5 Words That Will Make You Sound Smarter Instantly

Ditch some commonly used words for these synonyms that will impress your friends.

circle

With an estimated million words in the English language, there are a lot of ways you can express yourself with your vocabulary. However, not all words are created equal if you're trying to make yourself sound smarter. In fact, an oft-cited 2005 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology actually concluded that using unnecessary, long, hard-to-define words made a person seem less intelligent than people who used simpler language. But there are certain words that can have the opposite effect. If you want to sound smarter, we've rounded up five words that will do the trick. And for more words you should toss out, avoid these 5 Words to Ditch From Your Vocabulary ASAP, Experts Say.

1
Austere

Shot of two young designers working in an modern office
iStock

Merriam-Webster recommends adding "austere" into your vocabulary as a way to "enrich a conversation without sounding ridiculous." The word means to be "marked by rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial" and can be used to replace other descriptive words like "simple" or "plain." And for words that just made it into the dictionary, here are 20 Words You Won't Believe Are in the Dictionary Now.

2
Namely

Business persons in informal discussion
iStock

Susan Mackey-Kallis, an associate professor at Villanova University who teaches public speaking, told The New York Times that using the word "like" too often is a surefire way to make yourself sound less intelligent, especially to those older than you. Unfortunately, many people use "like" as a filler word when speaking. To help yourself sound smarter, switch it out. Instead of "like," use the word "namely," which is just another way to say "such as" or "that is." And for more words to get rid of, learn which 4 Words the Dictionary Says You Should Stop Using.

3
Per se

Colleagues standing in a small group discussing something while working at an office.
iStock

"Per se" is a phrase with Latin origins, used when referring to a single, particular thing. According to Vocabulary.com, in Latin it means "by itself," and it's a simple phrase that you can inject into sentences to make yourself sound more intelligent. And if you're over a certain age, make sure you know The One Word Older People Should Never Say.

4
Facade

Excited colleagues coming to common decision
iStock

"Facade" is another word with foreign origins that will make you sound smart. According to Merriam-Webster, you can use this word in several ways: It can be a synonym for "fake," or used to describe "the front of a building." And for more words to dazzle friends with, discover The 50 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language—And How to Use Them.

5
Infinitesimal

couple hanging out in Coffeeshop.
iStock

Sure, you can describe something as "small," or even "tiny," but that can grow tiresome. Instead, use the word "infinitesimal," which means "immeasurably or incalculably small." In fact, according to Merriam-Webster, this word actually "derives from the mathematical concept that a quantity can be divided endlessly; no matter how small, it can be subdivided into yet smaller fractions, or 'infinitesimals.'" And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
Filed Under
Best Life
Live smarter, look better,​ and live your life to the absolute fullest.
Get Our Newsletter Every Day!
Enter your email address to get the best tips and advice.
close modal
close modal
GET YOUR FREE GIFT
SUBSCRIBE