01 September 2011

An "endangered words" list

Excerpts from a Guardian article:
Aerodrome and charabanc are among the words presumed to have become extinct in the past year, according to lexicographers.

Collins Dictionary experts have compiled a list of words which have fallen out of use by tracking how often they appear. Other words on the list include "wittol"– a man who tolerates his wife's infidelity, which has not been much used since the 1940s.

The terms "drysalter", a dealer in certain chemical products and foods, and "alienism", the study and treatment of mental illness, have also faded from use...

Dr Ruth O'Donovan, asset development manager at Collins Language Division in Glasgow, said: "We track words using a very large database of language which is a very large collection of various texts from spoken and written language, including books, newspapers and magazines so we can track language change over time. "We track new words but we can also track for the frequency of existing words and when they get below a certain threshold we see them as being obsolete, though they may be used in very specialist circumstances."
Other words discussed at the link are cyclogyro, stauroscope, supererogate, succedaneum, and woolfell. I have not found a link to the primary source list of all the words Collins consideres endangered.


  1. Aerodrome is still in use around here.

    There's an aquadrome at Billing in Northamptonshire too.

  2. Heh, Dan Savage is trying to resurrect wittal. Aerodromes are popular in steampunk novels. And The Alienist was a pretty good read. I can't say I've heard the rest of the words recently!


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