Good vocabulary has always impressed me. In college, my roommates and I would play a game: over the course of the semester, we kept a collection of any unfamiliar words that we came across in our studies. When finals season came around, we would choose 6-8 really exceptional vocabulary words, and post them and their definitions on the wall in the kitchen where we write all our exam papers. The goal was to use as many words as possible per essay (properly, of course). I can still look over my senior thesis and pick out which words were that semester’s “house vocab” words.
But I noticed that I don’t do that anymore; my vocabulary is stagnating. My current read, The Etched City, has some fantastic vocab words in it. Here are some of my favorites so far:
Acrimonious – (adj.) caustic, stinging or bitter in nature or speech. Medieval Latin: acri- from the root “acer” (sharp, sour).
Caparison – (noun) a decorative covering for a horse’s tack or harness, or rich and sumptuous clothing or equipment. Old Spanish: caparazón from the root “capa” (cape).
Yataghan – (noun) Ottoman saber with a curved blade. Turkish: yatağan.
Quiddity – (noun) the essential nature of a thing, or a trifling nicety of subtle distinction. Medieval Latin: quidditas from the root “quid” (what).
Bathos – (noun) a ludicrous descent from the lofty to the commonplace, an anticlimax. Greek: “bathos” (depth).
Afrit – (noun) a powerful evil demon or monster. Arabic: afrit from the Pahlavi root “afritan” (creature).
Desuetude – (noun) the state of being that is no longer used or practiced. Latin: desuetudo from the root “desue” (to unlearn).
Cynosure – (noun) something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, or something serving for guidance. Greek: Kynosoura (the Greek name for the Ursa Minor constellation, literally “dog’s tail”).
Oneiromancy – (noun) divination through dreams. Greek:
Naphtha – (noun) petroleum, or a volatile petroleum distillate somewhere between gasoline and benzine. Iranian: nafta from the root “nab” (to be damp).
Suborn – (verb) to bribe someone unlawfully or secretly to perform a crime. Latin: subornare from the root “ornare” (to equip).
Coruscating – (verb) to emit vivid flashed of light, or to sparkle or gleam. Latin: coruscare (to quiver, flash).
Quotidian – (adj.) daily, ordinary or customary. Latin: cottidianus from the root “cottidi” (every day).
Gnosis – (noun) knowledge of spiritual or mystical matters. Greek: gnosis (seeking to know).