Words and Phrases

A list of fun words and phrases I’ve discovered (mostly while reading).

  • Adventitious — arising from an external source or occurring in an unusual place or manner. Occurring accidentally or spontaneously
  • Ambisinistrous — technically, “left-handed in both hands,” the opposite of ambidextrous, and so, by extension, “clumsy in both hands.
  • Atrabilious — melancholy or ill-tempered
  • Bosky — wooded, covered by trees or bushes
  • Bothy — a hut or small cottage
  • Brummagem — cheap, showy, or counterfeit
  • Caliginous — dim, dark, obscure
  • Chthonic — relating to spirits and other beings dwelling under the earth
  • Divagate — to wander or stray
  • Embrangle — embroil, to cause disorder or confusion
  • En suite — the fancy way realtors now refer to master bathrooms (I had to curb my urge to laugh every time I heard it.)
  • Flumadiddle — utter nonsense
  • Galavant (gallivant) — to wander about, seeking pleasure
  • Hebetude — lethargy, dullness
  • Incondite — crude, rough, unmannerly, badly put together
  • Ipse dixit — a dogmatic but unproven statement, an assertion without proof
  • Jactitation — a restless tossing of the body in illness
  • Jobbernowl — numskull, nincompoop, stupid person
  • L’esprit de l’escalier — literally “wit of the staircase,” thinking of a witty response too late, when you’re out of the room
  • Librocubicularist — one who reads in bed
  • Macaronic — mixing Latin words with everyday English words in a sentence
  • Mingy — mean and stingy
  • Nescient — lacking knowledge, ignorant
  • Nonce — the present, or immediate, occasion or purpose, for the time being
  • Nullifidian — skeptic, a person who has no faith or religion
  • Patagonia picnic table effect — the phenomenon that occurs when a birder spots a rare bird in a given location, which results in more birders visiting that location, which results in more rare birds being seen there. It gives the impression that the location is particularly good for seeing rare birds when, in fact, it’s only the high number of birders who cause the increased sightings of rarities. Named for a picnic area in southern Arizona.
  • Patibulary — relating to or suggesting the gallows or hanging
  • Pauciloquent — using few words, concise
  • Pentimento — an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work; the Italian word for “repentance”
  • Perdurable — enduring continuously; imperishable
  • Quiddity — a distinctive feature, a peculiarity, the nature of essence of someone or something
  • Quidnunc — a person who seeks to know all the latest news or gossip
  • Solecism — a grammatical error in speech or writing; a breach of etiquette or decorum
  • Susurration — a soft murmur or whisper
  • Tergiversate — to be evasive or ambiguous, equivocate
  • Whilom — former, erstwhile
  • Witzelsucht — condition characterized by a tendency to make puns, or tell inappropriate jokes or pointless stories in socially inappropriate situations