Good Words

(actualisé le ) by Ray

These are some useful words that I have come across fairly recently (since my previous Good Words Register was last seen going north in a Montreal taxi in the wee hours of a morning, never to be seen again, some 4 years or so ago) that have been used to good effect by the rather top-notch writers that I have been frequenting lately to convey nuances of thoughts and things and actions that other more familiar words would no doubt have failed to do as well.

There is something of interest in this little list, I would have thought, for just about any user/lover of the language of Shakespeare, Laurence Sterne and Anthony Trollope.


Word Function Definition
adamantine adj. untameable
adumbration noun a representation in faint outline
advert to verb to refer to in speaking or writing
aetiology noun the assignment of a cause or reason
anodyne adj. able to relieve pain
apocrypha noun writings of doubtful authenticity
apposite adj. apt; well chosen
ashlar noun a large square-cut stone used in building
attar noun a fragrant essential oil, especially from rose-petals
aught noun anything at all (archaic)
auricular adj. of or relating to the ear or hearing
aver verb to affirm
avuncular adj. like or of an uncle, kind and fiendly, esp. towards younger persons
bane noun cause of ruin or trouble
beck noun a brook (North English)
bedizen verb to deck out gaudily
beeves noun oxen or cattle (archaic plural of beef)
betimes adv. early; in good time
bourne noun a destination
bowdlerize verb to expurgate
brindled adj. brownish or tawny with streaks of other colour (esp. of domestic animals)
cachinnation noun a loud laugh
Caduceous noun an ancient Greek or Roman herald’s wand
cairn noun a mound of rough stones as a monument or landmark
caitiff adj. base, despicable, cowardly (archaic)
calliope noun a keyboard instrument resembling an organ, with a set of steam whistles
callow adj. inexperienced, immature
canker noun a destructive fungus disease of trees and plants
catamite noun a boy kept for homosexual practises
catchment noun a collection of rainfall
caul noun the inner membrane enclosing a fœtus
centripetal adj. moving or tending to move to a centre
chiliastic adj. with reference to the doctrine of Christ’s reign of 1000 years
chrestomathy noun a selection of passages, used esp. to help in learning a language
con verb to learn by heart
condign adj. severe and well-deserved (of a punishment)
conflate verb to blend or fuse together
congeries noun a disorderly collection; a mass or heap
connubial adj. relating to marriage
contemn verb to despise; to treat with disregard
contumacy noun a stubborn refusal to obey
contumeliously adj. reproachful, insulting or injurious
conundrum noun a puzzle
copacetic adj. excellent, in good order (US slang)
coruscate verb to sparkle
costive adj. constipated; niggardly
coulter noun a vertical cutting blade fixed in front of a ploughshare
coxcomb noun an ostentatiously conceited man
cupreous adj. of or like copper
cypher verb to do arithmetic
despond verb to lose heart or hope
dimity noun a cotton fabric woven with stripes or checks
disquisition noun a long or elaborate treatise or disourse on a subject
dote on verb to be foolishly or excessively fond of
dovecote noun a shelter with nesting-holes for domesticated pigeons
droll adj. quaintly amusing
dun verb to pester; to importune for payment of a debt
duplicitous adj. double-dealing
egress noun the act or right of going out; an exit
elision noun the omission of a vowel or syllable in pronouncing (as in "I’m"," let’s", etc.)
embrocation noun a rubbing liquid
emphysema noun a swelling of the air sacs of the lungs, causing breathlessness
epigene adj. produced on the surface of the earth
epistemology noun the theory of knowledge
equable adj. even; not varying
esculent adj. fit to eat; edible
evince verb to show or make evident
excogitate verb to think out; to contrive
factitious adj. contrived, not genuine
fain to adv. willing under the circumstances to (archaic)
feral adj. wild, untamed, uncultivated (of an animal or plant)
flagon noun a large bottle in which wine, cider, etc. are sold, usually holding 1.13 litres
froward adj. perverse (archaic)
gazebo noun a small building or structure such as a summer-house or turret, designed to give a wide view
gird verb to gibe or taunt
gloaming noun the twilight
God wot saying God knows
habited adj. clothed
hackneyed adj. made commonplace or trite by overuse
heliolatries noun rituals of sun worship
henbane noun a poisonous plant with sticky, hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell
hendiadys noun the expression of an idea by two words connected with ’and’, instead of one modifying the other (e.g. - "nice and warm" for "nicely warm")
heterodox adj. not orthodox
hierophant noun an initiating or presiding priest
holm noun a piece of flat ground near a river
hoyden noun a boisterous girl
humbug adj. deceptive talk or behaviour
imbrue verb to stain
incubus noun an evil spirit supposed to descend on sleeping persons
indurate verb to become hard
ingress adj. the act or right of entering; the start of an eclipse (astronomy)
inquorate adj. not constituting a quorum
inured adj. to be accustomed to (something unpleasant)
invidious adj. likely to excite resentment
irenic adj. aiming or aimed at peace
labile adj. unstable
lambent adj. softly radiant (of a light or fire)
lea noun a piece of meadow or pasture
limn verb to paint; to illuminate
lour verb to look sullen; to look dark and threatening
lucubrations noun literary writing, esp. of a pedantic or elborate character; nocturnal study or meditation
meliorative adj. imroving
meretricious adj. showily but falsely attractive
metempsychosis noun the supposed transmigration of the soul of a human being or an animal at death into a new body of the same or different species
mullioned adj. divided by vertical bars (of a window)
murrey adj. the colour of a mulberry; a deep red or purple
nescient adj. lacking knowledge; ignorant
nugatory adj. futile, trifling, worthless
numinous adj. indicating the presence of a divinity (a numinous icon)
objurgate verb to scold or chide
oleaginous adj. oily; obsequious
ontology noun the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being
orotund adj. full, round; imposing (of the voice or phrasing)
ostler noun a stableman at an inn
otiose adj. serving no purpose
palsied adj. rendered helpless
peccant adj. sinning
penurious adj. poor, destitute
percipient adj. able to perceive; conscious
perfervid adj. very fervid
pertinacious adj. stubborn, persistant
phashed adj. trimmed or sheared, neatened up
pilulous adj. as a small pill
pith noun the essential part
plangent adj. loud and reverberating (of a sound)
plash verb to bend down and interweave (branches, twigs, etc.) to form a hedge
pollard noun an animal that has lost or cast its horns; a tree whose branches have been cut off
positivism noun the recognition only of observable phenomena and facts
preternatural adj. outside the ordinary course of nature
prolepsis noun anticipation; the representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so ("he was a dead man when he entered"); the anticipation and answering of possible questions in rhetorical speech
proleptic adj. anticipatory
pronate verb to put (the hand or forearm) into a prone position (with the palm downwards)
propinquity adj. nearness in space; proximity
propitiate verb to appease
propitious adj. favourable
purlieus noun a person’s bounds or limits
pyracanth noun a dark evergreen schrub
recension noun a revision of a text; a particular form or version of a text resulting from such revision
recondite adj. abstruse
recusant noun a person who refuses submission to an authority
refulgent adj. shining, gloriously bright
rill noun a small stream
rood noun a crucifix; 1/4th of an acre
saltatory adj. leaping or dancing
sanguine adj. optimistic, confident
saponaceous adj. of, like or containing soap; unctuous, flattering
saturnine adj. of a sluggish, gloomy temperament
sciolist noun a superficial pretender to knowledge
sedulous adj. persevering, diligent, assiduous
self-subdual noun self-conquest
sentient adj. having the power of perception by the senses
sere adj. withered, dried up
settle noun a bench with a high back and arms, often with a box fitted below the seat
skein noun a tangle or confusion
sloe-eyed adj. eyes of a bluish-black colour (as of the fruit of a blackthorn)
solipsism noun the view that the self is all that exists or can be known
sough verb to make a moaning, whistling or rushing sound
spoony adj. sentimental, amorous
springe noun a noose or snare for catching small game
steadings noun farm outbuildings
stile noun an arrangement of steps allowing people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall
stiver noun the smallest amount or quantity
subfuscous adj. dull, gloomy
sublunary adj. of this world, earthy
supine adj. lying face upwards, inert
swede noun a large yellow-fleshed turnip
syllogism noun a false form of deductive reasoning
tawdry adj. showy but worthless
tester noun a canopy, esp. over a four-poster bed
tippet noun a covering of fur etc. for the shoulders, formerly worn by women
transpontine adj. on the other side of a bridge
trivet noun an iron tripod or bracket for a cooking pot or kettle to stand on ("as right as a trivet")
trope noun a metaphore, a figurative use of a word
turbid adj. muddy, thick; not clear; (of a colour, of a style, etc.) confused, disordered
uxorial adj. of or relating to a wife
uxorious adj. greatly or excessively fond of one’s wife
valance noun a short curtain round a bedstead
valedictory adj. serving as a farewell
valetudinarian noun a person of poor health or unduly anxious about health
vatic adj. prophetic or inspired
vaticination noun a prophesy
votary noun a person vowed to the service of God or of a cult
Good Words