10 Rare But Useful Words Everyone Should Know

Is there a word for that? Here are ten of the best useful rare words in the English language

Ever caught yourself thinking, ‘There should be a word for that. Is there a word for that?’ We’re here to help. In this new post, we’ve gathered up ten useful words which should be better known, but aren’t. Many of them, of course, have literary origins or histories, which we’ll mention and discuss as we go.

UHTCEARE: This highly useful word means ‘lying awake before dawn worrying’. It appears in the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Wife’s Lament’, and has recently become more widely known thanks to Mark Forsyth, who includes it in his book The Horologicon.

QUAKE-BUTTOCK: This is another term for a coward, and appears in the plays of seventeenth-century playwrights Beaumont and Fletcher. We reckon it should be revived.

ACCISMUS: A very handy way of referring to ‘the pretended refusal of something one keenly desires’. It dates from 1565, showing that manners have been much the same for the last four or five centuries.

METANOIA: This is the act or process of changing your mind; the word first appeared in English in a 1577 book on rhetoric and style.

QUIDNUNC: A useful word for a gossip, or nosy person. It comes from the Latin for ‘what now?’ because such a person is always trying to find out what the latest news is on something.

THRASONICAL: Next time someone’s being rather boastful in your presence (whether a ‘humble brag’ or otherwise) why not remark on how ‘thrasonical’ they’ve been. They may well think you’re paying them a compliment, but in reality you’re observing just how bloomin’ big-headed they’re being. The adjective ‘thrasonical’ is derived from Thraso, a braggart soldier who appears in a comedy by the Roman playwright Terence.

CUNCTATION: This word refers to the action of putting something off. The seventeenth-century poet Robert Herrick used it in a poem, but we’d wager it has never been in widespread use. However, it’s a rather nicer way of admitting you’re procrastinating or, if you will, merely being lazy, without admitting too much.

LORTHEW: In the Middle Ages, the word ‘lorthew’ was another name for a teacher, but it’s the derivation which many teachers may find particularly apt. The word comes from two Old English words meaning ‘teacher’ and ‘slave’.

DEIPNOPHOBIA: This useful word refers to a very specific dread – the dread of dinner parties. It dates from as early as 1891. Meanwhile, a ‘deiponosophist’ (which is also found in the Oxford English Dictionary) is ‘a master of the art of dining’ – this word dates from 1581. It stems from a Greek word which the OED defines as ‘one learned in the mysteries of the kitchen’. And finally…

EPEOLATRY: We’ll conclude this top-ten of our favourite useful rare words he word ‘epeolatry’ means the worship of words themselves. It first appears in an 1860 book by Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior.

Here at Interesting Literature, we obviously love words and have even tried to get two of our own suggestions, ‘bibliosmia’ and ‘colygraphia’, in wider circulation. (These were coined for two of our posts: the first was on 10 words every book-lover should know, and the second provided 10 unusual writers’ words for NaNoWriMo, if you’re curious to find out which specific phenomena these coinages were our attempts to define.) However, it seems that their widespread use (and inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary) remains a fair way off yet. Why not get them out there, into the Twittersphere? It would be great to see ‘bibliosmia’ trending one day…

If you enjoyed these rare useful words, check out our interesting facts about language and words.


  1. All of your words, and 20k more, feature in Chiliad by Simon Otius, at unhappened dot com.

  2. Well, I can definitely relate to UHTCEARE, but it seems that you in the next word relate it to being a coward. Some may use it to avoid the unpleasant, while others (like myself) experience it as a result of the desire not to be blindsided, or preparing oneself for something unknown done or said the previous day or so coming back to bite one on the ass.

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  5. Reblogged this on ldbush21.

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  7. Reblogged this on yllibsomar.

  8. i would much rather call myself prone to cunctation than a procrastinator!

  9. ‘Quake-buttock’ … I like that one because it almost doesn’t need explaining.

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  11. Reblogged this on BlackEagle5374 and commented:
    The face people would make should I ever use any of these words.

  12. I’m not sure about most of these, but ‘metanoia’ certainly fills a niche for me.

  13. Great post. “Quake-buttock” is fantastic.

    In addition, “deipnosophist” is actually a great word for a literary blog. The original Greek word comes from the title of the “Deipnosophistae,” written by the sophist and grammarian Athenaeus of Naucratis, who lived in the second and/or third century A.D. This work is a massive, fifteen-volume dialogue about dining, literature, philosophy, and many other miscellaneous topics. My favorite translation of the word “deipnosophist” into English is “contriver of feasts,” a rendering that is found in some nineteenth-century scholarly discussions of Athenaeus’s work.

    • As I am studying poetry and Shakespeare I recently memorised a very relevant word: euphuistic!

      • Ah yes, another nifty Greek word with literary connections! From the Greek “euphues,” meaning “good-natured” or “witty,” introduced into English via Roger Ascham’s “The Scholemaster” and the romances of John Lyly. The elaborate style of the latter led to the label “euphuism.”

  14. Interesting, I just wrote about Flavius Maximus, the cunctator. Subsequently, the term became an honorary title in ancient Rome:

  15. Reblogged this on graziellagilli's Blog and commented:
    Waooooo, very interesting!!! THANK´S!!!!

  16. Interesting!! thanks for sharing :)

  17. One of my favorite rare words; ultracrepidarian. It means someone who speaks with authority on topics they know very little about. I keep wanting to use it, and then I remember nobody else knows what it means. It’s a very sad feeling.

  18. Reblogged this on JCU // Creative Writing Workshop and commented:
    I happened upon The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words last year while spending time at the John Cabot University Frohring Library, and it holds true to its title. Look out for a copy!

  19. Great post with some really interesting words I’d never heard before. “Quidnunc” is fantastic!

  20. in which language ?

  21. This is a great list. Quidnunc is my favorite and I’m anxious to use it!

  22. Brilliant post! Definitely going to be using some of these in some stories…

  23. Great words!

  24. Awesome post loved it!! Love words they totally fascinate me and your choice was wonderful thank you for sharing :)

  25. Reblogged this on paddypicasso and commented:
    new words to add to your vocabulary

  26. Fabulous! ‘Quake-buttock’ is certainly going to get an outing, I can tell you.

  27. This is priceless–way better than the debate I saw the other day (I’m a gonna curse now) over which was bigger: a shitload or a fuck ton. And these are real words that won’t get me tossed from the grocery store. Made my day.

  28. This was both useful information and fun to read. The only thing that might make it better but would be time consuming would be to include a pronunciation guide with your definitions, your post is very well done.

  29. As You Like It 5.2.12 – Rosalind: ‘…Caesar’s thrasonical brag of “I came, saw and overcame”.’

    Ever since I directed a production of the play I’ve loved this line because ‘overcame’ is so much more elegant a word than the rather leaden ‘conquered’. It also pairs neatly with ‘came’ – Shakespeare really was a handy wordsmith. So anyway that’s why I already knew this word.
    By the way, just after that quote, in the same line from Rosalind is a beautiful little anadiplosis. Just thought I’d mention it.

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