100 Whimsical Words

By Mark Nichol

The English language can be maddening to native speakers and learners alike, but is also delightfully rich, especially for those who seek to convey a lighthearted tone in their writing. Here are 100 words it’s difficult to employ without smiling. Though their meanings may be obscure, they each present a challenge — I mean an opportunity — for you to paint a vivid word picture. Imbue your musings with mirth by incorporating these terms:

absquatulate: to flee, abscond
abstemious: restrained in consumption of food and alcohol
balderdash: nonsense
ballyhoo: commotion, hype
bindle stiff: hobo
bodacious: remarkable, voluptuous
borborygmus: sound of intestinal gas
cahoots (in the expression “in cahoots with”): scheming
callipygian: possessing a shapely derriere
cantankerous: irritating, difficult
carbuncle: pustule
caterwaul: to wail or protest noisily
cattywampus: in disarray
cockamamie (also cockamamie): ridiculous
comeuppance: just deserts
concupiscent: possessed of erotic desire
copacetic (also copasetic, copesetic): satisfactory
curmudgeon: ill-tempered (and often old) person
debauchery: sensual gratification
doohickey: gadget or attachment
effluvium: unpleasant smell
factotum: all-around servant or attendant
farrago: confused mixture
festoon: to decorate; dangling decorative chains
finagle: to trick
fisticuffs: fighting with fists
flabbergasted: dumbfounded
flagitious: villainous
flibbertigibbet: flighty person
flummoxed: confused
foible: fault
folderol: nonsense
foofaraw: flash, frills
fusty: moldy, musty, old-fashioned
gallimaufry: mixture, jumble
gallivant: to jaunt or carouse
gobbledygook: nonsense, indecipherable writing
haberdasher: men’s clothier; provider of sundries
harridan: shrewish woman
higgledy-piggledy: in a disorganized or confused manner
high jinks (also hijinks): boisterous antics
hodgepodge: mixture, jumble
hokum: nonsense
hoodwink: to deceive
hoosegow: jail
hornswoggle: to dupe or hoax
hortatory: advisory
hullabaloo: uproar
ignoramus: dunce
imbroglio: confused predicament
jackanapes: impudent or mischievous person
jiggery-pokery: deceit
kerfuffle: disturbance
lackadaisical: bereft of energy or enthusiasm
loggerheads (in the expression “at loggerheads”): quarrelsome
lollygag: to meander, delay
loquacious: talkative
louche: disreputable
lugubrious: mournful, dismal
malarkey (also malarky): nonsense
maleficence: evil
mendacious: deceptive
oaf: clumsy or stupid person
obfuscate: confuse, obscure
obloquy: condemning or abusive language, or the state of being subject to such
obsequious: flattering
orotund: sonorous, or pompous
osculate: to kiss
paroxysm: convulsion or outburst
peccadillo: minor offense
periwinkle: light purplish blue; creeping plant; aquatic snail
perspicacious: astute
pettifogger: quibbler; disreputable lawyer
poltroon: cowardly, coward
prognosticate: to predict
pusillanimous: cowardly
raffish: vulgar
ragamuffin: dirty, disheveled person
rambunctious: unruly
resplendent: brilliantly glowing
ribaldry: crude or coarse behavior
rigmarole (also rigamarole): confused talk; complicated procedure
ruckus: disturbance
scalawag: scamp
scofflaw: lawbreaker
shenanigans: tricks or mischief
skedaddle: flee
skulduggery: devious behavior
spiffy: stylish
squelch: to suppress or silence; act of silencing; sucking sound
subterfuge: deception, or deceptive ploy
supercilious: haughty
swashbuckler: cocky adventurer; story about the same
sylph: lithe woman
tatterdemalion: raggedly dressed person; looking disreputable or decayed
termagant: shrewish woman
whirligig: whirling toy; merry-go-round; dizzying course of events
widdershins (also withershins): counterclockwise, contrary
willy-nilly: by force, haphazardly

Recommended for you: « »



36 Responses to “100 Whimsical Words”

  • Carli

    I’m Welsh, and I see 29 of these I can confidently say I hear or read frequently. I used three yesterday – ruckus, cahoots and fisticuffs, and now that I put that in writing yesterday sounds quite fraught and violent!

    Thank you for a rather inspired and comprehensive list nevertheless.

  • Ginger

    Good giggly wiggly! Thanks for the fun read, John!

  • John Wiswell

    Just in case people want to see all 100 in the same small story:

    http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com/2011/03/bathroom-monologue-three-bindle-stiffs.html

  • John Wiswell

    I use at least ten of these words semi-regularly, but that’s in part because none of my fellow Americans do. I adore the list and am actually penning a story now that uses all 100 of them. I’ll post a link in a few days if you’re interested.

  • Ginger

    >And, I’m sorry Deborah H, but it’s good giggly wiggly, not great googly moogly.

    >Actually, it’s both, and others — many nonsense expressions have a number of variants.

    Yes, many others. I also agree with your observation that we are losing our beautiful dialect based words.

  • Mark Nichol

    Ginger:

    >Many of these words are commonly used in my hometown of Haleyville, Alabama.

    That’s good to hear.

    >And, I’m sorry Deborah H, but it’s good giggly wiggly, not great googly moogly.

    Actually, it’s both, and others — many nonsense expressions have a number of variants.

Leave a comment: