Superfluous (and other words that are what they mean)

An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates a sound. Words like “bang,” “pow,” and “meow” fit this category. But there are other words that don’t necessarily sound like what they mean. Instead, these special words are what they mean. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Superfluous – It means unnecessary, more than enough, but the word itself is unnecessary. You could just say “extra” or “unnecessary.”
  • Too – This means also, in addition, or along with. But check it out. It has an extra ‘o’ in addition to the first one, and it often tags along with an already complete sentence also.
  • Blunt – When you use this word, you’re being disconcertingly frank, which is what the word means. For example, “He’s blunt” is a very blunt statement.
  • Intangible, noun, word – The word “intangible” is an intangible, the word “noun” is a noun, and the word “word” is a word. No kidding, right?
  • Ain’t – It might be a word now, but it still ain’t a contraction.
  • Misspelled – Or does it just have one ‘s’? (Okay, maybe that’s cheating a bit, but it happens so often, I thought I’d include it.)
  • Bed – To get the full effect of this one, you have to see it spelled in all lowercase letters. That way, it looks like a bed.

Can you think of any other words like this?

Update #1: I discovered that there’s actually a word specifically to describe these words. “Autological words” are words that mean what they are.

Update #2: After hearing back some great additions from various readers (for instance, “sesquipadalian”), I was pointed to a page where a number of people have spent quite a bit more time than I have to compile a fuller list. Check it out if you’re interested.

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