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!


    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!

    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

    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

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

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