English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

These bold words are from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

See also the Wiki entry "Munkustrap".

share|improve this question
It's a name that's peculiar and more dignified than a sensible everyday name. – Andrew Leach Jun 28 '13 at 8:36
I think the names are as made up and nonsensical as in the Jabberwocky – mplungjan Jun 28 '13 at 9:53

Eliot's characterization of these as "[n]ames that never belong to more than one cat" indicates that they are nonce words: words that are coined "on the spot" to be used for a single purpose, and presumably will never be used again. By their nature, nonce words tend to be nonsensical coinages that are not derived from existing words—after all, if the word has a clear derivation it's possible that someone might recoin it independently in the future using the same logic, which is usually the opposite of what the writer would want.

Nonce words often "sound real" because they are often constructed using familiar English affixes or tense forms (for example, Edward Lear's "runcible spoon"), or are designed to evoke familiar words. "Munkustrap" brings to mind monkeys, minks, muskrats, and other things, which helps explain why it sounds "legitimate" and sends you searching for a derivation. But it's probably safe to assume it's just nonsense, and thoroughly runcible nonsense at that.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.