Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon


  • by Daniel Clore
  • November 2009
  • ISBN 978-0-9824296-4-8
  • approx. 600 pages
  • Paperback
  • Cover artwork by Howard Wandrei


HP Lovecraft liked to use archaic and obscure words, often spelled out in an archaic or at least non-American sort of way. Words such as ‘gibbous’, ‘eldritch’, ‘batrachian’ and ‘cyclopean’ to name but a few. Of course, he didn’t coin these words, but the frequency with which he used them was distinctive and set him apart from his contemporaries. It’s also one of the things that his readers seem to enjoy, if the countless HPL homages and parodies are anything to go by.

As its name suggests, ‘Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon’ is a compilation of memorable and interesting words taken from Lovecraft’s fiction. But rather than simply explaining the meaning of the word and adding one or two examples from the Lovecraft body of work, author Dan Clore has produced something far more comprehensive and erudite. He includes numerous examples of the word expressed in passages of text taken from fiction other than Lovecraft’s.

Unsurprisingly, most of the words are descriptive, but there are some naming words created by Lovecraft by tying together existing words (‘night-gaunt’ being perhaps the best known). Clore has chosen the quotations used to illustrate these words from authors who wrote before, during and after Lovecraft’s time. Although there are examples from genres other than weird fiction, these are within the minority.

If there’s a failing with the book, it’s the lack of any sort of overall argument or synthesis. For example, it isn’t explained why particular authors and quotations were used for a given word’s entry. Some readers will know that authors like Poe, Machen and Lord Dunsany were particularly enjoyed by Lovecraft and influenced his writing style, but such connections aren’t made clear. Similarly, there are quotations taken from authors who Lovecraft corresponded with such as Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, but, again, there’s no discussion of the degree to which Lovecraft influenced them. Of course, the reader may simply find out about such things from other reference books and biographies, but ‘Weird Words’ would have been more satisfying with some sort of introduction that pinned Lovecraft down within the development of weird and supernatural fiction.

However, the lack of overall synthesis or criticism notwithstanding, the thoroughness of this book is exceptional. Most readers will probably have in mind one or two words that Clore doesn’t discuss. For this reader, ‘polypous’ and ‘amorphous’ were two words that drew blanks. But that’s inevitable when a book this size tried to tackle a body of work as large as Lovecraft’s. ‘Weird Words’ is a rich, intelligent and highly entertaining that all Lovecraft fans are going to find hugely enjoyable.

Neale Monks, SFCrowsnest


Eldritch . . . cacodaemoniacal . . . lucubration . . . Have you ever wondered about the meaning of these and other esoteric words used by Lovecraft and his colleagues? In this Cyclopean dictionary, the product of æons of erudition and research into the most recondite recesses of literature, Dan Clore not only defines thousands of words found in the work of A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and many others in the weird fantasy tradition, but supplies their etymologies and, most impressively, provides parallel usages of the words from centuries of English usage, citing authors ranging from Cotton Mather to Henry Kuttner, from Edmund Spenser to Samuel R. Delany. This is a volume that scholars of English usage, enthusiasts of fantasy and horror literature, and readers who love the beauty of the English language will find richly rewarding . . . either to read from beginning to end or to dip into as the mood strikes them.

Dan Clore is a free-lance writer and scholar. He has had articles published in Lovecraft Studies, Studies in Weird Fiction, Necrofile: The Review of Horror Fiction, Weird Times, and the anthologies A Century Less a Dream: Selected Criticism on H.P. Lovecraft, The Freedom of Fantastic Things: Selected Criticism on Clark Ashton Smith, and Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia. His fiction has appeared in The Urbanite, Deathrealm, Terminal Fright, Lore, Epitaph, Black October Magazine, Cosmic Visions, Cthulhu Sex, Creatio ex Nihilo, The NetherReal, and the anthologies The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique and Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales. It was collected inThe Unspeakable and Others, first published in the fall of 2001, undoubtedly the most terrifying incident to occur in the period. A revised and expanded edition of The Unspeakable and Others will appear in 2009.

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 25 March, 2010.