Once I get started, I just can’t stop…

I got on the website The Phronistery and looked through both their list of Lost Words and their dictionary of obscure words. Then I took samples from each to the ngram viewer. Fascinating stuff, that!

abdominous = having a belly
It was most popular in 1784.
Apparently one of the places it was used around that time was in a poem by William Cowper. (I took advantage of the ngram viewer’s “Search in Google Books” time feature and searched between 1783 and 1805.

abactor = cattle thief
I would have thought that this would be a word used a lot in Western literature. (Meaning the Old West, not meaning Occidental as opposed to Oriental.)
1782-1788 was its highest use. It was at 0% before and after, but then came back into use in 1832 and was used for the next 20 years. After that it goes up and down, but not consistently.
It says it was used in 1785 in one Google book, but it does not mean cattle thief in that book. From An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy:

His merit as abactor was so univerfally known, and justly admired, as to render all eulogiums on that head unnecessary. He was educated at Merchant- Taylor’s- school, where he soon attracted the notice of the masters, by the rapid progress …

I looked at the page. I don’t know what the author meant by the word, but it was totally unrelated to horse thief. That means now I need to look up other works it was used in and see if The Phronistery got it wrong… In The Life of Charles Lamb and the legal texts that Google quotes in the next sections, it is used appropriately. Perhaps the author of the Apology did not know the correct meaning of the word. (That happens. I see it occasionally when I am reading popular culture literature.)

Phronistery lists abigeus as a cattle rustler, but ngram viewer does not show the word.

gement = groan, lament
most popular in the late 1600s, but coming back into circulation in 1950…

It includes the word gloaming… which I have heard in relationship only with our national anthem (twilight’s last gleaming… twilight = gloaming).

adumbrate = to foreshadow, indicate faintly
was most popular in 1700s, but is still used and has actually gone up in usage since the 1950s.

salmagundi = miscellany, mixture, or a stew with a lot of things in it
Apparently the word was invented in 1793 by George Huddesford. However, Washington Irving used it in the early 1800s as the name of a satirical periodical.

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