100 Exquisite AdjectivesBy Mark Nichol
Adjectives — descriptive words that modify nouns — often come under fire for their cluttering quality, but often it’s quality, not quantity, that is the issue. Plenty of tired adjectives are available to spoil a good sentence, but when you find just the right word for the job, enrichment ensues. Practice precision when you select words. Here’s a list of adjectives:
Adamant: unyielding; a very hard substance
Adroit: clever, resourceful
Animistic: quality of recurrence or reversion to earlier form
Antic: clownish, frolicsome
Baleful: deadly, foreboding
Bellicose: quarrelsome (its synonym belligerent can also be a noun)
Bilious: unpleasant, peevish
Boorish: crude, insensitive
Caustic: corrosive, sarcastic; a corrosive substance
Cerulean: sky blue
Crapulous: immoderate in appetite
Defamatory: maliciously misrepresenting
Didactic: conveying information or moral instruction
Dilatory: causing delay, tardy
Dowdy: shabby, old-fashioned; an unkempt woman
Efficacious: producing a desired effect
Effulgent: brilliantly radiant
Egregious: conspicuous, flagrant
Endemic: prevalent, native, peculiar to an area
Equanimous: even, balanced
Execrable: wretched, detestable
Fastidious: meticulous, overly delicate
Feckless: weak, irresponsible
Fecund: prolific, inventive
Fulsome: abundant, overdone, effusive
Garrulous: wordy, talkative
Gustatory: having to do with taste or eating
Heuristic: learning through trial-and-error or problem solving
Histrionic: affected, theatrical
Hubristic: proud, excessively self-confident
Incendiary: inflammatory, spontaneously combustible, hot
Insidious: subtle, seductive, treacherous
Insolent: impudent, contemptuous
Inveterate: habitual, persistent
Invidious: resentful, envious, obnoxious
Jejune: dull, puerile
Jocular: jesting, playful
Limpid: simple, transparent, serene
Luminous: clear, shining
Mannered: artificial, stilted
Meretricious: whorish, superficially appealing, pretentious
Mordant: biting, incisive, pungent
Munificent: lavish, generous
Noxious: harmful, corrupting
Obtuse: blunt, stupid
Parsimonious: frugal, restrained
Pendulous: suspended, indecisive
Pernicious: injurious, deadly
Petulant: rude, ill humored
Platitudinous: resembling or full of dull or banal comments
Precipitate: steep, speedy
Propitious: auspicious, advantageous, benevolent
Querulous: cranky, whining
Quiescent: inactive, untroublesome
Rebarbative: irritating, repellent
Recalcitrant: resistant, obstinate
Redolent: aromatic, evocative
Rhadamanthine: harshly strict
Sagacious: wise, discerning
Sartorial: relating to attire, especially tailored fashions
Serpentine: snake-like, winding, tempting or wily
Spasmodic: having to do with or resembling a spasm, excitable, intermittent
Strident: harsh, discordant; obtrusively loud
Taciturn: closemouthed, reticent
Tenacious: persistent, cohesive,
Tremulous: nervous, trembling, timid, sensitive
Trenchant: sharp, penetrating, distinct
Turbulent: restless, tempestuous
Turgid: swollen, pompous
Ubiquitous: pervasive, widespread
Uxorious: inordinately affectionate or compliant with a wife
Verdant: green, unripe
Voluble: glib, given to speaking
Voracious: ravenous, insatiable
Zealous: eager, devoted
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26 Responses to “100 Exquisite Adjectives”
- Paul Scheers
95% of the adjectives have a negative connotation. Some positive please?
A good, stimulating list.
I am a french student. Needless to say that this fantastic list will help me a lot. I was definitely smitten with these harmonious and suggestive words. Now come my challenge: be able to use all of them in my english essays ! 😀
Thanks for sharing
- Tracy Kaler
Some good choices here. Love arcadian and cerulean. 🙂
- Somnath Sarkar
Fabulous list of adjectives..all are pretty helpful.
In searching for lists of adjectives to aid in the enrichment of my middle school students’ writing, I happened across this list on stumpbleupon.com. I thought this might be the perfect resource until I reached the word “dowdy”. What a great disappointment from dailytwritingtips.com, especially in light of their own “About the blog”, which states, “Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of emails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. Daily Writing Tips is about that.”
“Dowdy”? Seriously, M. Nichol, in 2015? Because I respect all of my students, but in this case especially my female students, that one word is a deal breaker, for more reasons than I’ll even entertain here.
Superb stuff, absolutely top notch.
- Donald C. Whitehead
To the 4 writers and the editor! Great Job! When coming up with content that just looks and reads the same you kinda get that same
feeling about it as you do others to some degree. You’re book marked for some exciting adjectives in my writing.
Yes indeed Stephen, agreed. Bellicose and Belligerent are not synonymous but are often used that way. Belligerency is an instrument of the state, not just a singular person’s aggressiveness. Check out Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution for fun.
Also Corpulent, is bodily. It’s broader than the definition given.
Still, great to see such a list.
What about a list of collective nouns? Especially birds. Ie: a Parliament of owls, a murder of crows…fun!
I love words, and particularly adjectives. This list is wondrous fair indeed. However, many of these words are going to come across as being self-conscious, vainglorious or simply twee. While I will always choose the word that comes closest to the meaning I wish to convey (reticent over reluctant when I’m speaking or writing of being hesitant to speak) I also am aware that using a highly decorative word (rhadamanthine, for instance) can be the literary equivalent of wearing too much perfume.
- maria menounos
I must get across my respect for your generosity supporting those people that really want guidance on in this situation. Your very own commitment to getting the solution all around ended up being quite practical and has permitted others just like me to achieve their dreams. Your warm and helpful suggestions means so much to me and a whole lot more to my fellow workers. Thanks a lot; from all of us.
Stephen: But “belligerent” is an adjective, as well as a noun…has the list been modified?
Katie: Don’t forget “jemay”– almost or becoming dull or puerile, and “jedecember”– exciting, witty, and mature, but colder. And “irksall” which meand even more annoying– to everybody.
- Megan “Frances” Abrahams
Insidious is one of my favorites — such a pithy word. Pithy is pretty good as well. Maybe it could be tacked on. I’m retweeting this now…
- Roberta B.
@Lahesha – Is that the correct word? To “facilitate” a workshop? Facilitate means to make something easier, less difficult, or free from impediment. You could conduct a workshop, moderate a worshop, direct, guide, chair, etc.. However, just now checking “Business Speak” in Wikipedia, I see it as one of those terms. So, check out the “Beware of Buzz Word Bingo” column (Feb 2011). “Facilitate” could be added to that list since workshops tend to spew buzz words in abundance.
This a the PERFECT list for expanding your vocabulary, but also great for speaking professionals as well. Sometimes I find myself using the same words over and over as I facilitate workshops, so this will come in handy…bookmark worthy!
really useful list. much needed 🙂 thanks
Oh, publishers, beware! Coming your way are manuscripts populated with fecund protagonists, mendacious antagonists, didactically sagacious guardians, and platitudinous sidekicks.
Actually, that could be fun.
A very good list. A lot of words here that I had never heard before and several others for which I didn’t know the definitions.
You might like to clarify your point about ‘belligerent’, though. A belligerent is an entity participating in war. The noun form of the adjective ‘belligerent’ is ‘belligerence’.
I would also say that “fecund” also means fertile. Great list!
An exquisite list, in deed.
I think you meant “Recalcitrant” and not “Recalcitant”? Just a small elision, however.
Thanks for a great list.
Thanks for this! Especially for “jejune”. I heard that one spoken aloud years ago, but didn’t know how to spell it (and no one I asked had ever heard of it), so I couldn’t look it up. Now I can finally use it!
Thanks for sharing these. I can’t imagine writing without adjectives. It always pains me to have to cut them.
As a writer for children, it is a challenge to find adjectives that are new words for kids, but simple enough for them to understand. Obviously, I cannot use “salubrious”, but “luminous,” “limpid,” “verdant,”and “withering” are delightful.
How about a list especially for young readers?
- Roberta B.
Interesting list. However, for some of the words, I see the following definitions as more accurate:
precipitate – should say precipitous to describe as steep. Precipitate as an adj means falling.
I love your site. The daily writings are magnificent. Your daily writing tips are useful! Unlike many other writing blogs or websites out there!
Fantastic list! Thank you for sharing it with us.
BEST DESCRIPTIVE SENTENCES
This post is a collection of some of the best sentences from 10 of my blog posts. They can also be found in my new book ‘Writing with Stardust’. To see the book and its accompanying workbook, just click the title: Writing with Stardust.
I hope you enjoy the post and I will upload another selection soon. With luck the sentences will inspire ideas for your writing. Take care for now. Liam.
1. It was womb quiet by the stream and even the moth-flutter had died down.
2. Pebbles whisked about in the underwash like little pieces of glitter.
3. A galaxy of dragonflies fizzed through the beams of light, wings a-glirr in the magical space between river and air.
1. The river was a fragile, universe-blue colour, like the subtle sweep of a painter’s brush.
2. The trout arced into the air, his body glistening, performing the ballet of the river. With a plunking sound, he darted back to the shadowed depths, his catch already safe in his spotted belly.
3. The mist faded, allowing the Technicolor of nature to be turned up like a light switch.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING:
1. The autumn sky was as bright as Zeus’ eyes. Nary a cloud blemished its bliss-blue complexion and the sun was like a glowing medallion pinned to a sheet of white paper.
2. Branched lightning lit up the Stygian sky. It was like liquid, golden ore streaks were being forged into forks above my head.
3. Wriggling and writhing with the pain of its existence, it flashed once, glossy and polished, like the cold, gold prongs of the Apocalypse.
1. The fire’s lambent light stole away the velvet-black shadows dancing on the wall.
2. Thyme-filled turkeys sizzled on the oven foil.
3. An angel was perched on top of the tree, glittering with its flash-silver lustre.
LOST AT SEA:
1. The emptiness in my soul matches the spiritless sky and the featureless waterscape around me.
2. I am floundering in a sea of divine-blue quicklime and there’s no escape.
3. The moon casts down splinters of Solomon-gold, making the sea-crests sparkle like elf light.
1. Fog-tinted fairy trees stand alone in fields, noosed by coils of dragon breath.
2. Owl light replaces daylight as autumn comes to a close. The seething energy of the forest becomes vow silent as promises to nature are kept.
3. A weak pitter-patter is heard, but is not the sound of children’s feet. It is the centuries-old, hissing drip of raindrops in caves.
THE BEACH AT DAWN:
1. The horizon seemed to be stitched with a line of silver.
2. The seagulls wheeled and arced, their raucous cries ringing off the cliff. There was a strange glamour to their timeless call as they soared between the wands of God-goldened light.
3. A single yacht bobbed and lolled in the incoming tide, like a toy in a bath. Its lights winked saucily as the wave-crests rose gently.
DESCRIBING A LAKE:
1. A broad span of Tuscany-blue sky was slashed above the lake, making it appear like nature’s amphitheatre.
2. Tolkein-esque ferns swayed beside a brook that spiralled down from a turf moor.
3. At the bottom, smooth-edged stones glowed amber with a witchery uncommon to the modern world.
1. Spring is glee. It’s a fizzy tonic, like a slowly overflowing bottle of bubbling joy.
2. Thumb-plump bumblebees, wings a-thrum, loot from honeypots of mustard-yellow flowers.
3. Overhead, an exodus of banished birds appears as if out of a Celtic fairytale.
1. A sol-fa of song erupts as the stars fade away, the ancient alchemy of the dawn chorus.
2. The perpetual skies of summer are buckled with clouds and they flare up in a luminous, neon-blue when the mood takes them.
3. A goulash of scents twirls above the satin soft petals and the pear sweet taste in the air is a blessed joy.
Now here are 10 of my favourite words to use in an essay on nature. Some words just ‘do’ it for you. Having said that, they have a pleasing sound also. This is called a ‘phonoaesthetic’ quality. I had to put in ‘wood sorrel’. For some reason, it’s always fascinated me. Maybe it is because it’s an edible plant. Anyway, here are the words. You can also look up my hundred favourite words to use in an essay by clicking here: https://descriptivewriting.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/ioo-beautiful-words/
10. wood sorrel
(……and my favourite word of all time is frazil-silver. Frazil is the old word for the ice crystals tumbling down a mountain stream.) It’s difficult to beat that.
To get the most comprehensive descriptive book on the market, click here and all will be revealed: Writing with Stardust.
I hope you enjoyed the post.