15 great words that will make you sound smarter

A dictionary in the Rensselaerville Public Library in Rensselaerville, New York. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
  • The English language could have more words than most comparable world languages – and some of its greatest words don’t get the airtime they deserve.
  • “Mollycoddle,” “jejune,” and “bumfuzzle” are some of the wonderful words that are underused.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

According to The Oxford Dictionaries, it’s possible that the English language has more words than most comparable world languages – which means there’s a legion of great terms out there just waiting to be deployed.

While we don’t forsee the English language’s most common words getting phased out anytime soon, here’s a list of 15 great words that deserve more airtime. Check them out below (with definitions courtesy of Dictionary.com) and then commit them to memory!


To compel by coercion. Cruel Intentions/Columbia Pictures

Definition: To force by oppressive measures; coerce.

Example: The tired mother was dragooned by her daughter into reading one last bedtime story.


Disorder or commotion. Anna Webber/Getty Images for DigiTour Media

Definition: A fuss; commotion.

Example: There was a bit of a kerfuffle during the concert when one of the backup dancers missed his cue.


Incapable of being forgotten. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Definition: That cannot be eliminated, forgotten, changed, or the like.

Example: The teacher left an indelible mark on her students, and they never forgot her.


Dry or uninteresting. Rob Loud/ Getty Images

Definition: Without interest or significance; dull; insipid.

Example: Try as she might to like it, the book that her friend was raving about seemed rather jejune to her.


Great confidence. Warner Bros.

Definition: Imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance.

Example: He told the funny story to his party guests with great aplomb.


To disparage. TriStar Pictures

Definition: To speak damagingly of; criticise in a derogatory manner; sully; defame.

Example: They tried to denigrate her achievements, but in the end she triumphed.


Range of knowledge. The Good Place/NBC

Definition: Knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perception.

Example: The substitute teacher was asked to teach some material beyond his ken.


A formalist or precisionist. A Single Man/IM Global

Definition: A person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning.

Example: Reading fantasy books often provoked the pedant in the science teacher, who could not suspend his disbelief enough to enjoy fantastical novels.


To dawdle. procsilas/flickr

Definition: To idle about; goof off.

Example: They were in a rush, so the mother told her child to stop lollygagging around and hurry up.


Obligation. 20th Century Fox Television

Definition: A difficult or disagreeable obligation, task, burden, etc.

Example: As part of the jury, the onus fell on her to seek the truth.


To make unnecessary objections. Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Definition: To raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily.

Example: The politician would cavil at the smallest of things, rather than do his job.


Flustered or confused. GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Definition: To confuse or fluster.

Example: The girl told her brother that she needed to stop at home before dinner in an attempt to bumfuzzle him before his surprise party.


Surrounding clouds. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Definition: A cloud, aura, atmosphere, etc., surrounding a person or thing.

Example: The volcano erupted and the trees were surrounded by a nimbus of smoke.


To improve or refine. Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Definition: To divert the energy of a biological impulse from its immediate goal to a more acceptable social, moral, or aesthetic nature or use.

Example: He attempted to sublimate his anxiety through peaceful meditation.


To pamper or spoil. The Princess Bride/20th Century Fox

Definition: To coddle; pamper.

Example: The coach mollycoddled his favourite players, and ignored the rest.