The English language is continually evolving, with hundreds of new words, like selfie and hashtag, added to dictionaries year after year and others, like snollygoster, falling out of use. For today’s post, we’ve taken a trip down lexicography lane to bring you a selection of almost-forgotten English words that you might want to include in your writing.
Thanks to digital storage, major dictionaries like the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster never delete words altogether. But they do remove entries from their printed dictionaries for words nobody uses anymore. So, if you think any of the following words should remain in our printed dictionaries, you’d better start using them as much as possible!
25 Goodly Archaic Words
● Appetency: A deep desire:
We have an appetency to help our customers improve their writing.
Laws should be passed for the behoof of the whole society.
● Crinkum-crankum: An adjective to describe something excessively elaborate:
A crinkum-crankum maze of passages.
● Dispraise: As you might expect, this word means the opposite of praise, i.e., to comment on with disapproval:
My tutor dispraised my essay because my language was too antiquated.
● Egad: An expression of surprise or a mild expletive:
Egad! I forgot to turn in my assignment.
● Forsooth: An exclamation used to affirm the truth of a statement that appears unbelievable. Forsooth is often used for comic effect:
I will strike you down forsooth!
● Grimalkin: A domestic cat:
Meet my grimalkins Ginger and Smudge.
● Hearken: To listen to or give attention:
I told Smudge to get off my keyboard, but she did not hearken to my words.
● Immedicable: Not treatable:
These deep claw marks on my arm are immedicable.
● Jakes: A slang word for an outside toilet:
He dropped his cutlery and rushed outside to the jakes.
● Kine: A collective term for cows:
The farmer keeps pigs, sheep, and kine.
● Lurdan: A lazy or incompetent person:
That lurdan has been lying on the sofa all day!
● Mayhap: This looks like an amalgamation of maybe and perhaps, and it means the same thing:
I wrote him a letter. Mayhap he will reply.
● Nubbing-cheat: This was a slang word for the gallows, which would explain why we don’t see it much nowadays:
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
That picaroon is headed for the nubbing-cheat.
● Orison: Prayer:
She bowed her head and whispered an orison.
● Picaroon: A scoundrel or pirate:
A crew of picaroons raided the island.
● Quoth: If you’re worried about using the word said too much in your writing, try quoth instead:
“I’m not sure what that word means,” quoth he.
● Rapscallion: A mischief maker:
What rapscallion tied my shoelaces together?
● Scaramouch: You might have come across this one if you’re a fan of Queen. It means a boastful but cowardly person and features in the song Bohemian Rhapsody:
“Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?” (Freddie Mercury)
● Twelvemonth: A year:
I will complete my studies within a twelvemonth.
● Unhand: To let go of:
I demand that you unhand me immediately!
● Verily: Similar to forsooth, this is another word that means in truth or certainly:
Verily I say unto you…
● Wassail: Wassailing was an English Christmas tradition in the Middle Ages, which involved peasants going door-to-door offering spiced ale to the rich residents in return for presents. More generally, it means drinking and its associated frivolity:
William woke with a headache and little memory of the night’s wassailing.
● Ye: The plural of you, so essentially the original version of y’all:
O come, all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant!
● Zounds: A mild oath expressing surprise or annoyance:
Zounds! Why didn’t I think of that?
Can Writers Still Use Antiquated Words?
We hope you’ve enjoyed becoming acquainted – or reacquainted – with these words that aren’t as popular as they once were. Just because some words aren’t widely recognized anymore doesn’t mean writers can’t continue to use them. Additionally, even though none of the above words would be appropriate for formal or academic writing, they could be useful if you write poetry or fiction, especially historical fiction.
The context in which an archaic word appears should be enough to show readers what it means. However, if your work includes many unfamiliar words, it might be helpful to include a glossary.
Free Proofreading Sample
As well as correcting grammatical errors and typos, our proofreaders offer feedback on word choice. We’ll never change the substance of your writing, but we’ll highlight any words that seem out of place and suggest alternatives where appropriate.
To learn more about how we can help polish your writing, send us 500 words today, and we’ll proofread them for free.
In case you were wondering, a snollygoster is an unprincipled person or corrupt politician. And if you come across any antiquated words that begin with “X,” feel free to mention them in the comments!