n. An aimless idler; a loafer. [Fr. <flâner, to idle about, stroll.]

And flâneurs were something that literature people talked about. I had never understood why; they would just say that someone was a flâneur, or a voyeur, and seem satisfied. I knew that flâneurs walked around, and voyeurs looked at things.

Elif Batuman, Either/Or


n. 1. A diminutive human being. 2. A miniature, fully formed individual believed by adherents of the early biological theory of preformation to be present in the sperm cell.

He felt incapable of spontaneous action: before he could do anything, a tiny homunculus had to generate a flowchart in his brain. If p, then q; if z, then back to a. This homunculus could gnaw a pencil down to a nub, deliberating.

Karen Russell, “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979” from Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Everything about [the architect’s house] seemed evocative and expensive, except the dog, which looked less like a dog than like a panicked homunculus that had been crammed into an ill-fitting shaggy suit.

Elif Batuman, Either/Or


n. A sheltered place, esp. a greenhouse, used for growing orange trees in cool climates.

The sky was a dark purple, not quite black, and the moon was reflecting off the glass roof of the orangery where the leaves pressed to get out.

Claire Fuller, Bitter Orange


n. A noisy disorderly fight or quarrel; a brawl.

People were scrambling to get out of the way of the impending fracas when a short man with a jet-black beard was seen stepping forth and addressing the warring factions.

Olga Grushin, The Line


n. 1. Bot. The soft spongy parenchymatous center of the stems of most flowering plants. 2. Zool. The soft inner substance of a feather or hair. 3. The essential or central part; the heart or essence. 4. Strenth; vigor; mettle. 5. Significance; importance.

Today, fifty-two years later, its vigor is unimpaired, and for sheer pith I think it probably sets a record that is not likely to be broken.

E.B. White, Introduction to The Elements of Style


n. 1. a. Overindulgence in food or drink. b. The result of such overindulgence; satiety or disgust. 2. An excessive amount.

He died old and respected — of a surfeit of violets some say — he never could get enough violets.

Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn


n. 1. A tree or shrub trained to grow in a flat plane against a wall, often in a symmetrical pattern. 2. A trellis or other framework on which an espalier is grown. — tr.v. 1. To train as or on an espalier.

She looked up and spoke to Sabine, who was pushed back against the brick wall as if espaliered there by years of careful pruning.

Ann Patchett, The Magician’s Assistant


n. 1. a. Growth or increase in size by gradual external addition, fusion, or inclusion. b. Something added externally to promote such growth or increase.

Now it seemed to Marta that she was filled with a vapor, such a smoke as folk have in their steadings toward the end of winter, that is the accretion of all the fires that have been made over the winter, and all the food that has been cooked, and all the breaths that have been taken.

– Jane Smiley, The Greenlanders

I saw this word at work this week and fell in love with it, and then it appeared in my book today.