This is in the spirit of the What is a Word/Phrase™ series started by JLee with a special brand of Phrase™ and Word™ puzzles.

If a word conforms to a special rule, I call it a Substantial Word™.
Use the examples below to find the rule.

Note: there is a rule for being on the Substantial list and a rule for being on the Insubstantial list. You must find both.

Substantial Words™ Insubstantial Words™
dwindled terminology
flabbergasted marshmallows
tablecloth mathematician
abridged splittable
welcoming maintain
overcast diminutive
hamburger pseudonym
accomplishment psychotherapists
segregation nowhere
breadboard probably

Many more Substantial and Insubstantial Words exist and are not listed above. Some English words are neither substantial nor insubstantial and some are both.

What is the special rule these words conform to?


1 Answer 1


Substantial and Insubstantial words are

those whose letters contain, in order, a word meaning "large" or "small" respectively.


dwindled terminology
flabbergasted, marshmallows
tablecloth, mathematician
abridged, splittable
welcoming, maintain
overcast, diminutive
hamburger, pseudonym
accomplishment, psychotherapists
segregation, nowhere
breadboard, probably

Credit where due: Stiv

found PUNY and SHORT where I had the clearly-inferior PONY and CHEAP.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice work Gareth - a great spot :) I think perhaps rot13(CHAL engure guna CBAL naq FUBEG engure guna PURNC. V yvxr ZVAV gubhtu!) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ Great job! rot13(Vg vf vaqrrq ZVAV, CHAL, naq FUBEG. Nyfb, V jnf guvaxvat bs ZVAHGR vafvqr qvzvahgvir, ohg vg vf abg jebat gb hfr qvzvahgvir vgfrys.) (@Stiv) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Dunno how I managed to miss rot13(CHAL naq FUBEG), other than the general incompetence already mentioned in my answer. Will tweak accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ Now an interesting challenge would be to find a word which is both substantial and insubstantial... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 18:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ rot13(FHOBCGVZNYYL) is both because it rot13(pbagnvaf obgu FZNYY naq GNYY). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 18:24

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