Fed up with tired old swear words? Try dipping into the past to discover some curses that sound like sophisticated words but are actually very insulting.

Let’s face it most swear words are overused and boring. We rely on sad metaphors for sex and going to the toilet when we want to insult someone. Yet, there are some little-known sophisticated words which are much better to use instead of common swearings.

Well, let’s get a bit more imaginative. There are plenty of ways to insult someone or vent your feelings. You only have to dig around in the history of language, from Greek, Latin and Old English, with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in. Here are 20 seemingly sophisticated words from the past that are not all that they seem.

1. Pediculous

This insult has a Latin origin. It means lice-infested.

2. Bescumber

You certainly wouldn’t want to be bescumbered. It literally means to spray with poo.

3. Xanthodontous

It may sound like the name of a dinosaur, but this actually means yellow-toothed. It comes from the Greek xanthos (yellow) and odont (having teeth).

4. Coccydynia

This one literally means a pain in the butt. It’s actually a real medical term for a pain in the coccyx or tailbone.

5. Ructabunde

If there is someone in your life that likes the sound of their voice a little too much, this might be the perfect way to insult them. It means a gasbag or someone full of hot air. From the Latin ructus (belch) and abundus (abundant).

6. Ninnyhammer

A ninny hammer is fool or a silly person. It’s sometimes shortened to ninny, but I prefer the original English term that dates from the 1590s.

7. Flagitious

Save this one for someone you really despise as it means thoroughly wicked or villainous. It comes from the Latin flagitium (shameful act).

8. Hicismus

Hicismus means someone who has smelly armpits. It comes from the Latin “hircus” meaning goat. So presumably, really stinky armpits must smell a bit like goats.

9. Quisquilian

Be careful how you use this one as its pretty harsh! Quisquilian means someone who is totally worthless. It’s from the Latin quisquiliae (waste matter or rubbish).

10. Rampallian

A rampallian is a good-for-nothing scoundrel, wretch or rascal.

11. Fopdoodle

You probably know someone who can sometimes be a bit dim. A fopdoodle is the perfect insult of them as it means a stupid or insignificant person.

12. Fissilingual

When you can’t trust a word someone says, use this insult. It means fork-tongued. This one is also Latin in origin. It comes from fissus (split) and lingua (tongue).

13. Keffel

In the 19th century, Keffel was used to describe posh people with big teeth.

14. Quidnunc

If you have someone in your life that is always nosing about in your business, this one is for them. It means a person who wants to know all the latest news or gossip. In other words, a busybody or nosy parker. It comes from the Latin quid nunc meaning ‘what now?’

15. Zounderkite

A Victorian word for the kind of bumbling idiot that will end up making an unbelievably stupid mistake.

16. Excerebrose

This insult means literally brainless. It comes from Latin the Latin ex (without) and cerebrum (brain).

17. Rakefire

If you get called a rakefire, you might suspect it is a compliment because it sounds quite cool. It’s not. A rakefire is someone who outstays there welcome so long that the fire has burned down to ashes.

18. Furfuraceous

This is a highly original insult – if you can pronounce it! It means flaky or dandruff-covered. It comes from the Latin, chaff which are the worthless husks of corn separated by threshing.

19. Exophthalmic

This is not a very nice thing to say, I must admit. It means bug-eyed and comes from the Greek ex (out) and ophthalmos (eye).

20. Morosoph

Some people may be brainy but have no common sense. This insult describes them perfectly. It means a learned fool. From Greek moros (stupid) and Sophos (wise).

Closing thoughts

So next time you are tempted to use a boring, overused swear word to insult someone, try using one of these slightly more sophisticated words and insults instead.


  1. Mental Floss
  2. Depraved and Insulting English by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Suzet

    With all due respect it sounds a little bit oxymoron…
    This insult means literally brainless.”
    If you trying to tell someone that he/she is brainless…how they gonna get this complicated word? They are brainless as it is…
    And so are most of those words…
    In any case, I had fun with them

  2. E

    Excellent list. Thank you. Will be using as a better alternative to swearing.

  3. Mario

    I think clotpole should be added up there.

  4. idris


  5. Ghansham

    thank you

  6. Unknown

    I read all of these and I can’t stop laughing. The person i used this on fits perfectly for them!

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