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25 Fancy Words That Will Make You Sound Smarter

We all want to sound smarter. With these fancy words, you can take your vocabulary to a whole new level and impress everyone.

Directly Above Shot Of Old TypewriterOrcel Anthony/EyeEm/Getty Images

Choose your words wisely

Even if you can pronounce them, many fancy words will make you sound pompous when you say them out loud. Others will make you sound like you’re trying really hard to seem smart, which is the exact opposite of what you want. The bottom line: If you’re going to use fancy words, choose wisely. Your best bets are those that fit the moment perfectly and flow with ease, as if you’ve been using them in conversation for years. The following 25 words should do the trick! They’re simply fancier ways of saying everyday things, but they’ll help you freshen up your vocabulary quickly and effortlessly. We like silly words just as much as fancy words, like these funny words that sound fake. Mastering these hard words to spell is another way to boost your word smarts.

Fancy word for second to last

Try: Penultimate. It’s a big word that simply means the next-to-last thing. For example, when you’re bingeing a television series like Squid Game, which has nine episodes, you can tell your friends you’re about to start watching the penultimate episode when sitting down with a pizza and a glass of wine for number eight. While you’re improving your vocabulary, be amazed by these hard spelling bee words.

Fancy word for small

Try: Diminutive. Use it when the object, animal, or person you are describing is exceptionally small and you want a better alternative than the familiar adjectives “tiny” or “little.” Here’s one excellent example, as noted by Merriam-Webster: “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [was] a diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice.” Just be careful when you start swapping words—you probably think these 50 words are synonyms, but they aren’t!

Fancy word for coming together

Try: Confluence. Use this word when discussing a meeting of minds, a group of ideas, or a coming together of diverse people for a gathering. Confluence can describe, for example, an event in which musicians from different genres perform together at an award show. That said, it is also often used when describing streams or rivers joining together in nature. While confluence didn’t make this list of the 30 most beautiful words in the English language, it surely is number 31.

Fancy word for finely detailed

Try: Granular. This word alludes to the minuscule detail of small particles, and it can help describe a meticulous level of detail in your own work, thinking, or planning. If you literally thought of everything, then you got granular with your thinking! Can you guess the most misused word in the English language?

Fancy word for a manner of speaking

Try: Parlance. Choose it when you want to describe a set of words used by a group, sometimes for a specific purpose. For example, the language or unique jargon of a particular region of the country could be thought of as “local parlance.” These are the most confusing grammar rules in English.

Fancy word for a brief comment of substance

Try: Pithy when you want to talk about how your friend replied to her Tinder prospect with a brief, clever, and forceful remark. Her response to the dude’s Tinder pick-up line wasn’t terse—it was pithy!

Fancy word for hopeless

Try: Despondent. If the past couple years have taken a toll on you, go with a fancier word to indicate your hopelessness. Reserve depressed for a medical diagnosis and instead use despondent to articulate extreme dejection and hopelessness.

Fancy word for clear and intelligible

Try: Lucid to put a literary spin on your clear-mindedness. Because lucid comes from the Latin adjective lucidus, meaning shining, it’s the perfect word for intelligent thinking that lets light shine through the confusion. Sometimes you want to sling a fancy word, but other times, you want goofy gems like bang! and pow!—and these other examples of onomatopoeia.

Fancy word for enthusiastic

Try: Effervescent when you want to find a fancier word to describe your bubbly, excitable best friend. Effervescence literally means having the property of forming bubbles, so effervescent is a terrific adjective for that happy-go-lucky person in your life.

Fancy word for reduce or lessen

Try: Abate when you want to talk about how the rain is letting up or the pain from your nagging headache is finally going away. That’s right: Abate means “to reduce,” but using it will increase your fancy vocabulary. Having fun with these new words? Check out these thesaurus jokes grammar nerds will appreciate.

Fancy word for custom-made

Try: Bespoke. This fancy word sounds gorgeous to say out loud when describing anything from custom-made jewelry, a finely tailored suit cut to your exact measurements, or anything else that is being designed and produced just for you.

Fancy word for gorgeous

Try: Resplendent. The official definition from Merriam-Webster is “shining brilliantly: characterized by a glowing splendor.” This word is sure to make that special someone swoon when she’s all dressed up for a night on the town and you tell her she looks resplendent. While resplendent has been around since the 15th century, these brand-new words were added to the dictionary for 2021.

Fancy word for smart

Try: Erudite. This swap will make you sound smarter while describing yourself or someone else who is intelligent and knowledgeable. You can also work in erudition when a fancy noun is needed to do the job of discussing how cultured you are.

Fancy word for two weeks

Try: Fortnight. It sounds a bit old-fashioned in addition to (ahem) erudite, but you can easily use it to refer to something that happened two weeks ago or will happen for a two-week stretch. For example, instead of telling your coworkers that you’ll be out of the office for two weeks, tell them you’ll see them in a fortnight. Bonus: You’ll be taking back this fine, fancy word from the Fortnite gamer generation! We know you can’t resist Gen Z slang words.

Fancy word for boredom

Try: Ennui. You’ve probably heard this word before, but maybe you never knew how to use it in everyday conversation. We’re about to rectify that! Use ennui when you want to have a fancier way to dress up your listlessness resulting from boredom or dissatisfaction.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for rant

Try: Diatribe, meaning a nasty (and usually lengthy) tirade, whether spoken or written. Are you prone to diatribes when you’re upset? They are the perfect excuse to use fancy words that the person you’re ranting at may not understand. Can you tell if these funny words are real or made up?

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for mean

Try: Vitriolic. The word vitriol originally referred to sulfates. It evolved over time but kept the “corrosive” and “destructive” connotations from its association with sulfuric acid. Now, it’s used to describe a nasty, scathing comment or action.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for afraid or timid

Try: Pusillanimous. The Wizard of Oz himself uses this one, telling the Scarecrow that “every pusillanimous creature that crawls on earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain!” Bonus: It’s a lot of fun to say. Who knew you could learn vocab from famous movie quotes?

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for brag

Try: Bloviate to speak or write in a showy, grandiose way. You might be guilty of bloviating if you loudly boast about your achievements. You might also be guilty of bloviating if you fill your speech with fancy words to make yourself sound smarter—oh, wait… Did you know that the most complicated word in English is only three letters long?

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for overly ornate

Try: Rococo. The artistic style that ruled the early 18th century was fanciful and highly ornamented. The term for it is just as fancy—no, rococo—and has come to mean “excessively ornate.” Use it the next time you spot an elaborately designed piece of furniture or art. And entertain yourself with these dark jokes.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for confidence

Try: Aplomb, meaning total composure and self-assurance. If aplomb is something you lack, sprinkling more fancy words into your conversations could give you a boost of confidence (as will these confidence quotes).

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for stubborn

Try: Pervicacious, meaning obstinate and unyielding. This term comes from the Latin word for “to prevail.”

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for confuse

Try: Obfuscate, meaning to make obscure or unclear. Suspects in a crime and politicians often obfuscate when they don’t want to answer a question directly.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for meticulous

Try: Fastidious, meaning excessively particular or demanding, and specifically very concerned about accuracy and detail. Next time a prospective employer asks about your strengths, you can boast about your fastidious attention to detail. Don’t miss these clever jokes that make you sound smart too.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for suck-up

Try: Sycophant, a self-seeking flatterer. It’s much easier to call someone out as a suck-up when you’re not actually using the word suck-up. Next, test out your vocabulary with our Word Power quizzes.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.

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