Browse By

10 Gruesome Words to Use in Your Next Horror Story


Credit: Photographer Joe Miller, via Jessangel2003 on DeviantArt.

There’s no denying… these words taste good. Their meaning, however, is less delicious. But if you’re looking to add flavor to your horror story while at the same time demonstrating your impressive ability to use words with three – even four! – syllables, try these out:


Adj. [kuh-dav-er-uhs]
Origin: 1620-30
1. Of or like a corpse.
2. Pale; ghastly.

An uncomplimentary way to describe a character or creature: With blank eyes and a cadaverous complexion, the bloodied man shuffled toward me.


Adj. [ɪkˈsæŋɡwɪn-uhs]
Origin: Latin meaning “without blood”
1. Destitute of blood or apparently so.
2. Pale or bloodless.

Useful, perhaps, if you write about vampires: After he’d drunk his fill of blood, the vampire let the girl’s pale, exsanguinous corpse fall unceremoniously to the ground.


Verb [krep-i-teyt]
Origin: 1615-25
1. To make a crackling sound.
2. To rattle or crackle.

A unique and potentially ghastly sound: Her bones let out small pops, crepitating as she was slowly crushed under the weight of the settling stone.


Verb [kat-er-wawl]
Origin: 1350-1400
1. To utter long wailing cries.
2. To howl, shriek, squawk or yowl.

Used to describe a bestial sound: The wounded creature let out a strange caterwauling as it dragged itself deeper into the woods.

San Francisco Earthquake

Ruins from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, via Wikipedia.


Verb [reyz]
Origin: 1540-50
1. To tear down; demolish; level to the ground.
2. To shave or scrape off.

Useful to describe the aftermath of a large destructive force: The leviathan shambled back toward the sea, leaving nothing but the razed city in its wake.


Adj. [sur-puh n-teen]
Origin: 1350-1400
1. Resembling a serpent, as in form or movement.
2. Having a winding course, as a road; twisting; winding.

Could describe the body of a monster: The creature’s scaly, serpentine tail glinted in the sunlight before disappearing into the murky depths of the lake. 


Ossuary of St. Mary’s Church of Wamba (Valladolid, Spain), via Wikipedia.


Noun [os-oo-er-ee]
Origin: 1650-60
1. A place or receptacle for the bones of the dead.
2. Any container for the burial of human bones, such as an urn or vault.

A creepy setting option: A chill ran through Red as the vault door locked from the outside. Trapped with neither food nor water, he realized he was doomed to join the ossuary’s skeletal ranks. 


Noun [sey-ahns]
Origin: 1795-1805
1. A meeting in which a spiritualist attempts to communicate with the spirits of the dead.

A means of summoning trouble for your characters: The medium’s eyes glazed black and she began gibbering in foreign tongues. Watching in horror, May finally believed: the séance was underway. 


Adj. [rang-ker-uhs]
Origin: 1175-1225
1. Full of or showing bitterness, rankling resentment or ill will, hatred or malice.

Suits the personality of a villain or a fed-up antihero: The accident had sullied Billy’s compassionate nature and he now made the rancorous decision to let the drunkard die.

Last but not least…


Origin: 1970s
1. Very elegant or ornate, especially pretentiously so; highfalutin.

I will not do something so base as to eat my shrimp cocktail with a plastic fork! This delicacy must be consumed with a fancy-schmancy micro-trident or not at all!

One thought on “10 Gruesome Words to Use in Your Next Horror Story”

  1. Dave Burnham says:

    Thanks for this excellent posting. I had used rancorous and caterwauling in my current work in progress before seeing this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *