My 30 Favourite English Words

A random selection here of words I’m really fond of in English. I will write up a Chinese list later.


My 30 Favourite English Words

In no particular order.

1. cliché [陈词滥调]
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: French, past participle (used as a noun) of clicher ‘to stereotype.’

2. irony [no exact Chinese equivalent exists as far as I know; can be 反语 or 具有讽刺意味的事 depending on the situation]
ORIGIN early 16th cent. (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia ‘simulated ignorance,’ from eirōn ‘dissembler.’

3. malice [恶意]
ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin malitia, from malus ‘bad.’

4. gutter [排水沟]
ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French gotiere, from Latin gutta ‘a drop’; the verb dates from late Middle English, originally meaning ‘cut grooves in’ and later (early 18th cent.) used of a candle that melts rapidly because it has become channeled on one side.

5. perseverance [毅力]
ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French, from Latin perseverantia, from perseverant- ‘abiding by strictly,’ from the verb perseverare.

6. assertive [果断]
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin asserere ‘claim, affirm,’ from ad- ‘to’ + serere ‘to join.’

7. armadillo [犰狳]
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Spanish, diminutive of armado ‘armed man,’ from Latin armatus, past participle of armare ‘to arm.’

8. draconian [严酷的]
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from the Greek lawmaker Draco known for making harsh laws.

9. turbulence [气流]
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French, or from late Latin turbulentia, from turbulentus ‘full of commotion’.

10. schadenfreude [幸灾乐祸]
ORIGIN German Schadenfreude, from Schaden ‘harm’ + Freude ‘joy.’

11. prestige [声望]
ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (in the sense ‘illusion, conjuring trick’): from French, literally ‘illusion, glamour,’ from late Latin praestigium ‘illusion,’ from Latin praestigiae (plural) ‘conjuring tricks.’ The transference of meaning occurred by way of the sense ‘dazzling influence, glamour,’ at first depreciatory.

12. ubiquity [普遍存在]
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from modern Latin ubiquitas (from Latin ubique ‘everywhere,’ from ubi ‘where’) + -ous.

13. precarious [不稳定的]
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin precarius ‘obtained by entreaty’ (from prex, prec- ‘prayer’) + -ous.

14. precocious [早熟]
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin praecox, praecoc- (from praecoquere ‘ripen fully,’ from prae ‘before’ + coquere ‘to cook’) + -ious.

15. parochial [地方范围的]
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French, from ecclesiastical Latin parochialis ‘relating to an ecclesiastical district,’ from parochia (see parish) .

16. espouse [支持;赞成]
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense ‘take as a spouse’): from Old French espouser, from Latin sponsare, from sponsus ‘betrothed,’ past participle of spondere .

17. faux [假的]
ORIGIN French, literally ‘false.’

18. milieu [社交环境]
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: French, from mi ‘mid’ + lieu ‘place.’

19. passé [已过盛年的;凋谢的]
ORIGIN French, literally ‘gone by,’ past participle of passer .

20. blasé [漠不关心]
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: French, past participle of blaser ‘cloy,’ probably ultimately of Germanic origin.

21. wilt [枯萎]
ORIGIN late 17th cent. (originally dialect): perhaps an alteration of dialect welk ‘lose freshness,’ of Low German origin.

22. resentment [怨恨]
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Italian risentimento or French ressentiment, from obsolete French resentir.

23. fugitive [逃亡者]
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French fugitif, -ive, from Latin fugitivus, from fugere ‘flee.’

24. rapport [互信]
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: French, from rapporter ‘bring back.’

25. silhouette [轮廓]
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: named (although the reason remains obscure) after Étienne de Silhouette (1709–67), French author and politician.

26. mirage [海市蜃楼]
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from French, from se mirer ‘be reflected,’ from Latin mirare ‘look at.’

27. humblebrag [can’t think of a good Chinese translation – it’s similar to 装逼/装酷 though]
New word [2011]

28. plop [撲通]
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: imitative.

29. debonair [温文尔雅的;潇洒的]
ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘meek or courteous’): from Old French debonaire, from de bon aire ‘of good disposition.’

30. procrastination [拖延]
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin procrastinat- ‘deferred until tomorrow,’ from the verb procrastinare, from pro- ‘forward’ + crastinus ‘belonging to tomorrow’ (from cras ‘tomorrow’).


Question for discussion: What are your favourite English words, and why?

5 Comments to "My 30 Favourite English Words"

  1. 30/12/2011 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I notice that almost all your favourite English words are of Latinate/Old French origin – no love for geeky bluster, yachts, cookies or the humble lazy monkey?

  2. JB's Gravatar JB
    04/01/2012 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

    What? Geilivable isn’t on your list ? 😉

  3. Xuchen's Gravatar Xuchen
    19/01/2012 - 2:27 am | Permalink

    Muffin, Verbatim, Ambiguity… not in any order mind you.

  4. Chris's Gravatar Chris
    17/12/2013 - 7:39 pm | Permalink

    For translation: available. There doesn’t seem to be a good Chinese equivalent of this word, and incorporating it into a translation from Chinese helps it sound less Chinglish.

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