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Teach me a Word!

This could be considered a new challenge...I'll leave that up to you.

By Mackenzie DavisPublished 18 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - September 2023
Teach me a Word!
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

In every poem I write, every word I read, and every mind that is better, smarter, quicker than my own, I desire to know vast swaths of vocabulary. Said another way: words inspire me to learn more words.

I read new words all the time, but my memory consistently fails me. What I need is a list I can read over and over, to cement these words in my brain. A localized area for new words to appear is even more convenient, a jumping off point for this list.

The thing is… I don’t want to read a dictionary. I’m very tempted and perhaps I will do this too. However, I could just ask all of you for input. So...


I have a request for you. (Yes you, you person with eyes reading this right now.) Teach me a new word, if you please. 🙃


Well…Meh; this is wiggly for me. I'd love to learn a new word, but like I said, I could just read a dictionary. So, it's wiggly.

Let me explain.

The newness of the word is secondary, perhaps even tertiary. If it's new to you great—I'd just like to know why you chose it. If it's new to me—yay! But you can't, of course, pick based off of what words I may or may not know.

Which means that, realistically, common words work. Let me read it with new eyes, though. Give it more life, paint it brighter, sing it with different emphasis.


Pick a prompt, if you prefer.

  1. If you could pass on only one lesson to a person you’ve never met face to face, and it had to be a single word, what would you choose?
  2. If you had to save someone’s life and you could only speak one word, what would it be?
  3. If your nemesis knew one word more than you did, what word could you pick that would stun their knowledge, and make you the victor in having the best lexicon?
  4. Do you know any words that are metaphors all on their own?
  5. Is there a word that you both love AND hate?
  6. What’s a word that confuses you, utterly and completely?
  7. Do you speak another language? What’s a word in that language that doesn’t translate into English?
  8. What word blew your mind — be it through spelling, definition, shape on the page, etc.— when you learned it?

I don’t want a random word from a Google search of "cool," or "uncommon" words. Or anything like that. Pitch your word to me; let me see what you see in it.


I have this thing where I associate colors or shapes or memories with letters, numbers, words, sentences, etc. Recently, I've been wondering about how often I choose words for a poem or story based on how my visualization fits the theme of whatever I'm working on. I’m coming to realize that it happens a lot. It’s very visual, but, as you can see, not exactly in the cinematic sense...

For me, 'M' is purple; the number '8' is maroon; 'fiction' is dark blue, like the ocean under a clear, crescent moon; and 'I love you' is a mix of light blue, yellow, light pinkish-red. Literally every word carries something like this in my mind's eye.

If I'm weird, that's cool. But how does your brain interact with language? I want to know if you have words that stand out in your life in some way. I simultaneously want to learn a new word, one that means something to you, and understand why it means that.

Teach me a word!


About the Creator

Mackenzie Davis

“When you are describing a shape, or sound, or tint, don’t state the matter plainly, but put it in a hint. And learn to look at all things with a sort of mental squint.” Lewis Carroll

All work is owned by Mackenzie Davis.

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  • Poppy10 days ago

    Omg also, I love all the words AI have stolen 😭😭😭 Or at least I used to, now I hate them and it's so sad. Tapestry, Melody... all those ones. Such good words before...

  • Mona Yonus13 days ago

    Petrichor is my new fav word and it is the earthy smell after rain! It feels very Ethereal to me.

  • Novel Allen14 days ago

    OHHH! Mackenzie, may I just say how SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICALLY-ESPIALIDOSHOUS-LY wonderful this story is. I actually used to read the dictionary, and the colors and letter and numbers, I identify with. I use words and I can taste the beauty of them, the sheer pleasure of using them is divine. Transcendental, preternatural, supernatural and mystical.

  • Kendall Defoe 15 days ago

    My French is not perfect, but I know the term "Jouissance" does not translate perfectly into English. It is used to define a very extreme form of bliss...usually sexual. Ha, ha... So, Top Story, you say? 🏅

  • Great job and Congratulations on your Top Story and New Words 💬 ❤️💯✌️🎉📝

  • Carminum15 days ago

    I love learning new words, even if most of them never stick in my memory for long. Some words I collect are probably obvious to native speakers (since I’m not one); but many of them are rather rare. I also love learning etymologies; and they help with memorization. (A sampling of some of my recent discoveries: ‘nutant’, ‘reboant’, ‘rostrate’, ‘style [as gnomon]’, ‘spinet’, ‘toggery’, ‘dyspeptic’ [as temperament], ‘pilgrim’ [in the back of a bonnet], ‘prie-dieu’, ‘obloquy’.) ––– I have a soft spot for hard, monosyllabic vocables: (lesser-known meanings for) brusque, blunt Anglo-Saxon words. A gorgeous example is ‘scud’, for “light clouds driven rapidly before the wind” & other meanings. Is this not the essence of poetry: to convey much by minimal means? In that sense, ‘scud’ is plenty poetic. (Those short words also tend to be surpassingly polysemic, steeped in history – fecund, then, for poetry.) And while harsh or angular in their reticence, they exude the sort of focused force that I admire in all the arts: something like the brutality of a Pollock blotch, the raucous beauty of Tom Waits beat-boxing. ‘Ruck’, ‘crag’, ‘crab’, ‘rook’, ‘crow’ ––– muscular music to my ears, the British brawn of a Teutonic tongue! ––– As for words difficult to translate, here’s one from French – with one mouthful of a meaning: ‘Gribouille’: a naïve, foolish person who rushes into greater difficulties to avoid smaller ones. ––– One word I find beautiful is ‘gloom’ – in whose dusky dark may loom (by impending) sheer blackness. Its ‘l’ and ‘m’ are a dulcet delight – they *mollify* the vocable – but the ‘g’ gives it a slight, incipient edge. ‘Murk’ too is pulchritudinous (*physically* pretty, precisely: in sound & graph), being another Anglo-Saxon nigh-grunt, exiguous in letters, with a perfect balance of the softness of the ‘m’ and the hardness of the ‘k’. ––– A lesson passed on in a single word: ‘sequacity’, to avoid – in the sense of a servile credulity of the mind. I scout [= spurn] sequacity – for it makes people fall prey to ideologies, at worst excuse or commit violence; and at best it breeds arrant conformity. A sequacious worldview is a parcel [= bad batch] of dogmas. ––– *nerdiness intensifies* “You may know some words; but give me one” – I’d keleusmatically tell my nemesis, not without [litotes] persiflage – “only found in an incunabulum!”

  • Chloe Fitzwater15 days ago

    Ah, yes, new words. I am in love with the word "brae," which I recently learned from reading a Lemony Snicket book. I had absolutely positively never heard the word before, and upon stumbling across the fact that it means "hill," I have stopped using the world "hill" almost completely. "Brae" sounds so more convicting and mysterious, and perhaps not many people know of the word. "Brae" reminds me of horses, or a stable, maybe... and galloping down the gentle slope of a mountain (or brae, hah). I love this word. You?

  • Kristen Balyeat15 days ago

    Ohhh, Mackenzie, this is an incredible prompt! I’ll be meditating on this, and I can’t wait to read the comment section! 💫💞

  • Eldritch! And lugubrious! My two favorite words!

  • Cathy holmes15 days ago

    Great article and I'm loving the comments. My favourite words are usually inappropriate ones, so I'll bow out.. Congrats on the TS.

  • Kendall Defoe 15 days ago

    A word that blew my mind: galimatias. Sounds tricky, doesn't it? It actually means ''gobbledygook'' or nonsense. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gobbledygook

  • Rob Angeli15 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story, now you'll really get a deluge of new words! :)

  • Gina C.15 days ago

    Oh, I love this idea so much, Mackenzie! 🥹❤️ I adore learning new words as well and incorporating them into my work. There are soo many new words I've experimented with recently in poetry - one that immediately comes to mind is "amaranthine", which I used in my poem "The Legacy of Sound". I love this word for so many reasons. 1) I think it's just a gorgeous-sounding word - pleasing to the ear! 2) It has a lovely meaning: "beautiful and unfading; everlasting." 3) Spanish is my second language, and I see how this word was derived from Latin: "amar" in Spanish means "to love". 4) I adored your mention of how you associate words and letters with colors. Amaranthine actually also means "a deep, purple-red color". 😍 At least in my mind, this is very fitting! I feel like "Amaranthine" could even be the name of a gemstone. 🤗

  • I don't think this word fit any of your prompts above. So I'll just say it, lol. I came across the word Cantankerous in one of Cathy's poem and I fell in love with that word! It describes one part of me very accurately, lol!

  • Andrei Z.17 days ago

    In Belarusian there's a word for a shooting star: 'Znička'. I find it beautiful and unique, 'cause there are not many languages that have the word for it (I cannot name any; German doesn't count lol). I used to be that crazy guy 'reading' a dictionary and taking notes some time during middle school I think. Well, it was not a silly 'I wanna know all the words' read but a quite targeted search for words from certain specific areas: I dunno, like kitchen accessories, animals, mushrooms, etc.

  • Hannah Moore17 days ago

    I really like the word "bleed". Its so visceral. You say bleed and I get this flash of red, which is so attention grabbing, I mean, evolutionarily, we need our attention grabbed by that red - but then, underneath its base shock, its so subtle, this osmotic passage from one context to another - theres a seeping, melding fluidity. Its a brilliant word. I also like Obfuscate. Its kind of onomatopoeic. I feel like I am literally falling over it trying to get to something else. But my single word, to pass on, as cheesy as it sounds, would be love. I dont like the word love, like, physically, I find it ugly. I recognise the word love describes a multitude of things. But in all its forms, the lesson I would want to pass on is love. I find particular letters more or less attractive. I dont like v. Or K. I like C and S. Soft sides, not hard corners.

  • ema17 days ago

    Hi! My word to you is "captivated". I'm not a native English speaker, so many words don't come to me, especially in poems and I have to translate them from Italian. So I was trying to figure out how to translate "affascinata", because the english word "fascinated" doesn't sound right to me. So I found the word "captivated". However captivated doesn't have as nice a sound as "affascinata", to me "captivated" has a harder sound, also in my mind it is associated with "capture". In the end I chose the word "seduced", which I perceive with a slight different meaning, but it can fit. But the word "captivated" keeps rolling around in my head, so I'm curious to know how you perceive this word and what it sounds like to you. 😊

  • I love this! I was recently taken with Corsair, found in Addison’s poem, meaning pirate! Such a beautiful word that I had never heard before ✨

  • Rob Angeli18 days ago

    Hmm... this is a fun idea for writerly sorts. What about the word "mantic" having to do with prophesy or magical foresight. "The chamber hummed with the mantic mantras of the monk." :) Have fun.

  • Lamar Wiggins18 days ago

    I love words that convey a ton of meaning. Words do this in general but then there are words like extrapolate. Cool sounding word to me but try and define it with 5 words or less. I recently learned 'obdurate' [stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action:] thanks to Paul Stewart. At one time or another, this word has applied to all of us especially if the situation is reasonable enough for us to consider changing our opinions and actions. And I did choose one of your prompts. Number 5. Is there a word that you both love AND hate? Yes!, Plenty. But I chose pacify. Cool word but for some reason my brain likes to correlate it with a baby's pacifier. It's an annoying distraction when you are reading and that word comes up that reminds me of an object, lol. I really wanted to do #2 but for the life of me the only word I could think of was "Breathe" 😅 I may be back to do that one if I can think of the right word. That's a really tough one! Thank you for sharing this. 💖

  • Dana Stewart18 days ago

    I love the word gravitas. It sounds so sophisticated and exotic, its root word is Latin. It’s rare for a word to sound like its meaning.

  • The word I've had in my head all week is coquettish. (I did have to google the spelling!) I can't recall if I read it recently or it was in a show I watched, but it's just kinda stuck :)

  • Kendall Defoe 18 days ago

    Callypygian: having very shapely buttocks. You're welcome. 🍑

  • My favorite is "evanesce" inasmuch as that is what the vast majority of us do, simply living our lives the best we can, not worrying too much about how long we will be remembered, only that we have done our best even as we watch ourselves evanesce, fading from all memory.

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