Site search
Search type


Wayne State's Word Warriors release their annual list of top 10 words worth reviving

January 2, 2012

Word Warriors WebsiteAs part of its effort to draw attention to some of the English language's most expressive -- yet regrettably neglected -- words, Wayne State University has released its annual list of 10 words that deserve to be used more often.

Now in its fourth year, Wayne State's Word Warriors series promotes words that are out there waiting to be used, but simply don't get the attention they deserve. Some have had great days and inexplicably fallen out of favor; others have never quite managed to enter the lexicon despite their versatility, punch - and sometimes even sheer beauty.

The Word Warriors' annual list is distilled from the series' Words of the Week, which are picked by administrators of the website with help from the public. Logophiles worldwide have seen favorite words brought back from the brink of obsolescence, or welcomed new additions to their vocabularies, at New entries are posted there, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, each week.

"The English language has more words in its lexicon than any other," says Jerry Herron, dean of WSU's Irvin D. Reid Honors College. "By bringing these words back into conversation, we expand our ability to communicate clearly and help make our world a more
interesting place."

"For those who appreciate language, there is a real thrill in discovering -- or rediscovering -- new words, especially in your own tongue," adds Jack Lessenberry, journalist and Wayne State faculty member. "You may call me antediluvian, and many of my
erstwhile students do, but I think these words should send a frisson of joy along your spine. Reviving them may be a Sisyphean task, but not to do so would be to truckle to the supercilious and execrable cult of transitory fashion."

Here's the Wayne State University Word Warriors' 2012 list of remarkably useful and expressive words that deserve more chances to enrich our language:

Antediluvian - Antiquated; old-fashioned; out of date. Literally "before the flood," referring to the Biblical deluge. This company's vacation policy is positively antediluvian, so I'm giving you three weeks off this year.

Erstwhile - Former; bygone. Rampantly misused. Roger had disturbing reasons to suspect that Rachel, his erstwhile lover, had hacked into his email accounts.

Execrable - Atrocious; wretched; abominable. Alice may have a Ph.D., but her spelling is execrable.

Frisson - Thanks to French for this word meaning that sudden, involuntary shiver we may feel at times of great emotion. Albert knew he'd be glad to see Victoria, but he wasn't expecting a powerful frisson of pleasure when he took her hand.

Parlous - Dangerous or risky. Variant of Middle English "perilous." Prospects for Yazoo City grew increasingly parlous as the Mississippi's record flood rolled southward.

Penultimate - Next to last. Everyone's heard of the Last Supper, but the Penultimate Supper has been largely forgotten.

Sisyphean - Actually or apparently endless and futile. After Sisyphus, doomed by the gods to roll a stone uphill, only to have it always roll back down. Washington endured a Sisyphean nightmare of whipping raw recruits into shape, only to see them melt away when their one-year enlistments expired (Ron Chernow, in Washington).

Supercilious - Contemptuous; disdainful; condescending. I knew I was about to go into the tank socially when I noticed the
supercilious way she was looking at my red shoes.

Transmogrify - To change completely, usually grotesquely, in appearance or form. So Gregor drifted off to sleep, never dreaming he was in a Kafka story and would transmogrify into a hideous insect overnight.

Truckle - Submit obsequiously; be subservient; kowtow. When I'm in the presence of a powerful person, my own concept of equality gets blurry and I have a regrettable tendency to truckle, if only to be polite (Ian Frazier, in Travels in Siberia).

To see the full list of weekly entries, or to submit a word for consideration, visit or "Word Warriors" on Facebook. 

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.