10 Weird & Wonderful Words

As a writer and reader, I take pleasure in expanding my vocabulary, but there are some words whose sound or meaning provide a special satisfaction. Just be sure you use them right or they’ll stick out like a sore thumb.



1. Petrichor

The distinctive scent (usually described as earthy and pleasant) caused by rainfall on very dry ground.

I love this word (and this smell), but I have yet to find a way to use it in my writing without feeling a bit pretentious. Unfortunately, it’s more common to use the definition when speaking rather than the actual word (i.e. “I love the smell after it rains” as opposed to “I love petrichor”.)


2. Mellifluous

sweetly or smoothly flowing; sweet-sounding

Mellifluous is a mellifluous word.


3. Persnickety

overly particular; fussy; snobbish; requiring painstaking care


Is this word commonly used? It is in my family (maybe we just find it fun to say), so I don’t feel too unnatural writing it, but I haven’t come across it much reading. None of my friends have ever commented when I used it front of them, but maybe they were afraid of looking persnickety…


4. Cavalcade

a procession of persons riding on horses, in horsedrawn carriages, in cars, etc.; any procession; any noteworthy series, as of events or activities

Now, I know I’ve seen this in my reading, so this word shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to the world. It’s one of those pleasant words that has an onomatopoetic effect; I can hear the march of horses’ hooves in the repetitive “c” and the formal structure of the supporting “v” and hard stop “d”.


5. Brobdingnagian

of huge size; gigantic; tremendous; a native of Brobdingnag

If you’re familiar with Gulliver’s Travels you’ll know this one. Brobdingnag was the land in which everything was enormous, hence its use now as an adjective to describe ridiculously large objects. It is a word somewhat obnoxious to both pronounce and spell, so I personally find that it best fits an object whose great size is just too absurd or somewhat irritating.


6. Pernicious

causing insidious harm or ruin; injurious; harmful; hurtful; deadly


I’ve seen this one used fairly regularly, so it’s probably not unfamiliar to others, but I think it’s an adjective we forget about in favor of its more biting cousin “vicious”. There’s something more sneaky about that “per” first syllable, though, that’s worth keeping in mind when you’re describing villainy.


7. Acrimonious

caustic, stinging, or bitter in nature, speech, or behavior, etc.

I’ve come across this word a few times while reading, usually in regards to a character’s nature or behavior, i.e. “the acrimonious recluse slammed the door in their faces.” In terms of speech, I think it might be a bit hefty to describe a specific example of speech (avoid “he said acrimoniously”), but it still works well enough for describing how a person speaks in general (“his speeches were often acrimonious, but they hoped he’d be kinder tonight”). Maybe that’s just me, though…


8. Vacillate

to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute; to sway unsteadily; waver; totter; stagger; oscillate or fluctuate

When I say a character vacillates, it is not a compliment. I don’t use it, nor have I seen generally seen it used, to describe movement. This word is almost always used to describe uncertain or wishy-washy behavior.


9. Vociferous

crying out noisily; clamorous


I don’t know why, but I always picture velociraptors. Maybe it’s because the two words sound vaguely similar; maybe it’s because velociraptors can be vociferous. I also associate it with jungles because they are full of noisy animals and plant life that might be cruciferous (another similar sounding word). Jurassic Park was basically a jungle, right?


10. Conflagration

a destructive fire, usually an extensive one

I like this word as a synonym for fire. It’s bigger than blaze or flames and, to me at least, it takes off and expands at the second and third syllables, much like a fire might expand and explode into a conflagration when it hits a bigger fuel source.

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