Vocabulary Words I Learned from Books This Year

These are in chronological order by my reading.


  • borborygmi = stomach rumblings caused by the movement of fluid and gas in the intestines
  • crapula = sickness caused by excessive eating and drinking
  • olm = a cave-dwelling aquatic salamander

~The Year of the Hare, Arto Paasilinna


  • befurbelowed = ornamented with frills (the use seems to be peculiar to this book, as it is the example in every online dictionary!)

~The Awakening, Kate Chopin


  • roding = the sound produced during the mating display of snipe and woodcock, also known as drumming
  • peat hag = eroded ground from which peat has been cut

~Deep Country, Neil Ansell


  • rallentando = a gradual decrease in speed

~Sight, Jessie Greengrass


  • piceous = resembling pitch

~March, Geraldine Brooks


  • soffit = the underside of eaves or an arch, balcony, etc.

~The Only Story, Julian Barnes


  • lemniscate = the infinity symbol, here used as a metaphor for the pattern of pipe smoke

~The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer


  • purfling = a decorative border
  • lamingtons = sponge cake squares coated in chocolate and desiccated coconut (sounds yummy!)

~The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, Tracy Farr


  • ocellated = having eye-shaped markings

~Red Clocks, Leni Zumas


  • balloonatic (WWI slang) = a ballooning enthusiast
  • skinkling = sparkling
  • preludial = introductory
  • claustral = confining
  • baccalà = salted cod

~The Incendiaries, R. O. Kwon

(There were so many words I didn’t immediately recognize in this novel that I thought Kwon must have made them up; preludial and claustral, especially, are words I didn’t know existed but that one might have extrapolated from their noun forms.)


  • bronies = middle-aged male fans of My Little Pony (wow, who knew this was a thing?! I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole just by Googling it.)
  • callipygian = having well-shaped buttocks

~Gross Anatomy, Mara Altman


  • syce = someone who looks after horses; a groom (especially in India; though here it was Kenya)
  • riem = a strip of rawhide or leather
  • pastern = a horse’s ankle equivalent

~West with the Night, Beryl Markham


  • blintering = flickering, glimmering (Scottish)
  • sillion = shiny soil turned over by a plow

~The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal, Horatio Clare


  • whiffet = a small, young or unimportant person

~Ladder of Years, Anne Tyler


  • trilliant = a triangular gemstone cut
  • cabochon = a gemstone that’s polished but not faceted
  • blirt = a gust of wind and rain (but here used as a verb: “Coldness blirted over her”)
  • contumacious = stubbornly disobedient

~Four Bare Legs in a Bed, Helen Simpson


  • xeric = very dry (usually describes a habitat, but used here for a person’s manner)

~Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver


  • twitten = a narrow passage between two walls or hedges (Sussex dialect – Marshall is based near Brighton)

~The Power of Dog, Andrew Marshall


  • swither (Scottish) = to be uncertain as to which course of action to take
  • strathspey = a dance tune, a slow reel

~Stargazing, Peter Hill


  • citole = a medieval fiddle
  • naker = a kettledrum
  • amice = a liturgical vestment that resembles a cape

~The Western Wind, Samantha Harvey


  • pareidolia = seeing faces in things, an evolutionary adaptation (check out @FacesPics on Twitter!)

~The Overstory, Richard Powers


Have you learned any new vocabulary words recently?

How likely am I to use any of these words in the next year?

15 thoughts on “Vocabulary Words I Learned from Books This Year

  1. Great post – I enjoy words! What a terrific idea; if I may, I shall be copying your idea in 2019 and keep a record for year-end revealment. I was familiar with, or knew, 11 of your words. I play word games (various) and when I find a new word I make a note & look up the meanings; then promptly forget them again. But occasionally I manage to infuriate Bananagram opponents by producing a real zinger – like xeric, for example. Here’s one of my favourite strange words for you : fice. So handy in Scrabble. Meaning – a small, fierce dog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi! First time posting here, I think, but I’ve been a long time reader. Pareidolia, preludial and claustral were the only words I knew from this list! What an erdritch animal olms are! (erdritch is a word I recently learned. It means weird, sinister or ghostly.)

    Also, not exactly a new word, but in reading `Last Letters from Hav` I discovered that `clout` is an old word. I had previously only heard it in the context of social media influencers and had figured it was a neologism. The more you know!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fun! Seems like bronies came and went. You probably don’t need to commit that one to your vocabulary. Baccala, however, is fun to say, even if you don’t like fish. And those were the only two on your list I knew. I hadn’t heard that about Kwon’s book–I’ll have to read that one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh! I love this post. I think I’ll keep a record of new words in 2019.

    My Kindle does a mediocre job of it (don’t know where I read them) – some listed in my Vocab Builder are opprobrium, ayahuasca and miasma.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I use the highlighter all the time because it records location in the particular book etc but the dictionary doesn’t (it does add to your vocabulary builder list and makes flash cards so that you can ‘master’ words, which is neat).

        Liked by 1 person

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