~ Ugly Words ~

Cover of "10 Commandments of Common Sense...

Cover of 10 Commandments of Common Sense

I have notably been in a serious mood of late, and this post is a reflection of that. I am going to have to lighten up a bit, as I am depressing myself.

What are the six ugliest words in the English Language? Off the top of my head, here are my six:  starvation, violence, war, hate, cold-heartedness, and greed.

Hal Urban, author of The 10 Commandments of Common Sense has six different words. His are: selfish, egotistical, conceited, haughty, self-centred, and arrogant.

What do his six words and my six words have in common? His six words are more personality based, while mine are more far-reaching—but the thing they have in common is that his words lead to mine.

Greed has caused war. Cold-heartedness is the result of being egotistical.  Haughty leads to hate. And the list goes on.

By examining these words, by defining them, by being appalled by them, we can make strides. But first we have to recognize them for what they are. They are all part of the human condition.

I will leave you with some words from C.S. Lewis, who believes that pride is the one word we should wrestle to the ground. He said:

“Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to selfishness are really far more the result of pride….It is pride that has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and family since the world began…The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

According to Urban, Lewis believes that “We can’t overcome it unless we first acknowledge it.”


Words (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

So what do you think? What are your six ugliest words? And do you concede that you are conceited?

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44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Lou Ann, this post made me think. I do agree that I am sometimes “conceited” in that I desire recognition for the things I do — so that is self-serving, but I think that’s human — we all do that. Six words: mean, judgmental, apathetic, hate, greed, invalid. Guess that could be on a large scale!

    Have a good weekend, my friend!

    • Apathetic – that is the word I was trying to come up with when I used cold-hearted.
      I could argue that if we were not at least a bit conceited we would have trouble navigating this world sometimes. So you and I both recognize it–but now what do we do–I think we both keep it under wraps–but what is wrong with a little recognition?

  2. The trouble with the word ‘pride’ is that it can sometimes be a good thing – eg, if you are proud of someone else or if you are proud of your achievements etc. I don’t know – maybe it’s the mis-use of pride that creates havoc. Well you have certainly got me thinking when really I was just about to go to bed!

    • I think that some words have both a good and ugly side and pride is one of them. If we take no pride then we present the world with an ugly face (I am speaking metaphorically here, and without looking in the mirror!)

      • I understand and it is so confusing sometimes isn’t it!

      • it is all in the defining I guess

  3. I blame all things negative, these days, on pre-menopause/menopause (i.e. your mood lately). i’m currently ‘listening’ to martin selligmans book flourish. it details some great writing exercises to increase ‘well-being’. and in the effort to not get pulled into any darkness, i prefer not to comtemplate negative words. that’s just me. i don’t want to get to close to the dark hole.

    • I understand –think I will try to find Flourish–and I certainly do not want to pull anyone into darkness–I am serious here – stay on your quest, it is a good one and one I may just embark on with you
      And perimenopause and menopause can be a challenge, there is no doubt.

  4. Great post! Let’s see… my words would be: cruel, judgmental, arrogance, hate, fear, ignorance. I feel like I could go on and on! I feel like pride is a confusing word because like you said, there a can be good pride and then there can be the kind of pride that’s ugly. I chose the word Fear because it’s the opposite of Faith. It’s surprising when we dig deep, how often fear is at the core of what motivates us. Again, some fear is good when it protects us from danger – I’m speaking of the kind of fear that leads us away from faith.

    • Fear can be immobilizing, and the opposite of faith I agree. It is so true that many words seem to have two sides–one that is clearly ugly, and one that may save us from the ugly.

  5. I think the commandments’ 6 words lead to the cruelest words of the English language and inherently, if influenced enough, any human has the potential for them which is a little scary – a reflective post my friend 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. my 6 words would be… betrayal, hate, cruelty, descrimination, anger and suffering. So what does that say about me? 🙂


  7. Seems to me that Urban’s words are all synonyms?
    Hunger, abandonment, futility, desperation, exile, ignorance.

    • those are some good ugly words–every one of them–each with their own special vileness

  8. Hmmm, will have to think about that one.

  9. In my book, selfishness and greed cover it all.

  10. I’m sorry you’re feeling funky. Um, my words are Cruel, Arrogant, Despair, Greed, Lazy, Abuse. Can we do happiest words next week?
    Feel better!

    • that is an excellent idea whose time has come–despair, lazy and abuse are three new ones to add to the list

  11. This is an interesting question. Most people ask about their ugliest words in terms of how they sound–like “moist,” a word that evidently bothers a great many people. In this category, though, my top 6 would be Evil, Loneliness, Fear, Hate, Pain, and Cruelty. For obvious reasons, I think.

    • Loneliness is an ugly word that no one has mentioned yet. As another commenter commented–can we do a happiest word next week and I think that is a wonderful idea–what do you think?

  12. Pride is sometimes part of our ego, and ego gets us into all kinds of trouble. Oh yeah, I am conceited….I work on it, I am evolving, it is a process. Evil, is the ugliest word I can think of. Thought provoking post Lou.

    • evil is the ugliest word – it takes in forces we cannot and do not understand.

  13. This is a post that requires thought. Hmmm… I know for sure I would include Selfish, Evil, Pain and Hate …. I want to give more thought to the other two.

  14. Gee, I am liking your writing more and more. It makes me more aware. To narrow my choice of ugly words to only six took some thinking., I wrote them down and added and subtacted but these are the basic ones. Poverty, racism, murder, entitlement, greed, incurable.

    It is tough to stop with just those six words. I have at least six more so I had to really think about the words I chose.

    And, for conceit, I reckon that we all or just about all have a bit of conceit in our little ole personalities. Conceit is not a bad thing unless it is extreme and then one becomes a snob and then a bigot. Conceit can keep changing the more extreme it becomes. I hope that made sense.

    • you make total sense, many words we call bad are not necessarily all bad and a derivative of them is actually good

      I like your six words–you added five new ones to the list–thanks for your thoughtful reply

  15. I never use the word Hate if I can help it because I feel like it’s one of those words that are way too strong and serious to be used lightly. I also dislike Apathy/Apathetic, Arrogant and Evil. It’s not six but those are the ones I feel the strongest distaste for.
    I do think we’re all conceited to some degree but if we’re able to acknowledge that, I’d say we’re a step ahead of everyone else (which ironically, can be seen as another kind of conceitedness I guess). What a profound post! Grab some pick-me-ups this weekend. 🙂

    • I agree with you that hate is an extreme word that I do not bandy about either–having said that I hate both apathy and evil–arrogance at least can have a cure.
      Am bring myself out of my negative mood and going to enjoy the weekend.
      I like your self-reflective definition of conceit–

  16. I think CS Lewis was a bit off target with conceit… he was an elderly bachelor who married late in life out of compassion,. his mother died when he was a boy, and I think he had very little practical experience of emotion or psychology,- though the Screw-Tape letters are brilliant and very funny.

    I think by using a word like conceit he’s slightly blurred the picture… war is caused by seeing people as other – and OK to kill – and that’s very much the training in the armed services these days.
    In the two world wars, soldiers were citizens called up to fight – now we train soldiers to kill professionally.

    Wars seem to be caused by greed, arrogance and hatred of the other – sunni- muslim, christian- muslim etc.
    And yes, I agree that until we cleanse our own hearts of judgement and seeing others as different, we’re creating the space for conflict.

    Live and let live, and maybe CS Lewis has a point, if we see everyone as equal and having the same value… then conceit/ arrogance can’t come into it…
    I seem to have gone on a long time! sorry about that!

    • what a great comment–historical, thoughtful and smart–I think you could have written a better post than I. I get the impression that Lewis is talking about conceit in a different way or context than how we see it–and from a different point of view. Thanks for the info-:)

  17. Good Morning.. I am not going to add to the list here because I think that evil has been well covered. There is alot of goodness in the comment stream — good quality people who know how to define how they do not want to live their lives.You are very thought provoking.

    • in recognizing evil and the other ugly words we are combating them–I agree that the commenters have shown their true and good colours

  18. Lou Ann you’ve reminded me how powerful our words are. And the thoughts that use those words.

  19. Another thought provoking post.. Words can hurt as much as a slap and on the flip side can empower more than an award. As for 6 ugly words I may be repeating some said but here are mine: negligence, racism, belittlement, poverty, egotistical, negativity.

    • you added some new ones- negligence, racism. belittlement – thank you
      -and yes, I so agree that words can wonderfully empower

  20. My 6 ugliest words would be…Hate, Poverty, Violence, Greed, Deceit, and Fear. I agree with you though, it feels like no matter what words you choose, they all tend to lead to the same place, don’t they! Thanks for making us think, and for C.S. Lewis quote! (Oh, and I’m afraid I must concede that I’m a bit conceited :P)

    • aren’t we all–just that little bit conceited–I think it is what helps us hold our heads high
      I think your word deceit was a new one to add to the list–thanks for your thoughtful comment

      • So true, the right amount of conceit is really just self-esteem…too much though and that’s when you get some problems 😉

      • as with everything–it is a balance–sometimes though I get tired of balancing!

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