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Note: clickable items link to Wordcraft Archives, which may have further notes

ubiety; ubication – the state of being in a particular place (contrast nullibiety; see Archives)

ubiquitous – present or appearing everywhere; omnipresent (of persons freq. with humorous exaggeration = ‘turning up everywhere’)

ubuntu – (Nguni or Xhosa, in South Africa:) a difficult word to translate. In rough terms, humanity, not as an individual as defined by one's interrelationships. The principle of caring for each other's well-being and a spirit of mutual support". Zulu maxim – umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – "I am what I am because of you."

ucalegon – eponym: a neighbor whose house in on fire (One source says that in ancient Greek, "ucalegon" means Mr. What-Me-Worry?)

UFO (knitting) – unfinished object;  a project languishing while you work on other projects

ukulele – a small four-stringed guitar popularized in Hawaii ['uku, flea + lele, jumping. So called from the rapid motion of the fingers in playing it.]

ullage – the amount that a container (a bottle, cask, tank, etc.) falls short of being full; also, the amount lost by leakage, evaporation, etc. in shipping or storage

Ultima Thule – a distant territory or destination; a remote goal or ideal ('Thule' pronounced as two syllables)

ultra-crepidarian – giving opinions on topics beyond one's knowledge. From Latin "beyond the sole".
After the tale of shoemaker who criticized the way an artist had drawn part of a sandal.  When the artist then corrected the error, the emboldened shoemaker went on to disparage how the legs were painted. To which the artist snapped "Ne supra crepidam judicaret," or "Let him not criticize above the sole." (crepida = sole or sandal) In other words, the cobbler was qualified to judge footwear but only footwear. In effect, the word means, "Shoemaker, stick to thy last."

ululate (UL-u-late) – to howl or wail, like a dog or a wolf. adj. ululant

umbilicus – belly button

umbra – complete shadow (with blockage of every part of every light source)

umbrageΉ – offense or resentment at a slight or insult (see also other definition here)

umbrage² (adj. umbrageous) – shadow or shade; or something that provides it (also, a vague indication, a hint) see also other definition here)

umbrella (etymology) – at root, a device to protect from sun, not from rain. (Latin "umbra" = shade)

umiak – a large eskimo boat (woman's boat?)

umlaut – 1. a pronunciation, common in German, where a, o, or u (which are normally "back vowels" pronounced at the back of the mouth) are brought more to the front (like the "front vowels" e and i). 2. The two-dot symbol that German uses to show this pronunciation, as δ, φ, or ό.  (English uses this symbol for other purposes; see diaresis. German sometimes indicates the umlaut sound-change by putting an 'e' after the a, o, or u (Goethe).)

umpire (etymology) – from nonpere 'not-peer'

unasinous – being equally stupid

Uncle Sam – eponym: personification of the United States

Uncle Tom – eponym (offensive): a black person humiliatingly subservient or deferential to white people

unction – excessive, ingratiating compliments, a kind of "oiliness"

unctuous – excessively flattering or ingratiating, esp. when affected or insincere; oily

undercast – a solid cloud layer, as viewed from above [mostly used in pilot reporting of in-flight weather conditions. not in OED]

understrapper – obsolete: a petty fellow; an underling or subordinate

underwhelm – to fail to excite, stimulate, or impress (adj. underwhelming)

underwrite – to assume risk, as when offering an insurance policy or bringing a corporation's new securities issue to the public. (underwriter – one who buys a stock or bond issue from a company, to resell it to investors.)

undine – a female water spirit

ungainly – clumsy; awkward (contrast gainly)

ungoogle - one source claims: to try to combat revenge googling

unit bias – the tendency to think that a unit of some entity is the appropriate and optimal amount

unlawful combatant – see illegal combatant

unremitting – never relaxing or slackening; persistent

up-do – a style of dressing women's hair by sweeping it up and securing it away from the face and neck

upland trout – a mythical fish which is such so delicious a pan fish that tenderfeet are often sent into the woods to catch them. However, the upland trout is extremely difficult to catch, because it nests in trees. <wink>

uranic – eponym: of the heavens; celestial; astronomical (also, pertaining to uranium)

Uriah Heep – eponym: a man who is hypocritically humble

urning – a homosexual man (say some); a homosexual (say others) [coined by Magnus Hirschfeld, German sexologist]

ursine – like a bear

Ursprache – a language that is the ancestor of another or of a group of languages

ushabti – see shabti

uti possidetis – the principle that unless otherwise stated: 1. upon a peace treaty, each belligerent keeps the captured territories then holds 2. when a political subdivision becomes achieves independence, its keeps the same boundaries it previously had

utopia – toponym: an imagined perfect place

uvula – the thing that hangs down from the back of the mouth (which children invariably think is a tonsil)

uxoravalent – capable of sex only those other than one's wife (contrast uxorovalent)

uxoricide – murder of one's wife; a man who commits such murder

uxorious – overly doting upon one's wife

uxorovalent  – capable of sex only with one's wife (contrast uxoravalent)

vade mecum – [Latin, go-with-me] a ready-reference book; a manual. hence also: something regularly carried about by a person

vadose – of or relating to water just above the phreatic water, in the zone of aeration

vagary – a wild or fanciful notion or act; a whim

vainglorious – boastful self-importance; "too big for his britches"; "having a swelled head"

valetudinarian – a sickly or weak person, esp. one constantly and morbidly concerned with his health

Valhalla – toponym (often ironic; often lower case): the place of honor for heroic combatants

validictorian – (North America) a student who delivers the valedictory at a graduation ceremony

vamoose – informal: to depart suddenly and hurriedly

vamp – 1. the upper front part of a shoe or boot 2. [eponym: abbreviation of vampire] a woman who uses sexual attraction to exploit men (verb: to so use)

van – the vanguard; the forefront

van dyke – eponym: a trim, pointed style of beard

vanity google – see Google™

vaquero – a cowboy; a cattle-driver [esp. used in Texas] [from Spanish vaca cow]

varlet – a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel

vatic – of or about a prophet

velar – articulated with the back of the tongue touching or near the soft palate [velum – the soft palate]

vellicate – 1. to move with spasmodic convulsions; to twitch 2. to pull off; to pluck, as: Women villicate their eyelashes.]

vellum – fine parchment made from the skin of a young animal: lamb, calf, etc. (or paper resembling same)

velocipede – an early bicycle push by pedals on the front wheel, or by pushing feet along the ground

velodrome – an arena for bicycle racing or motorcycle racing

venal – corruptible; open to bribery (contrast venial, veneryΉ,  venery²)

veneryΉ – sexual love (adj. venereal) (contrast venal and items listed there)

venery² – the act or sport of hunting (adj. venatic; venatical) (contrast venal and items listed there)

venial (also here) – (of a fault or offence) forgivable; not heinous; slight and pardonable (contrast venal and items listed there)

ventifact – a stone that has been shaped, polished, or faceted by wind-driven sand

verbiage – two very different meanings: 1. derogatory: verbosity; wordiness 2. the manner of expressing something in words ("Messages and orders must use concise, military verbiage." – G. S. Patton)

verdure – the lush greenness of flourishing vegetation; also, metaphorically: a fresh or flourishing condition: the verdure of childhood (see also link here)

Verfremdungseffekt – the 'alienation effect'; the drama technique of keeping the audience aware that they are watching a drama, of not causing them to think of it as actual events unfolding before them

verge (noun) – 1. a rod or staff of authority, or the "penis" of certain invertebrates 2. something that borders (British: a paved or planted strip of land at the edge of a road; shoulder)

vermeologist – one who treats of worms; a helminthologist

vermiculturist – one who farms, breeds and cares for worms

vermilion – a bright red or scarlet

vernalagnia; vernorexia – a romantic mood brought on by spring (also known as spring fever)

vernier – eponym: a small auxiliary device to make fine adjustment in the main device

veronica – eponym: a bullfighting pass in which the cape passes slowly over the bull’s face

vertiginous – (lit. or fig.) dizzying, disorienting; the feeling of looking down from a frightening height

verwaltungsvereinfachungsmassnahmen – Austrian, for the government's effort to simplify the language of its public documents (how ironic!)

vespertine – of, related to or happening in the evening

vexillology – the study of flags

viands – 1. foods, esp. very choice or delicious dishes (the singular form exists, but is very rare) 2. provisions, food

viatical agreement – investment in the life span of an old or dying person: a purchase, for a fee, of the right to their life insurance proceeds upon their death

Victorian – eponym: exaggeratedly proper in manners

vig – [short for vigorish] 1. the interest paid to a loan shark 2. a charge taken by a bookie, on bets

vigesimation – the act of putting to death every twentieth man (note: may be a phony "word".)

vigintillion – the number expressed as a 1 followed by sixty-three zeros

vilipend – 1. to view with contempt; despise. 2. to speak ill of; disparage

villain (etymology) – M.L. villanus "farmhand," L. villa "country house". (Why would folks from rural areas would be considered villainous? To answer, see pagan.)

villanelle – a 19 line poem of 5 tercets (3 lines) and a final quatrain, with a certain refrain pattern

vinaceous – wine-colored (the color of red wine). With rare exceptions, this word is used only in descriptions of birds.

vincible – capable of being overcome or defeated (contrast the familiar word invincible)

vindaloo –  a hot Indian curry dish, Portuguese in origin

vindictive – seeking revenge

vinegaroon; vinegarroon – a whip scorpion, of  the southwestern United States and Mexico, that emits a vinegary odor when aroused

viper – 1. a poisonous snake with large hinged fangs 2. a spiteful or treacherous person

virago – a domineering, violent, or bad-tempered woman.

virescent – the light green of a newly-budded leaf

virga – scientific name for snow or rain which evaporates before reaching the ground

virgule – the / sign (also known as the diagonal, the separatrix, the slant, the slash, and the solidus)

virid – bright green [Latin viridis 'green']

viridian – a bluish-green color

virus – something which infects your computer [see malware]

vis et armis – by force [The usual term seems to be vi et armis.]

visagiste – a make-up artist

viscera – (plural noun; sing. viscus) the internal organs in the main cavities of the body, especially those in the abdomen

viticulture – grape-growing [Latin vitis 'vine']

vitiligo – a skin condition, characterized by patches of unpigmented skin

vituperation – sustained, harshly abusive language; invective

vixen – 1. a shrewish ill-tempered woman 2. a female fox

vlog – video Web log

vlogger – blogger with video camera

vol-au-vent – a small light puff pastry filled with a meat or fish ragout

volpone – eponym: a cunning schemer; a miser

volte face – a complete and abrupt reversal of policy, position, etc.; an about-face

voluble (also here) – characterized by ready or rapid speech; talkative (stressing fluency or glibness)

voluptuary – a sensualist; one addicted to gratifying sensual appetites

voluptuous – 1. regarding unrestrained pleasure to the senses;  a voluptuous ripe fruit; a full, voluptuous figure. 2. devoted to sensual pleasures; directed toward or arising from same

vomeronasal organ – a specialized part of the olfactory (smell) system, whose primary function appears to be in sensing pheromones.  Has been thought absent in higher primate adults, but data now suggest it may be present in adult humans.

voodoo – characterized by deceptively simple, almost magical, solutions or ideas; deceptive or delusive nonsense

votary – a devoted [almost religiously so] follower, adherent, or advocate

vox populi (also here) – the opinions or beliefs of the people. Short for vox populi vox Dei, "the voice of the people is the voice of God", meaning that popular opinion of ordinary people reveals God's will, and should be obeyed. The full version first appeared in a letter to Charlemagne, from his adviser Alcuin.

vug – a small unfilled cavity in a lode or in rock [Cornish dialect vooga underground chamber]

vulcanization – eponym: a treatment giving rubber strength, stretch, etc.

vulgar – etymologically, meaning common, from the Latin word vulgus. As in the Vulgate translation of the Bible, so-called because that translation, into everyday Latin, made the book accessible to the common people of ancient Rome

vulgarian – an unrefined person, especially one flaunting newly-acquired power or wealth

vulpine – fox-related

wabbit – Scottish: exhausted or unwell

wadi – a streambed (in Middle East and north Africa) that is usually dry except during the rainy season

wahine – 1. a Polynesian woman. 2. a woman surfer

wailing wall – a place to vent one's woes or (less often) to seek relief from them

wainwright – a wagon-maker

waldo – a mechanical agent, such as a gripper arm, controlled by a human limb

walpurgisnacht or walpurgis night – the eve of May Day, when witches ride to a rendezvous; also, something having a nightmarish quality

wamble (also here) – to move unsteadily or with a weaving, wobbling or rolling motion (noun: an upset stomach; a wobble or roll)

wand (verb) – to check (a person) with a metal-detecting wand, as at an airport

wandering queer – slang; west coast US: someone who doesn't know if he/she is homosexual or heterosexual

wanker – Australian slang: one who masturbates. A good all-purpose insult.

wannabe – 1. one who aspires to a role or position. 2. one who imitates the behavior, customs, or dress of an admired person or group. 3. a product designed to imitate the qualities or characteristics of something

wanton – 1. immoral or unchaste; lewd (noun: one who so behaves) 2. unrestrainedly excessive, as wanton waste

war horse – a respected veteran, reliable and competent – but uninspired and a little bit past his time [also used for things, such as a play or hymn]

warren – a colony of rabbits (also, an overcrowded or maze-like area)

wasabi – a pungent, green Japanese condiment.  Often served to accompany sushi.

waspish – 1. like a wasp (sharply irritable, or showing irritation) 2. like a WASP (disparaging: of the power elite or the social elite of White Anglo Saxon Protestants)

wassail – a festivity characterized by much drinking; a toast to drinking someone's health at festivity. verb: to drink to the health of

wastrel – 1. a spendthrift; one who squanders money 2. an idler; a loafer; a good-for-nothing

waterboarding – interrogation technique, variously defined. The prisoner is tied head-down on an inclined board, cellophane or a cloth is wrapped over his face, and water is poured over him. Produces an overwhelming sensation of drowning.

watergate – Is the term being used for "political scandal", much as one's 'Waterloo' is used to mean "decisive defeat"?

wattle and daub – wattle², overlaid with clay, as a construction material.

wattleΉ,² – 1. the red fleshy skin hanging at the throat of a turkey or chicken, or like neck-skin on other birds or on lizards  2. a framework of stakes with branches interwoven, to form a fence

weathercock – a weathervane shaped like a rooster (technically, shaped like a cockerel – a young domestic cock) Also used to mean something very changeable or fickle.

weave impression or weave emphasis (in art conservation) – a damage (irreversible?) that frequently occurs with lining or relining an old painting (adding another layer of canvas behind the original, for stronger support).  During lining the paint is heated up and softened, and the weave of the canvas can be pressed into the paint, ruining the original texture of the brushwork.

webster – a weaver [the root means "web", a nice image.]

wedlock (etymology)

ween – (archaic:) to think; suppose; believe

weir – 1. a dam 2. a fence, etc. built in a stream, to trap fish

welch – eponym: to renege on a deal

wellerism – eponym: a familiar phrase put in the mouth of one whose situation humorously brings to mind another meaning of that phrase. The double meaning may be by punning on sound, by a double-meaning of a word, or by a contrast of figurative and literal usages. See Tom Swiftie; croaker.

wellhead; wellspring – a source, spring, or fountain; also, a principal source; a fountainhead: a wellspring of ideas. (One source suggests that a wellspring is not usually just the beginning point but also source of continuing supply)

well-heeled – well-off financially [from cock-fighting]

Wellington – eponym: a leather boot with loose top, usually coming above the knee

weltanshauung – worldview; a comprehensive view of the world and human life; the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world (literally, "world-view")

welter – a confused muddle; a chaotic jumble

weltschmerz; Weltschmerz – sadness over the evils of the world; esp. as a romantic pessimism. more generally: sentimental pessimism. literally "world pain".

werowance – Powhatan Indian word for a petty chief, usually at the village level

whelm – 1. to ruin or destroy by covering completely (typically with water, but also with earth, snow, etc.) 2. to similarly engulf or bear down upon (as flood, storm, avalanche) [closer to ‘overwhelm’)

whippersnapper – a diminutive or insignificant person, especially a sprightly or impertinent young fellow

whipping boy – a scapegoat (originally, a boy formerly educated with a prince or other young nobleman and punished in his stead – since one may not whip a prince!)

whirling dervish – one in constant frenzied activity

whistle pig – the Appalachian Mountain term for a woodchuck (a/k/a groundhog)

white knight (corporate takeovers) – a friendly acquirer, sought out by a target firm to rescue it from an unwelcome acquirer

white noise – 1. constant background noise; esp. one that drowns out other sounds 2. meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub, or chatter

white paper – UK: a government report of information or proposals on an issue (sometimes, similar non-governmental reports). Less extensive than a blue book
(reader note:  from formal documents presented to the British Parliament, setting out policy options; called "white papers" because of their white covers. contrast Green Papers, which are less formal, consultative documents.)

white-shoe – relating to a long-established business known for reputable service to a wealthy clientele

whitewash – to give something a false appearance of good, by concealing or glossing over its faults (noun: something that does so; the act of doing so)

whizzer – an American name for a hummer firework

whoa – a command used to a horse to tell it to slow down. Also sometimes used figuratively to human beings.

whomperjawed – askew; not fitting properly; also: flabbergasted

whoreson – a low, scurvy fellow (also adj.)

whortleberries – blueberries. Also known in Newfoundland as whorts (pronounced "hurts").

widdiful – one who deserves hanging, a gallows-bird; a scamp, rascal (also used as adj.)

wifty – ditsy

wight [pronounced like the color white] – a living being; a creature (obsolete)

wikiality – the notion that any random falsehood can become reality if you can merely persuade enough people to believe it [Stephen Colbert coinage; not in dictionaries]

willgill –  a hermaphrodite or an effeminate man [“a very expressive name for an hermaphrodite, will being for the man and gill (with g soft) for Gillian or Juliana, on the woman's part.” – Samuel Pegge's alphabet of Kenticisms 1735-1736]

williwaw – sudden gust of wind; a squall

wimpy [etymology] – weak and ineffectual [from character in the Popeye comics]

winchester – a particular type of bottle, usually 2.5 litre

windmill-tilt – noun: a fruitless and frustrating venture [Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2006]

windrow – 1. row of leaves or snow, heaped up by the wind. 2. a long row of cut hay or grain left to dry in a field before being bundled. verb: to arrange into a windrow

wing it – to attempt a task without sufficient preparation, and be forced to improvise

winkle – a small edible marine snail, steamed in wine or baked

winkle-hawk; winkle-hole – a rectangular rent made in cloth

winklepicker – a style of shoe (boot?) with pointed toes so extreme that they're said to be usable for picking winkles from their shells (1960s through at least 1980)

WIP (knitting) – Work In Progress

witches’ broom – a cluster of short, dense branches, as from insects or disease

withy – a strong, flexible twig, used in making baskets and the like, often from the willow

witling – a pretender to wit or smartness

witticaster – a witling; i.e., a pretender to wit or smartness

woad – a blue dye; the plant from which that dye is produced

woebegone – 1. obsolete: beset with woe; oppressed with misfortune, sorrow, etc. 2. showing distress, misery, anguish, or grief

wolfsbane – see aconite

wood; to see – publishing: to see a book before the release date; premature circulation

word salad – the confused, and often repetitious, language that is symptomatic of various mental illnesses

worm – computers: a like virus, but can copy itself onto other computers [see malware]

worrywart – one who tends to worry unduly, esp. about unimportant things [from comics]

wort – beermaking: the mixture of malt and water before fermentation starts

wowser – 1. an obnoxiously puritanical killjoy 2. something so excellent as to be eye-catching and attention-grabbing

wrack – 1. dried seaweed 2. wreckage, esp. of a ship cast ashore

Wundercammer – a chamber or cabinet of wonders; spec. a place exhibiting the collection of a connoisseur of curiosities, such as became common from the late Renaissance onwards

wye – U.S. Railways: an arrangement of three sections of track in the shape of a concave-sided triangle or ‘Y’

Xanadu – toponym: an idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place

Xanthippe or Xantippe – eponym: an ill-tempered woman [The name of Socrates’ wife. Well, if you had to live with the likes of him, what would you be like?]

xanthism – excess yellow pigment

xenophobe – one unduly fearful of foreigners (xenophobic; xenophobia)

xiphoid – sword-shaped (see gladiate, ensiform); also as a noun, in anatomy: the bottom part of the breastbone ("sternum"), also called the xiphoid process, or the xiphisternum

XOR – exclusive "or" (A or B but not both)

yaffle – an armful (of dried and salted cod-fish, kindling, etc.); a load (verb: to gather an armful)

yahoo – a boorish, crass, or stupid person (from Gulliver's Travels)

yapp binding – eponym: a style of leather bookbinding, with soft limp edges that overlap and thus protect the exposed edges of the pages.

yarborough – eponym: a hand, at whist or bridge (13 cards), with no card 10 or above: no 10, jack, queen, king, or ace (which is, by the way, an ungodly bad hand)

yashmak – the veil worn by Muslim women when in public

yegg – eponym: a burglar; orig. a safecracker

yellow dog – a contemptible person (adj: mean and contemptible)

yellow dog democrat – an unswerving loyalist of the US Democratic party (contrast blue dog democrat)

yellow journalism [etymology] – sensationalistic journalism

yellow-dog contract – an employment contract barring the employee from joining a union

yeoman (older meaning:) – an attendant/assistant to an official, etc. (and more specifically: a servant in a royal or noble household (usually above the lowest level, a groom or page)
(current meaning: 1. a diligent, dependable worker 2. a farmer who cultivates his own land)

yestreen – yesterday evening

Yggdrasil – great tree in Norse mythology

ylem – hypothesized form of matter existing before the Big Bang

yobbo – Australian slang: a rude or ignorant person

yonic – having to do with the vagina (from Sanskrit, I believe).  (the feminine counterpart of phallic.)

yonsei – see issei

Young Turk – eponym: an insurgent

younker – a young man

yump – slang; rally-driving: to leave the ground when going over a ridge or crest (also noun)

yupster – a yuppie hipster

zabernism – toponym: the misuse of military power or authority; bullying, aggression

zaftig – Yiddish: full-bosomed and shapely; pleasingly plump

zagharoot – arabic; pl. zaghareet: a high-pitched ululation done with the tongue; a sound of honor (not in general dictionaries)

Zamboni – eponym: a machine used to resurface ice rinks

zarf – a metallic cuplike stand used for holding a small handleless coffee cup; the cup is called a finjan. These terms refer to such cups and stands as used in the middle east. However, our language seems to be co-opting zarf to use when one takes coffee in a plastic cone, cheap and disposable but too thin to allow one to hold it with hot coffee. The plastic holder with handle, to hold that disposable cone, can be called a zarf.

zeitgeber – an environmental cue (as the length of daylight, or the temperature) that helps to regulate an organism's biological clock

Zelig (eponym) – a chameleon-like person always manages to be present everywhere

zephyr – eponym: a gentle breeze

zetetic – inquiring; investigative: zetetic minds

zeugma – sometimes used as synonym for syllepsis (see that term). Sometimes used as a more general term – unlike syllepsis, the two senses of the word “punned upon” need not differ.

ziggurat – a temple tower having the form of a terraced pyramid

zilch [etymology] – nothing; a quantity so insignificant as to amount to nothing [from comics?]

zinnia – eponym: a certain flower

Zoilus; Zoilist – eponym: a carping, malignant critic

zoosemiotics – loosely, "animal language," but including signals other than sound, such as a dog's tail-wagging. coined 1963; I have not found it in any published dictionary

zugzwang – situation in which one is in a tenable position, but is forced to act and any action will worsen his position

Zukunftsangst – fear of the future

zygote – the cell resulting from the fusion of egg and sperm [from Greek zugotos ‘yoked’]