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Words we bet you didn’t know came from literature – Times of India


Words are the single distinctive meaningful element of any written or spoken language. Without them, a conversation would not be possible at all. Through the means of words, we can convey our feelings and emotions in an effortless manner. If not for them, our sentiments would be abstract in nature that could not be explained or shared. Thus, there is no doubt about the fact that words have enormous power in themselves as, without them, the simple acts of speaking and writing would be impossible.

As per the Oxford English Dictionary, there are a total of 1, 71,146 words currently in use in the English language; all having have different origins and sources. Moreover, many have fascinating stories behind their discovery and usage. Even more interestingly, though we use such words quite frequently, we aren’t aware that they have roots in literature. Here is a look at some words you never knew came from literature.

1. Blatant
The word was first used by Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser in his epic poem “The Faerie Queene” in 1590. Originally it referred to a thousand-tongued beast. Since then it has come to mean something that is starkly obvious and in-your-face.

2. Chortle
This word originated in Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky,” which was included in the 1871 book ‘Through the Looking-Glass’. The word is a blend of “chuckle” and “snort,” describing the noise made by somebody who manages to laugh while utilizing their nose in the process.

3. Pandemonium
This word came from John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). Meaning literally “all demons,” Pandemonium was Satan’s capital city in Milton’s poem. Since then, the word has come to mean any disordered confusion.

4. Nerd
It comes from a 1950 book by Dr Seuss, ‘If I Ran the Zoo’. In the poem, a nerd is one of the imaginary animals the narrator claims he will collect for his zoo. As a rough translation for “geek,” the word entered popular use by the end of the 1950s.

5. Mentor
This word is from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, an epic poem which recounts the adventures of Odysseus. In Odysseus’ absence, the character of Mentor advised Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. Hence, the modern connotation of the word “mentor” as “adviser.”

6. Syphilis
This word has its origin in a 1530 poem ‘Girolamo Fracastoro’ written by Syphilis Sive de Morbo Gallico, an Italian physician and poet. The poem recounts how Syphilus, a shepherd boy, is afflicted with the disease, which was commonly known at the time as “the French disease”.

7. Utopia
Coined by Sir Thomas More, this word was first used as the name for More’s fictional island in his 1516 book, ‘Utopia’. In this book, which More wrote in Latin, he outlines the ideal society. The word “utopia” has since become used to describe an ideal world.

8. Yahoo
Originally, the word was the name for a race of brutish humans in Jonathan Swift’s fantasy satire ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726). From there, it went on to refer to any hooligan or noisy, loutish individual. Today, it is popularly known as a homepage, mailing service, and search engine.



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