I am looking for a word or short phrase that best describes a scenario in which an author seems to have copiously placed uncommon or higher educated vocabulary in a lower reading level book. Meaning that the book seems to be for a fourth grade reading level and then every few paragraphs an English Doctorate level word appears, possibly to impress readers.

  • 1
    There's lexiphanic, which is using pretentious wording or language, but it doesn't have the sense of intermittence you wanted. – Marthaª Feb 9 '11 at 19:28
  • 2
    @Martha: Oh, juicy word. Thank you for improving my life. I especially love that its usage is almost inescapably autological. :) – chaos Feb 9 '11 at 19:37
  • It's not a direct answer - but anachronistic could be a nice fit. Depends if the word(s) are still in common usage and/or you're referring to the usage pejoratively. Another pejorative choice would be pedantically. Lexiphanic is fantastic - I can't wait to use it :) – aronchick Feb 9 '11 at 19:52
  • @Martha: In the comments on my answer, it turns out that lexiphanic is exactly what OP was looking for. You should write your comment as an answer so it can get upvoted and accepted. :) – chaos Feb 9 '11 at 19:52
  • @chaos: posted an answer as requested. – Marthaª Feb 9 '11 at 20:05

10 Answers 10


[As requested, posting this as an answer instead of a comment]

There's lexiphanic, which is using pretentious wording or language, but it doesn't have the sense of intermittence you wanted.

(I found the word by plugging "using long words" into a reverse dictionary. The first two results, sesquipedalian and sesquipedality, are also good, but they don't necessarily have a negative connotation like lexiphanic.)

  • 1
    Almost any usage of "lexiphanic" would be lexiphanic. :) – Mechanical snail May 30 '12 at 10:06

I nominate erudition spikes.

Visualize a chart with the book's erudition level on the Y axis, time or position on the X axis. These sudden intrusions of sesquipedalian loquacity will appear as spikes on the graph.

  • Would it still fit if the words weren't long, just uncommon enough for an avid reader to have to look up? – user4809 Feb 9 '11 at 19:32
  • @Rochelle: Sure. Erudition is about education level, not word length. I used "sesquipedalian" just to be cute. :) – chaos Feb 9 '11 at 19:36
  • I know that this particular author has a degree in English. However, the saga she has written seems to be for a less learned group of readers. I am just trying to pinpoint a more compact description for her use of more learned level vocabulary that seems out of place in this set of books. – user4809 Feb 9 '11 at 19:40
  • Basically, I am a college student that has the brain wracking task of writing a college level paper about the middle school level, Twilight series. – user4809 Feb 9 '11 at 19:44
  • 1
    @Rochelle: That's what I love about the word lexiphanic; it can hardly be used without being pretentious, and therefore making one's work itself lexiphanic. Mmm, like me some autological words. :) – chaos Feb 9 '11 at 20:10

More specifically,

the word is "Grandiloquent", if the writer has a tendency to use grand words, instead of common ones;


"Magniloquent", if the writer has a tendency to use long/large words, instead of short/small ones


Circumlocutious/circumlocutory are the words you are looking for.

M-w.com defines circumlocution (of which the above words are adjectival forms,) as :

1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea 2 : evasion in speech

  • 1
    For the benefit of the OP and fellow ELU members, please provide a reference source and definition in your answer. – Kristina Lopez Mar 20 '13 at 17:45

I would tend to use uncromulent.

  • Tee hee! Thank you for embiggening our vocabulary! :) – Marthaª Feb 9 '11 at 23:51

ostentation - Ambitious display; pretentious parade; vain show; display intended to excite admiration or applause; A show or spectacle

sententious - excessive moralizing


That was one of J.R.R. Tolkien's strategies in writing for children. He thought that by inserting bits of higher-level phrases and vocabulary, children would learn more from reading.

So, to invent a word, I suggest using 'Tolkienesque'.

  • It's taken, unfortunately. Means epic high fantasy with elves and dwarves (as opposed to dwarfs) and whatnot, more or less. – chaos Feb 9 '11 at 19:13
  • I am new to this site but if you can tell me how to give credit to Martha I would be more than happy to after I get out of class. – user4809 Feb 9 '11 at 20:05
  • Just click on the UP arrow over the number to the left of her post. That said, "Intermittent anomalous vocabulation" is often a poor teaching technique. Woggle-Bug in the Oz books used it extensively. He was not well liked. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 27 '12 at 16:32

You might also consider euphuistic.

  • Elaborate alliteration, antitheses, and similes? Not sure I get the correlation. thefreedictionary.com/Euphuistic – vapcguy Apr 27 '15 at 22:29
  • @vapcguy: When I answered this question 4 years ago there was a different title and different content. It was about high-sounding words, not simply something being "out of place." – Robusto Apr 28 '15 at 2:12
  • There, I rolled it back. Read the text of the question and you'll see that bears it out. – Robusto Apr 28 '15 at 2:14
  • Uncommon or not - that wasn't my issue with euphuistic. I found it's meaning doesn't have anything to do with being out-of-place. – vapcguy Apr 28 '15 at 2:17
  • Read the text of the question, not the title. OP just expressed himself poorly.. – Robusto Apr 28 '15 at 9:23

Saltation, from the Latin saltus (“to leap”) has senses including "any abrupt transition", "a light springing movement upwards or forwards", "the leaping movement of sand or soil particles [transported] over an uneven surface", "a mutation that drastically changes the phenotype of an organism or species". It might be used figuratively to indicate uneven or untoward wording: "Her vocabulary's saltation was alarming."


I'd use eccentric:

Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern.


  • Downvoter, care to explain? – vapcguy Apr 28 '15 at 20:24