Andrea Lawrence has a master's in creative writing. She studied fiction, poetry, playwriting, and screenwriting.
Expanding Your Vocabulary with Freerice
I'm always on the hunt for words I don't know. I love rare words that hardly ever come up in conversation. Expanding my vocabulary is one of my hobbies.
One of the best ways to explore words is through Freerice.
Freerice is an educational website. It has a multiple-choice quiz to determine whether you know the definition of a word or not. In the process, players donate rice to families in need. Freerice is part of the World Food Programme; the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
I played the game on the hardest difficulty level and compiled a list of words from the quiz. I organized the words by parts of speech. The majority of the words are nouns. There are also plenty of adjectives and a handful of verbs.
The following list can help you pepper your prose. Word variety can help a piece be more engaging, but you don't want to overwhelm your writing with too many challenging, rare, and unusual words. That can turn off your reader very quickly.
FYI: I included a reference section at the bottom of this post. It lists dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other sources used to cultivate the list.
Antilogy: self-contradiction. An inconsistency of terms or ideas, whether held by a person or group. Antilogy is an opposition of thoughts.
Apport: an object used in a séance. The apport can be a living creature or an inanimate object. Mediums act as though the object has suddenly or mysteriously appeared. Apports are associated with poltergeists.
Apports can't actually mysteriously appear. The sudden appearance is a deliberate fraud. There is no credible evidence that a medium or psychic has ever manifested an apport out of thin air.
Automnesia: the experience of recalling a lost memory; spontaneous memory; the revival of a past experience without apparent conditions to associate to it.
Babiche: a rawhide that's formed into strips. It looks like cords or strings. It can be used as rope or webbing. North American indigenous peoples have used babiche for animal snares, snowshoes, braided straps, fishing lines, and fastenings.
Bouclé: bumpy yarn. It refers to both looped yarn and the fabric woven from the yarn. It is made from loops of a similar size. The loops can be tight and small or large and curly.
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Camarilla: a group of advisers to a corrupt ruler or politician. The group shares similar malevolent ideas or a similar purpose/vision.
People in a camarilla usually don't hold any office or have any real authority. They're unelected. They typically influence things behind the scenes. They often escape punishment or consequences.
The term comes from the Spanish camarilla for "little chamber" or "private cabinet of the king." It was first used to describe the cronies who served King Ferdinand VII.
Empennage: the airplane tail. In aeronautics, it is the arrangement of stabilizing features at the plane's tail. The empennage includes the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, rudder, and elevator. The empennage works like the feather on an arrow; it helps guide the aircraft.
Epergne: an ornamental centerpiece for a dining table. The centerpiece usually has tiers and holds fruit or flowers. It often has a frame of wrought metal, such as silver or gold. It can also be made of glass or porcelain. They were traditionally made of silver.
The epergne has a center with branches extending out of it. The branches support baskets, bowls, or candleholders.
Flitch: a side of cured meat. The word is commonly used to describe an unsliced side of bacon. There is a tradition in England where married couples who swear to not have regrets for a year and a day are awarded a flitch of bacon.
Flitch can also refer to a section of a log.
Fulmen: crossed lightning bolt insignia used by the Roman army. Trident-shaped lightning bolts appeared on some shields. The bolts were a symbol of Jupiter, the Roman equivalent to Zeus.
Gault: a thick clay soil. It can be stiff and compact or thick and heavy. It is sometimes used for making bricks.
Grisaille: a style of painting in gray. This is often done to imitate sculpture art. Grisaille can also refer to gray monochrome stained-glass windows or architecture.
Sometimes grisailles are models for engravers. Working in grisaille is often quicker and cheaper than traditional painting. Grisaille doesn't hide drawing mistakes as well as fully colored paintings do.
Examples include: Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica (1937), Anthony van Dyck's portrait of Frans Francken II, and Jan van Eyck's Annunciation.
Goliard: a wandering student. The Goliards were a group of young clergy who wrote satirical poetry in the 12th and 13 centuries. They primarily lived and traveled in Germany, France, and England.
Hogget: a young, unsheared sheep. It is in its second spring or summer. It is about one to two years old.
Lamb sold in the UK is called hogget to a farmer in Australia and New Zealand.
Jaggery: a cane sugar that's popular in India and Southeast Asia. It is a concentration of cane juice and (generally) date or palm sap. Its color can vary from golden to dark brown. It is similar to muscovado, a popular sweetener in Portuguese and British cuisine.
Khat: chewing leaves. Khat commonly refers to the leaves of an Arabian shrub. The leaves are eaten or drunk as a stimulant. The shrub grows in mountainous areas.
Khat speeds up messages that travel to the brain and body. There are some social traditions associated with khat in the Middle East and Eastern Africa.
Kukri: a curved machete. It is broad toward the point; the blade has a distinctive recurve. The knife is traditionally used by the Gurkhas and Kiratis of Nepal and India.
Lichgate: a covered gateway at the entrance of a churchyard. Traditionally, a lichgate is used during burials. The roofed gateway shelters a coffin until clergy arrive. The term "resurrection gate" has also been used for lichgates.
"Lichgate" has multiple spellings. This includes: lychgate, lycugate, lyke-gate, and lych gate.
Lych or lich comes from an old English or Saxon word for corpse.
Limbus: an anatomy term for the border or margin of a structure. Limbus generally refers to the marginal region of the cornea and sclera in the eye.
Lucubration: the act of laborious studying or intense meditation; especially late at night. A lucubration also refers to a piece of writing that's overelaborate.
Macédoine: diced fruits or vegetables that form a salad. Macédoine could also refer to a medley of unrelated objects.
Fruit Macedonia is made up of fresh fruits; it's a popular dessert in Greece.
Mugwump: a person who votes independent of party politics. A mugwump could also describe someone who is aloof, especially in regards to politics. It could also describe someone who is undecided or neutral. The term implies that people think they're holier-than-thou by holding themselves neutral to politics.
The term was first used by Charles A. Dana in the New York Sun. It was derived from the Algonquian word "mogkiomp", meaning "great man", "war leader", or "big chief". The term was later adopted in England.
Noyau: a liqueur made of brandy and flavored with fruit or nut kernels. It is made by redistilling spirit. It is often made of orange peels. The nuts are often almonds. The fruit kernels come from peaches, apricots, and similar fruits.
Obsequy: funeral or burial rites. The word could also refer to a ceremony or service. The word was more popular in the 1800s. It has steadily declined in popularity over the past two centuries. Obsequy comes from the Latin word "exsequiae", meaning funeral rites.
Olio: (1) a spiced stew of meats and vegetables. It originates from Spain and Portugal. (2) A miscellaneous collection.
Omphalos: the center or pulp of a hub. The word is used to describe a sphere of activity. It comes from the Greek word for "navel".
Omphalos is also a round stone used in the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is used to mark the center of the earth.
Ora: openings, entrances, edges, and margins to a passage. This is related to anatomy. Ora is the plural of os. One example of ora is nostrils.
Orthoepy: the correct pronunciation of words. It is also the study of pronunciation.
Pasquinade: a form of satire. One that is displayed or performed before an audience publically or as a piece of writing. A pasquinade can be expressed in song or through other creative outlets. They were created for political reasons to respond to contemporary issues.
Plafond: a highly decorative ceiling. It could also be used to describe a painting or other aesthetic feature.
Plafond refers to a ceiling that's elaborate and showy. The term is French for "ceiling". A mosaic on a ceiling would be called a plafond.
Raboto: a wide, stiff collar. It's made of lace. Rabotos were worn during the 17th century. There are two ways to wear it: (1) worn flat across the shoulders, or (2) open in front and straight along the back.
Scholium: a comment made in the margins of an ancient text. It can be grammatical, explanatory, or analytical in nature. The notes are intended to help with interpretation. A scholiast commentates or annotates on a text. Scholium is singular. Scholia is plural.
Surplice: a white linen robe worn by clergy. The vestment is hip-length to calf-length. It is worn over a cassock. Surplices are associated with the Western Christian Church. The sleeves are wide and flowy.
The surplice likely first appeared in France or England. It is commonly used among Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans.
Tomalley: a sauce of lobster liver. Seafood paste that is green and found in the body cavity of lobsters. It is considered a delicacy. It can be used as a thickening agent.
Tonsure: the shaved part of a priest's or monk's head.
Tonsure can also be used as a verb to mean to shave the hair on top of a clergy's head.
The term originates from the Latin word tonsura. The term is referring to a specific practice in medieval Catholicism, which was officially abandoned by papal order in 1972.
Capriole: to leap. The movement is performed in classical riding. The horse leaps off the ground and kicks out their hind legs.
Capriole also describes a leap in dancing/ballet.
Clapperclaw: to fight someone by using your hands and nails. The person scratches and claws at someone. It is a common strategy among school-age children.
The word is most popular in England.
Hebetate: to make dull, blunt, or stupid. From the Latin word "hebetatus".
Perflate: to blow through, like wind. Synonyms: amplify, give vent, inflate, billow, and balloon.
Amphoteric: a compound that can react as either a base or an acid. Examples of this include: amino acids, proteins, water (self-ionizable compound), metal oxides, and hydroxide. The compound is a molecule or ion.
The word can be used to mean "both."
Azygous: a biological term for "not existing in pairs." It could be a singular muscle or vein that doesn't come in a pair.
In anatomy, azygous is a branch of morphology dealing with the structure of animals.
Azygous is about singularity. The word can indicate an individual, a single survivor, or a single entity.
Edacious: devouring; voracious consumption.
Sentence: The edacious child ate everything on the table, and his mother had to cook up more food to satisfy his appetite.
Feracious: highly fruitful, fertile, or productive. Producing an abundance. Having endless results. The word could also describe someone who is lively and energetic. The word is associated with a surplus.
Fulgurous: (1) flashing light(s) resembling lightning. (2) The quality of emitting flashes. (3) Actions that remind others of lightning.
Labile: liable to change. Something that can be easily altered. The term is often used to describe someone who is moody or emotionally unstable.
In chemistry, "labile" refers to something that easily breaks down or gets displaced.
Niffy: an unpleasant smell. It is an informal British word. Synonyms include: malodorous, stinky, musty, rank, putrid, foul, noisome, and disgusting.
Niffy might look like a cute word, but it doesn't describe anything nice at all.
Recreant: an archaic word for cowardly. A recreant is unfaithful. It describes an apostate.
The word can also be used as a noun. It has the same meanings as its adjective form.
Verecund: an archaic word for shy, modest, or bashful. It comes from the Latin word verēcundus diffident, from verērī "to fear."
Vicinal: a term used in chemistry. Vicinal describes two groups bonded to two adjacent carbon atoms. The two groups are functional.
The term can be used in a general sense to describe something that is neighboring or adjacent.
Xanthous: more commonly associated with the color yellow, but it can also mean red, auburn, or brown hair. It is described as "yolk-colored".
Dictionaries: Merriam-Webster, Oxford English Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, Wiktionary.
- Al Zarouni, Yousif (2015). The Effects of Khat (Catha Edulis). London: Yousif Al Zarouni.
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- Curl, James Stevens; Wilson, Susan (2016). Oxford Dictionary of Architecture. Oxford University Press. p. 454. ISBN 978-0-19-967499-2.
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- McCarthy, Daniel (2003). "On the Shape of the Insular Tonsure" (PDF). Celtica. 24: 140–167. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- P. Brown ed., A Companion to Chaucer (2008), p. 94.
- Poteat, R. Matthew (2006). "Mugwumps" in the Encyclopedia of American political parties and elections (by Larry Sabato, Howard R. Ernst), p. 233. ISBN 978-0-8160-5875-4.
- Raffaele D'Amato Roman Army Units in the Western Provinces (1): 31 BC-AD 195 2016 1472815394
- Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Taylor & Francis. p. 39. ISBN 1-57958-380-6.
- Spaeth, John W. (1939). "Martial and the Pasquinade". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. 70: 242–255.
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.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence