Keep it Classy: Fancy Words For Everyday Activities

Humming (is so boring)

Yet, bombinating sounds much more interesting! This word may sound a bit like bumblebee, which is kind of neat as it means “to hum, or buzz.”

First published in the late 1800s, bombinate and bombilate are twins with family-tree roots tangled in both Greek and Latin derivatives (confusing) that lead to the late Latin bombilāre, or “to hum.”

Breathing (is so mundane)

But, suspire sounds much more intriguing. Even though it is literally to breathe (or to breathe in a sighing fashion) it’s an airy, delicate word to use for a quite ordinary activity.

And, it’s a poetic word, with a poetic meaning, which earns it double-points in our “fancy words” notebook! The 16th–17th century poet Thomas Heywood wrote, “Whence came that deep suspire?” and reading that almost evokes the desire!

Murmuring (is so annoying)

Well, if you’re a murmurer, fear not, we are here to help you combat any underhanded comments that come your way. Now, you can say you’re quite cultured because even though you susurrate, you’re doing something with Latin descent.

The Latin root word susurro means “mutterer or whisperer,” which leads us to our current use of susurrate, even though it is fairly rare, meaning to murmur, or to make a soft, rustling sound.

Hurrying (is so stressful)

But, festinating is quite fun and calming (to say). This is one of those old words that feels right at home today, yet you’re not likely to hear it in everyday conversation. To festinate is “to hasten, to hurry,” from the Latin festīnātus, meaning “hurried.”

By the way, a classical Greek adage, which translated to Latin as festina lente—“make haste slowly”—was a favorite of Roman emperors, Shakespeare, and other authors and poets . . .  seems like good advice. Think of it as a partner to “haste makes waste.”

Laughing (loudly is so jarring)

But, cachinnating isn’t quite so abrasive. And, you’ll be happy when you’re on your deathbed to look back and know that you cachinnated your way through life.

This word means to laugh loudly, to perhaps even howl with laughter. This is a relatively bright and shiny 19th-century word . . . not quite as old as some on this list, but definitely just as fancy.

Woo girls (are so irritating)

But ululate girls . . . they’re classy AF. To ululate is “to wail or howl loudly, in a sort of rhythmic, trilling way.”

You might ululate when your team scores, with a long, protracted “wooot,” but in certain parts of the world, for example Africa and the Middle East, it expresses sorrow and grief as well as joy. It’s also a way of singing at celebratory events such as weddings and can be done as a form of “call and response” that involves audience participation.

Chewing (is so humdrum)

But, if you tell people your dietitian told you to masticate slowly in order to enjoy every bite, you’ll sound pretty exciting. Of course, masticate means “to chew,” and it’s also one of those old Latin derivatives, from masticātus, past participle of masticāre, meaning to chew.

(You know what else masticate is? A word that sounds dirty . . . but isn’t. Check out some other dirty-sounding words here.)

Kissing (is so PG)

But, osculating sounds as exotic as a romantic getaway to Paris. If you’re a mathematician, you may also know the term from geometry, which is perhaps where the word should toil in eternity. It’s from the Latin noun osculum, which means “kiss,” but the word also applied to the sciences and zoology where it meant “an opening or orifice.”

That second usage . . . not so romantic.

Reflecting (is a slippery slope)

If you’re thinking about your dinner choices or which pair of shoes are just right for that vintage trench coat you scored, you’re just considering your options. If, however, you’re thinking about your future, or some deeper philosophical question like the meaning of life, well, that’s cogitating.

To cogitate is “to reflect, to think deeply, to use your powers of reasoning and judgment.” In short: If you’re reflecting on your past experiences, you may start to feel some unwanted emotions . . . but if you cogitate on them, you’ll at least sound fancy while doing it.

Swallowing (is so simple)

But, deglutition is a fancy English-by-way-of-French word, which means, simply, “the act of swallowing.”

It’s a Latin-rooted word, used more in medical records or texts than in everyday lingo, but it’s a fun word to keep in one’s pocket. You might remember it by noting that it’s related to the very Old French word, glutun (glutton), or “one who eats to excess.”

Guzzling milk out of the carton (is so disgusting)

But, ingurgitating that milk . . . well your roommate won’t yell at you as quickly if you use this word, that’s for sure.

To guzzle a drink, or gorge with food, is to ingurgitate. This word has an unpleasant connotation, probably because it’s so close to regurgitate, a more common term that means the opposite: to vomit, or to surge forth. Both words are from Latin—regurgitare (in medical context: to surge or flow) and ingurgitātus (to fill, flood, drench with a stream of liquid).

(This pairing should go on our fun with opposites slideshow, no?)

Burping (is so primitive)

But, eructing . . . that will turn that (disgusted) frown upside down. Ok, one more word related to gastric activity because who doesn’t chuckle at bodily function: to eruct is “to belch, or burp.”

It’s also used in reference to other kinds of eruptions and emissions: words, anger, volcano lava. But, when it comes to raising acidic gases from the stomach, well, feel free to add eruct or eructate to the list of burping synonyms you’re no doubt storing for a rainy day. We are.

Tears (are so dismal)

But, lachrymal (“of or relating to tears”) is quite alluring. And, it’s from the Latin lacrimāre, or “to weep.”

So, the next time you’re down in the dumps, make sure to clarify that it’s not your eyes that are puffy . . . it’s your lachrymal ducts that are.

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