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To a great degree, our vocabularies reflect the kinds of things we feel a need to express. In other words (haha), the words we originate, use and keep current in our languages reflect the things we feel a need to say. Thus, unfamiliar words judged archaic by our dictionaries are words for things we no longer talk about—or for things for which we have other or newer terminology.

One category of words that are now uncommon in American English refer to landscape features. A quick glance at place names across the British Isles reveals myriad examples, which include holm, -stead, and heath. Suffixes -bridge and -ford remain current in our vocabularies and thus are self-explanatory.

Today’s vocabulary*: holm

a flat piece of ground adjacent to a river that floods when the water level is high

Today’s vocabulary: -stead

suffix referring to place or town, of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch stad

Today’s vocabulary: heath

an area of open, uncultivated land vegetated with low vegetation like gorse, heather, and grasses [differs from forests or cultivated lands, for example]

* Definitions adapted from Apple dictionary.

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