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Definition:  marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger; a nightmarish complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.

Pronunciation:  kaf-ku-esk

Synonyms: Phantasmagoric, chimerical


Anonymously coined in 1946, Kafkaesque came about to portray and describe characters or happenings such as were apparent with the Czech writer Franz Kafka, whose novels often describe convoluted scenarios.

Why this word?

Frederick R. Karl, the author of an exhaustive critical biography of Franz Kafka explained the word Kafkaesque as entering “a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world.”You don’t give up; you don’t lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don’t stand a chance. That’s Kafkaesque.”

The word “Kafkaesque” has recently been making a brilliant career in (surprise, surprise) law jargon. The first utterance of this eponym was in an American courtroom in the early 1970s and, according to the New York Times, every next decade has brought over 100 other instances.

How to use the word kafkaesque in a sentence?

“My attempt to get a new password turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare”.

“All I wanted was a nice evening, not a Kafkaesque experience of pondering existence!”


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Written by Akshay Dashore

Akshay is a Civil engineer who, for his love of words, preferred words over engineering. He is an avid reader and a prolific writer.


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