How to Sound Smarter: 10 Vocab Word Swaps That Instantly Impress

Experts say the path to success is built on a good vocabulary. Start using these vocab words to sound smarter without trying.

how to sound smarter

1. New Word: Endemic (en-DEM-ik)
Meaning: Belonging to a particular region or people
Instead of: “Them Tasmanian Devils are only found in Tazakistan, I’m pretty sure. And zoos.”
Sound Smarter: “The Tasmanian Devil is endemic only to the Australian island of Tasmania.”

2. New Word: Cavil (KAV-uhl)
Meaning: To quibble or nitpick
Instead of: “Well, I guess that’s for the jury to decide.”
Sound Smarter: “I hate to cavil, darling, but I’m fairly sure that man you just hit was riding a Segway, not a scooter.”

3. New Word: Parlous (PAHR-lous)
Meaning: Dangerous
Instead of: “This won’t hurt a bit!”
Sound Smarter: “I assure you there is nothing parlous about the intracranial demulsification procedure.”

4. New Word: Imbibe (im-BAHYB)
Meaning: Drink; absorb
Instead of: “Let’s go sit on the porch, down a few cold ones and take in the scenery.”
Sound Smarter: “Please join me on the veranda to imbibe some refreshing beverages and enjoy the spectacular ocean view.”

Trying to sound brainy? Don’t slip up. Beware of these commonly mispronounced words.

5. New Word: Soporific (soh-puh-RIF-ik)
Meaning: Sleep-inducing
Instead of: “I could eat a whole ’nuther helping of pie—but I’m just too pooped.”
Sound Smarter: “Unfortunately, the soporific effects of the turkey, not to mention all the wine I’ve imbibed, prevent me from staying awake long enough to partake of dessert.”

how to sound smarter alacrity

6. New Word: Alacrity (uh-LAK-ri-tee)
Meaning: Quick, cheerful enthusiasm
Instead of: “Brian’s a go-getter, isn’t he? I like him. But he kind of bugs me, too.”
Sound Smarter: “Brian’s tendency to approach every task with alacrity made him not only one of the office’s favorite employees, but also one of the most annoying.”

7. New Word: Circumspect (SUR-kuhm-spekt)
Meaning: Cautious
Instead of: “Uh, Fred, you might not want to look down that tube.”
Sound Smarter: “Frederick, a more circumspect approach to that fireworks cannon you just lit might be advisable.”

8. New Word: Phlegmatic (fleg-MAT-ik)
Meaning: Apathetic; sluggish
Instead of: “Get your lazy butt up off the sofa and answer the phone yourself.”
Sound Smarter: “Guinness World Records just called to let you know you’ve been named Most Phlegmatic Couch Potato.”

9. New Word: Enmity (EN-mi-tee)
Meaning: Ill will, hostility, or outright hatred
Instead of: “I hate you! I hate, hate, hate you!”
Sound Smarter: “Be assured, my charming friend, that my enmity for you is outmatched only by my resistance to having my tonsils extracted through my nasal passages.”

10. New Word: Temerity (teh-MEHR-eh-tee)
Meaning: Foolhardiness; reckless courage
Instead of: “I don’t know if that was brave or just stupid, what you just did. Did it really eat your cell phone?”
Sound Smarter: “It takes extreme temerity to jump into the grizzly bear enclosure, Jethro. Shall I call an ambulance?”

uncle john's bathroom readers booksLooking for more amazing facts and good laughs? Check out the latest Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader® titles at

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest