I encountered this word while playing QuizUp today, and did a search for it. However, no major dictionaries listed this word, and Google seemed to only turn up a couple of sites. This is a pity, as I feel that this word is interesting and deserves more use.

A German-English dictionary discussion forum had a discussion regarding a sentence containing this word. One poster claims that:

The person using "illtiated"[sic] must be familiar with Peter Novobatzky's and Ammon Shea's "Depraved English" [New York St. Martin's Press, c1999. This is so far the only source where I found "illitated", given as a verb with the meaning "to overdecorate the female face." The authors warn the readers not to be confused with "irritate", even though "illitating" might indeed irritate friends, husbands, or anybody with good taste."

This piece of work on Deviant Art dedicated to the word also references the same source:

(all source material from “Words to Offend and Amuse: Depraved and Insulting English” by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea)

I do understand that words can be coined (as Shakespeare successfully did), but is this an example of a word that was once used but fell into disuse, or was it a relatively unsuccessful coinage? And in either case, what is its etymology?

  • Probably just a typo.
    – Ricky
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:48
  • @Ricky As stated on the forum thread, none of the suggested typos have a similar meaning to the word, and none of them even come close.
    – March Ho
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:49
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers It seems you made the identical typo as the poster cited in the question. Searching for "illitate" gives ~1000 hits. Granted, most of them appear to be Latin, and the book cited appears in the search too.
    – March Ho
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:54
  • @MarchHo: It's probably a derivative of "illite". It's a stupid word.
    – Ricky
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:54
  • 2
    Onelook provides more evidence that this is not a word. onelook.com/?w=illitate&ls=a
    – Kyle
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:57

2 Answers 2


From where I sit, the word appears to be a confounded form of 'illite'.

illite, v.

Etymology: < Latin illit-, participial stem of illinĕre (illine v.).
Obs. rare-1.
trans. To smear, anoint.

1657 R. Tomlinson tr. J. de Renou Medicinal Materials I, in Medicinal Dispensatory sig. Qq2v, Deleates black skars, if illited with Oxe-gall.
1657 Physical Dict. Illited, anointed.

["† iˈllite, v.". OED Online. September 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/91472?rskey=JDFUei&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 20, 2015).]


... was this word once used and did it fall into disuse?

Yes to both. As evidenced by the quotes given in the OED, and by the word being listed as obsolete.

... if the latter, what is its etymology?

As shown in the OED etymology. The Latin verb illino -ere (trans.) was used to mean

to cover, smear; (with dat) to smear or spread (something) on.

(From The New College Latin and English Dictionary, JC Traupman, AMSCO, 1966.)

Or inlino -ere (ill-),

to smear over, spread upon, lay on: oculis collyria, H [= Q. Horatius Flaccus; oculis collyria translates literally as 'eye salve' and possibly was used with a meaning akin to that of modern English 'eyeshadow'] ... to besmear, bedaub, anoint ....

(From Elementary Latin Dictionary, CT Lewis, American Book Company, 1918. Text in brackets mine.)

The connection of these etymological origins and the verbal sense you quoted ("to overdecorate the female face") is evident.


Illite is a type of mineral, named for its type location in Illinois. More specifically, it is a clay-like mineral popularly used in cosmetic face masks.

It seems more plausable that the word "illitate" was coined by turning the noun "illite" into a verb, rather than being a confounded form of the obsolete 17th century verb "illite" meaning "to smear".

Apparently, the only published usages of the word "illitate" appear in Depraved English and Depraved and Insulting English, both written by Ammon Shea and Peter Novobatsky. It is worth noting that Ammon Shea is a bit of a dictionary aficionado, so it seems unlikely that he would resurrect a long-obsolete usage of the verb "illite" and then confound it into "illitate" when he could just as easily have resurrected the term and used it in its original form. It is more plausible that the word "illitate" was coined from the noun "Illite", referring to the clay used in cosmetic face masks, since this form of "illite" has well-established currency among rock-lickers and cosmetologists alike.

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