23 Stupendous Vocabulary Words I Learned From ‘Calvin & Hobbes’

I almost had to repeat kindergarten because I procrastinated on learning to read. Faced with this threat, I hit the books, and by the end of the year I had achieved a 5th grade reading level. I credit Bill Watterson and Gary Larson for this; I remember sitting in my dad’s apartment at ages six and seven, each of us curled up with one of his Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side volumes. While he savored the pages, I soldiered through the multisyllabic speech bubbles, pausing every now and then to ask things like, “Daddy, what does ‘hypothetical’ mean?”

Here are just a few of the words that should obviously be in every 6-year-old’s vocabulary:


1. Spelunking

See also: onomatopoeia


Source: Author’s Own

2. Repartee

Ain’t no partee like a repartee!


Source: Author’s Own

3. Peripatetic

SPEAKING OF REPARTEE, this insult, though!

Also, their expressions in panel three: perfection.

Source: Biblioklept

Source: Biblioklept

4. Vicarious

Some jokes just didn’t click until I grew up, but at least I learned like nine SAT words from this strip.

Source: reddit

Source: Reddit

5. Magnanimous

The more election years I live through, the more painfully funny these are.


Source: Author’s Own

6. Dialectical Metaphysics

For all the times Calvin was a pain in his dad’s butt; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


Source: Author’s Own

7. Cummerbund

Hobbes is a gentleman and a scholar.

Source: GoComics

Source: GoComics

8. Deferential

Moreover, he’s a gentleman who knows that being “cool” is overrated.


Source: Author’s Own

9. Protozoan

Biology words all up in these panels.

10. Avant-garde

“Dad, what does avant-garde mean?”

“It’s… I don’t know, Rebecca. It’s French. It’s some kind of art word.”

Dad’s an engineer.

Source: GoComics

Source: Gocomics

11. Conniptions

I’ve never noticed this word in anything else, and it’s too bad.


Source: Author’s Own

12. Pandemonium

Miss Wormwood struck me as a mean teacher when I was in first grade. Now, not only do I feel for her, I think she’s earned sainthood.


Source: Author’s Own

13. Salubrious

Hobbes is the Hermione to Calvin’s Ron.


Source: Author’s Own

14. Arboreal

“Fiend” was another one I asked about, as it shows up in pretty much every Spaceman Spiff strip.


Source: Author’s Own

15. Behemoth

Before it was a metal band, it was Calvin.


Source: Author’s Own

16. Predicament

This is a frequently used word with Calvin, made funnier when you grow up and realize he’s imagining it most of the time. Hey, there’s got to be a silver lining to growing up.


Source: Author’s Own

17. Panache

Panache sounds delicious, but once again it’s just Hobbes being a gentleman.


Source: Author’s Own

18. Somnambulist

“Dad, what’s… (Points at word)”


“Why didn’t he just say that?”

“I don’t know.”

I glared at the unnecessarily long, Latinate word for a long, bitter moment.


Source: Author’s Own

19. Transcendental

The sugar high may be a placebo effect, but placebos, after all, are effective.


Source: Author’s Own

20. Annihilation

Calvin’s mom must be proud. Exhausted, but proud.


Source: Author’s Own


21. Anatomically Correct

My dad didn’t explain this to me. Twenty years later, LOL.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

22. Potentate

Spaceman Spiff also introduced me to the concepts of technobabble and aptronyms.

23. Aspersions

See also: #burn


Source: GoComics

It’s hard to believe I read these at such a young age, let alone understood them, but who could be more relatable to a little kid than Calvin, Hobbes, and Susie? Context clues are everything. It also doesn’t hurt to have Dictionary Dad standing by.

Two decades and one English degree later, thanks, Dad. Your re-election campaign is looking solid.

YouTube Channel: Rafael Casal


Featured image via The Wall Street Journal