15 Cool Words To Add To Your Vocabulary

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We might be a little biased, but we love language—and that’s why we love just paging (or clicking through) through the dictionary. There are all kinds of fabulous gems of words in there, from anthropomorphism to zingy. If you share our passion for juicy vocabulary, or are just curious about some of the oddities of English, this is for you. We have gathered up over a dozen of our favorite words in the English language to show off some of the jewels of our collection.


Our first word loves to be onstage, front and center, which is why we are starting with it: grandiloquence [ gran-diluh-kwuhns ]. Grandiloquence is a noun meaning “speech that is lofty in tone, often to the point of being pompous or bombastic.” The words pompous and bombastic (which are also great) refer to behavior that is overly theatrical and pretentious. Often, this term is used pejoratively, but not always.


  • The audience was not entirely won over by the politician’s grandiloquence, particularly the farmers who did not like his over-the-top statements.

The more positive counterpart of grandiloquence is simply eloquence, “the practice or art of using language with fluency and aptness.”


If you’ve ever watched a Saturday morning cartoon, read a comic strip, or even dressed your pet up in a cowboy hat, you’ve come across something anthropomorphic [ an-thruh-puhmawr-fik ]. Anthropomorphic means “ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity.” In other words, anthropomorphic means “to apply human traits to something not human.”


  • My daughter’s favorite television show features a crew of anthropomorphic dogs who do various jobs like firefighter and police officer.


Our next word, hobbledehoy, is not nearly as popular today as it was in the middle of the 19th century, but maybe we should bring it back. Hobbledehoy [ hobuhl-dee-hoi ] is a noun meaning “an awkward, ungainly youth.” The word comes from a variant of the name Robert, hob, used to mean “hobgoblin or elf.” If you haven’t already guessed, hobbledehoy is an insult, not a compliment.


  • Even though he was a nice boy, she thought he was a bit of a hobbledehoy and didn’t want to go with him to prom.

If you’re a fan of archaic insults, check out our article on some of Shakespeare’s best disses.


Another old-school insult that we love is grimalkin [ gri-mal-kin ]. A grimalkin is literally a cat, specifically an old female cat, but it is also a term for “an ill-tempered old woman.” The word comes from a combination of gray (as in the color) and malkin, a diminutive of the name Maud. Like hobbledehoy, this insult was mostly commonly used during the 1800s.


  • On her lap, she had a small, bony grimalkin that she pet softly while she spoke.


Zingy, or zinging, is one of the the most cheerful words on our list. It is an adjective meaning “lively; zesty; exciting.” The word zing comes from an onomatopoeia for a sharp, high-pitched sound. Something that is zingy has that same kind of high-pitched excitement.


  • At the end of the year, the theater students put on a zingy revue of their favorite musical numbers.


Some of our favorite words in the dictionary are those thought to be “untranslatable.” These are words from other languages that have such specific cultural meanings that they cannot be easily translated into English. Some examples of “untranslatables” are hygge, mensch, and saudade. Saudade [ soh-dah-duh ] is a word that comes to us from Portuguese folk culture, particularly fado. It means “a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent.” Saudade has also been described as “a feeling of loss for something you once had and may never have again.” It’s a big mood.


  • As I watched the ships disappear past the horizon, I felt a wave of saudade wash over me.

Need more Portuguese in your life? Here are more terms we wish existed in English.


Admittedly, our next word doesn’t have a lot of uses, but it is such a fun one we couldn’t resist. Butyraceous [ byoo-tuhrey-shuhs ] means “of the nature of, resembling, or containing butter.” Essentially, butyraceous means “buttery.”


  • At the Iowa State Fair every year, butter sculptors compete to create the most elaborate butyraceous artwork; last year, a statue of a cow made of butter won the blue ribbon.


Yiddish, a language that combines elements of German, Hebrew, and Slavic languages, is a great source of fabulous words in English. One of those words is haimish, a slang adjective that means “homey; cozy and unpretentious.”


  • My graduation party was a haimish affair, as we had invited only close friends and family for a casual dinner.

The word haimish ultimately comes from the Old High German heimisc meaning “pertaining to the home.” It is associated with feelings of comfort and warmth.


You may have encountered the expression “snake oil salesman” before. It describes quack doctors who sell bogus treatments. (Fun fact, a snake oil made from mineral oil, and not snakes, was one of the first bogus medicines sold in the United States.) The fancy, technical term for snake oil is nostrum, “a medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine.” Nostrum is also used figuratively to describe a scheme to remedy a problem that doesn’t seem like it will work.


  • Despite our warnings that it was a nostrum, Cary insisted on buying the weight loss supplement from the internet.

Nostrum should not be confused with the Latin expression mare nostrum, which means “our sea, especially the Mediterranean to the ancient Romans.


If you have spent any time on social media, you may have gotten ratioed (check out entry on ratio for more about this expression.) But you have likely not seen many people ratiocinate on social media. Ratiocinate [ rash-ee-osuh-neyt ] is a verb meaning “to reason; carry on a process of reasoning.” It comes from the Latin ratiō meaning “reason.”


  • The philosopher argued that it was important to ratiocinate using strict logic, otherwise you will get the wrong answer.


This next word is a tricky one. Nutation literally means “an act or instance of nodding one’s head, especially involuntarily or spasmodically.” But, it has specific technical meanings in the fields of botany, astronomy, and mechanics. We aren’t going to go over all of these meanings here, but they all relate to repeated movements.


  • During his big presentation, he was relieved to spot his boss’s series of nutations, which he could only interpret as agreeing with everything he was saying.


Like nutation, osculation is a word that has both an everyday meaning and a scientific one. Osculation is the technical term for “the act of kissing.” (Romantic, right?) It also has a technical meaning in geometry.


  • She swore to herself that she would never let herself get swept off her feet by mere osculation.


You may be familiar with the tradition of singing the song “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in the New Year. But you probably don’t know what langsyne [ lang-zahyn ] means, because it isn’t an expression much in use anymore. Langsyne comes from the Scots terms lang (meaning “long”) and syne (meaning “since”). It means “long since” or “time long past.” So, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long since,” or “a long time ago.”


  • My great-grandmother, langsyne, made all of her own clothes by hand.


Our next term is, quite literally, magical. Thaumaturgy [ thaw-muh-tur-jee ] means “the working of wonders or miracles; magic.” The word is related to the combining form thaumato-, which means “wonder.”


  • The prophet went from town to town, claiming he could help cure the sick and perform other acts of thaumaturgy.


The word yegg is a bit of a mystery. No one seems to know where it came from, but we find it delightful. Yegg, or yeggman, is an old slang term meaning “a safecracker” or “an itinerant burglar.” In other words, a yegg is a crim (a criminal).


  • He was the best yegg in town; he could break into nearly any safe in 10 seconds flat.

Take the quiz!

Do you think you have a handle on all of these gems? Want to review any of these jewels before you describe your brand-new butter sculpture? You can peruse our list of cool words here. You can also test your new knowledge of these words with our short quiz. 

Take the quiz here!

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