Literary words

In many writing exercises, whether they be writing a job application, creating a speech, or business 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 a pretentious 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 seelightsome for nimbledulcify for sweeten), terms relating to Greek mythology (RhadamanthineStygian), and words with unexpected meanings (crapulent, for example).

abodea home
accessan outburst of an emotion
adieugoodbye
afarat a distance
apacequickly
argosya large merchant ship
arrantutter
asunderinto pieces
atrabiliousmelancholy or bad-tempered
aurorathe dawn
barda poet
barquea boat
bedizendress gaudily
begetproduce (a child)
beholdsee
beseechask urgently and fervently
bestrewscatter
betake oneselfgo to
betidehappen
betokenbe a warning of
bladesword
blithehappy
boskycovered by trees or bushes
branda sword
brumemist or fog
celerityswiftness
circumvallatesurround with a rampart or wall
clarionloud and clear
cleave tostick fast to
cockcrowdawn
coruscateflash or sparkle
crapulentrelating to the drinking of alcohol
crescentgrowing
darklingrelating to growing darkness
deep, thethe sea
della small valley
dinglea deep wooded valley
diversof varying types
Divesa rich man
dolourgreat sorrow
domea stately building
dulcifysweeten
effulgentshining brightly
eldold age
eminencea piece of rising ground
empyreanthe sky
erebefore
ernea sea eagle
espycatch sight of
etherthe clear sky
evanescentquickly fading
farewellgoodbye
fervidhot or glowing
fidus Achatesa faithful friend
finnyrelating to fish
firmamentthe sky
flaxenpale yellow
fleerjeer or laugh disrespectfully
flexuousfull of bends and curves
fulgentshining brightly
fulgurationa flash like lightning
fuliginoussooty; dusky
fulminateexplode violently
furbelowadorn with trimmings
girdsecure with a belt
glaivea sword
gloamingdusk
greenswardgrassy ground
gyrewhirl or gyrate
harklisten
horripilationgooseflesh; hair standing on end
hymenealrelating to marriage
ichorblood, or a fluid likened to it
illudetrick someone
imbruestain one's hand or sword with blood
impuissantpowerless
incarnadinecolour (something) crimson
ingrateungrateful
inhumebury
inlyinwardly
ireanger
islean island
knellthe sound of a bell
lachrymalconnected with weeping or tears
lacustrineassociated with lakes
lambentsoftly glowing or flickering
lavewash or wash over
laya song
leaan area of grassy land
lenitykindness or gentleness
lightsomenimble
limnrepresent in painting or words
lucentshining
maddingacting madly; frenzied
magea magician or learned person
main, thethe open ocean
maleficcausing harm
manifoldmany and various
margea margin
meada meadow
mephiticfoul-smelling
merea lake or pond
moona month
morrow, thethe following day
muliebritywomanliness
nescientlacking knowledge; ignorant
nighnear
niveoussnowy
nocuousnoxious, harmful, or poisonous
noisomefoul-smelling
nympha beautiful young woman
orban eye
orgulousproud or haughty
pellucidtranslucent
perchanceby some chance
perfervidintense and impassioned
perfidiousdeceitful and untrustworthy
philippica bitter verbal attack
plangentloud and mournful
plasha splashing sound
plenteousplentiful
plumblessextremely deep
poesypoetry
prothalamiuma song or poem celebrating a wedding
puissantpowerful or influential
pulchritudebeauty
purlflow with a babbling sound
quidnuncan inquisitive and gossipy person
realma kingdom
refulgentshining brightly
rendtear to pieces
repinebe discontented
Rhadamanthinestern and incorruptible in judgement
roundelaya short, simple song with a refrain
rubescentreddening
rutilantglowing or glittering with red or golden light
sanswithout
scribewrite
sea-girtsurrounded by sea
sempiternaleverlasting
serpenta snake
shadea ghost
ship of the deserta camel
shorecountry by the sea
slaykill
slumbersleep
star-crossedill-fated
steeda horse
stillystill and quiet
storiedcelebrated in stories
stranda shore
Stygianvery dark
summera year of a person's age
supernalrelating to the sky or the heavens
susurrationa whispering or rustling sound
swaina young lover or suitor
sword, themilitary power; violence
sylvanwooded
tarrydelay leaving
temerariousrash or reckless
tenebrousdark; shadowy
threescoresixty
thricethree times
tidingsnews; information
toilsomeinvolving hard work
topedrink alcohol to excess
travailpainful or laborious effort
troublousfull of troubles
trysta rendezvous between lovers
unmandeprive of manly qualities
vestalchaste; pure
vestureclothing
virescentgreenish
viridescentgreenish or becoming green
visagea person's face
wantlack or be short of
waxbecome larger or stronger
wayfarera person who travels on foot
wedmarry
welkin, thethe sky or heaven
whited sepulchrea hypocrite
windblow (a bugle)
withoutoutside
wondrousinspiring wonder
wontaccustomed
wontedusual
wrathfulextremely angry
wreathetwist or entwine
yonyonder; that
yoreof former ties or long ago
younglinga young person or animal
zephyra soft, gentle breeze

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