Have you ever heard someone use a big word and thought “wow, they sound smart?” Be that person. Don’t just use this guide to big words as your end-all, be-all. Read as much as you can as it will help you fine tune your vocabulary. However, let this be your stop shop of words you should know to help you sound smart.

NOTE: All definitions come from Oxford Languages

Gauche

Pronunciation: go-sh, /ɡōSH/

Definition: lacking ease or grace; unsophisticated and socially awkward.

Ennui 

Pronunciation: an-wee

Definition: a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

Sycophant

Pronunciation: syc-o-phant

Definition: a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.

Obsequious

Pronunciation: ob-se-qui-ous

Definition: obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.

Superfluous

Pronunciation: Su-per-flu-ous, 

Definition: unnecessary, especially through being more than enough.

Dichotomy 

Pronunciation: di-chot-o-my

Definition: a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

Symbiotic 

Pronunciation: sym-bi-ot-ic

Definition: involving interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association; denoting a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

Ubiquitous

Pronunciation: u-biq-ui-tous

Definition: present, appearing, or found everywhere.

Maudlin

Pronunciation: maud-lin

Definition: self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental, often through drunkenness.

Flummoxed

Pronunciation: flum-moxed

Definition: bewildered or perplexed.

Umbrage 

Pronunciation: um-brage

Definition: offense or annoyance

Malaise

Pronunciation: ma-laise

Definition: a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify. 

Quid Pro Quo

Pronunciation: as spelled

Definition: a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.

Fastidious 

Pronunciation: fas-tid-i-ous

Definition: very attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail.

Esoteric

Pronunciation: es-o-ter-ic

Definition: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

Baroque 

Pronunciation: ba-roque

Definition: relating to or denoting a style of European architecture, music, and art of the 17th and 18th centuries that followed mannerism and is characterized by ornate detail. In architecture the period is exemplified by the palace of Versailles and by the work of Bernini in Italy; highly ornate and extravagant in style

Unrequited 

Pronunciation: un-re-quit-ed

Definition: (of a feeling, especially love) not returned or rewarded.

Capricious

Pronunciation: ca-pri-cious

Definition: given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.

Ostentatious 

Pronunciation: os-ten-ta-tious

Definition: characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice.

Avant-garde 

Pronunciation: a-vant-garde

Definition: new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts, or the people introducing them.

Fait accompli 

Pronunciation: fed-ac-com-plee

Definition: a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it.

Scintillating 

Pronunciation: scin-til-lating

Definition: sparkling or shining brightly; brilliantly and excitingly clever or skillful.

Acquiesce 

Pronunciation: ac-qui-esce

Definition: accept something reluctantly but without protest.

Nominal

Pronunciation: nom-i-nal

Definition: (of a role or status) existing in name only; (of a price or amount of money) very small; far below the real value or cost; (of a quantity or dimension, especially of manufactured articles) stated or expressed but not necessarily corresponding exactly to the real value; relating to, headed by, or having the function of a noun; (chiefly in the context of space travel) functioning normally or acceptably.

Posthumous

Pronunciation: post-hu-mous

Definition: occurring, awarded, or appearing after the death of the originator.

Syntax

Pronunciation: syn-tax

Definition: the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.

Sardonic

Pronunciation: sar-don-ic

Definition: grimly mocking or cynical.

Myriad

Pronunciation: myr-i-ad

Definition: a countless or extremely great number.

Obfuscate

Pronunciation: ob-fus-cate

Definition: render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

Erudite

Pronunciation: air-i-dite

Definition: having or showing great knowledge or learning.

Contrived

Pronunciation: con-trived

Definition: deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously.

Egregious

Pronunciation: e-gre-gious

Definition: outstandingly bad; shocking.

Cerebral

Pronunciation: ce-re-bral

Definition: of the cerebrum of the brain; intellectual rather than emotional or physical.

Colloquial

Pronunciation: col-lo-qui-al

Definition: (of language) used in ordinary or familiar conversation; not formal or literary.

Juxtaposition

Pronunciation: jux-ta-po-si-tion

Definition: the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

Magnanimous

Pronunciation: mag-nan-i-mous

Definition: generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or less powerful person.

Nihilism

Pronunciation: ni-hil-ism

Definition: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.

Paucity

Pronunciation: pau-city

Definition: the presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity. 

Sanguine

Pronunciation: san-quine

Definition: optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.

Vitriolic

Pronunciation: vit-ri-ol-ic

Definition: filled with bitter criticism or malice.

Banal

Pronunciation: ba-nal

Definition: so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.

Candor

Pronunciation: can-dor

Definition: the quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness.

Existential

Pronunciation: ex-is-ten-tial

Definition: concerned with existence, especially human existence as viewed in the theories of existentialism; affirming or implying the existence of a thing.

Fortuitous

Pronunciation: for-tu-i-tous

Definition: happening by accident or chance rather than design; happening by a lucky chance; fortunate.

Incongruous

Pronunciation: in-con-gru-ous

Definition: not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.

Modicum

Pronunciation: mod-i-cum

Definition: a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something considered desirable or valuable.

Nuance

Pronunciation: nu-ance

Definition: a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.

Perfunctory

Pronunciation: per-funct-ory

Definition: (of an action or gesture) carried out with a minimum of effort or reflection.

Ambiguity

Pronunciation: am-bi-gu-i-ty

Definition: the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.

Hubris

Pronunciation: hu-bris

Definition: excessive pride or self-confidence.

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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