fb-pixel Skip to main content

Last time, I asked for your help on behalf of reader Fred Harvey, who for years has been racking his brain to come up with a “one-word antonym for favorite.”

Scott Morrison, of Chelmsford, responded, “I applaud Fred for bringing up this topic. It feels very unsatisfying to say that a certain place, thing, or activity is your least favorite. Imagine if you had to say least best or least smoothest. We have words for those antonyms.” To meet the need, Scott suggested “simplifying the way that we already express something that is not our favorite. Things can be favorless if we don’t like them so much, but the absolute bottom of the barrel is favorleast.” Valerie Russo, of Weymouth, seconded the idea, writing simply, “What’s your favorleast food? Mine is liver.”


Tim Maher, of Somerville, told me he’s learning German and harked back to my introductory column, where I noted that Germans have whiled away the pandemic by coining some 1,200 new COVID-related words. Many of these are highly polysyllabic agglomerations, because that’s the way that language works. German already has a word for least favorite, Tim reported: unbeliebtesten. Google translates that as “most unpopular” — close enough!

Clifford Barnsley, of Edgartown, asserted that the obvious coinage is hatevorite. Norm Quesnel, of Framingham, had much the same idea, suggesting hateforit. Claudette Boudreau, of Plymouth, and Marjory Wunsch, of Cambridge, both played around with the idea of bestie to coin leastie and worstie, respectively.

When David Raines, of Lunenberg, sent me disfavorite, I said to myself, Very nice! A few days later, Jim Murphy, of Newton, sent it to me as well, adding, “It’s obvious. I’m surprised it’s not already a word.” And then Donna Ellis, submitting on behalf of her fifth-grade class at Topsfield’s Proctor Elementary School, also offered disfavorite, along with nine other words. Thus David, Jim, and Mrs. Ellis’s class share bragging rights this time. Well done, my language-loving friends!


I also issued an unofficial challenge, which arose from a reader’s mention of a co-worker who called her ex-husband her wasband. Might someone give us, I asked, a counterpart to refer to an ex-wife? Michael Katz, whose self-reported job title is Chief Penguin at a company in Hopkinton, conflated this search with the one for a single word for least favorite, writing, “I don’t know what the word should be, but it seems to me that the word for the opposite of favorite and the word to describe one’s ex-wife should be the same word.”

Flip Johnson, of Brookline, blended two apropos words, one current and one from Old English, to come up with whyff. Andrew Soll, of Rockport, arrived at a similar coinage via a modern double meaning, and he argued his case persuasively: “I suggest whiff. In baseball or golf, the term whiff describes a swing and a miss, which certainly seems an apt analogy to marriage and divorce.” It may not be everything the Chief Penguin hoped for, but it gets its job done. Andrew, please feel free to brag on your idea too, and thanks.

Now, Diane Garner, of Cambridge, writes: “I am looking for a word to express the feeling of being ill all over but with no specific symptoms. That sort of creaky, burning (but without fever), irritated, can’t-call-the-doctor-because-I-can’t-describe-it feeling. And it’s not hypochondria!” Readers, please help her out and coin something that is, preferably, way more fun than that feeling is. Send your suggestions to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by Friday, October 29, and kindly include where you live.


Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and London.