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Ghost Words

Fun with words whose parts don't make sense

Some English words suggest the existence of other words, either their opposites or stem words, which are not real.  These are ghost words.  For example:

aghast and ghastly — How come there is no such thing as ghast?

akimbo — Is this the opposite of kimbo; that is, standing with hands raised up?

behead — Shouldn’t it be dehead instead?

downtrodden — Is it better to be uptrodden?

earnest — Is this what you are when you earn the most?

echo — Why isn’t it echohohoho?

eleven, twelve — Wouldn’t it make more sense if they were oneteen, twoteen?

evening — Does this exclude the odd hours of the night, or the odding?

gruesome — If it’s so bad, why isn’t it grueplenty?

hammock — Is this where one makes fun of lousy actors?

height — Why is it width, length, and breadth but not heighth?

heretofore — Is this the opposite of “therefromhind?”

hijack — Would a hijill be a less violent crime?

history — Is there no herstory because all the chroniclers used to be men?

hitchhiker — Does he become a hitchrider when he gets a ride?

how — If it’s what, when, where, why, and who, then shouldn’t it be whow?

howitzer — Was there ever a “whywitzer” or “whowitzer?”

interrupt — Is this what connects the rupts?

lukewarm — Why not a matthewwarm or paulwarm?

manual — If stick-shifts are manual, are automatics womanual?

mayhem — Does aprilhem precede this and junehem follow it?

milestone — Is the metric equivalent meterstone?

monsoon — Would a monlater be as devastating?

offense — Why isn’t the opposite called onense?

pajama — We know pa and ma, but who is ja?

preempt — Is there no empt because something else always happens first?

redundancy — Is dundancy sufficient?

refrigerate — What is frigerate and why are we doing it again?

retaliation — Is this payback for something called taliation?

ruthless — How come there is no davidless?

seesaw — Why isn’t there anything on the playground called a hearheard?

shampoo — Have you ever tried real poo?

sightsee — When the deaf go on a vacation, do they soundhear?

sister — Why is it father, mother, and brother, but not sisther?

smarting — If nothing hurts, are you studpiding?

stopwatch — Isn’t it also a startwatch?

substantial — Is this worse than stantial?

triumph — If not a triumph, perhaps a biumph, or maybe only a uniumph?

underneath — Did you ever wonder what was overneath?

window — If it has glass in it, shouldn’t it be called no-wind-ow?

kilter — If being out of this is bad, where do you get more?