Word of the Week: Conlang

Word: conlang

Pronunciation: KAHN-lang

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a language that has been artificially created; a constructed language

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Here’s a new word I picked up from Oxford Dictionaries‘ Word of the Day segment. This one is an interesting case of a modern word created to fit a definition that’s existed for centuries. There are a handful of terms for artificial languages, but today you may know them best by the name “conlang”!

A “conlang” is a language that has been created artificially. The word arose in the 1990s with the creation of the Conlang Mailing List. This noun is short for “constructed language”, defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “a language, such as Esperanto, that has been artificially created rather than having evolved naturally through use”.

Conlangs” generally fall under one of three subcategories: engelangs (engineered languages) are used to experiment in logic, philosophy, or linguistics; auxlangs (auxiliary languages) are used to facilitate international communication; and artlangs (artistic languages) are “just for fun”, created for aesthetic pleasure or humorous effect. Some well-known examples of “conlangs” include:

  • Esperanto, an auxlang with over two million speakers worldwide;
  • Newspeak, the language of the fictional state of Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984;
  • Klingon, a fictional language from the Star Trek universe; and
  • Dothraki, a fictional language created for the Game of Thrones TV series based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series.

A notable derivative of the word “conlang” is the noun “conlanger”, meaning “a person who creates an artificial language”. You may not use the word itself in your writing, but if you write fantasy epics or other complex stories, a “conlang” or two may be a good addition to your fiction!

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

Word of the Week: Hiemal

Word: hiemal

Pronunciation: HY-ə-məl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: of, characteristic of, or occurring in winter

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Here’s a word I’ve had sitting in my vocabulary queue for a while. I first learned today’s Word of the Week about five months ago while watching my boyfriend play No Man’s Sky, where it appeared in a scan description for a planet that turned out to be covered in snow. Though I made a note of it right away, I decided to save the word for a time when it would be more relevant. Think of January and you probably picture snow and ice everywhere (at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere), right? It’s the most “hiemal” time of year!

“Hiemal” refers to winter or anything characteristic of the season. The word arose in the mid 16th century and comes from the Latin adjective hiemalis, meaning “pertaining to winter”. This adjective derives from the noun hiems, which means “winter”.

It’s worth noting that Oxford Dictionaries characterizes the word “hiemal” as rare; it’s so obscure, in fact, that the spell check on my computer (which uses American English) doesn’t even recognize it as a word! In my opinion, “hiemal” probably works best in poetry about winter, though it likely still works well in prose as a poetic synonym for “wintry”. If you like writing stories or poetry with a winter theme, “hiemal” may be a good word to include in your vocabulary!

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

Word of the Week: Jocund

Word: jocund

Pronunciation: JAH-kənd / JOH-kənd

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: cheerful and lighthearted

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day / Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. / I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
– Romeo Montague, Romeo & Juliet (3.5.9–11)

Happy New Year! It’s the first day of 2018, so let’s start the year with one more joyful word! This one is a little more formal—okay, a lot more formal—than the last two I wrote about, but it still works as a synonym for “cheerful”. Even if you don’t normally use formal vocabulary, you may still get some use out of this word; where words like “mirth” and “ebullient” fall short, “jocund” may be a more interesting choice!

Anything or anyone described as “jocund” is lighthearted and cheerful. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective jocundus, meaning “pleasant”. This adjective, a variant of jucundus, was influenced by the noun jocus “joke” and stems from the verb juvare, which means “to delight”.

In case you’re wondering about the above excerpt from Romeo & Juliet, the word “jocund” is being used to create a literary contrast: although morning is typically a pleasant time of day, it brings tragedy to the star-crossed lovers because it means they have to separate. While it seems limited to formal contexts, I’d say the word works well to capture the lighthearted mood in a historical setting, while you may prefer a similar adjective like “jocular” for more modern writing. If your characters are the cheerful and spirited type (and you’ve overused every other adjective to describe them), “jocund” may be a good word to consider for your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Ebullient

Word: ebullient

Pronunciation: i-BƏL-yənt

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: cheerful and full of energy

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Merry Christmas! It’s the last Word of the Week of 2017, and since it also happens to be a festive holiday, I figured it would be fun to end this year’s vocabulary segment with a joyful word! There are plenty of synonyms for “cheerful”, but this one recently jumped out at me for how “bubbly” it sounds. I’d definitely save this one for my most energetic characters; there’s “cheery” and “jolly”, and then there’s “ebullient”!

To be “ebullient” is to be cheerful and full of energy. The word arose in the late 16th century in the sense “boiling” and comes from the Latin verb ebullire, meaning “to boil up”. This verb comprises two roots: the preposition ex “out” and the verb bullire “to bubble”.

Before its common definition arose, “ebullient” used to be a more literal term meaning “boiling or agitated as if boiling”, though this sense has since become archaic and literary. Similar to last week’s vocabulary word, “ebullient” falls on the upper end of the “happiness” spectrum in that it implies a highly energetic level of joy. As a synonym for “bubbly” (both figuratively and literally), it’s very similar to “effervescent“, a word I wrote about three years ago, so feel free to use these adjectives interchangeably. If your characters are usually energetic and enthusiastic, you may have fun writing about their “ebullient” personalities!

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

Word of the Week: Mirth

Word: mirth

Pronunciation: mərth

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: amusement, especially as expressed in laughter

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

The holiday season is in full swing once again, so what better vocabulary word to learn today than one related to joy? As fiction writers, we should always be equipped with a full arsenal of emotional words, but when our stories are set in happy times with plenty of amusement to go around, words like “laughter” and “cheerful” can become overused. It never hurts to know more positive and simple vocabulary, so instead of having your characters “laugh with joy” or “giggle with amusement”, why not sum up their excitement with a word like “mirth”?

“Mirth” is an expression of amusement, especially through laughter. The word comes from the Old English noun myrgth “mirth” and is Germanic in origin. This noun derives from the adjective mirige, meaning “pleasant” or “enjoyable”.

The word “mirth” shares its origin with the word “merry”, which also derives from the Old English adjective mirige. On the happiness spectrum, “mirth” generally refers to joy or amusement as expressed through laughter, as does its adjective form “mirthful”, so these may be good substitutes to turn to if you find yourself overusing the verb “laugh” and its synonyms. If you write jolly characters who often express their amusement out loud, “mirth” is a great word to include in your stories!

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

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