15 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 15 weird English words that you should know!

Contents

1. Kerfuffle (kəˈfʌf(ə)l)

Kerfuffle (noun) has been around since the early 1800s and probably came from either Scottish Gaelic or from 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?

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 1600s.

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.

I send my children to school dressed smartly, and they come home like little ragamuffins!

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.

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!

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 1940s 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.

8. Poppycock (ˈpɒpɪkɒk)

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 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 1800s.

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.

I don’t like our English teacher… he is a real curmudgeon!

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 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.

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.

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 1800s. 

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 1990s.

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

I’m not eating there! They use Frankenfoods!

 

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 try FluentU which intentionally introduces you to English as it’s actually used through authentic videos like movie clips, music videos etc. 

There are also learning tools like interactive subtitles, quizzes and flashcards that will help you learn. FluentU is available on iOS and Android

There’s no need to feel discombobulated if you hear gibberish – learning new words can be easy once you start!

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