How Smaller Words Came to Be Embedded Inside of Larger Words in the English Language

Words Hidden in Words

In a covert episode of their incredibly informative whiteboard series for Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill verbally and visually provide examples of smaller English words embedded inside of larger English words and how those placements came to be.

Some words have smaller words inside them but they’ll tell you something about their etymology. Is there really a void in avoid. Yes it originally meant to clear out or make empty to take what was there and make it a void. It then also took on the sense of you keeping clear of the thing you would rather not be there.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.