A rich vocabulary signals to those around you that you are smart and sophisticated, but if you’re not certain that you’re using those 10-dollar words quite right, this guide can help steer you in the right direction.
These 20 words will make you sound smarter instantly, and can be dropped into regular conversation like you totally speak this way every day.
Ubiquitous is an adjective that means ever-present, everywhere, omnipresent.
Example: “The fog along the highway was ubiquitous, making it difficult to navigate.”
Paradigm is a noun that can refer to grammar, a pattern, or a framework of assumptions.
Example: “There needs to be a paradigm shift if we’re ever going to make progress on the issue.”
Dichotomy is a noun which refers to something with two contradictory qualities, or a division into two mutually exclusive or contradictory identities.
Example: “It was this dichotomy that made her actions so hard to understand.”
Equivocate is a verb which means to beat around the bush, or deliberately use vague or ambiguous language.
Example: “When asked about their stance on healthcare, the politician equivocated.”
A non sequitur is a statement that is unrelated to previous conversation. It can also be a conclusion drawn from ideas that seemingly are unrelated or don’t make sense.
Example: “We had been discussing gardening, so her remark about car maintenance was a real non sequitur.”
Panacea is a noun which refers to a magic cure-all or universal remedy.
Example: “The medication relieved her pain but was not a panacea for all her symptoms.”
Perfunctory is an adjective which means to do something mechanically or superficially, or with little to no enthusiasm.
Example: “The teacher gave a perfunctory presentation about volunteerism to the class.”
Fastidious is an adjective, and is a fancy way of saying someone pays great attention to detail—or is critical and hard to please.
Example: “She was fastidious when it came to vacuuming the house.”
Scintillating is a noun which means to be very clever, lively, or animated.
Example: “With a scintillating play, she passed the puck to her teammate who then scored the winning goal.”
Cacophony is a noun which refers to a harsh or jarring noise, or a discordant mix of sounds.
Example: “The sounds of engines revving and horns blowing added to the cacophony on the race track.”
Glib is an adjective which means to behave in a manner that is smooth or slick but insincere.
Example: “He was acting glib about the situation, despite having been caught in a lie.”
Ennui is a noun which refers to an intense, unshakable feeling of dissatisfaction as a result of boredom.
Example: “After a week of being stuck indoors, she was filled with a sense of ennui.”
Solipsistic is an adjective that refers to the egocentric belief that only the self exists.
Example: “The party’s policies were solipsistic and completely ignored the working class.”
Acquiesce is a verb, and is just another way of saying that someone accepts something reluctantly, but without putting up a fight.
Example: “After looking at the radar, the pilot acquiesced to finding an alternate route.”
Anomaly is a noun that refers to an abnormality or deviation from what is expected. It can also mean something odd, strange, or inconsistent.
Example: “Because of this anomaly, researchers concluded there was no direct link.”
Capitulate is a verb, and a fancy way of saying give up.
Example: “His family begged him to retire, but he would not capitulate to their request.”
Facetious is an adjective that describes joking, often in an inappropriate manner.
Example: “She made a facetious remark about her supervisor, not knowing he was in the room.”
Aplomb is a noun that refers to a sense of self-confidence.
Example: “It was easy to see by the way he spoke with clients that he possessed lots of aplomb.”
Axiomatic is an adjective, and a fancy way of saying that something is self-evident.
Example: “It is axiomatic that people who make more money spend more money.”
Avant-garde is a noun and adjective used to refer to something that is new and experimental or ahead of its time. It is often used to describe such work in the arts.
Example: “Her painting techniques were seen as avant-garde.”