Taylor Swift Dictionary: Learning the Big Words in Her Songs

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We need a dictionary paired with her albums ('machiavellian,' anyone?).

2020 was an unprecedented year for many reasons—a global pandemic, local lockdowns and Taylor's two surprise album drops. And with those surprise albums came some equally surprising word choices that had Swifties pulling out their dictionaries. 

These complex words didn't stop with folklore and evermoreRed (Taylor's Version), released in 2021 and Midnights, released this fall, have continued the use of elevated language in her lyrics. After all, Taylor wants auroras and sad prose...and complicated nomenclature.

We, along with some help from good old Merriam-Webster, break down the words in some of the lyrics found on her last four albums that have fans scratching their heads and asking, "Huh?"

"The Taylor Swift Dictionary" for Folklore

"the 1"

Word: Matinée
Lyric: "I hit the Sunday matinée"
Meaning: "a musical or dramatic performance or social or public event held in the daytime and especially the afternoon."

"the last great american dynasty"

Word: Dynasty
Lyric: "There goes the last great American dynasty"
Meaning: "a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time."

Word: Gauche
Lyric: "The wedding was charming, if a little gauche"
Meaning: "lacking social experience or grace."

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"my tears ricochet"

Word: Ricochet
Lyric: "Look at how my tears ricochet"
Meaning: "a glancing rebound (as of a projectile off a flat surface)."


Word: Revelers
Lyric: "You are not like the regulars, the masquerade revelers"
Meaning: "one who engages in revelry," which is "noisy partying or merrymaking."

"illicit affairs"

Word: Illicit
Lyric: "And that's the thing about illicit affairs..."
Meaning: "not permitted."

Word: Clandestine
Lyric: "...and clandestine meetings and longing stares"
Meaning: "marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy."

Word: Mercurial
Lyric: "Take the words for what they are, a dwindling mercurial high"
Meaning: "characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood."

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"the lakes"

Word: Elegies
Lyric: "Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?"
Meaning: "a pensive or reflective poem that is usually nostalgic or melancholy."

Word: Eulogize
Lyric: "It it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?"
Meaning: "to speak or write in high praise of."

Word: Auroras
Lyric: "I want auroras and sad prose"
Meaning: "dawn."

Word: Wisteria
Lyric: "I want to watch wisteria grow right over my bare feet"
Meaning: "any of a genus (Wisteria) of mostly woody leguminous vines of China, Japan, and the southeastern U.S. that have pinnately compound leaves and long racemes of showy blue, white, purple, or rose papilionaceous flowers and that include several (such as W. sinensis and W. floribunda) grown as ornamentals."

Word: Calamitous
Lyric: "While I bathe in cliffside pools with my calamitous love and insurmountable grief"
Meaning: "being, causing, or accompanied by calamity."

"The Taylor Swift Dictionary" for Evermore

"champagne problems"

Word: Midas
Lyric: "Your Midas touch on the Chevy door"
Meaning: "a legendary Phrygian king who is given the power of turning everything he touches to gold."

"gold rush"

Word: Contrarian
Lyric: "At dinner parties, I call you out on your contrarian s--t"
Meaning: "a person who takes a contrary position or attitude."


Word: Lark
Lyric: "Down in the park, honey, making a lark of the misery"
Meaning: "a source of or quest for amusement or adventure."


Word: Incandescent 
Lyric: "Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow"
Meaning: "white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat."

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"long story short"

Word: Precipice
Lyric: "Pushed from the precipice, clung to the nearest lips"
Meaning: "a very steep or overhanging place."


Word: Unmoored
Lyric: "Hey December, guess I'm feeling unmoored"
Meaning: "to loosen from or as if from moorings," which are "[devices] (such as a line or chain) by which an object is secured in place."

"The Taylor Swift Dictionary" for Red (Taylor's Version)

"State of Grace (Taylor's Version)"

Word: Mosaic
Lyric: "We learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts"
Meaning: "a surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored material to form pictures or patterns."

"The Lucky One (Taylor's Version)"

Word: Riviera
Lyric: "And now it's big black cards and Riviera views"
Meaning: "a coastal region frequented as a resort area and usually marked by a mild climate."

"Come Back...Be Here (Taylor's Version)"

Word: Nonchalant
Lyric: "If I had known what I know now, I never would've played so nonchalant"
Meaning: "having an air of easy unconcern or indifference."

"Nothing New (Taylor's Version) [From the Vault]"

Word: Novelty
Lyric: "Lord, what will become of me, once I've lost my novelty?"
Meaning: "something new or unusual."

Word: Ingénue
Lyric: "And someone else lights up the room, people love an ingénue"
Meaning: "a naive girl or young woman."

"I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor's Version) [From the Vault]"

Word: Pedigree
Lyric: "And the girl in your bed has a fine pedigree"
Meaning: "a distinguished ancestry."

"All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) [From the Vault]"

Word: Disposition
Lyric: "Oh, your sweet disposition and my wide-eyed gaze"
Meaning: "the tendency of something to act in a certain manner under given circumstances."

Word: Patriarchy
Lyric: "And you were tossing me the car keys, 'F--k the patriarchy' keychain on the ground"
Meaning: "control by men of a disproportionately large share of power."

Word: Self-effacing
Lyric: "You who charmed my dad with self-effacing jokes"
Meaning: "having or showing a tendency to make oneself modestly or shyly inconspicuous."

Word: Maim
Lyric: "Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?"
Meaning: "to mutilate, disfigure, or wound seriously."

"The Taylor Swift Dictionary" for Midnights

"Lavender Haze"

Word: Melancholia
Lyric: "And you don't really read into my melancholia"
Meaning: "severe depression characterized especially by profound sadness and despair."


Word: Covert
Lyric: "Did you hear my covert narcissism..."
Meaning: "not openly shown, engaged in, or avowed: veiled."

Word: Altruism
Lyric: "...I disguise as altruism like some kind of congressman?"
Meaning: "unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others."

"Snow on the Beach"

Word: Aurora borealis
Lyric: "This scene feels like what I once saw on a screen, I searched 'aurora borealis green'"
Meaning: "an aurora that occurs in earth's northern hemisphere [also called northern lights]."

Word: Periphery
Lyric: "I've never seen someone lit from within, blurring out my periphery"
Meaning: "an area lying beyond the strict limits of a thing."


Word: Labyrinth
Lyric: "It only feels this raw right now, lost in the labyrinth of my mind"
Meaning: "a place constructed of or full of intricate passageways and blind alleys."

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Word: Opacity
Lyric: "Spiderboy, king of thieves, weave your little webs of opacity"
Meaning: "obscurity of sense: unintelligibility," meaning "unable to be understood or comprehended."

"Sweet Nothing"

Word: Hucksters
Lyric: "Industry disruptors and soul deconstructors and smooth-talking hucksters out glad-handing each other"
Meaning: "one who sells or advertises something in an aggressive, dishonest, or annoying way."


Word: Machiavellian 
Lyric: "And I swear I'm only cryptic and machiavellian 'cause I care"
Meaning: "marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith."

"The Great War"

Word: Crimson clover
Lyric: "Flashes of the battle come back to me in a blur, all that bloodshed, crimson clover"
Meaning: "an annual European clover (Trifolium incarnatum) that has cylindrical heads of crimson flowers and is cultivated in the U.S. especially as a cover crop."

Word: Crypt
Lyric: "And maybe it's the past that's talkin', screamin' from the crypt"
Meaning: "a chamber (such as a vault) wholly or partly underground."


Word: Happenstance
Lyric: "I was supposed to sweat you out in search of glorious happenings of happenstance on someone else's playground"
Meaning: "a circumstance especially that is due to chance."

"Hits Different"

Word: Antithetical
Lyric: "Bet I could still melt your world, argumentative, antithetical dream girl"
Meaning: "being in direct and unequivocal opposition: directly opposite or opposed."

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