R is for…

Coati by Adrian Ratter

Welcome back, dear readers, to the latest post in my Vocabulary Series. Today, I’m going to tackle the letter R, which is rife with regal renegades and raunchy representatives. In fact, there are so many fantastic words beginning with R, it was a serious challenge to narrow it down to three.

The first word I chose is one of my favourite adjectives. Just the sound of it can conjure up an image of the type of person it’s meant to describe.

Recalcitrant (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in English in 1823. Comes from the French word, récalcitrant, which means “kicking back” and is the past participle of recalcitrare, meaning to kick back or be inaccessible. It was formed by adding the French prefix re-, meaning back, to the Latin word calcitrare, meaning to kick. Calcitrare comes from the Latin calx, which means heel.

Definition:   Possessing an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline; difficult to manage.

Example:   Timmy couldn’t believe he’d drawn the short straw again; he was still recovering from the last time he’d had to ask the recalcitrant ogre to move.


This next word describes an animal native to North America. Often considered to be a pest, these animals are dextrous scavengers who sometimes wash their food before eating it, which is pretty cool.

Raccoon (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in English around 1600, sometimes as arocoun. Comes from the word arahkun, from the Powhatan subgroup of the Algonquian language. Arahkun came from the word arahkunem, meaning “he scratches with his hands.” Interestingly, in Norwegian, the word for raccoon is vaskebjørn, meaning wash-bear.

Definition:   A greyish-brown nocturnal North America mammal with a ringed tail and black mask-like markings around the eyes.

Genus is Procyon; family is Procyonidae (the raccoon family). There are two species, including the common raccoon (P. lotor), which is often seen in urban areas throughout North America. The raccoon family also includes the coati, kinkajou, cacomistle, and olingo.

Example:   Timmy watched the raccoon steal the sleeping ogre’s lunch then run up the nearest tree just as the ogre opened its eyes. Oh crap, thought Timmy.


The bonus word this week is something I would be absolutely thrilled to see at the moment.

Rain (noun)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English word regn, meaning rain, which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic regna– (which you can see in the Old Saxon regan, Old Frisian rein, Middle Dutch reghen, Dutch regen, German regen, Old Norse regn, Gothic rign). Early origins are uncertain, but regna– may come from the presumed Proto-Indo-European root reg-, meaning moist or wet, which might also be the source of the Latin word rigare, meaning to moisten or wet.

Definition:   Condensed moisture from the atmosphere falling visibly in separate drops.

Example:   Timmy breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the rain falling outside; the construction site shut down when it rained.


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: Baby Coati by Adrian Ratter