Do you know these obscure words?

Even the most erudite communicator can be bamboozled by arcane and rare words. Test your knowledge with this list.

Obscure word list

As PR and communication professionals, many of us spend our days correcting other people’s writing. This can be a taxing role, so sometimes it’s fun to take a break and play with words.

Let’s explore a few words that will make you say: “There’s a word for that?”

(Definitions from Wordnik and Oxford Dictionaries.)

1. Aposiopesis—to stop abruptly and leave a statement unfinished, giving the impression that the writer or speaker is unwilling or unable to continue; pretending to conceal something but mentioning it anyway.

The teacher’s well-timed aposiopesis silenced the room of school children, as they waited to hear if they would get to go out to recess.

2. Crepuscular—related to twilight; dim

 The crepuscular light seeped through the trees, signaling the end of the day.

3. Eschatology—the study of end times.

 Bob’s eschatology research has led him to make some interesting purchases over the years, including a 6-month supply of canned tuna.

4. Fisticuffs—an impromptu fist fight, usually between two people.

 Remember not to mention politics at Thanksgiving, or the dinner could end in fisticuffs.

5. Fichu—any covering for the neck and shoulders forming part of a woman’s dress; a triangular piece of fabric.

Be sure and wear a fichu with that dress, otherwise people will talk.

6. Flibbertigibbet—an offbeat, skittish, or flighty person; someone who likes to chatter or gossip.

 It’s never good when the human resources manager is a flibbertigibbet.

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7. Glabella—the space between the eyebrows and the nose.

 Josh woke up on his wedding day to discover a newly-formed pimple on his glabella.

8. Honorificabilitudinitatibus—the state of being able to achieve honors

Shakespeare’s vocabulary was honorificabilitudinitatibus and it was his use of the word that stands out.

9. Interrobang—a non-standard punctuation mark that combines the exclamation point and the question mark to express excitement and disbelief.

 He punctuated his point with an interrobang to highlight his distress that progress hadn’t been made in weeks.

10. Nonplussed—bewildered or unsure of how to respond.

 My sister’s tirade over her childhood grievances left me completely nonplussed.

11. Polydactyly—the condition of having more than the normal number of fingers and toes.

 Polydactyly is rare genetic disorder that doesn’t have anything to do with your dexterity.

12. Syzygy—the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, earth, and moon); the fusion of some or all the organs.

 The planets must be in syzgy because this afternoon’s meeting has been cancelled.

13. Tsundoku—a Japanese term for buying books but never reading them; acquiring books but letting them pile up unread.

 Tsundoku is much easier to conceal when you have a Kindle. 

Do you have any favorite words to add to this list? Please add them in the comments section.

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her posts on word power at

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