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BY SheKnows

101 Words You Should Be Using At Work

By SheKnows

woman speaking

Photo credit: © vectorfusionart / Adobe Stock

You're funny, you're witty, you're poised — come on, you know you totally have it together. So how come sometimes you still don't feel nearly as confident as you should? Searching for the right way to articulate things happens to the best of us — but if you brush up on some vocab, you'll be ready to spout off a ton of words that will totally let everyone know just how smart and capable you are.

Whether you have a job interview or you just want to impress your boss, these 101 words will show people you're a savvy business person.

1. Acrimony

Definition: Bitterness, especially in vocabulary or mannerisms

Example: The discussion began with such acrimony, it was clear to the lawyer this was going to be a tense contract negotiation.

2. Acquiesce

Definition: consent without objection, even after previously objecting

Example: When the salesman realized he was going to lose the sale unless he threw in a free tire rotation that the customer wanted, he acquiesced.

3. Adept

Definition: being highly skilled or well trained in a particular discipline; an expert

Example: She's an adept graphic designer and was headhunted by a rival company.

4. Adulation

Definition: excessive praise, admiration or flattery

Example: The adulation from thousands of excited fans faced by Justin Bieber would make most people uncomfortable, but he seems to enjoy it.

5. Ambivalent

Definition: uncertainty when choosing between two options (often involving fluctuating or contradictory emotions)

Example: Sienna knew she had to make a decision, but she just felt ambivalent, so she flipped a coin.

6. Anomaly

Definition: abnormality, often a red flag that there may be a greater issue

Example: Jennifer found an anomaly in the profit projections that proved to be evidence of embezzlement.

7. Avant-garde

Definition: unorthodox, experimental or progressive work in any field (usually relating to the arts) or the group who forwards the concept (Tim Burton or E.E. Cummings)

Example: The new ad agency's concept may be too avant-garde for our more traditional image.

8. Axiomatic

Definition: obvious or self-evident; based on one or more axioms

Example: It's axiomatic that great salespeople have solid communication skills.

9. Bourgeois/bourgeoisification/bourgeoisify

Definition: striving for but lacking the sophistication of the ultra rich while also lacking the "authenticity" of the working class (often a pejorative term in the U.S.)

Example: The bourgeois attitude of modern culture has changed how many high-end retailers do business.

10. Byzantine

Definition: devious and surreptitious operation

Example: Lauren's high personal ethics made it difficult for her to work for such a byzantine company, so she tendered her resignation.

11. Cacophony/cacophonous

Definition: harsh, dissonant sounds

Example: The sudden sound of a cell phone only added to the cacophony of the boardroom executives' heated shouting.

12. Capitulate

Definition: to stop fighting or surrender (as in a social battle or negotiation)

Example: The CEO refused to capitulate to Terry's salary demands, so she tendered her resignation.

13. Catch-22

Definition: a lose-lose paradox in which the only solution to problem is prevented by circumstance or often a means of entrapment or political maneuvering (from the novel of the same name)

Example: Lolita's boss presented her with a catch-22 — she couldn't work another shift without a doctor's sign-off, but couldn't afford another doctor's appointment without a paycheck.

14. Cavalier

Definition: disdainful or unceremonious

Example: His cavalier attitude toward customers made the manager wonder if he had any respect for others.

15. Chimera

Definition: something or a combination of things that's so odd or improbable that it shouldn't logically exist, but does

Example: The software suite of billing and graphic design software was a chimera, but the company managed to sell enough units to make a profit.

16. Clandestine

Definition: something done in secret, usually with a hidden or nefarious agenda

Example: The president had to fire her vice president when she found out he was making clandestine deals with the competition.

17. Cogent

Definition: well-reasoned, logical and compelling

Example: Ally's points were well founded, but her inability to present a cogent argument left the stockholders wondering if she was the right woman for the job.

18. Conundrum

Definition: a difficult problem

Example: Jackie was charged with solving the shipping conundrum before the company lost money.

19. Cronyism

Definition: partiality to one's friends, often evidenced by favors or promotions they don't deserve or are unqualified for

Example: The boss' cronyism became apparent when he appointed his fraternity brother's deadbeat son as vice president.

20. Delineate

Definition: to precisely describe or outline

Example: To ensure things ran smoothly, the team moved to the conference room to delineate their plan on the whiteboard before beginning the project.

21. Deviate

Definition: to stray or depart (from a standard, course of action or the norm)

Example: If you deviate from your customer's expectations, they may buy from competitors who offer a more consistent experience.

22. Dichotomy

Definition: a division into two parts, often contradictory or mutually exclusive

Example: By attempting to work half an hour on the production line, the president only further illustrated the dichotomy that exists between executives and factory workers in our company.

23. Disconcerting

Definition: to disturb, upset or confuse, as in demeanor or plans

Example: Salma was disconcerted by the accountant's sudden outburst during the meeting, but quickly recovered.

24. Disenfranchised

Definition: to deprive someone of a privilege or right

Example: Regardless of how hard their jobs are, the factory workers found it difficult to feel disenfranchised while working for a company.

25. Disseminate

Definition: to spread or disperse

Example: Celebrities have it rough these days, because the internet makes it easy and fast to disseminate rumors about their misdeeds.

26. Divulge

Definition: disclose or reveal private or secret information

Example: Phishing scams are emails sent by spammers in an attempt to get you to divulge your banking or other private information.

27. Egalitarian

Definition: a belief in the equality of all people (especially political, economic or social)

Example: Self-help groups succeed based on egalitarian principles — Charlie Sheen is no different than Joe Schmo.

28. Emasculate

Definition: to deprive of strength or spirit (often associated with male procreative power)

Example: Adding a provision that prohibits managers from reviewing the contents of company-paid cell phones effectively emasculates the rule against doing personal business on company time.

29. Endemic

Definition: a disease or condition restricted to a particular area or department

Example: There's an endemic of petty theft from the third floor supply closet.

30. Ennui

Definition: discontent related to boredom or lack of interest

Example: We created an iPad app to fight the ennui that children feel when accompanying Mom on errands.

31. Epicurean

Definition: discriminating or sophisticated tastes

Example: To appeal to customers with more epicurean tastes, our company uses only the freshest, organic ingredients from local farmers.

32. Esoteric

Definition: difficult to understand except by a chosen few; an interest that's special or rare

Example: When conversing with clients, be careful of esoteric, industry-specific terms.

33. Expendable

Definition: not worth keeping or maintaining; something you can sacrifice (usually for the greater good) Example: Xenia worked hard and always carefully researched things to ensure her employer knew she wasn't expendable.

34. Fabricate

Definition: to produce or create (in manufacturing); manufactured (with regard to facts), fake or untrue; imitation

 Example: To get his boss to her surprise retirement party, Jamal fabricated a story involving angry clients and a meeting at her favorite restaurant.

35. Facetious

Definition: playful (sometimes inappropriate) humor 

Example: The manager often made facetious remarks to his subordinates, but took on a more serious demeanor in front of the company bigwigs.

36. Fastidious

Definition: critical; demanding; difficult to please 

Example: The best customer service representatives can please even the most fastidious customers if they're willing to listen.

37. Fiasco

Definition: a total failure; a complicated situation that ends in failure 

Example: My suit was wrinkled, my business cards got soaked in the rain and when I left, I found a huge piece of spinach in my teeth — the whole thing was a total fiasco.

38. Galvanize

Definition: to propel a person or people into activity or inspiration 

Example: Gina gave a rousing victory speech, galvanizing her campaign volunteers to stay active on social media long after the election was over.

39. Gambit

Definition: a remark or tactic used to redirect a conversation or seek an advantage 

Example: Elena began to cry, but the officer was used to that gambit and gave her a ticket anyway.

40. Geopolitical

Definition: anything political affecting the relationships or two or more countries 

Example: Many people blame rising gasoline costs on geopolitical instability in the Middle East.

41. Hedonistic

Definition: pertaining to the pursuit of pleasure or blatant self-gratification

Example: The Lonely Island's parody "I'm on a Boat" is a commentary on the hedonistic lifestyle glamorized by many modern music videos.

42. Impeccable

Definition: flawless; free from or incapable of fault or blame 

Example: While he liked Kyle's more adventurous designs, the boss decided to put Kaylie, whose impeccable code is more reliable, in charge of the website.

43. Incisive

Definition: penetrating, biting or remarkably clear (tone, words, etc.)Example: Dan tried to counter the damaging points made by the defense attorney, but in the end, her points were too incisive and the jury sided with the defendant.

44. Indelicate

Definition: lacking in manners or good taste; tactless

 Example: Juno indelicately remarked to the obese woman, "you shouldn't be drinking if you're pregnant!"

45. Infinitesimal

Definition: so small it can't be measured

 Example: The effect of the change to the cheaper formula was so infinitesimal, it was hardly worth mentioning.

46. Insidious

Definition: treacherous or deceitful (often related to entrapment) 

Example: Email spammers who attempt to impersonate your friends are particularly insidious.

47. Juxtapose

Definition: place two items close together and side by side (often referring to objects that may at first seem to be in opposition or contrast)

Example: To illustrate her point about how far the company had come, Mary juxtaposed the image of the company's original product with the modern version.

48. Kibosh

Definition: to stop something

Example: Mom quickly put the kibosh on Bobbie's plans to wear a skimpy dress to prom.

49. Leverage

Definition: to exert influence on to gain the desired effect (in business)

 Example: A buyer can limit the leverage of the seller if she doesn't seem desperate.

50. Litany

Definition: a long list or recital (of excuses, reasons, etc.) 

Example: Meagan had a litany of excuses for her miscalculation — many were valid, some were not.

51. Machiavellian

Definition: tactics that are cunning, often deceptive, in which the end result is more important than morality

 Example: Diana's Machiavellian attempts to get her coworker Michael fired weren't well received by his friends.

52. Mellifluous

Definition: to flow or sound sweet or smooth

 Example: Peggy was nervous about her speech, but her mellifluous words brought the crowd to their feet.

53. Mercenary

Definition: a professional soldier often hired by a foreign army; motivated by profit rather than loyalty

 Example: Brianna left the DA's office to become a mercenary of sorts — she began providing consultations on how to survive a cross-examination by the DA.

54. Mercurial

Definition: volatile or erratic; fickle; flighty, animated or lively (often quick-witted)

 Example: The lead singer's mercurial nature was well loved by fans and the media, but loathed by his bandmates.

55. Misnomer

Definition: the incorrect or an unsuitable name (not a misunderstanding or popular misconception)

Example: Calling that dog sweet pea is a misnomer; he just bit me!

56. Neophyte

Definition: a novice; beginner

Example: Layla may be a neophyte, but you'd never know by looking at her sales numbers.

57. Non sequitur

Definition: a response that doesn't logically follow the statement it follows

 Example: After Nan pointed out that the stock prices were dropping, Melanie interrupted with a total non sequitur by saying, "Who wants lunch?"

58. Obfuscate

Definition: to talk or write about a subject in such a way as to make it unclear or hide the full truth

 Example: Olivia attempted to obfuscate her husband's surprise party by telling him they were going to his favorite restaurant because she'd snagged a Groupon.

59. Ostentatious

Definition: extremely showy; loud

 Example: Guy Fieri is the Food Network's most ostentatious celebrity chef.

60. Panacea

Definition: cure-all; magic elixir (usually not literal in modern English)

 Example: E-learning isn't a panacea for all educational issues; we still require teachers to direct a child's learning, even over the internet.

61. Paramount

Definition: superior, supreme 

Example: The issue of paramount importance is whether the baby is healthy. Everything else is something we can deal with.

62. Peruse

Definition: skim, review 

Example: Alexis was annoyed when Dan only perused the document before declaring her work unimpressive.

63. Philistine

Definition: a person who is lacking in or hostile toward accepted cultural values or social refinement

Example: You don't like Shiraz? You philistine!

64. Polemic

Definition: highly controversial

 Example: The prostate cancer awareness advertisements featuring male celebrities in the buff (with only their key parts covered) is polemic, but effective.

65. Proclivity

Definition: natural tendency, disposition 

Example: Trying to curb her proclivity for micromanagement, Diamond gave her employee carte blanche on the first draft of the proposal.

66. Procure

Definition: to seek and gain ownership of something

 Example: Michelle was able to procure a computer that was able to read a floppy disk.

67. Proxy

Definition: the authority to represent someone else in an official capacity

Example: Rosalida acted as a proxy, paying the bills and taking care of her siblings while her mother took a month-long business trip.

68. Quid pro quo

Definition: something given for something taken (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours)

 Example: Jazmin and Nathan had a quid pro quo arrangement — she took his desk near her friend and he got her desk near the girl he has a crush on.

69. Quintessential

Definition: a perfect example or the pure essence of something

Example: Having learned to cook from her mother, who's from Cabo San Lucas, Lisa had confidence she could open the quintessential Mexican restaurant in the states.

70. Quixotic

Definition: pursuing a seemingly unreachable or ambitious goal; idealist, impractical or both

 Example: Dawn's quixotic vision paid off when, to her boss's surprise, her formula worked.

71. Ramification

Definition: results, consequences or implications 

Example: As she drove back to work, Catriona was nervous about the ramifications of losing her company's biggest client.

72. Red herring

Definition: something intended to divert attention from the actual problem or situation

Example: To prevent the competition from knowing what they were really working on, the tech company introduced a red herring in the form of a false rumor.

73. Rejoinder

Definition: a clever or witty response 

Example: Emily's sparkling rejoinders made her popular with the group very quickly.

74. Reticent

Definition: reluctant to speak or speak freely (often confused with reluctant, which means unwilling)Example: Laura was reticent on the subject of her children because her son is in jail.

75. Rhetoric

Definition: the effective use of speech, especially that which is exaggerated to make a potentially erroneous point

Example: Despite the fact that Leslie agreed with Tom's analysis, she distanced herself from his over-the-top rhetoric.

 76. Rife

Definition: abundant, abounding; prevalent 

Example: The store was rife with customers, so the manager was forced to open a new register.

77. Ruminate

Definition: to think about something thoroughly and in great detail 

Example: Elysia ruminated about her hiring decision for several days before choosing raw talent over experience.

78. Sanguine

Definition: accepting even negative circumstances with a positive attitude 

Example: While it would make her job more difficult, Theresa was sanguine when she was told she'd have to complete the project a week earlier than expected.

79. Spartan

Definition: sternly disciplined, rigorously simple, frugal or austere

Example: He made plenty of money, yet lead a Spartan lifestyle in his 600-square-foot apartment and drove an early model Honda Civic to work each day.

80. Stalwart

Definition: a loyal and reliable member or supporter

 Example: Even after she retired as librarian, Pearl remained a stalwart supporter of local book drives.

 81. Stoic

Definition: free from passion, including happiness and grief (think Spock)

Example: Ebony attempted to remain stoic as her boss explained why she was being let go.

82. Sublime

Definition: a new level of quality or perfection; unduplicated
Example: The chef's food was so sublime, the harshest critic in the area came back once a week for the rest of his life.

83. Superfluous

Definition: excessive, unnecessary or needless; extra 

Example: To make extra space on her hard drive, Doreen asked the technician to eliminate the superfluous files.

84. Svengali

Definition: a person who controls or dominates another, usually with selfish motives (from evil hypnotist character in Maurier's Trilby)Example: Raven knew Michael was far too caring and submissive to be the Svengali her coworkers portrayed him to be.

85. Sycophant

Definition: a brownnoser; someone who flatters others in an attempt to serve their own interests

Example: Jenny realized she'd misjudged her boss when her hard work got her the promotion over the lazy sycophant she was up against.

86. Synergy

Definition: a partnership or combination that works well to the advantage of both

Example: The goal of the Apple TV is to create synergy between your various Apple devices: iPhone, iPad and iMac or MacBook.

87. Tantamount

Definition: equivalent in significance or effect, though not identical

Example: The public relations head told us that saying anything that could make people stop buying our products is tantamount to stealing.

88. Tenuous

Definition: unsubstantiated or weak

Example: The link between the appetizer and entree was tenuous, though both were executed beautifully.

89. Tête-à-tête

Definition: a private conversation between two people

Example: After the board meeting, the marketing director was called aside for a tête-à-tête with the president, making the entire marketing team nervous.

90. Ubiquitous

Definition: present everywhere; everywhere at once

Example: Try as competitors might, the iPhone has become ubiquitous.

91. Untenable

Definition: indefensible, usually in relation to a difficult or impossible situation

 Example: Aliyah was in an untenable position; she couldn't keep telling the employees to cut costs while staying in five-star hotels on business trips.

92. Urbane

Definition: suave, sophisticated, refined; being or appearing to be high-society 

Example: Even in a low-end suit from last season, Claudia struck all she met as urbane.


93. Vacillate

Definition: to go back and forth between two points

Example: Nina vacillated between the lamb and fish for so long, her friends just ordered for her.

94. Verisimilitude

Definition: probable or realistic; the appearance of truth

Example: The ad campaign has a certain verisimilitude that customers seem to identify with.

95. Versatile

Definition: able to perform a variety of tasks; adaptable 

Example: A versatile employee, Kim is just as comfortable troubleshooting software as she is making sales.

96. Vicarious

Definition: to do or feel on behalf of another

Example: Kat can't stay away from celebrity news; she lives vicariously through the Kardashians.

97. Vehement

Definition: insistent and inflexible 

Example: Eva was so vehement that the salespeople would follow up with customers within two days of dropping off the proposal; anyone who didn't would be fired.

98. Wheelhouse

Definition: a metaphor for an individual's area of comfort or expertise (in business)Example: Sandra, whose degree was in accounting, was asked to calculate the team's sales projections because that type of work is in her wheelhouse.

99. White elephant

Definition: something that costs more to keep or maintain than it's actually worth

 Example: Because of the constant discounts we have to give to move this product, I think it's a white elephant. We should consider discontinuing it.

100. Wunderkind

Definition: a young person who succeeds, usually in business

Example: After creating Facebook while in college, wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg recently married the love of his life.

101. Zealous

Definition: enthusiastic, often to the point of fanatical

Example: Penelope's zealous chatter about her cats was a real turnoff to her coworkers.

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