unique english words

16 Unique English Words That’ll Make You Sound Like a Genius

Have you ever heard someone say an English word you didn’t understand?

English has a ton of unique words that you may not be familiar with yet.

Let’s look at a list of unique English words that you can learn to pronounce and spell.

I’m sure you’re going to enjoy learning these unusual English words and adding them to your vocabulary list.


What Makes an English Word Unique?

English is a language with words that originate from many different cultures and languages.

Don’t be surprised if you come across English words that look and sound like words in your native language. Stop here for a moment and see if you can think of any!

So, what exactly makes an English word unique?

To explain this very simply, a unique word is one that’s unusual or different in some way. It might have a complicated history or interesting connections to another language.

But, primarily what makes an English word interesting is its unusual spelling, pronunciation or meaning.

Why Learn Unique English Words?

Because unique and unusual words are so interesting, they can be both good fun and challenging to learn.

When you look at a unique English word, you may be puzzled about how to pronounce it, or you may wonder why it’s spelled the way it is.

Apart from satisfying curiosity and challenging yourself, it’s easy to see why knowing unique words can be useful if you’re someone who loves playing word games. Many of these words may not be used very often and that may put you at an advantage to win!

Finally, because unusual English words are used less often, using them will make you sound smart.

Remember, the more you practice with these unique English words the more fluent you’ll sound, and you’ll surely impress a lot of people! Learning unique words is one path to becoming an advanced English learner.

16 Unique English Words That’ll Make You Sound Like a Genius

Each word’s pronunciation has been written out next to it according to the well-known dictionary Merriam-Webster’s pronunciation guide or . You can also click on the links below to listen to each word being pronounced!

1. Flummox (ˈflə-məks) 

When you read this word, does it jump out and make you a little confused?

If so, you were right to be confused and puzzled! That’s exactly what flummox (verb) means.

Whenever you see an unusual English word, you’re likely to be flummoxed for a bit until you check your dictionary and find out that its meaning is really quite simple.

2. Dowdy (ˈdau̇-dē)

This word looks simple but it’s unique in that it’s a pretty old word that’s not used often these days.

Dowdy (adjective) is used to describe something that’s old and shabby, not modern or stylish.

Maybe she’s having a bad day. I’ve never seen her wearing anything so dowdy before.

3. Howdy

This word rhymes with the previous word but means something completely different.

Howdy is a casual greeting that is not commonly used, but can add some flavor to your English.

4. Nincompoop (ˈnin-kəm-ˌpüp)

Here’s a word that not only looks funny but sounds funny too when you say it out loud. Try it!

What’s even funnier is that nincompoop (noun) means a silly person and is sometimes used jokingly to refer to someone who is not very smart.

My house is just down the road from the bus stop. I don’t understand how those nincompoops managed to lose their way.

5. Muesli (ˈmyüs-lē)

Notice the unusual spelling and pronunciation of this word, which came into use some 80 years ago, according to Merriam-Webster.

Muesli (noun) is a cereal consisting of rolled oats, fruits and nuts. It’s a popular breakfast food in Switzerland.

Eating a bowl of muesli in the morning is a healthy way to start your day.

6. Phlegm (ˈflem)

This word is unusual in that its spelling doesn’t reflect how it’s pronounced.

Phlegm (noun) is the viscous (thick) fluid that blocks your nose and throat when you have the flu.

Phlegm and a runny nose can really make you feel uncomfortable, so it’s best to take the day off and stay home till you feel better.

7. Baloney (bə-ˈlō-nē)

Do you know what this word means? Hint: It has nothing to do with balloons. According to Merriam-Webster, it was first used almost 100 years ago.

Baloney (noun) simply means nonsense and is often used when you disagree with someone.

That’s baloney! Don’t believe a word of what he says!

8. Myopic (mī-ˈō-pik)

You may find this word unique because of its unusual spelling.

Myopic (adjective) is the scientific word for nearsightedness, an eye condition in which you’re unable to see objects or images that are far away from you.

I’m myopic. I really need my eyeglasses. I can’t see without them.

9. Bamboozle (bam-ˈbü-zəl)

According to Merriam-Webster, this word was first used around 300 years ago. That’s really old! Any idea what it means? Hint: It has nothing to do with bamboo.

To bamboozle (verb) someone means to trick or confuse them.

I went to buy a TV that was on sale but ended up being bamboozled into buying a more expensive unit.

10. Phyllo (ˈfē-(ˌ)lō)

Now, this is a pretty unique word not only because of the way it’s spelled but also because of how it’s pronounced.

Phyllo (noun) is a very thin dough that pastry chefs layer together to form a flaky pastry.

The orange-pecan baklava pie I had yesterday was made with phyllo pastry. Yummy!

11. Thwart (ˈthwȯrt)

According to TheFreeDictionary, this word dates back to the 13th century. Indeed, its spelling is similar to how some old English words are spelled, and it’s unique because it’s still being used quite often today.

To thwart (verb) means to ruin (spoil) someone’s efforts or to prevent a plan from becoming successful.

We spent months preparing to climb Mount Everest. Who knew the weather would thwart our plans at the last minute?

12. Brouhaha (ˈbrü-ˌhä-ˌhä)

Now here’s an old-fashioned, informal word, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, with a funny pronunciation too. Are you laughing now? I bet you are. Ha-ha!

Brouhaha (noun) simply means an uproar (upset) or a lot of anger and complaining.

What’s with all that brouhaha? I think he did the right thing by resigning from his position.

13. Zeal (ˈzēl)

Words that begin with the letter “z” are always interesting. This one is also unique because, as Merriam-Webster tells us, it comes from Latin and Greek and was first used in the 14th century.

Zeal (noun) refers to a strong interest or eagerness in pursuing something.

Her zeal for handmade designer shoes and handbags has made her the talk of the town.

14. Pneumatic (nu̇-ˈma-tik)

Does this word look unusual to you? I believe it’s because of its spelling. It’s not common for the letter “p” to be followed by “n.”

Pneumatic (adjective) is used to describe something that’s filled with air or gas or that uses air pressure.

Can you think of an example of something that’s pneumatic? That’s right. Car tires, bicycle pumps and vacuum cleaners are all pneumatic.

15. Noxious (ˈnäk-shəs)

Words with the letter “x” are also quite interesting. Note the pronunciation of this word, as it’s not usually how you would pronounce the letter “x.”

Noxious (adjective) often refers to something that’s dangerous, harmful or destructive to living things.

You shouldn’t be standing behind that bus and breathing in all those noxious fumes. It’s bad for your health.

16. Flimflam (ˈflim-ˌflam)

Now here’s a cute and funny word that’s been around since the 16th century, according to Merriam-Webster. Can you guess its meaning?

Flimflam (noun) refers to a trick or a ploy to deceive someone.

If you’re going to buy a used car online, you must be able to separate the flimflam from the facts.


So there you have it—a list of unique English words you can add to your vocabulary!

I hope you’re no longer bamboozled and that you’re all set to practice using these words with zeal. Look for opportunities to use them as often as you can.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Throw these words into your English conversations to get used to using them. To learn more unusual words by hearing them in context, watch an English-language movie or try a virtual immersion program. FluentU, for example, teaches English vocabulary using web videos enhanced with interactive captions.

With this list of words, and these resources to learn more, you can round out your English vocabulary so you sound like a native speaker.

So, go out there, have fun and impress everyone!

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