20 Beautiful Words You’ve Probably Never Seen Before

In 1989 the complete second iteration of the Oxford English Dictionary comprised just over 228,000 in-use, outdated or derivative words, and no one really knows what that figure stands at today. Suffice to say, though, that there are a tremendous amount of words in the English language, and it’s impossible for anyone to know all of them. Here are some of the more beautiful and rare examples with which you may not be familiar.

Pantagruelian

Pantagruel was the name given to a giant bunny in a series of books by French writer François Rabelais in the 1500s. Therefore, pantagruelian – pronounced pan-ta-gru-ell-i-an – simply means “enormous.”

Zeugma

The sentence “Jane and her car broke down yesterday” contains a zeugma, as “broke down” can distinctly relate to both Jane and her car. A zeugma, then, is a word or phrase within a sentence that can pertain to two separate parts of that sentence in different ways.

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Beautiful words oneiromancy
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Oneiromancy

Oneiromancy comes from a pair of Greek words, one of which means “dream” and the other of which means “prophecy.” The word therefore signifies the forecasting of one’s prospects based on dreams. It’s pronounced o-nigh-ro-man-see.

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Petrichor

Ah, petrichor. This is the distinctive odor that complements rainfall following an extended patch of dry weather. The scent is thought to come from the ground, so petrichor – pronounced pet-rye-kor – is a combination of petro and ichor, which mean “relating to rocks” and “any bloodlike fluid,” respectively.

Ataraxia

Pronounced like it’s written, ataraxia is an independence from emotional upset, or an utter peacefulness of the soul. It has its root in the 1600s and derives from similar French and Greek words.

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Palimpsest

A palimpsest is a document wherein the original text has been erased and replaced and yet it still bears a hint of those initial words. It originated in the 1650s and comes from the Greek words for “again” and “rubbed smooth.”

Empyrean

The late Middle English word empyrean signifies the furthest reaches of heaven. The word is pronounced emper-ee-an, and prehistoric man considered what it refers to as a kingdom of nothing but fire.

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Hypnagogia

That fleeting moment of consciousness you experience as you transition from wakefulness to snoozing is somewhat charmingly known as hypnagogia – that’s hip-na-goj-ia. The term derives from the Greek words for “inducing” and, of course, “sleep.”

Beautiful words rhadamanthine
Image: Pexels

Rhadamanthine

Pronounced rad-a-man-theen, rhadamanthine is a word that means to be unwaveringly fixed in one’s own opinion. This adjective has its roots in Greek mythology; the son of Zeus was Rhadamanthus.

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Clepsydra

A clepsydra is a prehistoric kind of clock that was powered by the regulated movement of water. The literal translation from Greek is “water thief.”

Concinnity

Concinnity has its roots in the middle of the 1500s, coming from a Latin word meaning “skillfully put together.” It beautifully describes the coherent organization of distinctive parts of an object.

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Deipnosophist

A person who possesses an exemplary talent for dinner table chatter could be described as a deipnosophist – pronounced dype-nos-uh-fist. The word has its origins in the 17th century, but it actually comes from a 3rd-century work by Athenaeus in which the rhetorician wrote about long conversations at a banquet.

Hodiernal

Hodiernal comes from the 1650s and means “of or relating to the present day.” For instance, one might ask, “What achievements have hodiernal Greece obtained?”

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Logomachy

A logomachy is a disagreement concerning words or their meaning – so if you don’t like it, then we’re in a logomachy right now. This 16th-century word is pronounced low-gom-a-kee.

Mumpsimus

If you follow an established convention or idea through simple pigheadedness, even though the tradition is now thought to be wrong, this could be known as mumpsimus. The word originates from Latin via the 16th century.

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Sesquipedalian

Benedict Cumberbatch is one Hollywood star with a sesquipedalian name. This lovely word is pronounced ses-quip-uh-day-li-an and signifies words with lots of syllables. It has its origin in the 1650s and comes from a Latin phrase.

Crepuscular

Crepuscular has its beginnings in the 1600s and means “relating to twilight.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the word derives from the Latin for “twilight,” which is crepusculum.

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Callipygian

Some might describe Kim Kardashian as callipygian, for the word means to have a shapely derriere. You can thank Ancient Greece in a roundabout way for this one, too; it originated in the 1700s from Greek words meaning “beauty” and “buttocks.”

Persiflage

Persiflage is what is known in 2015 as “banter,” or what Oxford Dictionaries brilliantly defines as “slightly contemptuous mockery.” The word dates to the middle of the 18th century and comes from the French persifler, which means “to banter.”

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Hiraeth

Pronounced hear-eth, the Welsh word hiraeth doesn’t have a direct translation into English. It represents an almost spiritual yearning for somewhere to which you won’t be able to go back.

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