I see the claim that acutilobate is a “dictionary-only” word, for example seen in the 1913 Webster’s dictionary. How would a word get into a dictionary that only appears in dictionaries and is not really a word in use? Once a word is in a dictionary such as Webster’s doesn’t that confer it life and wouldn’t it generally begin to enter the language in actual use? Websters defines it as a botany term: “Having acute lobes, as some leaves”. Where did acutilobate originate from as a word?

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    I don't know about that particular word, but lots of technical words are created anew. Anyway, a word usually gets into a dictionary because it is used, not the other way (a word appears in a dictionary so it starts to be used). Life is in the using. Many (comprehensive) dictionaries have the qualifiers 'obsolete', 'archaic', or 'rare' to show that they maybe once were used often but are not any more.
    – Mitch
    Sep 27, 2012 at 16:28
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    To the two close voters: This is primarily an etymology question of a valid word. I don't see how that is "too localised". Sep 27, 2012 at 19:42
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    On your second (and third) sentences): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zzxjoanw Jul 2, 2014 at 12:05

1 Answer 1



Latin acutus (“sharp”) + lobe

(botany) Having acute lobes, as some leaves.

The word very likely comes from the Latin acutilobus:

Having pointed stems

Used almost exclusively as a taxonomic epithet.

Searching for "acutilobus" in Wikipedia yields:

As an adjective, acutilobate could well have been/still be used to describe such plants. Or perhaps it has since been superseded by some other term which has attracted the fancy of botanists worldwide. In any case, that does not mean that the word should no longer be in the dictionary. Some words survive. Some don't. This one very likely didn't, unlike its second cousin twice removed, acutilingual—meaning "having a sharply pointed tongue or mouth, as certain bees"—which has found a curious niche to survive in.

  • OED labels it "rare" and "obsolete"...
    – GEdgar
    Sep 27, 2012 at 19:37
  • @GEdgar Is the etymology identical to the one stated above? Sep 27, 2012 at 19:43
  • OED just says [compare post-classical Latin acutilobatus (1841 or earlier)]
    – GEdgar
    Sep 27, 2012 at 21:40

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