20 titbits of word trivia

As a self-confessed word nerd I’m somewhat partial to discovering and collecting word trivia – I only wish that pub quizzes had a compulsory round on the subject (I might actually have a chance of answering some questions then!). Anyway, I thought I’d pull together a few of my favourite titbits of word trivia to share with you here.

Although it might appear innocuous, Word trivia: nothing rhymes with orangeeach word listed here hides a little known quirk or bizarre piece of trivia that elevates it from the rank and file.

To avoid needless repetition, all of these items of word trivia relate to the English language; I’ve no doubt that their ‘records’ would be surpassed in many other languages.

1. Abstemious

Abstemious contains all five vowels in the right order, as does facetious.

2. Bed

The word bed looks like a bed with the vertical posts representing the headrest and footrest at either end.

3. Billowy

At seven letters long, billowy is one of the two longest non-scientific words to have their letters arranged in alphabetical order; the other is beefily. Six-letter words sharing this self-alphabetising property include abhors, accent, almost, chintz, effort, and glossy. In contrast, the longest word with its letters in reverse alphabetical order is spoonfeed.

4. Bookkeeper

Bookkeeper is the only word containing three consecutive repeated letters.

5. Checkbook

Provided it’s written in upper case, CHECKBOOK is the longest word with a line of horizontal symmetry. Other examples include CODEBOOK, COOKBOOK, EXCEEDED and ICEBOX.

6. Dreamt

Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters -mt.

7. Forty

Forty is the only number to have its letters in alphabetical order, whilst one is the only number with its letters in reverse alphabetical order.

8. Four

The number four has four letters, making it the only self-enumerating number.

9. Go

“Go!” is the shortest complete sentence.

10. Happenchance

Each letter of the word happenchance is used twice, with none left over – making it the longest non-scientific word composed entirely of repeated letters. Other examples include couscous, intestines, signings and teammate.

11. Intransigence

Intransigence is the longest word that becomes a palindrome when spelt out in Morse Code: ··–·–·–··– –······– –··–·–·–·· Other Morse palindromes include bottommost, hairballs, protectorate and sopranos.

12. Orange

No word rhymes perfectly with orange – or month, purple or silver.

13. Queue

Queue is pronounced the same, even if you remove all the letters but the first one.

14. Screeched

The 9-letter word screeched is most commonly cited as the longest one-syllable word, but it’s not the only one: others include scratched, scrunched and stretched.

15. Set

The word set has the most meanings with 464 definitions listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Its nearest rivals are run, go, take and stand.

16. Stewardesses

Stewardesses is the longest word that can be typed with only the left hand on a QWERTY keyboard.

17. Swims

If you rotate the word SWIMS, all in upper case, 180 degrees, it will still – more or less – read SWIMS, making it the longest rotationally symmetrical word.

18. Typewriter

Somewhat ironically, the 10-letter word typewriter is one of the longest words that can be spelt using only the top row of letters on a QWERTY keyboard; others include perpetuity, proprietor and repertoire.

19. Tremendous

Tremendous is one of only four words that end in -dous; the others are hazardous, horrendous and stupendous.

20. Uncopyrightable

All 15 letters of the word uncopyrightable are different, making it one of the two longest words with no repeated letters; the other is dermatoglyphics, which is the study of skin markings.

Which of these is your favourite item of word trivia? Any that were new to you? Any others that I should have included? Do share in the comments below.

(sources: Oxford Dictionaries and Mental Floss)

(image via)

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6 comments on “20 titbits of word trivia
  1. Pam Barclay says:

    Hi Geraldine, My husband and I volunteer at the local Elks Club, we host trivia. Always looking for good question, thank you. Pam

    • Hi Pam, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found it useful. I’m planning to do a follow-up post soon as I’ve come across lots more word-related trivia since, so do check back in a while if you’re after more inspiration for your quiz night 🙂

  2. Stuart says:

    (1) Besides ABSTEMIOUS and FACETIOUS there are CAESIOUS, PARECIOUS, ABSTENTIOUS, ABSTEMIOUSLY, FACETIOUSLY, and HALFSERIOUSLY – with the latter three also containing the semi-vowel Y in the alphabetical-vowel sequence.

    (3) In addition to BILLOWY and BEEFILY: ADDEEMS, CHIKORS, DIKKOPS, and GIMMORS – though uncommon – are also letter-formed in alphabetical order.

    (4) With BOOKKEEPER, there is its plural BOOKKEEPERS, and the derived word BOOKKEEPING and its plural BOOKKEEPINGS that are composed of a sequence of three doubled letters.

    (5) In addition to CHECKBOOK, there are two other nine-letter-length words that may be composed of horizontal symmetry uppercase letters: HOOKCHECK and KICKBOXED. (For vertical-symmetrical uppercase letters of possible record length, there is the eight-letter word MOTIVITY).

    (6) Other than DREAMT, there are the derived words DAYDREAMT, OUTDREAMT, REDREAMT, and UNDREAMT that end in -MT.

    (9) Besides GO there are the intransitive verbs of short-length: AH, BE, DO, HA, HO, and UP. And like GO, used as a single word command, each can be considered as a complete single-word sentence.

    (10) With HAPPENCHANCE, the word TRISECTRICES also is composed of exactly two of each letter that composes it.

    (16) SWEATERDRESSES (14-letters) and DETRACTRESSES (13-letters) are both longer left-hand-typed words on a QWERTY-keyboard than STEWARDESSES (12-letters). Other words having the same length as STEWARDESSES are: ABRACADABRAS, AFTEREFFECTS, AFTERGRASSES, DECEREBRATED, DECEREBRATES, DESEGREGATED, DESEGREGATES, EXTRAVAGATED, EXTRAVAGATES, EXTRAVASATED, EXTRAVASATES, REAGGREGATED, REAGGREGATES, RESEGREGATED, RESEGREGATES, REVERBERATED, REVERBERATES, SWEATERDRESS, SWEETGRASSES, and WATERCRESSES.

    (17) ATAATA, though an uncommon English word of Eskimo origin, is a rotational symmetrical word longer than SWIMS, which itself shares its length with other rotational symmetrical words: AYAYA, SAMAS, SHAHS, SIMIS, STATS, and STOTS.

    (18) RUPTUREWORT is a letter longer than TYPEWRITER, PERPETUITY, PROPRIETOR, and REPERTOIRE. Other English words of the same length as TYPEWRITER are:PEPPERTREE, PEPPERWORT, PERRUQUIER, PIROUETTER, PREREQUIRE, and REPETITEUR.

    (19) There are several more words than the four – TREMENDOUS, HAZARDOUS, HORRENDOUS, STUPENDOUS – that end in -DOUS. Most are zoological adjectives, with a few being derivatives of the given four, and a few that are obsolete (very rarely used but still English words in some modern unabridged dictionaries): AMADOUS, AMPHIPODOUS, APODOUS, ARTHROPODOUS, BIOHAZARDOUS, CEPHALOPODOUS, CHILOPODOUS, CYNOPODOUS, DECAPODOUS, FRONDOUS, GASTEROPODOUS, GASTROPODOUS, HYBRIDOUS, IODOUS, ISOPODOUS, JEOPARDOUS, LIGNIPERDOUS, MOLYBDOUS, MULTIFIDOUS, MYRIAPODOUS, NEFANDOUS, NODOUS, NONHAZARDOUS, OCTOPODOUS, OSTRACODOUS, PALLADOUS, PALUDOUS, POLYPODOUS, PUDENDOUS, RHIZOPODOUS, RHODOUS, SAUROPODOUS, SCHIZOPODOUS, SOLIPEDOUS, SPLENDIDOUS, STEGANOPODOUS,TETRAPODOUS, ULTRAHAZARDOUS, UNHAZARDOUS, UNTREMENDOUS, UROPODOUS, VANADOUS, VODOUS, and VOUDOUS.

    • Wow, thank you, that’s easily the longest comment I’ve received on any of my posts – it must’ve taken you ages to compile! Overall I agree with your additions (although I deliberately stuck to the more common words that people would be familiar with) but I disagree with no. 17. The examples you’ve provided are in fact vertically symmetrical words rather than rotationally symmetrical words like SWIMS.

      Many thanks for stopping by & for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment 🙂

  3. Karen April Kaye says:

    There should be a link on SET to the 464 definitions for curious minds.

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