Important Infrequently Used Words To Know

Paul V. Hartman

(The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)


alacrity       a-LACK-ra-tee      cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema       a-NATH-a-ma      a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne        AN-a-dine      not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull//anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism       AFF-oar-ism      a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate       ah-POSS-tate       (also:  apostasy)      person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate       ARROW-gate      to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic      at-a-VIS-tic      reverting to a primitive type
avuncular      a-VUNC-you-lar      “like an uncle”; benevolent


bathos         BATH-ose      an anticlimax
bereft         ba-REFT      to be deprived of something valuable      “He was bereft of reason.”


calumny        KAL-um-knee      a slander or false accusation
canard         kan-ARD      a fabricated story (French=”duck”; morte canard=dead duck)
cant      kant      insincerity
chimera        ki-MEER-ah   (not: chim-er-ah)      Originally: a mythical beast; any unreal thing; foolish fancy      (adj=chimerical     ki-MEER-a-cal)
cloy      to grow sick from an abundance of something
comitatus      com-a-TAY-tus      loyalty to one’s band or group
concatenation       con-CAT-a-nation      things linked together or joined in a chain
copacetic      “going just right”
cosseted       KOS-a-ted     pampered
cupidity       que-PID-a-tee      greed; avarice

cynosure  SIGH-na-shore      (from the Greek: “dog’s tail”)      center of attention; point to which all eyes are drawn.
 (Really? From “dog’s tail”? Yes. The “dog’s tail” appears in a constellation, locating the North star, which rivets the attention of sailors at sea. Thus:     center of attention.) (see also: sinecure)


dilettante          DILL-ah-tent 

1. having superficial/amateurish interest in a branch of knowledge;

2. a connoisseur or lover of the fine arts

discursive          dis-KUR-seive      covering a wide field of subjects
docent         DOE-cent      a teacher, but not regular faculty; a museum tour guide


egregious      a-GREE-jous      conspicuously bad; flagrant; shocking
epigone        EP-a-goan      a second rate imitator or follower


fatuous        FAT-chew-us      foolish; stupid; silly
felicity       fa-LISS-a-tee      bliss; a pleasing aptness in speech and deportment; grace
furtive        FURR-tive      sly; shifty; secretive


gratuitous          gra-TOO-a-tus      given freely


haik           HIKE      a large piece of cloth worn as an outer garment by Arabs.
heuristic      HYOUR-is-tik   (noun)      an idea or speculation acting as a guide to an investigation
hubris         HUE-bris      arrogance from excessive pride or passion  (hubristic)


ignominy       IG-na-min-ee     (noun)       (also: ignoble)      signifying disgrace or dishonor        (ignominious)
incisive       in-SI-seive      displaying sharp mental perception; direct and effective
inimical       in-IM-a-cal      unfriendly; hostile
insipid        in-SIP-id      (adj.)      Lacking flavor, zest, or interest; dull
insuperable         in-SUPER-a-bul      not able to be overcome
inveigh        in-VAY      attack verbally
iterative      IT-ter-a-tive      something recurring or repeating      (“An iterative process”)

jeremiad       jer-a-MY-add      a series of doleful, dismal complaints


lagniappe      lan-yap        (noun) (a Creole word)      something given away as a gift for buying something else (such as an ashtray given for buying a full tank of gas)
leitmotif      LIGHT-moe-teef      a dominant or recurring theme or pattern
luddite        LUD-ite      a person who tries to halt progress by smashing machines


manque         mon-KAY      unfulfilled; frustrated (literally: maimed)      “He was an artist manque.”
maudlin        MAUDE-lin      easily emotional
mendacious          men-DAY-shous      (adj.)      untruthful.          (the noun is mendacity)
meretricious        mer-a-TRISH-ous      deceitful; tawdry  (Note that the two words above are pejorative, but if the meaning is not known, they “sound” meritorious.)
misanthrope         MISS-an-throwp     a person who dislikes the human race


nugatory       NEW-ga-tory      trifling; worthless; ineffective


obloquy        OB-la-key      a public reproach
opprobrium          ah-PROBE-re-um      disgrace arising from shameful conduct;  a reproach mingled with contempt “That word – a term of opprobrium – cut him like a knife.”


paradigm       PEAR-ah-dime      “side by side”; a pattern or example. A “paradigm shift” is      usually used to signify a major change in thinking or acting, in the sense of employing new examples.
parvenue       PAR-ven-oou     an upstart; someone trying to rise above their proper place
pejorative     pa-JOUR-a-tive      tending to be worse; downgrading; disparaging
penury         PEN-your-ee      extreme poverty
peremptory     per-EM-tory      a command which may not be refused
perdition      per-DISH-un      future misery, such as in going to Hell
perfidy        PUR-fa-dee      treachery; falsehood     (perfidious is the adjective)
perfunctory         pur-FUNK-tory      done routinely, with little interest or care
peripatetic         PER-ee-pa-TET-ick      walking about; itinerant  (Often used to describe Aristotle)
philistine     PHIL-a-stine      a person lacking culture; narrow minded with common tastes
poignant       POIN-yent  An adjective with multiple flavors:

1: appealing to emotion 2: physically painful 3: sharp, pungent

4: piercing, incisive   5: astute, pertinent  6: neat, skillful

poltroon       pole-troon      a thoroughly cowardly person
polymath       polly-math      a person of great or (more usually) varied learning.     (poly=much          math=learning)
presentiment        pre-SENT-a-ment      a foreboding of misfortune
propitiate          pro-PISH-ee-ate      pacify
puerile        PURE-ill   (Fr.: “puer” – child)      juvenile, immature, childish
punctilio      punk-TILL-ee-oh    (noun)      a fine point of etiquette; precise observance of formalities or ceremony; precise to the letter


rancor         RANG-kur      vindictive malice
rapacity       ra-PASS-a-tee      act of seizing that which is coveted; greed
recondite      REK-in-dite      hard to understand; profound; obscure; concealed
regnant        REG-nant      reigning; predominant; widespread


samizdat       SAM-iz-dot      an underground newspaper
sanguine       SANG-win      cheerful, confident
sanguinary     SANG-win-airy      bloody     (note the huge difference in meaning between the above two  similarly sounding words)
saturnine      SAT-ter-nine      morose; gloomy
scurrilous          SKER-a-less      grossly offensive and vulgar
seriatim       sir-ee-AT-um      occurring one after another; in serial fashion
sinecure       SIN-a-cure      a job (usually politically appointed) requiring little or no work.   (See also: cynosure)
sobriquet      so-bric-KAY      a nickname or an assumed name (“Minnesota Fats”)
solecism       SOL-a-sys-um      an ungrammatical combination of words
specious       SPEE-shous      appearing to be right; deceptively good looking
spurious       SPYOUR-ee-ous      false
sycophant      SIGH-ko-phant      a flattering parasite


terse      short and to the point; pithy
turpitude      TUR-pa-toode      depravity
unctuous        UNK-shus      oily and persuasive


venal          VEE-nal      a sacrifice of honor for profit
veracity     ver-ASS-a-tee      truthfulness
voracity     vor-ASS-a-tee      greed  (the above two words are very close in spelling and pronunciation, but mean quite different things.)
verisimilitude      ver-ah-SIM-ah-la-tude      the quality of appearing to be true or real

Click to read:
13 wonderful old english wordsfree-books2

Positive personality Adjectives List justenglish.meImportant infrequently used words to know (pdf)

Another 20 Forgotten words that should be brought back
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68 responses to “Important Infrequently Used Words To Know”

  1. Chantelle says :

    Just saw this one Stumble Upon… so glad I did… words like these make me happy 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nick Peter says :

    Interesting, All above given commonly used words will help me to enhance communication skills. Thanks a lot.

  3. C. C. Hogan, Author (@Its_CCHogan) says :

    What happened to X, Y and Z?

    Great little list. Nothing worse than repetition in sentences, so alternatives are always welcome.

  4. Athena says :

    But overall the words listed are solid meaty words.

  5. Bren Murphy says :

    Wow this is good stuff – I am hothousing my eight year old with it.

  6. Cathe says :

    Nice one

  7. Mawunyega Raphael says :

    wow …,what a wonderful!!!!! I always enjoy it.Thanks so much.

  8. Monica says :

    is there a list of positive words?

  9. slick the wiz says :

    great words you have here

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