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Definition: Refers to the branch of chemistry that studies fermentation – i.e., wine-making and brewing.

Pronunciation: ziy-muhr-jee


From 1868. Originally from Greek zymo, itself meaning ‘leavened’ and ourgia, meaning ‘a working’. ‘Leavened’ refers to something that yeast has acted upon (in the case of alcohol, fermentation is caused by yeast). Thus, zymurgy literally means ‘something that has been worked on by yeast’.

Why This Word?

Zymurgy is the Pluto of the English Language. Just like Pluto used to be the last planet in the solar system, Zymurgy used to be the last word in the dictionary. Lexographers have put forward a number of alternative candidates to take the distinction away from zymurgy. They are:

Zyxth: An obsolete word once spoken in the dialect of Kent in England. It is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the ‘second singular indicative present form of the verb see’.

Zyzzyva: A weevil found in South America that is known to be harmful to some species of plant.

So there you have it. Your choices are an obsolete word that nobody can understand the meaning even when they see it written down, a nasty insect, or a word that refers to alcohol. I know which one I’d pick …

How to use this word:

If you are a word ‘truther’, then the meaning of zymurgy is inconsequential. There is only one way to use zymurgy in conversation: the next time someone mentions the ‘Pluto’ row, simply state ‘Oh yes – Pluto – the zymurgy of the celestial world…”


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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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