A wonderful world of words

This is one of my favourite charity shop trophies, picked up years ago in the Oxfam bookshop. It was originally published in 1874, and contains a treasure trove of archaic words. As the cover text suggests, it illustrates “the extraordinary roots and versatility of the English language. Charles Mackay…has bequeathed to us a wonderful literary legacy. For what was deemed ‘lost’ in 1874 may be reinvented for the twentieth century, and so prove and excellent, delightful and unusual sourcebook for verbaphiles, writers and every-day literary enthusiasts.”

My copy was printed in 1987, and I am as fascinated and amused by words which remain archaic as I am by those which, ‘lost’ in 1874, have indeed become commonplace once again. Then there are those words which are commonplace now – but with a meaning that appears to have evolved since Charles Mackay’s day.

I hope you will enjoy a few of them as I share some of my favourites with you, week by week. The old definitions are copied verbatim from Charles Mackay’s book. Modern definitions where used, are from the OED.

Aftermath } the pasture after the grass has been mowed; a second mowing or crop

more commonly used today in the sense of:

Aftermath } the results of an unpleasant or important event

Or how about this useful little fellow?


Alder } a prefix formerly used to intensify the meaning of an adjective in the superlative degree, as if to better the best and heighten the highest.

As in:

Alderbest } best of all

Aldermost } greatest, or most of all


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