K is for…


Welcome back to my Vocabulary Series, dear readers! This week, we’re going to look at some nifty words that start with the letter K.

Before we get started, I want to remind you to check out the Speakeasy creative writing challenge. This month, in honour of the Halloween season, we’re asking our writers to bring us the best of their spooky, scary, and strange fiction and poetry. You might want to read during the daytime to help stave off the nightmares!

Without further ado, here is the first K word. I have always loved this word. It’s fun and I don’t think it gives you any idea about its meaning, even though it was supposedly named for the sound it makes.

Katydid (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in 1784 in American English. May have first been used by the American botanist John Bartram. The word derives from a phonetic description of the sound the male insect makes when rubbing its forewings together. Interestingly, the sound was more accurately transcribed in 1751 as catedidist.

Definition:   A large, typically green, insect from the grasshopper/bush-cricket family, native to North America; used to refer to any insect from the Tettigoniidae family.

Example:  Unfortunately, Mildred ignored the first clue that the zombie apocalypse had arrived. When Earl told her the katydids’ song sounded more like katybrains, she just thought he’d had too much gin.


This next word is another fun one to say out loud, and unlike katydid, it sounds exactly like its meaning.

Kerfuffle (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in Canadian English around 1930 to refer to a row or disturbance. Comes from the Scottish version, curfuffle, which was used by Scottish writers in 1813. Curfuffle was derived from the Scottish word fuffle, meaning to throw into disorder.

Definition:  A fuss or commotion, particularly one caused by conflicting views.

Example:  Only when the first zombie bit the Prime Minister did the other Members of Parliament realize the kerfuffle was more than just typical Question Period behaviour.


Finally, I give you this week’s bonus word. It was a new word to me and I absolutely love its second meaning.

Kinglet (noun)

Etymology:  The word king comes from the Old English word cyning, meaning ruler, which comes from the Proto-Germanic word kuninggaz. The diminutive suffix –let comes from Middle English, which in turn comes from the Middle French suffixes –el and –et, which come from the Latin suffixes –ellus and –ittus. As the name implies, diminutive suffixes indicate smallness or diminish the word they are attached to.

Definition:  One of several tiny North American warblers, including the goldcrest; a derogatory term for a minor or petty king.

Example:  Even with his new fearsome zombie status, Stephen would never be more than a brain-eating kinglet.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit: Google Images

14 thoughts on “K is for…

      1. I kinda want to write it. I’m doing a spy novel of sorts for NaNoWriMo 2013, and I need an opening scenario to introduce my hero Jason Waterfalls. Saving the PM from zombies seems appropriate. Might I have permission to borrow your line? )

          1. I got it off a CNN article listing ways in which people have misheard famous song lyrics. One of the entries was “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls!”

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