Posts Tagged ‘definito’

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I don’t think you should call me a word nerd, because at my age, I have trouble finding them hiding way back in the recesses of my brain, especially names. Last night I was trying to tell my husband about a place, and I said “It starts with an H.” Then it came to me a few minutes later “Rawhide!”

“That starts with an H, right?”

But seriously, who doesn’t love a good word for something. I wanted to start a collection of good words, so I decorated a marbleized journal and subscribed to the daily Word of the Day from Merriam Webster. Today’s word is gallivant. What a great word. I love the way it sounds. Out of the confines of Covid, I think many of us would love to gallivant around the country, freely wandering from place to place. It just sounds like such a regal and carefree word, doesn’t it?

My friend and writing partner in my writing group, the Inklings, Heidi Mordhorst, invented a wonderful poetic form for defining a word and playing with the sounds of it–the definito.

The definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.

Heidi Mordhorst

I save words that I like and every once in a while write a definto.

Flirtatious Definito

A dance in intricate lace,
draped over smooth shoulder,
ribbons flow
as 3-inch heels
reveal a quick flick
of bare ankles–
A dance of coy coquetry


Margaret Simon, 2023

If you have a favorite word, perhaps you’ll try a definito. Tag me in your post if you do.

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On Christmas Eve, I was alone in Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans. Not alone in the sense that no one was there, but alone without my family in a strange church. My daughter and her husband were home with their new baby. My husband, his mother, and our other daughters’ families were celebrating together in New Iberia. But my soul wanted to be in church. Somehow my Episcopalianism made me feel drawn to the church on Christmas Eve. I admit, it was weird and lonely, and I hid well my tears inside. The music was familiar and kept me grounded. The priest was a woman whom I knew from my home church in Jackson, MS. This was her first Christmas Eve service as a Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana. This is my story.

I urge you to find your story of sanctuary. Where were you on Christmas Eve? Do you worship? Do you have a special place to find the Holy Spirit? I understand for some the church is not a safe place. Explore your own thoughts today. Leave a small poem in the comments. Be sure to encourage other writers for whomever they are, whatever they offer.

Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, LA. photo by Margaret Simon


by human hands
open to wandering souls
most sacred, most holy
this alcove where prayers are hummed, flowing
from tearful, humble hearts
a refuge protected from prey
immunity offered
to evil suffered
a home, a hug, a harbor…sanctuary.

The form I used today is a definito created by my friend and fellow poet, Heidi Mordhorst:”the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.

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Tabatha has the round-up this week.

The Poetry Sisters challenge this week is a favorite form of mine created by my fellow Inkling Heidi Mordhorst, the definito. The definito is a poem of 8-12 lines for children that defines a word. The word being explained is the last word of the poem.

I subscribe to Merriam-Webster’s word of the day. I love learning new words and this one was not only new to me, but it was a mouth full of p’s to say.

Some perspective on perspicacious: the word combines the Latin perspicac- (from perspicax meaning “clear-sighted,” which in turn comes from perspicere, “to see through”) with the common English adjective suffix -ious. The result is a somewhat uncommon word used to describe someone (such as a reader or observer) or something (such as an essay or analysis) displaying the perception and understanding of subtleties others tend to miss.


Last weekend I spent some time with my 3 year old (almost 4 year old) grandson. I am constantly amazed at his ability to observe his world and notice things that most of us just take for granted. I love seeing things in a fresh way when I am with him. I’m not sure I have a full grip on the word perspicacious, but working on this poem made me happy to capture the awe of a toddler.

Perspicacious Definito

At some point we lose perception,
perspective clouded, but you, my child 
can see the train track, and notice up and down, 
lower, higher, your place in space.
When you spin, you laugh, feeling dizzy.
Under the influence of gravity
you understand what you don’t understand…playful perspicacity. 

Leo, 3 years 9 months
Margaret Simon, draft

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I led the #VerseLove poetry prompt at Ethical ELA. Follow this link to read some wonderful definito/ etymology poems. Playing with words is fun.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

This month, Inkling Mary Lee Hahn challenged the group to write a poem to define or exemplify a poetic device or form. She was inspired by two books, The Craft of Poetry by Lucy Newlyn and Inside Out by Marjorie Maddox. I remembered a set of poems I wrote using the definito form to define a poetic device.

Another Inkling partner Heidi Mordhorst created the definito form which is a poem written for children in 8-12 lines that defines a word. The word appears as the last word of the poem. Today’s poems define alliteration, imagery, personification, and meter.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Poetic Devices Definitos

Letters, linked
and lively,
Notice how
some sounds repeat
Tongue twister
Word sister…alliteration.

Make a movie
in your mind
Imagine all
that tastes, feels, sounds–
hands gripping,
feet slipping,
Writers show me
how to see
with imagery.

If the wind waves
If flowers wink
If hummingbirds tell a tale.
A thing you know
A thing you love
becomes a person
real and alive
walking across the page

Can you tap out a beat?
ta da, ta dum, ta dee!
Count the upbeats?
one, two, three
A poem may rhyme
but the rhythm is clear
words for the beat
Tap, tap…meter.

Margaret Simon, 2021

Other poems for this challenge:

Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Catherine @ Reading to the Core
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone


Write Out 2021 (#writeout) is getting ready to launch this October 10th and will run through the 24th. This year’s theme—Palettes, Storyboards, and Cadences—is meant to support you as you explore the natural world and public spaces around you, while engaging as writers and creators who share in a connected virtual community.

This summer I worked with the National Writing Project on creating prompts for writing with Write Out. This two-week event encourages you to get outdoors and write. A number of National Parks have created videos for students to inspire writing. You can sign up at the NWP website to receive updates.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Carol’s Corner.

As I prepared this PF post, I had to go through new steps in WordPress that annoyed me. It seems once you get a sense of comfort with a platform, someone thinks it’s a good idea to change it up. Is anyone else struggling with the new way to insert an image? What a rigamarole!

I subscribe to Merriam-Webster’s word of the day. On June 4th, the WOD was Rigmarole, not rigamarole as I had always used. My curiosity got hold as well as my inner poet. I turned to a form that my Swagger partner, poet-teacher friend, Heidi Mordhorst invented–the definito.

The rules are a free verse poem of 8-12 lines that ends in the word being defined. Heidi being Heidi usually includes word play aspects as well.

A list of verse, ragman roll
to mean foolish roll of tongue,
rattling-on-confusing set of directions,
steps here
then there
rambling forward to a destination,
required mouse-trap of a rat-race
ending in the achievement of a goal–

Margaret Simon, definito draft
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Challenge: Today’s word is poignant. Want to try a definito? Post in the comments.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Even before we were sheltering in our homes, I enjoyed making connections over cyberspace. Teacher-poet-writer Fran Haley is one of those connections. We read each other. Yesterday she wrote a beautiful blog post “Ode to the Wind.” In that post she wrote about a tweet from Robert MacFarlane with the word of the day: susurrate.

Word of the day: “susurrate”—to whisper, murmur, esp. of noise produced by numerous individual sources of sound (bees humming, leaves rustling, etc.) Compare to “psithurism,” its similarly sibilant sense-sibling, meaning the whispering of wind in trees (from Ancient Greek).

Susurrate was a new word to me when I read MacFarlane’s most amazing, beautiful book the lost words: A Spell Book. A friend who knows I love words and poetry loaned it to me. I presented the first few poems to my students. The last stanza of the second poem “adder” reads:

Rustle of grass, sudden susurrus, what
the eye misses:
For adder is as adder hisses.

Robert MacFarlane, the lost words

Reading Fran’s post, I remembered that I had written a definito to the word. The definito is a form created by my friend, teacher-poet Heidi Mordhorst. “The definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common, often abstract word, which always ends the poem.

I love this form for working with the meaning of a new word in a way that helps someone else understand the word.

As murmur is to whisper
a mutter to a babble
When grumbles turn to mumbles
and a purr softens sound
As whisper is to wind
a sigh of the weather
As a hum is to a hummingbird
flying quickly to a flower
You may hear something
close to silence…susurration. 

Photo by Philippe Donn from Pexels

The Progressive Poem is coming to the end. Today Donna Smith is hosting Jessica Bigi’s contribution.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone.

Did you know that Wednesday, Jan. 29th was National Curmudgeons Day in honor of W.C. Fields’ birthday? I didn’t either until I got an email from Jen Laffin’s blog Teach Write. Jen listed some great writing prompts to use with your students.

My students loved this. I loved giving them a word they didn’t already know, which is a challenge when teaching gifted kids. In their notebooks, they wrote poems and character sketches as well as drew pictures of Grumpy Cat, Oscar the Grouch, and the two old men from the Muppets.

I reminded them of the poem form, definito, which was created by my friend and fellow poetry swagger, Heidi Mordhorst. A definito is a poem of 8-12 lines that defines a word and ends with the defined word.

I worked on this poem playing with a rhyme scheme. Writing this poem cheered me up, out of curmudgeonliness.

National Curmudgeons Day Definito

When your day starts out in slush and mud,
When nothing seems quite right,
When your cat scratches drawing blood,
When you’ve already lost the fight,
When all you want to do is rest
or hide, just slam the door,
You can’t suppress your grumpiness;
Your mom says you’re a boar.
Your face turns green and grouchy,
shoulders glum and slouchy.
It may be better to stay in
as you are a curmudgeon.

Margaret Simon, 2020
My notebook page for National Curmudgeons Day.

Angry Growler,
loudest shouter.

A faultfinder,
spirit grinder.

Always shut in,
a curmudgeon.

A.J., 6th grade
Breighlynn’s notebook page.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Today my Sunday Poetry Swagger writing group is celebrating a new form invented by our colleague Heidi Mordhorst, who is hosting the PF link up.

Heidi’s definition of a definito is “a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.” A few weeks ago during one of our Sunday night critique meetings, she asked us each to try writing our own definito.

I’ve been following Teach Write on Facebook and each day they post a word to jump start writing. In the month of July, they posted “voracious vocabulary”. One day the word was “zephyr.” This was a new to me word that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about. A definito is a great way to explore a word’s meaning through writing. I will be using this activity with my students this year.


Zero in.
Feel the wind
blow oh, so, slow,
lightly feathering
the sleepy moss,
slightly rippling the shore.
Not a gale or hefty gust,
blustery bora or frigid buster.
This Greek god is a gentle one
waving from the western sky…
easy-breezy  zephyr.
(draft) Margaret Simon

Melanie Wupperman, Pexels.com

Read more definitos at these Poetry Swaggers’ sites:
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise

And playing along:
Mary Lee Hahn: A Year of Reading
Laura Purdie Salas: Writing the World for Children

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