Words for the Week: O


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 ‘O’. 

Opsony (noun): Any food eaten along with bread.

So, any food, then. To my delight, it turns out that food can be split into two categories: bread, and not-bread – otherwise known as opsony. Excellent. 

Oubliette (noun): A secret dungeon with only one access point, usually hidden, through a trapdoor at the top.

It’s worse that that, though. Because oubliette is derived from the French word oublier, meaning ‘to forget’. So it’s literally a hole at the bottom of your house that you’d imprison people in and then forget about them. Heck. I once crawled into one in a castle in France. Won’t be doing that again. 

Onshooty (adjective): Shropshire. Of vegetables: coming up irregularly in the rows. It feels like a dialect compound word, and it’s delightful. Someone turn this into a metaphor for a life circumstance so that I can say it in conversation and feel clever. Synonym for ‘unpredictable’? Or ‘not dependable’? 

Oobit or woubit (noun): Derbyshire, Durham, Northumberland, Scotland. A ragged, unkempt, hairy person. It’s an extension of the name of the long-haired caterpillar of the tiger-moth, also called a ‘woolly bear’ (wolbede in Old English, simplified to oobit). 

I mean. Hairy, and sounds like hobbit. Also connected to Old English. Definitely no chance that JRR Tolkien knew about this one when he came up with the Shire. Nope. No chance at all.

Owdrey (adjective): Exmoor. Overcast, cloudy. 

I love this one, because it’s another word that sounds like something that has no sound. Do you know what I mean? You can practically feel the weight of the rain-clouds overhead. Beautiful. 

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

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