Becoming fluent in English can be tricky!
English’s crazy vocabulary is almost definitely to blame.
There are many words that look and sound totally weird.
Good thing they’re all in the dictionary–or we might think that they were invented for the pages of a fairytale!
You probably think you should be able to read English with zero problems since you’ve mastered all the important grammar rules, slang words and idioms. Plus, you already have a wide vocabulary. Even so, weird English words come along and still leave you feeling a bit confused!
Reasons to Increase Your English Vocabulary
Increasing your vocabulary is always useful.
Even native English speakers are constantly learning new words that they never knew existed! You’ll have more brilliant ways that you can describe things and express your ideas. You can impress your friends with your knowledge and get a great new job by demonstrating your skills in a big interview.
Just understanding one more word will help you make your way through the minefield that is be English. Even if you never use some new words, you won’t be left wondering “what?” if you hear them used by other people.
But why would you want to only understand these wonderful words? Make them part of your active vocabulary (the words that you use on a regular basis) and have fun with English!
The more words that you can use comfortably and correctly, the more ways you have to say exactly what you mean. A wide vocabulary makes you much clearer and accurate.
You will also understand a lot more too! This can lead to greater confidence … which then means you speak and practise even more!
And finally, because words can be FUN!
Say them out loud. Hear the fantastic sounds they make, and you’ll certainly agree that these weird words will add some more life to your sentences and make people stop and listen!
15 Weird English Words You Won’t Believe Exist!
Have a look at these weird English words and try them out as you speak with people:
1. Kerfuffle (kəˈfʌf(ə)l)
Kerfuffle (noun) has been around since the early 1800s. There are two ideas as to how it came into English. It probably came from either Scottish Gaelic or from Celtic Irish, the languages that were used historically in Scotland and Ireland.
If somebody asked you the following question, would you know what they meant?
“What’s all the shouting for? Why are you making such a kerfuffle?”
It means to make a fuss or a bother, usually when people have different points of view. Imagine two of your friends having a minor disagreement over something and making quite a bit of noise – doesn’t kerfuffle sound like a great way to describe the situation? They might also be making a hullaballoo too…
2. Hullaballoo (ˌhʌl.ə.bəˈluː)
“Did you hear all that hullaballoo in the office today?”
A word that really sounds like what it means, hullaballoo (noun) is the loud noises and shouting that people make when they’re angry.
It’s been part of the English language since the middle of the 18th century.
3. Cacophony (kəˈkɒf(ə)ni)
Another word related to noise, a cacophony (noun) is a mixture of horrible sounds. Imagine birds screeching, alarm bells ringing and babies screaming…and you’ve got yourself a cacophony!
You may already know that words that end in phone or phony are related to sound in some way. Cacophony comes from a Greek word made up from kacos (bad) and phone (sound). It entered English in the mid 1600’s.
4. Ragamuffin (ˈraɡəmʌfɪn)
Ragamuffin (noun) comes from the English that was used during the Middle Ages.
You’ve probably heard the word rag, right? A dirty and scruffy piece of old cloth. So it’ll make sense to know that a ragamuffin is a person who wears dirty and scruffy clothes – clothes that are just like rags! It’s usually used for children, and you may also sometimes hear it used to describe scruffy-looking animals.
The next time you hear someone say,
“I send my children to school dressed smartly, and they come home like little ragamuffins!”
You’ll know exactly what they mean!
5. Whippersnapper (ˈwɪpəsnapə)
Nothing to do with whips or snaps, say whippersnapper (noun) quickly and you’ll create a funny and harsh sound!
Although this term is a little bit old-fashioned today, it’ll certainly make people smile if you use it. It’s been part of the English language since the 17th century and is a mixture of two terms. One referred to a lazy person who had no ambitions. The other term was used for young people who lived on the street and did bad things, like stealing and tricking people.
The meaning has changed over the years, and today it’s used for a young person who’s too confident and perhaps a little cheeky! It’s a perfect word to use for an inquisitive child who just can’t stop questioning and correcting their parents!
Would you giggle if you heard this conversation?
Mother: “Come here, please”
Child: “No, I’m busy”
Mother: “I asked you to please come here”
Child: “No. Dad said when people are busy you shouldn’t disturb them. So please leave me alone!”
Mother: “Well, you little whippersnapper!”
6. Gobbledygook (ˈɡɒb(ə)ldɪˌɡuːk)
Close your eyes for a second and think of a turkey. What sound does it make? Does it sound something like “gobble, gobble, gobble”? That’s exactly where this word came from!
Created from the meaningless sound that turkeys make, gobbledygook (noun) was originally an American English word. It was created in the 1940’s to mean words that are nonsense or have no meaning. It also describes when people use too many technical words and so other people can’t understand what they’e saying.
“The Director was talking a load of gobbledygook in that meeting. I have no idea what he wants!”
7. Gibberish (ˈdʒɪb(ə)rɪʃ)
If someone is talking gobbledegook they’ll also be talking gibberish!
Gibberish (noun) means the same: nonsense words and phrases that sound like English but have little meaning.
Gibberish is an older term than gobbledegook. It’s been in use since the mid 16th century. It’s not known where the word came from, but many people believe it was taken from either a similar Spanish or Swedish word.
Make sure you practice your English – you don’t want to talk gobbledegook and gibberish!
8. Poppycock (ˈpɒpɪkɒk)
Have you ever listened to somebody trying to talk about something that they know absolutely nothing about? Like, you know that what they’re saying is completely untrue, yet they insist on continuing to talk? Or where someone has told you some so-called facts that are totally wrong?
It’s highly likely that they’re talking poppycock!
No laughing! Poppycock has nothing to do with poppies (a type of flower) or cocks (a male bird and a slang term for a man’s intimate body parts!)
Poppycock actually came from the Dutch word pappekak, which is made from pap (soft) and kak (poop!). It’s been part of English since the 1800’s.
A: “Hey, did you know that if you keep your eyes open when you sneeze your eyes will fly out?”
B: “What a load of poppycock!”
9. Discombobulate (ˌdɪskəmˈbɒbjʊleɪt)
Mainly used in North American English, if somebody’s talking lots of gibberish, gobbledegook, and poppycock, they may be trying to discombobulate (verb) another person. You may feel a little discombobulated (adjective) by all these strange words!
Confused? You should be! Discombobulate means to confuse!
It’s been used since the mid 19th century, and is mainly used in a funny way.
“What’s the matter? You look a little discombobulated!”
10. Flummox (ˈflʌməks)
If you’re now feeling very discombobulated you are also flummoxed (adjective)!
To flummox a person (verb) means to confuse them a lot.
It came into the English language in the middle of the 19th century. It was taken from dialects used in some parts of the UK.
11. Curmudgeon (kəːˈmʌdʒ(ə)n)
Are you trying to find just the right word for someone who’s very bad-tempered and grumpy? Curmudgeon (noun) might be just the word that you’re looking for!
Dating back to at least the 16th century, this word has been used for a long time.
If you hear someone say,
“I don’t like our English teacher … he is a real curmudgeon!”
you can agree (or hopefully disagree!) and know what it means.
12. Lackadaisical (ˌlakəˈdeɪzɪk(ə)l)
How about if you want to describe that someone’s lazy and has no enthusiasm or determination? Lackadaisical (adjective) would be perfect in this situation!
It’s been in use since the 1700’s, although where it came from isn’t clear.
“My sister has no job and is doing nothing to find one. She is so lackadaisical.”
13. Woebegone (ˈwəʊbɪɡɒn)
Another terrific adjective. Can you guess what a woebegone person looks like?
It’s easy to break this word into two parts – woe (extreme sadness) and begone (an old-fashioned word that means surrounded by something). So, woebegone means “surrounded by sadness.” It comes from Middle English, English that was used during the Middle Ages.
The next time your friend looks sad, you can ask them,
“Why do you look so woebegone?”
14. Lollygag (ˈlɒlɪɡaɡ)
What a fantastic verb: to lollygag! Nothing to do with lollies or gags, it actually means to be idle and lazy or to waste time. It’s most common in the USA. It’s not unusual to hear parents shout to their children to “stop lollygagging” – now you’ll know what they’re talking about!
The word has been used since the 1800’s. Nobody really knows where it came from though.
15. Frankenfood (ˈfraŋk(ə)nfuːd)
Very new when compared to all the others on the list, the word Frankenfood (noun) came into existence in the 1990’s.
It’s used informally for genetically modified (GM) foods. GM foods are those that have been scientifically altered in some way, that haven’t grown naturally.
Frankenfood is a combination of the words Frankenstein and food. Frankenstein is a story about a scientist, Dr. Frankenstein, who creates a monster in his laboratory.
You might hear people say, for example,
“I’m not eating there! They use Frankenfoods!”
Tips for Remembering New Vocabulary
Once you’ve learned all these great new words, make sure that you actually learn them so that you too can make them part of your regular conversations.
Some top tips for remembering new vocabulary include the following points.
Keep a Vocabulary List
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a small notebook where you write all new words as you learn them. It helps to have a page for words that start with each letter of the alphabet. Divide each page into three columns. Write the word in the first column and a short definition (in English) in the second column. You can use the third column for making notes, sample sentences and any additional meaning in your own language.
Use Post-It Notes and Cards
If you find some words very difficult to remember, try to write the word on a post-it note and stick it somewhere where you’ll see it often. The more you read the word the more you’ll remember it. You could also have small cards with new words that you take with you to different places – you can then refresh your memory when sitting on the train or bus, waiting for a friend in a coffee shop on your lunch break … anywhere!
Use New Words!
Try to use new words as often as you can in your conversations. The more you say a word, the more you’ll remember it!
Don’t be lackadaisical or lollygag along! Learn new words so you don’t talk poppycock. Maybe next time you meet a whippersnapper you can flummox them with words! There’s no need to feel discombobulated if you hear gibberish and gobbledegook, and don’t be woebegone – learning new words can be easy once you start!
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you had fun learning these words, you should check out the FluentU app. Like the website, the FluentU app lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word “brought,” you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.