8 Vocab Words We Learned from Disney Films

Before the doldrums of Verbal SAT flashcards, we built our vocabulary the natural way: through Disney movies.  Never dumbed down, the songs from our favorite movies also served as tools for our edification.  Here are a few advanced words and phrases we learned well before high school, thanks to our VCRs.

Atrocious, Precocious


These five-dollar words came from Mary Poppins.  It’s kind of cheating that they rhymed with what wasn’t even an actual word in the first place, and it’s not very clear how saying “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” loudly will always make you sound precocious, but… hey, it’s fun.



You might have learned this if you listened closely during aquarium tours, but more likely you picked it up from the hit song, “Under the Sea,” in The Little Mermaid.  (“What have they got, a lot of sand? / We’ve got a hot crustacean band!” boasts Sebastian the crab.)

Idle Prattle


Also, in The Little Mermaid, Ursula’s wicked “Poor Unfortunate Soul” was filled with phrases for the mature audience.  With “and after all, dear / what is idle prattle for?” Ursula convinced Ariel she wouldn’t need her voice.  Though I think really, what most stuck with me about this song was that moment where she waves around her giant octopus-tits on “don’t forget the importance of BODY LANGUAGE!”  If you didn’t know what body language meant, Ursula made it pretty clear there.


Well before assigned reading of Tennessee Williams, we learned menagerie was a cognate for zoo through Genie in Aladdin during the song “Prince Ali.”  (“Have they got a zoo? / I’m telling you, it’s a world-class menagerie!”)  The back up singers also used the phrase “simply puts my heart asunder,” but I’m not sure if I ever figured out what that meant.  So much was going on!

Meticulous, Tenacity

Probably the most impressive song in the history of Disney haute lyricism is Scar’s spooky ballad, “Be Prepared,” from The Lion King.  It stands to reason that this would come from the classy Jeremy Irons, who naturally sounds smarter than you are.  Before I finish with my favorite phrase from this song, let us appreciate the masterwork that is this run of verbiage: “Meticulous planning / tenacity spanning / decades of denial / is simply while I’ll / be king, undisputed / respected, saluted /and seen for the wonder I am/ Yes our teeth and ambitions are bared / Be prepared!”  (I had to go all the way.  That is some quality writing.)

Quid Pro Quo

Also from “Be Prepared,” where Scar tells the hyenas, “Of course, quid pro quo you’re expected to take certain duties on board.”  I still remember my paralegal mother explaining to 7-year-old me what it meant as we stood in the kitchen.  (If you remembered that Genie in Aladdin also used this expression in dialogue, you get bonus points!)

There’s lots more where that came from, but these are my faves.  What were yours? (P.S. “Bibbity-bobbity-boo” is not a real word.)


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