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Definition: Frightful or loathsome.

Pronunciation: Ugh-sum


Ugsome was first used in the 15th century.  It was from the Old Norse word ugga, to fear, which became the Middle English word uggen, to fear or inspire fear.  It was commonly used in the time before Shakespeare but faded into disuse until it was resurrected by various authors in the 18th century.  While it has not completely faded from usage, it is very rare today.

Why this word?

Who couldn’t use another word to insult your enemies?  Or friends and family, for that matter.  With the holidays upon us and the joy of family gatherings approaching, it simply makes sense to increase your vocabulary in preparation for veiled, passive aggressive comments about your life, parenting skills, appearance, or political leanings.  But maybe that’s just me.

But realistically, the word appeals to me for two other etymological reasons.  First, the root word of ugsome, ugga, was also the root word for the word ugly.  Ugly originally meant something more in line with what ugsome means, something frightening or dreadful rather than simply displeasing in appearance.  Also, I enjoy the fact that ugsome could be thought of in direct juxtaposition to handsome.  Secondly, I find the derivation of the exclamation “Ugh!” from the word ugga to be of interest.  Personally I rarely think of interjections or exclamations as having a history, especially with a word like “ugh” which simply seems to be a guttural grunt of displeasure, so it interests me to find a history behind it.

How to use the word ugsome in a sentence?

“What an ugsome woman.  Her personality and appearance are a perfect match.”

“The ugsome beliefs of the Nazi party are abhorrent to me.”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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