U is for…

zombie-fingersI’ve been a bit lax with my grammar and vocabulary posts lately, for which I apologize. To make it up to you, today I’m going to tackle the letter U, which is the next letter in my ongoing Vocabulary Series. I urge you to unwind as you undulate on the waves and let the unique U-words unfurl around you.

The first word I chose because of its unusual evolution from its original meaning to the meaning we ascribe to it today. Also, it’s a fun word to say out loud.

Umbrage (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the early 1400s, meaning shadow or shade. Comes from ombrage, a Middle French word with the same meaning, which comes from the Latin word umbraticum, referring to something pertaining to shade or to being in retirement. Umbraticum comes from the root umbra, meaning shade or shadow, which likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European root andho-, meaning blind or dark. The modern meaning appeared in the early 1600s.

As a side note, you probably won’t be surprised to know that umbrella shares the same roots as umbrage.

Definition:  Offence or annoyance; a sense of slight or injury.

Example:  Harold the Zombie took umbrage at Bedelia’s remark about how bad he smelled; for crying out loud, he’d been in the shower when that other zombie bit him!


I chose this next word because it sounds just like what it describes and always makes me feel like I need to wash my hands.

Unctuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the late 1300s, meaning something that feels oily, greasy, or soapy when touched. Comes from the Old French word unctueus, which comes from the Medieval Latin word unctuosus, both meaning greasy. Unctuosus comes from the Latin unctus, which refers to the act of anointing. Its second meaning, to be overly ingratiating, was first recorded in 1742.

Definition:   Oily, or having a greasy or soapy feel; to be excessively flattering or ingratiating.

Example:   As Harold the Zombie ran a hand through his unctuous hair, he realized Bedelia might have been right.


The bonus word this week is all around us. We wouldn’t be here without it, even though we’re still not sure how it got here.

Universe (adjective)

Etymology:    First appears in the 1580s, meaning the cosmos or the totality of existing things. Comes from the Old French univers, which comes from the Latin universum, both meaning all things, all people, the whole world. Universum comes from universus, which means turned into one and is formed by combining unus, meaning one, with versus, meaning to turn.

Definition:  All existing matter and space as a whole; the cosmos; a particular sphere of interest, activity, or experience.

Example:   Harold the Zombie munched on Bedelia’s delicious brains and marvelled at the beauty of the universe.


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: Meiio @ deviantART