Set 27 – Five New Words for Nov 27

Theme: Words borrowed from other languages

1. mojo

noun: Magical power; charm.

Apparently of W. African origin, akin to Gullah moco (witchcraft), Fula moco’o (medicine man). Fula is a language of West Africa. Earliest documented use: 1926.

“After losing their mojo, formerly high-flying tech firms rarely recover it.”

2. boondocks (BOON-doks)

noun: Rough country; backwoods.

From Tagalog bundok (mountain). Earliest documented use: 1944.

“No one uses landlines to make or receive a call any more, unless you live in the boondocks, far away from cell phone towers.”

3. gam



1. A leg, especially a woman’s attractive leg.

2. A school of whales.

3. A social visit, especially between whalers or ship crews.

verb tr., intr.:

4. To hold such a visit; to spend time talking.


For 1: Probably from Polari, from Italian gamba (leg), from Latin gamba (leg). Polari is a jargon used among actors, circus performers, etc. in the UK. Earliest documented use: 1789.

For 2-4: Perhaps a dialectal variant of game. Earliest documented use: 1850.


“They didn’t call her ‘The Girl With the Million Dollar Legs’ for nothing: the actress Betty Grable insured her gams for $500,000 each.”

“If the captain wanted to turn his vessel around in mid-sea to follow a gam of whales for a few miles, he could do so.”

4. mammonism (MAM-uh-niz-uhm)

noun: The greedy pursuit of riches.

Via Latin and Greek, from Aramaic mamona (riches). Mammon was personified as a false god in the New Testament.

5. leviathan  (li-VY-uh-thuhn)

noun: Something large and powerful.

Via Latin from Hebrew liwyathan (whale)

“A merger between the two firms, which both belong to London’s Magic Circle of top five law firms, would have created a legal leviathan with 950 partners and more than 10,000 staff.”


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