10 terrific terms to delight word lovers

Gathering a cache of less commonly used words takes time, but it’s well worth it. Here are some to get you started.

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Like other word nerds, I love to collect quotes about the power of words.

Those of us who make a living from words appreciate their power to convey even the most subtle shades of meaning. For example, I love that although they are all synonyms for “arrogant,” the words “pretentious,” “ostentatious,” “haughty,” and “preening” each have different meanings under the surface.

Here is a list of some of my favorite words, along with insights on their shades of meaning.

Nonplussed— bewildered or unsure of how to respond. I always think of nonplussed as that look on someone’s face when they’ve been completely blindsided in a conversation or meeting.

My editor’s tirade has left me completely nonplussed.

Aspersion— an attack on somebody’s reputation or good name, as in “to cast aspersions on.” A second meaning is a sprinkling, especially with holy water. I’m not sure how this word ended up with these two disparate definitions.

Let those without fault cast the first aspersions.

There was an aspersion of dust on the books.

Insipid— lacking flavor or taste; lacking qualities that excite, stimulate, or interest; dull.

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