15 unusual words that make writers swoon

In a previous post, I wrote about the value of using simple words in place of complex words. Readers are not impressed by the use of complex words; they’re frustrated by them.

Though I strive to use simple, clear terms in my own writing, there are some words that I am just dying to use. Archaic, unusual words that I have stumbled upon in fiction. Words that have drawn me in. I like the ways these words sound. I like the way they look.

If I could only find a way to work them into my next article on surgical checklists.

Vex. To cause someone to feel annoyed, frustrated, or worried.

Example: You take delight in vexing me by deliberately using bad grammar.

Portmanteau. A large suitcase or trunk that opens into two equal parts.

Example: That portmanteau will not fit in the overhead bin and must be checked.

Naught. Means zero or nothing. It can also mean to ruin, disregard, or despise.

Example: Her behavior tends to set propriety at naught.

Foible. A weakness or eccentricity in someone’s character.

Example: She loved him in spite of his foibles.

Parvenu. A person who has suddenly risen to a higher social or economic class, but who has not gained social acceptance in that class.

Example: He was treated like a parvenu at the country club dinner.

Sentinel. A soldier or guard who keeps watch; to keep guard or watch.

Example: Bennett heard a strange noise and asked the sentinel to stay close.

Moribund. At the point of death; dying.

Example: Kathryn was unsure how to save her moribund career.

Beslobber. To smear with spittle or anything running from the mouth.

Example: In this drunken and beslobbered state, the lieutenant returned to the ship.

Nonplussed. Bewildered or unsure how to respond.

Example: Anna’s hot and cold behavior has left me completely nonplussed.

Loquacious. Means talkative or continually chattering.

Example: Jane was pleased that her new assistant was not particularly loquacious.

Forbear. To refrain or resist; to be tolerant or patient if provoked.

Example: My approach this year has been to forbear and maintain a professional demeanor at all times.

Erudite. An educated or learned person; scholarly with an emphasis on knowledge gained from books.

Example: “Not everything is in your books,” Steve told his erudite friend.

Mellifluous. Means smooth or sweet and is generally used to describe a person’s voice, tone, or writing style.

Example: Patrick O’Brian’s style is best described as mellifluous, sweeping the reader along from the first words.

Redolent. Fragrant or sweet smelling; strongly reminiscent or suggestive of something.

Example: These words are redolent of earlier times, when language was more formal.

Denouement. The final resolution of a story or a complex series of events.

Example: Will the denouement be explosive or serene?

Readers, any words you wish you could use?

A version of this post first appeared on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.

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