The question says it all.

I see a lot of examples on this site of a word that is accepted for a question, but I would never hear that word in my life. I may see it if I read something, but my friends, coworkers, and family would never use it.

Note: Bonus if the word would not describe itself!

  • 1
    Bonus? You could offer a "bounty".
    – Kris
    Sep 14, 2013 at 12:00

4 Answers 4


I'd go for...

recherche - exotic or obscure.
recondite - difficult to understand; known only by experts.

...either of which words could reasonably be used to describe the other.

Here are a few hundred written instances of recondite vocabulary to show it is used thus.

For a more common/informal alternative (i.e. - one which imho definitely doesn't "describe itself", OP could always say "recondite" is a highfalutin word (academics don't use that one, so they don't care if it's spelt highfaluten, hifalutin, highfaluting, or whatever).

  • Your last disclaiming sentence makes me wonder: are there other uses of ‘recondite’ that you feel are more common than this one? If I think of the word ‘recondite’, this usage (obscure/literary/academic vocabulary) is the very first association that comes to mind. Sep 13, 2013 at 18:58
  • @Janus: I too tend to associate recondite with literature (probably because it was a favourite term with one of my Lit Crit lecturers back in the day). It also turns up in the closely-related context of spiritual knowledge / wisdom, but to my mind it's more evocative of academic knowledge theoretically available to all, but in practice only of interest to a few. As opposed to arcane, which I tend to think of as jealously guarded knowledge (not normally available even if you want to access it). Sep 13, 2013 at 20:52

You are probably thinking of literary:

a. Appropriate to literature rather than everyday speech or writing.
b. Bookish; pedantic.

It is often used in dictionaries to denote that a word is used more in writing than in normal speech. See, for example, this definition of tartuffe:

literary or humorous

a religious hypocrite, or a hypocritical pretender to excellence of any kind. [from the name of the principal character (a religious hypocrite) in Molière's Tartuffe (1664)]

If you want to be more caustic, you could say that people on this site deliberately use obfuscating language.


You could use the adjective academic, which has these as definitions:

Learned or scholarly but lacking in worldliness, common sense, or practicality.

Scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world.

You could say that something was, for example, an academic point, an academic argument, or an academic question.

  • I think that word is definitely heading down the right track. Sep 13, 2013 at 17:29
  • 3
    Be careful with its usage, though: there’s a hell of a difference between saying, “This is largely an academic debate” and saying, “This debate is largely academic”! Sep 13, 2013 at 18:59

In case you want to put down someone who uses such words:

turgid : Excessively ornate or complex in style or language; grandiloquent. Ostentatiously lofty in style. Excessively embellished in style or language.
turgid prose / turgid speech / That hoity-toity Talia Ford is so over her head with that turgid, faux-intellectual swill that she takes for the English language.

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