Set 27 – Five New Words for Nov 27

Theme: Words borrowed from other languages

1. mojo

MEANING:
noun: Magical power; charm.

ETYMOLOGY:
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.

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

2. boondocks (BOON-doks)

MEANING:
noun: Rough country; backwoods.

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

USAGE:
“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

MEANING:

noun:

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.

ETYMOLOGY:

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.

USAGE:

“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)

MEANING:
noun: The greedy pursuit of riches.

ETYMOLOGY:
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)

MEANING:
noun: Something large and powerful.

ETYMOLOGY:
Via Latin from Hebrew liwyathan (whale)

USAGE:
“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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