English Words With Weird Meanings

English is as good as a second language to us Indians. Some of us are taught the language from the cradle up just as our native tongues are. When you’re learning two languages at the same time, there are bound to be comparisons, confusions and mix-ups.  We try to relate the grammatical rules of one language with that of the other to make sense of how the other language works. I think a pet peeve that Indians have with the English language is that words are not pronounced the way they’re written in English. So if tomb is pronounced ‘toom’, and womb is ‘woom’, bomb should be pronounced ‘boom’ but it’s not. But this is not where the confusion in the language ends.

Not to toot my own horn, but I believe I have a fair grasp of the language, but every now and then I stumble across a word or phrase that stumps me and makes me wonder about the sanity of the language makers.

So here I have compiled a list of words that, in my opinion, have weird meanings and should mean something else.

Bucolic – Reminds me of colic, coughing and crying, instead of a serene, rural place.

Diaphanous – Makes me think it refers to something huge, like dinosaurs, not petite or flimsy, next to nothing things.

Palimpsest – Sounds like a kind of pest; not a manuscript with overwritten writing.

Pastiche – Paste+Quiche or Pasta+Quiche = Pastiche, means an imitation however.

Wherewithal – Till very recently I used to think it means the same as ‘whereabouts’, when it actually means money or means needed for something.

Viscount – Sounds like a discount so good that you exclaim ‘why-count’ (yeah, its pronounced that way, when discount is pronounced dis-count *rolls eyes*), but it’s an English title for the nobility.

Catastrophe – Why a disaster? Why not an apostrophe for cat language?

Oxymoron – This should mean an ox who’s a moron or a moron like an ox; not a figure of speech.

Discombobulated – This is a definite tongue twister. Why? Because it causes a fair bit of ‘confusion’ for the tongue, which is what it means – confusion. No shit!

Bibliophile – This means someone who likes books a lot, but why the heck does this not mean someone who likes the Bible a lot?

Stupendous – Why does this mean ‘awesome’ while stupid means ‘stupid’ even though their origin in Latin is the same?

Annal – Do I even need to tell you why? It means a record of the events of one year, BTW. You decide which sounds better!


Aaaaaand just for fun, I’ll throw in an English quiz that I found last night on my-favorite-source-of-random-useless-and-timepass-information, Pinterest. See if you can go till the end of this one without getting your face all crinkly.



Go on… swear! I know you want to 😛

Have a happy, happy weekend!

18555851_100676450514066_4494546682437471084_n.jpgCopyright ©2017 Pradita Kapahi.

All rights reserved.

Image Credits: www.pinterest.com

58 thoughts on “English Words With Weird Meanings

  1. Many Englishmen of my generation studied Latin at school which has given us a real advantage since many of the components of words are Latin based. Many times we may have come across words we haven’t seen before but knowing the Latin root or just parts of the word solves it for us. But some words just don’t compute, try the meaning of these two; Flammable and Inflammable! There are more pairs like this that make no sense!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Dr. B. Knowing the root word actually helps in guessing the meaning of words, and English has taken from so many languages! But for people like us, who are not very adept at the language, sometimes two words will seemingly look the same but mean two entirely different things. Becomes very confusing! The two examples you’ve given are of words which mean the same thing and look the same two, yet they are confusing enough for people to think that they mean two different things or are opposites. But then every language has the same issues. An example in Hindi is ‘panigrahan’ which means marriage but if you break up the word according to modern Hindi you get ‘pani-water’ and ‘grahan-to take’, so it should mean ‘to consume water’ but it doesn’t. Only if you know the root Sanskrit word would you know what and why it means. Languages 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  2. haha lol! English is a very phunny language…enjoyed reading this bc tale..I’m swearing. Happens to me too when I confused words and grammar as well. But, it’s the language I normally use while communicating in Videsh despite I know the local slang.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. There are so many times when you feel that a simplified rule could have worked just as well. Like why do you need to have that rule about ‘do’ and ‘does’ in first and third person? Why can’t all of us just ‘do it’? 🤣


  3. I got reminded of Amitabh bachchan’s movie, in which he says something like english is a very phunny language…Also chupke chupke, in which dharmendra says when d o is do, t o is to then g o should be goo…
    Very well written and thoroughly enjoyed reading 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ha ha.. that list was funny and so bang on. Bucolic never rung true for me, not even after I knew what it meant and also Annal. Got about half way through that poem before I gave up.


  5. This post was indeed ‘Stupendous’. By that, I don’t really mean stupid but awesome! I like how an ox could be a moron yet be used as a figure of speech and that pinterest post was a mind-blowing roller coaster. Very insightful post indeed. Not surprised as it is coming from you. I love all your posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a good girl and I didnt swear – I swear I didnt swear although my eyes glazed over after the first few lines 😉 😀 LOVED the post Pradita – you mean bucolic is not something to with colic? And Vycount really? Dash it

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is what Amitabh Bachan would have to say after reading this post 😅😅😅😅😅😅

    I can Talk English,I can walk English,I can Laugh English because English is a very Funny Language.Bhairo becomes Baron and Baron becomes Bhairo because there mind’s are very Narrow.In the Year 1929 sir,when India was playing against Australia in Melbourne city,Vijay Merchent and Vijay Hajare,they were at the crease and Vijay Merchet told Vijay Hajare,look Vijay Hajare-This is a very Prestigious match and you must consider this match very carefully.So considering the consideration that Vijay Hajare gave Vijay Merchant,Vijay merchent told Vijay Hajare that ultimately we must take a run and when they were striking the ball on the leg side Sir,the consideration became into a ultimatum and ultimately Vijay Hajare went to Vijay Merchant.

    Similarly Sir,In the Year 1979,when India was playing against Pakistan in Wankhade stadium,Bombay,Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari they were at the crease and Wasim Bari gave the same consideration to Wasim Raja and Wasim Raja told Wasim Bari-look Sir,This ultimately has to end in a consideration which i cannot consider,therefore the consideration that you are giving me must be considered very ultimately.Therefore,the run that they were taking,Wasim Raja told Wasim Bari-Wasim Bari you take a run,and ultimately both of them ran and considerately they got out…

    Liked by 2 people

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