May 16, 2022 - Economy & Business

Underused words for your repertoire

Illustration of two mouths surrounded by 90s style pattern

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Some 75% of our daily speaking comes from just 800 words, BBC estimates.

The big picture: We all fall into language patterns and ruts, so we asked Axios' staff and Axios Finish Line readers (sign up here for free) to give us their favorite cool, underused words to lengthen our vocabulary lists.

Here are some fun ones worth elevating — and their Merriam-Webster definitions:

  • apricity: the warmth of the sun in the winter
  • protean: displaying great diversity or variety, like an actor who can do both comedy and tragedy
  • doyen: a person considered to be uniquely skilled and experienced in a certain field
  • petrichor: the pleasant smell of the earth after a rainstorm following a long dry period
  • spindrift: sea spray
  • susurrus: a whispering or rustling sound (it sounds like what it means!)
  • avuncular: suggestive of an uncle especially in kindliness or geniality
  • frabjous: wonderful, extraordinary, joyous (Fun fact: Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon used frabjous in a story once.)
  • perspicacious: possessing acute skills of discernment
  • mellifluous: having a smooth, rich flow
  • crepuscular: resembling twilight or something that occurs at twilight
  • peripatetic: traveling from place to place
  • halcyon: characterized by happiness, great success and prosperity
  • jejune: devoid of significance or interest
  • pauciloquy: brevity in speech
  • hamartia: a tragic flaw in a hero or heroine
  • bucolic: an idyllic quality typical of rural life
  • popinjay: a strutting, supercilious person
  • alacrity: promptness in response; cheerful readiness
  • tintinnabulation: the ringing, jingling, tinkling of bells
  • bloviate: verboseness in speaking or writing
  • sangfroid: extreme calmness and steadiness under pressure

And one in Spanish...

  • sobremesa: "It literally translates to 'over table,' and it refers to the time that people spend chatting and enjoying each other at the table once they have finished a meal," Finish Line reader Larisa Alvarez writes.

The bottom line: We can always expand our vocabularies to communicate our ideas with more precision — or just find new words that make us smile.

Go deeper