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DICTIONARY In time, she acquired more words. She sold the treasures from the maze and bought words in job-lots, luck-of-the-drawer. She made collages with these second-hand words, beautiful mish-mashes. She hammered them into boats, wove them into sails, and travelled around the world; she spent years entirely at sea. Her story would be The Woman Who Travelled the World for the Words of Love.

My favourite words are rarely the long Latinate ones - those seem to be all mouth and no trousers. Egregious can take a long walk off a short pier. I love the short, simple words for very precise things: a bole; a snag for a dead tree that's still standing. I also love words with multiple meanings, such as heliotrope and bolt. Everything has a name; it must have; even that random little metal thing - the people who make them and use them don't call them "random little metal things", so what do they call them? Yet we know so few of these words. Even trying to describe a door in detail can stump our vocabulary. When I'm writing, I spend acres of time scouring visual dictionaries to find the precise words for parts. I invariably recognise them, but have never needed to use them before. Writing Rope of Words, I tracked down the parts of an anvil three times over. I didn't end up using them, but I could have. For the record, here is an anvil's naming of parts. It's surprisingly human. – Megan Kerr

Click ctrl-f to search for a specific word or jump to a section: the rope of wordsother words in the ropewords in the shop and collectionsan excess of Zsthe angels' wordthe final word

The rope of words

She had to leave to travel the maze, but she was afraid of losing him, so she knitted a rope of words – all their favourites, linked together...

heliotrope (n)

  1. (botany) A plant that turns so that it faces the sun
  2. (botany) Particularly, a purple-flowered plant of the species Heliotropium arborescens
  3. A light purple or violet colour
  4. The fragrance of heliotrope flowers
  5. (mineralogy) A bloodstone (a variety of quartz)
  6. (surveying) An instrument, employed in triangulation, that uses a mirror to reflect sunlight toward another, very distant, surveyor


  1. A small, compact chunk or clump: a gold nugget
  2. A tidbit of something valuable: a nugget of wisdom


  1. Commonly believed or deemed to be the case; accepted by supposition rather than as a result of proof


  1. Obstinate and unruly; strongly opposed to something
  2. Not affected by great heat
  3. (medicine) Difficult to treat
  4. (biology) Incapable of registering a reaction or stimulus


  1. A dealer in a specific commodity, normally used in combination: costermonger, fishmonger, ironmonger
  2. A person promoting something undesirable, always used in combination: warmonger, sleazemonger
  3. A small merchant vessel


  1. To obtain through manipulative or deceitful methods
  2. To falsify, as records
  3. To achieve through contrivance or cajolery


  1. A person who maintains the health and balance of the horse's feet through the trimming of the hoof and placement of horseshoes
  2. blacksmith


  1. (organic chemistry) A compound containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrocarbon groups
  2. (organic chemistry) Diethyl ether (C4H10O), a compound used as an early anaesthetic
  3. (ancient philosophy and alchemy, uncountable) A classical physical element, considered as prevalent in the heavens and inaccessible to humans In some versions of alchemy, this was the fifth element in addition to air, earth, fire and water
  4. (archaic, physics) A substance (aether) once thought to fill all space that allowed electromagnetic waves to pass through it and interact with matter, without exerting any resistance to matter or energy (disproved by Einstein in his Theory of Relativity)
  5. (poetic or literary) The sky or heavens; the upper air


  1. (archaic except in past participle) To tear apart by force; to split; to cleave
  2. (archaic) To pierce or cleave with a weapon
  3. To break apart; to split
  4. In woodworking, to use a technique of splitting or sawing wood radially from a log (eg clapboards)


  1. (chemistry) A usually available or readily made compound or known mixture of compounds used to treat materials, samples, other compounds or reactants in a laboratory or sometimes an industrial setting


  1. To atone or make reparation for
  2. To make amends or pay the penalty for
  3. (obsolete) To relieve or cleanse of guilt
  4. To purify with sacred rites


  1. Foam or froth of liquid, particularly that of sea water


  1. A small, narrow opening, fissure, crevice, or chink, as in a wall, or other substance
  2. A tool for forming the necks of bottles, etc


  1. An artificial passage for water, fitted with a valve or gate, as in a mill stream, for stopping or regulating the flow; also, a water gate or flood gate
  2. Hence, an opening or channel through which anything flows; a source of supply
  3. The stream flowing through a flood gate
  4. (mining) A long box or trough through which water flows, used for washing auriferous earth
  5. (linguistics) An instance of wh-stranding ellipsis, or sluicing


  1. Learned, scholarly, with emphasis on knowledge gained from books


  1. (anatomy) A cup-like structure in the mammalian kidney
  2. (botany) The outermost whorl of flower parts, comprising the sepals, when it is not the same in appearance as the next such whorl (the corolla)
  3. (zoology) The crown of a crinoid



  1. A (usually) metal fastener consisting of a cylindrical body that is threaded, with a larger head on one end It can be inserted into an unthreaded hole up to the head, with a nut then threaded on the other end; a heavy machine screw
  2. A sliding pin or bar in a lock or latch mechanism
  3. A bar of wood or metal dropped in horizontal hooks on a door and adjoining wall or between the two sides of a double door, to prevent the door(s) from being forced open
  4. A sliding mechanism to chamber and unchamber a cartridge in a firearm
  5. A shaft or missile intended to be shot from a crossbow or a catapult, especially a short, stout arrow
  6. A lightning spark, ie, a lightning bolt
  7. A sudden event, action or emotion
  8. The problem's solution struck him like a bolt from the blue
  9. A large roll of fabric or similar material, as a bolt of cloth
  10. (nautical) The standard linear measurement of canvas for use at sea: 39 yards
  11. A sudden spring or start; a sudden leap aside
  12. A sudden flight, as to escape creditors
  13. (US, politics) A refusal to support a nomination made by the party with which one has been connected; a breaking away from one's party
  14. An iron to fasten the legs of a prisoner; a shackle; a fetter


  1. To connect or assemble pieces using a bolt: bolt the vice to the bench
  2. To secure a door by locking or barring it: bolt the door
  3. To flee, to depart, to accelerate suddenly: Seeing the snake, the horse bolted; The actor forgot his line and bolted from the stage
  4. To cause to start or spring forth; to dislodge (an animal being hunted): to bolt a rabbit
  5. To strike or fall suddenly like a bolt
  6. To escape
  7. (botany) Of a plant, to grow quickly; to go to seed: Lettuce and spinach will bolt as the weather warms up
  8. To swallow food without chewing it
  9. To drink one's drink very quickly; to down a drink


  1. Dew-drops which have undergone deposition and frozen into ice crystals to form a white deposit on an exposed surface, when the air is cold and moist


  1. An image or representation of an idea; a representation of an ideal form; an apparition of some actual or imaginary entity, or of some aspect of reality
  2. A phantom, a ghost or elusive entity


  1. Any of several coarse ferns, of genus Pteridium, that forms dense thickets; often poisonous to livestock
  2. An area of countryside heavily populated by this fern


  1. A short prayer or petition including the phrase kyrie, meaning "Lord, have mercy"
  2. (music): A setting of the traditional kyrie text to music for a Mass

Other words in the rope

In a netful of detritus, she saw ev– poking out, and pounced on it. Was it evensong? evection? But it was every way, just a corroding fragment of cheap disposable poetry tossed overboard by the summer-loving punters.

  1. (comparable) Dangerously insecure or unstable; perilous
  2. (law) Depending on the intention of another


  1. A quantity of yarn, thread, or the like, put up together, after it is taken from the reel A skein of cotton yarn is formed by eighty turns of the thread round a fifty-four inch reel
  2. (figuratively) A web, a weave, a tangle
  3. (wagonmaking) A metallic strengthening band or thimble on the wooden arm of an axle
  4. (zoology, provincial England) A group of wild fowl, (eg geese, goslings) when they are in flight


  1. Abbreviation: by the way


  1. Abbreviation: for your information


  1. Abbreviation: nota bene, note well


  1. Abbreviation: as soon as possible


  1. A female dog or other canine In particular one who has recently had puppies
  2. (vulgar, offensive) A despicable or disagreeable, aggressive person, often female [from the 15th c]
  3. (vulgar, offensive) A submissive person, often female, who does what others want; a slave [from the 20th c]
  4. (obsolete, informal) Of a man, playful variation on dog (sense "man") [from the 16th c]
  5. (colloquial) A complaint, especially when the complaint is unjustified
  6. (colloquial, usually only used in the singular) A difficult or confounding problem
  7. (colloquial) A queen (playing card), particularly the queen of spades in the card game of hearts
  8. (figuratively) Something unforgiving and unpleasant


  1. Sensitive or painful to the touch
  2. Easily bruised or injured; not firm or hard; delicate: tender plants; tender flesh; tender fruit
  3. Physically weak; not able to endure hardship
  4. (of food) Soft and easily chewed
  5. Sensible to impression and pain; easily pained
  6. Fond, loving, gentle, sweet
  7. Adapted to excite feeling or sympathy; expressive of the softer passions; pathetic: tender expressions; tender expostulations; a tender strain
  8. Apt to give pain; causing grief or pain; delicate: a tender subject
  9. (nautical) Heeling over too easily when under sail; said of a vessel
  10. (obsolete) Exciting kind concern; dear; precious
  11. (obsolete) Careful to keep inviolate, or not to injure; used with of


  1. An astronomical and navigational instrument for gauging the altitude of the Sun and stars


  1. A soft, percussive sound, as of tiny feet or rain on a rooftop


  1. fearful, afraid, timid


  1. An unsought, unintended, and/or unexpected, but fortunate, discovery and/or learning experience that happens by accident
  2. A combination of events which are not individually beneficial, but occurring together produce a good or wonderful outcome


  1. A religious service, most commonly seen in the Anglican or Episcopal Church, that takes place in the early hours of the evening


  1. Modification of the lunar orbit due to the gravitational effects of the Sun

Words in the shop and collections
Such quality words were much more valuable than the dregs she’d dredged up; no doubt they’d worked their way into a private collection. If she wanted to attract the true word connoisseurs, she must become a dealer in words.


  1. To treat gently or with great care
  2. To cook slowly in hot water that is below the boiling point
  3. To exercise excessive or damaging authority in an attempt to protect; to overprotect


  1. (obsolete) Silly, ignorant; foolish [14th-17th c]
  2. (now rare) Particular in one's conduct; scrupulous, painstaking; choosy [from 14th c]
  3. (obsolete) Particular as regards rules or qualities; strict [16th-19th c]
  4. Showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment; subtle [from 16th c]
  5. (obsolete) Doubtful, as to the outcome; risky [16th-19th c]
  6. Respectable; virtuous [from 18th c]
  7. Pleasant, satisfactory [from 18th c]
  8. Of a person: friendly, attractive [from 18th c]
  9. With "and", having intensive effect: extremely

cellar door

Traditionally the most beautiful sounding phrase in the English language (discounting the meaning)

unpaired negative

  1. A word that used to exist in positive and negative form, whose positive forms have fallen away: for example, uncouth, disconsolate, indomitably. Strictly speaking, inept is not an unpaired negative, because ept was never used in English.


  1. A word that is an example of itself: for example, word is a word; English is English


  1. Having more than one syllable; having multiple or many syllables


  1. A long word


  1. (obsolete) disused; out of use


  1. Exquisite; lavishly elegant and refined
  2. Exotic or obscure


  1. A word that sounds like what it represents, such as "gurgle" or "hiss"


  1. French for cock-a-doodle-do


  1. Representing the sound of a dog barking

An excess of Zs

(She had rather more zs than she needed. She could have made razzmatazz, pizzazz, or razzledazzle, but she lacked the heart for it. Eventually, she bashed them together into zenzizenzizenzic and put it on permanent display, framed in a square inside a square inside a square.)


  1. Ambiguous or meaningless language
  2. Empty and tiresome speculation
  3. (informal) Something presenting itself in a fanciful and showy, often unrealistic manner, especially when intended to impress and confuse


  1. Flair, zest, or vitality; vigor; energy


  1. Glitz, glamor/glamour, showiness, or pizazz; schmaltz


  1. (obsolete) The eight power of a number, often represented as the square of a square of a square

The angels' word
One of the ships carried a vast star, which was white with cold and rimed with frost, and in that ship she saw a word, bright and smooth as a sheet of lightning: Elohim. No words on earth could express her love; then she would be The Woman Who Stole the Words of Angels.


  1. Name used for God in Hebrew scriptures

The final word


  1. very good; outstanding, wonderful
  2. of or relating to fable, myth or legend
  3. characteristic of fables; marvelous, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable, absurd, extreme, or exaggerated
  4. fictional or not believable; made up
  5. known for telling fables or falsehoods; unreliable

All definitions given here are from Wikitionary, used under a Creative Commons Licence Click on a word for a wider range of definitions and examples of usage from Wordnik, Megan's favourite wordy site