Weird Words & Their Meanings: a Guide to Baffling Terminology
The English language is funny and peculiar, with spellings that contradict pronunciation rules, odd grammar quirks, and, of course, a plethora of weird words. You undoubtedly know the feeling – that awkward moment when you have no idea what a funny-sounding word actually entails!
That's why we have prepared this guide to help you navigate the complexities of English's weirdest words. We will discuss these mysterious terms and provide some examples so you can practice their use in conversations.
Definition of Weird Words in English
So, what are weird words in English? Generally speaking, they are any uncommon words with an unusual spelling or absurd sounding. Mot of these outlier terms are rarely used in casual settings, and they sometimes appear with the purpose of surprising or amusing the listener.
As English is a language full of diversity and complexity, there are many weird words out there. While some may be a part of the official English dictionaries, others could exist as jargon or colloquial sayings. In either case, it's likely that you weren't the only one to find them confusing. Even native English speakers might not be familiar with or know how to pronounce them correctly.
Origins of Weird Words in English
Most of the odd words originated from different language sources, both modern and antiquated. Many have etymological roots in Latin or Greek; others are part of English dialects that have evolved, transformed, and combined over the years.
Besides that, English has adopted some of its strange words from foreign languages and cultures through globalization exchanges over the centuries. It's an ongoing process that gives the English language its character and dynamism, contributing to what it is today.
Weird Words Examples
Now that you know what to expect, it is time to get into the details. If you want to learn some fascinating new words and how to use them, this section will be helpful. It will feature some of the most interesting weird English words, their explanations, and sample sentences on how to use them.
Weird Words List
This list includes some weird words in English you may encounter as a learner. Be sure to double-check the spelling and pronunciation for each one:
- Whippersnapper /ˈwɪp.ɚsnæp.ɚ/
This term has existed since the 17th century and relies on two words. Initially, "whipper" was used to refer to a lazy person of low ambition in life, and "snapper" referred to youth who made money through everyday hustle or petty crime such as pickpocketing. Over time, this phrase came together under one name! Today it is most often associated with a young person with too much confidence, almost presumptive in how they act.
My teenage daughter is a whippersnapper – she's constantly snapping back at me when I explain things to her!
- Galumphing /ɡəˈlʌm.fɪŋ/
Galumphing has a complex origin and was coined by Lewis Carroll. The two words that make up galumphing are gallop and triumphant – when combined, they create an image of someone bounding joyfully with arms raised! Nowadays, we use this term to describe heavy footsteps while walking or running, usually accompanied by huffing-and-puffing sounds.
My five-year-old loves galumphing around the house when it's time to play hide-and-seek.
- Kerfuffle /kɚˈfʌf.əl/
Kerfuffle is certainly among the strangest words in the English language. This noun refers to a commotion or fuss, often over a trivial matter. It's a British term that has been around since the early 20th century and is believed to have originated from the Scottish word "curfuffle," which means the same thing. It often describes a noisy or chaotic situation causing confusion or excitement.
The kerfuffle over who would get the last piece of cake was ridiculous.
- Poppycock /ˈpɑː.pi.kɑːk/
This word, derived from the Dutch term "pappekak" (soft dung or feces), is an informal expression used to describe something without a logical basis and, therefore, can be dismissed. It generally implies absolute nonsense and can also refer to a ridiculous idea.
My boss's suggestion was simply poppycock – it wasn't a solution to the problem at all.
- Curmudgeon /kəːˈmʌdʒ(ə)n/
A curmudgeon is an old-fashioned term for a grumpy, bad-tempered person. It is often used to describe an older adult who dislikes socializing or interacting with others or has strict and rigid opinions that rarely change.
My neighbor is a curmudgeon who complains about everything, from the noise of children playing to the weather.
- Lollygag /ˈlɒlɪɡaɡ/
Lollygag is another item in our odd words list. It means to spend time aimlessly or to waste time lazily. It's often used playfully or humorously to describe someone dawdling or procrastinating instead of getting things done.
I can't believe we're still lollygagging around when we have so much work. Let's get moving!
- Mixology /mɪkˈsɑː.lə.dʒi/
Mixology refers to the art or skill of mixing cocktails and other alcoholic drinks. While it sounds like a pretty serious word, it is actually used to describe someone who knows how to make a wide variety of drinks.
Last night, I went out with my friends and got introduced to the mixology master. He made us some truly delicious cocktails that we all enjoyed immensely.
- Gerrymandering /ˈdʒer.iˌmæn.dɚ.ɪŋ/
Gerrymandering is a noun that refers to the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to benefit a particular political party or group. It is named after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, who redrew the state's congressional districts in a way that helped his political party. Gerrymandering can result in political advantage for one party or group, sometimes leading to unequal representation and disenfranchisement of certain voters.
The state legislature was accused of gerrymandering the district lines to favor the incumbent party.
- Wabbit /ˈwæb.ɪt/
Before you think this is some made-up word, wabbit refers to a state in which someone suddenly becomes tired and lacks energy. It is usually the result of exhaustion after overworking for too long or coping with excessive stress.
I got so wabbit after finishing the deadline for that major project; I could barely keep my eyes open.
- Frankenfood /ˈfraŋk(ə)nfuːd/
Also known as genetically modified food, this term is used to describe any products whose genetic makeup has been changed by scientists. These modifications are usually done to improve the quality of such foods or make them more accessible and faster to produce on a large scale.
My parents avoid buying frankenfood at all costs – they only purchase organic products whenever possible.
Fun Facts about Strange Words in English
One of the best things about learning new words is all the exciting details and facts attached to them. Get inspired by some fun tidbits that will make any language lesson more enjoyable:
- "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" is the longest word in the English language. It is a lung disease caused by tiny particles of ash and dust.
- "Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia" means the fear of long words.
- The longest words without any vowels are "crwth" and "cwtch." These Welsh terms refer to a musical instrument and an affectionate gesture.
- Two 15-letter words don't repeat any letters. They are "uncopyrightable," meaning something without copyright protection, and "dermatoglyphics," a term used to describe fingerprint artistry.
- There is a phrase for the opposite of déjà vu: the strange feeling of having experienced something before. It's called "jamais vu," meaning “never seen” in French.
These fun facts prove that English is full of surprises. From the longest words to the most exotic expressions, this language will never cease to amaze you. So, practice and have fun learning English's weirdest word entries!
Enhance Your Vocabulary with Promova
Now you know some of the English language weirdest words – but our work isn't done just yet! If you want to learn more awesome terms or broaden your general English knowledge, the Promova app is your go-to source. Download it now for iOS and Android to experience numerous word lists, quizzes, grammar exercises, and other great features.
You can also sign up for our Promova classes to add to your journey. We provide group and individual sessions with certified tutors to help you quickly progress in the language. Whether you want to prepare for a language exam or simply brush up on your speaking and pronunciation, tutors will tailor the lessons to your needs.
English words can sometimes be mystifying! But with a bit of guidance, you may start to understand and appreciate some of its peculiarities much more. The strange words in English discussed in this article are just a few examples of exciting or humorous language you may encounter during your studies. Now it's time to grab a dictionary and explore more English oddities!
Are there more weird words out there?
Yes, there are! We have provided just a tiny sample of the variety and weirdness. To learn the more unusual language, don't forget to look up new words in the dictionaries like Merriam-Webster or Oxford. These resources will provide you with many examples, etymologies, and pronunciations.
Is English the only language with weird words?
Definitely not. Since language interaction is normal, most languages borrow words or find inspiration from others and create unique terms with interesting spellings or pronunciations. Amazingly, you can find weird words in any language, be it Spanish, German, or even Chinese.
Is it important to know weird words?
Not necessarily. You don't need to use words like these while communicating in English, as they can be confusing or even seen as overly complex. But having a vast vocabulary will help you recognize these expressions or adopt them for adding humor to conversations and writing pieces.
How to learn new words?
Practicing is critical to successful language learning! Remember and use the new words you learn in conversations, writing exercises, audio recordings, or reading a book. You can also join an online English language course, where teachers provide personalized activities adapted to your level of proficiency.