2015 - 2017

Words fall into disuse and new words come into a language—this shifting tells us something about our changing world. And as water becomes a more contentious resource, our language will evolve to reflect these coming changes. I know no more about our water future than you do, but I hope The Future Dictionary of Water will engage and provoke us to consider what that future is, and by doing so, we may have a more thoughtful impact on our future.

The project started in 2015 with a few words that I created. I then sent out a request to friends and strangers for their ideas of our future relationship with water, and words arrived.

As of August, 2017, I have completed 27 words, and I think I will end the project there. For now. As I worked on the project over the last two years, many people had thought I was working on an alphabet, which is completely understandable...the alphabet is a favorite among book artists. So with 27 words, I have just enough to distinguish it from an alphabet...talk about lazy?! No, actually, I will continue to work on water-related paintings and 3D work, but I will leave the dictionary for now, leaving the door ajar for possibly returning in the future.

All 27 paintings and words will be included in a book project and a set of postcards. I hope to complete those in 2018.

I am leaving the word submission form/guidelines up on this page for now (scroll past the thumbnails and dictionary itself). If you should have a great inspiration and would like to submit a word, please do so. If I return to the project, you'll be the first to know!

All 27 words and their definitions can be found below.


Gleaners Hydrollity Hydroment Illusieau Lacwater Mnemos Nilglacia Patterskee Plait Qiaqua Quaquaqua Quenqubulous Sequivena Vacavapour
Xahuzzante Zegand


Annuvadah Barrel Cistic Clouter Desal Kara Mottewasser Omizu Ouahe Sinagua Well

Annuvadah: The annual flooding in populated areas. From “vadah” for water in Russian, a commonly spoken language here in Oregon.

Barrel: Collected rain or clouter (see below). Product safety varies depending on location, weather patterns and production methods.

Cistic: Water hidden in underground cisterns so that it can be used by the owner but is unknown to neighbors or the public; secret water. Submitted by Martha Pfanschmidt.

Clouter: A portmanteau of cloud and water meaning rain produced by seeding clouds. The word “rain” is reserved for naturally occuring rain only.

Desal: Desalinized seawater. Product safety varies depending on source and processing.

Gleaners: Ant-like flying robots designed to seek out and collect microdroplets of water, either in the air, in crevices, or in decaying organic matters. Swarms of Gleaners are often seen gathering water vapors where jet traffic is high.

Hydrollity: A wet, joyful whimsy. Submitted by Anonymous.

Hydroment: In a polluted world, the ceremonial offering of clean fresh drinking water to seal a bond such as friendship or kinship. Submitted by Jamie Bernstein.

Illusieau: A condition where the atmosphere is saturated with humidity but it does not rain. Submitted by Martha Pfanschmidt.

Kara: Glacial meltwater from the Karakoram mountain range, the last remaining glaciers outside of the polar regions. Considered to be relatively uncontaminated.

Lacwater: Regret; at one time defined specifically as the universal shame of mankind over its role in the depletion of the world's water supply, this word later came to be used simply as a synonym for regret. Submitted by Gigi Little.

Mnemos: 1. Dreaming water, or water dreaming. 2. The capacity of water to restore vibrancy and imagination. Submitted by Alison Shin'ei Brown.

Mottewasser: The tears of sleeping birds harvested by certain species of moths. Submitted by Keaney Rathbun.

Nilglacia: 1. The era in earth's history where all glaciers and polar ice caps have melted. 2. A unit of measurement for sea level rise when all glaciers and polar ice caps have melted; because the actual amount of sea level rise will differ from region to region, there is no absolute measurement. Instead, the difference between sea levels at year 2001 and the predicted highest level possible is considered 1 unit of Nilglacia, and the rise is measured as percentage of Nilglacia.

Omizu: Sacred water. Submitted by Catherine Alice Michaelis.

Ouahe: Spring water from uninhabited and pre-industrial regions at the time of Anthropocene. It is generally less contaminated than other sources of ground water.

Patterskee: The sound that rain makes on a skylight. Submitted by Ann E. Grasso.

Plait: After dam removal, a single-strand river cleans itself, often becoming a braided channel creating islands, side pools and reformed riverbanks. Submitted by Melissa Madenski.

Qiaqua: The property of water that allows its energy to assume many different forms. Submitted by Kathy Parkin.

Quaquaqua: 1. drenched delight, from when earthwater was abundant; 2. the lapping sensation of almost but not quite being able to name what has been lost. Submitted by Krista Hoeppner Leahy.

Quenqubulous: An unexplained spontaneous waterfall that exists without a clear source. Submitted by Jo Grishman.

Sequivena: A community-managed covered waterway. Submitted by Eliza Buck.

Sinagua: A bioregion that had previously supported human life but has become unable to do so for the lack of water. Submitted by C. J. Shane.

Vacavapour: The ritualized conveyance of water from a water-rich location to a dry one using a fleet of flying vacuums (also called Vacavapours) that converts water to vapor, pumps vapor through hoses, then converts the vapor back to liquid form before creating rain in the dry location. The ritual is initiated by lighting a fire in dry grassland or dead forest which is then doused by the onset of the downpour. This word is created by combining submissions from Muffin Bernstein and Anonymous.

Well: Pumped or artesian ground water, considered highly contaminated and must be processed for drinking. Product safety varies depending on source and processing.

Xahuzzante: The condition of a body being supported entirely by water. Also, the transformation of the spirit from land creature to water creature upon achieving this condition. Submitted by Sally Charette.

Zegand: The potential for water to increase lifetimes of human connections infinitely under zero force conditions. Submitted by Emily Pittman Newberry.