We came across a nice site that tests your vocabulary in a short ‘quiz’ (of sorts) that takes only a few minutes to complete. It’s an interesting little test, because it will calculate (by which we really mean ‘estimate’) your vocabulary, or total number of words which you could practically use in conversation or writing.
This got us thinking about interesting words, especially rare ones, found in literature. It is commonly said that William Shakespeare had a vocabulary of 17,000-20,000 words, but most modern English speakers use many more than this. That said, there are many rare old words which are sadly underused today, but which writers of times past would have been familiar with. Here are a few of them:
An ultracrepidarian is someone who gives opinions on things they know nothing about; the word first appears in the writings of the essayist William Hazlitt in the early nineteenth century.
An agathist is ‘a person who believes that all things tend towards ultimate good’. So if you’re tired of using the near-synonymous ‘optimist’, what about this handy alternative?
In his 1818 novel Nightmare Abbey, Thomas Love Peacock coined the word antithalian – meaning ‘opposed to fun or festivity’.
Pandiculation is the act of stretching and yawning as a sign of weariness; it is first recorded in a dictionary from 1611.
A quidnunc is another name for a gossip, busybody, or nosy person; it comes from the Latin for ‘what now?’
Are there any rare words you think should be better known?
Anyway, to the vocab test. We shared the test with our followers on Twitter earlier today, and you can see the range of results in the @ replies we got. So, what will be your score? How many words do you intimately know?
Here is the link to the site, Test Your Vocabulary – be sure to let us know the extent of your word-knowledge!
Image: Shakespeare by William Blake, public domain.