Ready-made glosses


Below you'll find a short list of glosses that you might find helpful in creating your own languages. Some of them are quite simple and mundane ('support, prop up') while others are more complex ('shrink (from heat); tire, become tired') or even beautiful ('motion of leaves in the wind; flapping of a bird's wings; idle chatter; giggling'). These glosses have been lovingly (or indifferently) honed (or glommed together) by speakers of natural languages over the span of centuries. As far as I'm concerned, they're as precious as the little treasures ('fishing basket', 'funerary pillar', 'feeling of loathing for what is foul or filthy') they denote.

What's in the list

Eventually, this list will include material from constructed languages, but for now it consists entirely of glosses taken (often with some modification) from dictionaries, word lists, and vocabularies of a variety of natural languages. I've been collecting these off and on for several years; as I look through a dictionary I've bought or checked out from a library, I jot down glosses I find interesting. The list on this page has been taken from notes scattered among various notebooks, legal pads, and so on. In most cases, I've made a note of the language from which they were taken (including, sometimes, the books that served as my source, with perhaps the page numbers or even the words they gloss). As I look through more notebooks, I'm sure I'll run across many unattributed glosses. These and add to this list

Copyright concerns

I'm not sure what to think about this. For one thing, many of the glosses below have been simplified from their source material, or I've added a sense to an existing gloss. For another, they're only excerpts. Still, I'm a bit nervous about this. Any "I am not a lawyer, but..." or "I'm a lawyer but I'm not offering any specific legal advice..." thoughts on this matter would be most welcome.

Future plans

First of all, I need to fix the ghastly formatting; at some point, I'll try to organize them in separate files with an overall index--something like a thesaurus, I hope. For now, just do a search on this page for a word and (hopefully) you'll be led to a gloss containing that word. (I haven't had time to fix the diacritics in the cited words, either; sorry.)

If you're interested in contributing glosses, please send them to me at An indication of what language they come from would be nice, but isn't strictly necessary. If you've made up the glosses yourself (as opposed to taking them from actual natural languages), please make a note of that. The goal isn't simply to list exotic meanings of words in any particular language (natural or otherwise), but to explore the webs of meaning in human languages collectively with an eye toward practical application in constructed languages.

The glosses

# Source: Kayan-English dictionary / Southwell; ISBN 983-9570-02-1

neck; throat [kera' 109]
not adhering; rice cooked till dry and hard [kerah 109]
shrink (in volume, during cooking) [malak 149]
sloping; long and steep [malang 149]
familiar; accustomed to; friendly; tame [malei 149]
look closely at, inspect [ngedok 215]
balding over the forehead [ngedunah 215]
do frequently; do in sucession; keep on [paha'it 277]
alternate; every other (day), on alternate (days) [pahang 277]
gently sloping surface [pahedei 277]
soaking wet (from rain) [penyot 327]
make friends with [pepalei 327]
(of joints or limbs) stiff, rigid; middle-aged (euphemism) [tajé' 390]
endure, bear (pain etc.); brave, courageous [tajem 390]
act hastily; repeat an action [tajen 390]
pulled out; pulled up, loosened (as a nail); severe pain in joints [tajuk 390]
climb; route of ascent [taken 390]
small shallow well or waterhole [takung 391]
not bother to; never mind; selfless (i.e., disregarding oneself because of another's need) [talan 391]
complicated, difficult [tamih 391]
beam of light; jet, stream of water; shine a light on [tan 391]
patch, repair; fold up [tapen 393]
wrapped bundle or parcel (especially of cooked food) [tapei 393]
strike with side of fist [tapeng 393]
try in vain and then give up; out of reach [tasut 395]
scattered, spread out everywhere [tat 395]
just about (there, here, etc.); approximately [tatah 395]
turn upside down [ta'um 395]
dignified demeanour; serious manner [ta'un 395]
bath (for children) [tavang 395]
be involved with others; be led along blindly [tavin 395]
path that climbs around a steep slope [taving 395]
draw towards one, pull towards one [tavit 395]
drive away; deter; frighten off, scare away [tega 398]
go all together at one time; no more left of anything [tegak 399]
stick out, protrude (as a nail from a board) [tegaleng 399]
lattice work; open woodwork above walls [tegalung 399]
sound of an object falling onto the floor; noise of chopping wood [tegau 399]
tease, jest with; play with (boys with girls or vice-versa) [tegei 399]
rocking motion; unsteady [tegiling 399]
sudden thought, flash (of mind); sudden action [tegisuk 399]
sapling; immature
valley gutter between two roof slopes [teli 405]
directly above and below one another [telibau 405]
sit sideways by (someone); be placed at an angle to; sullen, angry [telikéh 405]
sit back to back; disagree [telikun 405]
going back and forth; restless [teliwet 405]
be levered up; be tilted up; be influenced (by others) in views or actions [teluit 405]
childless couple [tenuh 409]
brooding (of a hen sitting on eggs)
spinning jenny (used for gambling); divination (using by spinning an object) [tenung 409]
make in irregular small patches; suspect for no reason; without reason, aimlessly [tenup 409, tepidet 409]
pound with a pestle [tepa' 409]
stamp on the floor or ground with great force [tepajan 409]
long hop (as a frog) [tepakeng 409]
yoke; crosswise [tepaleng 409]
forbidden food [tepeng 409]
exactly right (as of a measure) [tepet 409]
jump up [tepjuk 409]
be absent for a long time [tutang 421]
throughout the country; everywhere [tutum 421]
trip up; deceive [tutut 421]
kidneys (of animal) [tu'ung 421]
bow the head; concentrate [tuvek 421]
borrowed goods [tuyu 422]
outward navel [ubut agung 424]
cargo (on a boat) [udan 424]
push forward impetuously; speak up without proper thought [uruh 432]
overlook; be surprised by [uruk 432]
break the surface of water with the nose (as a fish) [urung 432]
take out; speak out, voice; separate (something from others) [usang 432]
scatter about; talk ar random; nibble at [peleburei 320]
store up; load into boat; make ready; be pregnant [peledeng 321]
fall down; tumbling; in a hurry [pelegak 321]
things left scattered about [pelehagan 321]
speck in the eye [pelem 321]
lithe, supple, graceful [pelema 321]
slap; swat (an insect) [petbip 343]
cut (long objects) to the same length [petbun 343]
line up; arrange objects side by side (so their edges touch); discuss [petdet 343, peté' 343]
go from one thing to another [petebalau 343]
reverse; invert; change ones mind about; contradictory [petebalei 343]
fall head over heels, tumble; be swung around by a push; sway [petebalik 343]
drink deep (when thirsty) [petebek 343]
slapping sound (as of waves against a rock); whirring sound (as of birds' wings) [peteben 343, petebip 343]
walk back and forth; repeatedly [petekulah 345]
rest on ones side, rest on edge; lean onto [petelahing 345]
act dangerously; rash [petelakik 345]
spread out in all directions (as a tree root) [petekpetelawa' 345]
act as a go-between; be a mediator; go about looking for someone [petelawah 345]
stuck on; perched on [petelekep 345]
skid off (as an axe off wood); slip off [petelesa' 345]
in a swarm (in motion); many together [peteleting 345]
part; depart in opposite directions; open (of a door in two leaves) [petelu'an 345]
sit face to face [petelunga' 346]
balance; keep doing [pet'en 346]
aim at (with a weapon); attempt [pivi 359]
aim for; wander towards; refer to; allude to; be vague about [pivun 359]
go visiting [piwei 359]
(polite term of affection for another's child) [po' 359]
fine dust; fine [poh 359]
soak (in order to soften) [pu 359]
loosen, come loose; bloom, blossom [puah 359]
roll about; complain [pubé' 359]
very light in weight [laga' 123]
spirit appearing in human form [lagau 123]
dizzy, out of balance; crazy
use great energy or effort to achieve [lahet 123]
pound finely; crush completely; destroy, annihilate [lahik 123]
recede; drop down, slide down; overripe [lahut 123]
hinder; delay [kalen 78]
communal room in a family dwelling; family [hamin 44]
come between; divide [hang 45]
be half full; do half-heartedly [hang-hang 45]
(of tree or river) fork; change the subject [hangat 45]
destination, stopping-place [hangei 45]
time, occasion; if [hangun 45]
smarting, stinging; sore, wound; heat from the sun [hanit 45]
be distended; be overfull (of food) [hanung 45]
loiter; intermittently [hapan-hapan 46]
(of a path or clearing) overgrown [hingup 53]
here and there; (scattered) everywhere [hino'-hino' 53]
keen (of sight etc.); sharp (of hearing etc.) [hirik 53]
peep through a slit at [hiring 53]
(of pigs) root about [hubat 55]
upriver; inland [hudik 55]
(of a bull etc.) gore; propel, push along; answer [hudung 55, hu'ei 55]
by order of, from [hu'ek 55]
support, prop up [hugun 55]
have (an indeterminate quantity) [huh 55]
arrogant; rowdy, boisterous [hujen 55]
fold of cloth; hiding place, secret place
splash on the surface of water [hukop 55]
backpaddle, reverse ones direction; change ones mind [huret 57]
push forward; speak carelessly, act haphazardly [huruh 57]
wild goose chase, futile journey; fruitless effort [husau 57]
moment of time; blink, twinkle [jep 71]
soft, mushy; overripe; soaking wet [jeparot 71]

# Source: Iban-English dictionary / Richards; ISBN 0-19-864325-X

swollen, bulging; species of fish [kembong 153]
churlish, ill-mannered, rude [kemelu' 153]
complain; refuse [kenggai 155]
shout, call loudly; summon; set fire to [seru 345]
go-between, mediator, intermediary [seruan 345]
roar, continuous loud noise [serum 345]
uncover, unwrap; ransack [serungkai 345]
pace, walk up and down [sesindan 345]
(of animals) timid, nervous; wild [siga' 347]
handsome; active [sigat 347]
nudge with elbow [sigul 347]
clothed, equipped; ready [sikap 347]
cleft, gash; division, partition, section [sirang 351]
crooked, askew, aslant; wrong, bad [sirong 351]
inhale, sniff; gasp (in surprise) [sirut 351]
cluster (or fruit) [sit 351]
measure; plot of land; span of life, lifetime [sukat 353]
bent over, fallen over; dead [sulai 354]
project, stick out; new growth (of cut plants), coppicing (of felled trees) [sulur 355]
reluctant, listless [suma' 355]
proud, domineering, snobbish, stuck-up [sumbong 355]
murmur, grumble; hold a grudge [sungut 357]
evil spell or curse that causes blindness [sunti' 357]

# Source: Dictionary of the Alabama language / Sylestine; ISBN 0-292-73077-2

stand beside; collaborate with
collection, group, gathering
collect, gather, pick
howl from far away (of a wolf, wind, etc.)
hot water
be hot, have a fever
forget what one is going to say
idle, lazy; irresponsible, shiftless
cuddle, hug, comfort
toenail, hoof, claw
talk through the nose
be nasty to, treat cruelly
unknown, secret; mysterious, strange
be named after
join (one to another), put next to, add on to, expand (one object)
kind, nice, good
previous night, last night
next day, tomorrow
bad, evil, no good; rotten, worthless
make a noise
not have, be lacking
level out, return to normal (of water, health, etc.)
north wind
south wind
east wind
west wind
wind (from mountains)
wind (off a body of water)
it can't be, it's not like that, not so
now, and now, and; then, and then
push gently, nudge
have a numb spot in (a body part), have (a body part) fall asleep
number, be numbered [I saw they were numbered 3 = I saw there were 3 of them]
object to, oppose, argue against
get (or be) in the way of, block, obstruct; thwart, prevent
break (something long and flexible) into pieces
break (something flat and hard) into pieces

# Source: Iban-English dictionary / Richards; ISBN 0-19-864325-X

split; bent and broken
weighed down, laden
fishing basket
even, equal, alike
distant cry (esp. in the night)
open, free, clear, unobstructed
conical fishing net
expect, look out for; prepare for
lean on, rely on
serve, pass around, distribute
grope for, feel about for; surmise, guess at
clearly, visibly; really, truly
fine chain worn around waist
part, portion; some, a few
funerary pillar
rollers (for boat or other heavy object)
nurse, care for, take care of (a sick person or pet)
same, alike; on a level (with); both, together; at the same time
pounce on, swoop down on
uneven, unusual
all day long; always
suffer harm; be in trouble; have bad luck, have an accident
fly off (in fear), scatter, disperse
trust, respect, believe
scattered about, strung out
demand, complain; sue
tease, annoy, vex; mock, wrong, shame
bother about, pay attention to 
vain, boastful
palpate, massage; smooth (e.g., a wrinkled cloth)
be alarmed, panic
crowd together, clump, be clustered
(of a blade) sharp; (of a person) nervous
forage, hunt
boil (on skin), gall (on tree)
defer, put off, adjourn, suspend
beat, bash; wash (clothes) by beating
appoint; set, arrange
strike, stab, pierce
shine on, illuminate; purge; speak brusquely to
dribble, pour in a thin stream; urinate
squirt, spray, shoot out; shoot off, leave in a hurry
spout, gutter, runnel; cascade
clever, skilled, expert, good (at a skill)
strike downwards with the fist, thump
light up, illuminate; show, exhibit
buckle, clasp
spiritual help or guidance
spy, scout
angle, fork, branch

# Source: Kayan-English dictionary / Southwell; ISBN 983-9570-02-1

better, well (after an illness)
late; slow; difficult
move, disturb (something); jostle, shake
hide, conceal; deny
design; cut (to a shape or after a pattern)
defective, damaged; (of eyes or other body part) sore, tired
shrink (from heat); tire, become tired
sloping, long and steep
familiar, friendly, tame
cross in front of; anticipate
butt (with head); hit, strike (with a large solid object)
crowd; interfere with, hinder, obstruct
(do an action) intermittently
boil (a liquid)
make (a fire), put together (wood for a fire)
pinch, tug at; skin (an animal); peel off (a rind, etc.)
width, size
grimace at, make a face at; tease, make fun of
(of color) run, fade
own a part of (land, etc.); be involved in (a dispute, etc.)
draw alongside of; arrest
swing (something) around, turn, spin
new; next
go past (intermittently near), pass by, allude to, hint at; be similar to
medium, average; (of pain) bearable, moderate
stand by, just stand there (while something bad happens)
(of an owner) mark; elect, designate, arrange (an event); promise, betrothe
put on (as food on a fire); start; pick (a fight), instigate
arrive, come; emerge, appear
arise (from sleep), get up
collapse, give way suddenly; take offence, react sharply
endure (a hardship), overcome; outlast
finish off, go through [He went through three pairs of shoes]; consume, eat up, drink up
do (something) alone, take on
(of cloth) too thin, (of soup, etc.) too dilute, too clear, too quiet
call upon (a god or spirit), call (someone) for help
without cause, without reason; only, merely, by chance
be inspired, (suddenly) have an idea, be struck by a thought
ooze between, be visible between; stick out from (between), protrude from [The cat's nose stuck out from between the sacks]
push away; purge, remove
(of a surface) rough, uneven
a few (feathers, shoots, hairs, etc.) sticking up
angled, having many angles or corners; complicated, difficult
hurl, throw (something) a long distance; [passive] travel a long distance
be idle, stand around; be still (V_ing, in a "low-energy" state)
fart; be evasive, make excuses
(do) little, (do) not often [She doesn't talk much]
cover (irregularly, with small, loose objects)
cover (uniformly, with net, blanket, snow, etc.)
get ready to (go do something); be about to; poise and aim toward, take aim at
reticent; cautious; hunble
work at (a task, not working hard)
full (of noise, running, activity, etc.)
motion of leaves in the wind; flapping of a bird's wings; idle chatter; giggling
move the fingers deftly; massage; flatter; play (certain musical instruments)
curl up, fold up, fold over (as the rim of a cup, edges of a leaf, etc.)
tease, tantalize
stand out, be larger or taller than others
do loosely [Hold the pencil loosely], do haphazardly
embrace; sphere of influence; circumference
hazy (vision); ambiguous, uncertain
(do or go) straight (to) [I threw the rock straight at his head]
go, run (of a path, river, etc.)
put up, place (something) in a high position (as on a shelf or stump or ledge)
scoop up (water, grain, etc.)
scatter (seed, etc.); disturb, spoil (sleep, game, etc.)
walk along, follow (path, bridge, etc.); obey (a command)
(of writing) neat, small and fine, precise; (of an object) pretty

# Source: Zulu-English dictionary / Doke and Vilakazi

ladle out liquid from one vessel to another; drink excessively [bubudla 47]
of issuing in numbers, scampering off; of searching fruitlessly; of crumbling, coming apart [búdu 49]
so-and-so, what's-her-name, what's-his-name [-banibani 67]
kindle, light (a fire); incite (a riot) [basa 67]
put, place; install, appoint (to office); put aside (money for an emergency); be steady, cool-headed, patient [beka 70]
patch, patch up, put a patch on; place a spell or charm on, bewitch [bekela 71]
spot on eyeball; debris [-bi 75]
milk, sweet milk; milky sap; fertility, profit [-bisi 79]
droop, hang down limply; be soft and spongy, unsteady [bokoza 81]
sharp, keen, pointed; vicious, mean; smart, skilfull; quick [-bukhali 89]
species of small grey bird which habitually jumps from stick to stick making a clicking sound; mischief-maker, troublemaker; small cooking or serving of food, snack [-cagogwana 99]
mat; level place [-cansi 101]
be nauseated; be annoyed [cánu 101]
serve out, pour out in small quantities; suggest, hint [chathaza 109]
(widely) scattered, widespread; complete; clear; damp

# Source: Tagalog dictionary / Teresita V. Ramos, ISBN 0-87022-676-2

stamp the feet in irritation or vexation [dábog 92]
grasp a handful
rat, mouse
put one's weight on sth.
give a blow on the back of the neck or with the flat of the hand
sudden tumultuous and confusing flow, jumble, or bustle of people or things
moan, complain [daíng 93]
few; not frequent (seldom)
often; frequent; regular [dalás 94]
easy; quick; prompt
expert, specialist
involve others (without notice) in a sort of unpleasant situation [dámay 95]
rise on the hind legs; stamp the feet
light and gentle touch (e.g., soft breeze on one's skin)
span from tip of thumb to tip of middle finger [dangkál 96]
debate, dispute [debáte 97]
ring stand for pot [dikdík 99]
press hard; press downward [diín 100]
open (as of the eyes); wide-eyed
sprinkle water on
span of two extended arms [dipá 101]
feeling of loathing for what is foul or filthy [díri 102]
spirit; thought [díwa' 103]
draw out from a pocket, a bag or a container with the hand; pick-pocket [dúkot 104]
cram, shove or thrust sth. with force into another (e.g., pen into ink bottle, food into mouth)
wander about, go about idly, travel aimlessly [gála' 110]
personal things; anything usable; wear, use [gámit 111]

Last modified Friday, April 23, 2004 at 21:01:23 GMT -0500