My Favorite (And Least Favorite) Words

I can’t exactly explain why, but certain words appeal to me and others don’t. It seems a silly thing to parse out favorite and least favorite words, as if they are colors or architectural styles. But perhaps they are. Words can be delicious, so I share some of my likes and dislikes with you today.

Word Cloud (2)

My Favorite Words





I just like the way “garlicky” sounds, and it seems to come with a smell as well. Whenever I’m cooking and I open the jar of chopped garlic, I have a nice whiff before adding some to the dish I’m cooking. I realize that not everybody likes garlic, but I do. “Abstemious” sounds important, and I’m all for moderation, so this word describes an ideal I tend to uphold, except when it comes to ice cream. “Magnanimous” is a word I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve faced many disappointments and failures, but my former boss Alex taught me how to be magnanimous. I now have a friend in my Ph.D. program who is the epitome of this. Whenever something good happens to somebody in our program, he’s the first to congratulate them. “Jejune” is one of those words I hoped to trick people with. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but I used it to try to stump coworkers when we were talking about words and definitions. It didn’t fool anybody!

My Least Favorite Words





My sisters, if they are reading, could tell you all about how much I hate the world “butterball.” It all began during Thanksgiving in the 1980s, when turkeys were all over the television. I could not believe that anybody would use the name “butterball” to describe anything. It just sounds disgusting. A ball of butter? No thanks! A ball of whipped cream? Uh, yes please!

The other three words, “very,” “really,” and “you,” are pet peeves from my teaching days. Students often used these too often. To me, as a writing instructor, the words “very” and “really” don’t mean much. When being descriptive, use words more meaningful than those. Now, the word “you” is okay, just not when writing an academic essay. There are more formal ways to address an audience. However, “you” is appropriate in many other situations, of course.

Do you have favorite and least favorite words?



77 thoughts on “My Favorite (And Least Favorite) Words

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  1. Good list. I have lots of words that I either love or really hate. I love the words rascal, opaque and clearly (because for some reason it reminds me of waterfalls!) I hate the words skanky, manky, dislocation and Nazi (which I also can’t seem to pronounce correctly!) x

  2. I will always like “calliope” and “Serendipity!” They just sound so nice and frivolous! Your posts are always so interesting, this one was fun! Smiles, Robin

  3. One of my favourite English words is “discombobulate”. I’m sure I have other favourites but I can’t think of them right now.

    There are plenty of Spanish words which I like. In one of my first Spanish classes at university, the teacher asked us to pick one word we like and explain why. I chose “cucaracha” because I love the sound of it, albeit not the meaning (it means “cockroach”)! Another Spanish one that just rolls off the tongue is “desafortunadamente” (“unfortunately”). Isn’t it simply gorgeous? 😀

    1. Yes! Those are awesome words. I haven’t thought about my favorite Spanish words, but off the top of my head I love “Que barbaridad!” It is fun to say, and I love when Ricky says it to Lucy on I Love Lucy.

  4. I have a problem with constantly using the word ‘really’. I use it all the time and want to stop!

    My favourite words tend to come from my Northern Irish slang! Words like:


    But i tend to leave these out of normal conversation!

    1. I’ll help you with your “really” problem: Stop It!!! 🙂 Those northern Irish words are wonderful. I want to start using them. What do they mean?

      1. I really can’t stop using it!

        Mizzle – a really (ah shit, did it again) fine rain. As in “let’s go to the pub, sure its only mizzling outside’

        Schuck – a ditch. As in ” this beer tastes like schuck-water”

        Blootered – drunk

        Hope that helps 🙂

  5. Emily is such a magnanimous person who believes in abstemious use of garlicky flavors to heighten her spaghetti sauce and tries to avoid jejune literature while waiting for the sauce to simmer. Whew. My favorite word is “stewardship” as it so needed and lacking in many leadership circles, especially elected officials. I also am big on “mindful” and “acquiesce.” The latter because it speaks of collaboration.

    I hold a low opinion of the word “superstar” as it is so overused. If everyone is a superstar, why aren’t we doing better? Also, overused is “110%” as if it were physically possible give more than 100% (without steroid use). But, my least favorite word is “pundit.” Part of the reason is some people call themselves that and like to portray themselves as experts, when they are not really such. It would be refreshing to hear someone say more routinely, I am not an expert on this, but here is what I think.

    Sorry for the dissertation. I should have been more abstemious. Best regards, BTG

    1. I love this, especially that first sentence! Wow! And I totally agree on disliking “pundit” for all of the reasons you mentioned and because it seems like nobody on tv can pronounce it correctly. They all seem to say “pundint” instead. So annoying, along with their so-called expertise! Your favorite words are good ones. I agree!

  6. I’ve never thought about whether I have favorite words or not, although I have always wondered who came up with a word like “shoe.” Think how silly it sounds! The words I have gotten tired of, because they have lost all meaning, are “awesome” and “special.” Eek! I DO like cattywampus, which does not appear to be in my dictionary, but IS in dictionaries on the web.

    1. Don’t you hate it when words like “shoe” start to sound foreign and strange? I had that happen with the word “main” once. It just seemed odd.

      1. Yes, when you start thinking about the sound of words, almost everything sounds odd. I had that thought about “shoe” way back in 5th grade, and it still seems strange to me.

  7. I wonder if whether you like a word like “garlic” depends on whether or not you like garlic. I like garlic and the word. I know there are certain proper names I don’t like simply because I knew a person with that name whom I didn’t like even though I have since met someone with the name that I liked. “Sharon” is one of these names.

    1. I know exactly what you mean re proper names – I’ve disliked “Susan” since reading the Narnia books as a child and despite my mother-in-law, Sue, being one of the kindest people I know I’m still not reconciled to the name!

    2. I think your theory on garlic is right, and yes, I hate the name Erica because of a horrible classmate I had in elementary school. I’ve since gained a cousin named Erica, and she’s lovely, so I’ve had to temper my thoughts on that name.

  8. I personally like “absolute” and “incorrigible” and similar to your “garlicky”, I love the word “ganache”. I guess the word I dislike the most is “whatever” – just plain disrespectful when used in conversation !

  9. As a former teacher myself, I can relate to your bias towards those particular words >.< let me just add 'good' 'then' and 'bad' to that list. As for favourite words, I've always been partial towards 'flabbergasted' for as long as I can remember :p Ever since I read it in 'The BFG' by Roland Dahl in 6th grade

    1. Agreed. Those words should be banned in essay writing as well! And leave it to Roald Dahl to give us our favorite words. Of course! He’s a master.

  10. I’m partial to postprandial. Lluvia is my favorite Spanish word at the moment and pomme de terre and beurre de cacahuètes are my favorites in French. I dislike book. Book just sounds so dumb to say, although I clearly love books themselves. I think it’s easier to get word-crushes on foreign words because as I’m learning I can separate the sound of the word from the meaning more easily.

    1. That is so true. If we don’t have a cultural history with a word and its definitions they can all sound wonderful. I enjoyed reading your list of mostly foreign words because they all appealed to me!

  11. I love this topic. Magnanimous – the number of syllables and the rhythm of it is just perfect! Some of my favorites are:

    Pleonasm – so pleasing to the ears.
    Surreptitious – sounds like what it means. I find it a nice artful inclusion once in a while as opposed to stealth.
    Quagmire – I like this word as it tends to fluctuate my imagination.

    Thank you for provoking me to respond.

  12. I tend to go through word phases, where I come across a word I love and use it until I tire of it, like a pop song. Currently I like “rancid” – it perfectly evokes disgust for me.

    Having recently been job hunting my least favourite words are application cliches – “excellent”, “independently”, “creative”

    Your post also reminded me of my Canadian sister-in-law and her pet peeves of Australian slang. In particular the way we say “sweet as” or “sick as” to describe things (that’s the complete description, it’s not “sweet as candy”, it’s just “sweet as”). She’s always asking “Sweet as what?!?” but there really isn’t an answer. It’s just, as sweet as anything you can think of..

    1. That’s so interesting. I might have to start saying “sweet as” and just leave people hanging. 🙂 And when I beef up my resume, I’ll be sure to avoid those words you mentioned. Thanks for the tip!

  13. When my mom and I play our own version of scrabble (no board, start with 7 letters and we each work on our own little crossword, continually taking two more letters, can rearrange it all whenever you want), we list our favourites at the end.

    I like the words regenerate, adventure, jewel, rumpus, and quail.

  14. My least favourite words are business-speak such as prioritize and value-added. I also dislike phrases that make a sentence longer, such as “at the present time” instead of now. I am always overusing the word “definitely”!

    1. Ah, yes. Those business-speak words are annoying! When I worked as an editor, I often saw the phrase, “Throughout the world.” I either deleted it or changed it to “worldwide.” There are easier ways to say some of those “long” phrases.

  15. Favorite: fortuitous
    Most despised: Selfie. I am so disappointed this has made it to our dictionary. A travesty (I like that word, too!).

    1. Ha! That one is getting on everybody’s nerves. And I like “travesty” too, mostly because I loved the movie Clueless and I learned that word from Alicia Silverstone in that movie. 🙂

  16. Hmm I don’t think I have a favorite word but your post reminds me of the book Lexicon, a thriller about the power of words. If you haven’t already read it, I would recommend you check it out, it’s very intriguing.

  17. I like the word “creative.” I like what it means, how it sounds and how it looks. I even like writing it. One word I dislike is “just” which I find overused in writing and in speaking. It’s a filler word.

  18. One of my favorite words is “dalliance,” which means a brief love affair. It rolls off the tongue nicely, and it simply sounds fun and even wildly exciting. When I hear or say the word, I instantly think of the playfully enigmatic dating game; the exciting prospect of getting to know somebody new on a romantic level.

    As one of the previous commenters said, I too like the word “serendipity.” It sounds optimistic and bubbly. 🙂 It is also the name of a delicious yet expensive dessert place in New York City.

  19. I love the words “rain” and “rainy night” (yes, like the song), and in Spanish, derrumbes (landslide). In business-speak, I hate “facilitate,” although it is a pretty word on its own.

  20. Good list. I hate words depending on the way they sound. Funnily, I find these words and get annoyed by them most when I read them in romance novels – words like for example, moist and fondle. Eww

    I also hate phrases that are manager-speak in my office such as win-win, drill down, value add, and here’s the worst low hanging fruit. They drive me nuts!

  21. Wow. I’ve just read all the comments (as well as your post), and I think you could safely say that this is a popular topic. And I can see why. I have lots of words that are favourites, as well as ones I dislike. I also have that thing happen with words when you say them over an over until they sound meaningless. And, I often wonder where certain words come from. Who thought them up? If I had to choose one of my favourite words, it would have to be ‘happy’. I like the way it looks and I like the way it sounds. It is the perfect word for what it means. It makes me happy. 🙂 Thanks for this fun post!

    1. You have summed up all of the issues here nicely. I think you’ve also pinpointed the perfect word: happy. I love that one too. It may explain why Pharrell Williams’s song has been so popular. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

  22. There’s a particular sound that I really dislike – the “sh” or “ch” sound. When it comes at the end of a word, it’s especially bad. I hate the words flesh, lunch, moist, cash, and anything else with that creepy noise!

    1. How interesting! I can see how that would be buggy. My dad sometimes goes “ch ch” when trying to get our attention in a large public space. That would drive you nuts!

  23. I wish that some people would not use “awesome” so often. Some of the passing and trivial things they are in awe of just don’t appear to be so awesome.
    When describing enjoyment I like words such as “savour” and “delight”. I also appreciate the spectrum of vocabulary that some poets use, even for colour. So, for example, blue becomes “azure”, “cobalt” or “midnight”.

    1. I love “color” words, too. I love that we have so many words for describing the many shades and varieties. And yes, “awesome” is overused, especially by me! 🙂

  24. Louche! It has a sensual edge to it – in a slightly disreputable but well-dressed way. I use it in my writing sometimes, but don’t quite have the nerve to toss it into a conversation. Yet.
    Pet peeve: two or more words in a row that end in “-ly.” I can’t come up with an example – probably because I try to forget them immediately – but they are rampant.

    1. Ooh, that is a “disreputable” word! Nice. And yeah, I can’t think of any examples of the -ly words, although I hate it when people hyphenate an -ly word with the word following it. That used to be right, but according to Chicago, it is no longer necessary.

  25. I love the way the word “umbrella” rolls off the tongue… I don’t know why, but it just sounds so elegant. 🙂 Also, “demure” is so fancy! I love your blog!

  26. Emily–What a great discussion–and look at all the wordsmiths responding. Totally delightful.

    I love ‘quagmire’, the onomatopoeia of it–I can HEAR the mud sucking at my feet as I try to step forward…

    I hate ‘crone’–especially now that I am eligible for the title! It’s such a harsh, judgmental term for those of us in that post-menopausal, supposedly wise, phase of our lives… Does anybody ave suggestions for a more positive term?

    And, do any of you wordsmiths have favorite sayings–sayings that maybe not everyone understands? If so, I invite you to read and comment:

    I would love to hear from you!



    1. Pam, quagmire is a wonderful word! As to crone, I have no suggestions for replacing it, although I recently read some Mary Daly for a feminist theories class and she suggested reclaiming that word and others like it meant to describe women, especially older ones, unkindly. It’s a thought!

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