16 old-school English words to insult (or compliment) someone without them knowing

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  • These are perfect for a sneaky conversation when you need to vent your frustrations but don’t want someone (ie. parents or teachers) listening in
  • Do you know a froward? Have that friend who is a total lanspresado and NEVER pays for their meal? Here’s how to let them know
Esther Cheung |
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How to insult someone, but be sneaky about it.

When you’re trying to have a covert conversation with friends, there’s only so much that whispering can do.

We’ve compiled a list of cheeky English words, some of which are so old that they don’t even show up in the Merriam-Webster or Oxford dictionaries any more. That makes them perfect for making a sly remark about someone without drawing too much attention.

Avoid using these words in formal writing, but send this list to your friends for a good laugh at all the colourful vocabulary you could be using.

14 words that defined 2020

Cockalorum – a boastful and self-important person

Dandiprat – an unimportant or despicable person

Fainéant (fay-nay-AH) – a lazy and irresponsible person

Froward – someone who is always arguing with and disobeying others

Gnashgab (nash-gab) – someone who complains all the time

Groke – to stare at someone who is eating in hopes that they will share their food. Every family or friend group has someone who does this.

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Lanspresado – someone who conveniently never has any money with them

Mooncalf – a foolish or absent-minded person

Mugwump – a person who is annoyingly neutral or undecided about an important topic

Quidnunc (quid-nunk) – an inquisitive, gossipy person

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Rawgabbit – someone who speaks confidently about something they don’t know anything about. The worst kind of know-it-all is a fake one.

Scaramouch (scar-uh-moosh) – a boastful but cowardly person, featured in a famous lyric from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Slugabed – a lazy person who stays in bed way past the normal time, although this sounds quite nice after a week of exams or heavy assignments

Snollygoster – a person who has intelligence but no morals, which sounds like a lot of the villains we see in movies

Ultracrepidarian – someone who takes every opportunity to share their opinion about things they know nothing about, which seems to describe many people on social media

All GIFs via GIPHY

Bonus: Here’s one more to confuse your friends

It sounds like an insult ... but it’s really a compliment:

Snotor – someone who is wise and clever, not to be confused with “snotter”, which is when someone breathes noisily

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