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10 Words to Make You Sound Wicked Smart

Your Vocabulary Can Make You Sound Smart

Will you sound smart just because you use “big” words? Probably not . . . but your conversation will be a lot more convivial.


Part of Speech: Verb

Sentence Example: Could you elucidate that concept so that I can fully grasp it?


Part of Speech: Noun

Sentence Example: She suffered from a malaise that kept her from enjoying the party.

Non sequitur

Part of Speech: Noun

Sentence Example: Her comment about dogs was a real non sequitur when we’d been talking about going to the beach.


Part of Speech: Verb

Sentence Example: The teenagers used text speak and emojis to obfuscate their messages from their parents.


Part of Speech: Adjective

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Sentence Example: The customer made a perfunctory review of the sales agreement before he signed.

Quid Pro Quo

Origin: Latin meaning “this for that”

Part of Speech: Noun

Sentence Example: He gave her food from his garden as a quid pro quo for her cutting his hair.


Part of Speech: Adjective

Sentence Example: She created a scintillating presentation for the meeting.


Part of Speech: Adjective

Sentence Example: It was the quintessential chocolate chip cookie, with its slightly chewy texture and giant chocolate pieces.


Part of Speech: Noun

Sentence Example: Their reactions to his comments were pure vitriol.


Part of Speech: Noun

Sentence Example: She became a real sycophant when she wanted her boss to provide a good referral.

30 Words to Include and Avoid in a Resume

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Your resume is your first opportunity to make a good first impression, and you don’t have much time to make that impression. According to U.S. News & World Report, it takes less than 20 seconds for a hiring manager to make a decision about you based on your resume. Hiring managers need to scan your resume and find the information they need in record time so they can move on to the next resume. What that means for you is that nearly every word you include on your resume can either help get you noticed or knock you out of contention.

Know which words to include in your resume, and which to avoid, to impress the hiring manager quickly.

Top 15 Words to Include on Your Resume

Here are the best words to include on your resume according to employers who responded to a CareerBuilder survey:

Include action verbs throughout your resume, particularly in the work experience section of your resume. Employers want to know what you can offer the company, and action verbs show exactly what you have accomplished at previous companies. “Achieved” is a terrific action verb that shows that you have succeeded at a previous task. This makes employers feel confident that you can achieve similar things at their companies.

Improved is another useful action verb to put in your resume. This word shows that you made some sort of positive difference at a previous company. If possible, explain how you made the improvement. For example, you might say “Improved efficiency of administrative office by streamlining physical and digital file systems.” This will show not only that you achieved something, but it will also show the skills you used to achieve it.

Words like “trained” and “mentored” are action verbs that show you have experience managing others. These words are particularly useful if you are applying for a job that involves managing, leading, teaching, or advising others. If possible, state the number of people you trained or mentored. For example, you might say, “Trained staff of 15 baristas to operate new cappuccino machine.” This will demonstrate your ability to lead and mentor a group of people.

Like “trained” and “mentored,” “managed” is an action word that shows your ability to lead others. This is a particularly important word to include in a resume for a management position. Again, try to include the number of people you managed, particularly if it is a large number.

This action word shows that you can do more than just follow instructions—you can actually construct something and contribute to a company. Whether you developed a new filing system or invented a software app, use the word “created” to show your independence, initiative, and originality.

Employers want to hire candidates who can recognize and help solve problems. Use this action verb if you are applying for a managerial job, or any job that requires supervising others. This word will show that you are able to spot a problem and step in to solve it.

This action word demonstrates your willingness to step up and help with a project or task, even if you are not asked to do so. Use this word to show your initiative and your teamwork.

Employers want job candidates who are capable of encouraging and persuading others for the good of the company. An action word like “influenced” demonstrates what you have achieved while also highlighting your leadership skills.

An employer wants specific evidence of how you will add value to the company. One way to do this is to quantify your successes. Include numbers to demonstrate how you have helped previous companies save money, generate donations, or achieve success in other quantifiable ways. Using action words like “increased” or “decreased” will more clearly show exactly how you helped achieved success. For example, you might say, “Developed new budget that decreased office expenses by 10%” or “Increased number of donors by 15% through new fundraising initiative.”

Employers typically want to know that job candidates are creative, innovative people who will bring new solutions to the table. In your resume, include examples of times you develop a particular idea, either on your own or as part of a team, and explain how that idea helped the company achieve success. If you are applying for a job as a manager, you might mention how you listened to your employees’ ideas, and helped them develop those ideas into something that benefits the company. This will show your delegation skills as well.

This action verb demonstrates that you’re able to successfully complete a project. Whether you launched an app that you developed, a website you helped design, or an advertising campaign that you worked on with a team, the word “launch” will show that you are able to produce something successfully.

Again, employers will want to know how you have added value to previous companies you worked for. One way to do this is to demonstrate how you made money for a company. Include any examples of times that you helped increase profits or revenue. Using numerical values as well as the words “revenue” or “profit” will show the hiring manager, at a glance, that you have a record of achieving financial success.

Under Budget
While companies want to know you will help them make money, they also want to know you’ll help them save money. Mention any time that you helped a company spend less. For example, you might say, “Organized annual fundraiser, and remained under budget by $500.”

Like “achieved,” the action verb “won” shows a hiring manager that you have been successful in previous jobs. If you ever won an award at work or received some other recognition for your efforts, consider using this verb.

Top 15 Words to Avoid on Your Resume

While there are words you should include in your resume, there are also words to avoid. Here are the worst words to include on your resume, according to CareerBuilder:

Best of Breed
“Best of breed” sounds more like an American Kennel Club dog show winner than a candidate for employment. Avoid cliché and awkward phrases like this in your resume. Once a phrase becomes too common, it does not mean anything to a hiring manager.

This is another empty, cliché term. If you are using this word to say you take initiative, delete this word and replace it with a specific example of a time you stepped up and took charge of a project. Examples are much more powerful than empty words.

Think Outside of the Box
This is a phrase that hiring managers have heard time and time again. Replace this phrase with a specific example of a time you demonstrated creative thinking. You can also replace “think outside of the box” with an action verb like “created,” “conceptualized,” or “developed.”

Synergy might sound like a trendy term, but hiring managers often find it vague. Use more specific action verbs to specify what you are trying to say you accomplished. Did you “interact” or “cooperate” or “collaborate” with a variety of departments? Use one of these action verbs to clarify what you mean.

Go-To Person
This is another overused and vague phrase. Rather than using this word to describe yourself, think about what you really mean. Were you the person who delegated everyone’s responsibilities at your previous job? Were you the person people went to when they needed help mediating a conflict? Provide specific examples of how you demonstrated leadership, rather than using this term.

Thought Leadership
This phrase is very broad and unclear. If you are trying to say that you helped come up with a number of ideas for an organization, use an action verb like “influenced,” “created,” or “developed” instead.

Value Add
Again, it is a terrific idea to show how you added value in your previous jobs. However, rather than use the phrase “value add,” show specifically how you added value. Include numbers whenever possible to quantify your success. Use words like “increased/decreased,” “revenue/profits,” or “under budget” to specify how you added value.

Employers assume everyone wants to achieve good results at work. Replace this empty phrase with evidence of how you successfully achieved results at work. For example, if you work for an online marketing company, you might mention how you measure click-through rates to measure the success of each marketing project.

Team Player
Almost everyone says they are a team player, but it is hard to prove this. Instead of using this commonplace description, give examples of times that you collaborated with others, using action verbs like “cooperated,” “collaborated,” “mentored,” and more.

Bottom Line
Again, employers want you to quantify the ways you achieved success in your previous jobs. Rather than using an unclear phrase like “bottom line,” use numbers to show how you specifically helped the company. Whether your company’s bottom line is number of sales, budget, or some other figure, be specific.

Hard Worker
Rather than say you are a hard worker, prove it. Use specific action words and examples to demonstrate how you have worked hard in the past. Only by using examples will employers be able to believe your statements.

Strategic Thinker
This is a very vague description that does not give the employer an idea of what you would bring to the company. Describing yourself as a “thinker” portrays you as passive—instead, explain how your great thinking helped solve a problem at work. For example, you might say, “Developed and implemented inter-office memo strategy to improve communication.”

This adjective describes your personality rather than your work ethic or skills. There is no way to prove your outgoing personality on a resume—anyone can put the word “dynamic” on their resume. Stick to information that you can prove using examples from past work experiences. In your interview, the employer will be able to see your energetic personality.

Like the word “dynamic,” anyone can say they are “self-motivated” in their resume. However, using the word doesn’t prove anything. Instead of saying you are self-motivated, you can prove it throughout your resume. In your work summary, mention a project or achievement that you developed yourself or that you volunteered to do. If you joined any professional association, list them on your resume. These are the things that will prove your motivation.

One of the worst (and most common) mistakes you can make on a resume is to say you are detail-oriented and then have a spelling error in your resume. Get rid of the overly used term “detail-oriented,” and instead produce a polished and well-organized resume. This will show your attention to detail If your past work has required you to be detail-oriented, explain that in your description of your work experiences. For example, you might say, “awarded Store Clerk of the Month three times for cash-handling accuracy.”

Tips on Word Choice in Resumes

Be specific. You do not want to appear vague in your resume. Hiring managers are tired of hearing clichéd words like “team player” and “hard worker.” Avoid these phrases at all cost. Include words and phrases that explain specifically what you accomplished in your previous jobs.

Use action words. Hiring managers also like to see action words in resumes because they demonstrate that you took a leadership role that produced results.

Include power words. Along with action words, other power words include popular skills, words specific to your industry, and keywords from both the job listing and the company website. Use these (without using them too often) to make your resume stand out as the hiring manager skims through it.

Use values. Also, when possible, use numbers to demonstrate how your efforts benefited your employers. For example, instead of simply saying you “added value to Best Practices PR by saving money,” you should say that you “administered a public relations budget of $500,000 and, by developing and implementing an innovative and efficient cost-saving marketing program, saved Best Practices PR over $10,000 a year for a period of three years.”

Focus on the job. By focusing on the skills, results, and accomplishments most aligned to the job you’re applying for, you’ll have a much better chance of getting called in for an interview. Again, using keywords from the job listing will help align your resume with the job. This, coupled with word choice, will get you closer to your next job.

Wonderful Words That You’re Not Using (Yet)


The biblioklept holds her bounty tightly.

Definition: one who steals books

Biblioklept is, in at least some sense of the word, fairly useless. It is two syllables longer than book thief. It is also unlikely to be understood by some portion of the people with whom you use it, and so cannot be said to aid in communication. Happily, we do not have a merit based vocabulary, and words that are useless have the same rights of inclusion as do those that are useful.

Many eminent characters have been Biblioklepts.
The Saturday Review (London, UK), 23 Oct. 1880


If you’ve got an itch on your acnestis, grab a back scratcher.

Definition: “The part of the back (or backbone) between the shoulder blades and the loins which an animal cannot reach to scratch” (Oxford English Dictionary)

This lovely word is not often found; one of the few dictionaries that does define it, the Oxford English Dictionary, notes that it is “rare in genuine use.” You may use this word in any fashion you see fit. In fact, your need of it doesn’t even need to be genuine.

With the stocks one assistant is sufficient. They are quite satisfactory for operations on the withers, the acnestis, the shoulders, the buttocks, and the tail.
—Louis A. Merillat, Veterinary Surgery, 1906


Strong grommets are the key to a good banner, I assume.

Definition: an eyelet of firm material to strengthen or protect an opening or to insulate or protect something passed through it

All you really need to know about grommets is that they are where you should put your aglets.

Which be the Gromets?
They are small Rings made fast to the upper side of the Yard, with Staples driven into the Yard, and are of no other use but to tie and make fast the Laskets thereinto.
—Nathaniel Boteler, Sea-dialogues, 1688


Does this cold medicine tackle meldrops?

Definition: “A drop of mucus at the nose, whether produced by cold or otherwise” (English Dialect Dictionary)

Meldrop used to be in Merriam-Webster dictionaries (it is included in the 1934 edition of our Unabridged, defined rather poetically as “a pendent drop, as of mucus at the nose, or of dew”). It is not in any of our current offerings. The word does not now have sufficient breadth of usage to merit inclusion, but if you want to see it get back in our dictionary make sure all your friends start using meldrop in published writing.

But looke againe on the other part of snotty nosd Gentlemen, with their drouping mustaches covering their mouth, and becomes a harbroy to meldrops, and a sucking sponge to al the watery distillations of the head, he will not spare but drinke with any bodie whatsoever, and after hee hath washed his filthie beard in the cup, and drawing out dropping, he wil suck the haire so hartily with his vnder lip.
—Simion Grahame, The Anatomie of Humors, 1609


Start a Twitter octothorpe trend.

Definition: the symbol #

The origins of octothorpe are shrouded in mystery; we are fairly certain that the word began being used in the early 1970s, but we do not know what led to the prefix for “eight” (-octo) being added to the component for thorpe (“thorpe”).

They could have done what the Dozenal Society is trying to do. The dozenals have banished 10 from their vocabulary. Instead, 10 is called dek and designated by an asterisk, *. Eleven is called el and designated by an octothorpe, #.
—Irene Virag, Newsday (Long Island, NY), 26 Oct. 1990


The face of a woman who just found out her favorite roller coaster is also a nauseant.

Definition: an agent that induces nausea

In the event that you ever find yourself feeling nauseated (or nauseous; either one is fine), say, perhaps by a meldrop clinging tenaciously to the nose of the person with whom you are speaking, it may prove useful to distract yourself with the knowledge that there is a word for the thing that makes you feel that way. Before you use the word loosely, you should know that nauseant is generally used in a medical sense, referring to a specific agent that causes nausea (and often is an expectorant, rather than just anything which turns your stomach).

Having thus, as we conceived, exhausted all the material medica, we turned to the second class, which is called atonics, and which we found to consist of blood-letting, issues and setons, nauseants, cathartics, gases, and abstinence.
Monthly Review (London, UK), Nov. 1810

Augend & Addend

Time for a battle of math nerds and word nerds.

Definition: the first and second quantity in an addition of two things

Have you ever found yourself staring at a piece of paper with “3 + 4” written on it, and wondered ‘what is the proper term for each of these two respective quantities?’ No? The first number is the augend and the number that is added to it is the addend. You’re welcome.

If we ask what number increased by b gives c, we seek the augend.
—Hermann Schubert, The Monist (Chicago, IL), 1 Jan. 1893


I’m pretty sure there’s an obelus or two in the mix.

Definition: the symbol ÷

In addition to serving as the sign indicating division, the obelus is also used to mark a questionable passage of text. Our dictionary also uses it for matters of pronunciation. It should be noted that the entry for the word obelus itself has no obelus in it. However, you will find this division sign in a number of other entries, such as nuclear, where we list a pronunciation variant that is stigmatized (÷-kyə-lər).

The obelus, or division sign, is placed before a pronunciation variant that occurs in educated speech but that is considered by some to be questionable or unacceptable.

Wrest pin

Harpists and people who use wrest pin in their daily conversation—both rare creatures.

Definition: a pin in a stringed musical instrument (as a harp, piano) around which the ends of the strings are coiled and by which the instrument is tuned

Nevermore will you have to gaze into the depths of a piano, and, much as one ponders the depths of one’s own soul, look at the pins that are wrapped tightly with coiled wire, and wonder ‘what do you suppose they call those things?’

N. B. The trade supplied with Pianoforte wire, wrest pins, hoppers, keys, felts, and every requisite for repairing Pianofortes.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW, Aus.), 16 Feb. 1853


Definition: a person who never laughs

The humorless agelast comes from the Greek word agélastos (“not laughing, grave, gloomy”), and not, as one might suppose, from the fact that spending any time around such a person feels like it lasts an age. Agélastos in turn comes gelân (“to laugh”), the same word that gives us gelastic (“arousing or provoking laughter”).

Add to these a gift of irony—that confounder of the literalists and Agelasts—perfect self-possession and an imperturbable sang-froid, impenetrability of expression and purpose and the equipment of the Dandy seems to be complete.
Temple Bar (London, Eng.), Apr. 1890


Definition: “A little insignificant lover; a pretender to affection” (Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755)

When one sees how pleased many people are to discover this word, one that finally will serve to provide an accurate description of some past lover, it is clear that amatorculist has not received the attention it deserves. The word is almost entirely unknown outside of dictionaries, and lexicographers seem to take a certain vicious glee in defining it. Joseph Wright, in his 1867 Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English defined the word as “A wretched lover or galant,” and Nathan Bailey, in his 1736 dictionary, referred to it as “a trifling Sweet-heart, a general Lover.”

If you are interested in the proper word to describe an insignificant love affair, rather than an insignificant lover, it is amourette.

Why, to tell you the truth, Squire Randal, as to the amatorculist, and his vertiginous gilt-piece of mutability, to such I have nothing to say, and with such I have nothing to do.
— James Hogg, Tales and Sketches, 1866


Definition: boldness or courage resulting from alcoholic drink

The fancy way of saying liquid courage, pot-valor is the perfect word to describe how imbibing a few ounces of something can make a very bad idea seem like something you should definitely do right now. Unfortunately, when you are at the point when this word will be most applicable to you, chances are good that you will also be too drunk to remember what it is. Write it down on your arm before you go out tonight.

Againe, some cowards will so dare and bragge out a man in company, with such swaggering words, whereby the heaters should thinke there were not a better man to be found: and if it be in a Faire or Market, then he will draw his weapons, because he knoweth that he shall be soone parted, for the people will say, that such a one and such a one made a great fray to day, but I account this but pot-valour, or a Cowards fray to fight in the streete, for a man can giue no due commendations of manhood vnto such fighters, for there is no valour in it.
— Joseph Swetnam, The schoole of the noble and worthy science of defence, 1617


Definition: of or relating to pigeons

Pigeons get short-shrift in our stable of avian metaphors. We speak of someone with fine eyesight as eagle-eyed, and hawk lends itself to a variety of words (hawk-like, hawkish, etc.), but rarely do we compare anyone to the humble, intelligent pigeon. Truth be told, it is unlikely that you have a distinct need to use this word anytime soon, but if it happens we want you to be prepared.

Beside the poor, who, to misquote a scriptural phrase, are always in evidence, and the scarlet fever epidemic, which, thank goodness, is abating, London at this writing has a congress of the National Society of French Professors, an exhibition of the National Peristeronic Society and a fog—a fog with a big F.
The Boston Herald, 29 Jan. 1888


Definition: “one past fourteene yeeres of age, beginning to bee moved with Venus delight” (Henry Cockeram, An English Dictionary, 1623)

For those of you who are unaccustomed to reading definitions written in the linguistic register of an early-17th century smarty-pants lexicographer, the meaning of the word above is, well, “horny teenager.” This gives us a very fine example of how occasionally the words for common things are themselves quite uncommon, as hirquiticke is extremely rare. It is uncertain where Cockeram found the word, as we have no evidence of actual use prior to 1623, although he may have borrowed it from Thomas Eliot’s Latin dictionary of 1538, which defined hirquitalus as “a chylde, whiche passeth the age of xiiii yeres, and begynneth to be styrred with lechery.”

The Latin word for “he-goat” is hircus, from which we get hircine (“of, relating to, or suggestive of a goat; especially: resembling a goat in smell”). Occasional writers have used a variant of this root to make fanciful nonce-words based on the goat’s reputed libidinousness.

To speak of her hirquitalliency at the elevation of the pole of his Microcosme, or of his luxuriousness to erect a gnomon on her horizontal dyal, will perhaps be held by some to be expressions full of obscœness, and offensive to the purity of chaste ears.
— Thomas Urquhart, Ekskybalauron, 1652

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