100 Exquisite Adjectives

By Mark Nichol

Adjectives — descriptive words that modify nouns — often come under fire for their cluttering quality, but often it’s quality, not quantity, that is the issue. Plenty of tired adjectives are available to spoil a good sentence, but when you find just the right word for the job, enrichment ensues. Practice precision when you select words. Here’s a list of adjectives:

Adamant: unyielding; a very hard substance
Adroit: clever, resourceful
Amatory: sexual
Animistic: quality of recurrence or reversion to earlier form
Antic: clownish, frolicsome
Arcadian: serene
Baleful: deadly, foreboding
Bellicose: quarrelsome (its synonym belligerent can also be a noun)
Bilious: unpleasant, peevish
Boorish: crude, insensitive
Calamitous: disastrous
Caustic: corrosive, sarcastic; a corrosive substance
Cerulean: sky blue
Comely: attractive
Concomitant: accompanying
Contumacious: rebellious
Corpulent: obese
Crapulous: immoderate in appetite
Defamatory: maliciously misrepresenting
Didactic: conveying information or moral instruction
Dilatory: causing delay, tardy
Dowdy: shabby, old-fashioned; an unkempt woman
Efficacious: producing a desired effect
Effulgent: brilliantly radiant
Egregious: conspicuous, flagrant
Endemic: prevalent, native, peculiar to an area
Equanimous: even, balanced
Execrable: wretched, detestable
Fastidious: meticulous, overly delicate
Feckless: weak, irresponsible
Fecund: prolific, inventive
Friable: brittle
Fulsome: abundant, overdone, effusive
Garrulous: wordy, talkative
Guileless: naive
Gustatory: having to do with taste or eating
Heuristic: learning through trial-and-error or problem solving
Histrionic: affected, theatrical
Hubristic: proud, excessively self-confident
Incendiary: inflammatory, spontaneously combustible, hot
Insidious: subtle, seductive, treacherous
Insolent: impudent, contemptuous
Intransigent: uncompromising
Inveterate: habitual, persistent
Invidious: resentful, envious, obnoxious
Irksome: annoying
Jejune: dull, puerile
Jocular: jesting, playful
Judicious: discreet
Lachrymose: tearful
Limpid: simple, transparent, serene
Loquacious: talkative
Luminous: clear, shining
Mannered: artificial, stilted
Mendacious: deceptive
Meretricious: whorish, superficially appealing, pretentious
Minatory: menacing
Mordant: biting, incisive, pungent
Munificent: lavish, generous
Nefarious: wicked
Noxious: harmful, corrupting
Obtuse: blunt, stupid
Parsimonious: frugal, restrained
Pendulous: suspended, indecisive
Pernicious: injurious, deadly
Pervasive: widespread
Petulant: rude, ill humored
Platitudinous: resembling or full of dull or banal comments
Precipitate: steep, speedy
Propitious: auspicious, advantageous, benevolent
Puckish: impish
Querulous: cranky, whining
Quiescent: inactive, untroublesome
Rebarbative: irritating, repellent
Recalcitrant: resistant, obstinate
Redolent: aromatic, evocative
Rhadamanthine: harshly strict
Risible: laughable
Ruminative: contemplative
Sagacious: wise, discerning
Salubrious: healthful
Sartorial: relating to attire, especially tailored fashions
Sclerotic: hardening
Serpentine: snake-like, winding, tempting or wily
Spasmodic: having to do with or resembling a spasm, excitable, intermittent
Strident: harsh, discordant; obtrusively loud
Taciturn: closemouthed, reticent
Tenacious: persistent, cohesive,
Tremulous: nervous, trembling, timid, sensitive
Trenchant: sharp, penetrating, distinct
Turbulent: restless, tempestuous
Turgid: swollen, pompous
Ubiquitous: pervasive, widespread
Uxorious: inordinately affectionate or compliant with a wife
Verdant: green, unripe
Voluble: glib, given to speaking
Voracious: ravenous, insatiable
Wheedling: flattering
Withering: devastating
Zealous: eager, devoted

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23 Responses to “100 Exquisite Adjectives”

  • Rebecca

    Fantastic list! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Talia

    I love your site. The daily writings are magnificent. Your daily writing tips are useful! Unlike many other writing blogs or websites out there!

  • Roberta B.

    Interesting list. However, for some of the words, I see the following definitions as more accurate:
    adroit-skillful
    judicious-prudent, discerningly
    precipitate – should say precipitous to describe as steep. Precipitate as an adj means falling.

  • AmaT

    Thanks for sharing these. I can’t imagine writing without adjectives. It always pains me to have to cut them.
    As a writer for children, it is a challenge to find adjectives that are new words for kids, but simple enough for them to understand. Obviously, I cannot use “salubrious”, but “luminous,” “limpid,” “verdant,”and “withering” are delightful.

    How about a list especially for young readers?

  • Katie

    Thanks for this! Especially for “jejune”. I heard that one spoken aloud years ago, but didn’t know how to spell it (and no one I asked had ever heard of it), so I couldn’t look it up. Now I can finally use it!

  • Ken

    I think you meant “Recalcitrant” and not “Recalcitant”? Just a small elision, however.

    Thanks for a great list.

  • Rod

    An exquisite list, in deed.

  • brooklyn

    I would also say that “fecund” also means fertile. Great list!

  • Stephen

    A very good list. A lot of words here that I had never heard before and several others for which I didn’t know the definitions.

    You might like to clarify your point about ‘belligerent’, though. A belligerent is an entity participating in war. The noun form of the adjective ‘belligerent’ is ‘belligerence’.

  • Nancy

    Oh, publishers, beware! Coming your way are manuscripts populated with fecund protagonists, mendacious antagonists, didactically sagacious guardians, and platitudinous sidekicks.

    Actually, that could be fun.

  • Tilen

    really useful list. much needed 🙂 thanks

  • Lahesha

    This a the PERFECT list for expanding your vocabulary, but also great for speaking professionals as well. Sometimes I find myself using the same words over and over as I facilitate workshops, so this will come in handy…bookmark worthy!

  • Roberta B.

    @Lahesha – Is that the correct word? To “facilitate” a workshop? Facilitate means to make something easier, less difficult, or free from impediment. You could conduct a workshop, moderate a worshop, direct, guide, chair, etc.. However, just now checking “Business Speak” in Wikipedia, I see it as one of those terms. So, check out the “Beware of Buzz Word Bingo” column (Feb 2011). “Facilitate” could be added to that list since workshops tend to spew buzz words in abundance.

  • Megan “Frances” Abrahams

    Insidious is one of my favorites — such a pithy word. Pithy is pretty good as well. Maybe it could be tacked on. I’m retweeting this now…

  • venqax

    Stephen: But “belligerent” is an adjective, as well as a noun…has the list been modified?

    Katie: Don’t forget “jemay”– almost or becoming dull or puerile, and “jedecember”– exciting, witty, and mature, but colder. And “irksall” which meand even more annoying– to everybody.

  • maria menounos

    I must get across my respect for your generosity supporting those people that really want guidance on in this situation. Your very own commitment to getting the solution all around ended up being quite practical and has permitted others just like me to achieve their dreams. Your warm and helpful suggestions means so much to me and a whole lot more to my fellow workers. Thanks a lot; from all of us.

  • ELBSeattle

    I love words, and particularly adjectives. This list is wondrous fair indeed. However, many of these words are going to come across as being self-conscious, vainglorious or simply twee. While I will always choose the word that comes closest to the meaning I wish to convey (reticent over reluctant when I’m speaking or writing of being hesitant to speak) I also am aware that using a highly decorative word (rhadamanthine, for instance) can be the literary equivalent of wearing too much perfume.

  • suze

    Yes indeed Stephen, agreed. Bellicose and Belligerent are not synonymous but are often used that way. Belligerency is an instrument of the state, not just a singular person’s aggressiveness. Check out Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution for fun.

    Also Corpulent, is bodily. It’s broader than the definition given.

    Still, great to see such a list.

    What about a list of collective nouns? Especially birds. Ie: a Parliament of owls, a murder of crows…fun!

  • Donald C. Whitehead

    To the 4 writers and the editor! Great Job! When coming up with content that just looks and reads the same you kinda get that same
    feeling about it as you do others to some degree. You’re book marked for some exciting adjectives in my writing.
    Thanks
    don

  • Martingerrard

    Superb stuff, absolutely top notch.

  • Florida

    In searching for lists of adjectives to aid in the enrichment of my middle school students’ writing, I happened across this list on stumpbleupon.com. I thought this might be the perfect resource until I reached the word “dowdy”. What a great disappointment from dailytwritingtips.com, especially in light of their own “About the blog”, which states, “Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of emails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. Daily Writing Tips is about that.”

    “Dowdy”? Seriously, M. Nichol, in 2015? Because I respect all of my students, but in this case especially my female students, that one word is a deal breaker, for more reasons than I’ll even entertain here.

  • Somnath Sarkar

    Fabulous list of adjectives..all are pretty helpful.

  • Tracy Kaler

    Some good choices here. Love arcadian and cerulean. 🙂

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