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
  • Avuncular—having the characteristics of an uncle
  • 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
  • Dillyall — anything owned because it looks nice and not because it’s useful or functional
  • 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
  • Frowsty — having a warm, stuffy atmosphere
  • Galavant (gallivant) — to wander about, seeking pleasure
  • Groak — to look on silently—like a dog—at someone eating in hopes that they will share their food with you
  • Hebetude — lethargy, dullness
  • Horripilation — when your body hair stands erect due to cold, fear, or excitement
  • Incondite — crude, rough, unmannerly, badly put together
  • Inutile — useless, worthless
  • 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
  • Materteral — having the characteristics of an aunt
  • 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
  • Shivviness — the uncomfortable feeling of wearing new underwear
  • Solecism — a grammatical error in speech or writing; a breach of etiquette or decorum
  • Spanghew — to throw something, particularly a frog, violently into the air from the end of a stick
  • 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