Horrifying Words

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Probably not everybody suffers from Specific Word Phobia (SWP)   (if anybody can come up with a pseudoclinical name for this, please do), but I’m guessing I’m not the only one, so I’m starting a new list.

What I’m looking for are words that horrify–not because of what they mean (rape, Akin,   etc.) but just because of the way they look, lolling or crouching there on the page, the way they sound, insinuating in the ear.   The ugly, icky word is physically repulsive.   One is literally taken aback.   One blinks, scowls; one’s mouth waters in an unpleasant way.   One simply hates the word.   One does not know why, nor does one care.

I’d be stunned if any universal truths emerge from this project.   I have no purpose here beyond curiosity.   I can’t be the only one with SWP.   Or am I?

I’ll go first.     Remember, the meaning of the word can be innocuous.   Appearance is all.   And just to clarify:   These are words you hate to use and when forced to, you find the experience unpleasant.   You probably grimace.



From Laura Preble:


From the Magic Hermit:





From Lynn Heilman:


From Lisa Roche:


From John Kornhauser:


From Billy Frolick:



From Karen Worley:



From Kathy Kulpa:



From Anne Baker:


From Elizabeth Carrera:



*I share “cremains.”   It’s like “clamato.”   Using it, one feels degraded.

15 Comments Horrifying Words

  1. Laura Preble

    The word I wish to submit is VEINY. I would have just written it here, all by itself, but the posting engine God said my comment was too short, so I am adding innocuous commentary to go with my word, VEINY.

  2. robert hill

    All forms of the word whinny are bothersome. I just read “whinnied” in a book, and felt a little sick.

  3. Chris Conroy

    I’ve always been squeamish about the word FECUND.

    I’m always surprised at the number of people who hate MOIST.

  4. Jincy Willett

    Saw this in Slate (late to the party). It’s so hard to keep people on-point with respect to these lists. Word-aversion discussions always veer off into examples of words people hate because of what they mean, or because they’re ungrammatical or politically objectionable & etc., rather than of words to which people have an irrational, visceral aversion simply because of how they sound and look on the page.

  5. Jincy

    Also, I noted that one of the Slate commenters claims that words with “oo” sounds in them are apt to cause word aversion. I think this is dead wrong. People love “oo” sounds. OOOO is probably the most pleasing of all vowel sounds, in fact, as evidenced by the behavior of baseball (and other) crowds, who love to shout words like Boomer and Lou. So there’s that.

  6. Chris Conroy

    You’re absolutely right. Most marketing experts now steer clients toward the “oo” sound when naming companies/products because it’s such a soothing (note the “oo” right there) sound.
    Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Oovoo, Roomba, etc.

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