The weirdest words in English—from A to Z

Whether you want to expand your vocabulary or just have a good laugh, this list’s for you.

Have you ever worn “winkle-pickers” or “salopettes”? Is the saying about French women and their “oxters” true? Has someone called you a “ninnyhammer” before? Do you know someone who is experiencing “zoanthropy” and is convinced he is an elephant?

If you’re confused as to how to answer any—or all—of these questions, never fear! I’ve created this confusion, and I’m here to clear it up with this alphabetical list of 26 weird English words and their meanings.

Do you have a favorite weird word in English or any other language? Drop the word and definition in the comments section below.

Agastopia (n.)

Admiration of a particular part of someone’s body

Boondoggle (n. and v.)

n.—Work of little or no value

v.—To deceive or attempt to deceive

Cabotage (n.)

Trade or transport in coastal waters, airspace or between two points within a country

What it’s not: To sabotage with cabbage and/or Vermont Cabot Cheese

Doodlesack (n.)


Erinaceous (adj.)

Of, pertaining to, or resembling a hedgehog

Although she won’t know what it means, never tell your date, Erin, that she is “looking quite erinaceous this evening.”

Firman (n.)

An edict or administrative order issued by, or in the name of, a Middle Eastern sovereign

Gabelle (n.)

A tax or excise; a French tax on salt abolished in 1790

Halfpace (n.)

A platform of a staircase where the stair turns back in exactly the reverse direction of the lower flight

Impignorate (v.)

To pawn or pledge something

What it’s not: To impregnate a pig

Jobbernowl (n.)

A stupid fellow, a blockhead

Kakorrhaphiophobia (n.)

Abnormal fear of failure

This is the last word that someone with kakorrhaphiophobia would want to encounter in a spelling bee.

Lamprophony (n.)

Loudness and clarity of voice

Macrosmatic (adj.)

Having a good sense of smell

Ninnyhammer (n.)

A fool or simpleton; ninny

Oxter (n.)

The armpit

What it’s not: A creature that is half ox, half otter.

Pauciloquent (adj.)

Uttering few words; brief in speech

If you had to figure out how to use this word in context, you probably wouldn’t say much either.

Quire (n.)

A set of 24 or 25 uniform sheets of paper; four sheets of paper folded once to form a section of 16 pages.

Ratoon (n. and v.)

n.—A small shoot growing from the root of a plant.

v.—To put forth or cause to put forth ratoons.

What it’s not: The offspring of interbreeding rats and raccoons

Salopettes (n.)

Quilted skiing pants that reach up to the chest and are held up by shoulder straps

Turducken (n.)

A boned turkey stuffed with a boned duck that is stuffed with a small boned chicken, sometimes also containing a breadcrumb or sausage stuffing.

This word was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, as mentioned here.

Ulotrichous (adj.)

Belonging to a group of people having wooly, crispy or curly hair.

First time you’ve heard this word? It’s probably a good indication that you don’t have wooly or crispy hair. Or that you do, and nobody uses this word anymore.

Valetudinarian (n.)

An invalid, or someone who is excessively concerned about his poor health and ailments.

Think “the valedictorian of hypochondriacs.”

Winkle-pickers (n.)

A style of shoe or boot with a pointed, narrow toe, popular in the mid-20th century

Xertz (v.)

To gulp a beverage enthusiastically, heartily and quickly

Yarborough (n.)

A hand of cards containing no card above a nine

Zoanthropy (n.)

A mental disorder in which one believes oneself to be an animal

Theresa Dold is the social media and learning manager at Voxy. She enjoys writing similarly fun and wacky language-related posts for the Voxy Blog, where this article originally ran.

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