16 Vocabulary Words To Make You Sound Smarter

Smart words

When we write or talk, most of us tend to use a lot of familiar, simple words to make communicating quick and easy. Usually, we focus more on what we’re trying to say rather than how we say it, and that’s just fine when you’re telling your friends about the wacky hijinks you got up to on the weekend or tweeting out another hilarious cat meme.

However, when you really want to impress your teacher or your boss, it is good to have a few extraordinary words on the tip of your tongue that you confidently know how to use. Of course, you can always use our amazing Thesaurus to guide you, but we’ve gathered up some great words you can bust out in the heat of the moment to show just what a masterful wordsmith you are. (Hmm … or perhaps you’d prefer to besprinkle your scintillating vocabulary with these scholarly terms.)


Ennui often headlines lists like this one probably because it just sounds so fancy. Say it with us, [ ahn-wee ]. Ennui is “a feeling of weariness or discontent resulting from a lack of interest.”

The closest word in meaning to ennui is boredom, but ennui is also an exciting alternative to its synonyms, words like apathy, tedium, or disinterest.


  • Jessica was overwhelmed by ennui as she listened to the long lecture about the different types of fertilizers.


A cacophony is a “discordant mixture of sounds.” A cacophony is not pleasant to listen to, and you’ll be rushing for some earplugs if you hear one.

However, cacophony will be music to your listener’s ears when you use it to replace words like noise, racket, crash, clamor, and clatter.


  • The maestro dropped the instruments down the stairs and caused a terrible cacophony that could be heard across the street.

Cicadas are known for their cacophonous buzzing, and for being confused with locusts. Do you know the difference?


Quintessential is an adjective that describes something as being of “the purest essence” or “perfect embodiment.” For example, a quintessential children’s story would be one that has everything a person would expect to find in the perfect children’s story, such as talking animals or an important life lesson.

Quintessential is the perfect example of an upgrade to words like ideal, typical, ultimate, classic, model, or textbook.


  • The comic book was a quintessential Batman story: the caped crusader used his wits and gadgets to foil the Joker’s evil schemes in the nick of time.


Guile is a noun that refers to clever or crafty intelligence.

Guile is perfect when you want to perform a sneaky switcheroo and replace words like cleverness, slyness, trickery, cunning, or craftiness.


  • Robin Hood used his guile to outwit and frustrate the Sheriff of Nottingham.


An insinuation is an “indirect or covert suggestion.” An insinuation is something (often something negative) being implied without actually saying it.

Now, far be it from us to imply that insinuation is a good substitute for the words implication, hint, suggestion, or innuendo, but you may just want to think about it is all we are saying. (Hint, hint.)


  • The coach was hammered by questions that were loaded with insinuations that his team lacked discipline.


Fortuitous is an adjective that means something is a result of chance or good fortune.

What great luck! Fortuitous just so happens to be the word we were looking for to replace words like lucky, fortunate, random, accidental, and coincidental.


  • In a fortuitous turn of events, the replacement stuntwoman looked exactly like the lead actress.

How fortuitous that we have a collection of different ways to wish someone good luck!


Esoteric is an adjective that describes something as being “understood or meant for a select few with special knowledge” or being “limited to a small group.”

Keep it just between us that esoteric is an upgrade to the words obscure, mysterious, arcane, mystical, or cryptic.


  • The newest book was full of esoteric callbacks and references that only the most dedicated fans would get.


Opulent is an adjective that means something displays or is made of riches or vast wealth.

Opulent is a first-class upgrade to words like rich, wealthy, luxurious, lavish, swanky, and lush.


  • The neighborhood had many opulent mansions that only the wealthiest people in the country could afford to live in.


A menagerie is a collection of unusual animals or the place where they are kept.

Menagerie has a pretty unique meaning, but you could use it to colorfully describe a zoo, a farm, a circus, a petting zoo, or a house full of pets.


  • My brother has a lot of pets: his menagerie includes a cat, a parrot, a turtle, a snake, three bunnies, and four guinea pigs.

Add these animal adjectives to your list as well, next time you’re describing a trip to the zoo … or your own household.


Propensity is a noun that means “a natural inclination or tendency.” For example, a social media influencer probably has a propensity to share everything and anything with their followers.

If you know what it means, you’ll be inclined to swap in propensity for words like inclination, tendency, habit, penchant, or leaning.


  • My curious kitten has a propensity for getting stuck in cardboard boxes.  


Ostentatious is an adjective that describes something as being intended to draw attention or describes a person as wanting to draw attention to themselves.

Ostentatious is an attention-getting alternative to words like flashy, showy, gaudy, garish, and flamboyant.


  • The pop singer liked to wear ostentatious tuxedos made out of purple and pink fabrics.


Circumspect is an adjective that describes someone as thinking carefully and not taking risks.

Circumspect is a thoughtful back-up plan to words like cautious, careful, discreet, vigilant, or wary.


  • The experienced hunter was circumspect as she entered the woods, keeping an eye out for any wild animals.

Take the time to cautiously review the difference between perspective and prospective.


Apropos is an adjective and an adverb that describes something as being relevant or appropriate. Apropos is also used in the phrase apropos of, which means “concerning” or “regarding.”

Apropos is a perfect selection if you want to upgrade words like relevant, opportune, fitting, suitable, and apt.


  • With Easter right around the corner, it seemed apropos to find lots of bunnies at the petting zoo.


Incongruity is a noun that refers to something that is incongruous or the act of being incongruous. As a bonus word, incongruous is an adjective that describes something as being out of place or having parts that don’t mix well together.

Incongruity won’t be out of place if you use it instead of the words discrepancy, inconsistency, inappropriateness, or mismatch.


  • My little sister’s movie collection is an incongruity of romantic comedies and slasher films.


Spurious is an adjective that describes something as being fake or not true.

Spurious is an honest-to-goodness alternative to words like fake, false, counterfeit, phony, bogus, or not real.


  • The director criticized the tabloid for spreading spurious rumors that he wasn’t getting along with his lead actor.


Inconspicuous is an adjective that describes something as not being easily seen or noticed.

Inconspicuous is an easily overlooked upgrade to words like hidden, unnoticeable, low-profile, low-key, and subtle.


  • Aladdin tried to remain inconspicuous as he snuck past the palace guards looking for him among the crowd.

Take the quiz

You’ve seen the words—now take the quiz. Are you ready to make these a part of your everyday vocabulary? If you need a refresher, find these words in a custom word list that also allows you to practice spelling and create flashcards.

Level up your skills with these untranslatable words from around the world that describe the indescribable in English.

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Word of the Day

Feb. 6, 2023

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