Word: cloy

Pronunciation: kloi

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: disgust or sicken (someone) with an excess of sweetness, richness, or sentiment

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Sheldon: Would you like to see my cats?

Amy: I would. I love cats. They’re the epitome of indifference.

Sheldon: Ah, then you may find Zazzles a little cloying.

The Big Bang Theory (Season 4, Episode 3 – The Zazzy Substitution)

That’s right; it’s another vocabulary word from The Big Bang Theory! To be fair, I was already familiar with this one before I noticed it on the show, but this dialogue was the first time I could remember hearing it being used in context. This example comes from an episode when Dr. Sheldon Cooper adopts 25 cats in a subconscious attempt to get over his “girl-and-friend-but-not-girlfriend” Amy Farrah Fowler after they “break up”. Upon reconciling with her and offering to introduce his pets, Sheldon warns Amy that if she appreciates cats for their standoffish nature, she may find a certain one named Zazzles a little too sweet for her taste (because he’s so, as Sheldon puts it, “zazzy”).

To “cloy” is to sicken somebody with exaggerated sweetness. When used in its more common adjective form “cloying”, it basically means “sickeningly sweet”. The word can be traced back to the Old French verb encloyer, meaning “to drive a nail into”. This, in turn, originates from the Latin verb inclavare, which comes from the noun clavus “nail”.

You’ll probably never see me use the word “cloy” as a verb in my stories, simply because it isn’t very common. As the adjective “cloying”, however, I find it appealing. I’d probably use it to describe things (or even characters) that are too sweet for their own good, potentially to the point of putting people off. It’s always good to know a word that sums up the exact feeling you want to portray!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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