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10 Words We Learned From Literature

Taken from the pages of your favorite books, these made-up words are just as useful for daily conversation.

Think about all the words you’ve ever glanced over. Every page, every chapter, every book—the number is staggering, especially for bookworms. Most of the words you’ve read once, you’ll read again—in new sentences and with new meanings—but the same old word choices can get drab. That’s why we’re grateful for the writers who took it upon themselves to coin new terms, play off old ones, or combine them as they pleased and simply because they could.

As a little thank you to our creative wordsmiths, we’ve put together a few of favorites to vamp up your vocab. Some of these author-coined terms may surprise you!


Buy 1984 at Amazon

1984

By George Orwell

Bellyfeela gut instinct

Conversational uses: When you probably shouldn’t order another margarita, when you probably shouldn’t sample the expired milk, when the skies are grey but your phone says sunny and 75–listen to your bellyfeel!

1984

By George Orwell

Buy Henry VI, Part 3 at Amazon

Henry VI, Part 3

By William Shakespeare

Clangorthe sound of a loud clamour

Conversational uses: Use this term to describe the sounds that give you a headache (because you didn’t trust your bellyfeel and went for another margarita), the sound of the neighborhood kids banging pots and pans together as they sing the soundtrack to Frozen, or the sound of your dog as he runs into the sliding glass door.

Henry VI, Part 3

By William Shakespeare

Buy A Clockwork Orange at Amazon

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess

Droogfriend; companion

Conversational uses: Use this term to address acquaintances, co-workers, and any close buddy.

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess

Buy The BFG at Amazon

The BFG

By Roald Dahl

Gloriumptiousglorious and wonderful!

Conversational uses: Use this term when you’re extremely excited, when something positive happens, or sarcastically when something terrible happens and you’re feeling snarky.

The BFG

By Roald Dahl

Buy Through the Looking-Glass at Amazon

Through the Looking-Glass

By Lewis Carroll

Farfarrentravel safe; bon voyage; fare well under fair skies

Conversational uses: Use this term when your droog leaves the room.

Through the Looking-Glass

By Lewis Carroll

Buy Paradise Lost at Amazon

Paradise Lost

By John Milton

Lovelornforsaken by one’s lover

Conversational uses: Use this term at the end of a relationship: after the initial breakup but before the ice cream and tears.

Paradise Lost

By John Milton

Buy David Copperfield at Amazon

David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens

Micawberan optimistic person

Conversational uses: Use this term to describe all the lovelorn droogs who still know life is gloriumptious!

David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens

Buy Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at Amazon

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling

Mugglenon magical person

Conversational uses: Use this word as a more pleasant alternative to ‘basic.’

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling

Buy Just So Stories at Amazon

Just So Stories

By Rudyard Kipling

Svengalievil, and with malicious intent

Conversational uses: Use this word to identify the evil doers making all the clangor.

Just So Stories

By Rudyard Kipling

Buy Finnegans Wake at Amazon

Finnegans Wake

By James Joyce

Quarkthe cry of a gull

Interesting fact: the physics term, quark, was actually taken from this literary context, specifically from the line, “three quarks for Mister Mark.” The link between the term and the number three seemed suited to the way quarks operate in the universe and the theory that they come in three different ‘flavors’: up, down, and strange.

Conversational uses: When you want to confuse people, point up at the flock of birds above and yell ‘quark!’ People with either think you’re a physics genius or slightly deranged

Finnegans Wake

By James Joyce

This article first appeared on The Reading Room.

Featured still from "Alice in Wonderland" (1951), via Walt Disney

Published on 01 Jun 2016

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