Not since Shakespeare has one man invented so many words. And yes, so we may not use poppyrot and wondercrump in casual conversation all that often – but we should! Roald Dahl invented a variety of words that are just simply fun to say, and now there’s a handy resource to working out what they mean.
The brand new Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary has them all, from ‘aardvark to zozimus.’ It contains literally every word Dahl ever came up with (and even quite a few he didn’t). The dictionary was compiled by Dr Susan Rennie, who keeps Dahl’s wonderful sense of humour throughout. And never fear – it’s not just a book of words. The Dahl Dictionary is also filled to the brim with pictures by long-time Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake, that help bring Dahl’s wonderfully wacky words to life.
While every single word in the dictionary (all 8,000 of them) appears in one Dahl book or another, that does not mean they’re all words he invented, as some much more common words are there too. What do words like ‘awkward’, ‘exterminate’, ‘loudspeaker’ and ‘thunder’ have to do with Dahl? You’ll have to check the dictionary to find out.
Every word has context as well, with a quote and a book reference that correspond to every entry. It’s fun to test yourself – we all know ‘Oompa Loompas’ are from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but in which book would you find a fizzlecrump? Which characters are known to eat muckleberries? Who suffers from the Dreaded Shrinks? The answers will be at the very bottom of this article (no peeking)!
It’s a fantastic resource for Dahl fans, or anyone reading Dahl’s books to a young one or teaching them in class. It also functions as a handbook of sorts, so not only can you look up words but also characters, places and more. You can check the grandparents’ names in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all the animals from The Enormous Crocodile, even which ingredients go into the brew from The Witches.
The dictionary has been a while in the making. Dahl’s words had never been compiled like this before, and Dr Rennie, who is a professional lexicographer, (that means a person who compiles dictionaries) spent five years putting together all the entries. Dr Rennie says to the BBC that Dahl “didn’t always explain what his words meant, but children can work them out because they often sound like a word they know, and he loved using onomatopoeia.”
She has a lot of favourite Dahl words, including sizzlepan (frypan), langwitch (to a giant that means language) and Dahl’s Chickens (what the BFG calls Charles Dickens)! You can listen to Dr Rennie’s interview with the BBC here, where she goes into more fascinating detail about Dahl and language, or click here to see our list of Dahl words!
Venturing through the pages of The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary is really a return to childhood. We can’t think of a perfect phrase to describe what fun it is to revisit the characters, stories and quotes that he created – but we’re sure Dahl would have had just the right word for it.
Are you teaching Dahl’s books to your class? Download some free resources for the dictionary here.
- A ‘fizzlecrump’ is ‘creature that can move as fast as a giant running at top speed’ from The BFG.
- The Minpins eat muckleberries!
- No-one, really – Mr Twit makes up the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’ to terrify his wife! If you did have the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’, you would get “smaller and smaller until you disappear completely.”