30 “lost” English words

As a reader and writer, I love language. I love communication and I love words. I don’t really have a favourite word, but I do have a few lists of words I like. One of them is even on this blog, right here: a list of Bookish Vocabulary. Now, there are more people that really love language and words of course. One of them is Dominic Watt, a senior linguistics lecturer at the University of York (England). He assembled a team that went through historical texts and old dictionaries to make up a list of 30 words to bring back. “As professional linguists and historians of English we were intrigued by the challenge of developing a list of lost words that are still relevant to modern life, and that we could potentially campaign to bring back into modern day language,” Watt explained, according to the Daily Mail. They then asked the public to vote on their favourite word. The winning word will be reinstated into the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Of course, Watt didn’t just choose these words at random, they specifically searched for words that are still relevant today. The words were also chosen according to four categories: deception, appearance, emotions and personality & behaviour. “Within these themes, we’ve identified lost words that are both interesting and thought-provoking, in the hope of helping people re-engage with the language of old,” Watt said. Below is a list of the words:

  • Ambodexter, n: One who takes bribes from both sides
  • Awhape, v. To amaze, stupefy with fear, confound utterly
  • Betrump, v: To deceive, cheat; to elude, slip from
  • Coneycatch b, v: To swindle, cheat; to trick, dupe, deceive
  • Dowsabel, n. Applied generically to a sweetheart, ‘lady-love’
  • Ear-rent, n. The figurative cost to a person of listening to trivial or incessant talk
  • Fumish, adj: Inclined to fume, hot-tempered, irascible, passionate; also, characterized by or exhibiting anger or irascibility
  • Hugge, v. To shudder, shrink, shiver, or shake with fear or with cold
  • Huggermugger, n., adj., and adv: Concealment, secrecy; esp. in phr. in hugger-mugger: in secret, secretly, clandestinely. Formerly in ordinary literary use, now archaic or vulgar
  • Losenger, n.: A false flatterer, a lying rascal, a deceiver
  • Man-millinery, adj: Suggestive of male vanity or pomposity
  • Merry-go-sorry, n. A mixture of joy and sorrow
  • Momist, n: A person who habitually finds fault; a harsh critic
  • Nickum, n.: A cheating or dishonest person
  • Parget, v: To daub or plaster (the face or body) with powder or paint; to cover with cosmetic
  • Peacockize, v.: To behave like a peacock; esp. to pose or strut ostentatiously
  • Percher, n.: A person who aspires to a higher rank or status; an ambitious or self-assertive person
  • Quacksalver, n: A person who dishonestly claims knowledge of or skill in medicine; a pedlar of false cures
  • Rouker, n.: A person who whispers or murmurs; one who spreads tales or rumours
  • Rouzy-bouzy, adj.: Boisterously drunk
  • Ruff, v: To swagger, bluster, domineer. To ruff it out / to brag or boast of a thing
  • Sillytonian, n.: A silly or gullible person, esp. one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people
  • Slug-a-bed, n: One who lies long in bed through laziness
  • Snout-fair, adj.: Having a fair countenance; fair-faced, comely, handsome
  • Stomaching, adj.: Full of malignity; given to cherish anger or resentment
  • Swerk, v. To be or become dark; in Old English often, to become gloomy, troubled, or sad
  • Teen, v To vex, irritate, annoy, anger, enrage / To inflict suffering upon; to afflict, harass; to injure, harm
  • Tremblable, adj. Causing dread or horror; dreadful
  • Wasteheart, int. Used to express grief, pity, regret, disappointment, or concern: ‘alas!’ ‘woe is me!’ Also wasteheart-a-day, wasteheart of me
  • Wlonk, adj + n (also ‘wlonkness’) Proud, haughty /  Rich, splendid, fine, magnificent: in later use esp. as a conventional epithet in alliterative verse (N.  A fair or beautiful one)

“Peacockize” reminds me very much of “peacocking”, I wonder what the difference is exactly? Also, I think there are plenty of words in the English language that are synonyms like prancing, swagger, … I know the word “Quacksalver”, I mean we all know the abbreviated form “quack”, but “kwakzalver” is a Dutch word which means exactly the same thing. The Dutch term is most likely a translation of the English word. It’s a fun word, but not necessary to bring back. Then there’s “rouzy-bouzy”, but I’m not exactly sure how to pronounce it. I’m guessing both parts of the word have the same pronunciation of the vowels, but is it pronounced like “rouse” or like “booze”? Also, there are already more than enough synonyms for being drunk, just look at this list of 365 words for drunk. I’m also not convinced by “stomaching”, mostly since ‘to stomach’ is already an existing word and let’s be honest, English is already complicated enough! Same goes for “Teen”, the word already exists in another context and we don’t want to go and confuse people, now do we? So, my top three is:

  1. Merry-go-sorry
  2. Sillytonian
  3. Slug-a-bed


Which word is your favourite? And did you already know any of them? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Loes M.


  1. De ‘betrump’ zou wel eens populair kunnen worden! Kwakzalver wordt nog regelmatig gebruikt in het Nederlands, dus het zou wel grappig zijn dat dit ook terugkomt in het Engels. 🙂

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