Unusual words starting with a Y


One more A to Z day left guys! This is the last 100 meters, and as all last 100 meter stretches, it is by far the hardest.

I had nothing for Y. Zero. Zilch. Zip (Clearly I have a few Z words already lined up though!) I couldn’t think of a single usable Y word, until my brain pulled out “yodelling” from one of its recesses. No, don’t worry I won’t write a blog post about yodelling (although it is a lovely word, the kind that should be read out loud because it rolls ever so satisfyingly off the tongue). It did make me wonder about other random Y words and so today, I give you a post about interesting and weird Y words that you may not have come across before. These are not all official words (from the dictionary), some were plucked from the quagmire of the internet.

(I’m so glad, by the way, that the Y section of the dictionary is small, there is only so much time one can spend snuggled up with one’s dictionary.)

Yogibogeybox: This is a word invented by James Joyce in Ulysses (Which I have yet to read. *Adds to ever growing reading list*). As far as I can tell it refers to the tool(s) used by a spiritualist. The word is very Lewis Carroll or Dr Seuss, don’t you think? In fact, I imagine that’s what Dr Seuss would have called a lunchbox, and of course it would have contained Green Eggs and Ham.

Yale: Don’t scoff, I don’t mean the university. Do you know the actual meaning of the word? It’s a mythical animal the size of a horse, with long, flexible horns that move independently (it can have one facing the front and one held back as a backup, as in the picture below – pretty awesome). It has the jaw and tusks of a boar and the tail of an elephant. Now, I have never thought of elephant tails as anything special; of all the tails in existence, it’s a bit of a weird one to select for a mythical beast. Anyway, there you are, who knew an Ivy League University was linked to so random a creature?

Photo from the Medieval Bestiary

Yegg: A travelling, safe breaking robber. An unbelievably specific word – but what a brilliant idea for a character. The thought of a man travelling the world breaking safes brings up a whole host of images and impressions. One day I shall write a story featuring a Yegg – I shall of course let you all know when I do.

Yahoo: A lout, a hooligan. This word was invented by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, referring to the brutish race of people Gulliver encounters. The Yahoos are mankind depraved. Having not read Gulliver’s Travels I had no idea that Yahoo was named after what the dictionary calls “a coarse people” (anyone using the phrase “a coarse people”, is most definitely not a coarse person).

Image from Book Relish

Yarborough: A hand of cards at Bridge where all cards are 9 or below. Basically a crap hand when it comes to Bridge. I don’t play Bridge, so I’m not sure how common this word is, but it’s a pretty word (it sounds like a fair, like the Scarborough Fair Simon and Garfunkel sang about)  and as writers we should collect pretty words. Not only that, but the next time you find yourself playing Bridge with a terrible hand, you’ll at least have the satisfaction of cursing the yarborough you were dealt.

Ylem: This word comes from Middle English, and means “primal substance from which all matter is formed” – i.e. what came after the Big Bang. In some mythology this is also called the Cosmic Egg.

Photo from Wikipedia


Yrneh: This isn’t a very interesting word (other than trying to work out how the hell to pronounce it). It means “a unit of reciprocal inductance” as relating to electricity. Except that I first read the definition as “a unit of reciprocal reluctance” – which sounds like a far more interesting concept. There are days when it feels like the story is as reluctant for me to tell it, as I am to keep my arse on the chair and write it. Next time this happens, I shall exclaim that the level of Yrneh is exceptionally high today.

Yorkshire Fog: This is not a type of fog. It is a type of grass. With that sort of name, it wouldn’t be amiss in a Dickens novel, maybe at the start of Great Expectations when Pip meets the convict. It would also be greatly confusing if the fog in Yorkshire rolled over the Yorkshire Fog.

Yggdrasil: You might have come across this word before, as it’s quite a famous part of Norse mythology. It’s the tree of life, linking and sheltering the nine worlds of Norse mythology. In the tree lives a squirrel (Ratastok), who spreads discord between the eagle living at the top of the tree, and the serpent/dragon Nidhogg at the roots. Four deers also live in the tree, they roam about the branches eating the buds, and they represent the four winds. It’s a bit like a grown up version of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree – and quite possibly where she got her inspiration from!

Photo from Hristara’s Myth

Lastly, the words Yuk and Yukky, Yummmy and Yum-Yum are all in the Oxford Dictionary of English. It’s the sort of thing that makes me incredibly happy.


21 thoughts on “Unusual words starting with a Y

  1. Hello Celine! Your blog never ceases to make me smile. Even your comment box is full of your personality: “What could this box below be for? Try typing something in it to see what it does. I dare you.” Love your flair!

    Because I think you rock, I have nominated you for the Liebster Award!

    For more info, you can go to my blog http://halleygentil.wordpress.com and find more information on the post entitled Liebster Award!

    Even if you don’t accept the award, I still think you and your style are amazing. 🙂


    • Likewise Julie, it’s been awesome to discover your blog. And well done for making it to the end!

      The yogibogeybox is amazing, if you slip it into a conversation, please tell me! I wonder how many other people know about this word…..


    • Finesse? What a great word – although it’s quite random as in French it means delicacy (well it can have a few different meanings but that’s the most general one). I love that Yarborough’s a word that is genuinely used though. Bridge is clearly quite a good game for interesting jargon!


      • It is, and I never thought of it that way. Now I’m tempted to run through my Bridge notes and make a list of all the unusual terms!


      • And one more idea added to the list 🙂

        Generating the list? No problem.

        Disciplining myself to stop reading blogs and write for my own? A little harder. I need the “tough love” writing police to show up on a daily basis 🙂


  2. Fantastic post, Celine! I don’t play Bridge, either, but maybe I should look into learning it, if only for the words they use! 😀
    What does it say of me, that when I encounter Norse mythology, I think of Tom Hiddleston?


  3. Pingback: A Whole Bunch of Random Stuff on Me and an Award | Celine Jeanjean's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s