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An 1840 portrait of Edward Lear by Wilhelm Marstrand. Lear coined the nonce word runcible in his poem The Owl and the Pussy-cat.
Lear’s drawing of a “dolomphious duck” using a “runcible spoon” to catch a “spotted frog”[1]

A nonce word[2] coined by the English artist and poet Edward Lear (1812–1888) in his poem The Owl and the Pussy-cat (published 1870). It has been suggested that the word was modelled after rounceval, rouncival (a large pea, the marrowfat) (late 16th c.).[3]



runcible (not comparable)

  1. (humorous) A nonce word used for humorous effect. [from c. 1870]

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ From Edward Lear (1872), “Twenty-six Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures”, in More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc., London: Robert John Bush, 32, Charing Cross, S.W., →OCLC.
  2. ^ See, for example, J[ohn] T[ownsend] Trowbridge and Lucy Larcom, editors (November 1872), “Our Letter Box”, in Our Young Folks. An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, volume VIII, issue XI, Boston, Mass.: James R. Osgood and Company, 124 Tremont Street, →OCLC, page 703, column 1: “"Runcible" is a nonsense word introduced in the nonsense poem for the comical effect of a well-sounding epithet, without any shadow of a meaning.”
  3. ^ runcible”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]