Jeff BogleUpdated: Feb. 15, 2022
We all want to sound smarter. With these fancy words, you can take your vocabulary to a whole new level and impress everyone.
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Choose your words wisely
Even if you can pronounce them, some fancy words may make you sound pompous if you’re not comfortable with them. Others will make you sound like you’re trying too hard to seem smart, which is the exact opposite of what you want. The bottom line: If you’re going to use big words, choose wisely. Your best bets are those that fit the moment and flow with ease, as if you’ve been using them in conversation for years. Here, we highlight 30 vocabulary words—including the top five from a recent Preply survey—whichwill instantly make you sound smarter. They’re simply fancier ways of saying everyday things, but they will help you freshen your vocabulary quickly and effortlessly. For more ways to grow your vocabulary, check out these funny words that sound fake,hard words to spell, and these other commonly misspelled words.
Fancy word for second to last
Try: Penultimate. It’s a big word that simply means the next-to-last thing. For example, when you’re bingeing a television series like Squid Game, which has nine episodes, you can tell your friends you’re about to start watching the penultimate episode when sitting down with a pizza and a glass of wine for number eight. While you’re improving your vocabulary, be amazed by these hard spelling bee words.
Fancy word for small
Try: Diminutive. Use it when the object, animal, or person you are describing is exceptionally small and you want a better alternative than the familiar adjectives “tiny” or “little.” Here’s one excellent example, as noted by Merriam-Webster: “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [was] a diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice.” Just be careful when you start swapping words—you probably think these 50 words are synonyms, but they aren’t!
Fancy word for coming together
Try: Confluence. Use this word when discussing a meeting of minds, a group of ideas, or a coming together of diverse people for a gathering. A conference may include a confluence of ideas, for example. That said, it is also often used when describing streams or rivers joining together in nature. While confluence didn’t make this list of the 30 most beautiful words in the English language, it surely is number 31.
Fancy word for finely detailed
Try: Granular. This word alludes to the minuscule detail of small particles, and it can help describe a meticulous level of detail in your own work, thinking, or planning. If you literally thought of everything, then you got granular with your thinking! Can you guess the most misused word in the English language?
Fancy word for a manner of speaking
Try: Parlance. Choose it when you want to describe a set of words used by a group, sometimes for a specific purpose. For example, the language or unique jargon of a particular region of the country could be thought of as “local parlance.” These are the most confusing grammar rules in English.
Fancy word for a brief comment of substance
Try: Pithy when you want to talk about how your friend replied to her Tinder prospect with a brief, clever, and forceful remark. Her response to the dude’s Tinder pick-up line wasn’t terse—it was pithy!
Fancy word for hopeless
Try: Despondent. If the past couple of years have taken a toll on you, go with a fancier word to indicate your hopelessness. Reserve depressed for a medical diagnosis and instead use despondent to articulate extreme dejection and hopelessness.
Fancy word for clear and intelligible
Try: Lucidto put a literary spin on your clear-mindedness. Because lucid comes from the Latin adjective lucidus, meaning shining, it’s the perfect word for intelligent thinking that lets light shine through the confusion. Sometimes you want to sling a fancy word, but other times, you want goofy gems like bang! and pow!—and these other examples of onomatopoeia.
Fancy word for enthusiastic
Try: Effervescentwhen you want to find a fancier word to describe your bubbly, excitable best friend. Effervescence literally means having the property of forming bubbles, so that happy-go-lucky person in your life is effervescent, naturally.
Fancy word for reduce or lessen
Try: Abate when you want to talk about how the rain is letting up or the pain from your nagging headache is finally going away. That’s right: Abate means “to reduce,” but using it will increase your fancy vocabulary. Having fun with these new words? Check out these thesaurus jokes grammar nerds will appreciate.
Fancy word for custom-made
Try: Bespoke. This fancy word sounds gorgeous to say out loud when describing anything from custom-made jewelry, a finely tailored suit cut to your exact measurements, or anything else that is being designed and produced just for you.
Fancy word for gorgeous
Try: Resplendent. The official definition from Merriam-Webster is “shining brilliantly: characterized by a glowing splendor.” This word is sure to make that special someone swoon when she’s all dressed up for a night on the town and you tell her she looks resplendent. While resplendent has been around since the 15th century, these brand-new words were added to the dictionary for 2022.
Fancy word for smart
Try: Erudite. This swap will make you sound smarter while describing yourself or someone else who is intelligent and knowledgeable. You can also work in erudition when a fancy noun is needed to do the job of discussing how cultured you are.
Fancy word for two weeks
Try: Fortnight. It sounds a bit old-fashioned and (ahem) erudite, but you can easily use it to refer to something that happened two weeks ago or will happen for a two-week stretch. For example, instead of telling your coworkers that you’ll be out of the office for two weeks, tell them you’ll see them in a fortnight. Bonus: You’ll be taking back this fine, fancy word from the Fortnite gamer generation! We know you can’t resist Gen Z slang words.
Fancy word for boredom
Try: Ennui. You’ve probably heard this word before, but maybe you never knew how to use it in everyday conversation. We’re about to rectify that! Use ennui when you want to have a fancier way to dress up your listlessness resulting from boredom or dissatisfaction. Last week, I was almost overcome by ennui.
Fancy word for rant
Try: Diatribe, meaning a nasty (and usually lengthy) tirade, whether spoken or written. Are you prone to diatribes when you’re upset? They are the perfect excuse to use fancy words that the person you’re ranting at may not understand. Can you tell if these funny words are real or made up?
Fancy word for mean
Try: Vitriolic. The word vitriol originally referred to sulfates. It evolved over time but kept the “corrosive” and “destructive” connotations from its association with sulfuric acid. Now, it’s used to describe a nasty, scathing comment or action. Charlie wrote a vitriolic letter to the person who knocked down his mailbox.
Fancy word for afraid or timid
Try: Pusillanimous. The Wizard of Oz himself uses this one, telling the Scarecrow that “every pusillanimous creature that crawls on earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain!” Bonus: It’s a lot of fun to say. Who knew you could learn vocab from famous movie quotes?
Fancy word for brag
Try: Bloviate to speak or write in a showy, grandiose way. You might be guilty of bloviating if you loudly boast about your achievements. You might also be guilty of bloviating if you fill your speech with fancy words to make yourself sound smarter. Did you know that the most complicated word in English is only three letters long?
Fancy word for overly ornate
Try: Rococo. The artistic style that ruled the early 18th century was fanciful and highly ornamented. The term for it is just as fancy—no, rococo—and has come to mean “excessively ornate.” Use it the next time you spot an elaborately designed piece of furniture or art. And entertain yourself with thesedark jokes.
Fancy word for confidence
Try: Aplomb, meaning total composure and self-assurance, particularly in a skill. If you lack confidence in the way you speak, using some of these vocabulary words skillfully will help you speak with great aplomb (as will these confidence quotes).
Fancy word for stubborn
Try: Pervicacious, meaning obstinate and unyielding. This term comes from the Latin word for “to prevail.” You may use this in a sentence when describing someone’s stubbornness.
Fancy word for confuse
Try: Obfuscate, meaning to make obscure or unclear. Suspects in a crime and politicians often obfuscate when they don’t want to answer a question directly.
Fancy word for meticulous
Try: Fastidious, meaning excessively particular or demanding, and specifically very concerned about accuracy and detail. Next time a prospective employer asks about your strengths, you can boast about your fastidious attention to detail. Don’t miss these clever jokes that make you sound smart too.
Fancy word for suck-up
Try: Sycophant, a self-seeking flatterer. It’s much easier to call someone out as a suck-up when you’re not actually using the word suck-up.
Fancy word for well-spoken
Try: Articulate, meaning having the ability to speak fluently or coherently. This word was the top choice in a survey conducted by Preplyregarding complex vocabulary. 1,916 people were surveyed about which words they thought made people sound smart. They articulated that the word “articulate” was the most impressive.
Fancy word for kudos
Try: Accolade, an award given as an acknowledgment of merit. This one came in at number two in the Preply survey. Another finding: 58% of people have used a word to sound smarter, even though they didn’t know the true meaning. But now you know and you’ll be sure to earn the accolade of intelligence if you use this one, or maybe you could award someone a prestigious accolade for using their own fancy words.
Fancy word for concise
Try: Brevity, meaning the concise use of words in writing or speech. Coming in at number three according to thePreplysurvey is “brevity.” Maybe you’re enjoying the brevity of this article or maybe you’ll appreciate the brevity of a friends’ story—and your ability to use the word brevity.
Fancy word for odd
Try: Anomaly, meaning something that moves away from what is normal. Using fancy words is no longer an anomaly. The Preplysurvey found this to be the fourth most impressive word, so be sure to incorporate this one when you can. 78% of respondents also believe that using big words does indeed make someone seem smarter.
Fancy word for flattery
Try: Adulation, meaning excessive admiration or praise. Last but not least, this word came in at number five in the Preplysurvey. Use this term when you’re discussing flattery such as fans giving adulation to a musician, artist, or maybe even this list. We hope now that you’ve given adulation to these fancy words, you’ll continue to test your vocabulary with our Word Power quizzes.
- Preply: “Words that make you sound smarter, according to Americans”
Originally Published: February 15, 2022
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award–winning photographer, avid traveler and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment and more for Reader's Digest. He is the proud dad of teen daughters.