Q is for…

Q as Queen

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to the latest post in my Vocabulary Series. Today, we’re looking at some great words beginning with the letter Q. It might only span a few pages in your dictionary, but the letter Q has quite a quantitative quagmire of quizzical words for us to peruse.

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Most words that begin with Q are fun to say, but this first word is even better when used loudly in the imperative (check out the example below).

Quell (verb)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English cwellan, meaning to kill, murder, or execute. Cwellan, comes from the Proto-Germanic kwaljana, which, in turn, likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European root gwele–, meaning to throw or reach, with an extended meaning of to pierce. You can see how the root spread out by looking at the following words: quellian, meaning to torture or kill (Old Saxon); kvelja, meaning to torment (Old Norse); quelan, meaning to tease or torment (Middle Dutch); quellan, meaning to suffer pain (Old High German); quälen, meaning to torment or torture (German); kelem, meaning to torture (Armenian); and gela, meaning agony (Lithuanian).

Quell’s more modern meaning, to suppress something, was first seen around 1300.

Definition:   To put an end to or suppress something (e.g., an uprising); to suppress; to subdue or silence.

Example:   The general raised his sword in the air and led his troops into battle, yelling, “Quell Quincy’s rebellion!”


This next word is another fun one to say out loud. Plus, it sounds exactly like what it describes.

Qualm (noun)

Etymology:   Like quell, qualm comes from Old English. The West Saxons used the word cwealm to describe death, murder, disaster, or a plague. The Anglians used the word utcualm meaning utter destruction. Given the similarities, it is probably related to quell’s ancestor, cwellan. Qualm’s evolution of meaning is uncertain, but it may have come through its plague-related meaning. However, some argue that qualm’s meaning came from the Dutch kwalm, referring to steam, vapour, or mist, suggesting that the meaning could suggest something that causes unease. However it happened, qualm’s meaning softened to describe a feeling of faintness by the 1520s, and uneasiness or doubt by the 1550s.

Definition:   A misgiving; an uneasy feeling of doubt, worry, or fear; an uneasy conscience; a feeling of doubt about one’s own conduct.

Example:   Quincy was starting to have qualms about his rebellion. Maybe demanding a ransom of quartz and quinoa in exchange for the queen’s quilt was not very quick-witted.


The bonus word this week is a fabulous adjective to describe someone who won’t stop whingeing.

Querulous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears around 1400, coming from the Old French word querelos, meaning quarrelsome or argumentative. Querelos came from the Late Latin querulosus, which came from the Latin querulus, both used to describe someone full of complaints. Querelus comes from the Latin, queri, meaning to complain.

Definition:   A whining, complaining, or petulant nature or disposition.

Example:   Quincy’s lip quivered as he complained about his quarters. “Quit being so querulous!” Queen Quintessa commanded. “Or I will quiet you with my quilting needle.”


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: NLshopPhotoxpress.com

6 thoughts on “Q is for…

  1. “I will quiet you with the quilting needle.” This is my favorite sentence. Thank you, Suzanne. I hope you’ll continue to give us these amazing words.

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