In the introduction to his 1956 paper A plea for excuses, John Austin writes

The subject of this paper, Excuses, is one not to be treated, but only to be introduced, within such limits. It is, or might be, the name of a whole branch, even a ramiculated branch, of philosophy, or at least of one fashion of philosophy.

I have been unable to find the word "ramiculate" in any online dictionary. It does occur in other texts though: e.g. Metrical forms by Alan Prince (2014)

We cannot hope to prune every branc and filament from the ramiculated tree of unrealized possibilites using just the tools of metrical theory...

Links: Austin, Prince

  • 1
    I've found this comment which may be helpful: It sounds like a portmanteauu of 'ramified' (i.e. 'branched') and 'articulated' (i.e. jointed as an arm, a hand.) Truly, I don't see why 'ramified' is not good enough in this case, for a ramified or 'ramiculated' branch is simply one that keeps branching.
    – user66974
    Apr 15, 2015 at 21:15
  • tomintheelephantstrunk.weebly.com/in-the-kingdom-of-foxes/… --Ramiculate in Austin's nomenclature means finding many different ways of articulating the same things. I have just made this up and find it very convincing. Since the word exists in no dictionary and seems only to be in one paper , I think it's a misprint for something else."
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 15, 2015 at 22:50
  • Probably a technical jargon of the field.
    – GEdgar
    Apr 15, 2015 at 23:42
  • I'm a computer scientist, and "tree" data structures are very common. I'm going to remember "ramiculated" as a word for a tree with lots of branches. Jul 7, 2016 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


You’re right that the word doesn’t seem to appear in any standard dictionaries. It is, however, relatively easy to guess at both its meaning and its derivation.

If we start with the derivation, it is quite clearly related to ramify, as the quote in Josh’s comment to the question states. Ramify ‘to branch’ is from Latin rāmus ‘a branch’ + the productive suffix -(i)fy ‘make’; so ‘to make branchy’ or something like that.

In Classical Latin, the diminutive of rāmus was rāmusculus ‘small branch’; but later on, in post-Classical times, another word with the same meaning also appeared: rāmiculus ‘small branch’.

This word was formed with the very productive diminutive suffix -(i)culus, in exactly the same way that artus ‘joint’ formed its diminutive articulus ‘small connecting part, smaller unit in a larger context’. The English form of that word (borrowed from Old French) is article, and the highly rare but attested English form of rāmiculus taken on a similar journey, is ramicle ‘small branch’.

In the same way as article corresponds to the verb articulate (though the meanings have diverged), ramicle likewise corresponds to the verb ramiculate, which then means not only ‘to branch’, but ‘to split off into many tiny branches’. If I were feeling humorous, I might even suggest ‘to twig’ (but I won’t, because that means something else).


I was told it meant 'branched', as in 'having branches', having asked a friend who knew Latin. So in context; "a whole branch, even a ramiculated branch", it means that there might even be more branches within this branch.

As much as I like J L Austin, I can't really excuse this confusing turn of phrase.

  • 1
    Not within the branch. There's nothing confusing about a branch branching off to form smaller branches—that's basically how trees work. Jul 7, 2016 at 18:27
  • Perhaps it's a solitary esophagus.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:07
  • I'm not here to discuss tree metaphysics. In the context of what Austin is saying, he means; 'this might be one branch, it might be several (connected) branches'
    – user184294
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:10

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