Over 200 vocabulary words collected from Infinite Jest

Rob Hoffman
Jan 28, 2017 · 6 min read

David Foster Wallace’s lexicon was the stuff of legends. His widely acclaimed novel Infinite Jest contains over 20,000 unique words. While working my way through this extraordinarily lengthy and complex book, I defined and recorded every word I didn’t know. The resulting list is over 200 words long. Anyone who has read DFW has at some point wondered: why does he know words like “Crepuscular”, and how does he know it well enough to employ it in a sentence? Well, now you can too:

  1. Matriculate: Formal process of entering a university
  2. Mottle: Mark with spots or smears of colour.
  3. Circumflex: this symbol ^
  4. Ellipse: Oval shape
  5. Sheaf: Bundle of objects of a single kind (esp. papers)
  6. Lapidary: Speaking in a concise and effective way, suitable to be carved into stone.
  7. Stasis: A period or state of inactivity.
  8. Impropriety: A failure to show honesty or modesty.
  9. Sotto: Intentionally lowering the volume of ones voice for effect.
  10. Nepotism: Favour given to relatives and friends.
  11. Sallow: Of an unhealthy yellow or brown colour
  12. Hirsute: Hairy
  13. Countenance: Accept as possible; admit as so.
  14. Caustic: Sarcastic ina scathing manner.
  15. Martial: Warlike
  16. Supine: Lying face upwards.
  17. Mollify: Appease the anger or anxiety of someone.
  18. Gallant: Brave; Heroic
  19. Procure: Obtain with special care.
  20. Rapacious: Excessively greedy.
  21. Debauch: Destroy the moral purity of; corrupt.
  22. Oblique: Slanting
  23. Fidelity: Faithful to a person or cause.
  24. Apprise: Inform or tell someone
  25. Pejorative: Expressing contempt or disapproval.
  26. Locution: A particular and distinct style of speaking (a phrase)
  27. Intonation: Rise and fall of the voice.
  28. Sumptuous: Splendid and expensive looking.
  29. Detritus: Waste or debris of any kind.
  30. Penitent: Repentent
  31. Nubile: A girl sexually mature
  32. Coltish: Energetic but awkward in one’s movements or behaviour.
  33. Petulant: Childishly sulky or ill-tempered.
  34. Fantod: A state of uneasiness.
  35. Benighted: In a state of intellectual or moral ignorance.
  36. Commensurate: Equal in measure or extent.
  37. Simian: Ape-Like
  38. Pulmonary: Relating to the lungs
  39. Kismet: Destiny or fate
  40. Loquacious: Tending to talk a lot.
  41. Acumen: The ability to make good judgements and quick decisions.
  42. Dipsomania: Alcoholism
  43. Tee-Totaling: Abstinance from booze
  44. Pathos: A quality that evokes sadness.
  45. Elegiar: Having a mournful quality.
  46. Convolved: Roll or coil together.
  47. Deliquesce: Become liquid,typically during decomposition.
  48. Plangent: Loud, reverberating and often melancholy.
  49. Dentale: Having a toothlike serrated edge.
  50. Rictus: A fixed grimace or grin.
  51. Punitive: Intended as punishment.
  52. Virile: Strength and energy
  53. Privation: A state or ultimate deprivity.
  54. Screaming Meemies: Excessive nervousness.
  55. Axiomatic: Self evident and unquestionable.
  56. Perfidious: Deceitful and untrustworthy.
  57. Duplicitous: Deceitful and untrustworthy.
  58. Fallow: Uncultivated land.
  59. Denude: Make bare.
  60. Fulvous: Reddish yellow.
  61. Tawny: The colour of thick piss. (yellow brown)
  62. Verdant: Green with grass and vegetation.
  63. Seminal: Strongly influencing later development
  64. Placid: Not easily upset or excited.
  65. Attrition: Slowly reducing in strength or effectiveness by beating down, physically or mentally.
  66. Atavistic: Reverting to something ancient.
  67. Acutance: The sharp quality or a photo or painting.
  68. Bequest: A legacy.
  69. Torpid: Lethargic, slow and languid, tired and slothlike.
  70. Derisive: Like divisive but aimed at someone personal.
  71. Sangfroid: Speaking in a calm cool manner.
  72. Gestalt: A whole that is greater than the sum of its divided parts.
  73. Gibbous: A near fully exposed moon, but not quite a full circle.
  74. Solipsism: The view/theory that the only thing that we can know for certain, is that we, ourselves, exist.
  75. Palsy: Uncontrollable shaking.
  76. Incredulity: Unable to believe something.
  77. Insolent: Rude and arrogant lack of respect.
  78. Reticulate: A web like series of lines that divides a surface or area, like the canals and tributaries that reticulate the flat planes.
  79. Nautical: Referring to something relevant to sailing, sailors, or ocean culture.
  80. Sumptuous: Excessive and garish, and attention seeking.
  81. Ostentatious: Pretentious and vulgar behaviour designed to attract attention.
  82. Verve: Vigor and excitement.
  83. Retrograde: To spin in the opposite direction that it normally does. To move backwards.
  84. Undulate: Move with a smooth wavelike motion.
  85. Cavalier: Casually apathetic; indifferent.
  86. Erumpent: Bursting forth or through a surface.
  87. Suborned: Bribed to commit an illegal crime.
  88. Impetuous: Done rashly without thought or care.
  89. Denuded: Make bare. (de-NUDE-ed)
  90. Laconic: To use few words.
  91. Malodorous: Foul smelling. (mal-ODOROUS)
  92. Diaphoretic: Inducing perspiration.
  93. Connote: Imply or suggest.
  94. Insipid: Lacking flavour. Boring.
  95. Germane: Relevant to the subject at hand.
  96. Doff: Remove an article of clothing.
  97. Nix: Put an end to.
  98. Monomaniacal: Obsessed with one specific topic.
  99. Perfunctory: Carried out easily, effortlessly. “The kids a natural!”
  100. Pernicious: Having a harmful effect in a gradual way.
  101. Mirth: Amusement and laughter.
  102. Elision: Omitting a sound when speaking, or a passage when writing.
  103. Propitiate: Win or regain the favour of.
  104. Postulate: To assume or suggest (truth).
  105. Tryst: A private romantic rendezvous between lovers.
  106. Reticulate: A web pattern. To divide a surface in the way that canals and tributaries divide a flat plane.
  107. Hypertonic: Hyper. With energy and increased pace, pressure or volume.
  108. Morose: Sullen and ill-tempered.
  109. Sardonic: Grimly mocking/cynical
  110. Extol: Praise
  111. Imbibe: Drink Alcohol
  112. Assiduous: Showing great care and perseverance
  113. Sedulous: Showing great care and perseverance.
  114. Prim: Librarian like. Stuffy and formal.
  115. Interloper: Someone who enters something where they are unwanted.
  116. Usurp: Obtain illegally.
  117. Cadge: Ask for or obtain.
  118. Comely: Pleasant to look at.
  119. Portents: An intuition that something bad was about to happen.
  120. Dysphoric: Opposite of euphoric.
  121. Incontenence: Lack of control.
  122. Hapless: Unfortunate
  123. Avail: Use/ take advantage of
  124. Perenial: Eternal, infinite and indeffinite.
  125. Convolved: Roll or wind together
  126. Lascivious: Overt sexual advance or indication e.g. winking.
  127. Lissome: Thin, supple, graceful.
  128. Furtively: Secretly.
  129. Haughty: Arrogantly superior.
  130. Untenable: Unable to be defended from objection or attack.
  131. Attenuate: Reduce the force/value of.
  132. Deference: Humble submission and respect.
  133. Puerile: Childishly silly and trivial
  134. Picayune: Petty and worthless
  135. Staid: Boring and un-adventuresome
  136. Invective: Harsh/abusive language “eg. you dirty rotten no good slenderizing son of a bitch!”
  137. Verity: A true principle of belief.
  138. Vitriol: Harsh and bitter criticism.
  139. Fiat: A decree
  140. Idiosyncrasy: A strange way of behaving. (e.g. he had to be the first one in the car)
  141. Hubris: Excessive pride and self-confidence.
  142. Distended: Bloated from the inside due to pressure.
  143. Prolix: Of a speech or writing that uses unnecessary amount of words.
  144. Abscond: Leave hurriedly and secretly.
  145. Sordid: Morally dirty.
  146. Prescient: Having or showing knowledge of events before they take place.
  147. Redolent: Strongly reminiscent or suggestive of something.
  148. Stolid: Calm and emotionless.
  149. Simpatico: On the same page/wavelength.
  150. Inexorable: Impossible to stop or prevent.
  151. Halcyon: Of a time past that was ideal and blissful and peaceful.
  152. Amanuensis: Assistant to a master artist
  153. Aphasiac: Loss of the ability to properly produce thoughts, or language expressing those thoughts.
  154. Mollify: Appease the anger of someone.
  155. Incipient: In an initial state; beginning to happen or develop.
  156. Capricious: Subject to sudden and unpredictable changes of mood.
  157. Miasma: Unpleasant odour.
  158. Litany: A tedious and repetitive series.
  159. Revenant: A person who has returned, seemingly from the dead.
  160. Lampoon: Publicly criticize by using ridicule, sarcasm, or irony.
  161. Pernicious: Harmful, especially in a gradual way.
  162. Inordinate: Unusually large.
  163. Vestige: A trace of something on the verge of, or already, extinct.
  164. Interdict: Prohibit or prevent something.
  165. Ebullient: Cheerful and energetic.
  166. Lassitude: Sapped for energy. Languidness.
  167. Pejorative: Expressive contempt or disapproval
  168. Obstreperous: Noisy and difficult to control.
  169. Liaison: Communication between professionals and/or businesses that solidifies a close working relationship.
  170. Panoply: Complete or impressive collection of things.
  171. Aplomb: Self-confidence or assurance.
  172. Skirl: Shrill wailing sound (like subway pulling into station).
  173. Crepuscular: Relating to twilight.
  174. Threnody: A lament.
  175. Opine: Hold and state as one’s opinion.
  176. Confabulate: Engage in conversation.
  177. Preposition: The word preceding noun “the man on the boat” or “between walls”
  178. Negated: Nullify.
  179. Repose: A state of rest, peace, tranquility.
  180. Ensconced: Settle oneself into a secretive, hidden place, safe and comfortable.
  181. Sojourn: Temporary stay.
  182. Attenuated: Unnaturally thin.
  183. Undulate: Move in a wave like motion.
  184. Aphasia: Inability to speak.
  185. Aprowl: Stealthy search for something.
  186. Idolatry: To make an idol of.
  187. Lacteal: Of milk.
  188. Prostrate: Lying stretched out on the ground with your face downwards.
  189. Declivity: Downward slope.
  190. Coruscant: Glittering; sparkling.
  191. Fenestrated: Covered in windows.
  192. Mastication: Chewing.
  193. Nuptial: Relating to weddings.
  194. Connubial: Relating to the relationship of a married couple.
  195. Prandial: Relating to dinner or lunch.
  196. Reticent: Not readily revealing one’s thoughts or feelings.
  197. Salience: Importance.
  198. Inveterate: A long established habit/activity.
  199. Malefic: Causing or capable of causing harm/destruction.
  200. Dysphoria: Like “Euphoric” but with a dystopian connotation — depression, sorrow, anxiety.
  201. Anhedonia: Inability to feel pleasure.
  202. Didactic: Patronizingly intending to teach from a ground of perceived moral superiority.
  203. Mordant: A critical, caustic quality.
  204. Incontinent: Lacking self restraint.
  205. Instantiate: Represent (as an instance of).
  206. Venery: Sexual indulgence.
  207. Chicanery: The use of trickery to achieve a political, financial or legal end.
  208. Inguinal: of the groin.
  209. Mercantile: of relating to commerce (merchants).
  210. Stolid: Calm, dependable, showing little emotion. (like stoic).
  211. Intoning: To say in a monotone sort of way.
  212. Somnolent: Sleepy; drowsy.
  213. Turgid: Swollen or bombastic.
  214. Obsequious: Servile.
  215. Confabulated: Engage in a convorsation or fabricate memories to make up for memory loss.
  216. Trellises: A framework of wooden or metal bars used to support fruit trees.

English/Spanish speaking journalist and documentary filmmaker. Bylines in @Fusion, @POLITICOMag, @ThinkProgress and @ClimateDesk. Instagram @Robhoffman

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