Hamadryad n. One of those rather delightful words that have several totally different meanings. A hamadryad can be a tree-dwelling nymph, a venomous Indian snake, or an Abyssinian baboon. You may use the word, for example in the latter sense, when insulting a female, but on being taken to task you may if you wish explain that you were using the word in its nymphal sense. Alternatively, you may use the word as an apparent compliment, conveying by your manner that you are evoking the nymphal sense, but at the same time revel in private knowledge that one of the other senses is the applicable one.
Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Hamadryad appears in the First.