K is for Kawaii

K is for Kawaii — Write RightOh, okay. Few people probably know the word “kawaii,” but I do. It means “cute” in Japanese, and I share it because of this ridiculous cat. Isn’t it the cutest, funniest thing ever?! Mine is somewhere in transit, and I plan to name it Harvey since I didn’t bring home the kitten I found while helping with cleanup in the Houston area.

Kawaii finds no entry in the standard dictionary, but everything will be all right. The letter “k” starts a number of words. Strangely enough, many of them seem to be, ahem, “borrowed” from other cultures and languages.


Noun. [From the Greek. From kaffee, coffee + klatsch, gossip.] (1888) An informal social gathering for coffee and conversation.

(The four girls held a weekly kaffeeklatsch to get away from college assignments.)


Verb. [From the Middle English kennen. From the Old English cennan, to make known. From the Old Norse kenna, to perceive. Both akin to the Old English can know—more at CAN.] (1200s) Archaic: SEE. Chiefly dialect: RECOGNIZE. Chiefly Scottish: KNOW.

Noun. (1590) The range of vision. SIGHT, VIEW <’tis double death to drown in ~ of shore—Shakespeare>. The range of perception, understanding, or knowledge <abstract words that are beyond the ~ of young children—Lois M. Rettie>.

(The spell was beyond the ken of Pug and Magnus, two notable sorcerers.)


Noun. [From the Arabic rīh al-khamsīn, the wind of the fifty (days between Easter and Pentecost).] (1685) A hot, southerly Egyptian wind.

(Everyone hoped for khamsin to come, if only to stir the suffocating air.)


Noun. Also “kimchee.” [Korean.] (1898) A vegetable pickle seasoned with garlic, red pepper, and ginger that is the national dish of Korea.

(If you ever visit Austin, you have to try Chi’lantro’s kimchi fries.)


Noun. [From the Yiddish klotz, klutz. From the Greek klotz, literally, wooden block. From the Middle High German kloz, lumpy mass—more at CLOUT.] (1960) A clumsy person. Noun: klutziness. Adjective: klutzy.

(“You klutz!” he shouted after his three-year-old sister accidentally knocked over his LEGO Death Star.)


Noun. (1827) IGNORAMUS. AGNOSTIC. When K and N are capitalized: A member of a nineteenth century, secret American political organization hostile to the political influence of recent immigrants and Roman Catholics.

(The Know-Nothings may not be around officially in modern times, but plenty of people act as though the organization still exists.)


Noun. Plural, kolos. [Serbo-Croation. From the Old Church Slavonic, wheel; akin to the Greek kyklos, circle—more at WHEEL.] (1911) A central European folk dance in which dancers form a circle and progress slowly to right or left while one or more dancers performs elaborate steps in the center of the circle.

(Because of her Serbo-Croation background, she decided to learn the kolo during her vacation in eastern Europe.)


Noun. (1616) A member of a pastoral and agricultural people who inhabit a plateau region in adjoining parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria and in the Armenian and Azerbaidzhan sectors of the Soviet Caucasus. Adjective: Kurdish.

(The Kurds can be a hard-to-reach people since their dialects often differ by region.)


Noun. [From the Russian kvas.] (1553) A slightly alcoholic beverage of eastern Europe made from fermented, mixed cereals and often flavored.

(The young man was unfamiliar with kvass; he took a single sip and promptly gasped for breath.)


Noun. Often capitalized. [From the New Latin. From the Late Latin kyrie eleison, a transliteration of the Greek kyrie eleēson, “Lord, have mercy.”] (1300s) A short liturgical prayer that begins with or consists of the words “Lord, have mercy.”

(In high school, my choir attempted an a capella version of “Kyrie Eleison.” It was awful.)

Got any favorite “k” words? Share them in the comments.

Image: Japanexperterna (Creative Commons)