• Isabelle Osborne

Eleanor Oliphant's vocabulary

‘The man was incapable of speaking in plain English’

When I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman in July, I was amazed by the richness and scale of her vocabulary. She may not know what ‘mofo’ and ‘lol’ means, but she certainly has her own unique repertoire of vocabulary. When I noticed that her vocabulary was so vast, and as someone who loves learning new words, I began to write down the unusual words that I hadn't heard of or didn't know the meaning of, with the vision of making a list on my blog with all the definitions. And here it is!


Callous: showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard for others


Convoluted: extremely complex and difficult to follow


Malodorous: smelling very unpleasant


Sagacious: having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgement; wise or shrewd


Discombobulate: disconcert or confuse (someone)


Quotidian: of or occurring every day; daily.


Carte Blanche: complete freedom to act as one wishes.


Gauche: unsophisticated and socially awkward.


Mirabile dictu (Latin): wonderful to relate.


Morose: sullen and ill-tempered.


Inebriate: make (someone) drunk; intoxicate.

Febrile: having or showing the symptoms of a fever.


Micturate: to urinate.


Facsimile: an exact copy, especially of written or printed material.

Profligate: recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources.

Desultory: lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm.

Salient: most noticeable or important.


Badinage: humorous or witty conversation.


Abate: (of something unpleasant or severe) become less intense or widespread.


De rigueur (French): required by etiquette or current fashion.


Vertiginous: whirling; spinning; rotary.


Assuaged: make (an unpleasant feeling) less intense.


Municipal: relating to a town or district or its governing body.

Dipsomaniac: a drunkard or alcoholic.

Prurience: the fact of being too interested in the details of another person's sexual behaviour.


Reconnaissance: military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features.

Inured: accustom (someone) to something, especially something unpleasant.


Aberrant: departing from an accepted standard.

Melamine: a white crystalline compound made by heating cyanamide and used in making plastics.

Augured: (of an event or circumstance) portend a good or bad outcome.

Wraith: a ghost or ghostlike image of someone, especially one seen shortly before or after their death.


Trite: (of a remark or idea) lacking originality or freshness; dull on account of overuse.

Sigil: an inscribed or painted symbol considered to have magical power.

Psychosomatic: (of a physical illness or other condition) caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress.

Charnel: associated with death.


Placatory: intended to make someone less angry or hostile; conciliatory.

Ostensibly: as appears or is stated to be true, though not necessarily so; apparently.

Abortive: failing to produce the intended result.

Indolence: avoidance of activity or exertion; laziness.


Simian: relating to or affecting apes or monkeys.

Rhotic: relating to or denoting a dialect or variety of English (e.g. in most of the US and south-western England) in whichris pronounced before a consonant (as inhard) and at the ends of words (as infar).


Histrionic: excessively theatrical or dramatic in character or style.

Bon mots: a witty remark.

Malign: evil in nature or effect.

Maharajah: an Indian prince.

Savoir-faire: the ability to act or speak appropriately in social situations.

Ensconced: establish or settle (someone) in a comfortable, safe place.

Acrimonious: (typically of speech or discussion) angry and bitter.

Desultory: lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm.

Resplendent: splendor


Tomes: a book, especially a large, heavy, scholarly one.

Impasse: a situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement; a deadlock.


Modicum: a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something desirable or valuable.

Anathema: something or someone that one vehemently dislikes.

Avian: relating to birds.


Recondite: (of a subject or knowledge) little known; abstruse.

Arid: (of land or a climate) having little or no rain; too dry or barren to support vegetation.

Derisive: expressing contempt or ridicule.

Purloin: to steal (something).


Words are all we have.

 - Samuel Beckett

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World of Words 

By Isabelle Osborne