Education Blog

By Marieke Audsley

Like living beings, languages are constantly changing; words ‘die’ and fall out of usage and new ones are continually being born. In fact the Global Language Monitor (GLM) company believes that a new word is created every 98 seconds. According to the GLM once a word has reached 25,000 citations it can officially be considered an established part of language, and once established it will make its way into the Oxford English Dictionary. New entries last year included ‘beatboxer’, ‘bestie’, ‘honk’, ‘Old Etonian’ and ‘wackadoo’.

There is great debate over how many words there in the English language in total at any one time, but it is easier to estimate the size of an average person’s vocabulary, which is between 35, 000 and 75, 000 words. Of course we can all expand our vocabularies and enrich our speech and writing with greater variety. There are so many incredible words in the world, and here are a few of my favourites…

NAKHUR: a Persian word meaning ‘a camel that won’t give milk
until her nostrils have been tickled’.

TSUJI-GIRI: A word used by Japanese samurai when they want to ‘try out a new sword on a passer-by’

NEKO-NEKO: Indonesian for ‘one who has a creative idea that only makes things worse’.

PUNIU: This is Hawaiian for ‘the skull of a man which resembles a coconut.’

In Albania there are 27 different words for moustache! If you have a ‘MADH’ then it’s a bushy one, a ‘HOLL’ is
a thin one, a ‘POSHT’ is a moustache which hangs down at both ends and a ‘FSHES’ is very bristly.

In Hawaii if you ‘HONUHONU’ then you’re swimming but only using your hands.

A ‘PURR’ in Scottish Gaelic is not a sound made by cats but the verb ‘to headbutt’!

At the end of a tiring day in Indonesia you might ‘TEKLAK-TEKLUK’ and bob your head up and down from exhaustion.

In the Philippines you may want to ‘KULUBUT’ and crawl under a blanket at bedtime.

People in Borneo may be visited by a NGARONG – ‘an adviser who appears in a dream and clarifies a problem’- in the middle of the night.

In Finland they are lucky enough to have the three longest palindromic (spelt the same forwards as backwards) words in the world: SAIPPUAKIVIKAUPPIAS (a soapstone seller), SAIPPUAKUPPINIPPUKAUPPIAS (a soap-cup trader) and SOLUTOMAATTIMITTAAMOTULOS (what happens when tomatoes are experimented on in a laboratory).

SHOO SHOO PO PO: The sound a train makes in Japan.


And some words from the English language from the OED…

Afreet: A powerful demon in Arabian and Muslim mythology
Amphisbaena: A mythical serpent with a head at each end
Anguilliform: Resembling an eel

Argle-bargle: Copious but meaningless talk or writing
Argus-eyed: Vigilant, referring to Argos, a Greek mythological watchman with a hundred eyes
Astrobleme: An eroded remnant of a large, ancient crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet


Bibliopole: A person who buys and sells books, especially rare ones
Blatherskite: A person who talks at great length without making much sense

Bobsy-die: A great deal of fuss or trouble
Borborygmus: A rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines
Cereology: The study or investigation of crop circles
Cryptozoology: The search for and study of animals whose existence is unproven, such as the Loch Ness monster and the yeti

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