Funny Words You Probably Don’t Know

Bumfuzzle

Bumfuzzle means "to confuse or fluster." It's a word from the southern U.S. Definitely a regionalism, this word is less popular (but much more hilarious) than some of it's counterparts like befuddle or bewilder. And, to confuse people even more, consider naming your puppy bumfuzzle. “Bumfuzzle! Come here, boy!” That's sure to turn some heads at the dog park.

Canoodle

Canoodle is defined as “to caress, fondle, or pet amorously.” The earliest known references are British. Britain still has a stranglehold on this word, as it is regularly spotted on DailyMail.com, usually in connection with a Kardashian. But, we think it's farcical sound should regain popularity in the U.S.; it would make entertainment news much more appealing.

Cattywampus

This word sounds like the kind of folksy thing President Lincoln might have said, and it’s from his era: the 1830s. Our definition also includes the spelling catawampus. If the word is used as an adjective, it means “askew or awry; positioned diagonally; cater-cornered.” As an adverb, it means “diagonally or obliquely.” Example: “The economics lecture hall is catawampus from the hockey arena.” Much more fun to say than it's droll definition.

Diddly-squat

The word diddly-squat is a direct linguistic cousin to doodly-squat. The term is used with a negative context to denote something that is minimal and inconsequential. Example: “That doesn’t mean diddly-squat.” And, that's that.

Diphthong

This is a funny word that is very hard to spell. Atlantic.com called diphthong “the best word ever,” and while that may or may not be true, the combination of “dip,” which can refer to a clueless individual, and “thong,” which is a style of underwear, creates auditory splendor.

Dongle

Oh, the dongle . . . that little piece of computer equipment. The exact origination of the term is unknown. Slate.com took a deep dive into this word, though. It picked up a sexual connotation in tech circles, and caused a rather pronounced kerfuffle (see below). When we solicited opinions on the word internally, one response was “it makes me uncomfortable.” How does the dongle make you feel? Bom chicka wah wah . . . .

Doohickey

A doohickey is a “gadget; a dingus; a thingumbob.” One of those little things that sits in the kitchen junk drawer. “Honey, have you seen the garage doohickey?” "What's the doohickey for the computer called . . . a dangle?"

Fartlek

The word fartlek stands for a training technique associated with runners. Swedish in origin and from the early 1950s, this word is funny for two reasons. First, it equates to a bodily function, which appeals to many of us on some addled Beavis and Butthead, high-school level. Second, many words can be made to sound funny just by adding “-lek” to the end. Heh-heh.

Gobbledegook

Gobbledegook is “language characterized by circumlocution and jargon; it's usually hard to understand." The gobbledegook of government is hard to understand. For proof, turn on C-SPAN.

Jackalope

The word jackalope is a totally fictional portmanteau, but it's still fun. As anyone who’s traveled the American West will inform you, a jackalope is a jackrabbit with . . . antelope horns. See ‘em all the time. While Wikipedia mostly cites North America as a source, it sort of has an Australian vibe. “Right, mate. Let’s head out to the bush and scare up a jackalope or two.”

Kerfuffle

Kerfuffle is pretty popular. It is a British word meaning "a fuss; commotion." “The gas-price hike caused quite a kerfuffle.” Why does this sound like a word they’d use in Minnesota or North Dakota? Think Fargo. “Yah, Margie. Big kerfuffle today, for sure.”

Mugwump

The term mugwump comes from 1830s Massachusetts and stands for “a Republican who refused to support the party nominee, James G. Blaine, in the presidential campaign of 1884.” The word also means “a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, especially in politics; a person who is neutral on a controversial issue.”

You might have your own meaning for the word—say, for example, your parents told you a story when you were growing up about the mugwumps who live in the woods behind your house . . . or are these the non-magical humans in Harry Potter?

Shivoo

Shivoo is Australian in origin and stands for a “boisterous party or celebration.” You can totally imagine this happening Down Under, mate. Or, maybe in your college dorm room last Thursday night?

Snark

Used as a verb, the word snark is a “mysterious, imaginary animal.” (Who knew?) Use it as a noun to refer to rude or sarcastic criticism. People can be snarky, too. Tina Fey is a classic (yet uproarious) example.

Snollygoster

Although it's not generally used in contemporary culture, we have a definition so we’re going with it. A snollygoster is a “clever, unscrupulous person.” The word dates back to the late 1840s and was used in the South to refer derogatorily to a politician.

It likely comes from snallygaster, a mythical creature from rural Maryland that’s half reptile and half bird and preys on children and poultry. That word may come from the German schnelle geister, meaning “quick spirits.” And, fittingly, J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them includes an entry for it.

Booty

The funniest word in the English language is booty, according to a 2017 survey by researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. Booty can mean "valuable stolen goods, especially those seized in war," or just "something gained or won." Perhaps, though, the folks who participated in the survey were thinking of the idiom “shake your booty,” in which case booty is slang for buttocks.

Discombobulate

For starters, discombobulate is amusing to say. It’s a verb that means "to confuse, upset, or frustrate." Then, there’s the word's origin: It’s thought to be a whimsical variation of discompose or discomfit. We're discombobulated by the idea that this word could do anything else than make the person who is upset or frustrated burst out laughing.

Collywobbles

Feeling anxious about something, such as speaking in public? You could say “I have butterflies in my stomach,” or just exclaim "Collywobbles!

Stomach grumbling? You can also use the noun collywobbles to describe your upset stomach. The word seems to have been created from cholera (the disease) and the word wobble, meaning "unsteady." Collywobbles first appeared in print in the 1823 edition of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. But as far as we can tell, collywobbles isn’t very vulgar anymore.

Crapulence

What the crap does crapulence mean? Well, it's not related to the word crap, a vulgar term of excrement, for one. Crapulence is a noun meaning "sick from excessive drinking or eating." It comes from the Latin word crapula, which means "intoxication," and from the Greek kraipalē, meaning "hangover." Then, again, after a night of partying, you do feel like crap[ulence].

Flummox

Flummox sounds like one you would say if trying to imitate your British friend. The verb means "to bewilder, confound, or confuse." It's a word that generally grabs a person's attention, so it appears in lots of headlines, such as: “Stock markets flummox masses.”

It likely comes from the old English word flummock, meaning "to make untidy or confuse." Charles Dickens is the first writer known to have used it in his 1837 Pickwick Papers: “And my ’pinion is, Sammy, that if your governor don’t prove a alleybi, he’ll be what the Italians call reg’larly flummoxed, and that’s all about it.”

Gazump

The verb gazump means "to cheat a house buyer by raising an agreed-upon price at the time a contract is to be signed." Gazumping also occurs when a seller accepts a verbal offer for a property from one buyer, and then accepts a higher offer from someone else.

Gazumping is more likely to occur in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia than in the U.S., where most states have laws that prohibit this practice. But in the U.S., gazump is slang for a politician who takes bribes, and that has proven to happen . . . often. However, we’ve also seen the word used to describe the sound two hippos make when mating. A trip to the zoo, anyone?

Panjandrum

A panjandrum is someone who claims to have a great deal of authority or influence. Claims is the key word. Panjandrums are pretty pretentious and pompous.

Samuel Foote, a British dramatist, actor, and theater manager, coined the word in 1755 during a lecture in which he performed a piece of nonsense prose. During World War ll, the term was used to describe a not-so-funny explosive device designed by the British military, also known as "The Great Panjandrum." Luckily, it was never used in battle.

Smellfungus

It's understandable why people avoid a smellfungus; however, it's not because of their scent. A smellfungus is "a person who complains and bickers to everyone about meaningless matters."

This word also comes from a fictional character in Laurence Sterne’s 1768 novel A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Smelfungus is based on Tobias Smollet, who complained about almost everything in his 1766 travel book Travels through France and Italy.

Widdershins

Widdershins (also spelled withershins) means "to go counterclockwise or in a direction opposite of the usual way," such as the apparent course of the sun. The adverb comes from the Old High German widar, meaning “back” or “against,” and sinnen, meaning “to travel.”

In folk myths, walking widdershins was considered bad luck. But in a Jewish wedding ceremony, a bride circles her groom counterclockwise seven times before marriage. Luck really is in the eye of the beholder.

Pussyfoot

Pussyfoot is one of those very literal words, but that doesn't mean we don't chuckle every time we hear it. Defined as "a person with a catlike, or soft and stealthy, tread," or as a verb meaning "to move cautiously." And, we aren't going to pussyfoot around the sexual connotations associated with this word. Because, let's face it, that's part of what makes it a contender on this list.