Dictionary consigns 'aerodrome' to history


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The Independent Online

While it may have been a rare occasion that one heard the word "wittol", it is now likely to become even more so, as it joins a number of words that have become extinct in the past year.

Language experts from Collins Dictionary have compiled a list of words which have fallen out of use by tracking how often they appear.

"Wittol", a man who tolerates his wife's unfaithfulness, has not been used much since the 1940s. The terms "drysalter", a dealer in certain chemical products and foods, and "aerodrome", a term for any location from which aircraft flight operations take place, have also faded from use.

Some of the vanished words are old-fashioned modes of transport such as the "cyclogiro", a type of aircraft propelled by rotating blades, and "charabanc", a motor coach.

The words consigned to history are those whose frequency of use falls below a certain threshold.

"We track words using a very large database of language which is a very large collection of various texts from spoken and written language, including books, newspapers and magazines, so we can track language change over time," said Dr Ruth O'Donovan, asset development manager at Collins Language Division in Glasgow. "We track new words but we can also track for the frequency of existing words and when they get below a certain threshold we see them as being obsolete, though they may be used in very specialist circumstances," she added.

Other words which have passed out of use include "supererogate", which means to do or perform more than is required, while "succedaneum", something used as a substitute, also no longer trips off the modern tongue.

Neither does "woolfell", the skin of a sheep or similar animal with the fleece still attached.