Difficult words by Angela Caldin

There are some English words whose meanings I find hard to remember. However often I look them up, they float unfathomably away from me. Here are a few of the worst culprits:


The first letters of this word don’t indicate a negative because the word comes from Latin inchoare, which means to begin. Inchoate things are just beginning, only partly in existence, imperfectly formed.


This word is one where the positive version did exist but has fallen out of use. To abash meant to perplex or embarrass in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. We are left with unabashed which means not embarrassed.


This word is confusing because it sounds as if it might be related to words like dilate or dilute. It’s not related to either of those words, but what dilatory actually means is going very slowly or wasting time. It sounds a little like delay or dilly dally, both of which relate to the word’s definition.


The word eclectic comes from the Greek words ek meaning out and legein meaning choose. Those words were combined to create eklegein which means pick out and then the word changed to eklektikos and eventually to the word eclectic. This means deriving the best ideas and styles from a diverse range of sources.


This word is a real bugbear for me as I can never quite hold on to its meaning. The sound of the word reminds me of Uriah Heap in David Copperfield with his unctuous servility. And I suppose that’s not too far off the meaning which is reprehensible or outrageously bad


I always think that this must mean someone who is very acute and who notices things with enhanced observation, but in fact it means someone who is resolute, who holds tenaciously to a purpose, course of action or opinion, someone who is stubbornly unyielding.


This word makes me think about the planets and the universe, I’ve no idea why. But in fact solipsism is a philosophical theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified, that the self is the only reality. It can also refer to absorption with oneself without consideration for the needs and desires of others.

One Comment on “Difficult words by Angela Caldin

  1. Many thanks – I share your frustration that these sorts of words seem to somehow disguise themselves an instant after committing them to…memory !!

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