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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.

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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 the ones 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. While you’re at it, you should also find new ways to say a few overused words that make you sound boring.

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 binging a television series like Umbrella Academy, which has 10 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 nine. While you’re improving your vocabulary, find out which commonly misused words you’ve been getting wrong.

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, 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 shows. 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 #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 jargon

Try: Parlance, 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 words and phrases that smart people never use.

Fancy word for a brief and clever comment

Try: Pithy, when you want to talk about how your friend replied to her Tinder prospect with a brief, clever, and forceful remark. She wasn’t short with that bathroom-mirror selfie guy—she was pithy! Only English majors will know these 26 words from the thesaurus.

Fancy word for hopeless

Try: Despondent. If 2020 has taken its toll on you, why not try a fancier word to indicate your hopelessness? Reserve depressed for a medical diagnosis and instead use despondent to articulate your extreme sadness at the state of things. Despondent may end up being a defining word of 2020, but these are the words that defined 2019.

Fancy word for clear and intelligible

Try: Lucid, to put a literary spin on your clear-mindedness. Because lucid derives 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, some fresh 2020 slang will do the trick.

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 choice for that happy-go-lucky person in your life. Check out the words that were coined in the year you were born. While they’re not necessarily fancy, they’re definitely fascinating!

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. While you’re at it, note the irony that this word that means to lessen will actually increase your fancy vocabulary. Having fun with these new words? Check out these 12 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 made to your exact measurements, or anything else that is being designed and produced just for you. Here’s a list of funny words you probably don’t know (but should).

Fancy word for gorgeous

Try: Resplendent. The official definition in 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. While resplendent has been around since the 15th century, these 25 brand-new words were added to the dictionary in 2019.

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! Aside from using this list, here are 11 ways to improve your vocabulary in just one day.

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 or argument

Try: Diatribe, meaning a nasty (and usually lengthy) tirade, whether spoken or written. Are you prone to diatribes when you’re upset? Because they are the perfect excuse to use fancy words that the person you’re ranting at may not understand. You can also try these old-fashioned words for a vocabulary boost.

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. Brushing up on these 41 little grammar rules will also make you sound smarter.

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!” Plus, it’s a lot of fun to say.

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. Find out the longest word in English.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for fancy

Try: Rococo. Coco Chanel would probably approve of this fancy—no, rococo—word meaning ornate or elegant. Smart people don’t necessarily have rococo habits, but they do tend to laugh at 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.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Fancy word for stubborn

Try: Pervicacious, meaning obstinate and unyielding. This term comes from the Latin word for “to prevail.” Here are some easy (and scientifically proven) ways to look smarter.

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 picky

Try: Fastidious, meaning excessively particular or demanding, and specifically very concerned about accuracy and detail. Bonus: “I’m a fastidious eater” sounds a lot less needy than “I’m a picky eater.” 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. One more thing to keep in mind: Always avoid these words and phrases that actually make you sound dumber.

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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