If you look at the number of words in the English you’ll find that estimates vary between 500,000 and just over 2 million, depending on how you count them.

Although most educated people will use no more than 20,000 words or so, this is still staggering amount. Indeded on closer analysis you will find that some of these words were simply “made up” by various authors at one time or another but they’ve proved so popular that they’ve entered our everyday lexicon.

They’ve become so much a part of the English language that their literary origins have often been forgotten. In this article we look at 10 words which were simply invented by their authors and which we seem to have embraced wholeheartedly into the English language.

Galumph & Chortle : from the Book ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll

Galumph & Chortle

Galumph – to move in a clumsy, ponderous, or noisy manner.

Chortle – a joyful, somewhat muffled laugh, probably a blend of chuckle +‎ snort.

Both galumph and chortle first appeard in 1871 in “Jabberwocky”, a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named “the Jabberwock”.

“Jabberwocky” is considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, with its playful, whimsical language that has given us many nonsense words and neologisms such as “galumphing” and “chortle”.


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

Pandemonium : from the Book ‘Paradise Lost’ by Milton


Pandemonium – wild uproar or unrestrained disorder; tumult or chaos. A place or scene of riotous uproar or utter chaos.

Pandæmonium is the capital of Hell in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. He invented the name for the capital of Hell, “the High Capital, of Satan and his Peers”, built by the fallen angels at the suggestion of Mammon at the end of Book I of Paradise Lost and published in (1667).

“Pandæmonium” (in some versions of English “Pandemonium”) stems from Greek “παν”, meaning “all” or “every”, and “δαιμόνιον”, meaning “little spirit”, “little angel”, or, as Christians interpreted it, “little daemon”, and later, “demon”. It thus roughly translates as “All Demons”, but can also be interpreted as Παν-δαιμον-ειον, “all-demon-place”.

Blatant : from the Book ‘The Faerie Queen’ by Spenser


Blatant – brazenly obvious; flagrant; offensively noisy or loud; clamorous; tastelessly conspicuous.

The term blatant was intrOduced by Spenser via the “Blantant Beast” a monster that appears at the end of both Books 5 and 6 of ‘The Faerie Queen’ and is a giant dog with many tongues.

The Faerie Queen is an incomplete English epic poem. Books I to III were first published in 1590, and then republished in 1596 together with books IV to VI. On a literal level, the poem follows several knights in an examination of several virtues, though it is primarily an allegorical work, and can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise (or, later, criticism) of Queen Elizabeth I.

Namby-pamby : from the Book ‘Namby-pamby’ by Henry Carey


Namby-pamby – without firm methods or policy; weak or indecisive: lacking in character or moral or emotional strength; weakly sentimental; pretentious; insipid.

Namby Pamby originates from a work of the same name by Henry Carey and was published in 1725 .

Carey wrote his poem as a satire of Ambrose Philips, an English poet and politician, in his Poems on Several Occasions. Carey was a Tory and Phillips a Whig and it was therefore a politically motivated jibe attack the Whig party.

“All ye Poets of the Age!
All ye Witlings of the Stage!
Learn your Jingles to reform!
Crop your Numbers and Conform:
Let your little Verses flow
Gently, Sweetly, Row by Row:
Let the Verse the Subject fit;
Little Subject, Little Wit.
Namby-Pamby is your Guide;
Albion’s Joy, Hibernia’s Pride.”

Carey’s Namby Pamby had enormous success and became so successful that people began to call Philips himself “Namby Pamby”. The poem sold well and has been used as children’s literature since Carey’s day

Malapropism : from the Book ‘The Rivals’ by Sheridan


Malapropism – an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.

The word “malapropism” (and its earlier variant “malaprop”) comes from a character named “Mrs. Malaprop” in Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals.

Mrs. Malaprop frequently misspeaks (to comic effect) by using words which don’t have the meaning that she intends but which sound similar to words that do. Sheridan presumably chose her name in humorous reference to the word malapropos, an adjective or adverb meaning “inappropriate” or “inappropriately”, derived from the French phrase mal à propos (literally “poorly placed”).

Factoid : from the Book ‘Marilyn: A Biography’ by Norman Mailer


Factoid – an insignificant or trivial fact.

The term was coined in 1973 by American writer Norman Mailer in his book ‘Marilyn: A Biography’ to mean a piece of information that becomes accepted as a fact even though it is not actually true, or an invented fact believed to be true because it appears in print.

Since its creation in 1973, the term has evolved, now often being used to describe a brief or trivial item of news or information or a ‘small fact’ (aka factlet)

Mentor : from the Book ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer


Mentor – a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was the son of Alcimus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus’ foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus’ palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.

During the telling of the Odyssey the goddess Athena disguises herself several times as Mentor and in that guise visits Telemachus encouraging and guiding him. Because of this the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.

Serendipity : from a 1743 letter by Horace Walpole


Serendipity – an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good fortune; luck.

The term was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, where Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of“.

Nerd : from the Book ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ by Dr Seuss


Nerd – a person considered to be socially awkward, boring, unstylish, etc.; an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.

Nerd was first coined in ‘If I Ran the Zoo‘, a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss in 1950, although the word is not used in its modern context, or even in a vaguely related context. It is simply the name of an otherwise un-characterized imaginary creature, appearing in the sentence “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!“.

In the book, Gerald McGrew is a child who, when visiting a zoo, finds that the exotic animals are “not good enough”. He says that if he ran the zoo, he would let all of the current animals free and find new, more bizarre and exotic ones.