15 Wonderfully Weird Words That Will Astound You

The English language is chock-a-block full of wonderful, weird, and whimsical words. By “weird,” we don’t mean to imply that we are passing judgment on a word’s origins or history, simply that we find these funny-sounding gems truly delightful. The word weird itself has somewhat kooky origins.

Weird originally was a noun meaning “fate” or “destiny.” It eventually became an adjective, most notably used by Shakespeare to refer to the “Weird Sisters,” the term given to describe the witches in Macbeth (or “The Scottish Play”). Over time, weird came to have the meaning it has today: “strange; odd; bizarre.” We have found 15 odd terms that are weird, indeed. We think you will find them as captivating as we do.


Writer Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, loved to coin unusual words. One of these lively terms is Jabberwocky [ jab-er-wok-ee ], “a playful imitation of language consisting of invented, meaningless words; nonsense; gibberish.” The term Jabberwocky comes from the nonsense poem by the same name, found in the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass (1871).


Discover more of the eccentric and playful words from Lewis Carroll.


Many weird words have an element of rhyme to them. This is the case with the expression hugger-mugger [ huhg-er-muhg-er ], meaning “disorder or confusion; muddle.” It can also be used as a noun to mean “secret or clandestine.” The expression is a riff on the earlier hucker-mucker, where mucker is based on a Middle English word meaning “to hoard.” Hugger-mugger is rarely used these days, except as the name of a popular yoga gear company (Hugger Mugger).


A delicious-sounding word is salmagundi [ sal-muhguhn-dee ]. Salmagundi is primarily known as “a mixed dish consisting of cubed poultry or fish, chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, oil, etc.” However, the term is also occasionally used more generally to describe “any mixture or miscellany.” Salmagundi comes from the Middle French salmingondin, a combination of salemine, meaning “salted food,” and condir, “to season.” As recipe writer Sydney Oland notes, “Salmagundi is more of a concept than a recipe.”


Another impressive cuisine-inspired word is gallimaufry [ gal-uhmaw-free ], a literary term meaning “a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.” The word comes from the Middle French galimafree, the name given to a kind of sauce or stew. It is thought that the term comes from a combination of galer “to amuse oneself” and mafrer “to gorge oneself.”


One reason some words sound weird to our modern ears is that they are quite old—ancient, even. Such is the case with kelebe [ keluh-bee ], a term from Greek and Roman antiquity. A kelebe is “a mixing bowl, characterized by a wide neck and flanged lip from which extend two vertical handles … used to mix wine and water.” If you have ever taken in an exhibit on ancient Greece or Rome at a museum, you have likely seen one of these pots, which often depict characters or scenes from mythology.


Get a taste of other curious names for crockery and cooking tools.


Another archaic term that might elicit confused glances these days is fardel [ fahr-dl ], “a bundle; burden.” The word comes from Old Provençal, a language once spoken in what is today France. However, it is thought that the word may ultimately originate from the Arabic word fardah, meaning “load.”

While today the expression is rarely used, in 19th-century veterinary medicine, the term fardel-bound was used to describe ruminants (such as cows) that were constipated.


The word wassail is variously pronounced [ wosuhl ], [ woseyl ], or [ wo-seyl ]. That variance alone might give you some indication of just how odd this old word is. Wassail means “a salutation wishing health to a person, used in England in early times when presenting a cup of drink or when drinking to the person.” The word wassail comes from the Middle English was-hail, meaning “was in good health.” If the word hail looks familiar, that’s because it is related to the English word hale, “free from disease or infirmity.”


Wassail makes a big appearance in Christmas carols. Do you know enough to unwrap Christmas carol vocabulary?


Our next word is of uncertain origin, but it certainly seems like it might be onomatopoeic in origin. Ballyhoo [ bal-ee-hoo ] is an expression meaning “a clamorous and vigorous attempt to win customers or advance and cause; blatant advertising or publicity.” It is also used more generally to mean “a clamor or outcry.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, ballyhoo is an Americanism. While its exact origins are uncertain, early records of the word are used in reference to the cries of carnival showmen.


If you are a fan of fireworks, you may be familiar with the twirly, hissing fizgig [ fiz-gig ], “a type of firework that makes a loud hissing sound.” The origin of this word is obscure, but it may be a combination of fis, related to the Old Norse “to break wind,” and gig, “a top.” In other words, a fizgig is a top or toy that sounds like its breaking wind (a polite way of saying “farting”).


Our next word describes one of the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt. A pschent [ skent, pskent ] is the name in English given to “the double crown worn by ancient Egyptian kings, symbolic of dominion over Upper and Lower Egypt, which had previously been separate kingdoms.” This word was re-discovered with the translation of the famous Rosetta Stone in 1799. The term in Egyptian is pʾ-sh̬mty, where sh̬m means “powerful.”


The word taradiddle [ tar-uhdid-l ] is wonderfully evocative and strange. It means “a small lie; fib” or “pretentious nonsense.” The origin of this informal word is unknown, but it may be related to the verb diddle, in the sense of “to cheat; swindle; hoax.” It also makes us think of the word twaddle, “trivial, feeble, silly, or tedious talk or writing.” What a collection of ridiculous words!


Despite how absurd this word sounds, it is deadly serious. Jaculiferous [ jak-yuh-lif-er-uhs ] is a term from zoology meaning “having dartlike spines.” In other words, a jaculiferous creature is not to be messed with. The word comes from the New Latin jaculifer “dart-bearing.” Jaculum in Latin means “dart.” If that term in Latin seems vaguely familiar, that’s because it is also at the root of the term ejaculate.


Add these animal adjectives to your lexicon, too!


We love the way the next word sounds. Bibble [ bibuhl ] is a term in Midland English dialect for “a pebble.” Midland English dialect is a regional dialect of American English spoken roughly from Nebraska to Ohio. Another example of a term from Midland English is crawdad for crayfish. (If you have recently heard this word on TV, we can confirm bibble is not a real snack—the bibble a certain Nickelodeon star liked to eat was a fictional creation for the show.)


Our next weird word has a variety of meanings. One definition of squib [ skwib ] is “a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.” You may have encountered squib in the Harry Potter stories, where the term is given to someone without magical powers born to a magical parent (or parents).


There is something infectious about the good humor of someone who likes to cachinnate [ kakuh-neyt ]. Cachinnate is a verb meaning “to laugh loudly or immoderately.” The word comes from Latin cachinnātus, meaning “to laugh aloud.” Another funny-sounding term that describes someone cracking up is guffaw [ guh-faw ], which is thought to be imitative of the sound of laughter.

Did these terms tickle your fancy? You can review them all at our weird word list here. If you want to test your knowledge of these words, take our short weird word quiz here.

Fall head over heels for these words for the autumn season!

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