We Need These Obsolete Words


Language is ever-evolving. Some words are forgotten, while others gain popularity until they break free of the confines of local slang or expert tech-speak, and permeate the general consciousness of culture. Just last month, the Oxford Dictionary added ‘phablet’ and ‘srlsy’ to their list of words.

] I didn’t know what a phablet was, honestly, though now that I do it seems a fitting word for a smartphone of intermediate size between phone and tablet. ‘Srsly’ gave me a feeling of weltschmerz.

I can’t actually properly pronounce this German word, but I can relate to its meaning, that of world-pain, a sorrow caused by the state of the world, a mood of sentimental sadness. Fortunately, my pessimism was short-lived, burned away by some ludibrious thoughts. It’s much more fun to feel scornful and mocking instead of sad. Plus, it’s kind of fun to say ludibrious, especially if you growl it in a sinister voice.

As you’ve probably gleaned by now, this post is all about words, especially multi-syllabic and sometimes amazingly specific ones that are hardly used anymore. Let’s celebrate some fun, mostly-obsolete words that would really perk up a lot of conversations if they made it back into the collective vocabulary.


Snoutfair: A person with a handsome countenance

I feel like P.G. Wodehouse ought to have used this one, maybe to describe Empress, the Blandings Pig. I just keep picturing a really captivating pig. Also, I haven’t read any Blandings stuff in a while, so I guess there is a chance this actually happens and I’m remembering this context. 


Empress of Blandings

Empress of Blandings


Wonder-wench: A sweetheart


Lunting: Walking while smoking a pipe

Yesterday I saw a guy walking while smoking a cigarette, sort of stomping pensively along and glaring at everything. Lunting now seems like the perfect summary word for this. Since pipes are less common, I think it’s reasonable to expand this to include cigarettes.


Groak: To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them

I talked about dachshunds in my last post. We all know they are expert groakers.


Just try to say no to that face.

Just try to say no to that face.


Curglaff: The shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into the cold water


Tyromancy: Divining by the coagulation of cheese

Frankly, I’m amazed someone could resist eating the cheese to study it for clues to the future. Especially if groakers were nearby. 


Beef-witted: Having an inactive brain, thought to be from eating too much beef


Englishable: That which may be rendered into English


Bookwright: A writer of books; an author; a term of slight contempt

Contempt? I’ll show you contempt… Hmph.


Zafty: A person very easily imposed upon

I really like this one, particularly because it nicely juxtaposes with crafty. A crafty person is not easily imposed upon, but a zafty person is.


Slubberdegullion: Slovenly person

Obviously, this one is going straight into my vocabulary.


Rememble: A false memory; may be a combination of the word fumble and remember

Just like I might have been doing with the snoutfair Empress of Blandings!


Jocuserious: A blend of jokes and serious matter; part silly and part serious.


Slangrel: A lean or long person or thing

Anyone else picturing Gollum?

Definitely a slangrel


Sockdologer: a decisive blow or remark


Xanthic: yellow

Use this in hangman. (Use strength as well. It’s not a rare word, but as far as I know, it is the longest word in English to only have one vowel).


Sternutation: the act of sneezing


Abstemiously: sparing or moderate, temperate in diet

Word Nerd Fact: This one uses all five vowels in the correct order, and even y. So does facetiously.  You know, these are pretty good hangman words too. 



Well, now you have the tools to:

a)      Clobber people at hangman

b)      Dazzle people with your impressive vocabulary

c)       Annoy people with your pretentious vocabulary and way of speaking

d)      Try your hand at guessing the lotto numbers by looking at melted cheese

You’re welcome.



Signing off,

A remembling, jocuserious bookwright/tyromancer



For more rare words, check out these links:

Obsolete Words Which Should Never Have Gone Out of Style

Obsolete Words 

Buzzfeed – Delightful Obsolete Words Its High Time We Revived  – Complete with an owl for every word!

The Archive of Endangered, Special, or Fun Words 

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5 thoughts on “We Need These Obsolete Words

  1. Pingback: Do You Have a Gargantuan Vocabulary?   | Meghan Masterson

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