To illustrate the question, badroit used the word "meretricious" meretriciously.

Is there an English word that describes highfalutin words like "meretricious" that are (gratuitously) used in place of better-understood words like "garish"?

The word may or may not be self-describing.

  • 6
    If meretricious is used to mean garish the technical term is error. Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:35
  • 4
    Mmm, sequipedalian?
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:38
  • Sequipedalian is very good. It's not so much about the length of the word though as its obscurity, but it seems sequipedalian probably fits both connotations.
    – badroit
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:40
  • 1
    Because they don't mean the same thing. The art of Bouguereau is not at all garish, but it is highly meretricious. Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:48
  • 1
    Not sure this is a duplicate of the linked question. This question seeks a word for a word. The other question seeks a word for a person.
    – badroit
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:46

4 Answers 4


Sesquipedalian literally means 'a foot and a half long', and was originally applied to unnecessarily long words (in Latin); it has expanded in English to include people who use such words.


In addition to TimLymington's excellent sesquipedalian, you might consider also grandiloquent. Its meaning tends more towards bombastic, so use just a dash if it fits your recipe. :-)


I assume you seek adjectives.

Ostentatious fits the bill:



  1. (dicty) intended to attract notice and impress others
    Synonyms: pretentious, dicty [slang, United States]. Similar to: flamboyant, flaunty
  2. (tasteless) of a display, tawdry or vulgar
    Synonyms: pretentious. Similar to: tasteless

Depending on the nature of the situation, you might consider flamboyant ("elaborate or excessively ornamented") or pretentious ("making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction").

  • Thanks, but I'm actually looking for a word to describe the word itself or its use. For example, sequipedalian suggested by @tchrist is quite good since it describes the character of the word itself.
    – badroit
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:39
  • @badroit True. Ostentatious describes less the nature of the word and more the nature of its use.
    – Anko
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 22:48

Bombast / bombastic will suit your requirements.

Bombast: pretentious inflated speech or writing

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