Weekly Challenge #4

The other evening, we were hanging out, and Alex busted out the word “postprandial,” as in “Let’s take a postprandial walk with Toby.” NICE. (This was my reaction.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s nothing more attractive than hearing someone use a vocab word in regular conversation.

So here’s the weekly challenge: Choose a favorite vocab word and pepper it into conversation this week. Are you game? Here are the 250 most difficult SAT words, if you’d like inspiration. Peripatetic. Innocuous. Sycophantic. Taciturn…Which word will you choose? Let’s nerd out!

P.S. British words and annoying words.

(Photo of Grace Kelly. Graphic design by Rachel for Cup of Jo)

  1. VP says...

    It’s so funny because postprandial is a word I use all the time in medicine, but my SAT vocab (from eons ago) is nowhere to be found. Medical jargon has replaced all other words lol!

  2. I love this! I haven’t actually done this, but I love words. Growing up, my mom had a subscription to Reader’s Digest and the first page I’d go to would be “How to Enrich Your Word Power”. I might just try this thing out.

    Thanks to your blog, by the way, I learn a lot of things.


  3. Completely agree. Nothing sexier than someone with a good vocabulary. I recently saw a photo on Pinterest of words to use more. Between you and that photo, I’m inspired to post my own ‘increase your vocab post’ on my blog :) Thanks!

  4. It’s so satisfying when suddenly a new word flies out of your own mouth as well. I read a lot, and sometimes my brain just picks up new vocabulary without me knowing it! :)

  5. I work with a bunch of software developers and they are all very smart. Unintentionally they will drop words on this list. And then five minutes later hit you with a nerf dart. Actually, looking through the list, I know I’ve heard many of them around the office recently. Anyhoo, it’s made me much better at my vocab…and at dodging.

  6. Isn’t it sort of pathetic but I was obsessed with learning these VERY words for my Princeton Review SAT class. I spent hours just memorizing the SAT buzz words and learning their esoteric meanings because somehow I thought a great SAT score would save me from living with my parents. Seeing those words now brings me back to those Princeton Review classes and that Summer of Words. Not surprisingly I guess, I got a perfect score on the SAT verbal. I’d forgotten. It’s nice to remember these tiny victories in the face of large daily defeats.

  7. I love this post! I have come to the conclusion that my acumen of legal vocabulary is one of the reasons my husband fell in love with me or was it my effulgent spirit?! He just told me it was both! I definitely think its Hot when a person has great vocabulary skills! Its a good way to stump the haters! Haha!

  8. This is such a fun idea! I think I will choose “cajole” because it seems like a word I could use often… or maybe just something I do often, not sure which. haha

  9. I use all of those words you’ve mentioned (though admittedly not all that often). Egregious is a good one, too. I’ve turned my husband onto it. Ha!

  10. My college roomates 7 year old son wrote a list of words he knew on the driveway yesterday and one of them was gargantuan. That’ll be the word I try to slip into conversation.

  11. I’m going with ephemeral. It sounds way better than its meaning, so I think I’d like to try and work that into my day. :)

  12. I am absolutely going to do it! Hackneyed is the word! Safe to say, however, this was a MAJOR boost to my ego as many words on the SAT list are words I used often. yay me.

  13. i’m taking the SAT next month so this challenge fits perfectly and will be quite instructional, no?

  14. 1. In college, in class with a rather erudite professor, I used the word ‘facade’ but pronounced it Fa Caid… it was awful.

    2. I really really love animal vocabulary.
    … a gaggle of geese
    … a pride of lions-or tigers, eh whatever…
    … a murder of crows

    Yay words- fun!

  15. Have you ever used the site, It’s my guilty procrastination site. Try it out. It’s addicting.

  16. My kids will say I am likely to perseverate about participating in this exercise. I concur entirely.

  17. can’t believe these are the hardest SAT words. most of these words are easy and familiar if you’ve read a few adult books

  18. I’m out on that limb with you–good vocabulary is really attractive! As long as it isn’t used in a pedantic way, of course…;)

  19. I have selected feral – decry – mawkish …. letting my geek flag fly!

  20. Maybe between a wife and a husband as some kind of game, but among people you don’t know that well this is a sure-fire way to look pretentious.

  21. Love this! The only this is, the SAT list should come with a pronunciation guide. One of my friends once tried to look smart by passing off the reading notes as his own thoughts but he pronounced hyperbole as “hi-per-bowl” and was caught out! We’ve never let him live it down!

  22. I read tons of Agatha Christie and she always is using such fun words, after looking up their meaning they are put on the fridge for my husband and I to try and use that week. Our favorite this year has been mountebank, which means a charlatan or person hoping to deceive.

  23. Reminds me of the scene in the 90’s film threesome where she gets turned on by all the big words he’s using! My favourite word is incandescent!

  24. Haha, I might have to do this.. though there IS a chance it will interfere with my current challenge to drop words like ‘sausage roll’ and ‘unicorn’ into serious conference calls…

  25. That’s funny, ha. You find it attractive, but I have always found it pretentious. :- )

  26. I’m going to borrow “prostprandial” :)

    • I can’t decide is Shaunna thinks this topic is asinine or if she likes the word.

  27. Using big words sure don’t make you smart.

  28. I love using new words even if they are superfluous in a conversation! My favorite word is forsythia, I just love saying it although it can be hard to bring up in conversation often.

  29. The secret to this is by reading more books.

  30. I just heard at the national childrens spelling bee they will not also have to say the definition of the word. I saw that on the TODAY show this morning. And some of the words they used as examples I didn’t even know how to spell them, ha!
    Ls {sixteensunbuckles}

  31. 250 difficult SAT words: I had never heard of ‘blandish.”

  32. I’m in! I’ve been wanting to do something like this for awhile now so thank you!

  33. I missed the word ‘friable’ on the GRE! My vocab word is ‘susurrus’!

  34. Your list of “annoying words” is wrong. “Don” is a great word, mainly because allowing it into your vocab means you get to use its most excellent converse “DOFF”!

  35. So fun ! My collegue and me did some crossword the other day at lunchtime and there was this word we didn’t even knew existed, and challenged the other to use it during the day (and if we found someone who knew what it ment had to buy coffee to the other, nobody got coffee, but it was fun !)

  36. Ten years ago, My husband wooed me with the word “compunction.” True story; I still have all the emails somewhere. My favorite word is “defenestrate.”

    • That’s adorable!

  37. Exactly why I love Whit Stillman films. Most especially Greta Gerwig & Chris Eigeman who pull his words off effortlessly with such panache. Great post!

  38. I’d love to use so many of those SAT words more often… goal for this week is one of my favorites, “indefatigable.”

  39. I received an email a few weeks ago signed ‘with alacrity,’ and now I’ve been trying to insert it into my everyday vocabulary.

  40. This is a great idea! I just had to ask someone what the word was for when you’ve been arguing a point for a really long time and finally have the evidence to back yourself up….Vindication.

    Ahh. Yes. Clearly I need this challenge today!

  41. Great idea! You have effectively cajoled me into participating. ;)

  42. Now that’s just a fab idea! As I’m not a native speaker of English I have my own ritual: every day I try to find a word in my language that I don’t know the equivalent of in English. I also try to use some of these new words in my every day conversations and am jubilant every time I actually manage to use them correctly ;)

  43. Looking at difficult words takes me back to studying for the GRE and kind of induces a panic attack, but…I do love me some words :)

  44. Oh, this reminds me of high school! So many vocabulary words to memorize.

  45. I know that you’re probably looking for English words, but Frühlingsschnipsel is a terrific German word that means ‘snippets of spring.’ Pretty appropriate, no?!

    • that was incredibly fun to say and i’m not even sure i said it right.

  46. One of my favorites is “confuss” which means “to complain because of confusion.”

  47. Postprandial was just on @thewordoftheday on Twitter.

  48. Oh, how I love words. I regularly use a bigger word in conversation. Yes, it seems out of place sometimes, but I think they’re fun :)

    And now, I have to direct your attention to my new FAVORITE website.
    You can look up (some) words and find the complete etymology of it. Language of origin, and changes over the years. It will also show you related words. I love it so much, and share it with everyone I can.

  49. Reading a somewhat challenging novel is a good way to expand your vocabulary too. That’s what I did to study for the GRE :) Faulker is especially good.

  50. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!
    Can you come teach my high school English students this? ;)

  51. adumbrate; v. to sketch out in a vague way.

    because suddenly I feel all kinds of smarter just knowing the word exists and, also, slightly a-dumb er er at struggling to figure out how to work it into any sort of conversation I might have today.

    love this idea thanks for the SAT word list– I am so gonna bombard that Charlie of mine when he walks in the door tonight, but my first victim will be, of course, the 3 year old. does that count, really?

  52. I just used ‘boon’ on Tuesday night! I feel so clever already ;)

  53. Oh and mine would be ischemic and atresia. I’m in an ultrasound program… CANNOT keep these straight for some reason! :)

  54. This was sort of one of my new years resolutions…to periodically pick a funny, obscure or SAT-level word and try and use it in a conversation (or work email, haha). Last week it was was “ship-shape”…this week is “gumption.”

  55. So sexy! Told a boyfriend once that his vocabulary seriously turned me on. Haha.

  56. Great idea!!

    Sometimes I’m shy I might sound a little too nerdy haha…but I like to try them.

    I constantly take notes in my phone every time I read something good, either word or phrase.

    love love!

  57. Nice! I love it when people use unusual words or common words in uncommon ways, though sometimes I get teased when I try…I’m a big fan of the word “jejune.” It’s such a sophisticated way to say that something’s childish or juvenile. :)

  58. I like ‘polemic’. I’m using it a lot at the moment…’Margaret Thatcher was a polemic character’…

  59. Boo, whenever I do this, people laugh at me! It’s friends usually, so I think it’s just light teasing, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from doing it, but I don’t usually get a positive reaction. More a “oh, geez, there’s Abby vocab-ing it up again.”

  60. Love this! In college we would post a “word-of-the-day” on the wall in our sorority room and try to use it once per day. Did you know that the GRE exam functions on the expectation that you have learned 10,000 new vocabulary between starting and graduating college? I recall joking with my friends that our vocabulary HAD grown, but not with words that would be present on the GRE :)

  61. Can’t wait to try out my acumen this week!!!! Fun!

  62. Not a very difficult vocab word, but I love saying ascertain. Reminds me of a classic Kids in the Hall sketch, makes me giggle every time! :)

  63. There’s nothing hotter than a guy with a good vocabulary! My boyfriend studied english, and he never fails to impress!

  64. My favorite vocab word is “alacrity.” My old boss used to use it all the time. I like the way it sounds, and that the meaning is “two toned,” if you will. Alacrity = eagerness + speed. Sometimes when I’d ask him for something, he’d nod and say, “With alacrity!”


  66. This kind of posts is the reason I love your blog so much ! Your blog is so unique !
    Bisous from Paris !

  67. Am I a nerd if I do this anyway, without thinking about it? :) Well, sometimes I think about it afterward; I am not good at pronunciations so I am always wondering if I pronounce things correctly.

    There are some surprising words on that that 250 difficult SAT word list. Jubiliant? Wistful? Vicarious? They seem so normal.

  68. I think I first came across the word “post-prandial” in Cooking for Mr. Latte. (As in, there must be no post-prandial lattes.)

    • P.S. This “work in a new word” exercise used to be a regular on the Copy desk of my college newspaper. One week it was “harbinger.” Somehow I’ve never forgotten that word—not after the giggles I got when I did see it in a headline later that week!

    • P.P.S. I love rolling new words around in my mouth, but do you ever worry about sounding pretentious if you try to bust out a “big word” in everyday conversation?

  69. Salacious! (one of my favourite words because it is sort of ideophonic) ;)

  70. How poignant!I absolutely love extended vocabularies.

  71. Oh my god. I am devastated to learn that the first place my mind went to on reading ‘abjure’ in your link, was that it was a commonly used term in Twilight.


    I used to have such a great vocabulary when I read often. Now, with a two year old, I have so little time and I really miss reading. I can’t even remember the last complete book I read.

    On that note, short stories are great when you want a quick fix. :)

  72. EEK, love this! My friend Jonathan and I used to play “Pretentious Word of the Day,” where we’d send each other daily email with a pretentious vocabulary word, define it and use it in a sentence. it actually helped us expand our vocabulary!!

    • I LOVE this idea!!

  73. I’ve always hated “enervate” … so tricky. But I love the words palimpsest and solipsistic (Tao of Steve, anyone?). Unfortunately, palimpsest is damn near impossible to pepper into regular conversation.

    I love this challenge, by the way. So wonderfully nerdy :)

    • My professor encouraged us to use palimpsest the other week and it is SOOO HARD to use in regular conversation!

    • Amai says...

      Those over dyed Persian rugs? They are palimpsest!

  74. Oh Jo. Did you read my mind? So need this. I don’t normally comment because you have millions of comments, but I am taking this vocab list, handwriting them out, 10 at a time, on some Strathmore; then display them in my kitchen. So need to cook up some vocabulary potage in my mind whilst bustling after littles. xxoo

  75. I regularly use large vocabulary with my freshmen students and at first I got a lot of blank stares, but now they actually enjoy looking up the words with the gigantic dictionary I have at the front of my classroom. It’s been awesome to see!

  76. I try to throw in a 50 cent word all the time in conversation. My boyfriend can tell I’m pissed off by the more random words I choose. I used olfactory last night!

    My olfactory senses are happy from all the good food we’re making! =)

    Ergo – Blog

  77. with childlike alacrity I embrace your challenge.

    • ha! Yes this is one of my favorites as well!

  78. I LOVE “sycophantic”, and I also love “avuncular”.

  79. I was just thinking this yesterday when I heard the word repugnant on NPR…I was thinking about the language so much I forgot the story.

    • Yes, I adore a perfectly cromulent word.

  80. I love this one too! My friends and I used to do this every now and then too! I wasn’t as loquacious as I would have hoped!