Posted on 6 September 2021

Flavour of the months

The calendar used around the world these days, for most purposes, is the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. It ironed out a few little problems in its predecessor, the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar in 46 BC), which had in turn been based on the Roman calendar. The early Roman calendar had ten months rather than twelve, with January and February being added later. This explains a bit of an anomaly in the names of four of our months (more on this later). So, what is behind the names of our months, names we take for granted, and use constantly? January was named after Janus, an ancient deity, regarded by the Romans as presiding over doors and gates, and beginnings and endings. Janus is often represented as having two faces, pointing in opposite directions. February’s name comes from the name of a Roman purification festival, Februa, held towards the middle of this month. March is the month of Mars, the Roman god of war, and was the first month of the early Roman calendar. Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. The origin of April is slightly mysterious. It was called Aprīlis by the Romans, and may be related to the notion of plants 'opening' in spring. May was named after the goddess Maia – but was it the Greek goddess of that name, identified with the Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea? Or was it a different Roman goddess, also named Maia? June is yet another source of uncertainty. Some say it was named after the Roman goddess Juno, but others say that it is from Latin Jūnius, the gens of Rome. July is one of two months named after flesh-and-blood Roman leaders. Julius Caesar was born in this month, and it was named in his honour. The second month named after a ruler is August, named after the first Roman emperor, Augustus. And now we get to the last four months of the year, and the peculiarity mentioned earlier. September, the name for our ninth month, is Latin for 'seventh'. The name for our tenth month, October, is Latin for 'eighth', November is Latin for 'ninth', and (you guessed it), the name for our twelfth month, December, is Latin for 'tenth'. There’s something quite touching in the fact that these words, used all over the English-speaking world, by children in primary school, by hi-tech organisations, by us all, have such ancient origins, and that we still have the lovely anomaly in the naming of those four last months.
Posted on 18 August 2021

All about portmanteaus

What could be more fun than combining two words to create a brand new word? Almost nothing. That’s why the Macquarie Dictionary employs a dedicated team of word chefs who spend all day cooking up new portmanteaus. Well, not quite but we do like to write about them.  A portmanteau word is made by blending two other words. Brunch, perhaps the most famous portmanteau, is a combination of breakfast and lunch, but is now considered a meal all on it’s own, rather than a sneaky snack between other meals. Other well known portmanteaus include: spork (spoon + fork), cosplay (costume + play), and sitcom ( situation + comedy).  Portmanteaus have a way of capturing the imagination. Done right, they can roll off the tongue and into the national lexicon. Done badly and they can sound like the kind of awful pun that attracts groans from everyone in the room. Brunch, yes. Linner (you can probably guess at what time of day this meal occurs), no thanks.  As such, plenty of clever portmanteau words have featured in the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year. The 2020 People’s Choice Covid word of the year was covidiot, a blend of COVID-19 and idiot.  The 2019 Word of the Year list featured anecdata, a blend of anecdotal and data, alongside hangxiety, a dangerous combo consisting of hangover and anxiety.  How could we not mention the infamous and seemingly forgotten framily, winner of the 2017 People’s Choice Word of the Year. Framily, a blend of friend and family, has rarely been heard since.  Some portmanteaus are literal in their meaning. Examples include waterfall: water that falls, and pancake, literally a thin flat cake cooked in a frying pan. So you can see that people really do love combining words to make new words. If you would like to read more about portmanteaus check out our favourite combos from the Australian Writers’ Centre in 2016. If you love animals and words we’ve got the blog for you with our Ligers and tigons and grolar bears!
Posted on 4 March 2021

Word for Word #38 Word of the Decade

In this episode of Word for Word, we are joined by Tiger Webb from the ABC to chat about the inaugural Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade. Find out which words have had staying power and which have fallen out of use.  Join us as we explore our language: the ways we use it, the ways we abuse it, and the ways we ultimately change it.  You can also explore the 'additional links' below to discover what new words and definitions have been on our editor's minds in recent months.    Subscribe now on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify or your favourite podcast app to get the latest episode delivered direct to your inbox. Words & Definitions
  • burkini
  • cancel culture
  • captain's call
  • covidiot
  • doomscrolling
  • fake news
  • First World problem
  • fracking
  • framily
  • halal snack pack
  • infovore
  • Karen
  • mansplain
  • Me Too
  • milkshake duck
  • onesie
  • phantom vibration syndrome
  • robodebt
  • share plate
  • single-use
Additional links Word of the Decade shortlist Word of the Year (2006 - current) Suggest a Word   Acknowledgements Word for Word is produced by Macmillan Audio Australia for Macquarie Dictionary and Pan Macmillan Australia.  Music used in this episode is by Broke For Free, available from the Free Music Archive and used by permission of the artist. Find more music by Broke for Free including The Gold Lining; and If. Our logo is by Amy Sherington. All sound effects and clips are public domain, royalty-free, or used by permission. If you like Word for Word, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts! It only takes a minute and it helps other people discover the show.
Posted on 28 July 2020

Selected new words from award-winning author Kim Scott

Each new edition of the Macquarie Dictionary features a foreword written by an esteemed Australian writer. For the Eighth Edition, we were honoured to welcome Kim Scott, author Taboo and the Miles Franklin Award winning That Deadman Dance. The words below represent a selection of those that stood out for Kim, which in turn represent just a fraction of the 3500 new entries included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition. Kim’s foreword focuses on some of the Indigenous words included in the Eighth Edition. Kim notes that many of these words would once have been labelled simply as 'Aboriginal' but have since been updated with more understanding of their place within Indigenous culture and language groups. Take for example Ngangkari, from the Pitjantjatjara language, one of many Indigenous words included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition.  ngangkari noun an Indigenous practitioner of bush medicine; healer. Kim Scott’s other word selections are often humorous or food related. Each of the six words below reflects changes to the way Australian English is used by the public. To read the rest, order your copy of the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition and read the foreword for yourself.  hair doughnut noun a doughnut-shaped sponge or similar material used as the support for a doughnut bun or similar updo. rat tamer noun Colloquial a psychologist or psychiatrist. sadfishing noun Colloquial the practice adopted by some people, especially on social media, of exaggerating claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy. schnitty noun Colloquial a schnitzel, especially a chicken schnitzel. stepmonster noun Colloquial (humorous) (sometimes derogatory) a stepmother. zoodle noun a spiralised strand of zucchini, sometimes used as a substitute for pasta.
Posted on 8 October 2019

A quick look at the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia

The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, Second Edition is a unique tool for exploring and understanding the lives and cultures of Australia's First Peoples. Combining the magic of maps with the latest data from the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Atlas allows us to explore a visual history of Indigenous Australia.  About the contributors This second edition of the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia is a collabroative publication of the Australian National University, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Macquarie Dictionary. General Editors Bill Arthur and Frances Morphy have been researching Indigenous affairs and working closely with Indigenous communities for several decades. In 2001 they began working on the first edition of the atlas, which took out the award of Overall Winner in the 2006 Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing (EEPA). In 2017, they began working on this second edition of the Atlas. Across both editions, there have been over 40 contributors who have researched, written and mapped the content in the Atlas under the general editorship of Bill and Frances. One of the primary aims for this second edition was to increase the presence of Indigenous people contributing to the project. These contributors are drawn from a wide variety of places and professions - from academia, the arts world, Indigenous organisations and the public service. A full list of chapter contributors is available here. About the cover art The cover art, titled Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa, is a collaborative painting made by Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, Angilyiya Tjapitji Mitchell, Lalla West, Jennifer Nginyaka Mitchell, Eileen Tjayanka Woods, Lesley Laidlaw and Robert Woods at the Papulankutja Artists group in the Northern Territory. The Seven Sisters Songline refers to the Pleiades constellation. It travels from the west to the east across the far western and central deserts. The sisters are pursued by a man, Yurla in the west and Wati Nyiru further east, who is a shapeshifter with transformative powers. He becomes particularly besotted with one of the sisters and pursues them endlessly in order to possess them. Today, this saga is visible in the Orion constellation and the Pleiades star cluster as a constant reminder of the consequences of attempting to possess something through wrongful means. Cover Art: "Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa", 2015, a collaborative painting made by Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, Angilyiya Tjapitji Mitchell, Lalla West, Jennifer Nginyaka Mitchell, Eileen Tjayanka Woods, Lesley Laidlaw and Robert Woods  About the maps There are several types of maps in the atlas. Among those featured are thematic maps which indicate the occurrence of phenomena across parts of the country, or an event or feature at particular locations and chloropleth maps which show the distribution of socio-economic data. Also featured are choropleth maps, maps with proportional symbols, column maps, as well as graphs, charts and illustrations. More information is available within the atlas itself. Earlier attempts to map Indigenous people at the national level include Norman Tinsdale's iconic map 'Tribal boundaries in Aboriginal Australia', based on research that had been carried out between 1930 and 1974. This map is discussed in detail within the book, but it was "significant in the genesis of the atlas." The version of the map used in the Atlas is an adaptation of Tindale's map. It includes "Indigenous group boundaries existing at the time of first European settlement in Australia, as far as they could be determined. It is not intended to represent contemporary relationships to land." Earlier examples of national mapping tended to deal with just single subjects. While acknowledging and drawing on them, this atlas surveys a comprehensive range of cultural, social and economic traits in a large set of national maps. Find out more The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia is available in hardback and as a fixed-layout ebook. This ebook is available as part of Apple's Volume Purchase program which allows educational institutions to purchase copies in volume and distribute to students and teachers for use in the classroom and at home. There is also a comprehensive Teacher's Guide available for free download.
Word of the Day
Posted on 18 September 2021


The act of preferring.