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taboo: n. (see also adj.) - 1. a prohibition against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of immediate harm from a supernatural force 2. a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure
tabouli: n. - a finely chopped salad of Lebanese origin with tomatoes, parsley, mint, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and bulgur wheat
tachometer: n. - an instrument for indicating speed of rotation
tachyphagia: n. - rapid or hasty eating (seen in some forms of regressed schizophrenia)
talipes: n. - a deformity of the foot, usually marked by a curled shape or twisted position of the ankle, heel, and toes making it impossible to place the sole flat on the ground: clubfoot {image}
Talmud: n. - (Judaism) this collection of Hebrew law and history supplements the Torah. It is composed of two parts: the first recording of the oral law of the Jewish people and commentary on the Torah by Rabbis (Mishnah) and later, more lengthy commentaries used to further explain the Mishnah and Torah (Gemara). It was developed in Palestine and in Babylon between the 2nd and 5th centuries CE. Historically, it was taught in person by a teacher to a student, but today it is available in written form. The Talmud is still the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism. The literal translation is "doctrine," "teaching," or "study"
talus: n. - 1. a sloping mass of loose stones or rocky debris at the base of a hill or cliff: scree 2. the human tarsal bone that bears the weight of the body and that connects with the tibia and fibula to form the ankle joint; the entire ankle
tamp: n. (see also v.) - a tool for pressing tobacco down into the bowl of a pipe
tanka: n. - 1. (Japanese) an unrhymed verse form in five lines, the 1st and 3rd lines have five syllables and the 2nd, 4th, and 5th have seven syllables 2. a Tibetan religious painting on fabric that can be rolled up, displayed, or carried as a banner, usually portraying the Buddha or lamas in stereotyped aspects 3. a member of a people inhabiting coastal areas in China, traditionally living on small boats clustered in colonies 4. a piece of metal encircling the base of the blade of a Japanese sword. It has the purpose of locking the guard (tsuba) in place, as well as to maintain the weapon in its scabbard (saya)
taraadin: n. - (Arabic) an "I win, you win" solution to a problem or dispute; ending an argument in such a way that saves face for everyone involved, or that makes everyone happy
tarantism: n. - 1. a nervous hysteria characterized by melancholy, stupor, madness and uncontrollable body movements similar to frenzied dancing. It was common in southern Italy between the 15th and 17th centuries (especially Taranto, Italy) and formerly believed to be caused by the bite of the tarantula. It was thought to be incapable of cure except by dancing to appropriate music 2. an urge to overcome melancholy by dancing
tardigrade: n. (see also adj.) - any of various slow-moving, microscopic invertebrates (of the phylum Tardigrada) related to arthropods, having four body segments and eight legs, and living in water or damp moss: bear animalcule, water bear {image}
tare: n. - 1. the weight of an empty container being used to weigh something. It must be known so that it can be subtracted from the result once the thing or material being weighed is added 2. the weight of a truck or large container without any cargo or passengers, which must be subtracted to determine the weight of what it's carrying or holding; 3. (Chemistry) on a classic scale or balance, an empty container the same weight as the one being used to weigh an item or amount of material -- this makes sure that the difference in the two sides of the scale is based only on the item or material being weighed: counterbalance 4. a kind of weedy grass that grows in grain fields that's related to legumes and is raised for forage () or for their edible seeds: vetch 5. (Bible) a troublesome, poisonous weed thought of as a "seed of evil", thought to be the darnel: poison rye grass
tartan: n. - any of numerous textile patterns consisting of stripes of varying widths and colors crossed at right angles against a solid background, each forming a distinctive design worn by the members of a Scottish clan: plaid 2. a small, single-masted coasting ship, used in the Mediterranean, with a large lateen sail
tatami: n. - (Japanese) 1. a thickly woven straw mat, used especially in Japanese homes as a floor covering {image} 2. the mat that marks the competition area in judo, usually made of pressed foam and 16 square meters in area
tategaki: n. - (Japanese) this word designates Japanese writing done in the traditional vertical pattern, with characters going from top to bottom and each new column starting to the left of the preceding one. The stroke order and direction of kanji and kana are designed to facilitate writing in this manner; literally, "horizontal writing" {image} [see also: yokogaki]
tatterdemalion: n. (see also adj.) - a person wearing ragged or tattered clothing: bum, ragamuffin, street urchin
tautology: n. - 1. the needless repetition of an idea using different words; useless restatement: redundancy (For example, the sentence "Is a score of 85 adequate enough?" is a tautology because 'adequate' and 'enough' mean the same thing. Likewise, a "slow crawl" is a tautology because, by definition, crawls are slow.) 2. (Logic) a statement that is true in all cases and, therefore, is useless. (For example, the statement "Tomorrow, my football team will win the game or it won't." is technically true, but worthless when debating the team's chances of winning.)
tefillin: n. - (Judaism) small leather boxes with long leather straps, worn by the rabbi and other Jewish men during weekday morning prayers in Orthodox or Conservative synagogues. Men wear one box over their foreheads and the other one on their left arms. Inside the leather boxes are slips of parchment inscribed with scriptural passages reminding worshipers to keep the Jewish law
Teleological Argument: n. - (Philosophy/Religion) the doctrine that the world shows evidence of purpose or design, and therefore a god who designed the universe must exist. Common arguments are that "final causes" reveal the purpose of existence (for example, a natural disaster might be seen as a punishment from God as opposed to a result of tectonic plate movements) or that the natural world is too complex to have come into being or developed without a designer (the most famous example of which, invented by William Paley, is the idea that the complexity of watches prove the existence of a watchmaker, hence the complexity of the universe proves a divine designer). Typically, this argument rejects evolution/science as an explanation for the complexity of the world: argument from design, argument for intelligent design
teleology: n. - (Philosophy) 1. the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose or "final cause" rather than immediate cause -- in other words, looking to results (not causes) to determine the meaning of an event or observation. For example, to understand getting hit in the head with a baseball, a teleological study would look not at the invention and popularity of baseball or the probability of getting hit, but at the consequences of the person being hit. (Did it give them a light bruise? Give them a concussion that got them out of work on the day they were supposed to give a presentation for which they were unprepared? Put them in a coma that bankrupted their family? Kill them?) Whatever the consequences, those would be the focus of giving meaning to the event 2. the belief that natural phenomena have a predetermined purpose and are determined by supernatural or divine intent, not by mechanical or purely natural laws [antonym: naturalism] 3. (Vitalism) the doctrine that phenomena are guided not only by mechanical forces but also that they move toward certain goals, such as self-realization or enlightenment
teosinte: n. - a tall annual grass of Mexico and Central America, perhaps the ancestor of corn and grown as forage
tergiversation: n. (see also v.) - 1. the act of practicing evasion or of being deliberately ambiguous: equivocation 2. the act of abandoning a party, cause, position or faith: desertion
termagant: n. - a quarrelsome, scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman: shrew, virago
tetragrammaton: n. - (Judiasm) the four Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH or JHVH used as a biblical proper name for God, regarded by Jews as too holy to pronouce
tetralogy: n. - 1. a group of four dramatic pieces presented consecutively on the Attic stage at the Dionysiac festival 2. a series of four connected works (as operas or novels)
teutophobia: n. - fear of Germans or German culture
thalidomide: n. - (Medicine) a drug prescribed during the 1950s in Europe to treat morning sickness (nausea during early pregnancy). It was withdrawn from sale after discovered to cause severe birth defects, particularly severely stunted arms and legs or barely any limbs at all. Today, it is still sometimes prescribed to treat leprosy {image: thalidomide child}
thanatology: n. - the branch of science that studies the medical, psychological, and sociological aspects of death and the ways in which people deal with it
thanatophobia: n. - fear of death or dying
thaumaturgy: n. - the performance of miracles: bewitchment, conjuring, enchantment, incantation, magic, necromancy, sorcery, witchcraft, witchery, wizardry
theolepsy: n. - seizure or possession by a deity
theophany: n. - 1. an appearance or vision of a god to a particular human, especially in human form 2. a human manifestation of a god: divine incarnation
theremin: n. - one of the earliest electronic musical instruments, the theremin is made up of two metal antennae or rods. Moving the right hand nearer to and farther from the vertical antenna controls the melody (notes or pitch), while moving the left hand above the horizontal antenna controls volume and phrasing. It is the only musical instrument played without being touched. Because the sound of a theremin is a sort of eerie whine, it was often used for special effects in old horror movies. It can also be heard in the theme to the original Star Trek series and during the chorus of "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys. It was named for its inventor, the Russian Leon Theremin {video demonstration, "Claire de Lune" on theremin}
theriomaniac: n. - someone with a passion for hunting wild beasts
third estate: n. - the third of three traditional social and political estates in societies that date from feudal times, consisting of the common people viewed as forming a political order having representation in a parliament (especially France and England)
threpterophilia: n. - an attraction to or fondness for female nurses
timber shifter: n. - an amateur chess player who merely moves the pieces across the board without skill (here, 'timber' assumes the pieces are made of wood): patzer
time dilation: n. - 1. (Physics: Special Relativity) a phenomenon in which an object (such as a clock) moving around a stationary observer experiences time more slowly than the observer. The slowing of time becomes more apparent the closer the object's movement is to the speed of light. Satellites orbiting Earth experience this form of time dilation 2. (Physics: General Relativity) the slowing of time due to gravity. For example, clocks on the Earth's surface run more slowly than clocks at high altitudes, where gravitational forces are weaker. Satellites orbiting Earth also experience this form of time dilation
timocracy: n. - 1. in Plato's philosophy, a form of government in which ambition for honor, power and military glory motivates the rulers (as in Sparta) 2. in Aristotle's philosophy, a form of government in which civic honor or political power increases with the amount of property one owns 3. a form of government in which love of honor is the guiding principle of the rulers; an ideal government ruled by honorable people 4. a form of government in which the ownership of property is a requirement for holding office; government by the propertied class
tintinnabulation: n. - the ringing or sounding of bells
toady: n. (see also v.) - one who flatters in the hope of gaining favors: apple-polisher, boot-licker, leech, parasite, sponge, sycophant, yes-man
Tocharian: n. - 1. a member of a people living in the Tarim Basin of Chinese Turkistan (now the Xinjiang province of northwestern China) from around 1800 BCE until the 8th or 9th century CE. The Tocharians are believed to have migrated into China from Eastern Europe because their language is distinctly of the Western (Centum) family, and there is evidence both from the Tarim mummies and Chinese writings that many of them had blonde or red hair and blue eyes, characteristics also found in present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Central Asia {map} 2. either of the two Indo-European languages of the Tocharian people: Tocharian A (Turfanian, Arsi, or East Tocharian) and Tocharian B (Kuchean or West Tocharian). Though now long extinct, these languages were recorded from roughly the 6th to 9th centuries CE {image}
tocsin: n. - 1. an alarm bell, or the ringing of a bell for the purpose of alarm: warning bell 2. a warning or omen
tongueshot: n. - speaking distance
toponym: n. - 1. a name derived from a place or region 2. a place name
Torah: n. - (Judaism) literally, "teaching," "instruction," or "law" 1. 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: Pentateuch 2. a scroll of parchment on which the first five books of the Hebrew Scripture is written; used in a synagogue during services 3. the entire body of Hebrew religious law and learning, including both sacred writings and oral tradition (the Talmud)
torsion: n. - 1. the act or process of being twisted around an axis: twisting, winding 2. the state or condition of being twisted {image} 3. the strain, stress, or deformation produced when forces twist something in one direction at one end and, at the other end, hold it still or twist it in the opposite direction (such as clockwise versus counter-clockwise)
toxocariasis: n. - an infestation of the larvae of a kind of roundworm in human beings, from worm eggs picked up from contaminated soil or domestic pets. Typically affecting either the eye or the internal organs, the ocular form of the disease can lead to permanent loss of vision
trammel: n. (see also v.) - 1. a kind of net for catching birds, fish, etc. 2. a kind of shackle used for making a horse amble 3. something that impedes activity, progress, or freedom, as a net or shackle 4. an iron hook of various forms and sizes, used for handing kettles and other vessels over the fire 5. an instrument for drawing ellipses 6. an instrument for aligning or adjusting parts of a machine
transubstantiation: n. - 1. (Catholicism) the doctrine holding that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the bod and blood of Jesus, although their appearances remain the same [antonym: consubstantiation] 2. conversion of one substance into another: transmutation
trattoria: n. - a small, inexpensive, Italian restaurant
trebuchet: n. - 1. a medieval catapult for hurling heavy stones 2. a kind of chair formerly used for punishing scolding, abrasive, nagging women (and also dishonest tradesmen) by fastening them in it, usually in front of their doors, to be pelted and hooted at by the mob, but sometimes to be taken to the water and ducked: castigatory, cucking stool, tumbrel
trencher: n. - 1. a long dish, plate, or wooden platter for carving or serving food. Originally, this "dish" was a piece of stale bread filled with food. At the end of the meal, it was typically either eaten with a sauce or donated to the poor 2. someone or something that digs trenches; in particular, a self-propelled machine used to dig trenches for pipelines and cables
trencherman: n. - a hearty eater: glutton, gormandizer, gourmand
trephine: n. - a surgical instrument having circular, saw-like edges, used to cut out circular sections of bone (usually from the skull) or to remove the corneal tissue covering the eye {ancient trephine}
trepidation: n. - a state of nervous agitation: apprehension, alarm, dread, fear, fright, panic
tribade: n. - a female homosexual, especially one who participates in tribadism (rubbing vaginas together in imitation of heterosexual sex): lesbian
tribadism: n. - the lesbian sex practice of rubbing two vaginas together, in simulation of heterosexual intercourse
tribology: n. - the study of the mechanisms of friction, lubrication, and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion
triboluminescence: n. - the quality of emitting light under friction or violent mechanical pressure
trichophobia: n. - fear of hair
triclosan: n. - a whitish powder used in soaps, deodorants, shaving creams, mouthwashes, toothpastes, and other cleaning supplies to kill bacteria and fungi. It is also being infused with an increasing number of consumer products, such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags. There are some health concerns about its use, such as: triclosan's potential to be an endocrine disrupter, its ability to combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform gas (which the EPA considers a probable human carcinogen [something which can cause cancer]), and its ability to form chemicals which later become dioxins (very powerful endocrine disrupters)
triptych: n. - 1. a painting or carving on three panels, typically hinged together vertically and used as an altarpiece (usually designed so that when the smaller outer panels are folded the middle part is entirely covered) 2. a hinged writing tablet consisting of three leaves, used in ancient Rome
triskaidekaphobia: n. - fear of the number 13
triumvirate: n. - 1. government by three in coalition or association; the term of such a government 2. the union of three men who obtained the government of the Roman empire 3. an association or a group of three: threesome, triad, trinity, trio, troika
troglodyte: n. - 1. somebody living in a cave or den, especially somebody who belonged to a prehistoric cave-dwelling community: cave dweller, caveman 2. a solitary person who lives alone, especially somebody who is antisocial or unconventional: hermit, pariah, recluse, rogue, separatist 3. a person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, brutish, ignorant or old-fashioned (often deliberately) 4. an anthropoid ape, such as a gorilla or chimpanzee 5. an animal that lives underground, as an ant or a worm
troika: n. - 1. a Russian carriage or sled drawn by a team of three horses abreast 2. an association or a group of three: threesome, triad, trinity, trio, triumvirate
troll: n. - in Usenet, a message purposely containing an obvious exaggeration or factual error. The troller hopes to trick a gullible person into posting a follow-up post pointing out the error
trolleyology: n. - the study of the correlation between the contents of a person's shopping cart (trolley) and that person's personality
trope: n. - 1. a word, phrase, expression, or image that is used in a figurative or nonliteral way, usually used for rhetorical effect: figure of speech 2. in the medieval Christian Church, a phrase or text of poetry or prose inserted into the service of the Mass for the purpose of amplifying and embellishing an independently complete liturgical text
tropism: n. - the involuntary movement of an organism or a part toward or away from light, heat, gravity, or other external stimuli (such as a plant which leans toward the light or the attraction of a virus to a particular type of cell or host tissue)
Troxler's effect: n. - the phenomenon in which, after staring at a fixed point for 20 seconds or more, nearby images that are not being focused on (ie. are in one's peripheral vision) fade away or disappear. The effect is enhanced if the peripheral images are small, faint, blurry, or of low contrast against the background. Also, the further away the peripheral images, the stronger the effect. It happens because the brain tends to ignore information deemed repetitive or unimportant, such as information that is unchanging or is in the background, so that it can pay more attention to information that is changing or that is purposefully in focus. Also known as Troxler's fading, this perceptual trick is named for Ignaz Troxler, the scientist who first discovered it in 1804. To see the effect at work, note how the purple dots in this image begin to disappear after a short time staring at the cross at the center.
truculence: n. - 1. a disposition to fight, especially with fierce aggressiveness: belligerence, ferocity 2. ferociously cruel actions or behavior
truthiness: n. - the state in which something feels true or right (emotionally, intuitively, instinctively, or "from the gut"), regardless of whether or not it actually is true or right; the quality in which something is believed emotionally or instinctively, or because one wishes it to be true, without regard to evidence, rational thought, or actual facts [Stephen Colbert popularized this word during the first episode (October 17, 2005) of his satirical television program The Colbert Report, as the subject of a segment called "The Wørd". 'Truthiness' was named the word of the year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.]
tsuifuku: n. - (Japanese) ritual suicide (seppuku) of a samurai retainer at the time of his master's death
tuatara: n. - a large spiny reptile of islands off the coast of New Zealand that has a vestigial third eye in the middle of the forehead representing the pineal gland and that is the only surviving rhynchocephalian, an order that flourished during the Mesozoic Era
tub-thumper: n. - a loudly vocal supporter of a cause, especially a passionately ranting public speaker
tumbrel: n. - 1. a two-wheeled cart, especially a farmer's cart used for carrying dung that can be tilted to dump a load 2. a covered cart with two wheels formerly used to carry ammunition and equipment for the artillery 3. a crude cart used to carry condemned prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution 4. a kind of chair formerly used for punishing scolding, abrasive, nagging women (and also dishonest tradesmen) by fastening them in it, usually in front of their doors, to be pelted and hooted at by the mob, but sometimes to be taken to the water and ducked: castigatory, cucking stool, trebuchet
tumulus: n. - 1. a heap of earth and stones raised over a grave, especially at an ancient gravesite: barrow, burial mound, cairn 2. a dome-like swelling or mound formed in congealed lava
turmeric: n. - 1. a tropical Asian plant of the ginger family with yellow flowers and aromatic rhizomes (underground stems that send out roots and shoots from its nodes) that are dried to produce spices {image} 2. a bright yellow powder obtained from the turmeric plant, used for flavouring and colouring in Asian cookery (especially curry), and also sometimes used in medicine. It is also used to give a yellow color to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broth, and other foods (as a much cheaper replacement for saffron)
turmeric paper : n. - a strip of test paper saturated with turmeric power used to detect the presence of alkalis (which turns it brown) and of boric acid (which turns it reddish or red-brown)
turophile: n. - a connoisseur of cheese; a cheese fancier
turpitude: n. - 1. inherent baseness or vileness of principle, words, or actions: depravity 2. a base act
twilight: n. - 1. the time just after sunset but before nightfall, when the fading light from the sun can still be seen but the sun itself cannot 2. any “in between” state or important period of transition (day and night, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, an empire’s decline before its collapse, etc.)
tyro: n. - a beginner in learning: abecedarian, amateur, novice
ukase: n. - 1. in imperial Russia, a published proclamation or order having the force of law 2. any order or decree issued by an authority: edict
ultracrepidarian: n. (see also adj.) - one who gives opinions in subjects they know nothing about; an ignorant or presumptuous critic
ultrasound: n. - 1. (Physics) sound waves at frequencies above the range of human hearing (above about 20,000 hertz, or 20 kHz). It is used in cleaning metallic parts, echo sounding, medical diagnosis and therapy, etc [antonym: infrasound] 2. (Medicine) the use of reflected ultrasonic waves (waves with a higher frequency than humans can hear) to produce an image (sonogram) of an internal body structure or a developing fetus, or to generate deep heat to localized tissues
umber: n. (see also v. & adj.) - 1. soil highly valued as a permanent pigment, it is dark yellowish-brown in its raw state raw and dark reddish-brown when roasted 2. a moderate to dark yellowish brown
umbrage: n. - 1. resentment or anger arising from some offense: annoyance, displeasure, indignation, jealousy, offense 2. the slightest indication or vaguest feeling of suspicion, doubt, or hostility 3. something that gives shade (for example: an umbrella or a tree)
ummah: n. - (Islam) the community of all Muslims
umwelt: n. - (German) (Psychology) the surrounding environment as it is experienced and interpreted by a specific individual; the self-centered world; literally, "environment" or "surrounding world"
unguent: n. - a salve for soothing or healing: balm, lubricant, ointment
ungulate: n. - a mammal with hooves on its feet, typically herbivores with four legs, such as horses, cattle, deer, rhinoceros, swine, camels, giraffes, and elephants
unilateralism: n. - a tendency of nations to conduct their foreign affairs individualistically, characterized by minimal consultation and involvement with other nations, even their allies
uremia: n. - a toxic condition which is caused by the presence of excessive amounts of urea (urine) in the blood, which may be a sign of kidney disease or failure
urophobia: n. - fear of urine or urinating
usufruct: n. - the right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages of something belonging to another, as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way
uterine sibling: n. - siblings who have only their mother in common: half-brother, half-sister, uterine brother, uterine sister (see also: brother-german, sister-german, sibling-german, agnate sibling)
utilitarianism: n. - the doctrine that what is useful is good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number
vaccinophobia: n. - fear of vaccination
vade mecum: n. - (Latin) literally, "go with me" 1. a guidebook or concise manual providing specific information about a certain subject or location, especially one carried around constantly and referred to often; a useful book: enchiridion, handbook, reference book 2. an object that a person carries with them constantly because it is useful 3. [archaic] a small guidebook, handbook, or manual carried about during the Middle Ages by physicians, astrologers, and tradesmen for quick reference and computation. Often suspended from a girdle or belt, some were designed so that the pages folded out like a map or accordion-style
vagary: n. - 1. an unexpected, unpredictable, or startling change, such as quick-changing weather or a fluctuation in the stock market 2. a wild, impulsive, or unexpected idea, desire, or action: caprice, fling, lark, oddity, whim
vakil: n. - in India and surrounding Southern Asia, a lawyer or legal representative in a court of law
Vatican II: n. - an ecclesiastical, theological, and ecumenical congress convened in the autumns from 1962 through 1965, producing 16 documents which greatly modernized the face of Roman Catholicism. Changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council (AKA: Vatican II) include: the use of the vernacular language in Mass, increased participation by the laity, Bible study groups, Marriage Encounter, social action organizations, and the charismatic renewal movement
velar: n. - (Linguistics) a consonant sound (such as k, g, or ng in English) made by pressing the back part of the tongue against the back part of the roof of the mouth
venesection: n. - the operation of opening a vein for letting blood: phlebotomy
ventriloquist: n. - an entertainer who makes their voice seem to come from a dummy of a person or animal; from Latin "belly talker"
verbicide: n. - 1. the killing or destruction of a word by intentionally distorting its meaning (as in punning) 2. someone who intentionally twists or distorts the meaning of a word
verbophobia: n. - fear of words: logophobia
verdigris: n. - 1. a green or bluish coating which forms on copper, brass, or bronze that has been exposed to the damp for long periods of time, made up primarily of copper sulfate 2. a blue or green powder used as a paint pigment
verge: n. - 1. a rod or staff carried as an emblem of authority or symbol of office 2. the spindle of a balance wheel in early clock and watch mechanisms 3. the male organ of copulation in certain invertebrates
verger: n. - 1. a church officer who takes care of the interior of the building, keeps order during services, and acts as an attendant during ceremonies: sacristan, sexton 2. one who carries the verge (staff of office) or other emblem of authority before a scholastic, legal, or religious dignitary in a procession
verisimilitude: n. - the appearance of being true or real; the quality of seeming to be true
vernacular: n. (see also adj.) - 1. the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people of a country or region, as opposed to scholarly or literary speech; common, ordinary, unsophisticated language 2. (informal) the specialized vocabulary of a group, activity, profession or trade; for example, "legal vernacular"
veronica: n. - 1. in bullfighting, a move in which the bullfighter (AKA: matador) stands with both feet in a fixed position and slowly swings the cape away from the charging bull 2. an annual herb or bush of the figwort family with upright stems bearing narrow pointed leaves and spikes of small, blue or purple flowers in clusters {image} 3. (Christianity) the impression of Jesus Christ's face believed by some to have been miraculously left on the cloth with which Saint Veronica wiped it on his way to his crucifixion 4. (Christianity) a cloth bearing a representation of Jesus Christ's face, sometimes worn by pilgrims
versicle: n. - a short verse spoken or chanted by a priest and followed by a response from the congregation
verso: n. - in printing, the left-side, even-numbered page in a two-page spread
vertically flat monitor: n. - a monitor design that somewhat reduces image distortion because it is curved like cylinders, instead of like spheres, as most cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are
vespers: n. - 1. a worship service held in the late afternoon or evening in many Western Christian churches, now often made a public service on Sundays 2. (Roman Catholic) (a) the sixth of the seven canonical hours (listed in a breviary) that are set aside for prayer each day for priests and other members of religious orders (b) a service held on Sundays early evening
vesthibitionism: n. - the act of a woman flirtatiously displaying her undergarments
vestiphobia: n. - fear of clothing
vicar: n. - 1. (Roman Catholicism) a priest who acts for another higher-ranking clergyman, such as a bishop [see also: curé] 2. (Church of England) (a) a clergyman appointed to act as priest of a parish who receives a stipend or salary but does not receive the tithes of the congregation (b) a member of the clergy who acts in place of a rector or bishop at Communion [see also: rector] 3. (Episcopal Church) a clergyman in charge of a chapel: rector
vig: n. - 1. any additional payment that somebody is forced to make, for example, a bribe or interest paid to a usurer 2. a sum of money that a bookmaker or gambling establishment charges a customer for accepting a bet
vigesimation: n. - the act of killing every twentieth person
villanelle: n. - a chiefly French verse form running on two rhymes and consisting typically of five tercets (three lines) each rhyming a-b-a and a quatrain (four lines) rhyming a-b-a-a. The first and third lines of the opening tercet recur alternately at the end of the other tercets and together as the last two lines of the quatrain
vim: n. - 1. robust energy and enthusiasm; a healthy capacity for vigorous activity: dash, enthusiasm, exuberance, force, liveliness, pep, power, punch, robustness, spirit, vigor, vitality 2. an imaginative, lively style, especially in writing style
viraginity: n. - the quality of a woman possessing characteristics and behaviors usually considered masculine (such as being aggressive, loud, strong, violent, dominant, etc.)
virago: n. - 1. a woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage: amazon 2. a woman regarded as loud, scolding, ill-tempered, domineering, quarrelsome, or overbearing: shrew, termagant, vixen
vitalism: n. - (Philosophy) the doctrine that a force completely different from natural, physical, or chemical reality causes and sustains life; the belief that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living things because they contain a special non-physical element or vital principle (also called a vital force, vital spark, élan vital, soul, or simply "energy"). Though rejected by modern medicine, most traditional healing practices applied this idea in that disease was thought to be caused by an imbalance in vital forces. In the Western tradition, these were the four humours of blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile (hence, bleeding and other practices of medieval medicine), while in Eastern traditions the chi or prana were thought to get blocked or be out of balance in times of mental, emotional, or physical ill health [antonym: naturalism]
vitiate: v. - 1. to reduce the value or quality of something; to cause something to be flawed or imperfect: debase, impair, mar, poison, spoil, sully 2. to make morally corrupt: pervert, weaken 3. (Law) to make a legal agreement ineffectual or invalid: annul, invalidate, nullify, void
vitiligo: n. - (Medicine) a rare skin disease in which areas of skin lose their natural pigment, causing the appearance of smooth, whitish patches that may have darkened borders and may slowly enlarge. Hair in the affected areas is often white as well. Localized vitiligo is restricted to one area of the body. Generalized vitiligo involves loss of pigmentation over a considerable part of the body surface, usually symmetrical in distribution. Universal vitiligo involves the loss of skin color over the entire surface of the body
vitreous: n. - (see also adj.) the clear gel or liquid that fills the eye of humans and other vertebrates (animals with a spinal column). It is also called the vitreous humor {image}
vituperation: n. - an outburst of violently abusive or harshly critical language, used to express blame, censure or bitter deep-seated ill will: invective, severe censure, verbal abuse, vitriol
vivisection: n. - 1. the action of cutting into or dissecting a living body 2. the practice of examining internal organs and tissues by cutting into or dissecting a living animal, especially for the purpose of scientific research
voir dire: n. - (Old French) (U.S. Law) literally, "to speak the truth"; 1. the process of questioning potential jurors to determine which ones are qualified to serve on a jury (especially by being free from bias): jury selection 2. the process of questioning witnesses to determine whether or not they are competent for trial, especially questioning alleged expert witnesses in order to determine their competence 3. the oath administered to potential witnesses and jurors in which they swear to speak the truth, particularly during the examination to determine whether or not they are competent for trial 4. a mini-hearing held during a trial to determine whether or not contested evidence is admissible in court
Volapük: n. - one of the first attempts at constructing an artificial international language, it was invented by Johann Martin Schleyer in 1880 and enjoyed brief popularity. It is based largely on English but with some German, French and Latin roots, though often greatly modified beyond easy recognition [see also: Esperanto]
volition: n. - 1. the power or ability to decide something by yourself and to take action to get what you want: agency, discretion, elective preference, free will, power, willpower 2. the act of making a choice: resolution
volte-face: n. - an about-face; a reversal, as in policy or opinion
vortex gun: n. - these guns use an explosive charge to generate a doughnut-shaped shock wave that can knock over and stun humans at short to medium ranges. They were originally engineered as a weapon for Nazi Germany but were developed too near to the end of WWII to have ever been used
votary: n. - 1. one who is devoted, given, or addicted to some particular pursuit, subject, study, or way of life 2. a devoted admirer 3. a devout adherent of a religion or cult 4. a dedicated believer or advocate
vox barbara: n. - a questionably unconventional or "barbarous" word or phrase, especially supposedly neo-Latin terms that are formed from elements that are neither Latin nor Greek: inkhorn term
vug: n. - a small hole in a rock or vein that often contains a mineral lining that differs from that of the surrounding matrix
vulnerary: n. (see also adj.) - a remedy used in healing or treating wounds
wabi-sabi: n. - (Japanese) the beauty of imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete things--especially when they cause feelings of peaceful sadness or spiritual longing; the aesthetic (artistic preference) of valuing asymmetry, roughness, irregularity, naturalness, and rustic simplicity
wadi: n. - 1. a steep-sided water course in arid regions of North Africa and southern Asia through which water flows only after heavy rainfalls 2. oasis (especially in North Africa)
wainscot: n. - a facing or paneling used to line the walls of a room, especially when it is made of wood and finished differently from the rest of the wall {image}: dado
warren: n. - 1. a place legally authorized for keeping small game (as hare or pheasant); the privilege of hunting game in such a warren 2. a series of connected underground tunnels occupied by rabbits 3. an place where rabbits breed or are kept; a colony of rabbits 3. an area or building that is overcrowded or has a complicated layout 4. a maze-like place where one may easily become lost
wassail: n. - 1. a salutation formerly given in drinking the health of a person, as at a festivity 2. the spiced ale or other liquor with which such health salutations were drunk 3. a celebration with much drinking, especially at Christmastime
wastrel: n. - 1. a person who wastes, especially one who squanders money: spendthrift 2. a good-for-nothing person: idler, loafer
watercress: n. - a perennial European herb naturalized in the U.S. and used in salads or as a potherb
watershed: n. - 1. a ridge of land separating rivers and streams flowing in different directions 2. a crucial dividing point, line, or factor: turning point
weltanschauung: n. - a collection of beliefs or the overall perspective from which an individual or a group sees and interprets the world; a comprehensive personal or cultural conception of humanity, the world, or life: worldview
welter: n. (see also v.) an enormous, messy pile of different things; a bewildering jumble: clutter, muddle
wergild: n. - in ancient Anglo-Saxon and Germanic law, money paid to the relatives of a murder victim in order to prevent a blood feud (the amount of money required was a set amount based on the social rank of the person killed)
wherewithal: n. - means or resources at one's disposal, especially money
whillywha: n. - a flattering deceiver
white noise: n. - 1. an audio signal containing many frequencies of equal volume or intensity, such as the sound between radio stations. [Called "white noise" by analogy with "white light," which contains light from the whole range of visible frequencies.] 2. an unvarying, unobtrusive sound, such as the drone of a fan or the steady pattering of rain, especially when it drowns out other sounds: background noise
wickiup: n. - a domed hut made by the Native American tribes of the arid southwestern United States by covering a framework of arched poles with mats of bark, grass, or branches {image}
wildfeed: n. - a satellite transmission of a TV show or other broadcast that isn't meant for public viewing
williwaw: n. - 1. a sudden violent wind, especially a gust of cold land air common along mountainous coasts of high latitudes 2. a violent commotion
will-o'-the-wisp: n. - 1. a light that appears at night over marshy ground 2. a misleading or elusive goal or hope
wimple: n. - a cloth of silk, linen, or other material wound around the head, framing the face, and drawn into folds beneath the chin, worn by women in medieval times and as part of the habit of certain orders of nuns
Winchester Rifle: n. - a type of magazine rifle, first made in about 1866 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which was one of the earliest popular rifles to be able to fire several shots before it had to be reloaded
windgall: n. - a soft tumor or swelling on the fetlock joint of a horse (one of the joints between the hoof and the knee)
wisenheimer: n. - somebody inclined to make impudent or sarcastic remarks: smart aleck, wiseacre, wise cracker, wise guy
wraith: n. - 1. a vision of a person still alive, said to appear as a premonition of that person's death: apparition 2. the supposed ghost of a dead person: shade, specter, spook 3. any shadowy or insubstantial form, appearance, or representation of something
woomera: n. - a wooden stick with a notch at one end, used by Australian Aboriginals to launch a spear. The stick provides extra leverage and force by functioning as an extention of the arm. A similar device, called an atlatl, was used in the pre-Columbian Americas {image}
wushu: n. - Chinese martial arts considered collectively
wyrd: n. - a concept in Old English and Old Norse culture roughly corresponding to fate or karma. More subtle and complex than mere predestination, wyrd is concerned with the interconnected nature of all actions and how they influence each other, with the mystery of destiny, and with cosmic justice
Xanadu: n. - an idyllically beautiful place
xanthophobia: n. - fear of the color yellow
xenoglossia: n. - the act of speaking a language which one has never studied, often associated with trances, related to speaking in tongues: glossolalia
yahoo: n. - 1. a member of the race of brutes resembling men (especially in all their vices) but subject to the wise talking horses (Houyhnhnms) living on an island in the novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift 2. a crude or brutish person: boor, barbarian, churl, cretin, lout, vulgarian
yaoi: n. - (Japanese) erotic anime (cartoons) that focus on male-on-male sexuality
yegg: n. - a thug or burglar, especially a person who breaks open safes: safecracker
yips: n. - a state of nervous tension affecting an athlete (as a golfer) in the performance of a crucial action
ylem: n. - (Cosmology) in the Big Bang Theory, the proposed substance of matter that existed after the Big Bang but before the formation of the chemical elements (those on the periodic table) -- possibly a dense primordial gas made up of neutrons
yokogaki: n. - (Japanese) this word designates Japanese writing done in the nontraditional horizontal pattern, with characters going from left to write and each new row starting below the preceding one. This style of writing has gained some popularity under the influence of European languages, and is often used in subtitles and billboards; literally, "horizontal writing" {image} [see also: tategaki]
Yom Kippur: n. - (Judaism) the holiest day of the Jewish year, this is the final day of the Jewish High Holy Days, ten days of penitence that begin with Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). Yom Kippur is observed on tenth day of Jewish month of Tishri, which falls in September or October of the Roman calendar. On that day, Jewish people do not work, fast from sunrise to sunset, and pray for forgiveness of their sins. Its observance is one of the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Specific rites are described in Leviticus 16: Day of Atonement
zeitgeber: n. - an environmental agent or event (as the occurrence of light or dark) that provides the stimulus setting or resetting a biological clock of an organism
zeitgeist: n. - the general intellectual and moral state or temper characteristic of any period of time
zeitnot: n. - (Chess) time trouble in a timed match
zelophobia: n. - fear of jealousy
zenith: n. - 1. (Astronomy) the point directly above a spacecraft or other observer on the imaginary sphere against which celestial bodies appear to be projected; the point directly above you in space {image} [antonym: nadir] 2. (Astronomy) the highest point above the observer's horizon attained by a planet, star, or other celestial body 3. the upper region of the sky 4. the highest point of something: acme, apex, apogee, capstone, climax, culmination, cusp, maximum, meridian, peak, pinnacle, summit, vertex 4. the point at which someone or something is most powerful or successful
zest: n. - 1. a piece of the peel or of the thin outer skin of an orange or lemon used as flavoring 2. an enjoyable exciting quality: piquancy 3. keen enjoyment: gusto, relish
zeugma: n. - (Rhetoric) a figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses, especially when an adjective or verb has multiple meanings in relation to two or more nouns, as in "During the race he broke the record and his leg," or "He took my advice and my wallet": syllepsis
zeusophobia: n. - fear of God or gods
zoanthropy: n. - a delusion in which one believes oneself to be an animal
Zohar: n. - (Judaism) the primary written work in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah, attributed by tradition to Rabbi Simon ben Yochi, who lived about the end of the 1st century. Modern critics believe it to be a compilation of the 13th century; literally, "light," "radiance," or "splendor"
Zolaism: n. - the literary theories and practices of the French novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902); naturalism, especially in a derogatory sense
zugzwang: n. - (Chess) when a player appears to be in a safe position for the moment, but on the next move every choice available leads to disaster; when a player is forced to weaken his or her position because all possible moves are undesirable or disadvantageous
Zulu: n. - 1. a member of a Bantu people of southeast Africa, primarily inhabiting northeast Natal province in South Africa, characteristically very tall. Under apartheid, Zulu people were discriminated against, and treated as second-class citizens. Today, they are the most numerous ethnic group in the country, and have equal rights along with all other South Africans; the language spoken by these people 2. a code word for the letter "Z," used in international radio communications 3. (Rugby) a rugby tradition: after a player makes their first score ever, they are supposed to streak naked across the field or run one lap naked
Zulu Time: n. - a shorthand expression for the universal time at the 0º logitudal line (the prime meridian), used as the international standard for calculating the time in other zones: Greenwich Mean Time, Universal Time