My Book

Jess Zafarris, the creator of Useless Etymology, is also the author of the book ONCE UPON A WORD: A WORD-ORIGIN DICTIONARY FOR KIDS (Rockridge Press, February 2020), which is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

It’s targeted at kids ages 9-13, but any word enthusiast can learn something from it, including fun facts about language and the origins of words from “adventure” and “alchemy” to “synonym” and “unanimous.” It also contains lovely illustrations by Marco Marella, including an incredible language tree. Read more about it below.

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Where do words come from?―Learning new words by understanding their stories

The English language is made up of words from different places, events, and periods of time. Each of those words has an exciting story to tell us about where, when, how, and why they came about. Once Upon a Word is packed with easy-to-understand definitions and awesome word-origin stories. With this dictionary for kids, you can understand the history and meaning of English words, improve your vocabulary and spelling, and learn to play with language.

Explore how weird words like gnome, fun words like zombie, and common words like caterpillar came to exist. Discover why some words sound funnier than others (like cackle, sizzle, and twang) and why some groups of words start with the same few letters (like hydrate, hydrogen, and fire hydrant). In this dictionary for kids, there’s a whole world of English words to uncover!

This unique dictionary for kids includes:

  • Roots & branches―Learn about the building blocks that make up words, called roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
  • Kid-friendly definitions―Look up definitions designed for your reading level in this dictionary for kids.
  • Word snack―Find out where your favorite food words got their start, from bacon to marshmallow, spaghetti, yogurt, and beyond.

See how the English language evolved―from its beginnings to today―with this colorful dictionary for kids.