Language lets us communicate with each other and share our ideas. Some linguists even suggest that language shapes our knowledge and thought. So, expanding or vocabulary by learning new, interesting words can help us communicate better and have more ideas.
The average English speaking knows around 12,000 -25,000 words, yet the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use. So, most of us are missing out on knowing, using and enjoying thousands of interesting words.
Some linguists suggest that if we don’t have a word for a certain, it is almost impossible to understand that concept. Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf was an early proponent of this idea, suggesting different linguistic systems affected the thoughts and behaviour of language users. He studied the language of the Brazilian Piraha people and found that they have no word for quantity. In their language, there is just a word for one, and a word for more than one. This meant that they did not understand the concept of quantity in the same way that we do.
So, if specific words can help us to understand concepts and broaden our knowledge and understanding of the world, it is worth spending some time learning some new, and interesting words.
Here are 15 interesting words to get you started on the journey to crafting a more varied and effective vocabulary.
I am assuming that as you are reading this article, you may be something of a logophile or ‘lover of words’. Logophile comes from the Greek ‘logos’ meaning speech and ‘phile’ meaning lover or friend.
This interesting word is derived from the lead character in Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes. In the novel, Quixote decides to become a knight in order to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked. Because of this character, we call someone Quixotic if they are unrealistically optimistic or have a comically chivalrous approach to life.
Interestingly, the word scrooge was coined in the same way, a scrooge being a mean person and coming from the character Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Liminal means on the edge of things or between things. It describes marshy landscapes that are neither really land or sea. However, it can also be used to describe states of consciousness. Dreams often occur in the liminal state between sleeping and waking.
The word esoteric is used to describe special knowledge that is available only to a select group of people. Belief systems that rely on secret information and practices are often described as esoteric.
Examples of esoteric doctrines include Masonic Lodges, the Theosophical Society and the Eleusinian mysteries.
Numinous is a delightful word that means spiritual or supernatural. The word can be applied to anything that is mysterious or surpasses our human understanding.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge. This branch of philosophy is specifically concerned with the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge. So, I guess it really describes the process of thinking about thinking.
Though schadenfreude is a lovely sounding word, feeling it is not something to be proud of. Schadenfreude means experiencing pleasure or satisfaction from the trouble, failure or humiliation of others.
Most of us know someone who is a little loquacious. They talk – a lot! Unfortunately, most of the things they talk about are interesting only to them. This makes them the worst person to get stuck with at a dinner party.
Hubris is a concept that originated in ancient Greece and today describes excessive presumption, exaggerated pride or self-confidence – even arrogance. It’s a shame that such a nice word describes such a horrible personality trait.
A Bibliophile is a lover of books. The word comes from the Greek biblion ‘book’ + philos ‘lover or friend’. Bibliophiles have a particular interest in beautiful or rare books and many also collect antiques and first editions.
Eurhythmic means having an aesthetically pleasing rhythm or structure. So, I guess that’s what makes it the perfect name for a band.
Fugacious means fleeting or transient. It is similar to the even more attractive ephemeral, which means lasting a very short time.
Many things in life are beautiful but fleeting, the life of a mayfly, the moment the sun goes down on a glorious summer’s day, or the brief time a rainbow decorates the sky. Perhaps it is their fugacious nature that makes these moments so special.
If something is elysian, it is blissful or delightful. The word comes from the Greek “Elysian field,” where the heroic and the virtuous go after death. So, I suppose it is similar to heavenly.
Metanoia describes a profound, usually spiritual, transformation. This unusual word perfectly describes the process of changing one’s mind, heart, spiritual direction or way of life in a radical way.
This seems like a good word to use instead of the overused ‘enlightened’ or ‘spiritual awakening‘.
Lollygag is my favorite new interesting word. It means to spend time in an aimless or lazy way, to idle about or goof off. So, I guess lollygagging is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
So that’s enough interesting words for today. I am off to spend the afternoon lollygagging.
We’d love to hear your favourite interesting words. Please share them with us in the comments.
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