A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Amazing Words We No Longer Use (But Should!)

Zounds! These obsolete yet colorful words have fallen out of use, but you’ll sound super smart mixing them into your next cocktail conversation.

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Whether you’re discussing politics or wrangling small children, the word “brabble” could still find plenty of use in today’s society. Meaning “to argue stubbornly about trifles” or, in noun form, “noisy, quarrelsome chatter,” the word originated from the Middle Dutch brabbelen and eventually morphed into the more-recognized “jabber.” The next time your children are arguing, tell them, “If you kids don’t stop all of your brabbling, you won’t get ice cream after dinner.” These 10 words have different meanings in England and America.

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It sounds like a term your teenager might make up when he isn’t feeling well, but the word “crapulous” actually has a long and respectful history, originating in the 1500s. Not surprisingly, it does relate to feeling unwell, but in this case, it describes not feeling well after indulging in too much eating or drinking: “I ate all of that cake at the party last night, and now I’m feeling completely crapulous.”

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No, that’s not a typo for a form of public transportation. Rather, back in the 16th century, the word “buss” referred to a kiss—especially a loud or exuberant one. Derived from the Middle English term “bassen,” which means “to kiss,” the word’s first known use is somewhere around 1570.

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Sure this word, which dates back to the 1500s, sounds like something you’d overhear at a state fair’s pig contest. However, it actually refers to a person’s appearance, in particular the appearance of someone you find charming and handsome, even if a little devilish: “That boy who sits next to me in algebra is a total snoutfair! I hope he asks me to the prom.”

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In the 1850s, this funny-sounding term referred simply to a wooden puppet controlled by strings, a la Pinocchio. As time went on, it began to take on a political meaning, as in a politician who’s actions are controlled by someone else: “The governor used to be a stand-up guy, but now he’s just a quockerwodger for corporate interests.”

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This 19th-century word has found new life in modern times as a brand name for a tabletop game company. Back then, however, it was an insult given to a person who is easily imposed upon—or, in more basic language, someone you’d refer to as a doormat or pushover: “I wish he would stop being such a zafty and stand up for himself!” Don’t miss the surprising origins of the most popular slang words.

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Rum peeper

It may sound like the name of a drink you’d order at a bar, but a rum peeper has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. Rather, upper class women in the late 1600s polished their coifs in front of “rum peepers,” which was the name given to an exquisite, silver looking glass, or, as well call them today, mirrors.

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This tongue twister of a word, pronounced “con-TOOM-yoo-lee-us,” is a Middle English word derived from both French and language. It was often used in literature to refer to someone who is insolent, or arrogantly rude and disrespectful: In the 1847 novel Jane Eyre, for example, Miss Ingram pushes the young Adele away with “contumelious epithet.” You won’t find these 10 common English words in any other language.

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No, this classical Latin word doesn’t describe the tardy habits of President Barack Obama; rather, it refers to wandering about with no direction or purpose: “I need to think, so I’m going to head to the park and obambulate for a while.”

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It sounds like a term from the Harry Potter series, but the first known use of the term “hugger-mugger” appeared in the 1520s, according to Merriam-Webster, and was used in two completely different ways: first, as a synonym for “a secret act,” and secondly, to mean “disorder” or “confusion.” It is spoken by Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which was written around 1600: “For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly in hugger-mugger to inter him.” These 15 common words used to mean totally different things.