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An EF Academy philavery of unusual words

Whether you’re already familiar with the English language or just starting out, sometimes you might want to learn new and unusual words – those you probably wouldn’t use in an everyday conversation (but which might earn you a few strange looks if you did!).

We’ve collected a list of fifteen weird and wonderful words such as the original term for a hashtag and the name of a mysterious fruit that is both orange and tangerine. So, if you’re looking to delve deeper into the English language, for all of its half-remembered obscurities and almost ridiculous descriptors, you’re sure to find something appealing here.

1. Erinaceous



  1. Of, pertaining to, or resembling a hedgehog

‘Charlie is quite erinaceous. When he cries, he rolls himself into a little prickly ball and hibernates for some time’.


2. Kakorrhaphiophobia



  1. An abnormal fear of failure

‘This is the last word that someone with kakorrhaphiophobia would want to encounter in a spelling bee’.


3. Biblioklept



  1. Someone who steals books

‘It would be quicker to call someone a Book Thief than a Biblioklept’.


4. Acnestis



  1. The part of the back (or backbone) between the shoulder blades and the loins which an animal cannot reach to scratch

‘Nidhi is using the end of her ruler to scratch her acnestis’


5. Octothorpe



  1. the symbol # (or hashtag)

‘Be careful, you might start an octothorpe trend on Twitter’


6. Peristeronic



  1. Of or pertaining to pigeons

‘Emily was more peristeronic than hawkish or eagle-eyed’


7. Collywobbles



  1. A weird feeling in your stomach or bellyache

‘That scary clown gives me the collywobbles’


8. Benthos



  1. the flora and fauna on the bottom of a sea or lake

‘The water is so clear you can see right down to the benthos’


9. Floccinaucinihilipilification



  1. The action or habit of estimating something as worthless (the longest non-technical word in the English language)

‘Ali liked to say floccinaucinihilipilification, he decided most other words were worthless’


10. Futz



  1. to waste time or busy oneself aimlessly

‘Why procrastinate when you could futz?’


11. Logomachy



  1. an argument about words

‘Let’s not have a logomachy over this ridiculous list of words’


12. Mouse Potato

ma-ow-se / po-tay-toe


  1. a person who spends large amounts of their leisure or working time on a computer

‘Raj gladly took a job in an office and became a mouse potato’


13. Ortanique



  1. a cross between an orange and a tangerine

‘Mandarin, Tangerine, Clementine and Ortanique, are all types of orange’


14. Selkie



  1. A mythical sea creature that resembles a seal in water but assumes human form on land

‘After Mara learnt to swim, her Scottish uncle called her a selkie’


15. Spaghettification



  1. the process by which (in some theories) an object would be stretched and ripped apart by gravitational forces on falling into a black hole

‘Stephen Hawking ate his noodles and tried not to think about spaghettification’



Feeling inspired? If you love learning English then you might be interested in EF Academy. See below for a quick look at some of our hard-working IB students studying English at our campus in Torbay, England.


Need better English skills for school?Yes, undoubtedly!

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