Words for the Week: N


Hello again, folks! Welcome to another episode of Words for the Week, which happens every Sunday. I have so many books full of great words, and I so rarely have an excuse to delve into them. So I’m putting together a small selection of these lovely words once a week, in the hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. This week’s words begin with ‘N’. 

Newel (noun): 1. The central post of a flight of stairs that supports winding stairs; 2. The top of bottom post supporting a stair-rail. Derived from Old French nouel ‘knob’ from Latin nodellus, diminutive of nodus, ‘knot’.

You know how much I love obscure technical words for things. Mental note to use this in a book – I’m really enjoying its specificness. 

Noctivagous (adjective): Wandering in the night. Derived from Latin nox ‘night’ and vagari ‘to wander’.

I wonder if there’s a verb version of this? I’d love to stick it into a piece of writing, but the adjective form feels a bit smug to me. Anyway, night words always sound great. 

Numinous (adjective): 1. Awe-inspiring; evoking a spiritual response; 2. Inducing a sense of a deity’s presence.

Somehow, I had always assumed that this was a night word too – maybe because of its closeness to ‘luminous’. I’m having trouble now mentally connecting it to its real meaning. The closest I can get is night-worship. 

Nazzard (noun): Cumberland, Lancashire, Westmorland, Yorkshire. A silly, insignificant, mean person. 

“As with other nouns beginning with ‘n-‘ or ‘a-‘, people often couldn’t decide where to draw the line between the indefinite article and the noun: is it a nazzard or an azzard?” Another example of this is ‘apple’ – originally ‘napple’ until spelling was standardised and the ‘n’ at the end of ‘an’ moved across the space. It’s a cool language thing, and a cool word.

Noof (adjective): Scotland. Sheltered from the weather, snug; neat, trim. The later-developed verb form, noofan, means ‘to enjoy oneself leisurely’. Etymology unknown. Could simply be a word that developed out of a noise – in this case, a sound expressing satisfaction.

Sound words are also my faves. It’s that sound you make when you sit down in your favourite chair at the end of the day with a beverage and a book. Why did we ever adopt hygge? We already have a word of our own – well, Scotland does, anyway. 

This week’s words were sourced from Foyle’s Philavery, collected by Christopher Foyle; The Disappearing Dictionary by David Crystal.

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