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Sound Smart Using English Power Words

Smart Words

Smart Words Scrabble Tiles

Smart Words Scrabble Tiles

Speaking English can be difficult, and speaking it well enough to sound smart takes a lot of hard work! Learning a few powerful words and how to incorporate them into a standard conversation can make you sound more intelligent and interesting. The eloquence of your word choice and how you place each within a sentence can draw people to you as someone who sounds very smart.

The words chosen for this exercise won't be those that evoke the snarl of a pompous attitude, and they won't be obscure or overly technical. What these words will do is offer a genuine sense of intellectual effectiveness within any conversation you undertake. Using any one, or a combination of the 45 listed words will help you sound smart, regardless of who you are speaking with; even someone with higher education!

Learn to Speak Language

Organizing "SMART WORDS"

  1. An initial list shows the 45 "smart words" for this exercise.
  2. You will find a pronunciation key (table form) below to help you speak each word properly and as it is meant to be said.
  3. Each "smart word" is then presented within its own section and will contain further information regarding that word.
  4. The pronunciation of each word presented will be provided next to each "smart word."
  5. When available, an etymology (word history) will be provided in [italics] for each word.
  6. The "smart words" are listed alphabetically and will show a definition(s) for each.
  7. A sample of each "smart word" will be used in a sentence/quote.

Electronic Scrabble!

Electronic Scrabble - DS Updated Version!

If you want to become a real word wizard, than Scrabble is your game! This Scrabble game takes you on a six-level in-game exercise romp. Three thrilling game modes, classic, speed and the new Scrabble Slam! You'll find a complete dictionary (for those Scrabble debacles), and a word finder for locating the best word possible for any situation. Improve your Scrabble adventures using this updated DS version and discover just how smart you can become by playing "electronic Scrabble!"

  • Lurid
  • Machiavellian
  • Misnomer
  • Non sequitur
  • Nouveau riche
  • Ostentatious
  • Ostracize
  • Perfunctory
  • Precocious
  • Quid pro quo
  • Quintessential
  • Red herring
  • Rhetoric
  • Scintillating
  • Svengali
  • Tirade
  • Tryst
  • ubiquitous
  • Untenable
  • Vicarious
  • Vile
  • Waft
  • Zealous

The Chosen 45 "Words That Make You Sound Smart"

  • Acrimony
  • Avant-garde
  • Baroque
  • Byzantine
  • Cacophony
  • Capricious
  • Caustic
  • Dichotomy
  • Dilettante
  • Ennui
  • Esoteric
  • Faux pas
  • Fastidious
  • Gregarious
  • Glib
  • Hedonist
  • Heresy
  • Idiosyncratic
  • Insidious
  • Junket
  • Kitsch
  • Litany

PRONUNCIATION KEY (English Language Key)

American English Pronunciation Key

Symbol -- ExamplesSymbol -- Examples Symbol -- Examples 

ă   --- pat

j  --- judge

s --- sauce

ā  --- pay

k  --- kick, cat, pique

sh  --- ship, dish

âr   --- care

l  --- lid, needle

t  --- tight, stopped

ä  --- father

m  --- mum

th  --- thin / th --- this

b  --- bib

n  --- no, sudden

ū  --- boot

ch  --- church

ng  --- thing

ŭ  --- cut

d  --- deed, milled

ŏ  --- pot

ûr  --- urge, term, firm, word, heard

ĕ  --- pet

ō --- toe

v  --- valve

ē  --- bee

ô   --- caught, paw

w  --- with

f --- fife, phase, rough

ô r  --- core

y  --- yes

g  --- gag

oi  --- noise

z  --- zebra, xylem

h  --- hat

oo --- took

zh  --- vision, pleasure, garage

hw  --- which

oor  --- lure

ə  --- about, item, edible, gallop, circus

ĭ   --- pit

ou  --- out

ər  --- butter

ī  --- pie, by

p  --- pop


îr  --- deer, pier

r  --- roar


acrimony (ăk′rə-mō′nē) n.

  • Bitter, sharp, hostility, especially in speech. [From Latin ācrimōnia, sharpness, from ācer, sharp.]

"Acrimony is so intense, so uncompromising, so vicious, so unhealthy underscores the one tenet of the fan canon that is absolutely biblical in its inflexibility: Never forgive, never forget." — Jo Queenan, 2003

avant-garde (ä′vänt-gärd′) n. / adj.

  • A group that creates or promotes innovative or unconventional ideas in a given field, especially the arts. [From the French avant-garde, vanguard, from Old French: avant, before.]

"The avant-garde aroused in Hitler only incomprehension and revulsion. his own practice of art was limited to painstaking, lifeless reproductions of buildings; his own taste in art never moved beyond the kind of conventional, classically inspired representations that were the stock-in-trade of the academy that had he had so wanted to join in Vienna." —Richard J. Evans, 2003

baroque (bä-rōk′) adj.

  • Extravagant, complex, or bizzar, especially in ornamentation. [From french baroque, from Italian barocco, and from Portuguese barroco, imperfect pearl.]

"Although this masked vigilante (Spider-Man) soon takes up residence on the front page of the city's tabloids, his most baroque entanglement is the long-running masochistic charade with the girl next door. —J. Hoberman, 2002

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byzantine (bĭz′ən-tēn′) adj.

  • Highly complicated; intricate and involved. [From the Late Latin Byzantinus, of the city of Byzantium, from Byzantium, from the Greek Byzantion.]

"The Unite States, with its 35-percent corporate income tax and its byzantine rules for taxing worldwide profits, is not a particularly friendly tax environment, especially compared with Bermuda, where there is no corporate income tax." —Jonathan Weisman, 2002"

cacophony(kə-kŏf′ə-nē) n.

  • Jarring, discordant sound. [From French cacophonie, from Greek kakophonia, from kakophonus, cacophonous : kakos, bad + phōnē, sound.]

"Just as the the strength of the Internet is chaos, the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects." —Stewart Dalzell, 1996

capricious (kə-prĭsh′əs or kə-prē′shəs) adj.

  • Characterized by or subject to whim; impulsive and unpredictable. [From Italian capriccioso, from caporiccio, sudden start, fright: capo, head (from Latin caput) + riccio, curly (from Latin ēricius, hedgehog, since in a state of fright one's hair stands on end like the spines of a hedgehog).]

"many of the empire's failures lay in the man himself. Half-educated—able to read, but not to write—Charlemagne was vulgar and easily flattered. He was also capricious, at times pardoning his enemies, but on one occasion decapitating 4,500 surrendering Saxons. Though he loved making laws, few survived him."—"Castles of Sand: The Holy Roman Emperor," the Economist, 2004

caustic (kô′stĭk) adj.

  • Incisively critical or sarcastic; sharp or cutting. The corrosive action of caustic compounds is evoked by the figurative use of the word caustic, which refers to remarks or attitudes that are wounding. [From middle English caustik, from Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaustos, red hot, from kaiein, kau-, to burn.]

A caustic substance is one that can burn, corrode, or dissolve something using chemical action. Most inorganic acids,—sulfuric acid—are very caustic. Metal hydroxides are alkaline substances that are caustic.

Quick English Grammer Video Lesson (1 min. 40 sec.)

dichotomy (dī-kŏt′ə-mē) n.

  • A division into two contrasting things or parts. [From greek dikhotomiā, from dikhotomos, divided in two : dikho-, in two (from dikha) + temnein, to cut.]

"The distinction between mind and body is an artificial dichotomy, a discrimination which is unquestionably based far more on the peculiarity of intellectual understanding than on the nature of things."—Carl Jung, 1933

dilettante (dĭl′ĭ-tänt′) n. / adj.

  • n.A person with a superficial interest in an art or field of knowledge; a dabbler. [From Italian dilettante, lover of the arts, from present participle of dilettare, to delight, from dēlectāre : dē-, intensive prefix + lactāre, to allure, wheedle, from lacere, to allure.]
  • adj. Superficial; amateurish.

"Her father's obsession with fleas, however, was not a dilettante enthusiasm, but a serious scientific interest. He had identified the flea that carries plague, Xenopsylla cheopis Rothschild, and had written more than 150 papers on the creatures." —Miriam Rothschild, 2005

ennui (ŏn-wē′) n.

  • Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom.

esoteric (ĕs′ə-tĕr′ĭk) adj.

  • Intended for or understood by only a restricted number of people. [From Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of es, within."]

"The young modernists, Ezra Pound an T.S. Eliot, found Yeats's preoccupation with occultism silly, and Yeasts knew that he must downplay his esoteric interests if the new, modernist literary establishment were to accept him." —Susan Johnson Graf, W.B.Yeats, 2000

What Are the Rules for English Language Verbs

  • Rules for English Language Verbs
    Learn about English Verbs and how to use them with this easy to understand guide. From Basic Verbs to Gerunds, you will find knowledge about English Verb Rules and Requirements worth remembering!

faux pas (fō pä′) n.

  • A social blunder. [From the French faux, false + Latin, pas, meaning to spread out]

"Penny Marshall: Here's Jane, a wild and beguiling gypsy ready to set your heart aflame if not for one fashion faux pas.

Rob Reiner: Jane is wearing a hamster on her head. Don't wear hamster heads; you've got a face—let's see it." —Saturday Night Live, 1975

fastidious (fă-stĭd′ē-əs) adj.

  • 1. Possessing or displaying meticulous attention to detail. 2. Excessively scrupulous or sensitive, especially in matters of taste. [From middle English fastidiuos, squeamish, particular, haughty.From Old French fastidieux, from Latin fastīdiōsus, probably from fastus, disdain.]

George[Furious with his father]: "I cannot believe you are seriously suggesting Miss Swartz as the companion of my heart and hearth!"

Mr. Osborn: "Why not?"

George: "Well, to begin with, she's not English."

Mr. Osborn: "Hoity-toity! Less fastidious, if you please!" —From the film Vanity Fair, 2004

glib (glĭb) adj.

  • 1. Performed with a natural, offhand ease. 2. Marked by ease and fluency of speech or writing that suggests or stems from insincerity, superficially, or deceitfulness. [Possibly shortening of glibbery, slippery, possibly from low German glibberig, smooth, slippery, from Middle Low German glibberich: glibber, jelly (a kin to dialectal Dutch glib, curds) + -ich, adjectival suffix.]

"Hare's play never ignites. He drizzles glib dialogue over their encounter; like coulis on a plate, it makes the dish look more appetizing than it actually is." —John Lahr, The New Yorker, 2002

gregarious (grĭ-gâr′ē-əs) adj.

  • Seeking and enjoying the company of others; sociable. [From Latin gregārius, belonging to a flock, from grex, greg-, flock.]

"Biologically speaking, man is moderately gregarious, not a completely social animal—a creature more like a wolf, let us say, or an elephant, than like a bee or an ant." —Aldous Huxley, 1959

hedonist (hēd′n-ĭst) n.

  • A person who is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses. [From Greek hēdonē, pleasure.]

"We aren't here for a party," Agamemnon said. Xerxes, though, had always seemed disappointed that he could no longer indulge in fine foods; he had been a hedonist in his human days. Now he just gave the mechanical sigh and admired his surroundings." —Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, 2003

heresy (hĕr′ĭ-sē′) n.

  • 1. An opinion or a teaching at variance with established beliefs or opinions. 2. Adherence to such an opinion or teaching. [From Middle English heresie, from Old French, from Late Latin haeresis, from Greek hairesis, from Greek, a choosing, faction, from haireisthai, to choose.]

"He was not about to comprimise a promising career by promulgating a heresy that he could not prove. What then was his heresy? A belief in evolution itself." —Stephan J. Gould, 1977

idiosyncratic (ĭd′ē-ō-sĭng-krăt′ĭk) adj.

  • Peculiar to a specific group or individual.

"Even in his toughest gangster roles, Bogart was sympathetic. Always the enemy of emotion, he nonchalantly accepted his inevitable doom while conveying an idiosyncratic mixture of high tension and sexy charm." —Jeffery Meyers, 1997

insidious (ĭn-sĭd′ē-əs) adj.

  • Doing harm in a subtle or imperceptible manner; treacherous. [From Latin īnsidiōsus, from īmsididae, ambush, from īnsidēre, to sit upon, lie in wait for: in-, in+sedēre, to sit.]

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government." —President George Washington, 1796

English Power Words

  • Sound Smart Using English Power Words
    Want to sound smart? Use these few English words to make people think you are very smart. Even if English is not your first language, these vocabulary words can make you sound smart. They are not technical words, or even long words. These words are c

junket (jŭng′kĭt) n.

  • A trip or tour, especially one taken by an official at the expense or by a person who is the guest of a business or agency seeking patronage.

"If your local critics or TV reporters are kind to this film, you might bear in mind that 78 of them were invited on a publicity junketto Jamaica, as part of the film's budget." —Pauline kael, 1966

kitsch (kĭch) n.

  • Art or other objects appealing to popular taste, as by being gaudy or overly sentimental. [From German Kitsch, perhaps akin to kitschen, to scrape up street mud, smooth down (from a notion likening bad painting to mud scraped off streets or the skills of a bad painter to those of a street cleaner).]

"The kitchen is where we...collect kitsch. Hummel figurines, statues of liberty salt and pepper shakers, underpants that say Home of the Whopper, and so on. Kitsch. The kitchen is where we look at kitsch".— Christopher Durang, 1998

litany (lĭt′n-ē) n.

  • A repetitive recital or list. [From Middle English letanie, prayer in the form of a litany.]

"The working conditions in these meatpacking plants were brutal. In The Jungle [1906] Upton Sinclair described a litany of horrors: severe back and shoulder injuries, lacerations, amputations, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and memorably, a workplace accident in which a man fell into a vat and got turned into lard."—Eric schlosser, 2001

lurid (lûr′ĭd) adj.

  • Characterized by vivid description or explicit details that are meant to provoke or shock. [From Latin for lūridus, pale, from lūror, paleness.]

"when the exaggerated and lurid story of the Cypress Hills fight, getting dirtier as it went, like a summer whirlwind, reached Ottawa, it stirred up a furry of public feeling against Americans at large and against whiskey traders in particular." —Wallace Stegner, 1962

Machiavellian (măk′ē-ə-vĕl′-ē-ən) adj.

  • Characterized by cunning and deceit. [After Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political theorist.]

"The business of the University is political, then, not simply because it is a place of Machiavellian intrigue, self-serving negotiation, passive aggression, devious alliance, and mind-numbing committee discussions— of which it is— but because it is a place where citizens critique knowledge in the service of defining happiness and a democratic community." —Eric Gould, 2003

misnomer (mĭs-nō′mər) n.

  • A name wrongly or unsuitably applied to a person or an object. [From Old French mesnomer, to misname: mes-, wrongly + nommer, to name.]

"Finding oneself was a misnomer: a self is not found but made; and the anti-hero, anti-history bias was an obstacle to making it, because a starting point from the past was missing; it had to be made from scratch." —Jaques Barzun, 2000

non sequitur (nŏn sĕk′wĭ-tĕr) n.

  • A statement that does not follow logically from what precedes it. [From Latin nōn sequitur, it does not follow: nōn, not + sequitur, third person singular present tense of sequī, to follow.]

"On being told he was agranfather, my father's answer was "Federico Fellini just died." This became an instant family joke, along with his other memorable non sequiturs." —Philip Lopate, 2003

nouveau riche (nū′vō rēsh′) adj.

  • Characterized by newly acquired wealth, especially when it i flaunted. [From French nouveau riche:nouveau, new + riche, rich.]

"Doña Elena's apartment was arranged not as a flashy show of nouveau riche wealth designed to impress the visitor, but as a low-key expression of the good taste that comes with dignified social belonging." —Steve J. Stren, 2004

ostentatious (ŏs′tən-tā′shəs) adj.

  • Characterized by showiness meant to impress others; pretentious in display. [From Latin ostentāre, to show off, from ostendere, to show.]

"Even in the darkness of the car, with only the intermittent streetlights to give it life, the diamond was overwhelming. She shrank away. "I can't take that!" "Don't you like it?" "Like it! It's the most fantastic thing I've ever seen!" "Ten Karats," he said easily. "But in a square cut it's not at all ostentatious." "Of course not," she laughed nervously. "Every secretary has one." —Jaqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls, 1966

ostracize (ŏs′trə-sīz′) v.

  • To exclude from a group. [From Greek ostrakizein, from ostrakon, shell, potsherd (from the potsherd used in ancient Greece as ballots in voting to ostracize a person).]

"The United Nations must hold accountable any country that supports or condones terrorism, otherwise you will fail in your primary mission as peacekeeper. It must ostracize any nation that supports terrorism." —Rudy Giuliani, Special Session on Terrorism, October 1, 2001

perfunctory (pər-fŭngk′tə-rē) adj.

  • Done routinely and with little interest or care. [Late latin perfūnctōrius, from Latin, past participle of perfungī, to get through with: per-, through + fungī, to perform.]

"Reforms in a civil service must go on; but the changes should be real and genuine, not perfunctory, or prompted by zeal in behalf of any party simply because it happens to be in power." —President William McKinley, 1897

precocious (prĭ-kō′shəs) adj.

  • Displaying or characterized by unusually early development or maturity, especially in intelligence. [From Latin praecox, praecoc-, premature, from praecoquere, to boil before, ripen early: prae-, before + coquere, to cook, ripen.]

"Blind children, it has often been noted, tend to be precocious verbally, and may develop such fluency in the verbal description of faces and places as to leave others [and perhaps themselves] uncertain as to whether they are actually blind." —Oliver Sacks, 2003

quid pro quo (kwĭd′ prō kwō′) n.

Plural: quid pro quos or quids pro quo

  • Something given in return for something else or accepted as a reciprocal part of an exchange. [From Latin quid prō quō: quid, something + prō, for + quō, ablative form of quid, something.]

"Lothian now cabled that Mr. Sumner Welles had told him that the constitutional position made it "utterly impossible" for the President to send the destroyers as a spontaneous gift; they could come only as a quid pro quo." —Winston S. Churchill, 1949

quintessential (kwĭn′tə-sĕn′shəl) adj.

  • Being the best or most typical example of its kind.

"Plain spoken, plain talking, no nonsense Harry. Little Harry, some people called him when he first took Roosevelt's place. Little man, they called him, the day FDR died. Funny that little Harry Truman looms so large in our memories. he was in many ways the quintessential American. — President Ronald Reagan, 1984

red herring (rĕd hâr′-ēn) n.