8 Words To Use Instead Of “Crazy”

In the 1500s, the word crazy meant "to be sickly and infirm." But a century later, crazy was used to mean "insane" or "demented."

This definition of the word, used both literally and figuratively, is what we think of today when we hear crazy. And we do see the word crazy all over the place—it's one of the 2,000 most frequently used words in American English.

Despite how common this word is, there is a growing movement to encourage people to reconsider using the word crazy in recognition of how it stigmatizes mental illnesses. When crazy is used in a derogatory way—to describe someone who is acting irrationally, for example—it reinforces negative stereotypes about people living with mental health conditions. That's why experts in the field and mental health advocates recommend avoiding the word crazy (along with other similar terms like psycho and nuts) to describe someone with a mental illness or characterize the way someone is acting.

Fortunately, English is a rich language, and there are much more interesting words out there than crazy, anyway. Read on for some helpful synonyms you can use instead.

silly

Silly is probably one of the kindest synonyms for crazy you could reach for.

Silly, as in "absurd, ridiculous, irrational," is a variant of the obsolete seely, meaning "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" and derived from the Old English s?lig. The meaning of silly shifted quite a bit over time, but today, we think of someone acting silly as displaying funny, simple, immature behavior.

For instance: "William, quit acting so silly," his mother scolded him, while he tried to catch the pond frog with his bare hands.

atypical

Sometimes when we are describing something as crazy, we really mean atypical. Atypical is a more clinical, neutral way of describing behavior that is irregular or out of the norm.

The word atypical is made of the prefix a-, meaning not, and typical, which comes from the Late Latin typicus, meaning "of or pertaining to a type."

In other words, someone who is acting atypically (the adverbial form of the word) is doing things that are unusual (e.g., A fried peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich is certainly an atypical lunch).

erratic

Another way to describe behavior you see as unusual is erratic.

Erratic dates back to the 1300s. It comes from the Latin erraticus, "wandering, straying," via French. Erratic first had this more literal meaning to refer to someone or something off-track. By the early 1800s, the word was used figuratively to refer to someone who seemed eccentric or unstable.

Usually, the adjective erratic is used to modify the noun behavior. For instance: The monkey was displaying increasingly erratic behavior, including pushing his monkey friends off neighboring branches.

antisocial

Like atypical, antisocial is a more clinical word to use than crazy.

Someone who is antisocial acts in ways that are hostile, unfriendly, or even menacing toward others. The word was in use by the end of the 18th century to describe someone who avoids companionship or acts rudely.

It's still used this way to this day, as in Samantha refuses invitations to sit together at lunch; she's antisocial.

irrational

Often when you are reaching for the word crazy, you really just want to describe someone who is acting irrational.

Ir- is a prefix that means "not," so irrational means "not rational."

Irrationality can happen for many reasons—because someone is tired, or emotional, or Mars is in retrograde. But it's not necessarily related to a mental health condition. That makes it a helpful word to describe behaviors that you just can't figure out: It is irrational to take a shower before you work out because you'll just have to shower again afterward.

strange

Strange is a wonderful word. It's a little more derogatory than silly but not as rude as weird (coming up in a minute).

Strange comes from the Old French estrange, meaning something "alien, foreign, or unfamiliar." The word dates all the way back to the 1200s.

Over the many, many centuries, the word's meaning has stayed largely consistent, including to describe someone who acts in unusual or unfamiliar ways, making it a good replacement for crazy. For example: There was something strange about the way the man took off his baseball hat and waved it around in the air.

weird

The origin of the word weird is just as weird as you would hope it would be.

The word comes from the Old English wyrd, meaning "fate" or "fortune." As such, weird circa 1400 meant "able to control fate or destiny." In the early 19th century, as spooky supernatural stories and plays became all the rage, weird came to describe something unearthly, mysterious, or uncomfortable.

Today, we use weird to describe just about anyone or anything that is off the beaten track and a little different. While it can be affectionate, depending on the context, weird is often used in a somewhat insulting way, so be careful when using this one. An example: Some people might describe Justine's polka-dotted and sequined outfit as weird, but I think it's cool.

preposterous

It's possible that you think something is crazy, when, really, it's just topsy-turvy. If that's the case, you might want to reach for the word preposterous instead.

Preposterous means "absolutely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense." As an added bonus, it's kind of a funny-sounding word. The word preposterous comes from the Latin word praeposterus, which literally means "before-behind," or in other words, "in the wrong order." In other words: You can't just become an astronaut without training first! That'd be preposterous.

Next time, try out this puffed-up word—and all of the others we've suggested—as a handy substitute for the frankly boring, definitely overused, and sometimes disrespectful crazy.