Dictionary of Purple Prose

My personal collection of fun words. I usually find them while I’m reading, so this list is always getting updated. Check back regularly, and use with abandon! All definitions taken from The Oxford Dictionary, Dictionary.com, or Chambers Dictionary.


  • abecedary – (noun) a book relating to the alphabet.
  • abeyance – (noun) a state of temporary disuse or suspension.
  • acataphasia – (noun) loss of the power to formulate a statement correctly. [medical]
  • accismus – (noun) a feigned refusal of something earnestly desired.
  • acherontic – (adj.) Acheronian, Acherontic, Stygian (dark and dismal as of the rivers Acheron and Styx in Hades).
  • acquiesce – (verb) accept something reluctantly but without protest.
  • acumen – (noun) the ability to make good judgements and make quick decisions.
  • aesthete – (noun) a person who is appreciative of and sensitive to art and beauty.
  • afflatus – (noun) a divine creative impulse or inspiration.
  • ailurophile – (noun) a person who loves or fancies cats.
  • akimbo – (adverb) with hands on the hips and elbows turned outwards.
  • amicable – (adj.) characterized by friendliness and absence of discord.
  • alphitomancy – (noun) the use of barley as a means for divination.
  • ameliorate – (verb) to grow better or improve.
  • apocryphal – (adj.) [of a story or statement] of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.
  • approbation – (noun) approval or praise. See also: approbatory (adj.)
  • arbalest –  (noun) [historical] A crossbow with a special mechanism for drawing back and releasing the string.
  • ardent – (adj.) very enthusiastic or passionate; [archaic] burning, glowing.
  • arras – (noun) a wall hanging made of a rich tapestry fabric, typically used to conceal an alcove.
  • arrogate – (verb) take or claim (something) for oneself without justification.
  • ascendancy – (noun) [mass noun] occupation of a position of dominant power or influence.
  • atrabilious – (adj.) [literary] Melancholy or irritable.
  • aubade – (noun) a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or early morning.
  • avarice – (noun) [mass noun] extreme greed for wealth or material gain.
  • avuncularity – (adj.) of, relating to, or characteristic of an uncle.


  • bagatelle – (noun) 1. a thing regarded as too unimportant or easy to be worth much consideration; 2. a short, light piece of music, especially one for the piano.
  • balbutient – (adj.) [literary] stuttering, stammering.
  • baleful – (adj.) threatening; menacing.
  • ballast
    • (noun) 1. heavy material, such as gravel, sand, or iron, placed in the bilge of a ship to ensure its stability; a heavy substance carried in an airship or on a hot-air balloon to stabilize it and jettisoned when greater altitude is required; something providing stability or substance. 2. gravel or coarse stone used to form the bed of a railway track or the substratum of a road; a mixture of coarse and fine aggregate for making concrete.
    • (verb + object) to give stability or form.
  • battologize – (verb) to repeat (a word, phrase, mannerism, etc.) excessively.
  • becalmed – (adj.) [of a sailing ship] unable to move through lack of wind.
  • bedeck – (verb + object) to decorate.
  • belliferous – (adj.) someone or something waging war or creating a warlike condition.
  • bibacious – (adj.) addicted to drinking alcohol.
  • bibliobibuli – (noun) to be drunk on books.
  • bibliophagist – (noun) one who reads books omnivorously.
  • bibliosmia – (noun) the act of smelling a book for pleasure.
  • bilious – 1. (adj.) affected by or associated with nausea and vomiting; [of a color] lurid or sickly. 2. (adj.) spiteful or bad-tempered.
  • billets-doux – (noun) [dated, humorous] a love letter.
  • bivouac – (noun) a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers or mountaineers.
  • bloviate – (verb) talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way. Also, bloviation (noun), bloviator (person; noun).
  • bonhomie – (noun) cheerful friendliness; geniality.
  • book-bosomed – (noun) a person who carries a book at all times.
  • brigandage – (noun) a gang that ambushes and robs people in forests and mountains. Also, brigand (noun), brigandry (noun).
  • bucolic – (adj.) rustic, rural, or pastoral.
  • bumptious – (adj.) irritatingly self-assertive.
  • bulwark – (noun) a defensive wall; an extension of a ship’s sides above the level of the deck.
  • bunkum – (noun) bombastic speechmaking for propaganda; a claptrap.


  • cachet – (noun) a private seal affixed to a letter or official document, or to commemorate an event.
  • callipygous – (adj.) having a beautiful buttocks.
  • canaille – (noun) [derogatory] the common people; the masses.
  • canard – (noun) a false rumor; a hoax.
  • candelabrum – (noun) a large branched candlestick or holder for several candles or lamps.
  • carafe – (noun) an open-topped glass flask used for serving wine or water in a restaurant.
  • censure – (noun) the formal expression of severe disapproval.
  • chantage – (noun) the extortion of money by blackmail.
  • chatoyant – (adj.) [of feathers, gems, etc] with a changing luster, iridescent, shimmering.
  • chthonian – (adj.) relating to or inhabiting the underworld.
  • codex – (noun) 1. an ancient manuscript text in book form. 2. an official list of medicines, chemicals, etc.
  • cogswoggled – (verb) Slang. Used similarly to “I’ll be damned.”
  • colloquy – (noun) 1. formal a conversation 2. gathering for discussion of theological questions.
  • conclave – (noun) a private meeting.
  • concatenate – (verb) to link together as in a chain. (noun) a series of things depending on or resulting from each other.
  • concupiscence – (noun) a strong, sexual desire; lust.
  • corpulent – (adj.) (of a person) fat.
  • cozen – (verb) to trick or deceive. See also: cozenage.
  • crapehanger – (noun) a person who sees the gloomy side of things; pessimist.
  • crepuscular – (adj.) of or relating to twilight; dim, dark.
  • cunctation – (noun) someone who delays or procrastinates.
  • curvet – (noun) a graceful or energetic leap.
  • cynosure – (noun) a person or thing that is the center of attention or admiration.


  • dalliance – (noun) 1. dallying or toying; 2. an amorous relationship.
  • debouch – (verb) to issue or emerge , to march or flow out from a narrow pass or confined place.
  • degust – (verb) taste [something] carefully to appreciate it fully.
  • deluge
    • (noun) 1. a severe flood 2. a heavy fall of rain. 3. a great quantity of something arriving at the same time.
    • (verb) 1. overwhelm with a flood. 2. inundate with a great quantity of something.
  • demesne – (noun) any estate in land; a manor with attached lands not lent out to tenants.
  • denouement – (noun) the final part of a play, film, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved; the outcome of a situation, when something is decided or made clear.
  • desideratum – (noun) something much desired or wanting. Also desiderate (verb) to long for; desiderium (noun) grief for what is lost.
  • despotic – (adj.) of or typical of a despot; tyrannical.
  • desuetude – (noun) disuse; discontinuance.
  • desultory – (adj.) jumping from one thing to another; rambling; hasty; loose; random.
  • deuteragonist – (noun) the second actor in a Greek drama; the most important character after the protagonist.
  • diaphanous – (adj.) transparent; translucent; clear; delicate.
  • diddle – (verb) [with object] cheat or swindle (someone) out of something; [without object] to spend time aimlessly; [slang] to have intercourse.
  • dissemble – (verb) to disguise or mask; to feign; to pretend; play the hypocrite.
  • divan – (noun) British. A bed consisting of a base and mattress but no footboard or headboard.
  • donjon – (noun) the great tower or innermost keep of a castle.
  • doughty – (adj.) [archaic or humorous] brave and persistent.
  • dulcet – (adj.) sweet; melodious, harmonious.
  • dun – (adj.) of a dull greyish-brown color; literary: dark or dusky.
  • dyspeptic – (adj.) having indigestion or a consequent air of irritable bad temper; (noun) a person suffering from indigestion or bad temper.
  • dysthymic – (adj/noun) persistently, mildly depressing. Also, dysthymia (noun).


  • ebullience – (noun) cheerful enthusiasm. Also ebullient (adj.) enthusiastic; agitated; boiling over.
  • effervescent – (adj.) boiling, bubbling; lively, vivacious, exuberant.
  • effluence – (adj.) flowing out; (noun) a stream that flows into another stream; liquid sewage waste.
  • egregious – (adj.) outstandingly bad; shocking; archaic: remarkably good.
  • eld – (noun) [literary] old age.
  • eldritch – (adj.) unearthly or supernatural; uncanny.
  • elide – (verb) to cut off; to suppress, abridge; to rebut. Also elision (noun) an omission; suppression of vowel or syllable.
  • embrocation – (verb) to moisten and rub [with lotion].
  • emollient – (adj.) softening; making supple; advocating a more peaceful attitude.
  • enfilade – (noun) 1. a number of things arranged as if threaded on a string; 2. a discharge of firearms that sweeps a line or position from end to end (military); 3. a series of rooms with the doors in line affording a continuous passage; 4. a vista; 5. a situation or a body open from end to end.
  • enkindle – (verb) [literary] 1. set on fire 2. arouse or inspire (an emotion).
  • ennui – (noun) a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.
  • epeolatry – (noun) the worship of words.
  • epistle – (noun) [formal; humorous] a letter.
  • erudite – (adj.) having or showing great knowledge or learning. Also, erudition (noun).
  • eschatology – (noun) the doctrine of the last or final matters , such as death, judgement and the state after death.
  • escritoire – (noun) a small writing desk with drawers and compartments.
  • eupeptic – (adj.) relating to or having good digestion or a consequent air of healthy good spirits.
  • euphuistic – (adj.) an artificial, highly elaborate way of writing or speaking. Also, euphuist (noun), euphuism (noun).
  • evanescent – (adj.) fleeting, passing; vanishing.
  • evinced – (verb) reveal the presence of (a quality or feeling); indicate.
  • excoriate – (verb + object) 1. [medicine] damage or remove part of the surface of (the skin) 2. [formal] criticize (someone) severely. Also, excoriation (adj.).
  • exigency – (noun) an urgent need or demand.
  • exiguous – (adj.) very small in size or amount.
  • exultation – (noun) a feeling of triumphant elation or jubilation; rejoicing.
  • extol – (verb) praise enthusiastically.


  • fanfaronade – (mass noun) arrogant or boastful talk.
  • favonian – (adj.) pertaining to the west wind; mild, gentle.
  • flibbertigibbet – (noun) a frivolous, flighty, or excessively talkative person.
  • frieze – (noun) a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration, especially on a wall near the ceiling.
  • frigorific – (adj.) causing or producing cold.
  • frisson – (noun) a shiver, shudder, or thrill.
  • fugacious – (adj.) inclined to run away, flee; fleeting [literary]; readily shed [petals, etc.]
  • fungible – (adj.) interchangeable; exchangeable for something similar.
  • furtive – (adj.) stealthy, secret.
  • fusillade – (noun) 1. a simultaneous or continuous discharge of firearms; 2. anything assaulting one in a similar way, a barrage (lit and figurative).


  • gadabouts – (noun) [informal] a habitual pleasure-seeker.
  • gambol – (verb) leap; skip playfully; (noun) frolic; skipping movement.
  • gamine – (noun) a street urchin; (adj.) boyish, impish. [feminine: gamine]
  • garret – (noun) a top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one.
  • garrulity – (adj.) talkative; loquacious; wordy, voluble. Also, garrulous.
  • gossamer – (noun) a light, thin, and insubstantial or delicate material or substance.


  • halcyon – (adj.) calm, peaceful, happy, carefree [phrase: halcyon days]
  • harangue – (noun) a lengthy and aggressive speech.
  • harridan – (noun) a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman.
  • hauteur – (noun) proud haughtiness of manner.
  • henotic – (adj.) tending to unify or reconcile.
  • hericide – (noun) the murder of a lord or master.
  • hircine – (adj.) goat-like, having a strong, goatish smell. Also hircosity (noun) goatishness.
  • hinterland – (noun) 1. the remote areas of a country away from the coast or the banks of major rivers. 2. an area lying beyond what is visible or known.
  • horology – (noun) 1. the study and measurement of time. 2. the art of making clocks and watches.
  • horripilation – (noun) the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear, or excitement.
  • hoyden – (noun) a boisterous girl.


  • imbrication – (adj.) [of scales, leaves, tissue, teeth, etc.] overlapping like roof tiles.
  • imbroglio – (noun) 1. a confused mass or heap; 2. an intricate or perplexing situation, a tangle; 3. an embroilment; 4. an ordered confusion (music).
  • impetuous – (adj.) acting or done quickly and without thought or care.
  • imprimatur – (noun) a person’s authoritative approval.
  • incipient – (adj.) beginning to happen or develop.
  • indolent – (adj.) disliking activity; lazy; causing little or no pain; slow to heal [in ulcers, etc.]
  • ineffable – (adj.) too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.
  • ingénue – (noun) an artless, naive, inexperienced young woman [masculine: ingénu]
  • inglenook – (noun) an alcove by a large open fire; chimney-corner. Also ingle (noun) a fire in a room; a fireplace.
  • inimitable – (adj.) so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy; unique.
  • inquietude – (noun) physical or mental restlessness or disturbance.
  • insouciance – (adj.) indifferent, unconcerned, nonchalant; heedless; apathetic.
  • inure – (verb) to accustom, habituate, harden, to come into effect; to serve to one’s own benefit.
  • inveterate – (adj.) firmly established by usage or custom; deep-rooted; stubborn; hostile.
  • irremediable – (noun) impossible to cure or put right.


  • jacent – (adj.) lying flat; sluggish.
  • jacinth – (noun) blue gemstone; reddish-orange color; slaty-blue fancy pigeon.
  • jacksie – (noun) [British] a person’s bottom.
  • jactitation – (noun) the restless tossing of the body in illness.
  • jaculate – (verb) to throw or hurl.
  • jade – (noun) 1. a worn-out, broken-down, worthless, or vicious horse. 2. a disreputable or ill-tempered woman. (verb) to make or become dull, worn-out, or weary, as from overuse or overwork. See also: jadery.
  • jalouse – (verb) to suspect; to be jealous of.
  • jangle – (verb) make or cause to make a ringing metallic sound, typically a discordant one.
  • jark – (noun) a seal on a document; a pass, safe-conduct. Also jark man (noun) a swindling beggar.
  • jejune – (adj.) naive, simplistic, and superficial.
  • jimp – (adj.) 1. slender; trim; delicate. 2. scant; barely sufficient.
  • jobation – (noun) a tedious scolding. Also Job (noun) a person of great patience. [phrase: Job’s comforter (someone who aggravates the distress of the person they have come to comfort)]
  • jocoserious – (adj.) half in jest , half in earnest.
  • jocund – (adj.) mirthful, merry, cheerful, pleasant.
  • journey-bated – (adj.) [Shakespeare] worn out by travel.
  • jumentous – (adj.) to smell strongly of an animal.


  • kenspeckle – (adj.) [Scottish] easily recognizable; conspicuous.
  • kickie-wickie – (noun) [Shakespeare] a wife.
  • knurly – (adj.) having knurls or knots; gnarled.


  • labyrinthine – (adj.) like a labyrinth or maze.
  • lachrymose – (adj.) shedding tears; tearful, given to weeping; lugubrious, mournful.
  • lagniappe – (noun) something given beyond what is strictly required; gratuity.
  • lancet – (noun) 1. a small, broad two-edged surgical knife or blade with a sharp point. 2. a lancet arch or window.
  • languor – (noun) languidness, listlessness, weariness, pining; a stuffy suffocating atmosphere.
  • languorous – (adj.) languid; dreamy inertia; weariness or weakness.
  • lassitude – (noun) faintness, weakness, weariness, languor.
  • leonine -(adj.) of, relating to, or resembling a lion.
  • lilt – (noun) cheerful song or air; cadence; a springy gait; (verb) to hum, to do anything briskly; to sing or play absent-mindedly.
  • limerence – (noun) [psychology] the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship. Also, limerent (adj.)
  • limner – (noun) a painter who uses paper or parchment; a portrait-painter.
  • lissome – (adj.) lithe, nimble, flexible.
  • literarian – (noun) a person well-read in literature.
  • loquacious – (adj.) talkative.
  • lorthew – (noun) Archaic. A teacher.
  • Lothario – (noun) a man who behaves selfishly and irresponsibly in his sexual relationships with women.
  • luculent – (adj.) [rare] 1. [of writing] clearly expressed. 2. brightly shining. Also, luculently (adj.)
  • lugubrious – (adj.) looking or sounding sad and dismal.
  • lurid – (adj.) 1. unpleasantly bright in colour, especially so as to create a harsh or unnatural effect. 2. presented in vividly shocking or sensational terms.
  • lustrum – (noun) [literary] a period of five years.


  • malady – (noun) a disease or ailment; a serious problem.
  • malinger – (verb) to feign sickness to avoid duty or work.
  • mantelet – (noun) [historical] woman’s short, loose, sleeveless cloak or shawl.
  • manumit – (verb) to free a slave.
  • maudlin – (adj.) weeping (archaic); foolishly lachrymose, esp when in a fuddled, half-drunk state; weakly sentimental.
  • maugre – (adv.) out of spite or ill-will; (verb) to show ill-will towards.
  • mellifluous – (adj.) flowing with honey or sweetness’ smooth, sweet flow.
  • ménage – (noun) a household; the management of a house.
  • mendacious – (adj.) not telling the truth; lying.
  • meretricious – (adj.) 1. of the nature of or relating to prostitution or characteristic of a prostitute; 2. superficially attractive but of no real value or merit; 3. flashy, gaudy, insincere.
  • meritorious – (adj.) deserving reward or praise.
  • metanoia – (noun) repentance; a fundamental change in character, way of life, etc; a spiritual conversion.
  • metempsychosis – (noun) the supposed transmigration at death of the soul of a human being or animal into a new body of the same or a different species.
  • miasma – (noun) [literary] an unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapour; an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere which surrounds or emanates from something. Also, miasmatic (adj.), miasmal (adj.).
  • milieu – (noun) a person’s social environment. Plural: milieux.
  • mirific – (adj.) wonder-working; marvelous.
  • moiety – (noun) half; either of two parts or divisions; a small share.
  • mondegreen – (noun) a phrase , often humorous or nonsensical , that results from mishearing the lyric of a song.
  • morosoph – (noun) a philosophical or educated fool.
  • moue – (noun) a pouting expression used to convey annoyance or distaste.
  • munificent – (adj.) characterized by or displaying great generosity.
  • musth – (noun, adj.) a dangerous frenzy in some male animals, such as elephants.
  • myrmidon – (noun) a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly.


  • naiad – (noun) 1. (in classical mythology) a water nymph said to inhabit a river, spring, or waterfall. 2. the aquatic larva or nymph of a dragonfly, mayfly, or stonefly. 3. a submerged aquatic plant with narrow leaves and minute flowers.
  • nostomania – (noun) intense homesickness; an irresistible compulsion to return home.


  • obsequious – (adj.) fawning, compliant, dutiful, ingratiating. Also obsequies (noun) funeral rites.
  • obstreperous – (adj.) noisy and difficult to control.
  • oeuvre – (noun) the body of work of a painter, composer, or author; a work of art, music, or literature.
  • offal – (noun) the entrails and internal organs of an animal used as food; waste material.
  • opalescence – (adj.) exhibiting a milky iridescence like that of opal.
  • orison – (noun) a prayer.
  • ossified – (verb) [no object] 1. turn into bone or bony tissue. 2. (often as adjective ossified) cease developing; stagnate. Also, ossification (noun).


  • pabulum – (noun) [Literary, mass] bland or insipid intellectual matter, entertainment, etc.
  • palimpsest – (noun) a manuscript in which old writing has been rubbed out to make room for new.
  • palisade
    • (noun) a fence of wooden stakes or iron railings fixed in the ground, forming an enclosure or defense.
    • (verb) enclose or provide (a building or place) with a palisade.
  • panacea – (noun) a cure for all things; a healing plant of varying description.
  • panivorous – (adj.) subsisting on bread; bread-eating.
  • panoply – (noun) complete armor; a full suit of armor; a full or brilliant covering.
  • parallelepipeds – (noun) a solid figure bounded by six parallelograms, opposite pairs being identical and parallel.
  • paroxysm – (noun) a sudden attack or outburst of a particular emotion or activity.
  • pasquinade – (noun) a satire or lampoon, originally one displayed or delivered in a public place.
  • pavonine – (adj.) [rare] of or like a peacock.
  • pedants – (noun) a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning.
  • pell-mell – (adv.) in a confused, rushed, or disorderly manner.
  • penumbra – (noun) a partial or lighter shadow round the perfect or darker shadow produced by an eclipse or by a large unfocused light source shining on an opaque object; the part of a picture where the light and shade blend into each other.
  • penurious – (adj.) extremely poor; poverty-stricken.
  • periapt – (noun) [Archaic] an item worn as a charm or amulet.
  • peripatetic – (adj.) walking about; itinerant (as in a teacher that travels).
  • pernicious – (adj.) having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.
  • persnickety – (adj.) placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy. British: pernickety.
  • petrichor – (noun) a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
  • phosphorescence – (noun) light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat. Also, phosphorescent (adj.).
  • phrenology – (noun) the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities. Also phrenologist.
  • piquant – (adj.) having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavor.
  • plenary – (adj.) full; entire; complete; absolute; unqualified; having full powers.
  • polemic – (adj.) given to disputing; controversial.
  • prescience – (noun) the fact of knowing something in advance; foreknowledge.
  • proboscis – (noun) the nose of a mammal, especially when it is long and mobile such as the trunk of an elephant or the snout of a tapir.
  • procrustean – (adj.) tending to produce conformity by violent or arbitrary means.
  • prodigious – (adj.) remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree.
  • promulgation – (noun) something announced publicly or made widely-known.
  • propinquity – (noun) nearness.
  • propitious – (adj.) giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable.
  • puckerfist – (noun) [Archaic] a braggart.
  • pugilistic – (noun) the art or practice of boxing; prize-fighting.
  • punctilious – (adj.) showing great attention to detail or correct behavior. Also, punctiliously (adv.), punctiliousness (noun).
  • purloined – (verb) [with object] formal or humorous. to steal (something).
  • purulent – (adj.) consisting of, containing, or discharging pus.
  • pyrrhic – (adj.) relating to or associated with the Greek king Pyrrhus [phrase: phyrrhic victory (noun) a victory gained at too great a cost]


  • quake-buttock – (noun) a coward.
  • quidnunc – (noun) an inquisitive , gossiping person.
  • quiescence – (adj.) in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy.
  • quisling – (noun) a traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country.
  • quondam – (adj. formal) that once was; former.


  • ravel – (noun) a tangle; a broken thread; (verb) to entangle; to untwist, unweave, unravel.
  • recalcitrant – (adj.) 1. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory. 2. hard to deal with or manage. (noun) a recalcitrant person.
  • recherché – (adj.) rare, exotic, or obscure.
  • redolent – (adj.) strongly reminiscent or suggestive of.
  • reticent – (adj.) reserved; communicating sparingly or unwillingly.
  • rigmarole – (noun) a lengthy and complicated procedure.
  • rufescent – (noun) [Literary] tinged with red.


  • saccharine – (adj.) of sickly sweetness; sugary.
  • sangfroid – (noun) coolness, composure, self-possession.
  • sartor – (noun) a tailor. Also, sartorial – of or relating to a tailor, tailoring, or dress.
  • saturnine – (adj.) (of a person or their manner) gloomy.
  • schism – (noun) a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief.
  • scintilla – (noun) a spark; a hint, trace.
  • sclerotic – (adj.) 1. [medicine] of or having sclerosis. 2.becoming ridid and unresponsive; losing the ability to adapt.
  • scrofulous – (adj.) having a diseased or run-down appearance.
  • scurrilous – (adj.) 1. indecently abusive and unjustifiably defamatory; 2. characterized by vulgar or obscene humor.
  • sempiternal – (adj.) everlasting.
  • sepulchral – (adj.) relating to a tomb or interment; gloomy or dismal. Also, sepulchrally (adv.).
  • seraglio – (noun) a harem; a collection of wives or concubines.
  • simoon – (noun) a hot, dry, dust-laden wind blowing in the desert, especially in Arabia.
  • sinciput – (noun) the front of the skull from the forehead to the crown.
  • sinistral – (noun) left-handed.
  • solecism – (noun) a breach of good manners; an instance of incorrect behavior.
  • somnolence – (noun) sleepiness; drowsiness.
  • sonorous – (adj.) (of a person’s voice or other sound) imposingly deep and full. Also, sonorously (adv.)
  • sophrosyne – (noun) moderation; discretion; prudence.
  • soporific – (adj.) tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.
  • sozzled – (adj.) drunk.
  • specious – (adj.) superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleading in appearance, especially misleadingly attractive. Also, speciously (adv.), speciousness (noun).
  • spoonerism – (noun) a verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence you have hissed the mystery lectures.
  • spurious – (adj.) not genuine; false; sham; forged; bastard, illegitimate.
  • staid – (adj.) sedate, respectable, and unadventurous.
  • stanchion – (noun) an upright bar, post, or frame forming a support or barrier.
  • stertorous – (adj.) [of breathing] noisy and labored.
  • strepent – (adj.) noisy.
  • sublunary – (adj.) [literary] belonging to this world as contrasted with a better or more spiritual one.
  • succor – (noun) assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.
  • supercilious – (adj.) disdainfully superior in manner; overbearing.
  • supererogation – (noun) [mass noun] the performance of more work than duty requires.
  • susurration – (noun) a murmuring; whisper; rustling.
  • swain – (noun) a young man; a peasant, rustic; a lover or suitor. Also swaining (noun) love-making; swainish (adj.) boorish.
  • syllogism – (noun) a logical argument in three propositions; duductive reasoning; a clever, subtle argument.
  • sylph – (noun) 1. an imaginary spirit of the air; a slender woman or girl. 2. a mainly dark green and blue hummingbird, the male of which has a long forked tail.
  • syrtis – (noun) a patch or area of quicksand.


  • tarn – (noun) a small mountain lake.
  • tendentious – (adj.) expressing or intending to promote a particular cause or point of view, especially a controversial one.
  • tenebrous – (adj.) [literary] dark; shadowy or obscure.
  • tenuity – (noun) lack of solidity or substance; thinness.
  • terpsichorean – (adj.) related to dancing. (noun) a dancer.
  • tetched – (noun) touched: mildly deranged, somewhat mentally dysfunctional.
  • tête-à-tête – (noun) a private conversation between two people.
  • thrasonical – (adj.) boastful or bragging.
  • thunderstruck – (adj.) extremely surprised or shocked.
  • tiffin – (noun) a snack or light meal.
  • tintinnabulation – (noun) bellringing.
  • torpid – (adj.) mentally or physically inactive; lethargic. (Of an animal) dormant, especially during hibernation. Also, torpidity (noun), torpidly (adv.).
  • torpor – (noun) a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy.
  • tourniquet – (noun) a device for stopping the flow of blood through a vein or artery, typically by compressing a limb with a cord or tight bandage.
  • tremulous – (adj.) shaking or quivering slightly.
  • tumultuous – (adj.) haphazard, chaotic.
  • turgidity – (noun) swollen; dilated; inflamed; pompous.


  • uhtceare – (noun) the act of lying awake before dawn and worrying.
  • ultracrepidarian – (noun) someone who is in the habit of giving advice on matters he himself knows nothing about.
  • ululant – (verb) howl or wail as an expression of strong emotion, typically grief.
  • umbrage – (noun) 1. offense or annoyance. 2. archaic shade or shadow, especially as cast by trees. Also, umbrageous (adj.).
  • untenable – (Adj.) (especially of a position or view) not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.


  • vagaries – (noun) an unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone’s behavior.
  • verisimilitude – (noun) the quality of seeming or appearing real or true; a statement that sounds true.
  • vespertide – (noun) the period of vespers; evening.
  • vespertine – (adj.) of or relating to the evening; happening, appearing active in the evening.
  • vestibule – (noun) 1. an entrance hall; 2. a cavity serving as entrance to another, esp that of the inner ear (anatomy); 3. part of a railway carriage connecting with and giving access to the next (N American); 4. a forecourt (ancient hist).
  • vicinal – (adj.) neighboring, local.
  • viz – (adv.) namely; in other words.
  • vizier – (noun) [historical] a high official in some Muslim countries, especially in Turkey under Ottoman rule.
  • vociferous – (adj.) expressing or characterized by vehement opinions.
  • voluble – (adj.) (of a person) talking fluently, readily, or incessantly.


  • whilst – (conj.) [British] while.
  • winnow – (verb) to separate from the chaff; to fan, sift, separate, blow on, waft, etc.
  • wither – (verb) 1. to shrivel; fade; decay. 2. to lose the freshness of youth, as from age.
  • wunderkind – (noun) [German] child prodigy.


  • xanthous – (adj.) yellow or yellowish.
  • xenial – (adj.) of or concerning hospitality or relations with guests.
  • xenium – (noun) 1. a present made to a guest or an ambassador  2. an offering, or a compulsory gift, to a ruler, the Church, etc.
  • xenophile – (noun) a person who is attracted to foreign people, cultures, or customs.
  • xyster – (noun) a surgical instrument for scraping bones.


  • yauld – (adj.)[Scottish or British] active; vigorous.
  • yap – (noun) loud, irritating talk.
  • yare – (adj.) quick; agile; lively.
  • yatagan – (noun) a sword without a guard and typically with a double-curved blade, used in Muslim countries.
  • yeard/yird – (verb) to bury. See also: yird-hunger/yeard-hungera hunger for land.
  • yester – (adj.) relating to yesterday. See also: yestereven, yestermorn.
  • yex – (noun) [Scottish, dialect] a hiccup, burp, or belch.
  • yob – (noun) a teenage lout or hooligan. See also: yobbery, yobbish, yobbo.
  • yoke-devil – (noun) [Shakespeare] accomplice for an ill deed.
  • yoke-mate – (noun) an associate or companion. See also: yokefellow.


  • zapata – (adj.) denoting a type of flowing moustache drooping down on each side of the mouth.
  • zari – (noun) a type of gold thread used decoratively on Indian clothing.
  • zeitgeist – (noun) the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
  • zelatrix – (noun) a nun whose duty is to keep watch on the behavior of the younger nuns in the convent, or on that of the mother superior.
  • zeloso – (adv.) with fervor.
  • zendik – (noun) 1. in Middle-Eastern countries, an unbeliever in revealed religion, a heretic.  2. someone who practises magic.
  • zephyr – (noun) [Literary] a soft, gentle breeze.
  • zoetic – (adj.) relating to life; vital.
  • zaftig – (noun) [of a woman] having a full, rounded figure; plump.
  • Zoilean – (adj.) carping and unjust criticism, characteristic of the Greek philosopher Zoilus.
  • zygal – (adj.) in the shape of the letter H.


51 thoughts on “Dictionary of Purple Prose

    1. Thank you! I love “diddle” too. I got it from one of Poe’s stories, which made the old rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle” make SO much more sense, haha.


      1. Never knew that. All these years of reading all those nursery rhymes and letting that guy slip without questioning what it meant. You’re totally right, it does make so much more sense now.
        And now I’m determined to use it five times today in conversation. I wonder if the kids will catch on and complain about it at supper tonight. “Time for diddle! I mean dinner!” 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Diddle is quite common in the UK As in, he’s been diddling the taxman. It’s the same as fiddle, although you can also say ‘on the fiddle’ . There. I’m off to my phrenology class now, where I will acquiesce to the tremulous vagaries of my tenebrous tutor. Thanks for the list.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Great use of the list! I like knowing that ‘diddle’ is still used in the UK. That makes me very happy. 🙂


  1. You’re so interesting! I do not think I’ve read through something like this before.
    So great to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this issue.

    Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the internet, someone
    with some originality!


    1. Beautiful word choices there. 😉 I do like the word.. sort of reminds me of ‘blowhard’, but applicable to far more situations.


  2. I’m really inspired together with your wwriting abilities as neatly as with the layout for your weblog.
    Is that this a paid subject matter or did
    you modify it yyour self? Either way keep up the nice high quality writing, it is
    rare to look a greeat blog like this one nowadays..


    1. Please do! I’m glad you found it useful, and if you ever have any additions you’d like to let me add, please feel free to suggest them!


    1. Thank you! ^_^ I like the list, too… I had to really dig into the Chamber’s Dictionary for Z though, haha. And no problem. I swear I was following you ages ago! I guess I wasn’t. Sorry!


  3. Great list–you hit a lot of my favorites here. Just yesterday I made a note to work “bilious” into a sentence sooner rather than later–you’ve suggested several others that need my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a wonderful word, even if it has a negative meaning. 😉 I’m always up for more suggestions, so if you have any gems, please let me know!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been wanting to buy a copy of Roget’s for forever! Great words. 😀 Especially persnickety. I love words that have their own character. Thanks so much!


  4. This is a great list. Do you use many of these words in your writing? Many of these words are more powerful than there commonly known synonyms. I enjoy reading books that have some words that aren’t used in everyday language by most people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I try to use them when they fit the character or narrative. 🙂 I love purple prose and adverbs, haha. They have a healthy home in my writing, because alliteration is just part of the many facets of style I’ve developed over the years on my own. As long as it fits the story, haha.

      I love finding new words, too! Makes me linger on the page just a little longer. 🙂


  5. This is fun. By the way, I think there may be a typo in the definition of Afflatus (which meant something entirely different than I expected). You wrote impule and I think it is ‘impulse’. That said, you used a fair number of words I have never seen, so it is entirely possible impule is a word I need to stock up on as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent catch! Yes, that was a typo. Though maybe we could get ahead of the game and assign ‘impule’ a nifty definition that will make people scratch their heads. 😉


  6. Contribution?


    apocrisy – (noun) the act of changing the moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior had previously aligned with (not to be confused with hypocrisy); e.g.; she was raised to be a devout Christian but has been atheist since her husband died.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great word, but I can’t find an official definition in any of my usual books. Is it relatively new? I really do like the meaning. 🙂


      1. Unfortunately I no longer have a dictionary that has the word either, and it seems to be practically impossible to find another.

        I don’t know the etymology but it appears to be a word that has been in use for a very long time. Maybe it’s now an archaism in the English language.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, I can’t find it online, either. I’m only finding it as a username across many platforms. I’ll definitely keep it in mind, and next chance I have to go to a public library, I’ll check their dictionaries!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh what a stellar list you have created. It has me feeling like a terpsichorean.
    What fun to weave these gems into a conversation or a post!
    Thank you.


    1. It is a word, according to several dictionaries… I usually try to use a collection of about 5 to cross-reference the items here. 🙂 I can’t remember where I saw it though. Probably on Interesting Literature at some point. Use with abandon! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! The idea is to get about 500 of them, before I design a book with them, and sentences to go along with. 🙂 Of course the list will remain free forever!

      Liked by 1 person

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