Search Menu

Words for Things You Never Knew Had Names

Words for Things You Never Knew Had Names

When I was little, I asked my mom, “Why does everything have a name?” I chose to float this question while we were battling our way through the mall for some last-minute Christmas shopping, so she was harried and distracted while I was eight years old and basking in the glory of my philosophical wonderings. She explained in exasperation, “Because otherwise we’d have to refer to everything as ‘it’ or ‘that thing,’ and nobody would have any idea what anyone was talking about.” So there was my answer, and poof! I suddenly achieved a whole new level of cosmic understanding. Everything has a name… even the following:

Word: armsaye

Meaning: It’s the armhole in your shirt, because "armhole" was just too obvious.
Word: borborygmus
Meaning: This is when your stomach rumbles, but I’m going to go ahead and say what we’re all really thinking—it’s when your stomach gives an explosive roar like the MGM lion and everyone in class looks up from their test to stare at you with judgment in their eyes and fear in their hearts.

Word: dysania
Meaning: Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. I will freely admit that I exist in a constant state of dysania. It's closely related to slugabed, which means a person who remains in bed long after the usual time of rising. (I live in a constant state of that also.)

Word: petrichor
Meaning: The way it smells after it rains. Or a telepathic password. (Doctor Who, anyone?)

Word: mondegreen
Meaning: Misheard lyrics. For example, how many people here thought “all of the other reindeer” was “Olive the other reindeer” and remained convinced that there was a total asshat reindeer named Olive running amok who used to laugh at Rudolph, call him names, and absolutely forbid him from joining any reindeer games?

Word: obdormition
Meaning: When your foot falls asleep, and we all know what comes next—you begin dancing around frantically and slamming your foot into solid objects to get rid of that pins-and-needles feeling, to the general alarm of everyone else in the room.

Word: spraints
Meaning: This refers to “otter dung." Apparently the term “otter dung” didn't do it justice.

Word: ampersand
Meaning: It’s the name given to the little “&” symbol. It actually used to be part of the alphabet but was disgracefully kicked out of the club just like Pluto.

Word: semantic satiation
Meaning: When you say a word so many times it loses its meaning. For instance, go ahead and say “umbrella” eighty or ninety times in a row and behold the existential crisis that’s most assuredly coming your way.

Word: zedonk
Meaning: The offspring between a donkey and a zebra, which is weird, because I’ve been referring to that as a donkbra.

Word: tittle
Meaning: It’s the dot over a lowercase i or j. This was recently a Jeopardy! question, so for everyone who says it’s a useless word you’ll never need to know, well, I totally impressed my mom with that one in Double Jeopardy, so put that in your juice box and suck it! (By "totally" I mean "marginally," and by "impressed" I mean "frightened." I bellowed it quite loudly.)

Word: collywobbles
Meaning: It’s when you have that butterflies-having-a-mosh-pit-in-your-stomach feeling.

Word: interrobang
Meaning: Personally I think this sounds like the world’s most intense boomerang, but it’s actually just the double use of punctuation marks (?!). It's often used to convey shock, anger, and incredulity all rolled into one, like, "What are doing with that really intense boomerang?!"

Word: natiform
Meaning: Buttock-shaped. You're welcome.


Topics: Books, Life
Tags: language, vocabulary, words, funny things, english language

Write your own comment!

About the Author

In real life, she goes by the name Courtney Gorter. This is a closely guarded secret, and you're the only one who knows about it, so be cool. You can follow her on Twitter or check out her website if you want, but it's just going to be a lot of complaining.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email