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Definition: An isolated mountain that outs from and over its surrounding landscape.

Pronunciation: MO-nad-nock

Origin: Adopted into the English language in the 18th century from a native American language – possibly the Algonquin or Abenkai language. From Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, USA.

Why this word?

I have always enjoyed visiting historical sites. Ireland, as it happens, is full of isolated sites built upon monadnocks. Anyone who’s ever seen the Rock of Cashel, the Rock of Dunamase or climbed the Sugarloaf Mountain to the south of Dublin City (see pic) will instantly understand the word monadnock. The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is a classic example of a monadnock and will be instantly recognised by any fans of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Monadnock is an unusual example of a word crossing over from Native American languages into English. There are other examples – chipmonk and moose are probably the two best known – but it is clearly an underutilized word source. Any vein that can produce a word like monadnock needs to be tapped again.

How to use this word in a sentence?

Save this one for travelling. When you return from Rio in Brazil and you meet your friends to swap stories of their trip to Rio, ask them did they climb the monadnock to see the statue of Christ…


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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