21 Words That Will Make You Sound Smarter

Updated on January 8, 2018
K S Lane profile image

K S Lane has been an avid reader and writer her entire life and is passionate about helping others to improve their own written skills.

Have you ever really wanted to impress your friends or family with your intellect? What about stunning a new co-worker with the depths of your intelligence? Are you a student who wants to get a better grade on a paper? Luckily for you, my friend, there’s a way to do it. In the wider world sometimes a nice lengthy word is what’s needed to gain respect from others around you and ensure that people pay attention to your opinions. Below I’ve listed twenty-one words that, when sprinkled in here and there throughout a normal conversation, will leave your fellows impressed and, in some cases, asking you what the hell you’re talking about.

While using fancier words won't really improve your intellect that much, those around you will think you've had a serious brain-boost!
While using fancier words won't really improve your intellect that much, those around you will think you've had a serious brain-boost! | Source
  • Antithesis: Antithesis essentially means 'opposite.' For example, "That’s the antithesis of what I’m saying, you idiot."
  • Disparate: This is just a more complicated way of saying that something is different, or incomparable, to something else. For example, "We have disparate world-views."
  • Elocution: This can refer to the skill of expressive and articulate speech or to one’s specific style of speaking. For example, "Your elocution is terrible."
  • Gasconade: The definition of this word is 'extravagant boasting,' which should be useful when your big-headed and wealthy friend won’t shut up. For example, "Stop with the Gasconade, Henry. No one cares about your yacht."
  • Gregarious: This can be used to describe someone who’s sociable or fond of company. For example, "I hear Mary is throwing another party on Saturday night. She’s so gregarious."
  • Halcyon: This word refers to a period of time in the past that was peaceful and happy. For example, "I wish I could return to my childhood. It was halcyon compared to my life now."
  • Hyperbole: In its adjective form this word is fantastic for describing those people who dramatise everything. It refers to a gross exaggeration, for example, "Stop being so hyperbolic, Stacy. You’re not going to die just because you took a Tylenol instead of a Nurofen."


1. the skill of clear and expressive speech, especially of distinct pronunciation and articulation

2. a particular style of speaking.

Words are the most powerful entities in the world.
Words are the most powerful entities in the world. | Source
  • Interlocutor: This word refers to someone who takes part in a debate of conversation. If you’re having a one-on-one argument, you can use it to refer to your opponent and confuse them in doing so. "YOU: My interlocutor stated that drinking orange juice can cure colds. This is, in fact, untrue. OPPONENT: No, it was me who said that. Who is this 'interlocutor' person?
  • Lustrous: Shiny. Literally, it just means shiny. Great word though, right?
  • Macabre: Macabre means something that’s disturbing because it’s related to death. For example, "That modern-art instillation was positively macabre. Were the sculpted severed heads really necessary?!"
  • Mellifluous: This word literally means 'flowing like honey.' It can also be used to describe something as smooth and pleasant, for example, "You have a completely mellifluous style of writing." This is a fantastic compliment, largely because the person will likely have no idea what you’re saying to them.
  • Machiavellian: This word has an interesting backstory. It’s derived from the name of Italian political and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was a pretty awful guy and wrote a lot about how using duplicitous, violent tactics in politics was the easiest way to rise to the top (which is sort of true, but also very unethical). Because of this, anyone who uses such tactics to try and claw their way to power is branded as being Machiavellian.
  • Misnomer: A misnomer is a wrong or inaccurate use of a designation, name or term. For example, "I use fancy words now. To say I'm illiterate is a misnomer."
  • Orwellian: Orwellian refers to anything characteristic of the works of George Orwell, such as totalitarian governments, mass propaganda and mass-surveillance. Technically those things are the antithesis (remember that one?) of what George Orwell was trying to say in his novel 1984 as he warned against them, but the word has been used so much that the meaning has stuck. This word also has the double effect of making you seem well-read, which is a nice bonus until someone actually asks you which of Orwell’s works you liked the best.


1. (of a sound) pleasingly smooth and musical to hear.

2. having a smooth, rich flow.

It's fascinating how a mere 26 letters can come together to form such a diverse range of words. English is incredible!
It's fascinating how a mere 26 letters can come together to form such a diverse range of words. English is incredible! | Source
  • Petrichor: This is the word for that smell after rain! I don’t know how often it’s going to come up in general conversation, but isn’t it great to finally put a word to that distinctive smell after so long.
  • Precipice: The literal meaning of this word is the edge of a cliff, but it can be used metaphorically to suggest that you’re on the verge of some dangerous action or decision. For example, "Don’t test me today, Martha. My kids have driven me to the precipice of insanity."
  • Pleonasm: Pleonasm refers to the use of more words than is necessary to convey one meaning. In other words, when someone is being redundant. For example, "Henry, saying that your yacht is gorgeous, beautiful, marvellous, wonderful and perfect is pleonastic."
  • Sanguine: Sanguine can refer either to a blood red colour or to a sate of being optimistic and positive. For example, "I’m sanguine about the future as long as you’re not in it." (Ouch).
  • Tenacious: A tenacious person has tenacity, which is the ability to be persistent and stubborn. For example, "I suppose I can at least admire your tenacity when it comes to talking about your yacht."
  • Zealous: A zealous person has passion, diligence an eager desire or a fervour for an object (like a yacht, for example), a person or a cause.
  • Xanthic: I had to google to find an X one. This word means 'of a yellow colour', which I guess could be useful to you at some point. Or maybe you could just stick to yellowish.


1. the use of more words than are necessary to convey meaning (e.g. see with one's eyes), either as a fault of style or for emphasis.

In Summation:

And there we have it; twenty-one words that are sure to make you sound smarter. Be warned, however. Using some of these in every second sentence is going to make you seem pretentious and probably a little arrogant so make sure you only use them when necessary, otherwise your interlocutors will think that your elocution is the antithesis of mellifluous and more along the lines of just being, well, rubbish.

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 K S Lane


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      • profile image

        Abbiegay Visaya 2 months ago

        Very helpful! Additional words to keep up in my mind, somehow make me forget what it means.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

        I don't know most of these words, but I think I'll learn them so I appear to be cleverer when I'm talking to people. =)

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

        Though I think I have a pretty extensive vocabulary, there were some new gems in here. I feel smarter just from reading this. :)