Last month, StyleBlueprint’s Grammar Guru shared 10 adjectives she is obsessed with, and she’s back with another list of beloved (and sadly, underused) vocabulary words. Add these 10 fresh nouns to your work correspondence, online presence, and conversations — your cohorts, companions, and colleagues will be impressed. Next month: VERBS!
MEANING: brisk and cheerful readiness; physical quickness coupled with eagerness or enthusiasm.
I use this word to convey the opposite of apathy. It shows excitement mixed with sharpness and hastiness. If you bring alacrity to something, you’re ready and willing.
EXAMPLE: She meets her new boss’s requests with refreshing alacrity.
SIMILAR WORDS: eagerness, willingness, readiness, swiftness, fervor
MEANING: the result of combining two or more separate things
This word is a fun and more thoughtful way to say combination. It implies a blending of things that creates something different than the sum of the individual parts. I often think of memories as amalgamations of scents, textures, feelings, and sounds.
EXAMPLE: The millennial influencer Tinx refers to herself as “an amalgamation of all five Spice Girls.”
SIMILAR WORDS: mixture, blend, combination, medley
MEANING: a person or a thing placed in the wrong period; something or someone that is conspicuously old-fashioned; an act of attributing a custom, event, or object to the wrong period
This fantastic word gained traction during our years of solitude when tech-savvy, over-extended millennials turned to baking and knitting. Those hobbies would be obvious anachronisms in normal times.
EXAMPLE: The movie (set in the 1800s) was riddled with anachronisms, like the use of a Zippo lighter (invented in the 1930s).
SIMILAR WORDS: misdating, mistiming
MEANING: a harsh, jarring, or discordant mixture of loud sounds; an incongruous or chaotic combination
A cacophony uncomfortably assails the ears. But it can also attack your other senses, like a cacophony of smells or colors.
EXAMPLE: Cacophony ensued when the babies started wailing over the tornado siren.
SIMILAR WORD: dissonance
MEANING: a confusing or difficult problem to solve or handle; a question raised for consideration or solution
This word can be a literal brain teaser or riddle, but a conundrum can also be connected to the hard-to-handle moral dilemmas of the human experience.
EXAMPLE: Your friend just bought a dress and wants to know your thoughts. If you don’t like it, do you tell her? It’s a common conundrum.
SIMILAR WORDS: riddle, puzzle, problem, enigma
MEANING: a person who takes particular pleasure in fine food and libation
Let’s nix foodie forever and use epicure instead! Unlike a professional chef or sommelier, the epicure soaks up, pays for, enjoys, and delights over the finest quality dishes, wines, and cocktails.
EXAMPLE: It’s fun to eat out abroad with my epicure of a father.
SIMILAR WORDS: foodie, gourmand, gourmet, gastronome
MEANING: small, trivial, unimportant details; minor details about an event
The plural form of minutia, minutiae (pronounced meh-NOO-shee), is a great way to describe little things that play into the bigger picture. It’s nice to appreciate the minutiae of everyday life, like coffee, walks, and baths.
EXAMPLE: Wedding guests never remember the minutiae brides stress over, like flowers, plates, and silverware.
SIMILAR WORDS: details, trivialities, niceties, subtleties
MEANING: a sharp or witty reply
I wish more people used this word! People who are always armed with a quick rejoinder are my favorite kinds of people. It’s part of wordplay and banter.
EXAMPLE: My crush didn’t seem to notice my brilliant rejoinder. Red flag!
SIMILAR WORDS: retort, comeback
MEANING: someone who flatters or praises others to get ahead or to gain approval
Often acting on ulterior motives, a sycophant is an insincere flatterer who sucks up to or leeches onto powerful or wealthy people. This could be anyone from that teacher’s pet in the third grade to con artist Anna Delvey.
EXAMPLE: Celebrities must beware of sycophants pretending to be friends.
SIMILAR WORDS: flatterer, hanger-on, bootlicker, fawner
MEANING: a feeling of fear, agitation, or weariness about something that will happen
Instead of constantly throwing around the word anxiety, trepidation can be a better way to show unease about a situation or person.
EXAMPLE: I was filled with anxious trepidation before my presentation to the board.
SIMILAR WORDS: alarm, fear, apprehension, dread
These explanations were sourced from Grammarly, Oxford Language, Merriam-Webster, and my own understanding. If you have some favorite words to share or a grammar topic you’d like me to cover this year, email me at [email protected]. Revisit my other installments HERE.