Instead of using a common word like "sad", one can use "morose" to make a more vivid image. Or in professional fields words like "pedagogy" are used instead of a more common word like "education". We usually see this kind of vocabulary in academic writing or literature, which require ideas to be expressed more precisely than normally.

Is there a name for this? I have thought about:

  • advanced vocabulary, but it doesn't express the idea of giving the speakers or the writers "liberty of thinking"
  • GRE vocabulary. In fact I had the idea of this kind of vocabulary when I studied for GRE, but I don't think taking the name of a test is a good use here.
  • academic vocabulary. Well, a large portion of it is academic vocabulary, but "morose" is not an academic vocabulary, is it?

Example usage: by learning the ______ vocabulary, my writing is sharper and mightier.

I would like the word to convey the sense of "making the message more precise"


5 Answers 5


Most of the time, "plain" words have synonyms that sound more sophisticated or advanced. These synonyms are usually obscure and sometimes difficult to understand. Certain dictionaries, Google's in particular, will classify them as archaic, meaning the word is dated, rare, meaning the word is uncommonly used, or literary, meaning the word is almost always used in writing and literature rather than speech and everyday use.

Otherwise, these words are known by a very wide variety of terms, the most common being the first and third you mentioned: advanced and academic vocabulary. I have also heard this broad category referred to as "high-leveled", "sophisticated", and "intellectual".

  • "Sophisticated" seems right to me
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 5:16

Florid is a great one.

Florid: (of language) using unusual words or complicated rhetorical constructions. [Oxford Dictionaries]


The closest adjective I found is ornate:

1.1(Of literary style) using unusual words and complex constructions. [Lexico]


I can't tell, since you also throw in the suggestion of a more precise meaning, but in most of the cases that I'm guessing you have in mind there is no added precision. There is mainly a shift from words of Anglo-Saxon origin to words of Latin (e.g. French) origin.

In the latter context, and especially for academese, I'd offer the adjective "hifalutin".

Such words are often associated with having a larger vocabulary because they are often learned after similar-meaning Anglo-Saxon words are learned. This does not mean that their use is necessarily, or even usually, more precise.

Too often it means that someone who does not in fact have such a large vocabulary or who cannot (or cannot be bothered to) express things precisely tries to hide this by seeming to sound knowledgeable (erudite) and authoritative.

Le mot juste in a given context might just as easily be a simple, everyday word borrowed or derived from Anglo-Saxon as one borrowed or derived from Latin. This is in spite of the impression you might get reading academic writing.

An exception is of course those terms defined in the sciences (esp. medical and biological) to have very specific meanings and which are constructions based on bits of Latin or Greek.


"Exact" fits snugly in the blank.

You could recast that sentence in many ways and get a range of possible choices-- e.g., "By fortifying my vocabulary, my writing is sharper and mightier."

  • 1
    Exactness is a separate dimension of speech from what the OP had in mind. Morose (OP's own example) is not particularly exact. On the other hand, one litre of milk is quite exact, event though it uses only the most basic vocabulary.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 19:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.