Word Nerd Words

Interesting words I’ve learned from books and the media.  


abjure \ab-ˈju̇r\ verb from the Latin jurare, which means “to swear” (related to perjury and justice, also based on the root jus, meaning “law”), plus the prefix ab-, meaning “away”;  to renounce upon oath; to reject solemnly; to abstain from

Scout Finch usually abjured all forms of feminine adornment.

acumen \ə-‘kyü-mən, ‘ak-yə-mən\ noun, from Latin acumen, literally, a point; keenness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination, especially in practical matters
At critical moments in the story, Jane Eyre uses acumen, and not emotional reaction, to make critical decisions in her life.
amalgam \ə-‘mal-gəm\ noun, from Middle English amalgame: an alloy of mercury with another metal that is solid or liquid at room temperature and is used especially in making tooth cements; a mixture of different elements

amalgamation \ə-mal-gə-‘mā-shən\ noun, : the state of being amalgamated or the result of amalgamating

When I pulled the fabric cover off of the car seat, I found a multicolored blob, an amalgamation of goldfish crackers, pretzels, and Cheerios held together by raisins and an unknown yellow substance.

anathema \ə-‘nath-ə-mə\  noun, from Greek anatithenai, a thing devoted to evil ; a ban or curse pronounced by ecclesiastical authority, a vigorous denunciation, curse; one who is intensely disliked

Henry DeTamble uttered a string of vile anathemas when he landed on his knees in a foot of snow; he was naked, of course.

auspicious\o-‘spish-əs\ adj, from the Latin auspic= diviner by birds (avis- bird + specere- to look): affording a favorable sign, propitious

The brilliant pink sunrise gave an auspicious beginning to our day in the park.

bellicose \’bel-I-cōs\ adj, from Latin bellicus, of war; favoring or inclined to start quarrels or wars

The bellicose politicians refuse to back down in their debate over immigration.

blithe \’blīth\ adj from Old English blithe, akin to Old High German blidi, meaning joyous;  of a happy, lighthearted character or disposition; lacking consideration; heedless

As I tried to review the day’s itinerary, I was irritated by my son’s blithe chatter.

bloviate \’blō- vē-āt\ verb, perhaps an irregular form of “blow”
To speak or write verbosely or windily 

Donald Trump is a bloviating megalomaniac.

collude \kə-‘lüd\ verb from Latin com +ludere to play; to conspire or plot for a harmful purpose

Butler colluded with Artemis to capture the fairy and steal her gold.

confabulation \kən-,fab-yə-‘lā-shən\ noun, from Latin com together + fabulari to talk, from fabula story;  a discussion, casual conversation;  also from psychology: the replacement of a gap in a person’s memory by a falsification that he or she believes to be true

After Gretchen slipped and fell in the middle of the lunch room, confabulation about her mishap spread throughout the school.

decimate \’de-sə-māt\ verb, from Latin decimus, tenth; to reduce drastically, especially in number; to cause great destruction or harm.  For example,

German bombers decimated London during WWII.

detritus \di-‘trit-əs\ noun, from the Latin deterere, to wear away or impair;  loose material (as rock fragments) that results directly from disintegration; a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away

After the tornado struck, the town worked together to clean up the detritus left behind.

dromedary \’drā-mə-der-ē\ noun  from Latin dromad– dromoas, from Greek, running; a camel

The Bible tells us that ancient peoples traveled the desert on dromedaries.

ersatz \’e(Ə)r- säts\ adj, from German ersatz noun meaning substitute; being an unusually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation

Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches serve as an ersatz replacement for real Ben and Jerry’s.

erstwhile \’ərst-(h)wīl\ adj from Middle English erest , earliest and Old English ærest, early; former, previous

When Mr. Penumbra disappears, Clay embarks on a quest for his erstwhile employer.

expurgate \’ek-spər-gāt\  verb, from Latin ex + purgare to purge; to cleanse of something morally harmful, offensive, or erroneous, especially to expunge objectionable content before publication or presentation.

The principal would only approve the production of the play if the drama teacher promise to expurgate the offensive passages of dialogue.

exsanguinated\ek(s)-‘san-gwə-nāt\ verb, from the Latin ex + sanguine- blood:  to drain of blood.

A sign at the gates of The Night Circus stated: “Trespassers will be exsanguinated.”

foofaraw \’foo-fuh-raw\ noun; first used in the American West during the pioneer days to describe trinkets or baubles used in trade.  Experts think it may have started as a variation of the Spanish fanfarrón, a braggart, or the French froufrou, showy ornamentation, or the French expression  fou faraud, meaning “foolish dandy”.


1.  frills and flashy finery

2.  a disturbance or to-do over a trifle : fuss

Dad made a foofaraw about the toothpaste in Eli’s sink.

fulminate \’ful-mə-nāt\ verb, from Latin fulminare, to flash with lightening; to utter or send out with denunciation; to make a sudden loud noise; to send forth censures or invectives

garrulous \’gar-ə-ləs\  adj from Latin garrire to chatter:  given to prosy, rambling, or tedious loquacity; pointlessly talkative

The garrulous patient garnered lots of attention in the waiting room with his noisy chatter.

gambit \’gam- bət\ noun, from Italian gambetto, the act of tripping someone; a chess opening in which a player risks one or more minor pieces to gain an advantage in position; a remark intended to start a conversation; a calculated move

The journalist used the interview with Mr. Prescott as a gambit to obtain access to his impressive collection of luxury sports cars.

gerrymander: to divide a territory into political units to give special advantages to one group.  It comes from Elbridge Gerry + salamander– the shape of an election district formed during Gerry’s governorship of Massachusetts (contributed)

halcyon \’hal-sē-ən\ from the Latin halcyon

  • Noun: – a bird identified with the kingfisher and held in ancient legend to nest at sea about the time of the winter solstice and to calm the waves during incubation
  • Adjective:  calm, peaceful; happy, golden; prosperous, affluent

The sound of waves crashing against the shore will always remind me of our halcyon days in Maui.

ichor \’ī-ko(ə)r\ noun, from the Greek ichōr; a thin, watery or blood-tinged discharge

Ichor leaked from the knife wound on Peter’s arm.

inchoate \in-kō-ət\ adj; from Latin inchoare to start work on; not completely formed or developed yet.

After one month of calculus classes, I only had an inchoate understanding of the equations.

inexorable \in-‘neks-sə-rə-bəl\ adj, Latin: not to be persuaded, moved or stopped; relentless

My daughter would not relent in her inexorable mission to bake the perfect cake.

insouciant \in-sü-sē-ənt\ adj; from French in- + soucier to trouble or disturb; lighthearted, relaxed, calm

Elgin was taken by Bernadette’s easy, insouciant manner.

intransigent: \in·tran·si·gent\adjective from Latin in + transigere- to come to an agreement; characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude; synonyms = adamant, hardheaded

Mr. Trump remained intransigent in his position on the hacking scandal, despite several intelligence reports implicating the Russians.


labile \LAY-byle\ adj. from Latin labi-, to slip; readily or frequently changing, as

  • continually undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown
  • characterized by wide fluctuations (as in blood pressure)
  • (my favorite usage) emotionally unstable

After my tween daughter deteriorated into a sobbing mess of flailing hands and piercing shrieks, I turned to my husband and said, “She’s been a little labile today.”

laconic \lə-‘kän-ik\ adj from Latin laconicus Spartan, from Greek lakōnikos from the Spartan reputation for terseness of speech:  using or involving the use of a minimum of words; concise to the point of seeming rude

My laconic husband is often misunderstood as rude by people who don’t know him well.

limpid \’lim-pəd\ adj from French limpide or Latin limpidus, from lympha water;  marked by transparency; clear and simple in style; absolutely serene and untroubled

Ella stared through the limpid water to study the detailed mosaic at the bottom of the pool.

loquacious \lō-‘kwā-shəs\ adj; from Latin loquac- to speak; full of excessive talk; given to fluent or excessive talk

My introverted husband steered clear of the loquacious woman standing near the appetizers.

mellifluous \me-‘lif-le-wes\ adj. From Latin mel honey + flere to flow: having a smooth, rich flow, as in a mellifluous voice milieu \mel-‘yü\ noun, from the French mi– middle + lieu place; the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops

A middle school dance provides the perfect milieu for embarrassing situations and gossip.

milieu \mel-‘yü\ noun, from the French mi– middle + lieu place; the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops

A middle school dance provides the perfect milieu for embarrassing situations and gossip.

misanthropy \mi-‘san-thrə-pē\ noun, from Greek misein- to hate + anthropos man; hatred or distrust of mankind

Motivated by extreme misanthropy, Victoria refused the young man’s gift.

murmuration \mur-muh-ra-shun\ noun, from Latin murmuratio; 

  1. a low, continuous sound; an act or instance of murmuring
  2. the movement of a flock of starlings, believed to help with self-defense

nascent \’nas-ənt\ adj from the Latin nascent, nascens, to be born; coming or having recently come into existence

In the 1970s, my uncle had a personal computer, a nascent phenomenon at the time.

nocuous \’näk-yə-wəs\ adj. from Latin nocuus, from nocēre, which means “to harm”; harmful

A nocuous fungus ruined all the tomatoes in my garden!

obdurate \’äb-d(y)ə-rət\ adj, from Latin obdurare, to harden;  hardened in feelings, unyielding, resistant to persuasion

My obdurate husband refused to ask for help with assembling his new grill.

obfuscation \,äb-fəs-‘kā-shən\  noun from Latin –ob in the way + fuscus dark brown; confusion, darkness, obscurity

obsequious \Əb-‘sē-kwē-Əs\ adj, from Latin ob toward + sequi to follow, obsequi to comply:  marked by or exhibiting a fawning attentiveness

I could not stand listening to my son’s obsequious girlfriend.

oleophobic: \’ō-lē-ō-‘fo-bik\  adj; from Latin oleum – fat/oil + French phobique, Latin phobus – aversion: lacking affinity for oil 

Apple claims to coat its iPads with a oleophobic protectant.

palaver \pə-‘lav-ər\ noun, from Latin parabola, parable, speech

  1. A long parley usually between two people of different levels of sophistication; a conference or discussion
  2. Idle talk; misleading speech

My morning walk took longer than usual as I got caught in a palaver with my neighbor.

parsimonious \pär-sə-‘mō-nē-əs\ adj; parsimoniously = adv; from the Latin parsus and parcere, to spare; exhibiting or marked by parsimony, the quality of being careful with money or resources; stingy, thrifty

The soldiers in the air raid shelter parsimoniously shared their precious cigarettes.

pedantic: adj; to be excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning.  (contributed)

penumbra \pə-‘nəm-brə\ noun, from the Latin paene almost + umbra shadow; a space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse) between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light; something that covers, surrounds, or obscures

In John Green’s novel Paper Towns, Margo Roth Speigleman hides her true personality behind a penumbra of mystery.

pernicious \pər-‘nish-əs\ adj. from Latin pernicies, destruction; highly injurious or destructive

perspicacious \pər-spə-‘kā-shəs\ adj from Latin perspicere, transparent;  of acute mental vision or discernment

petulance \’pech-e-len(t)s\ noun; From Latin petulans, petere to go to, attack; the state of being rude or insolent in speech or behavior

polemical \pə-‘lə-mi-kəl\ adj, from Greek polemikos, warlike, and French polemique, controversial; controversial or disputatious

The popular congressman carefully avoided discussing the polemical topics of immigration and gun control during his speech.

polder \pōl-dər\ noun; Dutch; a tract of low land (as in the Netherlands) reclaimed from a body of water (as the sea).

Nineteen windmills in Kinderdijk keep the polder free from water.

portmanteau \pōrt-‘man-tō\ noun, from French porter to carry + manteau mantle; originally meaning a large carrying bag, but in 1882 it also came to be used as a word blending more than one use or quality.

preternaturally– adj; exceeding what is natural or regular (Latin)

prosaic \prō-‘za-ik\ adj from Latin prosa, prose; characteristic of prose as distinguished from poetry; dull, unimaginative; OR everyday, ordinary.

Amy happily kept herself busy with the prosaic activities of motherhood.

pugilistic \,pyü-jə-‘lis-tik\adj, from Latin pugil boxer, akin to pugnus fist; having to do with boxing

punctilious \pən(k)-‘til-ē-əs\ adj, from Italian punctiglio, a  point of honor or scruple; concerned about precise exact accordance with the details of codes or conventions

 The punctilious habits of our board president always led to long meetings.

pusillanimous \pyü-sǝ-lǝ-’la-nə-məs\ adjective from Latin pusillus very small (diminutive of pusus boy) + animus spirit;  lacking courage and resolution : marked by contemptible timidity

The Cowardly Lion mumbled a pusillanimous excuse as he hid behind Dorothy.

putative \ˈpyü-tə-tiv\ adjective from Latin putare to think; commonly accepted or supposed

The putative reason for her transfer was low sales.

rapacious \rə-‘pā-shəs\ adj, from Latin rapere to seize; excessively grasping or covetous; ravenous

Gollum watched the ring on Frodo’s neck with rapacious eyes.

sagacious \sƏ- ‘gā-shƏs\ adj from  Latin sagire,  to perceive keenly; of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment

salacious \sə-‘lā-shəs\  adj from Latin salax, fond of leaping, lustful, and salire to leap; arousing or appealing to sexual desire or imagination; lascivious

The boys at the back of the bus persisted with their salacious comments for the entire trip.

salubrious \sə-‘lü-brē-əs\ adj. from the Latin salubris healthful; favorable or promoting health or well-being

The next room was cleaner and more salubrious than the bathroom he just left.

samovar– noun; an urn shaped pot used to boil water for tea (Russian)

sardonic \sär-‘dän-ik\ adj from the French sardonique, from Greek sardonios; disdainfully or skeptically humorous; derisively mocking

Snape is a master of sardonic smiles.

sesquipedalian \sess-kwuh-puh-DAIL-yun\ adj; from Latin sesquipedalis, sesqui – one and a half, ped- footliterally a foot and a half long; having many syllables; characterized by the use of long words.

My eldest son, an avid reader, likes to use sesquipedalian words to impress his peers; usually they just think he’s weird.

sobriquet-\ Sō-bri-kā\ , noun, French: a descriptive name or epithet; nickname

Early in our relationship, my husband gave me the sobriquet “Beautiful.”  Aww!

supercilious \’su-per-‘sil-ē-əs\ adj, from Latin supercilium eyebrow, haughty; coolly and patronizingly haughty

Emma’s supercilious gaze froze Robert in mid-sentence.

surfeit \’sər-fət\ from Middle French, via Middle English, to “overdo”; noun- an overabundant supply; excess; an immoderate indulgence in something (food or drink); verb- to feed, supply, indulge

taciturn  \’ta-sǝ-tǝrn\ adj from Latin tacitus meaning silent; Temperamentally disinclined to talk

Halt sat grim and taciturn in the saddle as he searched the woods for signs of danger.

torpid \’tȯr-pəd\ adj, from Latin torpidus, torpere to be stiff or numb; having lost motion or power of exertion; sluggish in acting or functioning

truculent \’trek-yə-lənt\ adj, from the Latin truc-, trux, meaning fierce; feeling or displaying ferocity; cruel, harsh; aggressively self-assertive

The infamous football player always had truculent interactions with the media, often shouting and shaking his fist at reporters.

vapid \’va-pəd,’ vā-pəd\ adj, from Latin vapidus flat tasting; lacking liveliness, tang, briskness, or force; uninteresting
venial \’vē-nē-əl\ adj from Latin venia favor, pardon; akin to Latin venus, love; of a kind that can be remitted: forgivable, pardonable, venial faults 
verity \’ver-ə-ty\ noun from Latin veritas, true; something that is true, especially a fundamental and inevitably true value, such as honorlove, or patriotism; the quality or state of being honest
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed his belief in the verity of liberty.

vespertine \’ves-pər-tīn\ adj, from the Latin vesperinus, from vesper, meaning evening; of, relating to, or occurring in the evening; (biology) feeding, flying, or blossoming in the evening

vituperative \vī-‘tü-pǝr-rāt-iv\ adj from Latin vituperare from vitium fault + parare to make; containing or characterized by verbal abuse

Despite Rosa Hubermann’s vituperative nature, Liesel loved her.

winsome \’win-sƏm\ adj from Old English wynsum, wynn = joy; generally pleasing and engaging, often because of a childlike charm and innocence; cheerful


  1. LOVE this! I collect new words from books as well… I’m a word nerd too and I think I’m turning my eleven year old son into one as well haha!

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