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To kick off a new year of Grammar Guru lessons, I’m starting a three-part series of words I love. I hope learning or revisiting these words will freshen up your vocabulary at work, online, and in conversation with friends. Use these 10 adjectives to sound sharp and replace some tired words we overuse. Next month, I’ll share 10 nouns I adore!


MEANING: lacking freshness, originality, or novelty; lacking in qualities that make for spirit and character

This word is so powerful in so many contexts. It’s negatively connotated to show a lack of zest. Conversation, activities, style, and art can all be banal if they are overdone, expected, or cliché.

EXAMPLE: Reality dating shows are notoriously banal.

SIMILAR WORDS: bland, tasteless, trite, boring, stale, obvious


MEANING: idyllically pastoral; relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life

This word feels warm and tingly on the tongue and conjures up a scene from Downton Abbey. It’s the serene coziness of off-grid life. It’s books featuring wayward heroines with muddy hemlines. It’s the sound of farm animals and the smell of hay. It’s snuggling up by a fire with a cup of tea.

EXAMPLE: My love of bucolic life makes me want to buy a cottage in the English Cotswolds.

SIMILAR WORDS: rural, pastoral, rustic


MEANING: bad-tempered, argumentative, and uncooperative; difficult or irritating to deal with

This word even sounds annoying, right?! This person is the opposite of pleasant and agreeable. They’re always finding something to complain about. They may picture the glass as half empty. You will likely dread or feel uncomfortable in situations with a cantankerous person. It can also mean inwardly fretful or worrisome.

EXAMPLE: My cousins and I have learned to ignore Grandpa’s cantankerous complaining.

SIMILAR WORDS: fussy, grumpy, stubborn, obstinate


MEANING: very attentive to, and concerned about, accuracy and detail

I use this to describe someone who doesn’t let things fall through the cracks. It shows a level of intuitive competence. An acute ability to juggle multiple things with clarity and communication.

EXAMPLE: We’re looking to hire someone who is a skilled editor and a fastidious researcher.

SIMILAR WORDS: meticulous, careful, thorough, detail-oriented


MEANING: completely unable to understand; utterly confused or perplexed

This word is so fun to say and use. If you are trying to show that you are in utter shock — use flummoxed!

EXAMPLE: That final Hail Mary in the game had us jaw-dropped and flummoxed.

SIMILAR WORDS: stumped, confused, perplexed, disoriented


MEANING: Persistingly tirelessly

This is an apt descriptor of someone who never tires of talking about something, working towards something, or fighting for something. It’s related to enthusiasm and a yearning to spread that enthusiasm to others. Although this is considered a positive word, you could also use it with a snarky flavor if someone is annoyingly obsessive or will NOT shut up about something.

EXAMPLE: StyleBlueprint is an indefatigable supporter of local businesses.

SIMILAR WORDS: unwavering, tenacious, persistent, untiring, tireless


MEANING: tending to talk a great deal; fond of talking or conversation; using more words than necessary to express an idea

This is a nice(ish) way to say that someone talks a lot. It suggests an ability and a tendency to express oneself articulately, fluently, or glibly. It can describe a neverending train-of-thought diatribe or a well-informed presentation on a topic. Another similar word, but one with a more negative connotation, is garrulous. Garrulous implies excessively prosy, rambling, or tedious wordiness.

EXAMPLE: Inviting that one famously loquacious dinner guest can be both helpful and annoying.

SIMILAR WORDS: talkative, wordy


MEANING: generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or less powerful person; having or showing a noble and courageous spirit

Here’s another impressive word to add to your vocabulary — and it shows the utmost praise! This word encapsulates someone’s character who rises above petty disagreements. Someone who shows humility, steadiness, and a readiness to forgive and move on. Someone willing to help others even when it does not benefit them directly.

EXAMPLE: Working for a magnanimous boss has bolstered workplace morale.

SIMILAR WORDS: generous, altruistic, charitable, considerate, forgiving, unselfish


MEANING: given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior without warning

Another of my favorite words you’ll see a lot in fiction. If someone has a mercurial nature, it often implies that they’re animated, lively, and quick-witted. It’s similar to another adjective I love, capricious, but it’s got an air of whimsy and mystery. Mercurial seems to be used more positively, while capricious simply sounds erratic.

EXAMPLE: I never know what my mercurial boss will say in our meetings.

SIMILAR WORDS: volatile, flighty, moody, erratic, fickle


MEANING: characterized by shaking, trembling, or faltering, as from fear, nervousness, or weakness

This word has many different uses. It’s often used to describe a person who is visibly shaken up by something. Someone who’s acting unsure, nervous, uneasy, or wavering about in a particular situation. It’s also often used to describe someone’s voice or hands.

EXAMPLE: Even though she’d practiced the speech a dozen times, she was tremulous walking to the podium.

SIMILAR WORDS: afraid, timid, nervous, hesitant, wavering, frightened

I’m glad to be back for another year of grammar love! These word explanations came from Grammarly, Oxford Language, and my own understanding. If you have a grammar topic you’d like me to cover this year, email me at [email protected]. Revisit my other installments HERE.



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Zoe Yarborough
About the Author
Zoe Yarborough

Zoe is a StyleBlueprint staff writer, Charlotte native, Washington & Lee graduate, and Nashville transplant of eleven years. She teaches Pilates, helps manage recording artists, and likes to "research" Germantown's food scene.