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Only English Majors Will Know These 26 Words from the Thesaurus

How many of these lesser-known words from the thesaurus can you use in a sentence?

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Spruce up your vocabulary

The English language can be a beast. On top of its own linguistic foundation, it includes hundreds of borrowed words, from wanderlust (German) to ballet (French). Mix in regular revisions to the dictionary and thesaurus and you have a language that's an endless challenge to master. This year, why not expand your vocabulary one thesaurus section at a time? Start with our alphabetical list of these less commonly used words from the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus. Which ones do you know—and which ones can you learn in time to squeeze into a conversation this week? And since this article will probably pique your curiosity about the handy reference book, here's some information on how the first thesaurus got started.

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Apoplectic

You know the cartoon image of a red-faced man who's so angry that there's actual steam coming out of his ears? That's what apoplectic looks like. Merriam-Webster's thesaurus simply defines the word as "feeling or showing anger," while the dictionary takes it up a notch with "extremely enraged" and "of a kind to cause or apparently cause stroke." Synonyms include fuming, furious, and irate. Prefer to see it used in a sentence? How about this: Sally's mother was so apoplectic when she saw the mess in the kitchen that she stomped her feet in a fit of rage. But be careful: It's not always easy to swap in a synonym. Just check out these 22 hilarious examples of how not to use a thesaurus.

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Bibelot

Those who love shiny objects probably have a lot of bibelots scattered around the house. These same people likely enjoy thrifting or browsing flea markets and boutiques in search of the next addition to their bibelot collections. "Small objects displayed for their attractiveness," bibelots can be a lot of things—knickknacks, trinkets, and baubles, to name a few. If you're the kind of collector who boxes up bibelots and stores them in the attic, you should check our list of 25 things in your house that could be worth a lot of money.

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Collywobbles

Oh, how our grandmothers warned us about the collywobbles. Don't swim right after eating—you might get the collywobbles. Don't stuff yourself with too many sweets—collywobbles! Don't sneak too many tastes of chocolate-chip cookie dough—raw eggs cause collywobbles! The collywobbles are simply "abdominal pain, especially when focused in the digestive organs." It can describe the sort of bellyache or stomachache you experience after a big meal or during a bout of influenza. If you have the collywobbles today, here are 9 natural remedies for your upset stomach.

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Dregs

Anyone who's found sediment at the bottom of a cup of coffee or tea has dealt with the annoying presence of dregs. It's a simple term for "matter that settles to the bottom of a body of liquid." Synonyms include grounds, sediment, or settlings. The term can also be used negatively, to describe the cast-off, trash-destined remains of a meal or experience. While most of us prefer dumping our dregs into the sink, you could reuse tea leaves by trying one of these 7 genius ways to cook with tea.

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Erudite

You're probably an erudite person if you've known all the words on this list so far. Erudite people love learning. It's a quality often manifested in our English professors and leaders since those who are erudite "have or display advanced knowledge or education." There are several synonyms for this word, including scholarly, literate, educated, and well-read. If one of your 2020 resolutions is to become a bit more erudite, start by stocking up on these high school English class books you should read again as an adult.

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Flummox

Let's start by using this one in a sentence: "Some of these brain teasers are sure to flummox you." Or how about, "Dad was flummoxed until he realized he was holding the map upside-down." This delightful word for "to throw into a state of mental uncertainty" has fun synonyms such as baffle, bamboozle, and confound. According to Merriam-Webster, no one is quite sure where the word originated. It first appeared in Charles Dickens' novel The Pickwick Papers, and it has been used by British and American word lovers ever since. Maybe you can spot it in some of these other classic books you really should have read by now.

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Gibe

Unless you're one of these 40 skilled comedians, gibing someone is no joke. It means "to make (someone or something) the object of unkind laughter." While a little ribbing or lighthearted mocking can be acceptable during a sports competition, gibing is the type of behavior that will get you kicked out of English class. Instead of resorting to ridicule or scoffing, study these secrets to telling a great joke. Leave the roasts to the pros.

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Hornswoggle

Here's a word we don't hear enough in the 21st century. It's the kind of term you might expect to read in Shakespeare's plays or a J.K. Rowling novel. First used in the 1800s (unless our sources are hornswoggling us), this funny verb means "to cause to believe what is untrue." In other words, to lie. So, the next time you realize a friend is hornswoggling you, call his bluff. Or tell a tall tale of your own and see just how long you can hornswoggle (fake out, bamboozle, or deceive) the crowd. And in case you were wondering, this is the best way to spot a liar.

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Impious

If you've ever giggled at a funeral or burped during the Christmas homily, you're guilty of impiety. Most of us have had an impious slipup or two, but making a habit of irreverence can be seen as blasphemous. Simply put, being impious is "not showing proper reverence for the holy or sacred." While our collection of religious jokes might seem impious to some, these witty turns of biblical phrases are all in good fun. In the end, impiety is in the eye of the beholder. What seems sacrilegious to one could be mildly irreverent humor to another. The key is to know your audience and keep it kosher.

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