Thursday, 23 June 2011

A dictionary of new words (kind of)

English is a massive language. The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition has about 600,000 words in it and that doesn't include the similar number of technical and scientific terms that aren't listed.

In the early days of the language's evolution the mass of words was helped along by England having an influx of peoples and languages from many lands and this helped grow the number of different terms for the very same thing.

For example the old Anglo-Saxon serfs would call a bovine creature a cow (or some historic variation thereon) as a nominative term, as they'd be typically used to dealing with it as an animal. When the Normans came over after the Norman conquest we had an influx of Norman-French words added in. So the (then French) ruling classes would use the word beef (from the Norman-French, then French, word boeuf), more aimed at the meat that came from the animal, as they would be more used to eating it than tending it.

There are many other examples of Anglo-Saxon words, typically very short, that are now doubled up by a Norman word, typically rather longer. So, examples of short Anglo-Saxon and their longer Normal equivalents (or derivations thereof) include:

  • ask - demand
  • drink - beverage
  • fight - conflict
  • home - residence
  • live - inhabit
  • love - adore
  • talk - conversation
  • wage - salary
  • whore - prostitute

This doubling up of terms for much the same thing helped start the snowballing of what became the colossus that is the English language.

Anyway, being such a huge language there are literally thousands of words that I don't know (indeed undoubtedly tens of thousands and almost certainly hundreds of thousands). And there are also many words that I do know and either haven't really grasped the real meaning for (but used in an almost appropriate context over the years, having mis-gleaned the meaning on first encounter) or just plain misused.
Of course this misuse of words, or more generally, the meaning of words changing over time (known as catachresis) is and has been very commonplace in the development of English, as is the common misspelling of words leading to them being changed.

Examples of the words being redefined include boy, which used to mean a servant or knave, and girl, which used to mean a child of either gender. A harlot once meant a boy. A counterfeit was once a legitimate copy. Brave once meant cowardice (think of bravado) and while crafty was once a term of praise, enthusiasm was once a mild term of abuse.

Examples of misspelled words leading to new spellings include apron (we would describe one as an apron), which was originally called a napron. Also a nickname used to be an ekename. Sweetheart was once sweetard, asparagus was once sparrow-grass, penthouse was once pentice and shame-faced was originally shamefast. Also, pea should have been pease, which was mistaken to be a plural but in fact wasn't.

Things are heard and written wrongly and after time that can become the norm. Those that get het up and pedantic about the misspelling of a word are going against the grain of how the very language evolved.

Anyhow, I digress from the intent of this post. There are many words I do not have in my vocabulary, and there are many words unknown to me that sound very good to the ear, and many that whilst being uncommon can sensibly substitute their synonyms on a semi-regular basis.

As suggested above the English language has no definitive number of words in it, but somewhere over half a million is a common figure. However the average speaker of English uses only about 5,000 in everyday speech. A recent report warned that some dedicated Internet-communicating teenagers get by with a vocabulary as low as 800 words.

It turns out I have a list of words that I either didn't know at all, or didn't know slightly. It's quite a big list (over 600 words) and was almost entirely built from selections from dictionary.com's Word of The Day over the past few years (so full credit to them for picking them out). It has some common words in, but where I know the word it either corrects my misunderstanding of the word, or gives an additional meaning to it that I wasn't aware of. Or sometimes just reminds of its existence, as I do happen upon words, find or understand the meaning and then don't use the word enough to embed it into my usable vocabulary. Browsing through here once in a while lets me pick up the odd new word (or occasionally remember a word I technically know) to enhance the range of my vocabulary.

This vast and endlessly expressive language of ours is there to be used. I'm trying to use more of it.

  • abaft: to the rear of; aft of.
  • abecedarian: pertaining to the alphabet; also, rudimentary; also, a beginner.
  • abnegate: refuse or deny oneself; also, to give up (rights, claims, etc.).
  • absquatulate: to flee; abscond.
  • abstemious: temperate; abstinent; refraining from indulgence.
  • acedia: sloth.
  • acquiesce: to accept or consent passively or without objection.
  • acta: official records, as of acts, deeds, proceedings, transactions, or the like.
  • adjuvant: serving to help or assist; auxiliary; also, a person or thing that aids or helps.
  • adumbrate: to foreshadow; prefigure.
  • aegis: a shield; protection.
  • aeon: (in Gnosticism) one of a class of powers or beings conceived as emanating from the Supreme Being and performing various functions in the operations of
  • aeromancy: the prediction of future events from observation of weather conditions.
  • aesthete: one who cultivates great sensitivity to beauty.
  • affable: easy to speak to; also, gracious.
  • afflatus: a divine inspiration.
  • afterclap: an unexpected repercussion.
  • agog: in eager desire.
  • agrestic: pertaining to fields or the country.
  • akimbo: with hand on hip and elbow bent outward.
  • alacrity: a cheerful readiness, willingness, or promptness.
  • alchemical: pertaining to the transformation of something common, usually of little value, into a substance of great worth.
  • aliment: nutriment or sustenance.
  • ambisinister: clumsy or unskilful with both hands.
  • ambrosial: exceptionally pleasing to taste or smell; especially delicious or fragrant.
  • ameliorate: to make or grow better.
  • anacoluthia: lack of grammatical sequence or coherence, esp. in a sentence.
  • animalcule: a minute or microscopic animal, quite invisible to the naked eye.
  • antediluvian: extremely old.
  • aoristic: indefinite; indeterminate.
  • apocopate: to omit the final sound or sounds of (a word.)
  • apocryphal: of doubtful authority or authenticity.
  • apogee: the highest point.
  • apologia: a formal defence or justification.
  • apothegm: a short, witty, and instructive saying.
  • apotheosis: a model of excellence or perfection of a kind.
  • appellation: a name, title, or designation.
  • apposite: of striking appropriateness and relevance.
  • approbation: formal or official approval; also, praise.
  • appurtenance: an adjunct or accessory.
  • arbiter: one having the power of judging and determining.
  • arcanum: a secret; a mystery.
  • arrant: outright; thoroughgoing.
  • asseverate: to affirm or declare positively or earnestly.
  • assiduous: constant in application or attention.
  • atelier: a workshop; a studio.
  • attar: perfume or essential oil obtained from flowers or petals.
  • aubade: a song greeting the dawn.
  • autodidact: one who is self-taught.
  • autoschediastical: something that is improvised or extemporized.
  • avoirdupois: weight; heaviness.
  • badinage: light, playful talk.
  • bailiwick: a person's specific area of knowledge, authority, interest, skill, or work.
  • baksheesh: a tip, present, or gratuity.
  • balneal: pertaining to baths or bathing.
  • bathos: triteness or triviality in style.
  • bedizen: to dress or adorn in gaudy manner.
  • beek: to bask or warm in the sunshine or before a fire.
  • bellwether: a leader or leading indicator.
  • benignant: kind; gracious; favourable.
  • benison: blessing; an utterance of good wishes.
  • bibelot: a trinket.
  • billet-doux: a love letter.
  • billingsgate: foul, abusive language.
  • blandishment: flattering speech or action.
  • bloviate: to speak or write in a pompous manner.
  • bombast: pompous or pretentious speech or writing.
  • bombinate: to buzz, hum, or drone.
  • bon ton: the height of the fashion; fashionable society.
  • bonanza: a source of great and sudden wealth or luck.
  • bonhomie: a pleasant and easy manner.
  • bowdlerize: to remove or modify the parts considered offensive.
  • braggadocio: empty boasting.
  • brannigan: a carouse.
  • bravura: a showy display.
  • bricolage: construction or something constructed by using whatever materials happen to be available.
  • brio: vigour; vivacity.
  • Brobdingnagian: gigantic; enormous.
  • bromide: a commonplace or conventional saying.
  • brumal: wintry.
  • brummagem: cheap and showy; also, spurious.
  • bucolic: rustic; pastoral.
  • bumptious: crudely, presumptuously, or noisily self-assertive.
  • burgeon: to grow or develop rapidly; also, to put forth new buds or greenery; sprout.
  • burlesque: involving ludicrous or mocking treatment of a solemn subject.
  • bushwhack: to defeat, especially by surprise or in an underhanded way.
  • buss: a kiss; to kiss.
  • busticate: to break into pieces.
  • byzantine: complex or intricate.
  • cachinnate: to laugh loudly or immoderately.
  • cacoethes: an irresistible urge; mania.
  • caliginous: misty; dim; dark.
  • callithump: a children's parade, with prizes for the best costumes.
  • canorous: melodious; musical.
  • cap-a-pie: from head to foot.
  • capricious: whimsical; changeable. 
  • carapace: a shell; a protective covering.
  • carom: to strike and rebound; also, a glancing off.
  • casuistry: specious or deceptive reasoning, esp. in questions of morality.
  • caveat: a warning or caution.
  • celerity: quickness; swiftness.
  • censure: to criticize severely; also, an expression of disapproval.
  • cerebration: the act or product of thinking.
  • chaffer: to bargain; haggle.
  • chary: wary; cautious.
  • chatoyant: changing in lustre or colour.
  • cheechako: a tenderfoot; greenhorn; newcomer.
  • chicanery: the use of trickery to deceive.
  • chimerical: merely imaginary; fanciful.
  • choler: anger.
  • choleric: easily angered; also, indicating or expressing anger.
  • clandestine: kept or done in secret, often in order to conceal an illicit or improper purpose.
  • clinquant: glittering; tinsel-like; also, tinsel.
  • coeval: existing during the same period of time; also, a contemporary.
  • cognoscente: a person with special knowledge.
  • cohort: a group; also, a companion or associate.
  • comity: a state of mutual harmony, friendship, and respect. 
  • complaisant: exhibiting a desire to please.
  • concupiscence: lust.
  • concupiscible: worthy of being desired.
  • confabulation: familiar talk.
  • confiscable: liable to be taken by an authorized party.
  • conflate: to bring together; to meld.
  • confluence: a flowing or coming together.
  • confute: to refute conclusively.
  • connubial: of or pertaining to marriage.
  • consanguineous: related by blood; descended from the same ancestor.
  • contradistinction: distinction by contrast.
  • contumely: rudeness compounded of haughtiness and contempt.
  • coquetry: flirtation.
  • coruscate: to emit vivid flashes of light; sparkle; scintillate; gleam.
  • corybantic: frenzied; agitated; unrestrained.
  • cosset: to treat with excessive indulgence; to pamper.
  • couchant: lying down; crouching; reclining.
  • countervail: to counteract; also, to offset.
  • couvade: when the husband of a pregnant woman acts as though he were bearing the child.
  • coxcomb: a vain, showy fellow.
  • cozen: to deceive or obtain by deceit.
  • crapulous: sick from, or marked by, excessive drinking.
  • creolize: to combine local and foreign elements into a new, distinct whole.
  • crepuscular: pertaining to twilight.
  • cum: with; along with; combined with.
  • cupidity: eager or excessive desire, especially for wealth.
  • cynosure: a centre of attention.
  • daedal: skilful; artistic; ingenious.
  • dandle: to move (a baby, child, etc.) lightly up and down, as on one's knee or in one's arms.
  • de rigueur: strictly required, as by etiquette, usage, or fashion.
  • debonair: courteous, gracious, and having a sophisticated charm.
  • décolletage: a low neckline on a woman's dress or top
  • defenestrate: to throw out of a window.
  • degage: unconstrained; easy, as in manner or style.
  • demagogue: a leader who obtains power by means of appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
  • demotic: of or pertaining to the common people; popular.
  • depredation: an act of plundering or ravaging.
  • derogate: to deviate from expectation; also, to detract; also, to disparage.
  • descry: to catch sight of; to detect.
  • desideratum: something desired.
  • desuetude: disuse.
  • desultory: jumping from subject to subject; erratic; inconsistent.
  • dharna: the practice of exacting justice by sitting at the doorstep of an offender until the demand is granted.
  • diaphanous: allowing light to pass through.
  • didactic: conveying instruction; teaching some moral lesson.
  • diktat: an authoritative decree or order.
  • dilettante: an amateur; also, an admirer or lover of the fine arts
  • dishabille: the state of being carelessly or partially dressed.
  • disport: to frolic; to amuse (oneself).
  • dissimulate: to hide under a false appearance; also, to feign or pretend.
  • distrait: divided or withdrawn in attention, especially because of anxiety.
  • dithyrambic: wildly enthusiastic.
  • divagate: to wander; stray.
  • dolorous: marked by, causing, or expressing grief or sorrow.
  • doughty: valiant; brave.
  • doula: a woman who assists in childbirth.
  • dubiety: the condition or quality of being doubtful; also, a matter of doubt. 
  • dudgeon: a state or fit of intense indignation.
  • duplicity: deliberate deceptiveness in behaviour or speech.
  • ebullient: high-spirited.
  • eclat: brilliance of success, reputation, etc.
  • edacious: given to eating.
  • efface: to cause to disappear by rubbing out, striking out, etc.
  • efficacious: producing, or capable of producing, a desired effect.
  • effloresce: to burst into bloom; blossom.
  • effluvium: a slight or invisible exhalation or vapour, esp. one that is disagreeable.
  • effulgence: the state of being bright and radiant.
  • egregious: outrageously bad.
  • eidetic: pertaining to visual imagery vividly experienced and readily reproducible.
  • eldritch: unearthly; weird; eerie.
  • eleemosynary: relating to charity; charitable.
  • elide: to suppress; omit; ignore; pass over.
  • embonpoint: plumpness of person.
  • emend: to free from faults or errors; correct.
  • emolument: the wages or perquisites arising from office, employment, or labor.
  • empyrean: the highest heaven; the heavens; the sky.
  • enceinte: pregnant; with child.
  • encomium: expression of praise.
  • encumbrance: a burden, impediment, or hindrance. 
  • engram: a hypothetical physical trace of memory in the brain.
  • enjoin: to direct or impose with authority; also, to forbid.
  • enspirit: to infuse life into; enliven.
  • ephemeral: lasting a very short time.
  • ephemeron: something short-lived.
  • epicene: having the characteristics of both the male and the female.
  • epigamic: attracting the opposite sex, as the colours of certain birds.
  • epigone: an inferior imitator. 
  • equable: equal and uniform; also, not easily disturbed.
  • equanimity: calmness; composure.
  • equipoise: equilibrium; also, counterbalance.
  • equivocate: to be deliberately ambiguous or unclear.
  • eristic: pertaining to argument for its own sake.
  • ersatz: being a substitute or imitation.
  • eructation: the act of belching; a belch.
  • erudite: characterized by extensive reading or knowledge.
  • eschatological: regarding last, or final, matters, often of a theological nature.
  • eschew: to shun; to avoid.
  • espy: to see at a glance.
  • estivate: to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.
  • esurient: hungry; greedy. 
  • etiolate: to blanch or bleach; to make sickly.
  • evanescence: a gradual disappearance.
  • evince: to show in a clear manner.
  • excoriate: to express strong disapproval of; also, to flay
  • exculpate: to clear from alleged fault or guilt.
  • execrable: detestable; extremely bad.
  • exegesis: critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text.
  • exegete: one who explains or interprets difficult parts of written works. 
  • exigency: state of requiring immediate action; also, that which is required in a particular situation.
  • exiguous: extremely scanty.
  • expatiate: to speak or write at length.
  • expropriate: to deprive of possession; also, to transfer (property) to oneself.
  • extemporaneous: composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment.
  • factotum: a person employed to do all kinds of work.
  • fain: gladly; willingly.
  • fanfaronade: empty boasting; bluster.
  • fantod: a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness.
  • farouche: sullenly unsociable or shy.
  • farrago: an assortment; a medley.
  • fatidic: of, relating to, or characterized by prophecy.
  • favonian: pertaining to the west wind; soft; mild; gentle.
  • fealty: fidelity; allegiance; faithfulness.
  • fecund: fruitful; prolific; also, marked by intellectual productivity.
  • felicitous: apt or appropriate; also, delightful.
  • fervid: marked by great passion or zeal.
  • fetor: a strong, offensive smell.
  • fey: possessing or displaying a strange and otherworldly aspect or quality.
  • fillip: a snap; also, a stimulus.
  • flagitious: grossly wicked; scandalous.
  • fletcherize: to chew (food) slowly and thoroughly.
  • flibbertigibbet: a silly, flighty, or excessively talkative person.
  • florid: flushed with red; also, excessively ornate.
  • foofaraw: excessive or flashy ornamentation; also, a fuss over a trivial matter.
  • forfend: to avert; also, to protect or preserve.
  • fossick: to search for any object by which to make gain.
  • foudroyant: sudden and overwhelming in effect.
  • frabjous: wonderful, elegant, superb, or delicious.
  • fractious: tending to cause trouble; also, irritable.
  • frangible: capable of being broken; easily broken.
  • frisson: a brief moment of intense excitement.
  • fructuous: fruitful; productive.
  • fugacious: lasting but a short time.
  • fulgurate: to flash or dart like lightning.
  • fulminate: to issue or utter verbal attacks or censures.
  • fulsome: offensive from excess of praise.
  • fungible: interchangeable.
  • furbelow: something showy or superfluous.
  • fustian: pompous or pretentious language.
  • futz: to pass time in idleness (usually followed by around).
  • gadabout: one who roams about in search of amusement or social activity.
  • gallimaufry: a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.
  • galore: in abundance; in plentiful amounts.
  • galumph: to move in a clumsy manner or with a heavy tread.
  • gambrinus: a mythical Flemish king, the reputed inventor of beer.
  • garrulous: talkative; also, wordy.
  • gauche: lacking social polish; tactless.
  • gaucherie: a socially awkward or tactless act; also, lack of tact.
  • gelid: extremely cold; icy.
  • genuflect: to bend the knee, as in worship; also, to grovel.
  • gerent: a ruler or manager.
  • germane: appropriate or fitting; relevant.
  • gerrymander: the dividing of an area into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while reducing the strength of the othe
  • gest: a notable deed or exploit.
  • gimcrack: a showy but useless or worthless object.
  • glabrous: without hairs or projections; smooth.
  • gormandize: to eat greedily or ravenously.
  • gourmand: one who enjoys good food in great quantities.
  • grandiloquent: expressed in a lofty style; pompous; bombastic.
  • grangerize: to add to the visual content of a book by inserting images not included in the original volume, often by mutilating other books.
  • gravid: pregnant.
  • gregarious: seeking and enjoying the company of others.
  • habitué: one who frequents a particular place.
  • halcyon: peaceful; undisturbed; happy.
  • haptic: relating to the sense of touch; tactile.
  • hauteur: haughtiness; arrogance.
  • hebetude: mental dullness or sluggishness.
  • hegira: a journey to a more desirable or congenial place.
  • heliolatry: worship of the sun.
  • hinterland: backcountry.
  • histrionic: theatrical.
  • hobbledehoy: an awkward, gawky young fellow.
  • homograph: a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning, whether pronounced the same way or not.
  • homunculus: an artificially made, miniature person or creature.
  • hopscotch: to journey quickly and directly from one usually far place to another.
  • horripilate: to produce a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goose flesh.
  • hortatory: serving to encourage or incite.
  • hugger-mugger: secret; also, muddled, disorderly.
  • hyaline: glassy or transparent.
  • hypnagogic: inducing sleep; of or pertaining to drowsiness.
  • iatrogenic: (of a medical disorder) caused by the actions of a physician.
  • Ides: the fifteenth day of March, May, July, and October, and the thirteenth day of the other months.
  • idioglossia: a private form of speech invented by one child or by children.
  • imago: an idealized concept of a loved one, formed in childhood and retained unaltered in adult life.
  • imbroglio: a complicated and embarrassing state of things.
  • imbue: to dye; to instil profoundly.
  • immure: to imprison.
  • impecunious: habitually without money; poor.
  • impedimenta: baggage or other things that retard one's progress
  • impetrate: to obtain by entreaty.
  • implacable: incapable of being pacified.
  • imprecation: a curse.
  • incarnadine: pink or red; also, to redden.
  • inchoate: partly but not fully in existence or operation.
  • incommodious: inconvenient, as not affording sufficient space or room.
  • incontrovertible: indisputable; unquestionable.
  • incunabulum: the earliest stages or first traces of anything.
  • indefatigable: untiring.
  • ineffable: incapable of being expressed. 
  • ineluctable: impossible to avoid or evade.
  • inkhorn: affectedly or ostentatiously learned.
  • inscrutable: difficult to fathom or understand.
  • insouciant: marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant.
  • interlard: to insert between; to mix.
  • interlocutor: a person who takes part in a conversation or dialogue.
  • interregnum: the interval between two reigns; also, any breach of continuity in an order.
  • inure: to make used to; also, to take or have effect.
  • inveigle: to persuade or obtain by ingenuity or flattery.
  • invidious: tending to provoke envy or ill will.
  • irascible: easily provoked to anger.
  • irenic: promoting peace.
  • irrefragable: impossible to refute. 
  • itinerant: traveling from place to place.
  • jactation: a restless tossing of the body.
  • jnana: absolute insight acquired through study.
  • jobbery: the conduct of public or official business for the sake of improper private gain.
  • juju: an object superstitiously believed to embody magical powers.
  • katzenjammer: the discomfort and illness experienced as the aftereffects of excessive drinking; hangover.
  • kenspeckle: conspicuous; easily seen or recognized.
  • kibitz: to chat, to converse.
  • kismet: destiny; fate.
  • kith: acquaintances, friends, neighbours, or the like.
  • klatsch: a casual gathering of people, esp. for refreshments and informal conversation
  • koan: A nonsensical or paradoxical question to a student for which an answer is demanded, the stress of meditation on the question often being illuminating.
  • kowtow: to act in a subservient manner.
  • kvetch: to complain habitually.
  • labile: open to change; apt or likely to change.
  • laconic: using or marked by the use of a minimum of words.
  • lacuna: a blank space; a missing part.
  • lagniappe: a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, for good measure.
  • lambent: playing on the surface; flickering.
  • languor: lack of energy or vitality.
  • lapidary: of or pertaining to stone cutting; also, terse or refined in expression.
  • largess: generous giving; also, gifts of money or other valuables.
  • leitmotif: a dominant and recurring theme.
  • libation: the act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice; also, a beverage.
  • lickerish: fond of and eager for choice food.
  • lilliputian: extremely small; tiny; diminutive.
  • liminal: relating to the point beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced.
  • limn: to draw or paint; also, to describe.
  • lineament: a distinguishing or characteristic feature.
  • littoral: on a coastal or shore region.
  • logorrhea: excessive talkativeness.
  • longueur: a tedious passage in a work of literature or performance art.
  • loquacious: very talkative.
  • louche: of questionable taste or morality.
  • lucifugous: avoiding light.
  • lucre: money; profit.
  • lucubration: laborious work, study, thought, etc., esp. at night.
  • lugubrious: mournful; gloomy; dismal.
  • lupine: savage; ravenous; predatory.
  • machination: a crafty scheme intended to accomplish some usually evil end.
  • majuscule: of letters written either as capitals or uncials.
  • malapert: unbecomingly bold or saucy.
  • malversation: misconduct in public office.
  • mana: a generalized, supernatural force, which may be concentrated in objects or persons.
  • Manichean: pertaining to a strongly dualistic worldview.
  • manse: a large and imposing residence.
  • mansuetude: mildness; gentleness.
  • manumit: to free from slavery or servitude.
  • marginalia: notes in the margin of a book, manuscript, or letter.
  • martinet: a strict disciplinarian.
  • materfamilias: the mother of a family.
  • matriculate: to enrol in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.
  • matutinal: relating to or occurring in the morning.
  • maunder: to talk or wander aimlessly.
  • megrim: a migraine; also, a fancy or whim; in the plural, low spirits.
  • mellifluous: flowing sweetly or smoothly.
  • métier: an occupation, especially in which one excels.
  • milieu: environment; setting.
  • minim: the least quantity of anything.
  • mithridate: a confection believed to contain an antidote to every poison.
  • moil: to labour; to toil; to drudge.
  • mondegreen: a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation, as in misheard lyrics.
  • moratory: authorizing delay of payment.
  • mordant: biting; caustic; sarcastic.
  • mores: customs; habits; ways.
  • morganatic: pertaining to a form of marriage where a person of high rank weds someone of lower station without claim to the property of the high-ranking partner.
  • moue: a pouting grimace.
  • mountebank: a quack; also, a charlatan.
  • mugwump: a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, esp. in politics.
  • mulct: to defraud.
  • muliebrity: womanly nature or qualities.
  • multifarious: having great diversity or variety.
  • munificent: very generous.
  • mussitate: to silently move the lips in simulation of audible speech.
  • myrmidon: a loyal follower.
  • nacreous: lustrous; pearly.
  • namaste: a conventional Hindu expression on meeting or parting.
  • ne plus ultra: the acme; also, the most profound degree.
  • nebbish: a weak-willed, timid, or ineffectual person.
  • neologism: a new word or expression; the use or creation of new words or expressions.
  • neophyte: a novice.
  • neoteric: recent in origin; new.
  • nepenthe: a drug or drink having the power to bring forgetfulness of sorrow or trouble.
  • nescience: lack of knowledge or awareness.
  • nimbus: a dark grey rain cloud; also, a halo, an aura.
  • nimiety: excess.
  • nitid: bright; lustrous.
  • noctivagant: pertaining to wandering at night.
  • noisome: offensive or disgusting; also, harmful; unwholesome.
  • nonplus: to render utterly perplexed; puzzle completely.
  • nostrum: a questionable remedy.
  • numinous: spiritual.
  • nympholepsy: a frenzy of emotion, as for something unattainable.
  • occlude: to shut in, out, or off.
  • odium: intense hatred or dislike.
  • oleaginous: having the nature or qualities of oil.
  • olio: a mixture of heterogeneous elements; hodgepodge.
  • omnific: having unlimited powers of creation.
  • oneiric: pertaining to or suggestive of dreams.
  • oppugn: to assail by criticism, argument, or action.
  • orotund: full in sound; also, bombastic.
  • orthoepy: the study of correct pronunciation.
  • oscitant: yawning, as with drowsiness.
  • otiose: ineffective; also, being at leisure; also, of no use.
  • outré: unconventional; eccentric; bizarre.
  • overweening: overbearing; also, excessive.
  • pablum: something (as writing or speech) that is trite, insipid, or simplistic.
  • paladin: a champion of a cause.
  • palimpsest: an object or place whose older layers or aspects are apparent.
  • palingenesis: rebirth; regeneration.
  • palladian: pertaining to wisdom, knowledge, or study.
  • palliate: to make an offense seem less serious; also, to relieve or lessen without curing.
  • panjandrum: an important or self-important official.
  • paphian: of or pertaining to love, esp. illicit physical love.
  • parlous: fraught with danger; hazardous.
  • parvenu: an upstart; one newly risen in class or economic status.
  • pastiche: a hodgepodge; a potpourri.
  • paterfamilias: the male head of a household; the father of a family.
  • patina: a superficial layer.
  • paucity: fewness; insufficiency.
  • peccadillo: a slight offense; a petty fault.
  • pecuniary: relating to money.
  • pejorative: disparaging; belittling.
  • pelf: money; riches.
  • pellucid: transparent, shining through; also, easily understandable.
  • penumbra: an area in which something exists to an uncertain degree.
  • penury: extreme poverty; also, insufficiency.
  • peradventure: chance, uncertainty, or doubt.
  • perambulate: to stroll; to walk through or over.
  • peregrinate: to travel or journey, especially to walk on foot.
  • perforce: by necessity.
  • peripatetic: walking about or traveling from place to place.
  • pernicious: deadly; destructive; exceedingly harmful.
  • perorate: to conclude or sum up a long discourse; also, to speak at length.
  • perpend: to ponder; deliberate.
  • perseverate: to repeat something insistently or redundantly.
  • persiflage: banter or light mockery
  • pettifogger: a petty, unscrupulous lawyer; also, who quibbles over trivia.
  • phantasmagoria: a shifting series or succession of things seen or imagined.
  • philogyny: love of or liking for women (opposite of misogyny.)
  • philomath: a lover of learning; a scholar.
  • philter: a potion, charm, or drug supposed to cause the person taking it to fall in love.
  • phlegmatic: not easily excited to action or display of emotion.
  • physiognomy: the face or appearance.
  • piquant: agreeably stimulating, interesting, or attractive.
  • plangent: beating with a loud or deep sound; also, expressing sadness.
  • plaudit: enthusiastic approval.
  • plebeian: common; vulgar.
  • plenary: full; complete. 
  • plenipotentiary: invested with full power.
  • pleonasm: the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea.
  • pogonip: an ice fog that forms in the mountain valleys of the western U.S.
  • popinjay: a vain and talkative person.
  • pother: a commotion; a disturbance; also, a cloud of smoke or dust that chokes or smothers.
  • potlatch: a ceremony at which gifts are bestowed on the guests in a show of wealth that the guests later attempt to surpass.
  • praxis: practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills.
  • premonish: to warn beforehand.
  • premorse: pertaining to the end of something irregularly shortened, as if bitten or broken off.
  • presage: an omen; also, to predict.
  • prevaricate: to depart from or evade the truth.
  • prink: to primp.
  • probity: complete and confirmed integrity.
  • prognosticate: to forecast or predict.
  • prolix: wordy.
  • propitious: presenting favourable circumstances.
  • prosopography: a description of a person's appearance, career, personality, etc.
  • protean: readily assuming different shapes or forms.
  • provender: food or provisions.
  • puckish: whimsical; mischievous; impish.
  • pugnacious: combative; quarrelsome.
  • puissant: powerful.
  • pulchritude: beauty.
  • pule: to whimper; to whine.
  • punctilio: a fine point of exactness in conduct, ceremony, or procedure.
  • punctilious: precise; exact in the smallest particulars.
  • purlieu: a place where one may range at large; confines or bounds.
  • pusillanimous: cowardly.
  • Pyrrhic victory: a victory achieved at great cost.
  • quash: to annul; also, to crush; to subdue.
  • querulous: habitually complaining; also, expressing complaint.
  • quiddity: the essence or nature of a thing.
  • quidnunc: a gossip; a busybody.
  • quiescent: at rest; still; inactive.
  • quietus: final acquittance, as from debt; also, rest; death.
  • quisling: a collaborator; a traitor.
  • quixotic: foolishly impractical; also, capricious, impulsive.
  • quondam: former; sometime. 
  • quotidian: occurring daily; also, ordinary.
  • raffish: gaudily vulgar or cheap; also, characterized by a carefree or fun-loving unconventionality.
  • rakish: smart; jaunty; dashing.
  • rapacious: grasping; greedy.
  • rapine: the act of plundering.
  • rataplan: to produce the sound as of the beating of a drum.
  • ratiocination: the process of reasoning.
  • rebarbative: repellent; irritating.
  • recalcitrant: stubbornly resistant to and defiant of authority or restraint.
  • recondite: difficult to understand. 
  • redivivus: living again; revived; restored.
  • redolent: having or exuding fragrance; also, evocative, reminiscent.
  • refulgent: brilliant; resplendent.
  • regnant: prevalent; widespread.
  • renascent: rising again into being; showing renewed vigour. 
  • replevy: to recover goods or chattels wrongfully taken or detained.
  • retrograde: having a backward motion or direction; retiring or retreating.
  • rhapsodize: to talk with extravagant enthusiasm.
  • risible: exciting or provoking laughter.
  • roborant: restoring strength or vigor; also, a restorative.
  • rococo: ornate or florid in speech, writing, or style.
  • rubicund: inclining to redness; ruddy.
  • rubric: a title, heading, or the like, written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
  • rusticate: to go or send to the country.
  • ruth: pity or compassion.
  • saccade: the movement of the eye when it makes a sudden change, as in reading.
  • sagacious: having or showing keen discernment.
  • salad days: a time of youthful inexperience, innocence, or indiscretion.
  • salient: noticeable; also, projecting; also, leaping.
  • salmagundi: a mixture or assortment; also, a kind of mixed dish or salad.
  • salutary: beneficial; also, healthful.
  • sang-froid: coolness in trying circumstances.
  • sapid: having flavour, especially a strong pleasant flavour.
  • satori: sudden enlightenment.
  • saturnine: sluggish in temperament; gloomy; taciturn.
  • sawyer: a person who saws wood, esp. as an occupation.
  • scapegrace: one who is wild and reckless.
  • schlep: to move slowly, awkwardly, or tediously.
  • scion: a descendant; an heir.
  • scobberlotcher: one who loafs around, doing nothing in particular.
  • scurf: the small shreds of epidermis that are continually exfoliated from the skin.
  • scurrilous: grossly or obscenely abusive.
  • scuttle: to run with quick, hasty steps; scurry.
  • scuttlebutt: gossip; rumour.
  • sedulous: diligent in application or pursuit.
  • senescent: growing old.
  • sesquipedalian: (of words) long; having many syllables. 
  • sesquipedalianism: given to using long words.
  • shibboleth: a word, pronunciation, saying, belief, practice, etc., that distinguishes one group from another.
  • shivaree: a mock serenade with kettles and other noisemakers for a newly married couple.
  • sibylline: prophetic; oracular.
  • simpatico: congenial or like-minded.
  • sine qua non: an indispensable thing. 
  • slake: to satisfy or quench; also, to cause to lessen.
  • slugabed: one who stays in bed until a late hour.
  • sobriquet: a nickname.
  • sockdolager: a decisive blow or remark.
  • sojourn: to dwell for a time; also, a temporary stay.
  • solecism: a nonstandard usage or grammatical construction.
  • solicitous: manifesting, expressing, or full of care or concern.
  • sommelier: a waiter, as in a club or restaurant, who is in charge of wines.
  • soporific: causing sleep; also, something that causes sleep.
  • sough: to make a soft, low sighing or rustling sound.
  • spatchcock: to insert or interweave, esp. in a forced or incongruous manner.
  • spirituel: showing or having a refined and graceful mind or wit.
  • splenetic: irritable; peevish; spiteful.
  • spoony: foolishly or sentimentally in love.
  • spoor: a track or trail, esp. that of a wild animal pursued as game.
  • spurious: not genuine; false; illegitimate.
  • squelch: to put down, or suppress, as with a crushing retort or argument.
  • stentorian: extremely loud.
  • stolid: unexcitable; unemotional.
  • stormy petrel: a type of seabird; also, one fond of or bringing strife.
  • stultify: to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous; also, to allege to be of unsound mind.
  • subaudition: an act or instance of understanding or mentally supplying something not expressed.
  • subtilize: to make (the mind, senses, etc.) keen or discerning.
  • sui generis: unique.
  • sunder: to break apart.
  • supine: lying on the back; also, indolent; listless.
  • supplicate: to make a humble and earnest petition.
  • suspire: to utter with long, sighing breaths.
  • susurration: a whispering; a soft murmur.
  • susurrus: a whispering or rustling sound.
  • swain: a male admirer or lover.
  • sybarite: a person devoted to luxury and pleasure.
  • sylvan: pertaining to woods or forests.
  • taciturn: not inclined to talk.
  • tantivy: swift; rapid.
  • tare: the weight of the wrapping or container that holds an object.
  • tarradiddle: a fib; also, pretentious nonsense.
  • tarry: to remain or stay, as in a place; sojourn.
  • tchotchke: a trinket; a knickknack.
  • temerity: unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger.
  • temporize: to be indecisive or evasive in order to gain time; also, to go with the times.
  • tendentious: marked by a strong tendency in favour of a particular point of view.
  • tenebrous: dark; gloomy.
  • tergiversation: evasion; also, desertion of a cause, party, etc.
  • thimblerig: to cheat or swindle, as in the traditional shell game known as thimblerig.
  • threnody: a poem, speech, or song of lamentation, esp. for the dead.
  • timorous: full of apprehensiveness; fearful.
  • titivate: to make decorative additions to; to spruce.
  • tittle: a dot or other small mark in writing or printing, used as a diacritic, punctuation, etc.
  • toothsome: delicious; attractive; luscious.
  • torpid: dull; sluggish; apathetic.
  • torpor: lethargic indifference; apathy.
  • tortuous: marked by repeated turns and bends.
  • totemic: pertaining to an object or natural phenomenon with which a family or group considers itself closely related.
  • tractable: docile; manageable, governable.
  • traduce: to vilify.
  • transmogrify: to transform.
  • travail: painful, arduous work; also, agony, anguish.
  • tristful: full of sadness; sorrowful.
  • truckle: to act in a subservient manner.
  • truculent: fierce; savage; ferocious.
  • turgid: swollen, bloated; also, bombastic, pompous.
  • tutelary: guardian; protecting.
  • tyro: a novice.
  • ullage: the amount by which the contents fall short of filling a container, as a cask or bottle.
  • ululate: to howl; to wail.
  • unctuous: marked by a false or smug earnestness or agreeableness.
  • undercast: something viewed from above through another medium, as of clouds viewed from an airplane.
  • uxorious: excessively fond of or submissive to a wife.
  • vagary: an extravagant, erratic, or unpredictable notion, action, or occurrence.
  • valetudinarian: a weak or sickly person.
  • vamoose: to leave hurriedly or quickly; decamp.
  • variegated: having marks or patches of different colours; also, varied.
  • vellicate: to touch (a body part) lightly so as to excite the surface nerves and cause uneasiness, laughter, or spasmodic movements.
  • venal: capable of being bought; also, corruptible.
  • verisimilitude: the quality of seeming to be true.
  • vespertine: of, pertaining to, or occurring in the evening.
  • vestigial: relating to a body part that has become small and lost its use.
  • viand: an article of food, now usually of a choice or delicate kind.
  • vicissitude: a change in condition or fortune.
  • virtu: love of or taste for fine objects of art; also, productions of art.
  • vitiate: to make faulty or imperfect.
  • vivify: to endue with life; to enliven.
  • vociferate: to speak or cry out loudly or noisily; shout; bawl.
  • voluptuary: a person devoted to luxury and the gratification of sensual appetites.
  • vulpine: cunning or crafty.
  • wassail: an expression of good wishes on a festive occasion, especially in drinking to some one.
  • weal: well-being, prosperity, or happiness.
  • whilom: former; in the past; erstwhile.
  • yaw: to move unsteadily; weave.
  • yeuk: an itching sensation.
  • zaftig: full-bodied; well-proportioned.
  • zetetic: proceeding by inquiry; investigating.

There are some splendid words in this list, many are very usable. I mean, after all, we've all finished off a bit of persiflage with a sockdolager from time to time haven't we? We all know flibbertigibbets or popinjays, scapegraces, scobberlotchers, lugubrious hobbledehoys and those given to bloviated bombast, don't we? Or am I tarradiddling? :-)

References for further reading on word and language origins and for more interesting linguistic coverage include:

http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday

http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, Penguin Books

 

The Book of Words by Tim Glynne-Jones, Arcturus