The Lexical Expander 4: Afterwit

Word: Afterwit

Definition:  (1) later knowledge; (2) wisdom or knowledge that comes after an event, usually too late

Example:  A few hours after the argument had ended James hit upon the perfect piece of afterwit.

Rarity:  Extremely rare, bottom 20% of words (Merriam-Webster)

Etymology: after + wit, late 16th century.

Across languages:  French: esprit de l’escalier; German: Treppenwitz

Why I like this word: This word is both very rare and extremely useful; often in life one realizes something too late. Furthermore, it is the best translation for the German, Trappenwitz, (literal: staircase wisdom), a word sometimes toted as “untranslatable.” Perhaps, those that believed Trappenwitz  had no one word English translation will now be experiencing afterwit.


The Lexical Expander 3: Anteroom

Word: Anteroom

Definition: an outer room that is connect to an inner room, often used for waiting.

Example: She sat in the poorly decorated anteroom, awaiting her appointment.

Rarity:  bottom 40% of words in common usage (Merriam-Webster).

Etymology: 1762, ante (Latin: before) + room

Word in Use: “Despite the ruling, party investigators went into a detailed hypothesis as to what took place in the anteroom between Hookem and Woolfe.”(

Across languages:  Spanish: antesala; in use: “Pizzi ratifica a Sánchez, Vidal y Bravo en la antesala del partido ante Uruguay” (

German: Vorzimmer; in use: “in eine Kommodenlade im Vorzimmer und wartete ab.” (

Why I like this word: I think it is a relatively useful and interesting word, the alternative “antechamber” is used slightly more often. I think both words should be used a bit more to befit their rather considerable utility, for example instead of calling it a waiting room why not be more lexically economical and call it the anteroom?

The Lexical Expander 2: Quaquaversal

Word: Quaquaversal

Definition: Dipping, sloping, pointing, etc. in every direction.

Example: His roof was quaquaversal.

Rarity:  Extremely rare.

Etymology: From classical Latin quāquā versus on all sides + al

Word in Use: “presented her Quaquaversal ready-to-wear collection for Spring Summer 2016 during Paris Fashion Week, earlier this week.” via:

Why I like this word: I like the word quaquaversal because it is a fun word to say (pronunciation: kwākwəvərsəl). Furthermore, it is a rather ridiculous word with an interesting meaning. All around it is a rather fun word (it is actually one of my favorite words in English).

The Lexical Expander 1: Centigrade

Word: Centigrade

Definition: degrees Celsius.

Example: Today it is 3 centigrade.

Rarity:  bottom 40% of words in common usage (Merriam-Webster).

Etymology: 1799, from French: centi- (one hundred) + grade (degree of measurement; via Latin gradus “step, pace, gait”). []

Word in Use: “Designed to function in temperatures ranging from minus 32 to 49 centigrade, the Centauro II engine provides 24 horsepower per ton compared to 19 for the old Centauro. ” (

Across languages: Spanish: centigrados; in use: “Termometro descendio hasta 6 grados centigrados en SLP.” ( )

Why I like this word: I like the word centigrade because it has a certain economy to it; it allows one to skip saying “degrees Celsius,” while still being correct (saying simple Celsius is incorrect, it must be degrees Celsius). It also has a rather nice Latinate quality to it. In Spanish one loses the economy, having to say grados centigrados; however, that too has a rather pleasant continuity to it.

Introducing The Lexical Expander

The Lexical Expander will be a series of short, special articles focused on rare, uncommon, and underused words. The format will be as follows:





Etymology: (word history)

Word in Use: (reference to a recent use of the word)

Across languages: (the word in one other language, if applicable)

Why I like this word:

I hope you’ll enjoy this series.