I have frequently used "manywhere" to describe "many places" instead of "everywhere".

  • In increasing order: nowhere < somewhere < manywhere < everywhere

It seems to be an elegant and logical solution to a missing language element, doesn't it? The following fictional dialog demonstrates my thinking. (This is not factual):

  • "Have you heard about the ritual of hanging a voodoo doll on buildings under construction to keep away negative energy?"

    "Yeah, I saw that somewhere in my home town of New York City."

    "Well in India, you can find that manywhere."


    "Yes. That's a logical word I made. Not everywhere. Many places have it! That better describes the meaning, does it not?"

    "Hmmm. I guess it does. I never really thought about it like that!"

Manywhere has some modern and historical usage:

So my questions are:

  • Why is this missing in English? What if someone wants to say more than somewhere but less than everywhere?
  • Are there situations when/where this word could be used?
  • What would be good/bad right/wrong effective/ineffective in "introducing" manywhere into standard English? (If one actually could do such a thing.)
  • I think it would be a great word! Am I missing something?
  • It seems to me that the opposite of somewhere (at some places) is manywhere (at many places) and NOT nowhere. It broadens the scope. Does that make sense?

(Credit to @CoolHandLouis for editing help.)

  • 1
    The question is certainly too broad, in my opinion. Why doesn't English have this as common use? is not something that can be answered definitively (unless it were a word that was in use but now is not). Are there situations when/where this word could be used? Of course: in informal usage, where you believe your audience would understand it. As for "introducing" manywhere into standard English Introduction of a word into standard usage (aka "the dictionary") depends on a large number of people adopting a new word and using it enough and in certain ways over a period of time. – nxx Feb 16 '14 at 16:01
  • This video explains the process the Merriam Webster dictionary goes through to decide what words should be added: See merriam-webster.com/video/0032-howaword.htm?&t=1392566357 PS the word in question represents a "semantic gap" - see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidental_gap for interesting reading. – nxx Feb 16 '14 at 16:01
  • I have edited the question to better focus it on the theoretical manywhere question, and to improve readability. Also, added dialog back in, in the spirit of the theoretical aspect of the question. I did not change the question at all... just refocused it a bit better. @MaulikV: Note that <br> doesn't work in the manner you have been using it. Use two spaces at the end of a line. Basic Formatting Help – CoolHandLouis Feb 20 '14 at 18:44

In the first place, you are constructing a false parallel. Somewhere does not mean “at some [=indefinite number of] places [plural]”; it means “at some [=indefinite] place [singular]”. I read that somewhere, for instance, does not mean “I read that in a small number of sources” but “I read that in at least one place which I cannot (or will not) at this moment identify”.

In the second place, history demonstrates that manywhere is ‘an elegant and logical solution’ to a problem which does not exist. Take a look at the Google Ngram display (I have had Google graph the incidence of manywhere as a proportion of the incidence of manywhere to anywhere, to give a clearer indication of frequency):

enter image description here

Over the past 100 years there's one spike at around 5,000:1, and a couple more at 17,000:1 or less. The 1902-1903 spike is particularly interesting. Henry James floated the word in an 1894 short story (other early hits are false positives), but it was Lord Avebury (Sir John Lubbock), a distinguished banker and politician and writer on archaeology and evolution, who successfully launched it in The Scenery of England, 1902, where he tossed off the sentence ‘Smoothed and polished rocks occur also “manywhere”, if I may coin the word, in our northern districts…’

The coinage excited considerable comment in newspapers and journals; this is representative:

   The new word “manywhere” will undoubtedly find as ready application in adwriting as it has in newspaper offices and general literature, for it is a genuinely useful word, giving expression to an idea that has heretofore had no symbol. It was coined by Lord Avebury, the noted British scientist, and used in a recent book on geology as a fillgap between “somewhere” and “everywhere.” While freely criticized by philologers, it is generally thought that “manywhere” will eventually attain a place in the dictionary.    —Printers Ink, a journal for advertisers, June 3, 1903

The word had a brief vogue (mainly among geologists, ethnologists and, as Printers Ink predicted, adwriters), but eventually disappeared again. In this respect it contrasts significantly with two other words coined by Lord Avebury: neolithic and paleolithic, which are still in use.

I'll leave it to others to explore the tiny post-WWI and post-WWII spikes; but it’s pretty clear that however useful manywhere may appear in theory, the speaking, hearing, reading and writing public has no practical need for it.

This should not discourage you from employing manywhere as a peculiarly expressive member of your own lexicon. Its meaning is transparent, so you need not fear misunderstanding; and it strikes me as a cheerful sort of word, which could lend a spritely air to your discourse. You might even create a new vogue for it—and perhaps Lord Avebury was a century ahead of his public, and now is the time for the word to enter common parlance.

  • This is useful. Trust me, I have been using manywhere for years! And I had never looked/referred any other source for that. It just came natural and obvious (to me!). – Maulik V Feb 17 '14 at 4:51
  • @MaulikV: Well, you're in good company: Henry James, Max Beerbohm, Oscar Wilde. But you should be aware that it will always be taken as a jocular nonce-word. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 17 '14 at 13:16
  • You're answer expressed many sentiments I had on this. I did a lot of research for the edit and came to some similar conclusions. I see @MaulikV as a person who is as excited about his invention/discovery of this word as Lord Avebury was in 1902. He believes in the word. He's...almost...evangelical. His original question was a bit of a platform for his opinion. <LightHeartedTone>He's not "going down easy".</LightHeartedTone> I think there's much more that could be said about it. I don't want it to stop with one "correct" answer. – CoolHandLouis Feb 20 '14 at 16:46
  • @MaulikV: I love this question. Marking an answer correct has an effect of quelling further discussion since it's no longer "unanswered". Would you please unmark StoneyB's question as the correct one? I'm being funny and sincere asking that. It's funny because it would normally be egregious to ask an OP to "unmark a correct answer". And I'm boldly assuming that StoneyB would not mind. I really wanted to highlight this question of yours so it could get more attention. Because I think a lot of people would be interested in this. You've raised a fascinating question. Why not manywhere? – CoolHandLouis Feb 20 '14 at 17:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.