‘Awesome’: The most overused word in English

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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Ragan.com in 2011. For those unaware of the anti-awesome movement, here’s a reminder.

“Awesome” must be the most overused word in the English language.

So let’s stop using it as our default every time we are too lazy, busy, insecure, stupid or whatever to think of a more original or relevant word.

Let’s stop using it because we’re middle-aged business people who think it makes us look cool. It doesn’t.

Let’s stop using it because we are so riveted to the game control, iPhone or other obsessions that we begrudge the brain cells required to process language.

Scary awful meanings

Despite the monotonous ubiquity, most people seem unaware of the full meaning. In addition to inspiring joyful awe, “awesome” can mean inspiring terror, as in “the awesome power of the sea.”

Not only that, the word “awful,” I discovered, is actually a synonym for “awesome,” providing you communicate in an olde English dialect. Gee, I’m starting to sound like Grammar Girl. Back to the anti-awesome movement I’m trying to muster.

In my quest for alternatives to “awesome,” I checked with Wikipedia, Thesaurus.com and some other sources. I also asked people on Facebook and other social media, where I often spot the biggest offenders. I even cooked up a few more on my own.

The anti-awesome list

Please add your suggestions in the comments below.

1. Amazing

2. Astonishing

3. Awe-inspiring

4. Awe-struck

5. Beautiful

6. Beyond the call

7. Breathtaking

8. Brilliant

9. Clever

10. Cool

11. Dazzling

12. Exciting

13. Excellent

14. Exceptional

15. Fabulous

16. Fantastic

17. Great

18. Groovy

19. Heart-stopping

20. Humbling

21. Impressive

22. Incredible

23. Ingenious

24. Magnificent

25. Majestic

26. Marvelous

27. Mind-blowing

28. Momentous

29. Moving

30. Out of this world

31. Outstanding

32. Overwhelming

33. Remarkable

34. Righteous

35. Shazam

36. Simply divine

37. Spectacular

38. Staggering

39. Striking

40. Stunning

41. Stupendous

42. Un-freakin believable

43. Wonderful

44. Wondrous

45. You rock

I don’t want to banish “awesome” entirely. Occasionally, it is the best choice. But I would love to hear a little more thought behind those robotic mouth movements.

For those who want to keep it simple, try a word from this list the next time you are tempted to slip into “awesome.” Maybe you should give yourself a daily “awesome” limit, and wean yourself off gradually.

For those of you with more alternatives, please add them below in the comments section.

Welcome to the anti-“awesome” movement, oh wise ones.

Barb Sawyers combines her love of writing and talking in her ebook Write like you talk—only better, blog, workshops and communication services for business and nonprofit clients.

Ragan.com

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