Having power to change the disposition of the mind. When life throws unexpected obstacles in front of you, having an adaptive, flexanimous mindset helps you leap over the hurdles and keep going.
Subtle, witty; sharp. Don't call your friend bossy—she's perceptive, she's persuasive, she's phenomenally argute!
To lie idle, close or snug. The British lexicographer found this word in a poem by George Herbert. It's a cozy way to conjure that lazy-weekend morning activity of curling up with your partner, kids, cats or just the newspaper.
To cleanse, to purify. Once a year (twice if you're ultraconscientious), you might want not just to clean your house, but to absterge it, to give your surroundings a mood-lifting, spanking-clean fresh start.
Awkwardly, clumsily. Say this one aloud, and you'll find it sounds just like the feeling of rushing and stumbling from home to the office, juggling keys, newspapers and briefcase, trying not to drop anything and rarely succeeding.
An enemy in secret. We all know the word "frenemy"—a supposed friend who tries to undermine you—but a backfriend is a little different. The poet Robert Southey (Johnson's definition credits him for the word) wrote in his biography, "I have had backfriends ... as well as enemies." It's just as useful today as it was three centuries ago.
Eaten bare. Who hasn't scraped the ice-cream container, hoping for one more spoonful, but found it baregnawn? Try the lid...there might be a little bit more.
A woman excelling both in beauty and goodness. Isn't this a life-affirming word? "Belle" is the French for beautiful, "bone" comes from French for good, but in English, the expression sounds hearty, ample and strong—as empowered as today's womankind.
To behave as a cook. Some chefs you see on cooking programs have stupendous stove skills, and others...not so much. But whatever their level of expertise, if they're good at coquinating, they know how to wield a whisk with conviction; and if you copy them, you can, too.
Lean. This Latin word suggests the dark side of skinny. "Thigh gap"—take that!
Very or most highly celebrated. Almost anyone can be famous, or almost famous...but someone who really stands out deserves five splashy Latin syllables (laurel wreath not included).
The act of kissing. Samuel Johnson wasn't above a little schoolyard jokiness. His word for kissing should get a laugh from cooties-age children, though if they catch their parents making out in the kitchen, the precocious among them may squeal, "Ewww, stop the deosculation!"
A censorious woman. You can't please everyone, particularly someone who enjoys finding fault. This is someone you don't want around at special occasions, or actually, at any occasion.
One who deals in old things vamped up. Now we know..."fripperies" doesn't mean fancy gewgaws or frivolous finery but instead things that have been refurbished. That means that if you spend a Saturday antiquing or going through racks of dresses at vintage clothing stores, you can tell your friends you're at the fripperers.
To scramble for money; to hoard up. When you're trying to achieve balance in your life—while paying the mortgage or your rent, it's hard not to let muckering distract you from your relationships and simple pleasures, but it's important to try.
Spitefully obstinate; peevishly contumacious. If you have a sister or best friend, chances are one of you thinks the other has been guilty of this kind of stubborn, unrelenting attitude, now and again. But with enough flexanimity, you'll surely find a way to get along.
One seized with hopes of pleasure unattainable. If your wishes are completely unattainable, that can be worse than having no wishes at all. This word reminds us to inject reality into our hopes.
The lowest degree of desire. While a tantling yearns too much for too many things, those given to velleities might not bring enough urgency to their wish lists. This word reminds us that a half-hearted, half-formed desire doesn't stand much chance of coming to fruition. If there's something achievable you want to do, kick your zeal up a notch beyond velleity.