I’ve just discovered a ‘word of the day’ screensaver on my laptop, and it’s teaching me some interesting new words. Here’s a selection from the past couple of days:

consistory: n. a spiritual or ecclesiastical court or governing body.
iatrogenic: adj. (of a disease or symptoms) induced in a patient by the treatment or comments of a physician.
scilicet: adv. to wit, namely (abbrev scil. or sciz.)
parthenocarpy: n. the production of a fruit without without a preliminary act of fertilisation.
chantey: n. alternative name for shanty, a rhythmical song sung by sailors while heaving at the capstan etc.
paronym: n. a word that is a derivative of another and has a related meaning; a word formed by adaptation of a foreign word.
tanka: n. a Japanese poem consisting of five lines and 31 syllables.

I don’t know how the computer knows which are the unusual and interesting words in its dictionary, and which the commonplace. Did someone go through the whole dictionary and tag them? Or are machines just getting too clever?!