Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

What is the origin of the word ‘serendipity’?

Origin of serendipity?

The wonderfully onomatopoeic serendipity, which is indeed often chosen as Britons’ favourite English word (alongside nincompoop and discombobulate), means the making of happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. It was invented by the writer and politician Horace Walpole in 1754 as an allusion to Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka. Walpole was a prolific […]

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011: ‘squeezed middle’

Squeezed middle

You’d think that choosing the standout word of the year would be a contentious affair. So many possibilities, you’d guess, and so many linguistic loves, hates, and indifferences to deal with amongst those who debate it. The truth is that, normally, choosing the word of the year is a slam dunk. Take ‘bling’, the obvious […]

Fnarr fnarr, phwoah, and mwah

Onomatopoeia

Taking a first glance at a list of recent additions to a dictionary, most of us will instinctively seek out the very new. Sometimes it’s their simple sparkle of novelty that attracts – the latest updates to Oxford Dictionaries Online include ‘upcycling’, ‘surveilling’ and ‘wantaway’; others engage through the picture they give of the world […]

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