Tag Archives: Etymology

Four English Words Derived From Gaelic

Ach, he’s feeling the shortage of whisky. We’re all feeling it, Sergeant. Never mind. Good things will come again, and we’ll have whisky galore. Uisge beatha gu leòir. Compton Mackenzie, Whisky Galore (1947) I’ve written before about the relative dearth of Scottish Gaelic vocabulary in Scottish English. Instead, much of the difference in vocabulary between … Continue reading Four English Words Derived From Gaelic


ˈpædʒəntrɪ / ˈpeɪdʒəntrɪ pageantry: 1) splendid display, gorgeous spectacular show; 2) empty or specious display, show without substance What pageantry, what feats, what shows,What minstrelsy, and pretty din,The regent made in MytileneTo greet the king. William Shakespeare, Pericles, Prince of Tyre Act V, Scene II The coronation of King Charles III got me thinking about … Continue reading Pageantry


prɪˈtɛnʃəs pretentious: professing or making claim to great merit or importance, especially when unwarranted among […a]nd amongst. Most such forms ending in -st, such as whilst and amidst, are archaisms in American English. Amongst is no exception: in American English it is pretentious at best. Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009) I bow … Continue reading Pretentious


I must have gone for years without hearing or reading this word until the advent of the improbable television series “Outlander” in 2014 (based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels), which brought the word to the attention of (apparently) the entire English-speaking world, if not beyond. The first season of the series introduced a time-travelling twentieth-century nurse to Gaelic-speaking eighteenth-century Highland Scots, who call her a “Sassenach”. At which point, people started talking nonsense about the word on the Internet. So no change there.


ˈɒmnɪʃæmblz omnishambles: a chaotic situation, especially in politics, brought about by multiple serious mistakes and a lack of basic understanding Malcolm Tucker: Not only have you got a [redacted] bent husband and a [redacted] daughter that gets taken to school in a [redacted] sedan chair, you’re also [redacted] mental. Jesus Christ, see you, you are … Continue reading Omnishambles


The [Saharan] dust particles provide nuclei for the formation of ice crystals in clouds above the rain forest and so help to enhance or maintain precipitation over the Amazon rain forests. Equally important, trace elements within the dust such as nitrates, phosphorous [sic], and potassium are a major source of plant nutrients. Martin Williams, When … Continue reading Phosphorus