Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" was, at the time it was written, even more nonsensical than it seems today, because some of the words which Carroll invented for it have since passed into common usage in the English language. For example, chortle, invented by Carroll for "Jabberwocky" as a portmanteau of "chuckle" and "snort" - or indeed the word portmanteau itself, in its linguistic meaning.

How many other now-standard English words were originally coined by Lewis Carroll?

Note that I'm only talking about words which are now widely used, accepted as standard, and appear in most dictionaries. I know that many of the nonsense words of "Jabberwocky" (brillig, wabe, etc.) have canonical definitions as given in Through the Looking Glass itself or by Carroll, but most of them are still considered to be just that: nonsense words.

  • Perhaps you could use a clearer title (or one more in line with the body of your question). I imagine at least some of the downvotes this post suffered were due to the overly broad and hard to quantify scope in the title of your question. Consider editing that to something like "How many standard(ish) words were coined by Lewis Carroll?"
    – Shokhet
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:09
  • At a high level, I'd say "less than Shakespeare but more than most" ;) It would be interesting to compare Carroll to Joyce...
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 21, 2017 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


I could only find 7 words from Lewis Carroll's works in my copy of the Oxford Dictionary:

  1. Burbled — to bubble or gurgle (or a combination!)

    And burbled as it came!

  2. Chortled — a muffled laugh/snort combination

    He chortled in his joy.

  3. Galumphing — galloping in a triumphant manner

    He went galumphing back.

  4. Gimble — to grimace

    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

  5. Tulgey — thick, dense, or dark

    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

  6. Vorpal — sharp or deadly, not common in mainstream english but quite common in RPGs and the fantasy genre

    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

All of these are from Jabberwocky, you can read the full text here.

  1. Portmanteau — multiple words fused into one

    You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.

    Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass

  2. Curiouser — more curious

    “Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

    Alice in Alice through the Looking Glass

    I'm not sure this one counts, as it's regarded as a nonsense word by most dictionaries. Best to include it for the sake of completeness.

  • 1
    Wow! I didn't know that "vorpal" actually made it into a dictionary! That was one of my favorite words in the poem :)
    – Shokhet
    Apr 16, 2017 at 20:25
  • 1
    @Shokhet well, I'm not sure it made it into the dictionary from the poem itself as much as it did from the further usage in D&D and related games.
    – user72
    Apr 17, 2017 at 0:10
  • 1
    For some reason "gimble" is given as "grimace" in many online dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, but that's not how Humpty Dumpty defines it. (He says 'To "gimble" is to make holes like a gimlet.'). I can't find any etymology or cite that justifies the "grimace" definition. Weird. Apr 18, 2017 at 16:04
  • 2
    @JoshuaEngel hm, I dunno either.
    – user72
    Apr 18, 2017 at 16:07
  • 1
    "to be very curious"? Surely "curiouser" is simply the comparative form, i.e. meaning "more curious".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:01

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