New Word Wednesday: dreich


Happy Wednesday! Here’s your new word for the week, courtesy of the oncoming fall weather:


dreich adjective

  • (especially of weather) dreary, bleak

“a cold, dreich November”

Origin: Middle English (in the sense “patient, long-suffering”); of Germanic origin, corresponding to Old Norse drjúgr “enduring, lasting”


The origin of the word makes it much more interesting than the definition, I think! It really evokes the nature of this sort of weather, especially in the Midwest (or Germany, from the sound of it), and the stubbornness and patience involved in surviving it. Something to keep in mind as winter approaches!







New Word Wednesday: swain

Happy Wednesday! Here’s your new word for the week:


swain noun

  • a young (male) lover or suitor

Example: “a young lady and her swain”

Origin: late old English (denoting a young man attendant on a knight), from old Norse sveinn, “lad”


I enjoy finding archaic words like this – they’re great for Scrabble. Now if only there were more things to do with the letter Q…


  • H



New Word Wednesday – homoeosemant

Happy Wednesday! Here’s your new word for the week, one which can be used to describe other words!


Homoeosemant noun

  • a word that has a similar meaning to another, but not quite. Also known as semi-synonyms.

Examples: consider the differences between askquestionprobeenquireinterview, and interrogate.

Origin: the prefix “homoe-” comes from the Ancient Greek ὅμοιος (homoios, “of like kind”, “similar”).


Compare this to synonyms (homosemants, maybe?), which have the same meaning to each other. This word covers the more subtle differences between words – the differences that won’t show up in a thesaurus. For a native speaker, these words have different meanings: you wouldn’t interrogate your mom on what time dinner will be, for example – but for someone not as familiar with a language, it can be easy to use the wrong term. Figuring out which homoeosemant should be used in which context is a matter of trial-and-error, study, and often talking to a native! Otherwise you’ll answer the phone in a Spanish speaking country and not know whether to say “Hola”, “Diga”, “Bueno”, “Oigo”, “Aló”…

Enjoy your new word!


  • H



New Word Wednesday: ravel vs unravel

Happy Wednesday! Here are your new words for the week:


ravel verb

  • untangle something

I finally finished raveling this yarn.

  • confuse or complicate (a question or situation)

I don’t want him to help. He’ll only ravel things further.

  • unravel; fray
    (as adjective ravelleda shirt with a raveled hem


unravel verb

  • undo (twisted, knitted, or woven threads)

If you pull that thread, it will unravel the whole sweater.

  • investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling)

They attempted to unravel the timeline of the evening.

  • become undone
    Part of the hem had unraveled.
    All his work setting up the event quickly unraveled.


Right. Well that couldn’t be much more confusing. Let’s try to unravel this situation!

  1. When you’re talking about an object, you first have to ravel the tangled yarn, then you can knit the sweater, being careful not to unravel the whole thing.

  2. When you’re talking about a complicated situation, raveling will make it worse, while unraveling will solve it.

  3. If you’re talking about a shirt hem or other piece of fabric, the two words pretty much mean the same thing. Either way, it’s frayed.

So how can these two words mean both the same and opposite things? The words came from the Dutch ravelen “to tangle, fray”, rafelen “to unweave”, and from rafel “frayed thread”. The word has roots in weaving and sewing: as threads become unwoven from the final product, they get tangled. So you can unravel a sweater and get a tangled ball of yarn, which you would then have to ravel.

The many languages English has borrowed from can make unraveling word origins a confusing exercise!


Enjoy your new words!