7 Complex Words With Simple Definitions
Not all Long Words Have Complicated Meanings
Large words are often large for a reason. Many of them are highly technical or are only called for on very specific occasions. However, sometimes a complex-looking word can have a very simple definition—this is the case with the seven words listed below. These words are a lot like literary paprika: they're versatile, they're bold, and they expand the palate. So, without further ado, let's take a look at seven unusual words with surprisingly simple definitions.
- Definition: A demonstration of cleverness
- Pronunciation: (Fue-nahm-bue-lism)
- Example sentence: Although generally very sharp, a lack of sleep and a broken coffee maker made Chet question whether he would be able to perform his usual acts of logistical funambulism at the office that day.
Funambulism, in its most literal sense, is the art of tightrope walking. Today, however, it is often used to describe a demonstration of mental quickness. The word comes from the Latin ambulo, meaning "walk," and funis, meaning "rope." Tightrope walking as a form of entertainment has existed since at least ancient Roman times and continues to be a popular act at circus shows, especially as many companies eliminate animal acts from their performances.
- Definition: Skinny
- Pronunciation: (Ek-to-morph-ik)
- Example sentence: In a feeble attempt to combat his ectomorphic build, Chet visited a buffet, only to find that the restaurant was now just a pit filled with angry, crab-like monsters.
Derived from ancient Greek roots, the word "Ectomorph" refers one of the three major body types. Ectomorphs are generally characterized by skinniness, a dearth of body fat, and small amounts of lean muscle. Due to their body type, it can be difficult for ectomorphs to develop large muscles. However, they also generally have high metabolisms, which leave them less prone to obesity.
- Definition: Hanging precariously (usually by a single thread)
- Pronunciation: (Fil-ip-end-u-lus)
- Example sentence: Chet's filipendulous form tempted the crab-things as he clung to the pit's edge with a single arm.
This word first appeared in the field of botany in the study of foliage. Specifically, it was used to describe tiny, thread-like rootlets that sprouted from certain types of plants. The word is derived from the Latin fil, meaning "thread," and pend, meaning "to hang." Today, the word is very uncommon, but it is not yet listed as archaic. This word is a personal favorite of mine, and I make a point to use it anytime I can.
- Definition: An abstract sense of uselessness
- Pronunciation: (Flok-suh-nah-suh-nay-hil-uh-pil-uh-fi-kay-shuh)
- Example sentence: Floccinaucinihilipilification overtook Chet as he realized he had no way to escape the oversized crustaceans.
This word dates back to the year 1741, when a group of British elites made up the longest word they could think of in jest. The word derives from four separate semi-obscure Latin roots, all of which mean "for nothing." Today, it is retained in dictionaries as something of a joke. The word is almost never used in normal conversation—it exists primarily as an example of a very long word with an ironic meaning. This does not mean however, that it is not a good word. On the contrary—using the word floccinaucinihilipilification is a great way to communicate uselessly with someone who is doing the same thing to you.
- Definition: The rank smell of armpits (medical term)
- Pronunciation: (Hir-kuss)
- Example sentence: Sweating profusely from fear, anxiety, and physical strain, Chet's hircus became embarrassingly strong.
Although this word is now an accepted medical term, its origins were actually somewhat offensive. The prefix hirc is a Latin root, but it has nothing to do with the human body. Instead, Latin words like hircine and hircose mean "goat" and "goat-like," respectively. Apparently, ancient doctors smelled a similarity between bad B.O. and unwashed goats.
- Definition: Able to receive honor or rewards
- Pronunciation: (On-a-rif-ick-a-bill-ee-too-dee-tart-ee-bis)
- Example sentence: Janet, a passerby, thought she might be honorificabilitudinitatibus if she saved Chet from the monstrous crab-things, so she lowered him a rope and helped him out of the pit.
This word is the longest in the English language to consist exclusively of alternating consonants and vowels. It is best known for being featured in Shakespeare's comedy, Love's Labors Lost, wherein it is used by an extremely pretentious character to demonstrate his academic prowess. The word dates back to the 8th century when it was first used by Latin-speaking pedagogues in Italy. More recently, it was notably used James Joyce's acclaimed novel, Ulysses, and in the 90s by US News and World Report.
- Definition: Of or relating to two days ago or the day before yesterday
- Pronunciation: (Nu-dee-us-ter-ti-an)
- Example sentence: All of a sudden, a nudiustertian thought came to Janet—the day before yesterday, she had seen Chet at a coffee shop. She asked him to join her for a latte to celebrate his narrow escape, and he accepted!
Although rarely seen since its original usage in the 17th century, Nudiustertian has solid roots in Latin. Coined by famed clergyman and author Nathaniel Ward in 1647, the word was designed to anglicize the Latin phrase nudius tertius, which itself stems from the phrase nunc dies tertius est, meaning "now is the third day." Today, the word is generally used for humorous effect rather than as a serious term. In 1963, UCLA professor David Mellinkoff discussed the term in his book, The Language of Law, stating that the word—although amusing—became "promptly obsolete." Nevertheless, the word is fair game for describing any event that occurred two days ago and (in moderation) is a personal favorite of mine.
Not all long words have complicated meanings, but some do. If you'd like to add even more long, strange, and obscure words to your vocabulary, check out the Grandiloquent Dictionary. It's a web-based project dedicated to collecting and distributing the most obscure and rare words in the English language.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.