Want to sound smarter? Try slipping these words into a casual conversation. From Mental Floss by way of Smithsonian.
From the first person you greet in the morning to that earthy smell that permeates the air after it rains, the English language is full of very specific words. Here are 10 of them.
You know how it smells after it rains? That clean, greenish smell when rain lands on dry ground? That’s petrichor, from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of Greek gods and goddesses). The term was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964—though it’s probably a familiar word to fans of Doctor Who; it was once used as a password to open the TARDIS’s control room (you can even buy a perfume inspired by this delicious scent).
As a noun, chanking is the food that you spit out, like an olive pit. As a verb, it means to eat noisily.
If you’ve put your shirt on backwards, you have your arms in the wrong armsayes (you know them better as armholes).
When you walked out your door this morning, who was the first person you greeted? Your neighbor? Your boss? Whoever it was, that person is your qualtagh. Traditionally, the word was used to define the first person you greeted in the new year. (Here’s one you can use tomorrow)
Originally, a zarf was a metal chalice meant to prevent the heat from your coffee from burning your fingers. The name for the fancy cup holder has morphed into the modern-day cardboard sleeve that comes wrapped around your morning cup of joe. (Next time you are at Caribou, ask someone to hand you a zarf.)
People with expressive faces often end up with wrinkles in their glabella—the space between the eyebrows.
The word nef is fairly esoteric, which only seems appropriate given the ornamental, silver or gold, ship-shaped stand it describes.
Libel is one thing, but a damaging lie made publicly known for political effect—usually in reference to a candidate who is running for office—is a roorback.
Playful, joking banter can be called badinage. (It can also be used as a verb meaning to playfully banter with or tease someone.)
You know the words lock and tendril, but did you know the similar feat? Aside from being an act requiring great strength, it describes a dangling curl of hair.