on auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) of the chest when there is a partial bronchial obstruction (such as a lot of mucous): dry rale
rhytiphobia: n. - fear of getting wrinkles
rickshaw: n. - 1. a small two-wheeled cart usually for one passenger and pulled by one person walking in front of it, used originally in Japan {image} 2. a small three-wheeled vehicle, like a tricycle with a seat at the back for passengers, that is driven by somebody sitting at the front and pedaling
rictus: n. - 1. an open mouth fixed in a strange grin or horrified grimace 2. the gape of a bird's open beak
rigmarole: n. - 1. a long, confusing process that is so much more complicated than it needs to be that it seems absurd or irritating 2. a story, statement, or description that is ridiculously long, rambling, complicated, or confusing: blather, nonsense, prattle
rime: n. - 1. a thin coating of ice, formed by the quick freezing of fog onto a cold surface: crust, film, frost 2. (Obsolete) an old alternate spelling of 'rhyme'
Riot Act: n. - 1. a former English law, passed in 1715 and repealed in 1973, stating that twelve or more people assembled unlawfully in a public place or causing a public disturbance must disperse within one hour of having had the act read to them by a magistrate. Refusal to leave peacefully after the act was read aloud was a felony 2. (not capitalized) as part of the phrase, "to read him/her/them the riot act": to reprimand, censure, or sharply warn a person or group of people, especially for rowdy or uncivil behavior
river: n. - in desktop publishing (DTP), a formatting flaw that results in the accidental alignment of white space between words in sequential lines of text, encouraging the eye to follow the flow down three or more lines. Rivers injure what typographers refer to as the color of the page
rodomontade: n. (see also adj. & v.) - pretentious or self-important speech or behavior; inflated, vain or empty boasting (from boastful Saracen leader Rodomonte in the opera "Orlando Furioso"): bluster, bombast, braggadocio
rōmaji: n. - (Japanese) a system in which in the Japanese language is expressed using the Roman alphabet (A, B, C's), used often in dictionaries and textbooks for Westerners learning to speak Japanese; literally, "Roman characters"
rōnin: n. - (Japanese) a samurai who had been dismissed from service or who had lost his master
roorback: n. - an untrue, distorted, or slanderous story spread about one's political opponent, especially to gain the advantage in an election campaign; a damaging falsehood told or published for political effect: black propaganda
Rosetta Stone: n. - 1. a black basalt stone found in 1799 that bears an inscription in hieroglyphics, demotic characters, and Greek and is celebrated for having given the first clue to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics 2. one that gives a clue to understanding
Rosh Hashanah: n. - (Judaism) the Jewish New Year, observed on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishri (falling in September or October) by Orthodox and Conservative Jews and on the first day alone by Reform Jews. This holiday is marked by solemnity as well as festivity. It begins the observance of the Ten Penitential Days or the Days of Awe, a period concerned with confessions of sin and redemption in preparation for Yom Kippur. One notable tradition within this holiday is the blowing of the shofar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holy Days
rototiller: n. - a motorized rotary cultivator
rowel: n. (see also v.) - a small, sharp-toothed, revolving wheel on the end of a horse rider's spur, used by cowboys and ranchers to direct or urge forward their horse
Rubicon: n. - a bounding or limiting line which, when crossed, commits a person irrevocably
russophobia: n. - fear of Russians
sacroiliac: n. (see also adj.) - the region of juncture between the spinal column and the pelvis
sacristan: n. - a person in charge of the sacristy, ceremonial equipment, and sacred objects of a Christian church: sexton, verger
sadomasochism: n. - the derivation of pleasure from the infliction of physical or mental pain either on others or on oneself
salaam: n. - (Islam) 1. literally, �peace,� used as a respectful greeting among Muslims 2. a deeply respectful or deferential gesture of greeting or acknowledgment, used especially in Islamic countries, made by bowing low with the palm of the right hand against the forehead
Salchow: n. - a figure-skating edge jump launched from the back inside edge of one foot followed by a full turn in the air and landed on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. Named after Ulrich Salchow, a Swedish figure skater who invented the move and won ten World Championships between 1900 and 1911
salmagundi: n. - 1. a salad plate usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, served with oil and vinegar 2. any mixture or assortment: medley, miscellany, potpourri
Samba: n. - a free suite of programs which enables computers running a variety of different operating systems (such as Linux, UNIX, DOS, Solaris, OS/2, etc.) to use the network protocols of Windows systems. Because of this, any computer on a network can communicate and share resources. For example, computers connected through a company's intranet, or home computers sharing an Internet connection, can share files, printers, etc. with each other even if they are running on different operating systems. Although this program was primarily designed to work like the Microsoft Windows environment, it has modes more user-friendly for people accustomed to other operating systems as well. The Samba client is called smbclient
sang-froid: n. - coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances; freedom from agitation or excitement of mind: aplomb, calmness, confidence, poise, self-assurance, self-possession, sureness
sarcopenia: n. - the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength
sarcophagus: n. - a stone coffin, usually bearing sculpture or inscriptions
savoir-faire: n. - the ability to make a good impression in any social situation (especially stressful or touchy ones) by both behaving correctly and speaking with skill and sensitivity: diplomacy, discretion, social grace, tact
scansion: n. - the act of scanning (or examining) a line of verse for its weak and strong accents
schadenfreude: n. - a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others
schlemiel: n. - an unlucky bungler: blunderer, chump, loser, schlimazel
schlimazel: n. - an unlucky bungler: blunderer, chump, loser, schlemiel
scintilla: n. - a tiny or scarcely detectable amount; the slightest particle: spark, trace
sciolism: n. - a superficial display of learning designed to deceive or impress others
sciolist: n. - someone who pretends to be an intellectual or scholar but really has little understanding or knowledge of what they talk about; one who engages in a pretentious display of superficial knowledge in order to fake the appearance of being a professional academic: amateur, dabbler, fraud, phony, pretender, quack
scion: n. - 1. a child or descendant of a family, especially a rich, famous, or important family: heir 2. a living cutting (twig or shoot) from a woody plant containing buds that is grafted onto another plant, usually a related species (for example, a branch of apples growing on a pear tree)
sciophobia: n. - fear of shadows
scission: n. - 1. a division or split in a group or union: schism 2. an action or process of cutting, dividing, or splitting 3. the state of being cut, divided, or split
scolionophobia: n. - fear of going to school: didaskaleinophobia
sconce: n. - 1. a candlestick or lantern with a handle, or one fixed by bracket to a wall: candleholder 2. a small defensive earthwork or fort, especially to defend a bridge, pass, etc.: bulwark, redoubt, stronghold [see also: ensconce (v.)] 3. a piece of armor for the head: helmet 4. the head or skull of a human being 5. the quality of having intelligence: brains, discretion, sense, wit
scree: n. - 1. loose or broken rock fragments at the base of a hill or cliff, or covering a slope. Scree deposits result from physical and chemical weathering and erosion acting on a rock face: talus
scriptophobia: n. - fear of writing in public
scriptorium: n. - a room for storing, copying, illustrating, or reading manuscripts, especially in a monastery or abbey during the Middle Ages. Standard furnishings included a sloping writing desk for each copyist, equipped with chalk, pumice (a volcanic glass used to smooth vellum and parchment), inkstands (one holding each color of ink), plummet (a weight hung to see if something is vertical), pens and brushes, a sharp knife, a straight edge, a pointed stylus, and a ruling stick. A scribe might work independently until a book was completed or as part of a team that included illuminators, correctors, and binders
scrofula: n. - (Medicine) a form of tuberculosis characterized by swellings of the lymph nodes, especially on the neck. In addition to persistent, painless masses on the neck which grow over time, typical symptoms include fever, chills, and weight loss. If untreated, the glands burst through the skin to form running sores. It most often affects children, who become infected through drinking unpasteurized milk from infected cows. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the touch of the king (because he was appointed by God) could cure this disease, which at that time was called the "King's Evil" {image}: King's Evil, struma
scroll saw: n. - a hand or power saw with a narrow ribbon-like blade for cutting curved or irregular shapes: fretsaw, jigsaw
scurvy: n. (see also adj.) - a disease caused by not getting enough vitamin C. Symptoms include spongy, bleeding gums; loosening of the teeth; bruises (bleeding under the skin); the opening of previously healed wounds; and general weakness. In the past, scurvy was a serious problem during winter (when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available) and for sailors (since only nonperishable foods could be kept on ship). The British navy eventually prevented scurvy by distributing regular rations of lime juice during long sea voyages (hence, British sailors are nicknamed limeys)
scuttlebutt: n. - 1. a drinking fountain on a ship; a cask on a ship that contains the day's supply of drinking water 2. a rumor: gossip
second estate: n. - the second of three traditional social and political estates in societies that date from feudal times, consisting of the nobles in France and the Lords Temporal in England
seismograph: n. - an instrument that measures and records the movement of the earth, especially the strength and duration of an earthquake
selacophobia: n. - fear of sharks
semaphore: n. - 1. an apparatus for visual signaling by the position of one or more movable arms, flags or lights, as one used on a railroad 2. a visual system for sending information by means of two flags that are held one in each hand, using an alphabetic code based on the position of the signaler's arms {image}
semen demon: n. - a mocking term for a small child: anklebiter, crib lizard, crotchfruit, offspring, rug rat, spawn
seneschal: n. - the chief steward or butler in charge of domestic arrangements, ceremonies, and the administration of servants at a great household, especially at a lord's estate in feudal times: major-domo
Sephardim: n. - (Judaism) a descendent of the Jews who lived in Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages until 1492, when rising persecution culminated in their expulsion (generally non-Yiddish-speaking and darker with more delicate features than Northern Jews) [see also: Ashkenazi]
Sephiroth: n. - (Judaism) in Jewish mysticism, the ten essences of God which emanate into both the physical and metaphysical parts of the universe, and which make up the Kabbalistic "Tree of Life"; literally, "counting," "enumeration," "number," or "statistics"
seppuku: n. - (Japanese) in the ancient samurai culture: suicide by disembowelment, followed by beheading (done by the kaishaku): hara-kiri
sepulcher: n. (also spelled 'sepulture') (see also v.) - 1. a burial place, especially a chamber or vault in which a corpse is buried: catacombs, charnel house, grave site, mausoleum, tomb 2. a container for religious relics, especially one kept in an altar: reliquary
serac: n. - (Geology) a large (often house-sized) block or pillar of ice that is taller than it is wide, often formed inside glacial crevasses (slopes) by the melting or movement of the ice. They are dangerous to mountaineers since they may topple with little warning {images: 1 & 2}
serendipity: n. - finding something pleasant, useful, or valuable without looking for it (unintentionally or by chance). Typically, an event is said to be an example of serendipity (rather than mere coincidence) when it seems as though the unlikely find was destined to happen. For example, a scientist who experienced serendipity was Percy Spencer. While testing a magnetron (which emits radio waves), he noticed that a peanut candy bar in his pocket had melted. After confirming the cooking effect by using radio waves from the magnetron to pop some popcorn, his accidental discovery led to the development of microwave ovens. Horace Walpole coined this term in reference to characters in the ancient Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip. Throughout the tale, these characters repeatedly made very fortunate, out of the blue discoveries: coincidence, good fortune, good luck, happy accident, pleasant surprise [see also: serendipitous (adj.)]
sesquipedalophobia: n. - fear of long words: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
sfumato: n. - an effect of the tones shading into one another so there are no sharp outlines (as in oil painting)
sgiomlaireached: n. - the habit of dropping in at mealtimes
shahid: n. - (Islam) a Muslim martyr, literally translates "witness"
shallot: n. - 1. an herb that resembles an onion and produces small clustered bulbs used in seasoning: scallion 2. a young onion pulled before the bulb has enlarged and used especially in salads: green onion
sharia: n. - (Islam) the code of religious law and customs derived from the Qur'an, as well as the teachings and example of Mohammed (the Hadith and the Sunnah)
Shekhinah: n. - (Judaism) 1. a term from the Talmud describing the visible majesty of the Divine Presence of God, especially when resting between the cherubim on the mercy seat, in the Tabernacle, or in the Temple of Solomon; this divine presence is described in feminine terms 2. a goddess who is the manifestation of God's (Yaweh's) presence on earth, held to represent the feminine attributes of the presence of God, based especially on readings of the Talmud and the Kabbalah. A beautiful being of light, her most important function was to intercede with God on behalf of her children. She is often compared with the Holy Spirit of Christianity
shenanigan: n. - 1. a devious trick used, especially for an underhanded purpose 2. tricky or questionable practices or conduct 3. high-spirited or mischievous activity
Sheol: n. - (Hebrew Bible) a place deep within the earth where the dead, both good and evil persons, live a shadowy existence. Mistranslated as "Hell" in the King James Version of the Bible, a more appropriate comparison would be with Hades of Greek mythology: the abode of the dead, the pit of the dead, the underworld
Shia: n. - (Islam) the smaller branch of Islam which considers Ali, the cousin of Muhammad, and his descendants as Muhammad's true successors. This group rejects the legitimacy of the first three caliphs and differs from Sunni Islam in its understanding of the Sunnah: Shiite [see also: Sunni]
Shiite: n. - (Islam) a follower of the smaller branch of Islam which considers Ali, the cousin of Muhammad, and his descendants as Muhammad's true successors. This group rejects the legitimacy of the first three caliphs and differs from Sunni Islam in its understanding of the Sunnah: Shia [see also: Sunni]
Shinto: n. - the ancient indigenous religion of Japan (still practiced, though modified by the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism), it lacks a formal dogma and is characterized by veneration of "kami" (gods, nature spirits and ancestors) and the observance of popular festivals, traditional ceremonies and customs
shoal: n. (see also v. & adj.) - 1. a large group: crowd 2. a large school of fish or other marine animals 3. a shallow place in a body of water; a sandy elevation of the bottom of a body of water, constituting a hazard to navigation: sandbank, sandbar
shofar: n. - (Judaism) an earthy, rich-toned trumpet made of a ram's horn, blown by the ancient Hebrews during religious ceremonies and as a signal in battle, now sounded in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur
shogi: n. - a Japanese board game very similar to chess that is played on a board with 81 squares, each side having 20 pieces {image}
shōji: n. - (Japanese) a translucent screen consisting of a wooden frame covered in rice paper, used as a sliding door or partition in traditional Japanese houses
shunpike: n. - a secondary road taken to avoid traffic or the toll on a main highway or turnpike
sibilant: n. (see also adj.) - a consonant that is pronounced with a hissing sound, such as English (s), (sh), (z), (zh), (f), (ch), or (th) in both 'thin' and 'then'
sibling-german: n. - siblings who have both the same mother and the same father: full brother, full sister, brother-german, sister-german (see also: agnate sibling, uterine sibling)
sibyl: n. - 1. one of the women regarded as oracles or prophets by the ancient Greeks and Romans (usually credited to widely separate parts of the ancient world, including Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy) {map} 2. a female prophet: fortuneteller, prophetess 3. (Capitalized) the priestess of Apollo who predicted the Trojan War and the fall of Troy at the hand of a Spartan woman (Helen)
silage: n. - feed for livestock prepared by storing and fermenting green forage plants in a silo
simulacrum: n. - 1. an image or thing made to look like or represent someone or something, particularly a unique or creative imitation rather than a simple copy (such as the World Showcase at Disney World or the movie version of a book): effigy, representation 2. something that has a vague, superficial, or shadowy similarity to something else; an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute: semblance, sham, trace
sinecure: n. - 1. an office or position that requires or involves little or no responsibility, work, or active service -- but does provide an income: cushy job, plum assignment 2. (Archaic) in the Anglican Church, a church position that does not involve responsibility for the spiritual needs of a congregation, such as some rectors and cathedral dignitaries
sine qua non: n. - (Latin) an essential condition or prerequisite necessary in order for a certain thing to exist or for an event to happen; literally, "without which, not"
sinophile: n. - someone who admires or strongly likes the country, culture, or people of China
sister-german: n. - a sister of someone who has both the same mother and the same father: full sister (see also: brother-german, sibling-german, agnate sibling, uterine sibling)
situs inversus: n. - a rare genetically-determined condition in which a person is born with their major internal organs reversed from left to right, as a mirror image of their normal positions. For example, so that the heart is on the right side of the body and the liver is on the left
sitz bath: n. - 1. a bathtub shaped like a chair in which one bathes in a sitting position, immersing only the hips and buttocks: hip bath 2. a bath taken in such a tub, especially for therapeutic reasons
sitzmark: n. - a hollow left in the snow by a skier falling backward; from a German word meaning "sitting mark"
sixth estate: - a further extension of the original three estate social and political system of medieval Europe (especially France and England), this 'estate' consists of the growing community of bloggers on the Internet: blogosphere
skirl: n. (see also v.) - a high-pitched, wailing sound, especially the type of sound which bagpipes typically make
skoptsy: n. - the act of self castration
skullduggery: n. - verbal misrepresentation intended to take advantage of you in some way: deception, hanky panky, hocus-pocus, slickness, trickery
slugabed: n. - one who stays in bed until a late hour: sluggard
smegma: n. - a white, cheesy, oily substance that collects under the skin folds of mammal genitals, under the foreskin of the penis on males and around the clitoris on females. This substance also covers the skin of newborn infants
smelting: n. - 1. the process of removing metal from rock (often iron ore) by heating it to a very high temperature in a hearth or furnace 2. the process of melting metal objects in order to use the metal to make something new
snafu: n. (see also acr., adj. & v.) - 1. a bad situation or mistake generally caused by incompetence and resulting in delay or confusion (from the WWII acronym "Situation Normal: All Fucked Up") 2. a badly confused or ridiculously muddled situation; a mess: chaos
snap-dragon: n. - 1. a parlor game played in winter (especially on Christmas Eve). A shallow bowl of brandy would be set on fire after having raisins placed in it. The challenge was to pick the raisins out of the burning brandy and eat them without being burnt. (Closing the mouth would cut off oxygen to the raisins, thereby putting out the flames.) It was popularly played from the 16th to 19th centuries in England, Canada, and the U.S.: flap-dragon {images: 1 & 2} 2. a genus of flowers thought to resemble the face of a dragon that opens and closes its mouth when squeezed at the sides (thus the 'snap')
sneaker net: n. - a non-network where information is exchanged between computers by copying files to a disk and then walking (in your sneakers) to another computer to use the disk
snuff film: n. - a movie showing explicit, particularly sadistic pornography ending in the actual murder of one of the performers (usually a woman being killed by a man)
sobriquet: n. - an assumed name: epithet, nickname
sodality: n. - 1. an organization of people with a shared interest or cause: association, brotherhood, community, fellowship, fraternity, league, union 2. (Roman Catholicism) a charity, voluntary organization, or religious study group associated with the Catholic Church but run by lay people (not priests, nuns, etc.): confraternity
sohbet: n. - (Islam) in the Sufi tradition, a mystical union or spiritual transaction between people (often teacher and student) which relies on ancient oral storytelling traditions and practices. Mystical knowledge and devotional love is transmitted during this spiritual communion in a way which bypasses the rational mind to connect people's hearts directly. Sohbet can also be understood as a spiritual dialogue and a cleansing of the soul
sokushinbutsu: n. - a process of self-mummification attempted by ancient monks in northern Japan who followed Shugend. This process of starvation and dehydration was done with the hope of becoming a Budda. For the first 1000 days (about three years), the monk rid his body of fat by eating only nuts and seeds he found locally while undergoing intense physical training. For the next 1000 days, he ate only bark and roots and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree (normally used to lacquer bowls). This caused vomiting and the rapid loss of bodily fluids, and it made his body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots and other insects that usually aid in decomposition. Some may have drank water from a spring tainted with arsenic, which would have aided mummification for the same reason. The monk would then lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His tomb included an air tube (for breathing) and a bell (for ringing each day to indicate that he was still alive). When the bell stopped ringing, he was presumed dead. So, the tube would be removed and the tomb sealed. Finally, 1000 days after he was locked inside, the tomb would be opened to see whether his body had decayed or mummified. Most likely it had rotted, in which case he was respected for his dedication and reburied. If it had been mummified, however, his body was exhumed for display in the temple and he was regarded as having achieved Buddhahood. Japan outlawed this process in the late 1800s {image: 1 & 2}
solar guerilla: n. - a person who uses an alternative energy source such as solar power to illegally direct electricity back to the public utility grid
solecism: n. - 1. a nonstandard usage or grammatical construction 2. a mistake or incongruity; a violation of etiquette: absurdity, barbarism, faux pas, gaffe, impropriety, inconsistency, unfitness
solicitude: n. - 1. a state of anxiety: disquiet, fear, worry 2. attentive care and protectiveness; an attitude of anxious concern or attention
soliloquist: n. - one who is speaking a soliloquy (a usually long, dramatic speech in a play intended to give the illusion of a character's unspoken reflections)
solipsism: n. - the belief that the only thing somebody can be sure of is that he or she exists, and that true knowledge of anything else is impossible
somatotropin: n. - a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland; promotes growth in humans
sommelier: n. - a waiter who supervises the ordering, storing, and serving of wine in a hotel or restaurant, usually having extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings: wine steward
somnifery: n. - a place of sleep
somniloquist: n. - some who talks while asleep
sonogram: n. - an image produced by a machine which detects high-frequency sound waves, used to observe the growth of a fetus still inside its mother's body or to study bodily organs: ultrasound
sop: n. (see also acr.) - 1. something given to satisfy, soothe, quiet or pacify a discontented person: bribe, gesture, gift 2. a weak-willed or spineless person: chicken, coward, cream puff, crybaby, doormat, fraidy cat, gutless wonder, mama's boy, milksop, pantywaist, paper tiger, pushover, scaredy-cat, sissy, softie, sucker, wimp, wuss, yellow-belly 3. a piece of solid food dipped or soaked in liquid before it is eaten (such as a piece of bread being dipped in oil)
sophia: n. - the Greek term for the intellectual virtue of wisdom, in contrast with the more practical function of phronesis, later identified by Christians with the Spirit of God; according to Plato, this is the distinctive feature of rulers in the ideal state and the crowning achievement of the rational soul of an individual
sophist: n. - 1. one skilled in elaborate and devious argumentation: casuist, philosopher, scholar, thinker 2. one of a class of men who taught eloquence, philosophy, and politics in ancient Greece; especially those who, by their fallacious but plausible reasoning, puzzled inquirers after truth, weakened the faith of the people, and drew upon themselves general hatred and contempt (Plato later characterized them as superficial manipulators of rhetoric and dialectic)
sophistry: n. - a method of reasoning or argumentation that seems seems plausible and clever but is actually deceptively subtle, misleading, flawed, dishonest, and deliberately invalid; an argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone
sophophobia: n. - fear of learning
sophrosyne: n. - (from classical Greek) the perfect balance of soundness of mind with excellence of character; one who both knows himself and refrains from indulging in excesses, "the agreement of the passions that Reason should rule" --Plato: discretion, good sense, moderation, prudence, self-control, self-restraint, sobriety, rationality, wisdom [antonym: hubris]
soporific: n. (see also adj.) - a medicine, drug, plant, or other agent that has the quality of inducing sleep: narcotic
soteriology: n. - (Christian) the study of salvation; the doctrine that salvation has been brought about by Jesus Christ
soteriophobia: n. - fear of dependence on others
souffle: n. - 1. a light, fluffy dish of egg yolks and stiffly beaten egg whites mixed with cheese or fish or fruit 2. (ceramics) something decorated with very small drops or sprinkles of color, as if blown from a bellows 3. a murmuring or blowing sound; such as, the rumblings heard over the pregnant uterus
sough: n. - a whistle or sigh, as from the wind or a gentle surf: murmur, rustle
souse: n. - (see also v.) 1. something pickled; seasoned and chopped pork trimmings, fish, or shellfish 2. an act of sousing: wetting 3. a habitual drunkard 4. a drinking spree: binge
soutane: n. - a close-fitting robe with straight sleeves, skirts reaching to the ankles, and buttons down the front, worn by Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy; priests wear black, bishops purple, cardinals red, and the Pope white (in most Western countries, the clergy have generally abandoned the soutane as everyday clothing in favour of a clerical suit of more conventional design): cassock {image}
spavin: n. (see also adj.) - an ailment causing lameness in horses in which collected fluids, bony growth, or distention of the veins causes a swelling or enlargement of the hock joint (the joint in the hind leg corresponding to the human ankle, but placed halfway down the leg) {image}
speleology: n. - the scientific study or exploration of caves
spermophobia: n. - fear of semen
sphallolalia: n. - flirtatious talk that leads nowhere
spina bifida: 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 spina bifida 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: myelomeningocele {image} [see also: anencephaly, spina bifida occulta]
spina bifida occulta: n. - this is a milder, though still very dangerous, form of spina bifida (described above) in which the defect exists deep in the spinal column, and is hidden from direct observation. It can tether the spinal cord abnormally and over time cause progressive and irreversible damage to the spinal cord. Parents need to be on the lookout for a congenital hairy patch or hairy birthmark at the base of the baby's spine, which can indicate that this birth defect is present. If such a birthmark is found, an MRI or CT scan should be done to rule out a tethered spinal cord. Despite much research on spina bifida, it is still not known what causes the majority of human cases, though it likely results from the interaction of multiple genetic and environmental factors. As with other neural tube defects, the risk of spina bifida can be dramatically lowered by the simple supplementation of the B vitamin, folic acid, to the diet of women of childbearing age, though it is not known why {spina bifida occulta birthmark/hairmark} [see also: anencephaly, myelomeningocele, spina bifida]
spinnaker: - a large, lightweight triangular sail set opposite the mainsail at the front of a racing yacht, used for sailing downwind (with the wind behind the boat) {image}
spiritualism: n. - 1. the belief that the dead communicate with the living, usually through a medium (as by rapping or trances) 2. a movement comprising religious organizations emphasizing communication with the dead through a medium 3. the philosophical doctrine that all reality is spiritual, not material
spizzerinctum: n. - the will or energy to succeed: ambition, vigor, vitality
spoonerism: n. - a transposition of the initial sounds of two or more words, eg. "I'd like to have a chilled greese," instead of "I'd like to have a grilled cheese."
spoor: n. (see also v.) - the track or trail of a wild animal
spotlight effect: n. - the tendency to believe that other people are paying closer attention to one's appearance and behavior than they really are
Stakhanovite: n. - a Soviet industrial worker awarded recognition and special privileges for output beyond production norms: workaholic
stare decisis: n. - (Latin) (Law) the legal doctrine requiring lower courts to apply the rulings and opinions of higher courts (particularly appellate courts) when hearing or deciding similar cases concerning the same legal question. The same court or a higher court may later overrule a decision if it is shown to be contrary to established law (such as statutory or constitutional law). Stare decisis is designed to ensure the stability and consistency of law; literally, "let the decision stand" or "to stand by a decision" [see also: case law, precedent]
status quo bias: n. - (Logic) a kind of cognitive bias (irrational tendency) in which people prefer their current situation, status, or environment over any change -- even if that change would bring improvement
statutory law: n. - (Law) the body of written laws created by acts of legislation. Statutes of state and local jurisdictions must not contradict federal statutes
staurophobia: n. - fear of crosses or the crucifix
stenography: n. - the action or process of writing in shorthand (a way of writing very quickly by using a special set of symbols in place of words and phrases)
stereoelectroencephalography: n. - the recording of electrical activity in three planes of the brain, i.e., with surface and depth electrodes
stereognosis: n. - the ability to recognize objects by sense of touch
sternutation: n. - the act or noise of sneezing; a sneeze
stevedore: n. - a person whose job is to load and unload ships at a dock: docker, dockworker, longshoreman
sticky wicket: n. - a difficult, embarrassing or uncertain situation or problem
stigmata: n. - bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain corresponding in location to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, usually occurring during states of religious ecstasy or hysteria
stile: n. - a series of steps or rungs that allow a person to pass through or over a wall or fence that still keeps animals (such as sheep, horses, or cattle) inside the fence or wall. A 'turnstile' achieves a similar goal using doors that swing only one direction (such as at a zoo, where the exit doors let people leave but not come back in the same way--forcing them to go through the main entrance to get back in).
stoic: n. - 1. one apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain 2. (Stoic) a member of a school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium about 300 B.C.
stormy petrel: n. - 1. any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae, having sooty plumage and a white rump 2. one who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble; a rebel
stratum corneum: n. - the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) consisting of dead and peeling cells. Its purpose is to protect underlying skin tissue from infection, dehydration, etc.: horny layer
strikhedonia: n. - the pleasure of being able to say 'to hell with it'
subaltern: n. (see also adj.) - 1. (British Military) an officer in the British Army of a rank below captain, especially a second lieutenant: junior officer 2. a person holding an inferior, secondary or subordinate position 3. (Logic) a proposition that is implied by a universal proposition. For example: "some S are P" is a subaltern proposition to the universal proposition "all S are P"; "some crows are black" is a subaltern of the universal "all crows are black" 4. (Post-Colonial Theory) marginalized groups and the lower classes; a person or group of people who, due to having very low social status, lack the power to make meaningful choices in their lives
subfusc: n. (see also adj.) - dark or dull clothing
subterfuge: n. - a deceptive device or stratagem
succor: n. - 1. assistance in time of distress: aid, help, ministration, relief 2. somebody or something that provides help or relief
Sufism: n. - (Islam) a particular spiritual approach and lifestyle adopted by a controversial, mystical sect of Islam. Sufism holds that direct, intimate knowledge of All�h can be achieved through spiritual discipline. It's aim is to gain unity with Allah and obtain higher knowledge through communal ceremonies where trance is widely used. This is an inward path of communion with God, complementing the outward religious law
sumpsimus: n. - [antonym: mumpsimus] 1. persistence in using a strictly correct term as opposed to an incorrect but more common form 2. a person who is stubborn or passionate about strict correctness, especially about word usage
Sunnah: n. - (Islam) the body of Islamic custom and practice based on the Hadith (what Muhammad did and said), demonstrating the ideal way of life prescribed in Islam. The Sunnah is an important source of Islamic law, second only to the Qur'an
Sunni: n. - (Islam) the larger of the two great divisions of Islam. The Sunni accept the first four caliphs as rightful successors to Muhammad, reject the claims of Ali's line, and believe that they are the true followers of the Sunnah (the guide to proper behavior set forth by Muhammad's personal deeds and utterances) [see also: Shiite]
surah: n. - a twilled fabric of silk or rayon used in women's clothing. Surah is soft, lightweight, flexible, and wrinkles easily
sūrah: n. - (Islam) a chapter of the Qur'an (there are 114 total); in Arabic the term literally means "evidence" or "proof"
susurration: n. - a whispering sound; a soft murmur
supererogation: n. - the act of performing more than is required by duty, obligation, or need
svengali: n. - 1. someone who manipulates or controls another person (usually for evil or selfish purposes), especially in a hidden, subtle, "behind-the-scenes" or hypnotic way 2. the villainous musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894) who controls Trilby's singing voice through hypnosis
swagger: n. (see also v.) - an arrogant way of walking or behaving
sybarite: n. - a person devoted to luxury and pleasure
sycophant: n. (see also adj.) - a self-serving person who attempts to gain a personal advantage by flattering influential people: apple-polisher, bootlick, bootlicker, brownnose, brownnoser, clawback, easy rider, flatterer, flunky, foot-licker, gopher, groveler, lackey, lickspit, lickspittle, minion, parasite, self-seeker, slave, stooge, toady, truckler, tuft-hunter, yes-man
syllepsis: n. - (Rhetoric) 1. a figure of speech in which a word is applied to two or more other words but agrees in number, gender, or case with only one of them. "Neither Fred nor I want to" is an example of syllepsis, where "want" agrees with "I" but not "Fred" 2. a type of pun in which one word modifies two or more other words but has a different meaning in relation to each, as in these examples: "It's a small apartment. I've barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends." -- Dorothy Parker; "We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately." -- Benjamin Franklin; "You held your breath and the door for me" -- Alanis Morissette; "Fix the problem, not the blame." -- Dave Weinbaum: zeugma
sylph: n. - 1. an imaginary being inhabiting the air: fairy 2. a slender, graceful woman
symbolophobia: n. - fear of symbolism
symmetrophobia: n. - fear of symmetry
syndic: n. - 1. a government official: bureaucrat, civil servant, functionary, public servant 2. (British) a business agent of a corporation or university: delegate, representative
synecdoche: n. - (Rhetoric) a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as "hand" for "worker"; "sail" for "ship"; "wheels" for "automobile"; or calling a runner "legs"), the whole for a part (as "the law" for "police officer"), the specific for the general (as "cutthroat" for "assassin"), the general for the specific (as "thief" for "pickpocket"; or "creature" for "man"), or the material for the thing made from it (as "steel" for "sword")
synergy: n. - 1. the interaction of two or more things (muscles or drugs for example) so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. In the case of drugs, the result may be dangerous to the patient 2. the cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect
synesthesia: n. - 1. having a sensation that is different from the one being stimulated. The most common form of synesthesia may be "colored hearing," in which certain sounds may cause the sensation of certain colors (for example, hearing the note B flat and seeing the color purple) 2. (Literary Device) describing an experience using a different sense than what is associated with that experience, such as 'smelling blue' or 'hearing the bitterness of food' 3. a sensation experienced in a part of the body other than the part stimulated, such as someone having a heart attack who feels pain in their back or arm instead of in their chest
syzygy: n. - 1. the straight-line conjunction or opposition of three celestial bodies, for example, the Sun, Earth, and Moon are in syzygy during eclipses (both solar and lunar) 2. a pair of things, especially a pair of opposites 3. the intimately united and apparently fused condition of certain low organisms during reproductive union 4. a metrical unit of two feet in classical Greek and Latin verse