Unusual English Words & Rare Words That You Might Not Know - Word List

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You might be faced with a word you've never seen before, let alone understand the meaning of it. That's where a list of unusual words and rare English words comes in. Sure, you could grab an English dictionary, but let's face it, it's much easier when it's all in the same place.

This word list goes from the most obscure words to regional variations of words in the US and the world- meaning you'll always distinguish arugula from rocket! These aren't rare words, but they are commonly confusing.

Unusual Words with Special Meanings

You may have heard of a few of these unusual English words before. Don't worry; we will define them here if you haven't.

  1. Pareidolia: Physiological phenomenon where people can see patterns, often faces
  2. Serendipity: The occurrence of fortunate events by chance in a positive way
  3. Schadenfreude: Getting enjoyment or satisfaction from other people’s troubles
  4. Ephemeral: Only lasting for a short period of time
  5. Audace: Bold and highly spirited, often used as musical direction
  6. Gobbledygook: Full of words and nonsense
  7. Guano: Bat or seabird poop, feces used as fertilizer
  8. Codswallop: British word for nonsense, something untrue or stupid
  9. Thingamajig or Thingumbob: a thing, word for something when you’re unsure of the actual word

Why is Learning New Words so Important? 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are over 60,000 English words to discover and way more that have yet to be defined. For many of us, even native speakers, most of these are out of our everyday lexicon. One way to discover new words is through word games like Wordle or Scrabble. These games often present challenging and less common words that are more difficult to guess, and they may also carry higher point values precisely because they fall outside of our everyday vocabulary.

For instance, let's consider the wordle answer "TRITE" as an example. It is an adjective used to describe or express that something is unoriginal, dull, or overused. When people began asking, "What does trite mean?" it caused a sensation on the internet.

So, while it may be tempting to believe that we already know all the words we need, actively learning and discovering new words can greatly enhance our communication skills, cognitive abilities, our Wordle scores, and overall appreciation for language.

Complete Word List of Unusual English Words

Though you might not use the following obscure and often weird words in your daily conversations, it's worth learning them- even just to brag about how many English words you know.

Rare English Words with Meaning

Have you ever heard of any of these rare English words? They're not used very often. Still, that's what makes them even more strange and beautiful.

  • Anachronism (noun): Something that is out of place or time; an error in chronology.
  • Ineffable (adjective): Too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words; indescribable.
  • Sempiterna (adjective): Eternal or everlasting; lasting forever.
  • Defenestration (noun): The act of throwing someone or something out of a window.
  • Susurrus (noun): A whispering or rustling sound; a murmur or whispering noise.
  • Draconian (adjective): Excessively harsh or severe; extremely strict or rigid.
  • Numinous (adjective): Having a strong spiritual or religious quality; mysterious or awe-inspiring.
  • Piety (noun): Devotion to religious duties and practices; a deep respect or reverence for religion.
  • Querulous (adjective): Complaining or whining in a petulant or unjustified manner; irritable or grumbling.
  • Munificent (adjective): Extremely generous or lavish; characterized by great generosity or giving.
  • Clamant (adjective): Urgent or insistent; demanding attention or action.
  • Acnestis (noun): A part of the body that cannot be easily scratched, such as the middle of the back.

Rare Words Flashcards

Want to discover more? Here are some more examples of rare English words. Flip the flashcards for each definition.

Obscure Words in English

What's the most obscure English word? Keep reading.

  • Epoxy (noun): Epoxy is a strong adhesive and coating material made from resin
  • Callipygian (noun) - Callipygian means having shapely buttocks or being characterized by well-shaped buttocks.
  • Scintillating (adjective): Sparkling or shining brightly; brilliantly and excitingly clever or skillful.
  • Quixotic (adjective): Unrealistic and impractical, marked by romantic notions or an idealistic, chivalrous, or rashly impulsive outlook.
  • Elysian (adjective): Relating to or characteristic of heaven or paradise; blissful, delightful, or sublime.
  • Lollygag (verb): To spend time aimlessly, to idle or dawdle; to waste time in a lazy manner.
  • Petrichor (noun): A pleasant, earthy smell that typically accompanies the first rain after a long dry spell.
  • Flibbertigibbet (noun): A frivolous, flighty, or excessively talkative person who lacks seriousness or focus.
  • Widdershins (adverb): In a direction contrary to the sun's course, counterclockwise; in a direction contrary to normal or conventional.
  • Logomachy (noun): A dispute or argument about words or language, especially one that is prolonged or contentious.

English Words With Multiple Meanings

Do you know the phrase that a picture can have multiple meanings? Well, so words can, too; they’re called homonyms. Here are some examples.

  1. Jam
  • (noun) - A sweet spread made from fruit.
  • (noun) - A situation of congestion or blockage.
  • (verb) - To press or squeeze tightly.
  • (noun) - A type of music.

2. Bark

  • (noun) - The sound a dog makes.
  • (noun) - The outer covering of a tree.
  • (verb) - To shout or speak loudly.
  • (noun) - deer noise.

3. Fluke

  • (noun) - A type of fish.
  • (noun) - A type of flatworm.
  • (noun) - The fins of a whale's tail.
  • (noun) - A stroke of luck.

4. Peer

  • (noun) - A person who is equal to another in social status, age, or ability. (Verb) - To look intently or with difficulty at something.
  • (noun) - A member of the nobility.
  • (verb) - To come into view, especially gradually or partially.

Obsolete English Words

As language develops, so do words; the study of this is called etymology. Here are some obsolete English words that aren't used anymore.

  • Philistine (adjective and noun): Originally referred to members of non-Semitic people inhabiting ancient Philistia in Palestine. Now philistine can describe someone considered ignorant, uncultured, or lacking in artistic or intellectual appreciation.
  • Doodlesack (noun): An Old English term for a bagpipe.
  • Bedward or bedwards (verb): Indicates movement or direction towards bed or bedtime.
  • Fribble (verb): Meant to waste time and dawdle, not focusing on important things
  • Wench (noun): Wench refers to a young woman or girl. It is now considered derogatory and is not commonly used.
  • Grumpish (adjective): Grumpish describes someone who is in a bad mood, easily irritated, or likes to complain.
  • Gallimaufry (noun): A confused mixture or medley of things, often used to describe a jumble
  • Brabble - (noun): An altercation or argument, typically very loud
  • Sooterkin (noun): Originally used to refer to a deformed or malformed fetus. Later it became a term of endearment for a loved one.
  • Overmorrow (noun): An archaic word that means the day after tomorrow, so two days ahead.

Regional Word Variations Across the US and UK

Let's explore some unusual words, linguistically different in the US and UK.

  • Gobby and Gabby (adjective): Talkative or loquacious, often in a chatty or informal way.
  • Aesthete and esthete (noun): A person who has a deep appreciation of art or beauty.
  • Agalloch, Agarwood, and Eaglewood (noun): A fragrant wood that is burned as incense or used in perfumes.
  • Zucchini and courgette (noun): A long, green summer squash that is typically eaten cooked.
  • Aubergine and eggplant (noun): A dark purple or black vegetable that is commonly used in cooking.
  • Truck and lorry (noun): A large motor vehicle used for transporting goods or materials.
  • Wacky and bonkers (adjective): Amusingly eccentric or unconventional; zany or offbeat.
  • Gobbledygook and gibberish (noun): Speech or writing that is unintelligible or nonsensical.

Using Rare Words 

Rare and unusual words can be used everywhere and anywhere, though we wouldn’t suggest peppering you’re essays or texts with lots of them; some every now and then is great. So, go forth and use these unusual words (sparingly.)