30 Weird English Words You Won’t Believe Exist!
Learning English is not always easy. English is especially known for having a crazy vocabulary that can make things tricky for learners.
Even if you’ve mastered all the important grammar rules, slang words and idioms, weird English words come along and can still leave you feeling a bit confused!
Lucky for you, this post will introduce you to 30 weird English words that you should know!
- 1. Kerfuffle
- 2. Hullaballoo
- 3. Cacophony
- 4. Ragamuffin
- 5. Whippersnapper
- 6. Gobbledygook
- 7. Gibberish
- 8. Poppycock
- 9. Discombobulate
- 10. Flummox
- 11. Curmudgeon
- 12. Lackadaisical
- 13. Woebegone
- 14. Lollygag
- 15. Frankenfood
- 16. Conundrum
- 17. Shenanigans
- 18. Hodgepodge
- 19. Cantankerous
- 20. Klutz
- 21. Claptrap
- 22. Fuddy-duddy
- 23. Skedaddle
- 24. Bamboozle
- 25. Bonkers
- 26. Brouhaha
- 27. Nincompoop
- 28. Gobsmacked
- 29. Guffaw
- 30. Flabbergast
- And One More Thing...
Noun: Kerfuffle has been around since the early 1800s and probably came from either Scottish Gaelic or Celtic Irish, the languages that were used historically in Scotland and Ireland.
It means to make a fuss or a bother, usually when people have different points of view.
What’s all the shouting for? Why are you making such a kerfuffle?
Noun: Hullaballoo has been part of the English language since the middle of the 18th century. It’s a word that really sounds like what it means–the loud noises and shouting that people make when they’re angry.
Did you hear all that hullaballoo in the office today?
Noun: Cacophony is another word related to noise–it’s 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 of kacos (bad) and phone (sound). It entered English in the mid-1600s.
My head hurt because as soon as I stepped outside, I heard a cacophony of car horns, noisy pedestrians and yelling street vendors.
Noun: Ragamuffin 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 often used for children, and you may also sometimes hear it used to describe scruffy-looking animals.
I send my children to school dressed smartly, and they come home like little ragamuffins!
Noun: Whippersnapper is a bit old-fashioned today, but it’ll certainly make people smile if you use it. Say it quickly and you’ll create a funny and harsh sound!
The word has been part of the English language since the 17th century, and surprisingly, it has nothing to do with whips or snaps.
Instead, it’s 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.
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.
I don’t like babysitting my friend’s little brother because he’s a whippersnapper who keeps talking back to me.
Noun: Gobbledygook was originally an American English word that was created from the meaningless sound that turkeys make.
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!
It was created in the 1940s to mean words that are nonsense or have no meaning.
Gobbledygook 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!
Noun: Gibberish means the same as gobbledygook–nonsense words and phrases that sound like English but have little meaning.
Gibberish is an older term, though. 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.
They were so drunk that they were talking gibberish.
Noun: 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!)
Have you ever listened to somebody trying to talk about something that they know absolutely nothing about? You know that what they’re saying is completely untrue, yet they insist on continuing to talk?
It’s highly likely that they’re talking poppycock.
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 1800s.
What a load of poppycock!
Verb: Discombobulate means to confuse.
If somebody’s talking lots of gibberish, gobbledegook and poppycock, they may be trying to discombobulate another person. You may feel a little discombobulated by all these strange words!
It’s been used since the mid-19th century in North American English, usually in a funny way.
What’s the matter? You look a little discombobulated!
Verb: To flummox a person means to confuse them a lot.
You can also use it as an adjective–if you’re now feeling very discombobulated, then you are also flummoxed!
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.
I’m flummoxed by this crossword puzzle, it’s insanely difficult!
Noun: Curmudgeon might just be the word that you’re looking for if you’re trying to talk about a very bad-tempered and grumpy person.
Dating back to at least the 16th century, this word has been used for a long time.
I don’t like our English teacher… he is a real curmudgeon!
Adjective: Lackadaisical would be perfect for describing that someone’s lazy and has no enthusiasm or determination.
It’s been in use since the 1700s, although where it came from isn’t clear.
My sister has no job and is doing nothing to find one. She is so lackadaisical.
Adjective: Woebegone is another terrific word. 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.
Why do you look so woebegone?
Verb: Lollygag has 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 1800s.
He almost lost his part-time job because he kept lollygagging.
Noun: Frankenfood is very new when compared to all the other words on the list since it came into existence in the 1990s.
It’s used informally for genetically modified (GM) foods. GM foods are those that have been scientifically altered in some way and haven’t grown naturally.
Frankenfood is a combination of the words Frankenstein and food.
I’m not eating there! They use Frankenfoods!
Noun: A conundrum is a confusing mystery. It’s a difficult puzzle or question that isn’t easy to solve… or it may not be solvable at all!
The history of the word is itself a conundrum. It was used since the 1600s and looks like a Latin word, but no one’s really sure where it came from. It’s thought that the word was originally an insult for a demanding person.
Peter is the smartest kid in our class, but even he can’t figure out this conundrum of a math problem.
Noun: Shenanigans is a fun word to describe activities that are silly, annoying or dishonest.
It’s believed that the word was first used during the mid-19th century in California. It could be that shenanigans was created from the Spanish word charranada (to trick) or the Irish sionnachwigham (to play tricks). The first half of sionnachwigham—sionnach—actually means fox, which is a very tricky animal indeed.
Tom’s shenanigans in class make it hard for the students to concentrate on their work.
Noun: A hodgepodge is a jumble or confusing mess of things that don’t really make sense together.
It comes from the French hochepot, a tasty traditional stew that mixes together all kinds of ingredients, both meat and vegetables.
That movie was terrible. It was just a hodgepodge of bad acting and weird dialogue.
Adjective: A cantankerous person isn’t very pleasant—instead, they’re angry, stubborn and hard to deal with.
The word was recorded being used since the mid-18th century. It’s believed that at least the cantank– part came from the Middle English word contek, which means disagreement.
Mr. Smith is such a cantankerous old man. He always yells at everyone to leave him alone.
Noun: A klutz is a clumsy person, someone who trips on their feet and drops things.
Used since the late 20th century, it’s an “Americanized” version of the Jewish Yiddish word klots, which means “block” or “lump.” The word klots also is connected to the German klotz, which means the same thing.
Lana is a total klutz. She tripped while carrying the groceries, and now there are vegetables all over the floor.
Noun: A claptrap is quite like gibberish or poppycock—a bunch of talks that has no sense or truth to it.
The word was used as early as the 1700s. Back then, claptrap was a term used in theater to describe the event of getting the audience to clap for an act or trick.
Don’t listen to Kate’s claptrap. She always brags about how much work she does, but she’s never finished any assignment!
Noun: A fuddy-duddy is someone who’s old-fashioned and traditional, so much so that they ruin someone else’s fun.
The word was used starting from the late 19th century, and the fact that it rhymes is probably to make it sound more teasing and insulting.
Nowadays, it’s not very common to call someone a fuddy-duddy, but it’s still a fun word to use.
Stop being such a fuddy-duddy, Mom! This is what’s popular now, so I’m wearing this dress even if you hate it.
Verb: Skedaddle means to leave quickly, usually because you’re trying to run away from something.
It was a slang word that was used by soldiers during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Back then, saying that someone skedaddled probably suggested that they were being a coward.
It’s possible that skedaddle came from an old British word scaddle (nervous, to run off in fear).
Uh oh, the boss is coming over here and she looks angry. We should skedaddle!
Verb: Bamboozle doesn’t have anything to do with the bamboo plant. It means to trick or mislead someone!
It first came into use around the early 1700s. One popular theory about its origin is that it could be from the Scottish word bombaze (to confuse).
These door-to-door salesmen always try to bamboozle me into buying something useless!
Adjective: First used by the British military in the early 20th century, bonkers originally meant to be slightly drunk or dizzy. Now, it just means crazy or wild, whether in a good or bad way.
It’s believed that bonkers came from the existing word bonk (to hit on the head), since getting bonked on the head could definitely lead to some strange behavior.
Tim is going to go absolutely bonkers when he finds out his favorite baseball team lost today’s game.
Noun: A brouhaha is a big, loud fuss over something, and usually not for a good reason!
The word comes directly from the old French brouhaha, which was used in 16th-century theater as a sound effect for demon characters. Try saying it, loudly and slowly—it does sound a bit scary.
There was a big brouhaha after the town’s most popular ice cream shop suddenly shut down.
Noun: A nincompoop just means a dumb person–it doesn’t really have anything to do with toilet activities, because.
This word has a very unclear history. It’s definitely old, as it was used since the 1600s. One theory about the nincom– part is that it may be from the French word nicodème, which could refer to a foolish person.
I can’t believe I fell for that scam. I’m a complete nincompoop.
Adjective: To be gobsmacked is to be so surprised that your mouth drops and you can’t speak.
It’s actually two words in one: gob means mouth in British and Scottish slang, and smack means to hit. It gained popular use around the mid-1900s.
She was gobsmacked when she won the lottery.
Verb: Guffaw means to laugh loudly. It’s connected to the Scottish word gawf, a laughing sound effect.
It works, too, because it sounds hilarious—try laughing by saying gawf again and again, and you could probably make someone else guffaw from how silly it sounds.
Nancy’s joke was terrible, but John guffawed as if it were the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
Verb: To flabbergast means to surprise or shock, and flabbergasted (adjective) is similar in meaning to gobsmacked.
It was mentioned in a magazine from 1772 as a popular slang word, but how the word was created is unknown. Some think it’s a word from an English dialect, while others think that it could be a combination of the words flabby (to be soft or limp) and aghast (to be shocked).
The doctor was flabbergasted when his patient said she walked on a broken ankle for two months.
While these are all great examples of weird English words, they are not the only ones out there. To find more strange words, you can expose yourself to native English and naturally come across some of those funky words.
Try reading books, watching movies or listening to music in English—all of these are great ways to pick up new vocabulary.
You can also practice with the videos on FluentU, which teaches you authentic English through native content like TV show clips and popular vlogs. Each video has learning tools like interactive subtitles, quizzes and flashcards to help you pick up new vocabulary.
With these options for improving your English, there’s no need to feel discombobulated if you hear gibberish—learning new words can be easy once you start!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website 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 "searching," 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 gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.