book reviews / words / writers resources

Book Review: Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words

The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words (Oxford)The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words

by Oxford University Press

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

This book is a wonder if your style of writing is a bit on the intellectual side or if you want an Anthony Hopkins type of character, ala Silence of the Lambs–educated, professorial, cerebral. Their dialogue and interior monologue must include words that are well-selected, pithy, yet meaningful in their spot. They become the signature of that person and the reader recognizes the character’s appearance on a scene by their speaking style. If that’s not your normal speaking style (as it isn’t for most of us), it can be tricky, but not impossible thanks to this book.

In my case, I love words. I keep a list of my five hundred favorite words (like abecederian and apocryphal). I enjoy finding that one word to replace ten others–

  • dew point
  • heuristic
  • curmudgeon

…or the exact word to fit a circumstance

  • diaphoretic
  • heterodox
  • palindrome

When I bought this book, I curled up in bed and read it before going to sleep. The beauty of well-selected words is calming. So many of them flow off the tongue as though they should always have been there, in my mind.

  • xenophobic
  • obfuscate
  • bibliophile
  • perspicacity

Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words also has common words that we-all have likely forgotten–

  • objective
  • pantomime
  • raffish
  • spurious

When I read these, I scratched my head. They aren’t difficult, but–then it struck me–when was the last time I used them?

For more about beautiful words, check out these posts:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

Follow me.

22 thoughts on “Book Review: Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words

    • I sometimes end up using these four-syllable wonders in daily conversation. I think you’ve already heard my current favorite–neologist. I believe I used it at one of our meetings. I had a reader once complain (kindly) that I’d used a word that didn’t exist and I reminded her, We are writers. Which means we are neologists.


      • I do remember, though I don’t remember the other person. I was choking down my rising laughter then. Now I’m just laughing out loud.
        At same group, different day, someone asked me about the word “fusty,” implying I didn’t know what it meant or how to use it. I was so shocked that this particular person didn’t know the word, instead of coming up with a terrific retort, as you did, I simply bent down and gathered my eyeballs rolling on the floor.
        Showing a bit of miff or doubt is fine, but one better know all the words in the dictionary lest one appear a counterfeit scholar.
        Thanks again for enlarging mine.


  1. OOOO, this looks good. On my bedside table is the book, The Big Book of Words You Should Know. I love relaxing in bed, leafing through the pages, picking out words that can float through my head and maybe into my dreams and better yet the next piece I write! It’s like you said, “calming.”


What do you think? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.