Common Most Interesting Vocabulary Questions for Exams Part 7

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Which Word Describes the Fear of Friday the 13th ?


The word is triskaidekaphobia. Its literal meaning is ‘superstition about the number thirteen’ , but it՚s also used to refer to the specific fear of Friday the 13th . There is also the word paraskavedekatriaphobia, proposed by some as a more specific option, although this word is not yet in our dictionaries.

Which Words Have “Q” Not Followed by “U” ?


In the spelling of all Standard English words, the letter q is followed by u. The Oxford Dictionary of English does contain various words in which q is not followed by u: all but one (QWERTY) have reached English from other languages:

  • niqab - a veil worn by some Muslim women
  • qanat - (in the Middle East) an irrigation channel
  • qawwal - a performer of qawwali
  • qawwali - Muslim devotional music
  • qibla - the direction towards Mecca
  • qigong - a Chinese system of physical exercises
  • qintar - a monetary unit of Albania
  • QWERTY - the standard layout of typewriters and keyboards
  • tariqa - the Sufi method of spiritual learning

Which Words Only Exist in the Plural Form?


There are quite a few words that fall into this category, for example:

  • Names of devices:
    • bellows, binoculars, forceps, gallows, glasses, pliers, scissors, shears, tongs.
  • Names of items of clothing:
    • braces, briefs, jeans, knickers, pants, pyjamas, shorts, tights, trousers.

it՚s true that some of these clothing words do become singular when they are used as modifiers (e. g. pyjama leg or trouser pocket) . you՚ll also find a few of them used in what is sometimes humorously described as the ‘fashion singular’ (e. g. we՚re celebrating the return of the high-waisted trouser or another trend this season is the body-hugging jean) but this isn՚t yet accepted as part of Standard English.

There is also the more difficult category of words ending in -ics which may or may not take a plural verb. If this type of word is used strictly for the name of a subject, it՚s regarded as singular, e. g. Economics, Ethics, or Physics. Compare with heroics or hysterics, for example, which are treated as plural.

Hustings, by the way, was once used in the singular, but only in Old and Middle English.

Why Does Unisex Refer to Both Sexes?


The combining form uni- does normally mean ‘one, having or consisting of one’ : it comes from Latin unus ‘one’ . It forms words such as unicycle, a term for a cycle with just one wheel, and unicellular, meaning ‘consisting of a single cell’ . And in fact the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary contains entries for the words unisexual, meaning ‘of one sex or relating to one sex’ and unisexuality, meaning ‘the state of being unisexual’ . Both these words date back to the early 19th century.

Unisex is a much newer word: it was coined in the 1960s and originally used in relatively informal contexts. Its formation seems to have been influenced by words such as union, united, and universal, from which it took the sense of something that was shared. So unisex can be understood as referring to one thing (such as a clothing style or hairstyle) that is shared by both sexes.

Words Spelled the Same That Have Different Meanings


These words are known as homographs. Homographs are words that are spelled exactly the same but have different meanings and origins. Some homographs are pronounced in the same way (e. g. bank = the land alongside a river or lake, and bank = a financial establishment) . Others have different pronunciations according to their meaning (e. g. wind = the natural movement of the air, and wind = move in a twisting or spiral course) .