Literary words

In many writing exercises, whether they be writing a job application, creating a speech, orbusiness writing, you will probably have been told to use everyday words and keep your language simple. That is often very sound advice, and helps keep communication simple and effective.
In some contexts, though, you may wish to use a less common, more elevated word. This list of words below would largely be used in writing that was intentionally seeking a literary tone. That might be a poem, or (if you are writing fiction) in the dialogue of a literary character – or even apretentious one.

On the other hand, you may simply want new words for language games, or hope to impress friends and family! Whatever the reason, the list below will offer literary equivalents for everyday words (behold for see; lightsome for nimble; dulcify for sweeten), terms relating to Greek mythology (Rhadamanthine, Stygian), and words with unexpected meanings (crapulent, for example).

abode a home my humble abode
access an outburst of an emotion I was suddenly overcome with an access of rage
adieu goodbye
afar at a distance
apace quickly
argosy a large merchant ship
arrant utter
asunder into pieces those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder
atrabilious melancholy or bad-tempered
aurora the dawn
bard a poet
barque a boat
bedizen dress gaudily
beget produce (a child)
behold see
beseech ask urgently and fervently
bestrew scatter
betake oneself go to
betide happen
betoken be a warning of
blade sword
blithe happy
bosky covered by trees or bushes
brand a sword
brume mist or fog
celerity swiftness
circumvallate surround with a rampart or wall
clarion loud and clear
cleave to stick fast to
cockcrow dawn
coruscate flash or sparkle
crapulent relating to the drinking of alcohol
crescent growing
darkling relating to growing darkness
deep, the the sea
dell a small valley
dingle a deep wooded valley
divers of varying types
Dives a rich man there must be rich and poor, Dives says, smacking his claret
dolour great sorrow
dome a stately building
dulcify sweeten
effulgent shining brightly
eld old age
eminence a piece of rising ground
empyrean the sky
ere before
erne a sea eagle
espy catch sight of
ether the clear sky
evanescent quickly fading
farewell goodbye
fervid hot or glowing
fidus Achates a faithful friend
finny relating to fish
firmament the sky
flaxen pale yellow
fleer jeer or laugh disrespectfully
flexuous full of bends and curves
fulgent shining brightly
fulguration a flash like lightning
fuliginous sooty; dusky
fulminate explode violently
furbelow adorn with trimmings
gird secure with a belt
glaive a sword
gloaming dusk
greensward grassy ground
gyre whirl or gyrate
hark listen
horripilation gooseflesh; hair standing on end
hymeneal relating to marriage
ichor blood, or a fluid likened to it
illude trick someone
imbrue stain one’s hand or sword with blood
impuissant powerless
incarnadine colour (something) crimson
ingrate ungrateful
inhume bury
inly inwardly
ire anger
isle an island
knell the sound of a bell
lachrymal connected with weeping or tears
lacustrine associated with lakes
lambent softly glowing or flickering
lave wash or wash over
lay a song
lea an area of grassy land
lenity kindness or gentleness
lightsome nimble
limn represent in painting or words
lucent shining
madding acting madly; frenzied
mage a magician or learned person
main, the the open ocean
malefic causing harm
manifold many and various
marge a margin
mead a meadow
mephitic foul-smelling
mere a lake or pond
moon a month
morrow, the the following day
muliebrity womanliness
nescient lacking knowledge; ignorant
nigh near
niveous snowy
nocuous noxious, harmful, or poisonous
noisome foul-smelling
nymph a beautiful young woman
orb an eye
orgulous proud or haughty
pellucid translucent
perchance by some chance
perfervid intense and impassioned
perfidious deceitful and untrustworthy
philippic a bitter verbal attack
plangent loud and mournful
plash a splashing sound
plenteous plentiful
plumbless extremely deep
poesy poetry
prothalamium a song or poem celebrating a wedding
puissant powerful or influential
pulchritude beauty
purl flow with a babbling sound
quidnunc an inquisitive and gossipy person
realm a kingdom
refulgent shining brightly
rend tear to pieces
repine be discontented
Rhadamanthine stern and incorruptible in judgement
roundelay a short, simple song with a refrain
rubescent reddening
rutilant glowing or glittering with red or golden light
sans without
scribe write
sea-girt surrounded by sea
sempiternal everlasting
serpent a snake
shade a ghost
ship of the desert a camel
shore country by the sea
slay kill
slumber sleep
star-crossed ill-fated
steed a horse
stilly still and quiet
storied celebrated in stories
strand a shore
Stygian very dark
summer a year of a person’s age
supernal relating to the sky or the heavens
susurration a whispering or rustling sound
swain a young lover or suitor
sword, the military power; violence
sylvan wooded
tarry delay leaving
temerarious rash or reckless
tenebrous dark; shadowy
threescore sixty
thrice three times
tidings news; information
toilsome involving hard work
tope drink alcohol to excess
travail painful or laborious effort
troublous full of troubles
tryst a rendezvous between lovers
unman deprive of manly qualities
vestal chaste; pure
vesture clothing
virescent greenish
viridescent greenish or becoming green
visage a person’s face
want lack or be short of
wax become larger or stronger
wayfarer a person who travels on foot
wed marry
welkin, the the sky or heaven
whited sepulchre a hypocrite
wind blow (a bugle)
without outside
wondrous inspiring wonder
wont accustomed
wonted usual
wrathful extremely angry
wreathe twist or entwine
yon yonder; that
yore of former ties or long ago
youngling a young person or animal
zephyr a soft, gentle breeze

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