Words beginning with "A"

 

Abstemiously.

I earned extra credit once in grade school (oh so long ago) for digging this word out of the dictionary. It is one of the few (I forget how few) English words that contains all of the vowels in alphabetical order. I've been fond of it ever since.

Kevin

 

 
Abstruse.

My father was neither rich nor well educated. From the stories he told of his days in public school, I’m not sure how he ever graduated. Perhaps he never did. Nevertheless, he loved words, and he thought that a good vocabulary was more valuable than money because no one could take it away. He taught me poems I’ve never found in books. He taught me multiplication: “Eight eights are eighty-eight; you can have it for sixty-four.” But most importantly, he taught me to love words, and one of the first words he taught me was “abstruse.” I love the way it slithers off my tongue and sloshes around in my ear. I doubt if I’ve used it six times in conversation during the fifty years I’ve owned it, but I wouldn’t give it up because it’s the seed my father planted, and its blossoms have brightened all my days.

KR Mullin

 

 

Accoutrement.

What an absolutely charming way to describe stuff! It makes everyday “things” seem much more important:

It’s not a pile if junk, it’s “assorted accoutrement”!

It’s not a bunch of crap, it’s “a stunning array of accoutrement”!

It’s not a load of old tat, it’s “every accoutrement you could ever need”!

What’s not to love about a word that makes you feel witty, worldly, and well-heeled. It’s what’s commonly referred to in some circles as a 50 cent word, giving any boring old sentence an air of style and grace.

Put on your fancy dress with your best accoutrements and lets go out on the town!

Mama made pot roast with all the accoutrements! Yum!

Our new car came with all the modern accoutrements – we’re so spoiled!

Accoutrement good! So very, very good!

Rebecca Roberts, Manassas, VA

 

 
Actually.

As an English teacher in Spain, I have a hard time convincing students that “actually” is not the same as the Spanish, actualmente, which means “currently”.

“Okay,” they say, arms folded. “So what does it mean?”

Struggling for a definition, I decide to give them an example:

A: Would you like to go skiing this weekend?
B: Actually, I have to go see my mother-in-law do community theater.

Their faces light up. “Oooh. So it means, Of all the rotten luck?”

Okay, let's try again:

A: Isn't Barcelona the capital of Spain?
B: Actually, it's Madrid.

I tell them it's a polite way to refuse an invitation, or to disagree with someone. The class has fallen silent. I reach out for help. “Can anyone think of a Spanish translation?” A hand goes up. “Yes, Pedro?”

No,” he says. His classmates seem to agree.

So there you have it. “Actually” means “no.”

Geonae Edwards

 

 

Aegypt.

The fantastical country of yore, where anything that couldn't be explained came from. John Crowley also wrote an astonishing book by the same title, about our all-too-human propensity to impose patterns and masques on the world where there is really no pattern -- but it does help us sleep at night.

Losing the original spelling of this word (and others like it, such as aether) seems to me a great pity, a bit like losing a bit of wonder. Oh, well, we still have aegis. Woo hoo.

Peter Naus

 

 

Aerodrome.

This word evokes for me a sense of the early days of air travel when flying seemed very glamorous and sophisticated.

It also conjures up memories of idle, sun-splashed afternoons lying on soft grass with the sound of a single-engine plane off in the distance somewhere.

Neale

 

 

Afternoon.

"Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most beautiful words in the English language." -- Henry James, British (US-born) author (1843 - 1916)

I agree with Hank, but I know you've only asked for one word, so I pick "afternoon." Besides meaning the best part of the day, the equivalent of that nice round piece of meat in the middle of the pork chop, it's pleasant to say. The more hurried syllables of the first part are followed by the long crooning second part, just as a languorous afternoon should follow a bustling morning.

Liz King

 

 

Albeit.

A contraction of sorts, that melds the words all be and it into a single word. Not much ink was saved in this attempt at a contraction, but several spaces were done away with.

Mark Sheppard

 

 

Alewives.

I first heard this fishy sounding word in Damariscotta, Maine, as I was spending an August afternoon swinging from a rope into Damariscotta Lake. "Ayuh, alewives runnin' agin." I pictured, in my overactive 13-year old imagination, local hussies all dolled up for some annual event at which they would, en masse, lift the hems of their dirty housedresses and tear off down Route One in a race toward some highly significant finish-line beerfest.

Alewives are actually a type of fish native to the state of Maine -- anadromous*, planktivorous* and the preferred bait for the spring lobster fishery.

* Oh, go look it up.

Kit Thompson

 

 

Amoeba.

Amoeba is most definitely my favorite word. I learned it when I was in elementary school, before I knew what it meant, and I thought it was a lovely word. I later decided that there was nothing beautiful about amoebas themselves, but I didn't let that ruin my enjoyment of the word.

Aside from sounding wonderful, I like the word because saying amoeba at random is a good way to throw my friends. I'll be talking about the latest bestsellers, and I'll pause to gather my thoughts. And then, out of nowhere. I very carefully pronounce "Amoeba", just for the joy of saying the words. My friends will stare at me, wondering if they really heard me say amoeba out of nowhere or they were just hallucinating, as I finish thinking and start talking again.

Ah, the strange and absurd pleasures of life.

Alexi Maxwell

 

 

Amuck.

Although my favorite word often changes with my mood and the day of the week, I would have to say that my all time favorite is amuck. I love to say, "Uh oh, He's run amuck." As a probation/parole officer I use it a lot!  It is such an all purpose word: "The world is all amuck," "Wow, She certainly is running amuck." I guess it's usually used with "run" and probably not with proper English, but it's much more fun to say than, "He's in trouble." It just makes me smile to say it and it usually makes others smile too.

Sharon Nave

 

 

Antepenultimate.

I have always liked the sound of penultimate.  It is fun (and a bit pretentious) to use, but antepenultimate is even more so.  In addition, although I would choose "third from last" for the item preceding the next-to-last item, I have encountered multiple people who call the item before the next-to-last one the "second-to-last" one.  That gives me the excuse of using antepenultimate in order to eliminate any ambiguity.

Charlie Livingston

 

 

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

Antidisestablishmentarianism is my favorite word. I memorized it when I was a pre-teenager. I liked that it could be broken down into syllables to memorize. Now, some 40 years later, as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, it really comes in handy when we study root words, prefixes and suffixes. It was one of the answers on Jeopardy the other night, also.

Patricia Koss

Life is just a chair of bowlies.

 

 

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

Antidisestablishmentarianism...ah, the memories this word brings back to me.

Growing up, my mother enjoyed crossword puzzles so much that she learned to spell the most difficult of words so she could look for them to be used. I too love to do puzzles but I enjoy word searches. It was not uncommon for mom to "quiz" me on words I neither had seen or knew how to spell. The spirit of learning things new was introduced to me in this fashion.

I have two children of my own and antidisestablishmentarianism is one of their favorite words to teach to their friends. Maybe we have started a trend!

Caren

 

 

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

I learned this word while in the fourth grade as to be the longest word at the time, in the English language with 28 letters. Although this has been 47 years ago, I am not sure if this still holds true today. I can't remember for the life of me what it means, unless you break it down and then it might be sort of self-explanatory.

Carolyn Pendley

 

 

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

This my very favorite word. I learned to spell it in the first grade. I love how it rolls off the tongue. I have the meaning somewhere; I just can't remember it off the top of my head. It used to be the longest word in the dictionary, but I think that's changed.

Zoe Kay

 

 

Apathy.

Apathy is my favorite word. I think that it is because it is such a small word that still means so much. There are few words that can capture everything quite as well as the word "apathy"; there are just so many meanings packed into those six letters.

Aaron Upsal

 

 

Apothecary.

I don't know that this will qualify, because it is actually two words. There used to be a pharmacy in the town we lived in called Peacock's Apothecary. I always thought that was so much fun to say. Maybe apothecary should be my favorite word!

Carol Harrison

 

 

Archaeopteryx.

This was one of the first feathered birds, and shows up in fossils, though it still has dinosaur-like attributes. About the size of a pigeon. It was the first long word I could say, aged about 8.

The long version of DNA is my party piece now (aged 48!)

David Lonsdale

 

 

Audacity.

It sounds much better than "the nerve," and my sister taught it to us while we were drinking.

Bridget

 

 

Autochthonous.

Because it more adequately describes indigenous.

Andy White

 

 

Avatar.

Avatar is my favorite word, mostly because I just like the way it sounds. I first read it in a novel by William Faulkner (I forget which one).  In Hindu myth, an avatar is the reincarnation of a departed soul, although Faulkner might have had a more abstract idea in mind.

Jim Muldrow

 

 

Avuncular.

I looked this up after taking the SAT, I think, and imagine my amazement when I discovered a (relatively) quick and easy way to convey to a listener that someone (or something, I suppose) was behaving as an uncle would. Would that I could travel back in time and raze the mountain of excess verbiage I had needlessly devoted to the subject before learning this wonderful word!

Spencer

 

 

 

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