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  • Archaism: An archaic or outdated word or expression.
  • Argot: Jargon used by a particular group of people, often obscure to those outside it.


  • Chicago: An abbreviated term for the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Chicago Manual of Style: An authoritative and widely accepted style manual that addresses most language and publishing questions.
  • CMS: An abbreviation of the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Colloquial: Relating to a familiar, informal conversational style.
  • Connote: To imply a second, often equally or more important, meaning along with the primary or explicit one. (Ex. Billionaire connotes one who has capitalized from the losses of others. See also denote.)


  • Denote: To designate, to be the name of. (Ex. Billionaire denotes one who has billions of dollars. See also connote.)
  • Descriptivism: the idea that all variations and dialects of a language are of equal value, with features and rules equally valid for study. (See also prescriptivism)
  • Descriptivist: a person, usually but not always a linguist or lexicographer, who records how people choose to use a language.(See also prescriptivist)
  • Dialect: A regional variant of a language with its own vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.


  • Etymology: Indicates how a word entered the English language, tracks the derivation of a word.


  • Font: A set of printing characters all of the same style or appearance.


  • Homograph: A word that is spelled the same as another word but sounds different and has a different meaning. This is a class of homonym.
  • Homonym: A word that sounds or is spelled the same as another word, but which has a different meaning.
  • Homophone: A word that is pronounced the same as another word but which is spelled differently and has a different meaning. This is a class of homonym.


  • Idiom: 1. a turn of phrase or expression that is particular to itself (and often metaphorical); 2. a language or dialect used by a class or group of people.
  • Italics: A font or typeface that slants toward the right and usually looks more script-like than roman text. Italic typefaces are not simply a roman font that has been skewed to the right. They are designed to complement the roman font in the typeface family, but are designed from the ground up just as roman fonts are. This sentence is italicized.


  • Lexicographer: one who curates a dictionary, recording which words people are using and what those words mean. (See also Erin McKean’s TED Talk)
  • Linguist: one who studies how language works


  • Majuscule: A capital letter.
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech in which one word or idea stands in for another.
  • Minuscule: A lowercase letter.


  • OED: Abbreviation of Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Onomatopoeia: when a word’s origin can be traced back to the imitation of a sound.
  • Orthography: the study of a language’s spelling and letters; the art of correct spelling; the representation of sounds using written symbols.
  • Oxford English Dictionary: A dictionary of English, compiled by scholars at Oxford University, with the help of English speakers from around the world, to trace not just current English usage, but also the history of how English has been used over the past one thousand years.


  • Prescriptivism: The idea that there is one correct way to use a language and that other variants and dialects of that language are intrinsically inferior. (See also descriptivism)
  • Prescriptivist: One who would dictate how others should use language, usually with reference to a particular style or standard that happens to be their preference among many available options. (See also descriptivist)


  • Roman: A font or typeface that has an upright stature, roman text dominates in publishing, both in print and online. The words in this definition are all roman.


  • Typeface: Historically referring to the “face” of the pieces of moveable type to be set for the printing of text, typeface now refers to a set of characters and letters that are all of one style, much as font does.


  • Usage: The way words are actually used by those who speak and write a specific language (ex. English usage). Usage is often at odds with standard language use as set out by language authorities.


  • Vernacular: Relating to the normal spoken language of a region or population.