Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Moby Dick: Great Words to Note and Save and Use

Part of the pleasure of reading classics as an adult is the joy of reading and noting words used in the book which could and should be added to one's vocabulary.

I'm reading Moby Dick. I've run across lots of words I plan to save and use in the future. These are words, by and large, that I learned in school, but which I rarely or never use in conversation; I want to use these in conversation. For now, I'm skipping all the odd words, the whaling words, but I may come back to that later. Here's my list.

Portentous (pg. 10): ominous

Catarrh (pg. 14): a buildup of mucous in the nose or throat

Obstreperously (pg. 14): noisily, rambunctiously

Expostulations (pg. 27): expressions of strong disapproval

Indecorous (pg. 28): in bad taste, unrestrained

Ablutions (pg. 28): washings

Skylarking (pg. 29): fooling around

Imputable (pg. 32): attributable

Flouts at (pg. 39): openly disregards

Inexorable (pg. 48): unstoppable

Sagacity (pg. 67): wisdom

Blandishments (pg. 84): flattering or pleasing statements

Ineffable (pg. 93): too great to be described in words

Succor (pg. 105): help

Puissant (pg. 107): powerful

Vicissitude (pg. 112): a change of circumstance or fortune

Engendering (pg. 113): giving rise to

Craven (pg. 115): cowardly

Unvitiated (pg. 117): unspoiled, unmixed

Peremptory (pg. 119): bossy, imperious

Deprecating (pg. 124): express disapproval of

Gregarious (pg. 135): sociable

Prodigious (pg. 139): great in extent, size, or degree

Expatiate (pg. 151): write about at length

Turbid (pg. 165): cloudy, opaque

Sultry (pg. 212): hot and humid

Suffusingly (pg. 221): by spreading out

Indolently (pg. 249): lazily

Effulgent (pg. 272): brightly shining

Bilious (pg. 314): nauseating

Gingerly (pg. 321): cautious, careful

Inveterate (pg. 366): habitual, of longstanding

Engendered (pg. 372): created

Inculcating (pg. 391): instructing others through repetition

Timorous (pg. 409): timid

Luridly (pg. 410): shockingly

Recondite (pg. 416): obscure, not easy to understand 

Plethoric (pg. 420): overabundant, over-giving

Unvitiated (pg. 423): unreduced, undebased

Morass (pg. 427): an area of low-lying ground

Elucidated (pg. 443): clarified

Attenuated (pg. 451): reduced or made thin

Stolidity (pg. 463): apathy, lack of emotion

Cogent (pg. 466): convincing

Gambol (pg. 533): frolic

Pertinacious (pg. 546): stubborn, persistent

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is in the public domain. 
Page numbers shown are from the first American edition, published in 1851.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words 
that we’ve encountered in our reading. 
If you want to play along, grab the button, 
write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky at Bermuda Onion!


  1. You are an incredibly careful reader to keep a list like this! I feel the same as you do about mot of the words: I know what they mean but they aren't in my active vocabulary, for the most part. Some of them would seem a little pretentious in ordinary conversation, but they are very good words.

    best... mae at

    1. I'd love to start using them and see how people react.

  2. I loved Moby Dick! That's a nice list of words.

    1. I can see why teachers use Moby Dick in the classroom. The vocabulary is amazing.

  3. Good words which over here are used quite frequently, I even use quite few of them myself. Seems so strange that the English Language can differ so much and have differing meanings

  4. Well this is just cogent that we need to read more and especially books like this from our childhood. You've certainly opened my eyes to words and phrases not often used. Your blog has been very interesting to read, thank you :D

    1. Yep, though perhaps some of these words are recondite.

  5. Great list! The word Catarrh was a big one in my childhood as I had a great aunt who always talked about her Catarrh. :-)

  6. The only person I've ever heard use catarrh in every day language is my doctor. And I've used a few of the words like gingerly, sultry and gregarious when talking, but the rest I'm not even sure how to pronounce!

  7. Wow, you found a lot of great words! I agree that it's fun to read classics to learn new words. You also discover words that have gone out of style. I love skylarking and will try to use it this week.

  8. Lovely list. Bring 'em back!


I love to hear what you think.