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Obscure Word Directory From N to Z

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Don't you just love discovering new words? Here's OGN's compilation of obscure (but useful!) words from N to Z. There's a link to words A to M at the end of this page.

Collection of letters sprinkled across a table

Nikhedonia - You’re playing a game, and you suddenly realize that you’ve got it in the bag. Or you’re watching your favourite team play and, after a close-fought match, you see that they’re surely going to win. That’s nikhedonia - the feeling of excitement or elation that comes from anticipating success.

Nudiustertian - Have you ever wished that you had a word for the day before yesterday? Well, this is it. As in: "I'd ordered the key on-line for $20 that nudiustertian morning and was not expecting it to arrive until the following week."

Obelus - The word for a division symbol (÷)

Opsimath - a person who begins to learn or study only late in life.

Pandiculation - When you get up in the morning, sit on the edge of your bed, and stretch your arms in all directions, you’re actually pandiculating.

Paracosm - An imaginary world created by a child.

Paralipsis - The rhetorical device of pretending that the point you're about to make is so obvious that you don't need to make it. "Your trousers are ridiculous, and I'm not even going to mention the hat." And yet you have just mentioned the hat. "I'm not going to make excuses and say that we hadn't had enough time to prepare for the match." And yet you did just say that. That is paralipsis.

Paraph - a flourish made after a signature, as in a document, originally as a precaution against forgery.

Peristeronic - of or relating to pigeons.

Persiflage - Frivolous, light-hearted talk. A useful word, because it makes you sound like Oscar Wilde and lets you avoid ever describing your witty repartée as "banter".

Petrichor - The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

Philocalist - Lover of beauty; someone who finds beauty in all things. A philocalist is someone who is able to cherish the little things.

Phubbing - The impolite habit of ignoring someone while answering emails or scrolling on a smartphone. The word, a contraction of “phone snubbing”, was coined by behavioural experts.

Psithurism - The sound of the wind in the trees.

Quincunx - An arrangement of five objects with four at the corners of a square or rectangle and the fifth at its centre, used for the five on a dice or playing card.

Redamancy - Loving someone who loves you back; a love returned in full.

Seatherny - The serenity you feel when listening to the birds chirp.

Selcouth - Rare and strange, but marvelous. It is used to describe something rare, but beautiful.

Sesquipedalian - given to using long words (formal of polysyllabic).

Skeuomorph - Something designed to look as though it does the job it is supposed to do. Apple is famous for this: making the Notepad app look like a real paper notepad, making the delete tool look like a real rubbish bin. It doesn't have to be visual: The fake shutter-click noise of digital cameras is a skeuomorph.

Snollygoster - A politician who does or says things for their own personal advancement instead of following their own principles.

Synecdoche - Literary device in which a part of something is substituted for the whole (such as hired hand for "worker"), or less commonly, a whole represents a part (as when society denotes "high society").

Syzygy - an alignment of three celestial objects: the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet.

Tintinnabulation - the ringing or sound of bells.

Tittle - The word tittle has got just one tittle in it, but this sentence has six - no, seven - more. It’s the little dot above a lowercase j or i.

Tmesis - Cutting a word in two and sticking another word in the middle – and the other word is usually a swear word. As in "abso-bloody-lutely". From the Greek tmēsis, "cutting".

Velleity - A wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action.

Zeugma - The rhetorical device of using a word in more than one of its senses at the same time. For instance: "She stole his heart, and his wallet": "stole" is being used in the metaphorical sense when referring to "heart", and the entirely literal one when referring to his wallet.


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