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Ghost Words: Words Without Meaning

Known as spurious or ghost words, they are there, complete with convincing definitions, as the result of error. The 19th century scholar William WalterSkeat savagely described them as “coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or the per-fervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors.”

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or: http://images.stanzapub.com/readers/2009/09/01/whitenoise_1.jpg

Ghost Words – Words without Meaning

Some words do not deserve a place in a dictionary. Known as spurious or ghost words, they are there, complete with convincing definitions, as the result of error. The 19th century scholar William Walter Skeat savagely described them as “coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or the per-fervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors.”

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or: http://images.stanzapub.com/readers/2009/09/01/humanprinter1copy1_1.jpg

Some common words are former ghosts that have become accepted through widespread usage. Gravy, for example originated from a misreading of the Old French word granẻ (“containing grain”) as gravẻ. Other words have been evicted from their lexical home once their origins were discovered.

“Abacot”

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or: http://images.stanzapub.com/readers/2009/09/01/5318672002f19a9d520o_1.jpg

Up to the end of the 19th century, abacot was defined in many dictionaries as “the cap of state formerly used by English kings, wrought into the figure of two crowns.” Some dictionaries even figure of two crowns.” Some dictionaries even contained an illustration of an abacot taken from the great seal of the 15th century king Henry VII.

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or: http://images.stanzapub.com/readers/2009/09/01/helmet_1.jpg

It was Sir James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, who in 1882 revealed the true origin of the word. In a 1548 history of the kings of England by Edward Hall, the printer mistook the words a bicocket (a kind of helmet) for abococket. This was then misread by other writers, changed to abacot, and copied by dictionary compilers.

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  1. Debra.

    On September 1, 2009 at 7:09 pm


    Interesting article, MrGhaz! Some info I didn’t know. It’s always fascinating to discover the true origin and meaning of words. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  2. Melody SJAL

    On September 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm


    Very interesting and nicely written.

  3. Inna Tysoe

    On September 1, 2009 at 7:41 pm


    Interesting article.

    Thanks!

    Inna

  4. Daisy Peasblossom

    On September 1, 2009 at 8:27 pm


    Fun! Words are such amazing things.

  5. CHAN LEE PENG

    On September 1, 2009 at 8:32 pm


    Interesting article. I learned new words from you. Very well done. Have my liked it.

  6. rutherfranc

    On September 1, 2009 at 8:35 pm


    lawyers today would have had a field day suing those printers with the misprints..

  7. nobert soloria bermosa

    On September 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm


    nice work my friend, i see you have had lots of hardwork in posting this

  8. giftarist

    On September 1, 2009 at 9:26 pm


    Very interesting..Well researched, thanks for sharing

  9. cutedrishti8

    On September 1, 2009 at 9:57 pm


    Intresting topic to share with us…great work…

  10. papaleng

    On September 1, 2009 at 11:25 pm


    Thank you sir, for today’s English lesson. nice article.

  11. Yovita Siswati

    On September 2, 2009 at 12:10 am


    Thanks for the lessons! Great work.

  12. unown971

    On September 2, 2009 at 1:49 am


    Good article! Loved it!

  13. Christine Ramsay

    On September 2, 2009 at 2:25 am


    That was really interesting. I had never heard of such words before.

    Christine

  14. ken bultman

    On September 2, 2009 at 3:13 am


    Fantastic. Fun post. What if translators left the “r” out of celebrate by mistake? lol.

  15. Darla Beck

    On September 2, 2009 at 6:56 am


    Interesting article.

  16. pengirl M Burdick

    On September 2, 2009 at 10:45 am


    Very interesting and amusing. I especially like morse and dord. Thinking of ways to incorporate them into casual conversation…

  17. Sherry Wallace

    On September 2, 2009 at 10:59 am


    I thought this was very interesting, mrghaz. The birth of new words is sometimes an accident. You write about so many interesting topics, mrghaz.

  18. Susan

    On September 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm


    I loved this article. In the U.S., this is how are language evolves and it’s an accepted fact. I’m sure dictionary companies love our changing language too, otherwise they would have no reason to issue a new dictionary every year!

    We also have slang dictionaries issued every year. As slang comes into common usage it’s moved from the slang dictionary to the regular dictionary.

    If you look at the derivation of almost all words in the English language, the actions you described in this article are how they came into existence.

  19. Lucas Dié

    On September 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm


    Most amusing!

  20. Juancav

    On September 2, 2009 at 3:06 pm


    Informative meaning of some words.

  21. Lostash

    On September 2, 2009 at 5:53 pm


    Great fun! Language is wonderful and corruption is just a part of it.

  22. ahmad joko setyawan

    On September 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm


    Very fasinating, interesting work! Wonderful subject to write about,words have a history just like everything else in life! I can honestly say I didn’t know the origins of most of these and I was quite intrigued finding out.Thanks for sharing Mr Ghaz!

  23. John

    On September 2, 2009 at 9:16 pm


    Well researched. English is one the hardest languages in the world to learn. This article shows why.

  24. Jane Jane

    On September 3, 2009 at 9:31 am


    informative.. another knowledge for me..=)

  25. hollynoel001

    On September 3, 2009 at 4:14 pm


    great history and english lesson enjoyed it very much!!

  26. Gijo George

    On September 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm


    Good description about Ghost words. Enjoyed reading it.

  27. Patrick Bernauw

    On September 6, 2009 at 3:39 am


    Wow, Mr Ghaz! I clicked three articles in the “Popular Articles” list of Socyberty because they seemed to be very interesting… and guess what? You wrote them all three!

    And even better news: they not only “seemed” interesting, they also were “a good read”!

    This is one of them!

  28. Chris Marlowe II

    On September 6, 2009 at 3:57 am


    “Known as spurious or ghost words, they are there, complete with convincing definitions, as the result of error.” – that’s exactly what I am: “coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or the per-fervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors.”

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