A vocabulary is the body of words used in a particular language.

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Did English ever have a formal version of “you”?

From the top of my head, Danish "De" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with ...
93
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123answers
31k views

What words are commonly mispronounced by literate people who read them before they heard them?

Quite a few words are mispronounced by under-educated people, or people learning English as a second language. Some words are often mispronounced by quite educated people who read, and began reading ...
55
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13answers
8k views

Is there a polite alternative to “No thanks, I'm full”?

English is not my native language, but when I was studying in the US, I was always trying to find an alternative to I'm full! I felt that it was a very improper way to express that I have eaten ...
31
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15answers
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Words with opposite meanings in different regions

I can't recall it, but there is a word in American English which now means the opposite of itself in British English. What words are there that have opposite (not just different) meanings in different ...
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5answers
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Winter — wintry; summer — summery; spring — ?; autumn — ?

wintry: characteristic of winter, esp. in feeling or looking very cold and bleak: "a wintry landscape". summery: belonging to or characteristic of or occurring in summer; "summery weather"; ...
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3answers
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Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...
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7answers
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Do you say 'white blackboard'?

English is not my first language, so I'm not sure what you commonly call one of these: I'm trying to choose between blackboard, white blackboard, or maybe just 'slate'.
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5answers
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Apart from place names, are there any Native American words used in English?

Apart from place names, are there any Native American words used in English?
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11answers
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What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you?

What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you? Is there a proper way to use it? It was striking to hear that “a couple” meant two (2) to someone. My reaction was, “how/why do ...
23
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16answers
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What do you call an event that happens without a cause?

I used to think those are random events but someone over at physics.stackexchange.com insists that randomness means something else so I am at a loss here. Can someone help me out? What do you call an ...
20
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3answers
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Attorney at law, is there any other kind?

I have wondered from time to time about the phrase "attorney at law." Are there other kinds of attorneys? Attorneys at arms? If not, why do we specify?
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5answers
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Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Is there a name for this kind of punny transference?

First came John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation, which was later turned into a film. It was about the web of interconnections that binds all of humanity together. Later came the well known ...
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20answers
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Is there a single word for “one who speaks/boasts a lot about everything”?

I'm looking for a single word to most aptly describe a person possessing the following "qualities": Appears to be superior in every technology/skill under the sun, which he deems worthy of knowing ...
19
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5answers
801 views

Tom, Jake and Jenny aren't looking forward to Thanksgiving. Why?

And "Hen" (their mother) isn't much looking forward to it either. Why? I can answer that question myself, it's because they're all turkeys. Tom is an adult male turkey (also often referred to as a ...
19
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4answers
2k views

Is “prepone” being used outside India?

"Prepone" is a great word - it's the opposite of "postpone". I was wondering if it was beginning to spread around the world at all.
19
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5answers
2k views

Does America have its Versions of U- and Non-U English?

In Britain and most of Europe, some form of U-speak exists: old-money language has certain features that distinguish it from other language. In Dutch, it doesn't really have a name, but it is still ...
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10answers
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Derogatory term for electronic device

In German, the term "Kiste", literally meaning "box", is often used as a colloquial derogatory term for electronic and mechanical devices. It is comparable to "jalopy", which, however, seems to be ...
18
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5answers
2k views

Term for catchy tune that stays in your head

Is there a term for a catchy tune that stays in your head after you hear it? The Germans call it an earworm.
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11answers
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What do you call a group of people that move a lot?

I can't think of the word to describe it. Something similar to "wanderer" or "roamer". It's often used to describe people that don't stay in one place... not "migratory"...
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11answers
2k views

Adjective used to mean “smellable”

An object that can be seen is visible. Something that can be heard is audible. What's a similar word to indicate that something is smellable?
17
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6answers
3k views

When should I use archaic and obsolete words?

I'm learning the English language, and while reading Merriam-Webster I often see common words with additional "obsolete" and "archaic" descriptions added to their definitions. When should I use ...
16
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16answers
2k views

A stronger word than “snob”

I recently stayed at a charming boarding house and had the pleasure of meeting one of the most curious people I have ever come across in my life. He was polite, and yet standoffish. He reminded me of ...
16
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11answers
671 views

Calque pairs like 'praeternatural/metaphysical'

There are words (not paired normally) which are, say, close relatives with (sometimes) totally different lives. For example, praeternatural = (Lat. praeter [beyond] + natura [nature]) and metaphysical ...
16
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21answers
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What is the word for the emotion I feel when I see someone being humiliated?

When I see someone else being embarrassed / humiliated, for example a singer forgetting their words in a concert, I would say something like "I feel embarrassed for them". But is there a better word ...
16
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1answer
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Words pertaining to the senses and the corresponding disabilities

I need help on finding words relating to the senses/perception. I mean this in a neuronic/biological or philosophy-of-mind kind of way. A word for... pertaining to the senses (Is it sensory?) ...
15
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20answers
2k views

Single word for “going along with the crowd”

What is a word to describe the behaviour where you do something because everyone is also doing this, to the point where you do it without any clear reason.
15
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5answers
5k views

Word to describe “everyday things”

Is there any one word which can describe everyday things? By this, I mean things we commonly regard as things most people do every day, like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, ...
15
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15answers
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Is there a single word for “money-mindedness”?

I'm looking for a single word for describing a person "whose motive is dictated by money"...I seem to recall there was an elegant word for this, but I can't remember it now...can someone help?
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7answers
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Is there a word to name being unable to think of “proper terminology” for something?

In regards to only being able to say something like "hand ankle" when meaning "wrist", but the person is absolutely unable to remember the word "wrist". (Or "unsweet doughnut", when someone can't ...
15
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2answers
4k views

What is a female ass called?

I know a male ass is a jackass, but what is a female ass called? Perusal of the internet suggests jillass or janeass, but I haven't found what might be called an authoritative source.
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16answers
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A word that means 'most important'?

I tried to find a single word that means "most important", but I couldn't. I want it to be able to express what's missing below: If you get hurt, the _ thing to do is to stay calm. It would ...
14
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3answers
695 views

Name of castle part

What do you call these? Please provide a reliable source with your answer.
14
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6answers
3k views

Is there a term for simultaneous snow and rain?

I'm from Australia where we don't have so many kinds of precipitation. I'm familiar with these: rain hail snow sleet As I understand it, sleet refers to frozen rain but I'm not totally familiar ...
13
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3answers
2k views

What do rodents do?

I wonder if there is a English verb to express the way rodents (rats, mice, etc.) bite on something they are trying to eat or bite. In Portuguese we have the verb roer which comes from roedor which ...
13
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12answers
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Should I use 10 cent words or $2 words?

In school, I learned to use 10 cent words, so instead of saying: (updated: from a paper that says a scientist doing experiment with fish would make it complicated to say:) All biota exhibited 100% ...
13
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10answers
2k views

Why do words like “expectorate” sound more posh than words like “spit”?

I think English is unique in having a set of "bad words" each which has its "more refined" equivalent, e.g.: spit -> expectorate piss -> urinate shit -> defecate f*ck -> ...
13
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2answers
972 views

What does “not having a pair” mean?

From http://blog.peta2.com/2011/05/coming-out-twice.html?c=peta2_enews: I had been trying to keep my vegan tendencies on the DL for years by that point, but it was getting harder and harder ...
13
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5answers
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The place where the railroad crosses the road

What do you call those places where a railroad crosses an automobile road?: Of course, I've heard what they are called in English, but I suspect that they are referred to differently depending on ...
13
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9answers
11k views

What's the difference between “bucket” and “pail”?

What is the difference between bucket and pail? Is there a distinction between the shape of a bucket and the shape of a pail? Are buckets and pails made of different materials? Is there a difference ...
13
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6answers
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What does “going forward” mean?

In more and more podcasts and presentations I hear sentences such as this one: That is our strategy going forward. What meaning does going forward add to the sentence? That is, how is it ...
13
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6answers
4k views

“peak” vs “summit”

According to the dictionary: peak — the pointed top of a mountain; a mountain with a pointed top summit — the highest point of something, especially the top of a mountain In the picture of the ...
13
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8answers
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What's the difference between a jumper, a pullover, and a sweater?

Following on from a recent question, in Australia we have the word jumper for a knitted long-sleeved garment, typically woollen and long-sleeved. When cosuming foreign media I always assumed the ...
13
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3answers
285 views

Like ambidextrous, but for a thing

We know that "ambidextrous" describes (roughly) the ability to use both hands. Are there words in English the capture the idea of something that is "suitable for use by either hand"? Similarly, is ...
13
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5answers
12k views

Origin of “jack sh*t”

Why do we say "Jack Shit" to mean "nothing at all"?
13
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7answers
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Words for meat differ from the words for the corresponding animal

In English we have: "beef" for "cow", "cattle" "veal" for "calf" "pork" for "pig" "mutton" for "sheep" I'm not aware of this separation for "fish", "goat" or "chicken" (Spanish has "pollo" and ...
13
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3answers
330 views

Is there a word like cardinal or ordinal but for the “single, double, triple” series?

The words one, two, three, and so on are the cardinal numbers. Similarly, first, second, third, and so on are the ordinal numbers. Is there a similar term for the words single, double, triple, ...
12
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5answers
3k views

Is “drownded” a word?

Is there such a word as "drownded"? I would say "drowned" but I am hearing "drownded" so often I am beginning to wonder. For example: He went into the deepest waters and drownded.
12
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5answers
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How do you form the 'north' and 'south' versions of 'occident' and 'orient'?

How does one correctly form the "north" and "south" forms for which occident and orient are "west" and "east"? I found boreal and austral, but those look like adjectives and I'm after the nouns. ...
12
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3answers
12k views

What's the difference between 'subway', 'metro' and 'tube'?

When I watched the "American Album" program, Susan and Henry talked about New York, and she used the word 'subway'. When I listened to BBC's '6 minutes English', I heard 'tube' used in the ...
12
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4answers
4k views

Is it correct to say “He got a fatal injury in the accident” when there is a possibility that the person’s life will be saved?

I would like to know whether “fatal injury” means (1) an injury which causes a death, (2) an injury which almost causes a death but not necessarily does, or (3) both (1) and (2) depending on the ...