Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cloy - Too Much of a Good Thing

A thick, sauce-covered slice of chocolate mousse cake
Chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce
(photo by Kim)


Verb. Late Middle English.
[Aphetic from ACCLOY.]

1 verb trans. obsolete. Pierce (as) with a nail; especially = ACCLOY. LME-E18

2(a) verb trans. Stop up, block (a passage etc.);
 choke, fill up; clog, encumber. LME-M17

2(b) verb trans. Spike (a gun). Now rare. E17

3 verb trans. & intrans. Satiate, weary, or nauseate by richness, sweetness, sameness,
or excess, of food, pleasure, attention, etc. (Followed by with.) M16

cloyingly adv. in a cloying manner or degree. E20
cloyless adj. that does not cloy. E17
cloyment noun (rare, Shakespearean) satiety. Only in E17
cloysome adj. (rare) tending to cloy. E17

I had been vacillating somewhat over whether to include cloy in Lexicolatry. Its etymology isn't particularly remarkable, evolving from the obsolete word accloy, meaning to overfill, to burden or to disgust, which itself is derived from the medieval Latin clavus, 'nail'. However ...

... I do like the word - it's cloyingly phonosemantic, with its satisfyingly cloopy, clotting, clumpy phonemes. My mind was made up, however, when I explained the meaning of cloy to my niece who was unfamiliar with it. "Wow!" she said, "What a brilliantly useful word!"

And she's right - cloy is a brilliant word, and one that should be in everyone's active vocabulary. It can describe everything from a thick wedge of chocolate cake, smothered in chocolate sauce under a mound of whipped cream, to the cloyingly close attentions of an over-enthusiastic friend whom you like, but perhaps not quite as much as they seem to like you. And finally, any word with the power to make a teenager's face beam with lexical enthusiasm has, by my reckoning, earned its place in the hallowed pages of Lexicolatry.

Is cloy in your active vocabulary?

How do you use cloy?

Do please weary us with the sweetness of your comments below.


  1. This word got me thinking if there were such a words as encloy or encloyment, to mean enclose and block up, or a place where one is enclosed and encumbered. Apparently not, although they would be good words for the police or military to adopt, or London Underground in the rush hour.
    Google it and you find Ohio Bureau of Encloyment and also an Encloyment Tax - strange. Have I invented a new word or not? Or is it Google being silly?

    1. Well, seeing as (at this point) a Google search for 'encloyment' returns Lexicolatry in first position thanks to your above comment, I would suggest that you have indeed just invented a new word. And while I was able to find two documents with the phrase "Ohio Bureau of Encloyment" in them, I think this is most likely a typo originating from the desk of some bored civil servant who didn't have the motivation to press the spell-check button on that day.

      So, yes, I think 'encloyment' is up for grabs. Quick - give it a definition, and you've just coined a word. If it gets into the OED by the time I get to E, I'll even cover in in Lexicolatry.

  2. There are and must be many reasons for the above, from the person who is being bullied who eats to make themselves feel better. 먹튀사이트