Absorbing and thought-provoking: words meaning ‘interesting’

Laura Kate Bradley / Moment / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

On this blog, we often look at the various English words and phrases that we use to express the same concept. This week we’re focusing on the word ‘interesting’. There are lots of synonyms (or rather, ‘near-synonyms’) for this adjective but most carry an extra meaning. In this post, I’ll try to show the differences in meaning between these near-synonyms and provide you with a range of ‘interesting’ vocabulary!

If you find something extremely interesting, you can use the adjective fascinating:

I read a fascinating book on the subject.

It’s a fascinating subject.

If something interests you, partly because you cannot fully understand it and want to know more, you might describe it as intriguing:

The novel’s opening chapter is very intriguing.

A book, film or activity that is so interesting, it completely holds your attention, might be described as absorbing:

I found his last novel very absorbing.

Even stronger than ‘absorbing’, but with the same meaning is the adjective engrossing:

It’s a really engrossing story.

Something that holds all your attention because it is both interesting and exciting might be described as compelling:

I found the whole film compelling from start to finish.

Other adjectives with a similar meaning are riveting and gripping:

The first act of the play was completely riveting.

It’s a really gripping read.

Meanwhile, if a talk, book, film, etc. is interesting because it makes you think a lot about a subject, you can say that it is thought-provoking:

It was a very thought-provoking talk.

A job or discussion that is stimulating makes you keep feeling interested, often by providing you with new ideas:

He finds his new job much more stimulating.

We had a very stimulating discussion.

Sometimes, things are interesting in a rather unusual way. For this combination of qualities, we have the adjective curious:

There were some very curious-looking frogs in there.

Conversation or company that is interesting and enjoyable is sometimes described as sparkling, especially if it is clever and funny:

Georgie was in sparkling form.

The conversation was positively sparkling.

Gossip (= news about other people’s private lives) that is interesting because it is rather shocking may be described informally as juicy:

I’ve got some juicy gossip for you!

There is also a group of ‘interesting’ adjectives that mean ‘interesting enough to be spoken of’, for example notable:

Was anything notable said in the meeting?

A more formal way of saying this is worthy of attention/notice/note:

We saw a couple of fairly entertaining short films but nothing worthy of note.

An event that is interesting enough to be described in a news report may be described as newsworthy:

Nothing newsworthy ever happened in her parents’ town.

If you find something engrossing, thought-provoking or stimulating this week, perhaps you’d like to tell us?

41 thoughts on “Absorbing and thought-provoking: words meaning ‘interesting’

  1. Mujahed Jadallah

    Thank you so much for this fascinating post, with such subtle distinctions in meaning and use seamlessly connected. I’ve found it a totally intriguing read.

  2. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you,Kate! Your articles are always facsinating and stimulating. I liked “juicy gossip” best of all!

    1. Kate Woodford

      It’s nice, isn’t it, Tatiana? And quite memorable too. I hope you’ll have lots of opportunities to use the phrase. All the best to you!

  3. Maryem Salama

    That is fascinating information about the near -synonyms of the word interesting I always need them in my daily practice of writing.
    My dear Kate
    Will you do me a favour? I am trying to write a story, and I want to set the events or the actions in terms of time, for example, Phrases like: from now onward, the advent of the last decade, over the next week, in the course of time. Thank you in advance.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Maryem! Nice to hear from you. That’s a really interesting idea for a post. I’ll give it some thought and see if there’s enough material for a post. Best wishes to you.

  4. loriflaherty

    Fascinating post! Stimulating, thought-provoking and note worthy. I will look forward to reading more from you!

  5. B.ghoshdastidar

    May I supplement with the following synonyms:
    Engaging, captivating, appealing, enthralling, diverting, provoking, thought-inspiring, tantalizing titillating, tickling, spell-binding, arresting, attracting, spicy (juicy), magnetic, hypnotic, enchanting, mesmerising, alluring, charming, be witching, beguiling, entrancing, enticing and so on,- the list is not exhaustive.

  6. Huy

    I’m looking for some ways to paraphrase the word “interesting” which I use it so much in the Ielts exam. Your post is truly helpful and gripping. Thank you !!!

  7. Anushka

    I watched game of thrones series this week. I must say the entire seasons was so absorbing and thought provoking.
    There was not a single episode which wasn’t fascinating..
    At the end of each episode i always got curious to know what happens next.
    I found whole series compelling from start to end.

  8. Kate Woodford

    Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments! It’s so encouraging to hear that you’re finding our posts useful. Best wishes from Cambridge.

  9. Grace Yan

    Dear Kate, Thank you for your intriguing and stimulating post. Would you please tell me what are the differences between absorbing and absorbed, engrossing and engrossed, etc. in their usage.
    Thank you for your time,

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Grace! You’re very welcome! Yes, certainly! You would describe a film/book, etc. as absorbing and the person watching or reading it as ‘absorbed’, eg ‘It’s a really absorbing book./I was so absorbed in my book, I didn’t even hear her come in.’ Likewise ‘engross/engrossing’ eg an engrossing film./I was so engrossed in the film…’ This applies to all those -ing/-ed adjectives, eg interesting/interested, boring/bored etc. I hope that helps! Best wishes from Cambridge.

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