Vocab Words Learned from “American Gods”

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was, for me, a wild introduction to the genre of fantasy/mythology novels for grown-ups. It went from being intriguing to baffling and, when the end of the epilogue rolled around, genuinely epic. I learned so much from this book, most notably more vocab words than I’ve learned from a novel in years. I read this book mostly on the go, so I kept track of all the words on the first page. (Don’t judge, book purists!)


(the first page)

But because so many of the words were so phonetically wild, I decided to play a game I used to play in a summer writing camp as a kid, where you ask someone to spontaneously define a word they don’t know and there are no wrong answers. I did that on the phone and over text for this crazy vocabulary, and it was super-fun. Here are the definitions, and thanks to my friends and family members for helping me out with their fake definitions!

avuncular:to take a specific path, literally or figuratively” –My dad

actual definition

avuncular (adj):

  • of an uncle
  • like an uncle

becalmed: “not so mad” –Amanda

actual definition

becalmed (adj):

  • kept from moving because there is no wind
  • made calm

blippeting: when something is jumpy –My mom

actual definition

blippeting: ????

  • this is the only word for which I could not find a defintion anywhere! I think it’s similar to “blip,” though, a verb meaning “make a short high-pitched sound or succession of sounds”

brook (v): “to move quickly” –Dad

actual definition

brook (v):

  • put up with; endure; tolerate

cadge: being stuck -Abby

actual defintion

cadge (v):

  • beg shamelessly

caracole: a lively action of some sort in the motion of going backwards -Scarlett, age 10

actual definition


  • (n): a half-turn to the right or left, made by a horse and rider
  • (v): to make such half-turns
  • (v): to prance from side to side

clangor: noisy – Mom // group of rocks –Dad

actual definition

clangor (n)

  • a continued clanging (clanging: a loud, harsh ringing sound)

cloy: carve clay -Abby

actual definition

cloy (v):

  • make or become weary by too much of anything pleasant

disgorge: to jump –Mom

actual definition

disgorge (v):

  • to throw up the contents; empty; discharge
  • give up unwillingly

durance: the opposite of endurance, being unable to maintain an activity –Maddy L.

actual definition

durance (n):

  • imprisonment

enmities: perks you get for collecting loyalty points at chain hotels. used in a sentence: we stayed in 8 Best Westerns around the country last fall, and the last one we got an upgraded to a suite because of our enmitie points –Maddy F.

actual definition

enmity (n)

  • the feeling that enemies have for each other

flay: frolick -Abby

actual definition 

flay (v)

  • strip off skin
  • scold severely; criticize mercilessly

frisson: French derivative, meaning fruity –Maddy L.

actual definition

frission (n):

a sudden strong feeling or emotion

galoot: someone stupid –Amanda

actual definition 

galoot (n):

  • a fool

(congrats to Amanda for getting a word’s exact definition by random guess! <3)

glutinous: thickness –Tania

actual definition

glutinous (adj):

  • feeling like glue; sticky

hectoring: bothering someone -Abby

actual definition

hectoring (v):

  • bullying or teasing

inter: to decide –Mom

actual definition

inter (v):

  • to put a dead body into a grave or tomb

libation: freedom –Amanda

actual definition

libation (n):

  • pouring out of wine, water, etc. as an offering to a god
  • the above offering

mandlin: a miniature mandolin –Victoria

actual definition

mandlin (adj):

  • agreeable
  • sweet

mellifluous: an ingredient in mucinex –Victoria

actual definition

mellifluous (adj):

  • sweetly or smoothly flowing

modalities: services included in a modern day basic package of utilities in a house or apartment. This is included but not limited to: air conditioning, cable & wifi. –Maddy F.

actual definition

modality (n):

  • the quality of being modal
    • modal: having more to do with form than substance

perspicacity: the finite number of ways you can view a particular situation. A mix of the words “perspective” and “capacity”. For example: “Joe missed curfew last night and his parents were out convinced he was being a hooligan with his bros. Joe argued that he could have been out late studying. His parents said there was a perspicacity of reasons why he was out late, and studying is not an adequate excuse.” –Maddy F.

actual definition

perspicacity (n):

  • keen perception; discernment

prestidigitation: pompous or being too wordy/intellectual –Maddy L.

actual definition

prestidigitation (n):

  • slight of hand

reprovingly: annoyingly –Maddy L.

actual definition

reprove (v):

  • show disapproval of
  • blame

roiling: really mad –Amanda

actual definition

roiling (v):

  • making water muddy by stirring up sediment
  • disturb or vex

susurrus: to dig in & set up a protective area, like to protect your property or building –Dad

actual definition

susurration (n) (this is another word I couldn’t find, but this seems close):

  • whispering
  • a rustling murmur

symptic: someone who always seems to have the symptoms of fake diseases -Victoria

actual definition

symptic: ????

  • couldn’t find this one either

thylacine: a type of medicine -Scarlett

actual definition

thylacine (n):

  • “The thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf.” –Wikipedia

tumescent: the smell of dead people. derived from the root word “scent” and Latin word “tume” meaning tomb –Maddy F.

actual definition

tumescent (adj)

  • swollen or becoming swollen, especially as a response to sexual arousal (eww)

hope you learned something! 🙂


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