What are your favorite words?

The author shares her favorite words (‘acquiesce,’ ‘feckless’) and reveals their subtle shades of meaning. Share your favorites in the comment section.

Ragan Insider Content

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

Those of us who make a living “combining words” appreciate their power to convey even the most-subtle shades of meaning. I love that “pretentious,” “ostentatious,” and “haughty” are all synonyms for “arrogant.” But under the surface, they all have different meanings.

What follows is a list of some of my favorite words, a discussion of their shades of meaning, and an example of how it’s used:

• Nonplussed. Means bewildered or unsure how to respond. I always think of nonplussed as that look on someone’s face when they’ve been completely blindsided in a conversation or meeting. Example: The CEO’s tirade has left me completely nonplussed.

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