Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My favourite words

Every now and then when I'm reading a book or article I'm struck by wonderful words that I'd forgotten existed or don't use nearly enough.

I've compiled a list of some of my favourites - it is by no means exhaustive and I look forward to adding to it over the years. Some letters of the alphabet do not feature at all; some feature a lot (S, M, L, O). Most are adjectives, which makes sense, I suppose - they are the jewels, the accessories that adorn the naked framework of language (made up of much less exciting nouns, pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions).

Enjoy! And do let me know what your favourites are in the comments.


Beguile (Verb) - Charm or enchant (someone), sometimes in a deceptive way; trick (someone) into doing something.

Bereft (Adjective) - Deprived of something; lacking something needed or expected; suffering the death of a loved one; bereaved. I love this because for some reason it seems less dramatic than other words associated with grief ("devastated" etc). It's a quiet way of conveying mourning and loss.

Besmirch (Verb) - Damage or sully the reputation of (someone or something) in the opinion of others: "he had besmirched the good name of his family"; to make (something) dirty or discoloured.


Cantankerous (Adjective) - Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable; difficult to handle.

Caterwaul (Verb) - To utter long wailing cries, as cats in rutting time; to utter a similar sound; howl or screech; to quarrel like cats.

Caustic (Adjective) - Capable of burning, corroding, dissolving, or eating away by chemical action; causing a burning or stinging sensation, as from intense emotion.


Defenestrate (Verb) - To throw out of a window. How fantastic that there is a word specifically for this action!

Diaphanous (Adjective) - Of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent; characterised by delicacy of form; vague or insubstantial.


Egregious (Adjective) - Conspicuously bad or offensive.

Ephemeral (Adjective) - Lasting for a markedly brief time; lasting or living for only a day, as certain plants and insects do.

Ethereal (Adjective) - Characterised by lightness and insubstantiality; intangible; highly refined; delicate; of the celestial spheres; heavenly; not of this world; spiritual.

Exsanguinate (Verb) - To drain of blood. Every X-Phile knows this word!


Fastidious (Adjective) - Possessing or displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail; difficult to please; exacting; excessively scrupulous or sensitive, especially in matters of taste or propriety. I discovered this one thanks to Queen: "fastidious and precise, she's a killer queeeeeeen/gunpowder, gelatine, dynamite with a laser beam".

Frippery (Noun) - Showy or unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress, or language; a tawdry or frivolous thing.


Gargantuan (Adjective) - of immense size, volume, or capacity; gigantic.


Halcyon (Adjective) - Calm and peaceful; tranquil; prosperous; golden. (Thank you, Ellie Goulding!)


Ineffable (Adjective) - Incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable; not to be uttered; taboo.

Insidious (Adjective) - Working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner; intended to entrap; treacherous; beguiling but harmful; alluring.

Insouciant (Adjective) - Marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant.

Iridescent (Adjective) - Producing a display of lustrous, rainbowlike colours; brilliant, lustrous, or colourful in effect or appearance.


Languorous (Adjective) - Physically or mentally lazy; listless; dreamy; languid.

Lascivious (Adjective) - Given to or expressing lust; lecherous; exciting sexual desires; salacious.

Loquacious (Adjective) - Very talkative or garrulous.

Lugubrious (Adjective) - Mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree.

Luscious (Adjective) - Highly pleasing to the taste or smell; richly satisfying to the senses or the mind; richly adorned; luxurious; arousing physical, or sexual, desire; voluptuous. The word itself feels luscious in my mouth.


Maudlin (Adjective) - Effusively or tearfully sentimental.

Melancholy (Noun) - A gloomy state of mind, esp. when habitual or prolonged; depression; sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.

Mellifluous (Adjective) - Sweetly flowing; smooth and sweet.

Miasma (Noun) - A noxious atmosphere or influence; a poisonous atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and putrid matter and cause disease; a thick vaporous atmosphere or emanation.

Myopic (Adjective) - Lacking tolerance or understanding; narrow-minded (from "myopia", the condition of near-sightedness).


Nebulous (Adjective) - Cloudy, misty, or hazy; lacking definite form or limits; vague. I learned this from debating - nebulous concepts and arguments abound in poor debates!

Nefarious (Adjective) - Infamous by way of being extremely wicked.


Obfuscate (Verb) - To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand. Another one owed to The X-Files!

Obsequious (Adjective) - Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning.

Obstreperous (Adjective) - Noisily defiant; difficult to control.

Odious (Adjective) - Repugnant; hateful.


Paunch (Noun) - A large or protruding abdomen or stomach (known to South Africans as a boep!).

Preposterous - (Adjective) Contrary to reason or common sense; utterly absurd or ridiculous.

Puerile (Adjective) - Juvenile, immature, childish.


Quintessential (Adjective) - The most typical or best example of something. Always reminds me of "What is this quintessence of dust?" from Hamlet, so beautiful.

Quotidian (Adjective) - Daily, everyday, commonplace. I looked this word up when reading Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet in high school, and it's always struck me as such a delightful word for describing something so ordinary.


Rambunctious (Adjective) - Boisterous and disorderly.

Resplendent (Adjective) - Splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant.


Salacious (Adjective) - Lascivious, lustful, bawdy.

Sanctimonious (Adjective) - Feigning piety or righteousness.

Schadenfreude (Noun) - Pleasure derived from another's misfortune. I love that there is a word for this feeling.

Sensuous (Adjective) - Relating to or affecting the senses rather than the intellect; attractive or gratifying physically, esp. sexually.

Soporific (Adjective) - Inducing sleep; drowsy.

Splendiferous (Adjective) - Splendid. To me this sounds like a made-up word, like in the musical Wicked how all of the characters mangle their English words, but they are still recognisable enough that you know what they mean.

Unctuous (Adjective) - Characterised by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness; having the quality or characteristics of oil or ointment; slippery.


Vapid (Adjective) - Offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging.

Vacuous (Adjective) - Empty; having or showing an absence of thought or intelligence.

Voluptuous (Adjective) - Giving, characterised by, or suggesting ample, unrestrained pleasure to the senses; devoted to or indulging in sensual pleasures; directed toward or anticipating sensual pleasure; arising from or contributing to the satisfaction of sensuous or sensual desires. Commonly used to describe sexy curves on a woman. A delicious word conveying something equally delicious. 

List compiled with many thanks owed to Vocabula.com and ThatWordSite.com.

1 comment:

Follow  <b>reberoodle</b> on Twitter