What Does it Mean to Stand with Arms Akimbo? (and other strange words)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know the meaning of every single word I come across. When I read a word that’s unfamiliar to me, I first try to guess the meaning using the context of the sentence. Then, if that doesn’t work, I’ll use a dictionary if I have one handy.

But I have a confession: sometimes I just skip it.Β 

I know that’s horrible, especially for an editor. I don’t do this when I’m editing, however. If I don’t know if a word is being used correctly I will definitely look it up. But I don’t always have the time or desire to look up a word when I’m reading for pleasure, and so I skip it. This is something I’m trying to get better about, because knowing what words mean can help you as a writer to be more creative.

So, for today’s tip, I’m going to highlight two words I come across regularly that I used to not know. Now I do, and I’m a much better writer and reader for it!

1) Akimbo

Have you ever encountered a character who is standing with their arms akimbo? I always assumed that meant their arms were crossed. But it doesn’t! It actually means standing with your hands on your hips, like this:

arms akimbo


2) Fortnight

Characters in Jane Austen books are always going away “for the fortnight.” So how long is that, exactly? One day? A week? The correct answer isΒ two weeks.Β Crazy, right? Who knew?

I’ll never forget what these two words mean, because I remember when I didn’t know what they were! I’m so glad I didn’t just skip over them, though, because the real meaning is completely different from what I originally thought.

Do you take the time to look up words you don’t know or do you skip over them?

Can you think of any specific words you used to not know?

8 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Stand with Arms Akimbo? (and other strange words)

  1. That’s so funny! I definitely read the word akimbo recently. I distinctly remember looking it up, because I was like, “What does this mean?”

  2. I had to smile when I saw you didn’t know the word ‘fortnight’. It’s still in common usage in the UK, but presumably not in the USA. We go on a fortnight’s summer holiday; at work we might have fortnightly reviews. I guess it’s one of those faucet/tap, sidewalk/pavement disconnects between British English and American English. The one that gets me though, is bi-weekly… is that twice a week, or once a fortnight? πŸ™‚

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