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15 Jul 2018

Some words are so beautiful they stop you in your tracks. Case in point, one of this week’s most popular HH words, the adjective verdazurine—describing anything sea-green in colour. 

First recorded in English in the late 1600s, verdazurine probably has its direct origins in either one of its Italian,...

4 Jun 2017

The word passado ended up as one of this week’s most popular tweets, defined as “a romantic or flirtatious exchange between two people”. 

In that sense, passado dates from the early seventeenth century, but the word itself has been in use in English much longer than that. Originally—and, fo...

21 Dec 2016

The final entry in our series of extracts from the new HH book, The Accidental Dictionary, is the confusing story behind the original fiasco... 

Imagine you’re at the theatre. The show gets off to an inauspicious start when the curtain fails to open properly, and then, as the first performer takes to...

9 Dec 2016

This week on our YouTube channel, we looked at 10 words that you might not have realised are onomatopoeic:

Everybody knows what onomatopoeia is, of course. But when it comes to etymology, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more of it in the dictionary besides snapcrackle and pop. Quite a f...

21 Jan 2016

(Image credit: Wikipedia

If you’ve been keeping up with the new HH YouTube channel, chances are you’ve already seen the second video in our new 500 Words project, which went online yesterday. Looking at the meanings and origins of 10 Words Spelled Q Without U, this time around one of the...

15 Jul 2015

For some reason, toilet talk keeps popping up on here (we’re looking at you, vespasienne), and unfortunately we’re heading back down that way now. That’s because last week we found out that when Italian slang gets weird, it gets brilliantly weird:

Pisacàn is an old Venetian word, which has long since...

4 Apr 2015

The word lottery is a derivative of the Italian lotto adopted into English in the mid-sixteenth century. Lotto literally means a “lot” or portion of something in Italian—and so the entrants in a lottery are literally playing for their “lot” of the prize. 

It’s fair to say that thi...

13 Mar 2015

 You probably already know what an oxymoron is—a terribly good figure of speech in which two contradictory words or ideas are juxtaposed for rhetorical effect. Like Shakespeare’s “witty fool”, Chaucer’s “hateful good”, Tennyson’s “falsely true”, Hemingway’s “scalding coolness”, Milton...

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