Archaic Words We Need To Bring Back To Life

Frankenstein's monster, zombies, and Jason? There's something fascinating and horrifying about things coming back from the dead. It's spooky and weird and—admit it—kind of awesome.

We don't have any reanimated monsters here at Dictionary.com. But, we do have plenty of words in our linguistic graveyard. We can't help but be captivated by these old, "dead" words. These are properly called archaisms or archaic words. Archaic words (or forms) are "commonly used in an earlier time but rare in present-day usage except to suggest the older time, as in religious rituals or historical novels."

We've decided to brush off our spell books, heat up old cauldrons, and try to bring some of these ghosts back to life. Hopefully, we have some eye of newt and toe of frog left in our stores …

armipotent

Armipotent is an archaic adjective meaning "strong in battle." Basically, it refers to someone who is physically tough in war. Originally, it was used to refer to the Roman god of war, Mars. The Roman gods aren't so much in vogue anymore, but we do have legendary video game fighters, e.g., The armipotent Pikachu would not be defeated by the lowly Magikarp.

bawcock

The word bawcock is a charming, archaic noun that meant "a fine fellow," colloquially. It comes from the French beau coq, meaning "handsome rooster." At any rate, bawcock meant something like "a good dude" in 16th-century English when it was first recorded. You might say, for example, "Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother is a bawcock with a heart of gold."

bookcraft

Bookcraft means just what it sounds like. It is a noun referring to literary or writing skills. It can also refer to being good at book learnin'. Today, you could use it to refer to an author whose books you love and admire, as in, "J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series demonstrates that she has tremendous bookcraft."

brainish

Brainish sounds like it could be an old-fashioned version of brainy. But, actually, it's an archaic adjective that means "headstrong, impetuous, passionate."

Brainish could be a modern-day word for how we all act on social media sometimes. Think: "When I saw what he was saying about dogs, it made me so brainish I sent off a tweetstorm about how absolutely perfect the noble canine is."

caliginous

It was a caliginous and stormy night … Sure, that doesn't quite have the same ring as "dark and stormy," but it works. Caliginous is an archaic adjective meaning "misty, dim, dark."

Give it a whirl next time you're writing a scary story. Looking at you, Snoopy.

clodpoll

If someone calls you a clodpoll, you should be offended. It's an archaic noun that means "a stupid person, a blockhead." Rude. Though it's a fun way to put someone down, like so: "That post is so ignorant it seems like it was written by a clodpoll." (Shout out to Billy Shakespeare for inspiring that shade.)

concupiscible

Concupiscible is a word meaning "worthy of being desired" or worthy of being lusted after. This archaic adjective can also refer to passionately desiring something. It does make one think of bodice rippers or possibly … literotica. Or, you know, of Channing Tatum with his shirt off in Magic Mike, which we would definitely describe as concupiscible.

daggle

The archaic verb daggle will remind you of the collective noun gaggle, but it doesn't have anything to do with geese. Daggle means "to drag or trail through mud, water, etc."

It makes us think of those YouTube videos of golden retrievers joyously leaping through mud puddles, daggling their tails in the muck. While we love watching those videos, we're happy we don't have to clean up after those wet pooches later.

dispiteous

Dispiteous isn't something you should aspire to be. It is an archaic adjective meaning "malicious; cruel; pitiless." It refers to someone, or something, without pity. As in, "Internet trolls are dispiteous about ticking people off."

elsewhither

Where are we off to? Anywhere but here, or, in other words, elsewhither. The archaic adverb elsewhither means "in another direction; toward a different place or goal." The direction isn't specified, kind of like "elsewhere." For instance, "We had to look elsewhither for pumpkin spice lattes because our local Starbucks was sold out." Rough.

eyesome

Back in the day, you might have described someone easy on the eyes as eyesome. Eyesome is an archaic adjective meaning "pleasant to look at." It can be used to refer to people, beautiful scenery, or other lovely sights. In other words, travel blogger Angelica Blick's Instagram is eyesome, both in terms of the fashionista herself and the sights worldwide she photographs.

glout

No, not gloatglout. Glout is an archaic verb meaning "to scowl or frown." It can also mean "to look sullen." Essentially, it describes someone who is ticked off and making it known with their countenance. As in, "The tween glouted when his mom told him to turn off Fortnite and come to dinner." ("But Mom! Just five more minutes!")

hagride

A hagride sounds like an Uber full of witches on their way to a spell convention. But, it's actually an archaic transitive verb that means "to afflict with worry, dread, need, or the like; torment."

It apparently originally referred to a witch's well-known penchant for riding brooms, as in "they hagrode over the farmhouse." Later, it came to mean anything that weighs on you and causes you psychic pain. For example, "The new changes to the Facebook timeline are hagriding me." (Yeah, why can't it just be chronological?)

hellkite

The devil is known for having many hobbies: guitar playing, getting people to eat apples they shouldn't, and making Mia Farrow's life difficult. But one you may not know about is flying kites. OK, that's not what hellkite means, but it's not far off. It's an archaic noun that means "a fiendishly cruel and wicked person" (a kite is a bird of prey).

Now that we're bringing hellkite back, look for it to be used in the next Nicki Minaj beef, as in, "The way Cardi B talks smack on her tracks makes her a total hellkite."

joyance

Joyance is a word that just makes us happy because it means "joyous feeling; gladness." It's a largely poetic term, said to be coined by Edmund Spenser, famous for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. It fell out of fashion for a while before being taken up again by Romantic poets like Coleridge. It brings us much joyance to share this charming word with you.

lickspittle

We can't help but think that they just had better insults back in the day. Bedswerver, dew-beater, scobberlotcher, and … lickspittle. Lickspittle is a noun for "a contemptible, fawning person; a servile flatterer or toady." Essentially, lickspittle refers to someone who loves sucking up to people in power. For instance, "Jeremy is the boss's lickspittle; he's always doing whatever she wants to get in her good graces."

makebate

Someone who is always stirring up problems is a makebate. This archaic noun means "a person who causes contention or discord." What we might call a troublemaker (among stronger alternatives). In other words, "Those 4Chan trolls with their QAnon conspiracy theories are the makebates of the modern United States."

niddering

As bad as it would be to be called a lickspittle, it would be even worse to be known as niddering. Niddering is an archaic noun for "a coward." It later also came to be used as an adjective meaning "base, cowardly, vile." Someone who is afraid to act courageously is niddering, like, "You're a niddering for subtweeting me."

orgulous

Orgulous, from the French orgueil meaning "pride," is an archaic adjective that means "haughty, proud." While "haughty" might make you think this word is pejorative, it was largely used approvingly back in the day, usually to describe royalty. In that spirit, how's this for an example? "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex looked happy and orgulous when they first appeared in public with baby Archie."

quotha

Quotha is an excellent example of archaic sarcasm. It was used as an interjection, sort of like "Indeed!", although it came from an early way of saying, "Said he?" You would say it to emphasize how ridiculous a word someone said is, after repeating it yourself. Like this:

A: Dad thinks you're spending too extravagantly on Halloween decorations.

B: Extravagantly? Extravagantly, quotha? I didn't even spring for the fake cobwebs!

methinks

Shout out to a reader who suggested this next, wonderful archaic term: methinks. It's an old-fashioned way of saying "it seems to me." If you've heard it before, it's probably in the line from Hamlet by William Shakespeare: "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" (often misquoted with the methinks at the beginning of the sentence).

Today, methinks has a slightly arch connotation, probably as a result of the way it was used by ole Billy. Methinks he wouldn't object too much to that.

eyen

Our next term was also suggested by a reader, for which we are grateful. Eyen is an archaic formulation of the plural of eye. This kind of plural formulation comes from Old English, and we still have a few examples of it left in modern English. Think: oxen (plural of "ox") and children (plural of "child").

Today, eyen is most often associated with Shakespeare, but we can bring it back: "Your eyen are so beautiful, like fragments of stars on a summer evening." Or something.

meed

What if the next time you do a job, instead of a paycheck you get a meed? Before you act disappointed, be assured that meed amounts to the same thing.

Meed is an archaic noun meaning "a reward or recompense."  In other words, it's a nice thing to have. It was also used as a verb to describe rewarding someone for an action. While back in the day it was used to describe the repayment for acts of valor like those of Beowulf, today we can use it on a less grand scale: "We should get a meed for blocking all those bots on Twitter."

mickle

Mickle is an archaic adjective and verb. As an adjective, it meant "great; large; much." It was used to refer to something large in size or stature, like a mickle oak tree, or a large amount or degree of something, like a mickle of stars. Today, we might say: "That Instagram influencer has a mickle of followers."

mundungus

J.K. Rowling is known for creatively naming her characters in the Harry Potter universe. Thus, it's no surprise that there's a dodgy criminal named Mundungus Fletcher. Mundungus is an archaic noun referring to malodorous (read: smelly) refuse or tobacco.

Makes sense now that Mundungus Fletcher's nickname is "Dung," right? To impress your chain-smoking buddies with your lexical knowledge when they light up next to you say, "Please take that mundungus elsewhere (or elsewhither)!"

somedeal

Somedeal sounds like something you'd hope to get on Deal or No Deal. But, actually, somedeal is an archaic adverb or noun meaning "somewhat." It comes from the Old English for "some portion [of something]." For instance, you have to have somedeal of confidence to post all those videos on TikTok of your terrible dancing.

everyhow

If the expression "every which way" isn't doing it for you anymore, why not adopt the archaic adverb everyhow instead? Everyhow is an archaic adverb meaning "in all ways; in every manner." Take, for example, "We tried everyhow to get the perfect Halloween costume, but, in the end, we decided to wear sheets and say we were ghosts."

hungerly

If you haven't eaten all day, you might appear hungerly, or "marked by a hungry look." We all know that feel when we miss our afternoon snack. We also know that look, like when our cat tries to look hungerly in order to trick us into giving it extra treats. Nice try, cat, but we're on to you.

overween

There's nothing positive about overween, an archaic verb meaning "to be conceited or arrogant." Basically, it refers to having an overly high opinion of oneself or being overconfident (and largely survives in the verbal adjective overweening). When Milton writes, "Is there cause why these Men should overwean?," we resoundingly answer, "No."

A more modern example of that would be: "Is there a reason my ex should overween and slide into my DMs like we would ever get back together?" And, again, our answer to that question is, "No." Exes, take note.

ventose

Have you ever heard that someone's a "windbag" or a "blowhard"? It means that they love to talk absolute nonsense (or simply just talk … and talk … and talk … ). Well, people in olden times had a word for that, too: ventose. From the Latin ventosus, meaning "windy," ventose is an archaic noun that meant "given to empty talk; windy; flatulent." To bring this old adjective into the 21st century, try using it in a sentence like this: "The ventose YouTuber has hours-long videos that make absolutely no point whatsoever."

To help us bring these archaic terms back to life, practice using them yourself. They're surprisingly relevant today, hundreds of years after they were created. And not at all scary once you get to know them.

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.