Blog,  Deliberate Magazine

10 Words That Will Make You Sound Smarter

1. Plethora

Definition: An abundance; many

There is a plethora of words out there that mean “many.” Trade out your boring “a lot” and “a ton” for something that will make you sound like you have a plethora of knowledge.

2. Facetious

Definition: Humorously flippant

If you don’t understand a facetious remark, you can still save face by distracting everyone from your mistake with an impressive word: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were being facetious.”

3. Ambiguous

Definition: Vague; uncertain

In an ambiguous situation, admit that the answer is ambiguous instead of saying you don’t know. You may not be able to provide information, but you will look smarter than if you shrugged and confessed ignorance nonetheless.

4. Incorrigible

Definition: Beyond reform; hopeless

I first heard this word while watching the rom-com “Easy A,” when a character is called incorrigible for his habit of buying Coke Zero. Alas, poor Roman was too incorrigible to see the error of his ways.

5. Ambivalent

Definition: Mixed feelings; love-hate relationship

I learned this word when studying Pride and Prejudice in high school. Darcy and Elizabeth are ambivalent toward each other because they alternate between feelings of intense passion and intense dislike.

6. Obfuscate

Definition: Make unclear

I learned this word from “Hamilton.” Aaron Burr is running for president, but no one can get him to elaborate on his views: “Ask him a question, he glances off, he obfuscates, he dances.” Students won’t have a problem bringing this word into everyday conversation: “That chapter was so confusing, it obfuscated the whole theory.”

7. Ennui

Definition: Dissatisfaction and restlessness from boredom

Anyone with a schedule can complain of ennui at times. Summer ennui rises in students without jobs. Work or class ennui comes for those of us feeling like we are stuck in the same routine forever. It’s not a cheery concept, but at least your existential crises will be more exciting with a fun new word.

8. Acquiesce

Definition: Give in; accept reluctantly

This word entered my vocabulary with “Pirates of the Caribbean.” When trying to negotiate with pirates, Elizabeth Swan haughtily says with perfect pronunciation: “I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” As a kid, I just really loved the ring of this line, and I would go around the playground, reciting it. Yes, I was a strange child. But now I’ve got another great word in my head to use when I want to sound extra proper (and British).

9. Macabre

Definition: Disturbing in relation to death

This word will sound impressive if you just know how to pronounce it (ma-cob), let alone what it means. Plus, it’s always unexpected to throw a dark and twisty death word into a conversation.

10. Maudlin

Definition: Sorrowful; somber

Despite its dreary meaning, this word has a special place in my heart. I spent a semester in England studying C.S. Lewis at Oxford. For a field trip, we visited Magdalen College (pronounced “maudlin”), where Lewis taught. I walked his favorite pathway and then sat on a bench and started reading my homework. On the first page I opened, Lewis talks about his “maudlin tears.” So let me lay this out for you: I was reading about C.S. Lewis’ maudlin tears while sitting in Magdalen, where Lewis taught. Cool experience. Good word. 10/10 would recommend.

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