Culture

Make today the day you improve your vocabulary and read on for 15 great English words we should all be using more often.

 

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I love this word and use it all the time. The coffee I just bought; the queue at the ATM; that newsreader’s hairdo – all abominable.

 

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At first this word meant anything that occurred before The Flood, Genesis 7, 8. in the Bible but now just means really, really old.

 

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I honestly thought this was something to do with a respiratory disease.

 

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This is one of those words I’ve heard people use on TV and in films without ever really fully understanding what it meant. Now that I do understand, I intend to use it relentlessly.

 

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You know that bit at the end of an Agatha Christie novel where Miss Marple or Poirot or whoever explains to everyone what the hell has been going on? That’s a denouement.

 

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I’m just dying to slip this word into a conversation. Can we replace ex- with erstwhile, as in ‘ah, quick, hide, my erstwhile boyfriend just walked in’?

 

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I hope this article does not have a fugacious hold on your interest.

 

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See also: an absolutely non-scary horror film with Patrick Wilson.

 

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To be used after watching a film/play with someone you want to impress.

 

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Or, I dunno, hope?

 

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Another personal favourite here, nemesis can be used in any circumstance to describe whatever it is that’s making your life feel challenging. In a single day I have referred to the number 22 bus, Donald Trump and my next door neighbour’s cat as my nemesis and meant it.

 

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I need to get a little more obsequiousness in my life.

 

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A throw-back to the days before text was cheap.

 

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‘Be careful, those stairs are quite precipitous.’ You can have that one for free.

 

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Vagary comes from the Latin vagary, meaning ‘to wander’ and is an altogether nicer word than its close cousin ‘vagrant’ which means ‘hobo’, basically.

Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies, love is a many-splendoured thing, love is blind. Love is also complicated, changeable and downright baffling. When it comes to thinking and talking about love, the larger our vocabulary is the better.

 

Read on for 11 words about love you’ve never heard before.

 

 

Words About Love 01

Whatever you do in this world, never induratize yourself to the idea of love. It’s never too late to meet your match.

 

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Like all of the most untranslatable words, saudade is a term commonly used to talk about music or literature. A Portugese and Galician term, saudade can be a melancholy nostalgia for something that may never have even happened. *wistful sigh*.

 

Words About Love 03Dozakh is a word for hell but it is a very specific kind of hell that can be experienced only by someone in love.

 

Words About Love 04You know when someone proposes to someone on live TV, like at a One Direction concert or something and there’s a lot of squealing and crying and other awfulness? That’s kilig in action.

 

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No list on words related to love would be complete without a word that can describe how it feels when it all goes wrong. Anagapesis sounds like a skin disorder but describes something much more uncomfortable, that feeling when you realise the love you used to feel had slipped away.

 

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A word with origins that can be traced back to 16th century Spain, aubade is a piece of music performed outside at dawn. Before the days of the ‘good morning beautiful’ text message.

 

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I can’t find any firm evidence of where this word came from but you can almost guarantee it’s the brainchild of one of the romance languages, French, Italian or Spanish, all notorious cataglottists.

 

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What’s wrong with a little harmless flirtation?

 

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Finally, we have a word to describe that tingly, feverish, apprehensive, exciting feeling that comes about when you first fall in love.

 

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In ancient greek times an anacampserote would have been some kind of herb or herbal concoction , like a love potion, that would lure lost loves back into your life. In the 21st century it’s a new-found sense of independence, a make-over and a few strategically shared Instagram pictures.

 

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Absolutely nothing to do with twitter, the word twitterpated first turned up in Disney’s Bambi (1942) when an owl explains thusly, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You’re walking along, minding your own business. You’re looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo!”

 

Words may have the power to harm but they also have the power to heal. Just hearing one word can take you away from whatever unpleasantness the physical plane is currently inflicting on you and transport you to a place, in the past or the future, remembered or imagined, that is no less real for exiting solely in your mind, where you can rest a while before making your necessary return to the land of the living.

Next time you need to escape the queue at Starbucks, the traffic jam outside the school gates or the waiting room at the dentist’s office just remember a few of these calming words and their meanings and enjoy instant peace of mind.

 

Calming Words Give Peace 01

I think it’s the long ‘ee’ sound at the middle of ‘irenic’ that makes it so pleasing to say but it is the meaning of the word that really creates peace of mind. Derived from the Greek word eirene meaning peace, irenicism is traditionally a Christian ideology, one that promotes pacifism, reason and piety as a way of life over aggression and conflict.

 

Calming Words Give Peace 02

I’m have yet to experience a more pleasurable sensation than those few minutes between waking and sleeping when you’re still wrapped in the sweet, warm glow of a particularly delightful dream. Don’t feel too sorry for me though, I’ve had some really, really good dreams.

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Another word with a strangely pleasing sound to it and a nice, soft, three-syllable tempo, petrichor is a word that technically describes a smell but really describes a feeling. Petrichor is the feeling of calm that can only come from standing on earth that has recently had its thirst quenched by a soothing cascade of cool rain.

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There is no more calming and peaceful word than ‘compromise’ apart from ‘taarradhin’, an Arabic word with a similar meaning but an altogether more lovely sound. Rather than a straight compromise where both sides must reach an agreement by backing down in some way, taarradhin implies a happy ending for everyone, where both sides win.

 

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Melliflous is an autological word, a word that is self-describing. Mellifluous means ‘to have a smooth, flowing sound’ and it does itself have a smooth, flowing sound and for some reason this linguistic agreement, this clean, logical facet of language makes me feel so calm I might just have found my favourite word.

 

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I’m not entirely sure how this one snuck in as, in opposition to the majority of people on Planet Earth, I am not exactly a cat-lover but even I can see the calming influence cats seem to have on the people who love them and the word ailurophile isn’t so bad either.

 

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Again, derived from ancient Greek, the word ‘hypnangogia’ describes the in-between state that bridges the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness. For some people, this state represents the danger zone where all kind of terrifying phenomenon like sleep paralysis and night terrors can occur but for some it’s the magic time when lucid dreaming and delightful hallucinations can be experienced.

 

I don’t know any Italian people so my understanding of the unique cultural makeup of this fine nation comes almost exclusively from the exploits of the Italian-American family of The Sopranos and the few extremely attractive and intimidating ladies I briefly spoke to on a two-day trip to Milan five years ago.

 

I’m not going to be flying to Italy any time soon so what better way to get a brief glimpse inside the collective head of the Italians than by a look at the idiosyncrasies of their mother tongue. Read on for 7 illuminating Italian words you’ve never heard before.

 

Illuminating Italian Words 01

Loved by cats and arty photographers the world over, there is no equivalent word in English for that dancing, smattering of light that you see on water or in a mirror. Gorgeous.

 

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Definitely the most fun word on this list to pronounce, attaccabottoni is the least fun thing on this list to experience.

 

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Closely related to the English word ‘naufragous’, naufragio means an event that is a disaster although I’m not sure it can really be applied to a party. Open a bottle of vodka and put a Whitesnake album on and you’ve got a non-naufragio party, my friend.

 

Illuminating Italian Words 04A nice verb here just to stir things up. Sadly, I haven’t got the pronunciation for this one but however you say it commuovere is a beauty of a word.

 

 

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There may be an equivalent English expression with a meaning close to dormiveglia: my life.

Our time on this earth is finite. Yes, all of us, each and every one of us, will one day die and while some people spend their whole lives denying it, some turn to religion to make their inevitable end a little easier to bear and some seek immortality in fame and fortune, we literature lovers turn to words for solace.

Here at Wordables and we’re not afraid to look the cold, dark truth of our mortal existence right in the eye so read on for 7 words about death and dying that’ll give you shivers.

 

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What a terrible, terrible way to go. Sadly, Karoshi is a real social problem in Japan where thousands of people die every year due to the physical and psychological stress of extremely demanding company jobs. Even though Japanese laws were changed in 2014 so try to prevent this kind of exploitation, karoshi still goes on.

 

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Another Japanese word about death for which we have no equivalent in English. Yes, people die, yes, everything you see around you will one day turn to dust and, yes, maybe it is all futile in the end but, God, isn’t it beautiful.

 

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Like philosophical archaeology, dustsceawung means looking at the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians, the Victorians, Soviet Union and the Republican Party and everything in between and knowing that one day these things will have no more influence on how you and I live our lives than dusty relics sitting in a museum.

 

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A major preoccupation of great writers from Tolstoy to John Green, súton is something we’ll all experience whether we like it or not. Of all the words about death and dying on this list, this is the one that gives me shivers.

 

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This word conjures images of an old, recently widowed Jewish man trying to keep his house in order and fill his days without the love of his life and to be honest, I just can’t deal with that right now.

 

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Gibel means to waste away, as you would if you suffered from a long terminal illness. Let’s hope when the big one comes it’s anything but slow for all of us.

 

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Why has no one created a liquor called Lethe yet? A bottle of liquor that, when drunk from, makes you forget the sufferings of life and enter oblivion? Consider this my written intention to apply for copyright.

Words are tricky things. We bring them into the world with little consideration for their future and before we know it they’ve grown up and adapted and taken on a life all of their own. Trying to control the way language moves and changes is like trying to alter the push and pull of the tide but we can trace a river back to its origin and look at the weird ways some of the words we use every day came into being.

 

Read on for 9 words with origins that will surprise you.

Origins Surprise 01

Loopholes were built into the design of medieval English castles which were often strategically placed high on hills that overlooked valleys. Archers could defend the castle by shooting arrows down onto attacking armies from the safety of their loopholes. In a similar way, if you’re ever in court you can defend yourself through a small opening in the law.

 

Origins Surprise 02

Playwright Karel Čapek wrote a play in 1920 that featured mechanical workers produced in a factory. That’s a whole fifteen years before Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Čapek used the old Czech word for forced labor, ‘robota’, in the title of his play Rossum’s Universal Robots and a new word was born

 

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Keanu Reeves et al have gone some way in altering the meaning of ‘matrix’ from a point of origin to a computer-simulated reality in which we are all imprisoned but the origin of the word ‘matrix’ stretches back to 1525. From the old French word ‘matrice’ which means womb to the Latin word ‘mater’ which means mother, matrix developed to mean a place where something develops.

 

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Avocado developed from the word ‘ahuacatl’, an ancient Aztec word that meant testicle. Say what you see, I guess.

 

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In Greek ‘dis’ means bad and ‘aster’ means star. Bad stars and other celestial omens were thought to be responsible for any calamity that occurred during the Hellenistic period, both naturally-occurring and very much man-made.

 

Origins Surprise 06

I heard the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur when I was a child but I couldn’t for the life of me remember hoe Theseus escaped from the labyrinth. Turns out it was with the help of a ‘clew’, the Greek word for a ball of string.

 

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It seems the early distilling process used in Spain to make kohl was the same process used to make alcohol. The word evolved from meaning the black powder used to make eye-liner to the essence of anything obtained by distillation to booze, basically.

 

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So paraphernalia once meant simply ‘a wife’s belongings’ and referred specifically to clothes, toiletries and other personal trinkets that did not become the property of the husband once a woman was married.

 

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A very non-PC word I wouldn’t advise using in reference to people who are mentally ill, ‘lunatic’ is derived from the latin words ‘luna’ which means moon and ‘atic’ which means ‘of the kind of’. At the time this word came into usage people believed that changes in the location of the moon altered people’s behavior.

The German language is spoken by over 130 million people worldwide and is the official language of 6 countries. High German has a history that reaches back over 1000 years and is full of completely unique words and phrases, some of which are charming, some of which are baffling and some of which are absolutely hilarious.

Read on for 7 totally unique German words to make you smile.

Unique German Words 01

Approximately one third of Germany is covered with forest so Germans have ample opportunity to indulge in waldeinsamkeit.

 

Unique German Words 02See: shells, shiny pennies, colorful buttons, dreams and whispers.

 

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There are words describing this state in other languages but none capture the feeling quite as well as ‘capernoited’.

 

 

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See that sneaky ‘v’ pronounced as an ‘f’? Vorfreude is the excitement you feel about something you know is going to happen but isn’t quite here yet. Like Christmas Eve for children or every Friday night for adults.

 

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Many things can induce a state of katzenjammer but 6 or 7 tequilas ought to do the trick.

 

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We’ve all had to be ‘sitting flesh’ at some point in our lives and if you work in an office you probably have to be ‘sitting flesh’ on a daily basis. Next time, just think of this word and smile.

 

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The face of someone you know sprung immediately to mind there, didn’t it? A face that would be markedly improved by having a clenched fist thrust into the middle of it. Enjoy that image for a moment, guilt-free.

We at Wordables love new words. So you can imagine how giddy with excitement we become when we find new words about words.

Read on for 9 words about words you’ll fall in love with.

 

Words About Words 01

Reading this word instantly conjures an image of a waiter in a French café laughing uproariously at my pronunciation of croissant. A traumatic experience.

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Let’s all just agree to allow other people’s solecism’s to go unchallenged. It’s a minor blunder, okay? So as long as you got the gist of whatever the solecism-speaker was saying, just let it lie. No one likes a know-it-all.

Words About Words 03

I don’t think I know enough logolepsics. If I did I wouldn’t use the words ‘right’, ‘yeah’ and ‘okay’ a million times a day.

Words About Words 04

I hope I am a gifted raconteur but it’s hard to be sure. Too many wannabe raconteurs out there spoiling dinner parties and going on reality TV shows.

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But who decides what is of little or no importance?

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Agraphia is actually a cerebral disorder characterized by total or partial inability to write. It’s a type of brain damage so maybe don’t go throwing this word around next time you can’t seem to write 1000 words on the moral character of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Pretty much the entire canon of classical English Literature, then? I’m all for euphuistic speaking. Let’s all talk more like Bertie Wooster from now on.

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Again, who decides what is pretentious and what is illuminating? Fustian also means a type of thick, coarse cloth, sometimes used to pad cushions and it’s thought that it’s second meaning comes from the idea that the language was overly padded and pompous. Interesting.

Words About Words 09

Sprachgefühl is what sets we people of different nationalities apart from each other. You may learn the grammar and vocabulary of a new language but the sprachgefühl of that language is something that cannot be taught.

There’s just something about the sound of the French language that elevates it above all others for charisma. Every time I hear people speaking in French, conversations that crackle with gasps and exclamations and soothe with seductive murmurs, I want to know exactly what is being said.

It may take years to properly master your ah-bey-ceys but in the meantime here are 9 beautiful French words that will improve your vocabulary today.

 

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I love that the French have a specific word for this phenomenon that happens, in my life at least, way too often. Thank god we’ve got friends and facetime to go through these difficult moments again and again, providing an alternative ending each time.

 

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In France you can drink wine with breakfast and coffee with supper so it’s no wonder no one knows what time to go to bed.

 

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If the French have an actual word/phrase for this fairly disturbing feeling then maybe it’s not so strange, after all. See also: the desire to drive your car off a cliff and the desire to do an ‘Anna Karenina’ on the train tracks.

 

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Pronounced with a ‘sh’ not a ‘ch’, this word is an example of onomatopoeia. Say chuchoter a few times in a quiet voice and people around will wonder what that crazy person is whispering to themselves.

 

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The refined and gentlemanly French go around kissing hands so much that they only need one word to describe the act. If you’re going to be bold enough to try this one your young lady friend then be sure to add enchanté, I think it’s against the law in France not to.

 

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Fundamental to learning the French language itself, one must dépayser and leave their comfort zone in order to immerse themselves in a different culture. The word pays in French means country so a literal translation is something like ‘de-countrify’.

 

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In French, the literal translation of the phrase ‘avoir le cafard’, which means to be depressed, if to ‘have the cockroach. No one wants a cockroach anywhere near them much like no one ever wants to have the blues.

 

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This word feels like honey in your mouth. Inoubliable means unforgettable or, the more evocative, ‘never to be forgotten’. Nuit inoubliable means ‘a night to remember’, definitely a phrase to learn if you plan on going dancing and romancing in Paris.

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The origins of this word go back, as so many words to, to the Ancient Greeks. The peripatetic school was the school of philosophy in Greece. Legend has it that as Aristotle taught he walked and the word peripatetic came to mean both student of philosophy and wanderer.

 

Onomatopoeic words are words for sounds that, when spoken, resemble the sounds to which they refer. Get it? No? Okay, try this. Onomatopoeic words are words that imitate the source of the sound they describe. Make sense? How do people who work on dictionaries do this all day without going mad?

In the comic book world, onomatopoeia means ‘pow’ and ‘bam’ and ‘kablooey’, in the animal kingdom it means ‘woof’, ‘oink’ and ‘roar’ and in machine-speak it means ‘honk’, ‘vroom’ and ‘beep’ but across different cultures a wealth of new onomatopoeia is waiting to be discovered. Taken from the Greek words for ‘name’ and ‘I make’, it can be no coincidence that the world onomatopoeia itself rolls of the tongue so deliciously.

Read on for 7 of the best onomatopoeic words to add to your vocabulary today.

 

Onomatopoeic 01

When you listen to the wind you can hear sounds from miles away, the steady hum of traffic, people shouting and laughing or the scream of a train passing by, but sometimes there is so little other sound that all you can hear is the whisper of the wind moving through space and time, bringing nothing but its own secrets. And now we have a word for it; susurrus.

 

Onomatopoeic 02

It’s difficult to say croodle without doing an impression of a dove and I’m struggling to think of another onomatopoeic word that describes the sound of animal better than this one. That croodle also means to cuddle together is a bonus.

 

Onomatopoeic 03

Of course, different languages have different interpretations of how a sound should be said and in Japanese the sound of a heart-beat is not da-dum or the more clinical, be-beep but doki-do-ki. Doki doki suru means ‘with a pounding heart’.

 

Onomatopoeic 04

I love this word. Kakatta isn’t far off from the English word cackle but it gets so much closer to capturing the essence of a truly evil laugh. Like MwAH-HA-HA but more malevolent.

 

Onomatopoeic 05

Vietnamese is a tonal language which means you’re on your own with the pronunciation of this one. Badly pronounced or not, this word forces your mouth into the shape of an ‘o’ which is exactly the how you look when gasping for breath.

 

Onomatopoeic 06

While the verb schlürfen could refer to the act of slurping or savoring anything at all I like to think it’s used specifically for sipping hot beverages like Glühwein and Buttergrog on a wintery German day.

 

Onomatopoeic 07

My personal favorite. Pronounce ronronner in the proper French way by indulging in a long gargling roll of the ‘r’s and you will sound just like you’re purring like a cat. You’ll sound more cat-like than if you said ‘meow’, anyway.