from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One who brings discord or appears at the onset of trouble; a rebel.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The storm petrel

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun sooty black petrel with white markings; of the northern Atlantic and Mediterranean


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  • Cool web page, not about birds but about words.

    September 10, 2008

  • I find it amusing that "stormy petrel" is not a stormy petrel. :-)

    September 10, 2008

  • I disagree that bestride and dudgeon are stormy petrels. I've seen both used independently, and it doesn't strike me as at all odd to describe someone as being "in dudgeon" (or to talk about a person's dudgeon without using the word high), or to describe someone or something as bestriding some other thing (or one), with nary a colossus in sight.

    Many more are erroneously listed: parlance/ common, recriminations / bitter, snifter / brandy, errant / knight - I'd say about 20% of those listed. A true stormy petrel is a thing of joy and these impostors gall me.

    September 11, 2008

  • I think it is redundant to say "obviate the need" for something. "Obviate" means to eliminate the need for something. Thus, "This solution obviates any further analysis" would be the correct usage.

    September 11, 2008

  • What about skipvia's "young whippersnapper"?

    September 11, 2008

  • Oh, zuccaciyecioglu, I agree with you (but I'm not a native English speaker).

    September 11, 2008

  • I thought there was a more standard linguistic term for these, but all I can come up with on a famous search engine is cranberry collocation, which is not what I was thinking of.

    September 11, 2008

  • I am delighted to discover that there's a name for these peculiar beasties. "Stormy petrel" -- what an excellent phrase! It makes me want to spring from my seat with an astonished cry of "It Has a Name??"

    September 11, 2008

  • Sionnach calls them amber words and has a list of them.

    September 11, 2008

  • That's right! Couldn't remember whose list that was. Thanks, mollusque.

    September 11, 2008