English Language Trivia

John P.

In keeping with my fascination with completely useless trivia, here are a few facts you might not have known about the English language.

So, next time you are at lunch with the boys from work and start spouting out this crap to impress everyone just remember who loves ya…

  • Of all the words in the English language, the word ‘set’ has the most definitions!
  • What is called a “French kiss” in the English speaking world is known as an “English kiss” in France.
  • “Almost” is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.
  • “Rhythm” is the longest English word without a vowel.

  • The word “queue” is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.
  • Uncopyrightable is the longest word with no repeated letters.
  • The word checkmate comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat”, which means “the king is dead”.
  • In 1945 a computer at Harvard malfunctioned and Grace Hopper, who was working on the computer, investigated, found a moth in one of the circuits and removed it. Ever since, when something goes wrong with a computer, it is said to have a bug in it.
  • “Kemo Sabe” means “soggy shrub” in Navajo.
  • No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, and purple.
  • “Ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways. The following sentence contains them all: “A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.
  • The “O” when used as a prefix in Irish surnames means “descendant of.”
  • The right side of a boat was called the starboard side due to the fact that the astronavigators used to stand out on the plank (which was on the right side) to get an unobstructed view of the stars. The left side was called the port side because that was the side that you put in on at the port.
  • The ZIP in Zip-code stands for “Zoning Improvement Plan.”
  • The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the Roman Catholic Church. When deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil’s advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.
  • DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleicacid.
  • The word “robot” was created by Karel Capek. It came from Czech/Slovak “robotovat,” which means to work very hard.
  • The term “the whole 9 yards” came from W.W.II fighter pilots in the South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got “the whole 9 yards.”
  • Switching letters is called spoonerism. For example, saying jag of Flapan, instead of flag of Japan.
  • “Underground” is the only word in the English language that begins and ends with the letters “und.”
  • “Freelance” comes from a knight whose lance was free for hire, i.e. not pledged to one master.
  • “Speak of the Devil” is short for “Speak of the Devil and he shall come”. It was believed that if you spoke about the Devil it would attract his attention. That’s why when your talking about someone and they show up people say “Speak of the Devil”
  • The dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle.


  1. Helen Roxas says

    There are words that rhyme with purple, silver, and orange. (for purple -apple, dimple, pimple, simple); (for silver – river, quiver, shiver); (for orange – arrange, strange)

  2. gwyneth lesigues says

    it was so awsome reading the trivias here. It gained me much information about the English language. Referring to the statements above, i am annoyed too when people tend to talk like they know it all when they really don’t.

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