Weird Words – Meaning & Examples With Pronunciation

13.03.24 Language rules Time to read: 11min

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Weird-words-01

The English language is an intricate tapestry. The term “weird words” refers to those terms that stand out due to their unusual spelling, meaning, or origin, challenging the conventional language rules of how we understand communication. These words enrich the English lexicon and invite us to explore the complexities inherent in language usage. Examining these peculiar terms reveals the adaptive qualities of probably the strangest language, showing how rules aren’t always as fixed.

Weird words in a nutshell

Weird words in English are those that stand out because they have unusual spellings, meanings, or origins that don’t seem to follow the usual patterns or rules of the language. Furthermore, weird words appear strange because they are rarely used in everyday speech or writing. What makes a word “weird” can vary, but generally, it includes unusual spelling, strange meanings, and unique origins. We’re intrigued by odd words because they challenge conventions and add variety and color to our interactions and writing.

Definition: Weird words

Weird words are those elements within English that exhibit peculiar spellings, meanings, or origins. They don’t follow the usual rules for language, which makes it challenging to understand how words should behave. These weird words often capture attention due to their distinctive characteristics.

  1. Peculiar spellings: Weird words may not conform to the usual phonetic or spelling conventions, making them stand out. For example, words like “phaeton” (a type of open, four-wheeled carriage) have spellings that are not intuitive based on their pronunciation.
  2. Unusual meanings: The meanings of weird words can be highly specific, obscure, or simply unexpected. Words like “quixotic” (exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical) derive from specific literary references or historical contexts, giving them a unique place in the language.
  3. Unique origins: Many weird words have been borrowed from other languages and incorporated into English with minimal adaptation, retaining foreign spelling or pronunciation patterns. Others may have originated from very specific historical, scientific, or cultural contexts.

In essence, weird words are those that defy the regular patterns of English, intriguing and sometimes baffling both native speakers and language learners alike with their unconventional nature.

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Weird words in English

From archaic terms that have trickled down through centuries to modern concoctions that reflect contemporary phenomena, weird words in English showcase the language’s dynamic and evolving nature. Whether it’s the peculiar pronunciation of “quire” or the baffling concept behind “falsiloquence,” each weird word opens a window into the vast, intricate world of English vocabulary, inviting us to expand our linguistic horizons and appreciate the richness and diversity of this global tongue.

Weird words as nouns

Falsiloquence

  • Pronunciation: /fælˈsɪləkwəns/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: Intentionally misleading or deceitful speech.
  • Synonyms: Mendacity, prevarication, fabrication

Example

  • His argument was dismissed as mere falsiloquence.
  • His argument was dismissed as mere mendacity.

Flibbertigibbet

  • Pronunciation: /ˈflɪbərtɪˌɡɪbɪt/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: A frivolous, flighty, or excessively talkative person.
  • Synonyms: Scatterbrain, chatterbox, flighty person

Example

  • She’s a flibbertigibbet, always bouncing from topic to topic.
  • She’s a scatterbrain, always bouncing from topic to topic.

Gobbledygook

  • Pronunciation: /ˈɡɒb(ə)ldɪˌɡuːk/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: A meaningless language.
  • Synonyms: Jargon, babble, gibberish

Example

  • The report was full of legal gobbledygook.
  • The report was full of legal jargon.

Gubbins

  • Pronunciation: /ˈɡʌbɪnz/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: Miscellaneous items.
  • Synonyms: Trinkets, gadgets, knick-knacks

Example

  • These are just little gubbins he made as a kid.
  • These are just little trinkets he made as a kid.

Mumpsimus

  • Pronunciation: /ˈmʌmp.sɪ.məs/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: A person who stubbornly adheres to old customs despite evidence that they are mistaken.
  • Synonyms: Stickler, traditionalist, dogmatist

Example

  • Despite being corrected, he remained a mumpsimus about his outdated beliefs.
  • Despite being corrected, he remained a stickler about his outdated beliefs.

Quire

  • Pronunciation: /kwʌɪər/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: Two dozen sheets of paper, sometimes also 25 sheets.
  • Synonyms: None

Example

  • He bought a quire of paper for his printer.
  • He bought two dozen sheets of paper for his printer.

Weird words as verbs

Bumfuzzle

  • Pronunciation: /ˈbʌmˌfʌzəl/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To confuse or perplex.
  • Synonyms: To confuse, to perplex, to bewilder

Example

  • The new policy did nothing but bumfuzzle the employees.
  • The new policy did nothing but confuse the employees.

Canoodle

  • Pronunciation: /kəˈnuːdəl/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To engage in amorous embracing, caressing, and kissing.
  • Synonyms: To cuddle, to snuggle, to embrace

Example

  • The couple was canoodling in the park.
  • The couple was cuddling in the park.

Flub

  • Pronunciation: /flʌb/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: Is an onomatopoeia which refers to a thing badly or clumsily done.
  • Synonyms: To blunder, to bugle, to err

Example

  • He flubbed his lines during the play.
  • He blundered his lines during the play.

Lollygag

  • Pronunciation: /ˈlɒl.i.ɡæɡ/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To spend time aimlessly; to dawdle.
  • Synonyms: To dally, to dawdle, to loiter

Example

  • Stop lollygagging and get to work!
  • Stop dallying and get to work!

Weird words as adjectives

Cattywumpus

  • Pronunciation: /ˌkætɪˈwɒmpəs/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Askew or awry; not directly across from something.
  • Synonyms: Askew, awry, crooked

Example

  • The picture on the wall was all cattywampus.
  • The picture on the wall was all askew.

Nudiustertian

  • Pronunciation: /ˌnjuː.diːˈʌs.tɜː.ʃən/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Pertaining to the day before yesterday.
  • Synonyms: None

Example

  • I finished the project the nudiustertian night.

Valetudinarian

  • Pronunciation: /ˌvælɪˌtjuːdɪˈnɛərɪən/
  • Part of speech: Adjective (also used as a noun)
  • Meaning: A weak person who is excessively concerned about their health.
  • Synonyms: Hypochondriac, invalid, convalescent

Example

  • He became valetudinarian in his old age.
  • He became hypochondriacal in his old age.

Strange words in academic writing

Weird words can also be found in academic writing. Often, specialized vocabulary that can seem unusual or complex to those outside specific fields of study is being employed. These English strange words are used to convey precise meaning or to fit the formal tone of scholarly discourse. Here are some examples of unusual words and their meaning that frequently appear in academic essays, across various disciplines.

Weird words as nouns in academic writing

Paradigm

  • Pronunciation: /ˈpærədaɪm/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: A typical example or pattern of something.
  • Use: Scientific and philosophical discussions to describe dominant theoretical frameworks.
  • Synonyms: Model, pattern, example

Example

  • His discovery challenged the existing scientific paradigm.
  • His discovery challenged the existing scientific model.

Pedagogy

  • Pronunciation: /ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: Method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.
  • Use: Education and training discussions.
  • Synonyms: Teaching, education, instruction

Example

  • Effective pedagogy is essential for student engagement.
  • Effective teaching is essential for student engagement.

Defenestration

  • Pronunciation: /ˌdiːˌfɛn.ɪˈstreɪ.ʃən/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: The act of throwing someone or something out of a window.
  • Use: Description of action or as figure of speech to indicate removal in a sudden/forceful manner.
  • Synonyms: Ejection, Expulsion, Removal

Example

  • The CEO’s sudden defenestration shocked the entire company.
  • The CEO’s sudden removal shocked the entire company.

Pulchritude

  • Pronunciation: /ˈpʌlk.rɪ.tjuːd/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: Beauty, especially physical beauty.
  • Use: Description of physical beauty or attractiveness.
  • Synonyms: Beauty, attractiveness

Example

  • The painting captured the essence of her pulchritude, highlighting every feature.
  • The painting captured the essence of her beauty, highlighting every feature.

Verisimilitude

  • Pronunciation: /ˌvɛr.ɪ.sɪˈmɪl.ɪ.tjuːd/
  • Part of speech: Noun
  • Meaning: The appearance of being true or real.
  • Use: In literary studies, film criticism, and philosophy.
  • Synonyms: Realism, likeness, plausibility

Example

  • The verisimilitude in her painting made the landscape seem alive.
  • The realism in her painting made the landscape seem alive.

Progenitor

  • Pronunciation: /prəˈdʒɛn.ɪ.tər/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: A person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended.
  • Use: In genetics, history, or literary studies to refer to a direct ancestor.
  • Synonyms: Ancestor, forefather, precursor

Example

  • He is considered the progenitor of modern abstract art.
  • He is considered the ancestor of modern abstract art.

Weird words as verbs in academic writing

Ameliorate

  • Pronunciation: /əˈmiːlɪəreɪt/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To make something bad or unsatisfactory better.
  • Use: Environmental science, policy analysis, and health sciences.
  • Synonyms: To improve, to enhance, to better

Example

  • The new law aims to ameliorate the effects of pollution.
  • The new law aims to improve the effects of pollution.

Eschew

  • Pronunciation: /ɪˈʃuː/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To deliberately avoid using something, especially because it is considered morally wrong.
  • Use: Ethical or moral discussions, personal reasons.
  • Synonyms: To avoid, to abstain from, steer clear of

Example

  • The student eschewed traditional research methods in his work.
  • The student avoided traditional research methods in his work.

Perambulate

  • Pronunciation: /pəˈræmbjʊleɪt/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To walk or travel through a place, especially for pleasure or leisure.
  • Use: Descriptions of walking through parks, gardens, or historic districts.
  • Synonyms: To walk, to stroll, to wander

Example

  • The new law aims to ameliorate the effects of pollution.
  • The new law aims to improve the effects of pollution.

Equivocate

  • Pronunciation: /ɪˈkwɪv.ə.keɪt/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To use ambiguous language to conceal the truth or avoid committing to a specific situation.
  • Use: In debates, interviews, or discussions of ethical issues.
  • Synonyms: To dodge, to evade, to beat around the bush

Example

  • Some politicians equivocate specific questions on purpose.
  • Some politicians dodge specific questions on purpose.

Prevaricate

  • Pronunciation: /prɪˈværɪˌkeɪt/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To speak or act in an evasive way, avoiding direct answers.
  • Use: In discussions about politics, law, ethics, and situations where truthfulness is in question.
  • Synonyms: To equivocate, to hedge, to evade

Example

  • The candidate began to prevaricate when asked about his previous job history.
  • The candidate began to equivocate when asked about his previous job history.

Obfuscate

  • Pronunciation: /ˈɒb.fjuˌskeɪt/
  • Part of speech: Verb
  • Meaning: To deliberately make something unclear or difficult to understand.
  • Use: In discussions of rhetoric, ethics, or politics.
  • Synonyms: To confuse, to obscure, to complicate

Example

  • Legal jargon was used to obfuscate the case facts.
  • Legal jargon was used to confuse the case facts.

Weird words as adjectives in academic writing

Ephemeral

  • Pronunciation: /ɪˈfɛmərəl/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Lasting for a very short time to describe fleeting moments or transient effects.
  • Use: Literature, philosophy, and the arts.
  • Synonyms: Transient, fleeting, short-lived

Example

  • The beauty of an ephemeral bloom is captivating yet fleeting.
  • The beauty of a transient bloom is captivating yet fleeting.

Esoteric

  • Pronunciation: /ˌiːsəˈtɛrɪk/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Likely to be understood by only a few people with specialized knowledge or interest.
  • Use: Texts dealing with specialized or niche subjects across disciplines.
  • Synonyms: Arcane, obscure, cryptic

Example

  • The book is full of esoteric concepts difficult for the layperson to understand.
  • The book is full of arcane concepts difficult for the layperson to understand.

Ostensible

  • Pronunciation: /ɒˈstɛnsɪbl/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.
  • Use: Critical theory and political science to question the apparent nature of something.
  • Synonyms: Apparent, seeming, supposed

Example

  • Her ostensible reason for visiting was to see the new exhibit.
  • Her apparent reason for visiting was to see the new exhibit.

Pernicious

  • Pronunciation: /pərˈnɪʃəs/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Having a harmful effect.
  • Use: Legal, medical, and sociological texts.
  • Synonyms: Harmful, destructive, deadly

Example

  • The pernicious weed spread rapidly through the farmland.
  • The harmful weed spread rapidly through the farmland.

Ubiquitous

  • Pronunciation: /juːˈbɪkwɪtəs/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Present, appearing, or found everywhere.
  • Use: Technology, environmental studies, and cultural studies to describe widespread phenomena.
  • Synonyms: Omnipresent, pervasive, everywhere

Example

  • Smartphones are now ubiquitous in modern society.
  • Smartphones are now omnipresent in modern society.

Quixotic

  • Pronunciation: /kwɪkˈsɒtɪk/
  • Part of speech: Adjective
  • Meaning: Spirit of noble idealism and foolishness in pursuit of unattainable goals.
  • Use: Academic and literary discussions to add a layer of nuance.
  • Synonyms: Idealistic, visionary, utopian

Example

  • His quixotic quest for a perfect society was both admirable and impossible.
  • His utopian quest for a perfect society was both admirable and impossible.

These words are valued in academic writing for their ability to express complex ideas succinctly and with the necessary degree of specificity. However, it’s important for writers to ensure that their use of such vocabulary enhances clarity and comprehension for their intended audience.

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What makes words weird?

Words are considered weird for several reasons, typically because they deviate from what’s typically expected in language in terms of their spelling, pronunciation, meaning, or origin. Here are the primary factors that contribute to a weird word.

Uncommon spelling or pronunciation

Weird words might be spelled in ways that don’t seem to match their pronunciation, or that contain letter combinations uncommon in English.

Example

  • “Pterodactyl” with its silent “p” at the beginning.

Odd or specific meanings

Weird words have highly specific, obscure, or particularly unusual meanings.

Example

  • “Defenestrate,” which means to throw someone out of a window.

Unique or foreign origins

Weird words have been borrowed from other languages and retain elements of the original spelling, pronunciation, or meaning.

Example

  • “Schadenfreude” is a German word used in English to describe pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.

Rare or archaic use

Weird words also refer to words that are no longer in common use or that are considered archaic due to their unfamiliarity to most speakers.

Example

  • “Flibbertigibbet” means a frivolous, flighty person.

Conceptual uniqueness

Weird words also describe concepts that are unusual or difficult to grasp, making them stand out in everyday language. These words stand out due to their ability to condense intricate concepts into a single term, highlighting the language’s capacity for innovation and depth.

Example

  • “Serendipity” describes the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

FAQs

Here are ten weird words:

  • Bumfuzzle
  • Cattywampus
  • Lollygag
  • Snollygoster
  • Canoodle
  • Flibbertigibbet
  • Mumpsimus
  • Nudiustertian
  • Quire
  • Gobbledygook

One of the most unusual words in English is “antidisestablishmentarianism.” This weird word refers to the opposition to the withdrawal of state support or recognition from an established church, especially the Anglican Church in 19th-century England. It’s often cited as one of the longest and most unusual words.

A weird word that is also random and cool is “petrichor.” It described the pleasant, earthy smell that comes after rain, especially when rain falls after a warm, dry period.

A weird word that is also cool as well as unique is “ephemeral.” It describes something that lasts for a very short time, highlighting the transient beauty of moments and phenomena.

A word is considered weird if it has unusual spelling, pronunciation, meaning, or origin, especially if it significantly deviates from the norms or expectations of the language.