Wordcount for Lovecraft’s Favorite Words

February 23rd, 2011 · 76 Comments

Update: The free eBook of Lovecraft’s Complete Works is done and can be downloaded here. This post was updated 6/23/2011 with requests from the comments which had a significant number of instances (generally over 10, but sometimes fewer for odd & Lovecraftian words).

One of the things any fan of Lovecraft discovers early on is that Lovecraft was very attached to certain words. We either laugh or groan every time we hear something described as “indescribable” or called “unnamable” or “antiquarian” or “cyclopean.” And sometimes we wonder how many times he actually used the words.

In working on the Lovecraft ebook project (which is nearly complete and is in final proofreading), I compiled all of Lovecraft’s original works in one file. So I took suggestions for words to count on the H.P. Podcraft forums and on Twitter.

The list is below. The only big surprises were “squamous,” which only appears once in an original story—”The Dunwich Horror”—, and “unutterable,” which only appeared 13 times.

Abnormal – 94

Accursed – 76

Amorphous – 19

Antediluvian – 10

Antiqu (e/arian) – 128

Blasphem (y/ous) – 92

Cat – 46 (whole word search)

Charnel – 20

Comprehension – 9

Cyclopean – 47

Dank – 19

Decadent – 32

Daemoniac – 55

Effulgence – 4

Eldritch – 23

Faint (ed/ing) – 189

Foetid – 22

Fungus/Fungoid/Fungous – 54

Furtive – 60

Gambrel – 21

Gibbous – 9

Gibber (ed/ing) – 10

Hideous – 260

Immemorial – 25

Indescribable – 25

Iridescence – 2

Loath (ing/some) – 71

Lurk – 15

Madness – 115

Manuscript – 35

Mortal – 27

Nameless – 157

Noisome – 33

Non-Euclidean – 2

Proportion/Disproportionate – 53

Shunned – 54

Singular (ly) – 115

Spectral – 60

Squamous – 1

Stench – 59

Stygian – 6

Swarthy – 14

Tenebrous – 9

Tentacle(s) – 28

Ululat (e/ing) – 4

Unmentionable – 16

Unnamable – 22

Unutterable – 13

At a commenter’s request, I ran the names of some of the god/great old ones/other eldritch beings:

Gods, Great Old Olds, and other Eldritch Beings

Azathoth – 22

Cthulhu – 42

Dagon – 16

Nodens – 8

Nyarlathotep – 47

Shoggoth – 22

Shub-Niggurath – 8

Yog-Sothoth – 28

And in answer to another request:

Eldritch Tomes, Things and Locations

Tomes

Necronomicon – 49

Pnakotic Manuscripts – 16

De Vermis Mysteriis – 2

Book of Eibon – 3

Eltdown Shards – 1

Nameless Cults (Unaussprechlichen Kulten) – 4

Things

Elder Sign – 2

Locations

Arkham – 159

Dunwich – 41

Innsmouth – 104

Kadath – 67

Kingsport – 43

Leng – 158

Miskatonic – 62

R’lyeh – 16

Yuggoth – 21

Irem – 12

And someone requested a Wordle….so here it is!
Wordle: Lovecraft Favorite Words

(click to view larger) Thanks to the lovely commenter who pointed out Wordle’s advanced function. I really haven’t used it, so I wasn’t able to make the best use of it. This new Wordle is much better.

Got another word for me to check in the file? Leave it in the comments or ask me on Twitter and I’ll add it for you!

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76 Responses to “Wordcount for Lovecraft’s Favorite Words”

  1. Terry Says:

    I’d be interested in a breakdown of the gods: Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc.

  2. @publicano Says:

    Could you check some eldritch tomes’ names?

    I regularly write Mythos fiction and that would be a great help for me … and also sate my thirst for forbidden lore!

    Hahah

    My top suggestions are Necronomicon, Pnakotic Manuscritps, De Vermis Mysteriis, Book of Eibon, Eltdown Shards, Nameless Cults (Unaussprechlichen Kulten).

    I suggest also a counting on strange places: Yuggoth, R’lyeh, Kadath, Leng …

    [Edited to update! - Ruth]

  3. Mr. Hand Says:

    Marvelous post! this will help many of us in our dark researches.

  4. Ahimsa Says:

    I love this list. Very surprised to see Nyarlathotep got the most mentions–I always thought he was one of the least-represented beings. It would be cool to add Bloch, Derlaith, etc but then that would get into what is “canon” and what is not.

  5. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    @Ahimsa I think it’s because Nyarlathotep is a rather major player in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of his mentions were there. Then he’s got a story named after him, though I didn’t include the story’s title in the word count.

  6. Smapte Says:

    I’ll bet 30 of those 32 instances of “decadent” appear in the second half of “at the mountains of madness.”

  7. Chris Says:

    I’m sure it is no coincidence that there are 42 instances of the great Cthulhu.

  8. Sev3nty Says:

    So, reading this just gave me a huge revelation from a joke that my friends and I had going for years. There was a movie on the sci fi channel called “Dagon,” with the line, “You are my brother. You will be my lover – forever.” We laughed and quoted this ENDLESSLY, but I never actually knew what Dagon originated from. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I need to actually READ Lovecraft!

  9. Terry Says:

    Dagon is actually a pretty good movie, but I’m also a huge fan of Innsmouth.

  10. hdan Says:

    You missed Foetid/Fetid or however one spells it.

  11. Mark Says:

    Perhaps add a count for “Nodens” in the Gods, Eldritch Beings etc.. category?

    Or maybe a count for “Elder Sign” though I’m not sure where that would go…

  12. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Good catch, hdan Only 22 uses. Surprised me.

    Mark got 8 matches for Nodens, only 2 for elder sign.

  13. Cat Vincent Says:

    Squamous only once? And where’s Rugose? Stross will be interested in the results, I’m sure!

  14. Matt Says:

    There’s a word I can’t quite remember now that means, apparently, “froglike” or “like an amphibian” that he uses all the time. It’s a fifty-cent Greek-suffix affair. Any idea what I’m talking about, and how often it actually shows up?

  15. Terry Says:

    @Matt Probably batrachian

  16. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Cat only 3 instances of “Rugose.” Squamous was used in collaborations, too, but I didn’t count those…though I’d guess when he used it there it was his idea, not the collaborator’s.

    Mark/Terry I actually looked up “batrachian” but only found one instance, so I didn’t include it. Though maybe it’d have been interesting for contrast.

  17. TT Says:

    if someone has access to the book, try making a wordle composition out of it!

    http://www.wordle.net

  18. Matt Says:

    @Terry Aha! That’s the one. I knew it started with a “b” but I kept getting sidetracked by “brachy-” words.

    If it only shows up once in Lovecraft proper, it must be something that August Derleth did. Still a pretty Lovecraftian word, though, wouldn’t you say?

  19. Ilir Says:

    I was curious to know how often the word “untold” is used – thank you!

  20. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    TT your wish is my command. :) Wordle added to the post!

    Matt It’s quite possible Derlethian. Some of them were really picked up on by Lovecraft’s followers.

    Ilir only 7 times.

  21. utenzil Says:

    How did “squamous” make it, but “cacodaemoniacal” did not?

  22. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    utenzil because I hear “squamous” thrown around a lot for Lovecraft? However, the wordcount for “cacodaemoniacal” is only 2, which makes it “one of those cool words Lovecraft introduced us to” but not “one of those he totally overused.”

  23. Mark Says:

    @Matt – The word you are looking for (I think) is “batrachian”.

  24. Derek C. F. Pegritz Says:

    @Ahimsa and Others: In my MA thesis, I discussed the reasons why I believe HPL mentioned Nyarlathotep more than any other…uhh, Other God, Old One, etc–because The Crawling Chaos is the only “alien god” character that HPL bothered to develop into an actual character, which suggests Nyarlathotep was one of Grandpa Theobald’s favourite creations. I’m currently in the process of revising the thesis for actual print–that is, I’m removing the academic bullshit-speak and remaking it into a publication actual readers would enjoy reading–and I’ll post it on my blogsite (blog.pegritz.com) under a Creative Commons licenses ASAP! You may enjoy it!

  25. Mark Says:

    Just thought of one more good search candidate – “gibbering”!
    Might just be me, but that’s always been a Lovecraft kind of word in my book :)

    Possibly (under Locations) run a count for the obvious, but still fictional places like Arkham and Miskatonic? Maybe Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Kingsport too?

  26. Ahimsa Says:

    Derek, thanks for letting me know. Nyarlathotep is one of my favorites, and that sounds like a great read.

  27. Brian Says:

    Could you check for “non-euclidean”? I thought that was a favorite but now that I look through some examples where I thought it was used, I don’t find it.

  28. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Mark “gibber” and all variations thereof is at 10. I’ll do places & update the post tonight.

    Brian Only got 2 hits for non-euclidean. Call of Cthulhu & Dreams in the Witch House.

  29. Deidzoeb Says:

    Cool. The word cloud is a little disappointing, but realistic. Could we get another wordle showing just the freaky jargon? (hideous, blasphemous, cyclopean)

  30. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Deidzoeb Yes, I decided after I made it that I should do one for the word-count words. However that’ll take a little longer to put together, I’m going to have to wait until I get home from work. I’m already pushing it with comment responses. But definitely, I want to see how it turns out! :)

  31. kawayama Says:

    I think batrachian and squamous are thought to be popular because Neil Gaiman said so in his parody story “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” (in Smoke and Mirrors). Squamous is said to have been used “an awful lot,” which obviously was a bit of a hyperbole.

  32. Mark Says:

    Squamous actually does appear in “Cthulh mythos” stories a lot. More that it appears in more time stories LIKELY to have been written by Lovecraft but not definitely. Take the following example from Out of the Aeons credited to H.P Lovecraft with Hazel Heald:

    “I might call it gigantic—tentacled—proboscidian—octopus-eyed—semi-amorphous—plastic—partly squamous and partly rugose—ugh!”

    Hazel Heald was one of the many pseudonyms of H.P. Lovecraft. At the very least, it was a name he did ghost-writing for. I think that’s why Cthulhu Chick keeps saying Lovecrafts ORIGINAL works. If you started throwing in all the possible-but-uncertain, things would get out of hand.
    Even if “squamous” gets shortchanged in the process.

  33. Aloysius Panglos Says:

    I’m curious about “tenebrous” and “chthonic”.

  34. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Aloysius For tenebrous, there were 9 instances, but chthonic didn’t show up. Either it’s spelled differently, or not used. (I can’t think of the proper spelling, so I’m not sure)

  35. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Mark I added the places you requested! :)

  36. The Vocabulary of Cthulhu « Lawrence Person's Futuramen Says:

    [...] A list of the frequency H. . Lovecraft used certain words in his fiction. [...]

  37. Eric Says:

    So “Ia!” doesn’t count as a word?

    I kid, of course. Interesting stuff and thank you for posting it.

  38. Brad Hanon Says:

    What about “gambrel”? (Including gambrels and gambreled, of course.) Last time I took a wander through Lovecraft, I was struck by how he couldn’t go a single story without using that word at least once. The only houses or buildings anyone ever lives in are gambreled.

  39. Tim D Says:

    Wonderful and fascinating. Thanks Ruth. I’m genuinely shocked that gibbous only appears nine times. It always seemed to me you could barely glance at a page of HPL without coming across it. I was obviously too excitable!

  40. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Brad Good call on “gambrel,” it or its variations show up 21 times!

  41. John Roberts Says:

    I don’t see “ophidian,” i.e., snakelike.

  42. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    John “ophidian” – just 1 count. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also turned up in “The Curse of Yig,” but that’s a collab.

  43. Sandra Says:

    Eldritch is only 23! gosh, that’s an eye opener ;) many thanks, this is fascinating.
    Thanks too…huge thanks in fact…for the ebook. I’ll download it tomorrow :) The new Lovecraftian eZine has left me with a need to re-read the creator…

  44. Mark Says:

    Thank you for adding the places :)
    I’m amazed that Arkham only appears one more time than Leng!

  45. Moshe Says:

    Fascinating, Ruth, and thanks for the yeoman (yeowoman?) work on the ebook as well.

    My only disappointment is that, if I understand you correctly, you did the word frequency analysis with an ordinary word processor. I was hoping I was about to learn about nifty concordance software!

  46. Dale Says:

    The top scorers are:

    260 – Hideous
    189 – Faint (ed/ing)
    159 – Arkham
    158 – Leng
    157 – Nameless
    128 – Antiqu (e/arian)
    115 – Singular (ly)
    115 – Madness
    104 – Innsmouth
    94 – Abnormal
    92 – Blasphem (y/ous)
    76 – Accursed
    71 – Loath (ing/some)
    67 – Kadath
    62 – Miskatonic
    59 – Stench
    55 – Daemoniac
    54 – Shunned
    49 – Necronomicon
    47 – Nyarlathotep
    47 – Cyclopean
    43 – Kingsport
    42 – Cthulhu
    41 – Dunwich

  47. HP Says:

    Suggested terms: “Hastur,” “Carcossa,” and “Hali (book of).”

    I don’t think they show up often, but I know they show up once or twice. This is the evidence that ties the Cthulhu mythos, via the King in Yellow, back to Ambrose Bierce.

  48. Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey Says:

    To address the problem that the Wordle showed a lot of very common words, and not many that give you the flavor of Lovecraft, I’d like to point something out.

    Both Google and Amazon have features that extract words or phrases that show up in a particular book more often than in the average collection of text.

    Amazon has a list called “Statistically Improbable Phrases” on their page for a book. For example, on the page for Lovecraft’s Tales from Library of America, the phrases are:

    elder things, shining trapezohedron, curvilinear hieroglyphs, tarry stickiness, greenish soapstones, twilight abysses, spiky image, nameless scent, shunned house, twilit grotto, attic laboratory, membraneous wings, hill noises, fishy odour, domed hills, colour out, shadow out

    Google Books displays a combination of individual words and phrases that are relatively improbable. At the bottom of the Google Books page for Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, the list is:

    Akeley Akeley’s Ammi ancient aout Arkham Arkham House Arthur Jermyn began Blake body Brattleboro Call of Cthulhu Charles Dexter Ward church colour cult curious Dagon dark dead death door dream Dunwich Horror earth eyes face faint fear felt frightful grotesque H. P. Lovecraft heard Herbert West hideous hills hint horrible horror human imagination Innsmouth island knew Kuranes later legends Legrasse letter light living looked Lovecraft Marsh mind Miskatonic University monstrous moon Mountains of Madness Nahum nameless Necronomicon never night Nyarlathotep odour once queer road roofs screamed secret seemed seen Shadow Shadow Over Innsmouth shewed sight sound stone story strange Street tale tell terrible things thought tion told tower town unknown vague Vermont voice walls Weird West whispered Whisperer in Darkness window wonder woods Yuggoth Zadok

    Thought you’d find this interesting. It depends upon fancy statistical analysis that may not be available to you, but it’s worth thinking about.

  49. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Bill Thanks. I’m actually working on a document that Wordle can work with based entirely on these numbers. Unfortunately, it requires making the word appear the same number of times as it’s in the list. A picture of how that looks right now: http://twitpic.com/457td4

    So it’ll take me a bit, but I plan to update it.

  50. Jerry Friedman Says:

    For me, the typical Lovecraft phrase is “shamble the tenebrous halls of elder night”. Or “corridors” instead of “halls”. Aloysius Pangloss mentioned “tenebrous” (and spelled “chthonic” correctly), but I’m curious about the others. Well, not “of” and “the”.

    And how about “curious(ly)”? As in “curiously abnormal”. And “mindless”? Which brings me to “gibbering”.

  51. Jerry Friedman Says:

    dank
    miasma
    moist(ure)

    amorphous
    cat
    gelatinous
    lurk
    manuscript
    pipe/piping
    proportion, etc., including disproportionate
    protoplasm
    pshent
    shapeless
    tentacle/tentacular, etc.
    unmentionable

    Or is that too many?

  52. A. Nuran Says:

    Just rolled for 1D4-1 SAN loss

  53. EasyEight Says:

    Don’t forget “Necrous” and “Necrotic” as well!!

  54. Will Says:

    What, no furtive?

  55. CatDog Says:

    If you go to http://www.wordle.net/advanced or just go to wordle and hit advanced in the top right and enter the following in the first box, it will give you a wordle of the first list based off the frequencies you gave.

    Abnormal:94
    Accursed:76
    Antediluvian:10
    Antiqu~(e/arian):128
    Blasphem~(y/ous):92
    Charnel:20
    Comprehension:9
    Cyclopean:47
    Decadent:32
    Daemoniac:55
    Effulgence:4
    Eldritch:23
    Faint~(ed/ing):189
    Foetid:22
    Gambrel:21
    Gibbous:9
    Hideous:260
    Immemorial:25
    Indescribable:25
    Iridescence:2
    Loath~(ing/some):71
    Madness:115
    Mortal:27
    Nameless:157
    Noisome:33
    Shunned:54
    Singular~(ly):115
    Squamous:1
    Stench:59
    Stygian:6
    Swarthy:14
    Ululat~(e/ing):4
    Unnamable:22
    Unutterable:13

  56. Evil Kitten Says:

    I’m happy…Nyarlathotep makes it in as #1 Most Mentioned Eldritch Being!
    I shall therefore continue to write more roleplaying scenarios based around him than anyone else (insert mad laughter here).

  57. netherwerks Says:

    Very nice. You might want to consider degenerate, Spectral, ultraterrene, paroxysm, noisome, and sinister. I didn’t see those on the list. This is a fun project!

  58. Daniel Says:

    Is it in prose, poetry or both?
    I’m also wondering which of the Gods are originally Lovecraftian. Well, it seems obvious but are there any academic proofs. He himself stated that they heavily alluded to each other.

  59. Daniel Says:

    I developed the listing of gods a bit and included two races Mi-Go and The Great Old Ones. I searched only through prose and used texts available at http://www.hplovecraft.com I also indexed all the mentions so you can check it. It was a devastating “copy-paste” business
    So there it is, story indexes are in chronological order:

    DEITIES:

    Dagon – 1+title (Dagon); 13 (The Shadow over Innsmouth) = 15

    Nyarlathotep – 11+title (Nyarlathotep); 1 (The Rats in the Walls); 26 (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath); 1 (The Last Test); 1 (The Mound); 3 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 2 (The Dreams in the Witch House); 1 (The Shadow out of Time); 1 (The Haunter of the Dark) = 48

    Azathoth – title (Azathoth); 6 (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath); 1 (The Mound); 2 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 6 (The Dreams in the Witch House); 1 (The Horror in the Museum); 1 (The Thing on the Doorstep); 2 (The Haunter of the Dark) = 19

    Cthulhu – title+23 (The Call of Cthulhu); 1 (The Dunwich Horror); 3 (The Electric Executioner); 1 (The Mound); 1 (Medusa’s Coil); 5 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 6 (At the Mountains of Madness); 4 (The Shadow over Innsmouth); 3 (The Horror in the Museum); 1 (Through the Gates of the Silver Key) = 49

    Nodens – 2 (The Strange High House in the Mist); 6 (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) = 8

    Yog-Sothoth – 10 (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward); 1 (The Last Test); 13 (The Dunwich Horror); 2 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 1 (At the Mountains of Madness); 1 (The Horror in the Museum); 1 (Through the Gates of the Silver Key); 1 (The Haunter of the Dark) = 30

    Shub-Niggurath – 1 (The Last Test); 1 (The Dunwich Horror); 2 (The Mound); 2 (Medusa’s Coil); 4 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 1 (The Dreams in the Witch House); 1 (The Man of Stone); 2 (The Horror in the Museum); 3 (Out of the Aeons); 2 (The Thing on the Doorstep); 1 (The Diary of Alonzo Typer) = 20

    Shoggoth – 17 (At the Mountains of Madness); 2 (The Shadow over Innsmouth); 3 (The Thing on the Doorstep) = 22

    RACES:

    Mi-Go – 2 (The Whisperer in the Darkness); 5 (At the Mountains of Madness) = 7

    The Great Old Ones – 4 (The Call of Cthulhu); 1 (At the Mountains of Madness) = 5

  60. Ian Breheny Says:

    I second “spectral.” An unforgivable omission. And how about “fungous” or “febrile?”

  61. Ruth - Cthulhu Chick Says:

    Updated with requests up to this point. Anything not included only had a small showing in the texts, less than 10 instances (except a few very odd ones which got included anyway).

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  63. Sardonikus Says:

    I owe a great deal to HPL for introducing many words into my own vocabulary and thus enhancing my own writing (mostly poetry).

    My personal favorite HPL word: inchoate.

  64. Jason Says:

    How about the word “Unwholesome”?

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  72. Jon Says:

    Dagon is found in the old testament of the bible. A fish god to the Philistines. (All those years of sundayschool and one thing I learn is about Lovecraft’s writings.)

  73. Scott Says:

    Awesome site – love what you’re doing:)

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  75. gio23 Says:

    this is bad ass helped me a lot love the craft

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