Word: Kafkaesque

Pronunciation: kahf-kə-ESK

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Yes, it’s yet another adjective derived from an author’s name! For today’s Word of the Week, we’re focusing on writer Franz Kafka, whose most famous stories centered around commonplace characters navigating a bureaucratic society with little or no reward to make their ordeals worthwhile in the end. Thanks to those stories, today we have a go-to word for the ridiculous obstacle course that is modern bureaucracy: “Kafkaesque”!

“Kafkaesque” describes anything reminiscent of Franz Kafka‘s works. In general, Kafka’s writing is famous for its nightmarish and oppressive qualities. When describing something as “Kafkaesque”, the most common image to come to mind is of unnecessarily convoluted and frustrating aspects of mundane life.

As with the last two vocabulary words derived from authors’ names, the full scope of the definition of “Kafkaesque” is a bit more complicated than dictionaries can sum up in a single line. Fortunately, also as with the previous examples, TED-Ed has the more complex meaning of the word covered with one of their amazingly animated videos, so I’ll just leave that here for your enjoyment. Remember that its origin from a proper noun means the word should always be capitalized. If your stories often feature unnecessarily convoluted plots, your writing itself may be more “Kafkaesque” than you realize!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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