Full GRE Word List A through L Flashcards

Tom
Terms Definitions
Abase
v. lower; degrade; humiliate. Anna expected to have to curtsy to the King of Siam; when told to cast herself down on the ground before him, however, she refused to abase herself. abasement, N.
abash
v. embarrass. He was not at all abashed by her open admiration.
■abate
v. subside or moderate. Rather than leaving immediately, they waited for the storm to abate.
abbreviate
v. shorten. Because we were running out of time, the lecturer had to abbreviate her speech.
abdicate
v. renounce; give up. When Edward VIII abdicated the British throne, he surprised the entire world.
■aberrant
adj. abnormal or deviant. Given the aberrant nature of the data, we came to doubt the validity of the entire experiment.
Aberration
n. abnormality; departure from the norm; mental irregularity or disorder. It remains the consensus among investors on Wall Street that current high oil prices are a temporary aberration and that we shall soon see a return to cheap oil.
abet
v. assist, usually in doing something wrong; encourage. She was unwilling to abet him in the swindle he had planned.
■abeyance
n. suspended action. The deal was held in abeyance until her arrival.
abhor
v. detest; hate. She abhorred all forms of bigotry. abhorrence, N.
abject
adj. wretched; lacking pride. On the streets of New York the homeless live in abject poverty, huddling in doorways to find shelter from the wind.
abjure
v. renounce upon oath; disavow. Pressure from university authorities caused the young scholar to abjure his heretical opinions. abjuration, N.
ablution
n. washing. His daily ablutions were accompanied by loud noises that he humorously labeled "Opera in the Bath."
abnegation
n. renunciation; self-sacrifice. Though Rudolph and Duchess Flavia loved one another, their love was doomed, for she had to wed the king; their act of abnegation was necessary to preserve the kingdom.
abolish
v. cancel; put an end to. The president of the college refused to abolish the physical education requirement. abolition, N.
abominable
adj. detestable; extremely unpleasant; very bad. Mary liked John until she learned he was also dating Susan; then she called him an abominable young man, with abominable taste in women.
abominate
v. loathe; hate. Moses scolded the idol worshippers in the tribe because he abominated the custom.
aboriginal ADJ.,
n. being the first of its kind in a region; primitive; native. Her studies of the primitive art forms of the aboriginal Indians were widely reported in the scientific journals. aborigine, N.
abortive
adj. unsuccessful; fruitless. Attacked by armed troops, the Chinese students had to abandon their abortive attempt to democratize Beijing peacefully. abort, v.
abrasive
adj. rubbing away; tending to grind down. Just as abrasive cleaning powders can wear away a shiny finish, abrasive remarks can wear away a listener's patience. abrade, v.
abridge
v. condense or shorten. Because the publishers felt the public wanted a shorter version of War and Peace, they proceeded to abridge the novel.
abrogate
v. abolish. The king intended to abrogate the decree issued by his predecessor.
abscission
n. removal by cutting off, as in surgery; separation. Gas gangrene spreads so swiftly and is so potentially deadly that doctors advise abscission of the gangrenous tissue. When a flower or leaf separates naturally from the parent plant, this process is called abscission or leaf fall.
■abscond
v. depart secretly and hide. The teller who absconded with the bonds went uncaptured until someone recognized him from his photograph on America's Most Wanted.
absolute
adj. complete; totally unlimited; certain. Although the King of Siam was an absolute monarch, he did not want to behead his unfaithful wife without absolute evidence of her infidelity.
absolve
v. pardon (an offense). The father confessor absolved him of his sins. absolution, N.
abstain
v. refrain; withhold from participation. After considering the effect of alcohol on his athletic performance, he decided to abstain from drinking while he trained for the race.
■abstemious
adj. sparing in eating and drinking; temperate. Concerned whether her vegetarian son's abstemious diet provided him with sufficient protein, the worried mother pressed food on him.
abstinence
n. restraint from eating or drinking. The doctor recommended total abstinence from salted foods. abstain, v.
abstract
adj. theoretical; not concrete; nonrepresentational. To him, hunger was an abstract concept; he had never missed a meal.
abstruse
adj. obscure; profound; difficult to understand. Baffled by the abstruse philosophical texts assigned in class, Dave asked Lexy to explain Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.
abusive
adj. coarsely insulting; physically harmful. An abusive parent damages a child both mentally and physically.
abut
v. border upon; adjoin. Where our estates abut, we must build a fence.
abysmal
adj. bottomless. His arrogance is exceeded only by his abysmal ignorance.
abyss
n. enormous chasm; vast, bottomless pit. Darth Vader seized the evil emperor and hurled him into the abyss.
academic
adj. related to a school; not practical or directly useful. The dean's talk about reforming academic policies was only an academic discussion: we knew little, if anything, would change.
accede
v. agree. If I accede to this demand for blackmail, I am afraid that I will be the victim of future demands.
accelerate
v. move faster. In our science class, we learn how falling bodies accelerate.
accessible
adj. easy to approach; obtainable. We asked our guide whether the ruins were accessible on foot.
accessory
n. additional object; useful but not essential thing. She bought an attractive handbag as an accessory for her dress. also ADJ.
acclaim
v. applaud; announce with great approval. The sportscasters acclaimed every American victory in the Olympics and decried every American defeat. acclamation, N.
acclimate
v. adjust to climate or environment; adapt. One of the difficulties of our present air age is the need of travelers to acclimate themselves to their new and often strange environments.
acclivity
n. sharp upslope of a hill. The car could not go up the acclivity in high gear.
accolade
n. award of merit. In Hollywood, an "Oscar" is the highest accolade.
accommodate
v. oblige or help someone; adjust or bring into harmony; adapt. Mitch always did everything possible to accommodate his elderly relatives, from driving them to medical appointments to helping them with paperwork. (secondary meaning)
accomplice
n. partner in crime. Because he had provided the criminal with the lethal weapon, he was arrested as an accomplice in the murder.
accord
n. agreement. She was in complete accord with the verdict.
accost
v. approach and speak first to a person. When the two young men accosted me, I was frightened because I thought they were going to attack me.
accoutre
v. equip. The fisherman was accoutred with the best that the sporting goods store could supply. accoutrement, N.
accretion
n. growth; increase. Over the years Bob put or weight; because of this accretion of flesh, he went from size M to size XL. accrete, v.
accrue
v. come about by addition. You must pay the interest that has accrued on your debt as well as the principal sum. accrual, N.
acerbic
adj. bitter or sour in nature; sharp and cutting. Noted for her acerbic wit and gossiping, Alice Roosevelt Longworth had a pillow in her home embroidered with the legend "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
acerbity
n. bitterness of speech and temper. The meeting of the United Nations Assembly was marked with such acerbity that observers held little hope of reaching any useful settlement of the problem.
acetic
adj. vinegary. The salad had an exceedingly acetic flavor.
acidulous
adj. slightly sour; sharp; caustic. James was unpopular because of his sarcastic and acidulous remarks.
acknowledge
v. recognize; admit. Although I acknowledge that the Beatles' tunes sound pretty dated nowadays, I still prefer them to the gangsta rap songs my brothers play.
acme
n. peak; pinnacle; highest point. Welles's success in Citizen Kane marked the acme of his career as an actor; never again did he achieve such popular acclaim.
acoustics
n. science of sound; quality that makes a room easy or hard to hear in. Carnegie Hall is liked by music lovers because of its fine acoustics.
acquiesce
v. assent; agree passively. Although she appeared to acquiesce to her employer's suggestions, I could tell she had reservations about the changes he wanted made. acquiescence, N.; acquiescent, ADJ.
acquittal
n. deliverance from a charge. His acquittal by the jury surprised those who had thought him guilty. acquit, v.
acrid
adj. sharp; bitterly pungent. The acrid odor of burnt gunpowder filled the room after the pistol had been fired.
acrimonious
adj. bitter in words or manner. The candidate attacked his opponent in highly acrimonious terms. acrimony, N.
acrophobia
n. fear of heights. A born salesman, he could convince someone with a bad case of acrophobia to sign up for a life membership in a sky-diving club.
actuarial
adj. calculating; pertaining to insurance statistics. According to recent actuarial tables, life expectancy is greater today than it was a century ago.
■actuate
v. motivate. I fail to understand what actuated you to reply to this letter so nastily.
acuity
n. sharpness. In time his youthful acuity of vision failed him, and he needed glasses.
acumen
n. mental keenness. Her business acumen helped her to succeed where others had failed.
acute
adj. quickly perceptive; keen; brief and severe. The acute young doctor realized immediately that the gradual deterioration of her patient's once-acute hearing was due to a chronic illness, not an acute one.
adage
n. wise saying; proverb. There is much truth in the old adage about fools and their money.
adamant
adj. hard; inflexible. In this movie Bronson played the part of a revenge-driven man, adamant in his determination to punish the criminals who destroyed his family. adamancy, N.
adapt
v. alter; modify. Some species of animals have become extinct because they could not adapt to a changing environment.
addendum
n. addition; appendix to book. Jane's editor approved her new comparative literature text but thought it would be even better with an addendum on recent developments in literary criticism.
addiction
n. compulsive, habitual need. His addiction to drugs caused his friends much grief.
addle
v. muddle; drive crazy; become rotten. This idiotic plan is confusing enough to addle anyone. addled, ADJ.
address
v. direct a speech to; deal with or discuss. Due to address the convention in July, Brown planned to address the issue of low-income housing in his speech.
adept
adj. expert at. She was adept at the fine art of irritating people. also N.
adhere
v. stick fast. I will adhere to this opinion until proof that I am wrong is presented. adhesion, N.; adherence, N.
adherent
n. supporter; follower. In the wake of the scandal, the senator's one-time adherents quietly deserted him.
adjacent
adj. adjoining; neighboring; close by. Philip's best friend Jason lived only four houses down the block, near but not immediately adjacent.
adjunct
n. something (generally nonessential or inferior) added on or attached. Although I don't absolutely need a second computer, I plan to buy a laptop to serve as an adjunct to my desktop model. also ADJ.
adjuration
n. solemn urging. Her adjuration to tell the truth did not change the witnesses' testimony. adjure, v.
adjutant
n. staff officer assisting the commander; assistant. Though Wellington delegated many tasks to his chief adjutant, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, Somerset was in no doubt as to who made all major decisions.
■ admonish
v. warn reprove. When her courtiers questioned her religious beliefs, Mary Stuart admonished them, declaring that she would worship as she pleased.
adorn
v. decorate. Wall paintings and carved statues adorned the temple. adornment, N.
adroit
adj. skillful. Her adroit handling of the delicate situation pleased her employers.
adulation
n. flattery; admiration. The rock star thrived on the adulation of his groupies and yes-men. adulate, v.
■adulterate
v. make impure by adding inferior or tainted substances. It is a crime to adulterate foods without informing the buyer; when consumers learned that Beechnut had adulterated its apple juice by mixing the juice with water, they protested vigorously. adulteration, N.
advent
n. arrival. Most Americans were unaware of the advent of the Nuclear Age until the news of Hiroshima reached them.
adventitious
adj. accidental; casual. She found this adventitious meeting with her friend extremely fortunate.
adversary
n. opponent; enemy. Batman struggled to save Gotham City from the machinations of his wicked adversary, the Joker.
adverse
adj. unfavorable; hostile. The recession had a highly adverse effect on Father's investment portfolio: he lost so much money that he could no longer afford the butler and the upstairs maid.
adversity
n. poverty; misfortune. We must learn to meet adversity gracefully.
advert
v. refer (to). Since you advert to this matter so frequently, you must regard it as important.
advocacy
n. support; active pleading on behalf of someone or something. No threats could dissuade Bishop Desmond Tutu from his advocacy of the human rights of black South Africans.
advocate
v. urge; plead for. The abolitionists advocated freedom for the slaves. also N.
aegis
n. shield; defense. Under the aegis of the Bill of Rights, we enjoy our most treasured freedoms.
aerie
n. nest of a large bird of prey (eagle, hawk). The mother eagle swooped down on the rabbit and bore it off to her aerie high in the Rocky Mountains.
■aesthetic
adj. artistic; dealing with or capable of appreciating the beautiful. The beauty of Tiffany's stained glass appealed to Alice's aesthetic sense. aesthete, N.
affable
adj. easily approachable; warmly friendly. Accustomed to cold, aloof supervisors, Nicholas was amazed at how affable his new employer was. affability, N.
affected
adj. artificial; pretended; assumed in order to impress. His affected mannerisms—his "Harvard" accent, his air of boredom, his use of obscure foreign words—bugged us. he acted as if he thought he was too good for his old high school friends. affectation, N.
affidavit
n. written statement made under oath. The court refused to accept her statement unless she presented it in the form of an affidavit.
affiliation
n. joining; associating with. His affiliation with the political party was of short duration for he soon disagreed with his colleagues.
affinity
n. kinship. She felt an affinity with all who suffered; their pains were her pains.
affirmation
n. positive assertion; confirmation; solemn pledge by one who refuses to take an oath. Despite Tom's affirmations of innocence, Aunt Polly still suspected he had eaten the pie.
affix
v. attach or add on; fasten. First the registrar had to affix his signature to the license; then he had to affix his official seal.
affliction
n. state of distress; cause of suffering. Even in the midst of her affliction, Elizabeth tried to keep up the spirits of those around her.
affluence
n. abundance; wealth. Foreigners are amazed by the affluence and luxury of the American way of life.
affront
n. insult; offense; intentional act of disrespect. When Mrs. Proudie was not seated beside the Archdeacon at the head table, she took it as a personal affront and refused to speak to her hosts for a week. also v.
agape
adj. openmouthed. She stared, agape, at the many strange animals in the zoo.
agenda
n. items of business at a meeting. We had so much difficulty agreeing upon an agenda that there was very little time for the meeting.
agglomeration
n. collection; heap. It took weeks to assort the agglomeration of miscellaneous items she had collected on her trip.
aggrandize
v. increase or intensify; raise in power, wealth, rank or honor. The history of the past quarter century illustrates how a President may aggrandize his power to act aggressively in international affairs without considering the wishes of Congress.
■aggregate
v. gather; accumulate. Before the Wall Street scandals, dealers in so-called junk bonds managed to aggregate great wealth in short periods of time. also
aggressor
n. attacker. Before you punish both boys for fighting, see whether you can determine which one was the aggressor.
aghast
adj. horrified; dumbfounded. Miss Manners was aghast at the crude behavior of the fraternity brothers at the annual toga party.
agility
n. nimbleness. The agility of the acrobat amazed and thrilled the audience.
agitate
v. stir up; disturb. Her fiery remarks agitated the already angry mob.
agnostic
n. one who is skeptical of the existence of a god or any ultimate reality. Agnostics say we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God; we simply have no way to know. also ADJ.
agog
adj. highly excited; intensely curious. We were all agog at the news that the celebrated movie star was giving up his career in order to enter a monastery.
agrarian
adj. pertaining to land or its cultivation. As a result of its recent industrialization, the country is gradually losing its agrarian traditions.
■alacrity
n. cheerful promptness; eagerness. Phil and Dave were raring to get off to the mountains; they packed up their ski gear and climbed into the van with alacrity.
alchemy
n. medieval form of speculative thought that aimed to transform base metals (lead or copper) into silver or gold and to discover a means of prolonging life. Although alchemy anticipated science in its belief that physical reality was determined by an unvarying set of natural laws, the alchemist's experimental method was hardly scientific.
alcove
n. nook; recess. Though their apartment lacked a full-scale dining room, an alcove adjacent to the living room made an adequate breakfast nook for the young couple.
alias
n. an assumed name. John Smith's alias was Bob Jones. also ADV.
alienate
v. make hostile; separate. Her attempts to alienate the two friends failed because they had complete faith in each other.
alimentary
adj. supplying nourishment. The alimentary canal in our bodies is so named because digestion of foods occurs there. When asked for the name of the digestive tract, Sherlock Holmes replied, "Alimentary, my dear Watson."
alimony
n. payments made to an ex-spouse after divorce. Because Tony had supported Tina through medical school, on their divorce he asked the court to award him $500 a month in alimony.
allay
v. calm; pacify. The crew tried to allay the fears of the passengers by announcing that the fire had been controlled.
allege
v. state without proof. Although it is alleged that she has worked for the enemy, she denies the allegation and, legally, we can take no action against her without proof. allegation, N.
allegiance
n. loyalty. Not even a term in prison could shake Lech Walesa's allegiance to Solidarity, the Polish trade union he had helped to found.
allegory
n. story in which characters are used as symbols; fable. Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory of the temptations and victories of the human soul. allegorical, ADJ.
■alleviate
v. relieve. This should alleviate the pain; if it does not, we shall have to use stronger drugs.
alliteration
n. repetition of beginning sound in poetry. "The furrow followed free" is an example of alliteration.
allocate
v. assign. Even though the Red Cross had allocated a large sum for the relief of the sufferers of the disaster, many people perished.
alloy
n. a mixture as of metals. Alloys of gold are used more frequently than the pure metal.
alloy
v. mix; make less pure; lessen or moderate.
allude
v. refer indirectly. Try not to mention divorce in Jack's presence because he will think you are alluding to his marital problems with Jill.
allure
v. entice; attract. Allured by the song of the sirens, the helmsman steered the ship toward the reef. also N.
allusion
n. indirect reference. When Amanda said to the ticket scalper, "One hundred bucks? What do you want, a pound of flesh?" she was making an allusion to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.
alluvial
adj. pertaining to soil deposits left by running water. The farmers found the alluvial deposits at the mouth of the river very fertile.
aloof
adj. apart; reserved. Shy by nature, she remained aloof while all the rest conversed.
aloft
adv. upward. The sailor climbed aloft into the rigging.
altercation
n. noisy quarrel; heated dispute. In that hot-tempered household, no meal ever came to a peaceful conclusion; the inevitable altercation sometimes even ended in blows.
altruistic
adj. unselfishly generous; concerned for others. In providing tutorial assistance and college scholarships for hundreds of economically disadvantaged youths, Eugene Lang performed a truly altruistic deed. altruism, N.
■amalgamate
v. combine; unite in one body. The unions will attempt to amalgamate their groups into one national body.
amass
v. collect. The miser's aim is to amass and hoard as much gold as possible.
amazon
n. female warrior. Ever since the days of Greek mythology we refer to strong and aggressive women as amazons.
ambidextrous
adj. capable of using either hand with equal ease. A switch-hitter in baseball should be naturally ambidextrous.
ambience
n. environment; atmosphere. She went to the restaurant not for the food but for the ambience.
■ambiguous
adj. unclear or doubtful in meaning. His ambiguous instructions misled us; we did not know which road to take. ambiguity, N.
■ambivalence
n. the state of having contradictory or conflicting emotional attitudes. Torn between loving her parents one minute and hating them the next, she was confused by the ambivalence of her feelings. ambivalent, ADJ.
amble
n. moving at an easy pace. When she first mounted the horse, she was afraid to urge the animal to go faster than a gentle amble. also v.
ambrosia
n. food of the gods. Ambrosia was supposed to give immortality to any human who ate it.
ambulatory
adj. able to walk; not bedridden. Calvin was a highly ambulatory patient; not only did he refuse to be confined to bed, but also he insisted on riding his skateboard up and down the halls.
■ameliorate
v. improve. Many social workers have attempted to ameliorate the conditions of people living in the slums.
amenable
adj. readily managed or willing to be led; answerable or accountable legally. Although the ambassador was usually amenable to friendly suggestions, he balked when we hinted he should pay his parking tickets. As a foreign diplomat, he claimed he was not amenable to minor local laws.
amend
v. correct; change, generally for the better. Hoping to amend his condition, he left Vietnam for the United States.
amenities
n. convenient features; courtesies. In addition to the customary amenities for the business traveler—fax machines, modems, a health club—the hotel offers the services of a butler versed in the social amenities.
amiable
adj. agreeable; lovable; warmly friendly. In Little Women, Beth is the amiable daughter whose loving disposition endears her to all who know her.
amicable
adj. politely friendly; not quarrelsome. Beth's sister Jo is the hot-tempered tomboy who has a hard time maintaining amicable relationships with those around her. Jo's quarrel with her friend Laurie finally reaches an amicable settlement, but not because Jo turns amiable overnight.
amiss
adj. wrong; faulty. Seeing her frown, he wondered if anything were amiss. also ADV.
amity
n. friendship. Student exchange programs such as the Experiment in International Living were established to promote international amity.
amnesia
n. loss of memory. Because she was suffering from amnesia, the police could not get the young girl to identify herself.
amnesty
n. pardon. When his first child was born, the sing granted amnesty to all in prison.
amoral
adj. nonmoral. The amoral individual lacks a rode of ethics; he cannot tell right from wrong. The mmoral person can tell right from wrong; he chooses to do something he knows is wrong.
amorous
adj. moved by sexual love; loving. "Love them and leave them" was the motto of the amorous Don Juan.
amorphous
adj. formless; lacking shape or definition. As soon as we have decided on our itinerary, we shall send jou a copy; right now, our plans are still amorphous.
amphibian
adj. able to live both on land and in water. =rags are classified as amphibian. also N.
amphitheater
n. oval building with tiers of seats. The spectators in the amphitheater cheered the gladiators.
ample
adj. abundant. Bond had ample opportunity to Dscape. Why, then, did he let us capture him?
amplify
v. broaden or clarify by expanding; intensify; -hake stronger. Charlie Brown tried to amplify his remarks, but he was drowned out by jeers from the audience. Lucy was smarter: she used a loudspeaker to amplify her voice.
amputate
v. cut off part of body; prune. When the doctors had to amputate Ted Kennedy's leg to prevent the spread of cancer, he did not let the loss of his leg keep him from participating in sports.
amok (also amuck)
adv. in a state of rage. The police had to be called in to restrain him after he ran amok in the department store.
amulet
n. charm; talisman. Around her neck she wore the amulet that the witch doctor had given her.
■anachronism
n. something or someone misplaced in time. Shakespeare's reference to clocks in Julius Caesar is an anachronism; no clocks existed in Caesar's time. anachronistic, ADJ.
analgesic
adj. causing insensitivity to pain. The analgesic qualities of this lotion will provide temporary relief.
■analogous
adj. comparable. She called our attention to the things that had been done in an analogous situation and recommended that we do the same.
analogy
n. similarity; parallelism. A well-known analogy compares the body's immune system with an army whose defending troops are the lymphocytes or white blood cells.
anarchist
n. person who seeks to overturn the established government; advocate of abolishing authority. Denying she was an anarchist, Katya maintained she wished only to make changes in our government, not to destroy it entirely.
■anarchy
n. absence of governing body; state of disorder. The assassination of the leaders led to a period of anarchy.
anathema
n. solemn curse; someone or something regarded as a curse. The Ayatolla Khomeini heaped anathema upon "the Great Satan," that is, the United States. To the Ayatolla, America and the West were anathema; he loathed the democratic nations, cursing them in his dying words. anathematize, v.
ancestry
n. family descent. David can trace his ancestry as far back as the seventeenth century, when one of his ancestors was a court trumpeter somewhere in Germany. ancestral, ADJ.
anchor
v. secure or fasten firmly; be fixed in place. We set the post in concrete to anchor it in place. anchorage, N.
ancillary
adj. serving as an aid or accessory; auxiliary. In an ancillary capacity Doctor Watson was helpful; however, Holmes could not trust the good doctor to solve a perplexing case on his own. also N.
anecdote
n. short account of an amusing or interesting event. Rather than make concrete proposals for welfare reform, President Reagan told anecdotes about poor people who became wealthy despite their impoverished backgrounds.
anemia
n. condition in which blood lacks red corpuscles. The doctor ascribes her tiredness to anemia. anemic, ADJ.
anesthetic
n. substance that removes sensation with or without loss of consciousness. His monotonous voice acted like an anesthetic; his audience was soon asleep. anesthesia, N.
anguish
n. acute pain; extreme suffering. Visiting the site of the explosion, the president wept to see the anguish of the victims and their families.
angular
adj. sharp-cornered; stiff in manner. Mr. Spock's features, though angular, were curiously attractive, in a Vulcan way.
animadversion
n. critical remark. He resented the animadversions of his critics, particularly because he realized they were true.
animated
adj. lively; spirited. Jim Carrey's facial expressions are highly animated: when he played Ace Ventura, he was practically rubber-faced.
animosity
n. active enmity. He incurred the animosity of the ruling class because he advocated limitations of their power.
animus
n. hostile feeling or intent. The animus of the speaker became obvious to all when he began to indulge in sarcastic and insulting remarks.
annals
n. records; history. In the annals of this period, we find no mention of democratic movements.
anneal
v. reduce brittleness and improve toughness by heating and cooling. After the glass is annealed, it will be less subject to chipping and cracking.
annex
v. attach; take possession of. Mexico objected to the United States' attempts to annex the territory that later became the state of Texas.
annihilate
v. destroy. The enemy in its revenge tried to annihilate the entire population.
annotate
v. comment; make explanatory notes. In the appendix to the novel, the critic sought to annotate many of the more esoteric references.
annuity
n. yearly allowance. The annuity she set up with the insurance company supplements her social security benefits so that she can live very comfortably without working.
annul
v. make void. The parents of the eloped couple tried to annul the marriage.
anodyne
n. drug that relieves pain; opiate. His pain was so great that no anodyne could relieve it.
anoint
v. consecrate. The prophet Samuel anointed David with oil, crowning him king of Israel.
■anomalous
adj. abnormal; irregular. She was placed in the anomalous position of seeming to approve procedures that she despised.
anomaly
n. irregularity. A bird that cannot fly is an anomaly.
anonymity
n. state of being nameless; anonymousness. The donor of the gift asked the college not to mention her by name; the dean readily agreed to respect her anonymity. anonymous, ADJ.
antagonism
n. hostility; active resistance. Barry showed his antagonism toward his new stepmother by ignoring her whenever she tried talking to him. antagonistic, ADJ.
antecede
v. precede. The invention of the radiotelegraph anteceded the development of television by a quarter of a century.
antecedents
n. preceding events or circumstances that influence what comes later; ancestors or early background. Susi Bechhofer's ignorance of her Jewish background had its antecedents in the chaos of World War II. Smuggled out of Germany and adopted by a Christian family, she knew nothing of her birth and antecedents until she was reunited with her Jewish family in 1989.
antediluvian
adj. antiquated; extremely ancient. Looking at his great-aunt's antique furniture, which must have been cluttering up her attic since before Noah's flood, the young heir exclaimed, "Heavens! How positively antediluvian!"
anthem
n. song of praise or patriotism. Let us now all join in singing the national anthem.
anthology
n. book of literary selections by various authors. This anthology of science fiction was compiled by the late Isaac Asimov. anthologize, v.
anthropoid
adj. manlike. The gorilla is the strongest of the anthropoid animals. also N.
anthropologist
n. student of the history and science of humankind. Anthropologists have discovered several relics of prehistoric humans in this area.
anthropomorphic
adj. having human form or characteristics. Primitive religions often have deities with anthropomorphic characteristics.
antic
adj. extravagantly odd. Putting on an antic disposition, Hamlet acts so odd that the Danish court thinks him mad. also N
anticlimax
n. letdown in thought or emotion. After the fine performance in the first act, the rest of the play was an anticlimax, anticlimactic, ADJ.
antidote
n. remedy to counteract a poison or disease. When Marge's child accidentally swallowed some cleaning fluid, the local poison control hotline instructed Marge how to administer the antidote.
■antipathy
n. aversion; dislike. Tom's extreme antipathy for disputes keeps him from getting into arguments with his temperamental wife. Noise in any form is antipathetic to him. Among his other antipathies are honking cars, boom boxes, and heavy metal rock.
antiquated
adj. obsolete; outdated. Accustomed to editing his papers on word processors, Philip thought typewriters were too antiquated for him to use.
antiseptic
n. substance that prevents infection. It is advisable to apply an antiseptic to any wound, no matter how slight or insignificant. also ADJ.
antithesis
n. contrast; direct opposite of or to. This tyranny was the antithesis of all that he had hoped for, and he fought it with all his strength. antithetical or antithetic, ADJ.
anvil
n. iron block used in hammering out metals. After heating the iron horseshoe in the forge, the blacksmith picked it up with his tongs and set it on the anvil.
■apathy
n. lack of caring; indifference. A firm believer in democratic government, she could not understand the apathy of people who never bothered to vote. apathetic, ADJ.
ape
v. imitate or mimic.
aperture
n. opening; hole. She discovered a small aperture in the wall, through which the insects had entered the room.
apex
n. tip; summit; climax. At the apex of his career, the star received offers of leading roles daily; two years later, he was reduced to taking bit parts in B-movies.
aphasia
n. loss of speech due to injury or illness. After the automobile accident, the victim had periods of aphasia when he could not speak at all or could only mumble incoherently.
aphorism
n. pithy maxim or saying. An aphorism is usually philosophic or scientific, as compared to an adage, which is usually more homely and concrete. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" is an aphorism. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is an adage. aphoristic, ADJ.
apiary
n. a place where bees are kept. Although he spent many hours daily in the apiary, he was very seldom stung by a bee.
aplomb
n. poise; assurance. Gwen's aplomb in handling potentially embarrassing moments was legendary around the office; when one of her clients broke a piece of her best crystal, she coolly picked up her own goblet and hurled it into the fireplace.
apocalyptic
adj. prophetic; pertaining to revelations. The crowd jeered at the street preacher's apocalyptic predictions of doom. The Apocalypse or Book of Revelations of Saint John prophesies the end of the world as we know it and foretells marvels and prodigies that signal the coming doom. apocalypse, N.
apocryphal
adj. spurious; not authentic; invented rather than true. Although many versions exist of the famous story of Emerson's visit to Thoreau in jail, in his writings Thoreau never mentions any such visit by Emerson, and so the tale is most likely apocryphal.
apogee
n. highest point. When the moon in its orbit is furthest away from the earth, it is at its apogee. Discouraged by the apparent deterioration of America's space program, the science columnist wondered whether the golden age of space travel had reached its apogee with the Apollo 11 moon landing and would never again achieve such heights.
apolitical
adj. having an aversion or lack of concern for political affairs. It was hard to remain apolitical during the Vietnam War; even people who generally ignored public issues felt they had to take political stands.
apologist
n. one who writes in defense of a cause or institution. Rather than act as an apologist for the current regime in Beijing and defend its brutal actions, the young diplomat decided to defect to the West.
apostate
n. one who abandons his religious faith or political beliefs. Because he switched from one party to another, his former friends shunned him as an apostate. An apostle passionately adheres to a belief or cause; an apostate passionately renounces or abandons one. apostasy, N.
apothecary
n. druggist. In Holland; apothecaries still sell spices as well as ointments and pills.
apothegm
n. pithy, compact saying. Proverbs are apothegms that have become familiar sayings.
apotheosis
n. elevation to godhood; an ideal example of something. The Roman empress Livia envied the late emperor Augustus his apotheosis; she hoped that on her death she, too, would be exalted to the ranks of the gods. The hero of the novel Generation X was the apotheosis of a slacker, the quintessential example of a member of his generation.
appall
v. dismay; shock. We were appalled by the horrifying conditions in the city's jails.
apparition
n. ghost; phantom. On the castle battlements, an apparition materialized and spoke to Hamlet, warning him of his uncle's treachery. In Ghostbusters, hordes of apparitions materialized, only to be dematerialized by the specialized apparatus wielded by Bill Murray.
■appease
v. pacify or soothe; relieve. Tom and Jody tried to appease the crying baby by offering him one toy after another. However, he would not calm down until they appeased his hunger by giving him a bottle. appeasement, N.
appellation
n. name; title. Macbeth was startled when the witches greeted him with an incorrect appellation. Why did they call him Thane of Cawdor, he wondered, when the holder of that title still lived?
append
v. attach. When you append a bibliography to a text, you have created an appendix.
application
n. diligent attention. Pleased with how well Tom had whitewashed the fence, Aunt Polly praised him for his application. (Tom had applied himself to applying the paint.) (secondary meaning) apply, v.
apposite
adj. appropriate; fitting. She was always able to find the apposite phrase, the correct expression for every occasion.
appraise
v. estimate value of. It is difficult to appraise old paintings; it is easier to call them priceless. appraisal, N.
appreciate
v. be thankful for; increase in worth; be thoroughly conscious of. Little Orphan Annie truly appreciated the stocks Daddy Warbucks gave her, whose value appreciated considerably over the years.
apprehend
v. arrest (a criminal); dread; perceive. The police will apprehend the culprit and convict him before long.
apprehensive
adj. fearful; discerning. His apprehensive glances at the people who were walking in the street revealed his nervousness.
■ apprise
v. inform. When NASA was apprised of the dangerous weather conditions, the head of the space agency decided to postpone the shuttle launch.
■ approbation
n. approval. Wanting her parents' regard, she looked for some sign of their approbation. Benjamin Franklin, that shrewd observer of mankind, once wrote, "We must not in the course of public life expect immediate approbation and immediate grateful acknowledgment of our services,"
■ appropriate
v. acquire; take possession of for one's own use. The ranch owners appropriated the lands that had originally been set aside for the Indians' use.
appurtenances
n. subordinate possessions. He bought the estate and all its appurtenances.
aptitude
n. fitness; talent. The American aviator Bessie Coleman grew up in Waxahatchie, Texas, where her mathematical aptitude freed her from working in the cotton fields with her twelve brothers and sisters.
aquiline
adj. curved, hooked. He can be recognized by his aquiline nose, curved like the beak of the eagle.
arabesque
n. style of decoration involving intertwined plants and abstract curves; ballet position with one leg supporting the weight of the body, while the other leg is extended in back. Because the Koran prohibits the creation of human and animal images, Moorish arabesques depict plants but no people. The statue of winged Mercury stands poised on one foot, frozen in an eternal arabesque.
arable
adj. fit for growing crops. The first settlers wrote home glowing reports of the New World, praising its vast acres of arable land ready for the plow.
arbiter
n. person with power to decide a matter in dispute; judge. As an arbiter in labor disputes, she has won the confidence of the workers and the employers.
arbitrary
adj. unreasonable or capricious; tyrannical. The coach claimed the team lost because the umpire made some arbitrary calls.
arbitrate
v. act as judge. She was called upon to arbitrate the dispute between the union and the management.
arboretum
n. place where different varieties of trees and shrubs are studied and exhibited. Walking along the treelined paths of the arboretum, Rita noted poplars, firs, and some particularly fine sycamores.
arcade
n. a covered passageway, usually lined with shops. The arcade was popular with shoppers because it gave them protection from the summer sun and the winter rain.
arcane
adj. secret; mysterious: known only to the initiated. Secret brotherhoods surround themselves with arcane rituals and trappings to mystify outsiders. So do doctors. Consider the arcane terminology they use and the impression they try to give that what is arcane to us is obvious to them.
archaeology
n. study of artifacts and relics of early mankind. The professor of archaeology headed an expedition to the Gobi Desert in search of ancient ruins.
archaic
adj. antiquated. "Methinks," "thee," and "thou" are archaic words that are no longer part of our normal vocabulary.
archetype
n. prototype; primitive pattern. The Brooklyn Bridge was the archetype of the many spans that now connect Manhattan with Long Island and New Jersey.
archipelago
n. group of closely located islands. When he looked at the map and saw the archipelagoes in the South Seas, he longed to visit them.
archives
n. public records; place where public records are kept. These documents should be part of the archives so that historians may be able to evaluate them in the future.
ardor
n. heat; passion; zeal.. Katya's ardor was contagious; soon all her fellow demonstrators were busily making posters and handing out flyers, inspired by her ardent enthusiasm for the cause. ardent, ADJ.
■ arduous
adj. hard; strenuous. Her arduous efforts had sapped her energy.
argot
n. slang. In the argot of the underworld, she "was taken for a ride."
aria
n. operatic solo. At her Metropolitan Opera audition, Marian Anderson sang an aria from Norma.
arid
adj. dry; barren. The cactus has adapted to survive in an arid environment.
aristocracy
n. hereditary nobility; privileged class. Americans have mixed feelings about hereditary aristocracy: we say all men are created equal, but we describe particularly outstanding people as natural aristocrats.
armada
n. fleet of warships. Queen Elizabeth's navy was able to defeat the mighty armada that threatened the English coast.
aromatic
adj. fragrant. Medieval sailing vessels brought aromatic herbs from China to Europe.
arraign
v. charge in court; indict. After his indictment by the Grand Jury, the accused man was arraigned in the County Criminal Court.
array
v. marshal; draw up in order. His actions were bound to array public sentiment against him. also N.
array
v. clothe; adorn. She liked to watch her mother array herself in her finest clothes before going out for the evening. also N.
arrears
n. being in debt. Because he was in arrears with his car payments, the repo men repossessed his Porsche.
arrest
v. stop or check; seize or capture (the attention). According to Connolly's "Theory of Permanent Adolescence," the triumphs and disappointments that boys experience at the great British public schools are so intense as to dominate their lives and to arrest their development.
arrhythmic
adj. lacking rhythm or regularity. The doctors feared his arrhythmic heartbeat might be the first symptom of an imminent heart attack. arrhythmia, N.
arrogance
n. pride; haughtiness. Convinced that Emma thought she was better than anyone else in the class, Ed rebuked her for her arrogance.
arroyo
n. gully. Until the heavy rains of the past spring, this arroyo had been a dry bed.
arsenal
n. storage place for military equipment. People are forbidden to smoke in the arsenal lest a stray spark set off the munitions stored there.
artful
adj. cunning; crafty; sly. By using accurate details to suggest a misleading picture of the whole, the artful propagandist turns partial truths into more effective instruments of deception than lies.
articulate
adj. effective; distinct. Her articulate presentation of the advertising campaign impressed her employers. also v.
artifact
n. object made by human beings, either handmade or mass-produced. Archaeologists debated the significance of the artifacts discovered in the ruins of Asia Minor but came to no conclusion about the culture they represented.
artifice
n. deception; trickery. The Trojan War proved to the Greeks that cunning and artifice were often more effective than military might.
artisan
n. manually skilled worker; craftsman, as opposed to artist. Elderly artisans from Italy trained Harlem teenagers to carve the stone figures that would decorate the new wing of the cathedral.
■artless
adj. without guile; open and honest. Red Riding Hood's artless comment, "Grandma, what big eyes you have!" indicates the child's innocent surprise at her "grandmother's" changed appearance.
ascendancy
n. controlling influence. President Marcos failed to maintain his ascendancy over the Philippines.
ascertain
v. find out for certain. Please ascertain her present address.
■ascetic
adj. practicing self-denial; austere. The wealthy, self-indulgent young man felt oddly drawn to the strict, ascetic life led by members of some monastic orders. also
ascribe
v. refer; attribute; assign. I can ascribe no motive for her acts.
aseptic
adj. preventing infection; having a cleansing effect. Hospitals succeeded in lowering the mortality rate as soon as they introduced aseptic conditions.
ashen
adj. ash-colored; deadly pale. Her face was ashen with fear.
asinine
adj. stupid. Your asinine remarks prove that you have not given this problem any serious consideration.
askance
adv. with a sideways or indirect look. Looking askance at her questioner, she displayed her scorn.
askew
adv. crookedly; slanted; at an angle. When the clown placed his hat askew upon his head, the children in the audience laughed.
asperity
n. sharpness (of temper). These remarks, spoken with asperity, stung the boys to whom they had been directed.
aspersion
n. slanderous remark. Rather than attacking President Cleveland's arguments with logic, his opponent resorted to casting aspersions on the president's noral character.
aspirant
n. seeker after position or status. Although I am an aspirant for public office, I am not willing to accept the lictates of the party bosses. also ADJ.
aspire
v. seek to attain; long for. Because he aspired to a career in professional sports, Philip enrolled in a grad-rate program in sports management. aspiration, N.
assail
v. assault. He was assailed with questions after lis lecture.
assay
v. analyze; evaluate. When they assayed the ore, hey found that they had discovered a very rich vein. also
assent
v. agree; accept. It gives me great pleasure to ssent to your request. also. N.
assert
v. state strongly or positively; insist on or demand ecognition of (rights, claims, etc.). When Jill asserted hat nobody else in the junior class had such an early :;urfew, her parents asserted themselves, telling her that f she didn't get home by nine o'clock she would be grounded for the week. assertion, N.
■ assiduous
adj. diligent. It took Rembrandt weeks of assiduous labor before he was satisfied with his portrait )f his son.
assimilate
v. absorb; cause to become homogenous. The manner in which the United States was able to assimilate the hordes of immigrants during the nineeenth and early part of the twentieth centuries will always be a source of pride.
■ assuage
v. ease or lessen (pain); satisfy (hunger); soothe anger). Jilted by Jane, Dick tried to assuage his heartache Dy indulging in ice cream. One gallon later, he had assuaged his appetite but not his grief. assuagement, N.
assumption
n. something taken for granted; the taking )ver or taking possession of. The young princess made he foolish assumption that the regent would not object to ler assumption of power. assume, v.
assurance
n. promise or pledge; certainty; self-confidence. Nhen Guthrie gave Guinness his assurance that rehearsals were going well, he spoke with such assurance that "..;uinness was convinced. assure,
asteroid
n. small planet. Asteroids have become commonplace to the readers of interstellar travel stories in science fiction magazines.
astigmatism
n. eye defect that prevents proper focus. As 30011 as his parents discovered that the boy suffered rom astigmatism, they took him to the optometrist for corrective glasses.
astral
adj. relating to the stars. She was amazed at the number of astral bodies the new telescope revealed.
astringent
adj. binding; causing contraction; harsh or severe. The astringent quality of the unsweetened lemon juice made swallowing difficult. also N.
astronomical
adj. enormously large or extensive. The government seemed willing to spend astronomical sums on weapons development.
astute
adj. wise; shrewd; keen. The painter was an astute observer, noticing every tiny detail of her model's appearance and knowing exactly how important each one was.
asunder
adv. into parts; apart. A fierce quarrel split the partnership asunder; the two partners finally sundered their connections because their points of view were poles asunder.
asylum
n. place of refuge or shelter; protection. The refugees sought asylum from religious persecution in a new land.
asymmetric
adj. not identical on both sides of a dividing central line. Because one eyebrow was set markedly higher than the other, William's face had a particularly asymmetric appearance. asymmetry, N.
atavism
n. resemblance to remote ancestors rather than to parents; reversion to an earlier type; throwback. In his love for gardening, Martin seemed an atavism to his Tuscan ancestors who lavished great care on their small plots of soil. atavistic, ADJ.
atheist
n. one who denies the existence of God. "An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support."
atone
v. make amends for; pay for. He knew no way in which he could atone for his brutal crime.
atrocity
n. brutal deed. In time of war, many atrocities are committed by invading armies.
atrophy
n. wasting away. Polio victims need physiotherapy to prevent the atrophy of affected limbs. also v.
attentive
adj. alert and watchful; considerate; thoughtful. Spellbound, the attentive audience watched the final game of the tennis match, never taking their eyes from the ball. A cold wind sprang up; Stan's attentive daughter slipped a sweater over his shoulders without distracting his attention from the game.
■attenuate
v. make thinner; weaken or lessen (in density, force, degree). The long, dry spell attenuated the creek to the merest trickle. When a meteor strikes the ground, the initially intense shock attenuates or lessens as it diverges outward.
attest
v. testify; bear witness. Having served as a member of a grand jury, I can attest that our system of indicting individuals is in need of improvement.
attribute
n. essential quality. His outstanding attribute was his kindness.
attribute
v. ascribe; explain. I attribute her success in science to the encouragement she received from her parents.
attrition
n. gradual decrease in numbers; reduction in the work force without firing employees; wearing away of opposition by means of harassment. In the 1960s urban churches suffered from attrition as members moved from the cities to the suburbs. Rather than fire staff members, church leaders followed a policy of attrition, allowing elderly workers to retire without replacing them.
atypical
adj. not normal. The child psychiatrist reassured Mrs. Keaton that playing doctor was not atypical behavior for a child of young Alex's age. "Perhaps not," she replied, "but charging for house calls is!"
■audacious
adj. daring; bold. Audiences cheered as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia made their audacious, death-defying leap to freedom and escaped Darth Vader's troops. audacity, N.
audit
n. examination of accounts. When the bank examiners arrived to hold their annual audit, they discovered the embezzlements of the chief cashier. also v.
augment
v. increase; add to. Armies augment their forces by calling up reinforcements; teachers augment their salaries by taking odd jobs.
augury
n. omen; prophecy. He interpreted the departure of the birds as an augury of evil. augur, v.
august
adj. impressive; majestic. Visiting the palace at Versailles, she was impressed by the august surroundings in which she found herself.
aureole
n. sun's corona; halo. Many medieval paintings depict saintly characters with aureoles around their heads.
auroral
adj. pertaining to the aurora borealis. The auroral display was particularly spectacular that evening.
auspicious
adj. favoring success. With favorable weather conditions, it was an auspicious moment to set sail. Thomas, however, had doubts about sailing: a paranoid, he became suspicious whenever conditions seemed auspicious.
■austere
adj. forbiddingly stern; severely simple and unornamented. The headmaster's austere demeanor tended to scare off the more timid students, who never visited his study willingly. The room reflected the man, austere and bare, like a monk's cell, with no touches of luxury to moderate its austerity.
authenticate
v. prove genuine. An expert was needed to authenticate the original Van Gogh painting, distinguishing it from its imitation.
authoritarian
adj. subordinating the individual to the state; completely dominating another's will. The leaders of the authoritarian regime ordered the suppression of the democratic protest movement. After years of submitting to the will of her authoritarian father, Elizabeth Barrett ran away from home with the poet Robert Browning.
authoritative
adj. having the weight of authority; peremptory and dictatorial. Impressed by the young researcher's well-documented presentation, we accepted her analysis of the experiment as authoritative.
autocratic
adj. having absolute, unchecked power; dictatorial. A person accustomed to exercising authority may become autocratic if his or her power is unchecked. Dictators by definition are autocrats. Bosses who dictate behavior as well as letters can be autocrats too. autocracy, N.
automaton
n. mechanism that imitates actions of humans. Long before science fiction readers became aware of robots, writers were creating stories of automatons who could outperform humans.
■autonomous
adj. self-governing. Although the University of California at Berkeley is just one part of the state university system, in many ways Cal Berkeley is autonomous, for it runs several programs that are not subject to outside control. autonomy, N.
autopsy
n. examination of a dead body; postmortem. The medical examiner ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death. also v.
auxiliary
adj. offering or providing help; additional or subsidiary. To prepare for the emergency, they built an auxiliary power station. also N.
avalanche
n. great mass of falling snow and ice. The park ranger warned the skiers to stay on the main trails, where they would be in no danger of being buried beneath a sudden avalanche.
avarice
n. greediness for wealth. Montaigne is correct in maintaining that it is not poverty, but rather abundance, that breeds avarice: the more shoes Imelda Marcos had, the more she craved.
avenge
v. take vengeance for something (or on behalf of someone). Hamlet vowed he would avenge his father's murder and punish Claudius for his horrible crime.
■aver
v. assert confidently or declare; as used in law, state formally as a fact. The self-proclaimed psychic averred that, because he had extrasensory perception on which to base his predictions, he needed no seismographs or other gadgets in order to foretell earthquakes.
averse
adj. reluctant; disinclined. The reporter was averse to revealing the sources of his information.
aversion
n. firm dislike. Bert had an aversion to yuppies; Alex had an aversion to punks. Their mutal aversion was so great that they refused to speak to one another.
avert
v. prevent; turn away. She averted her eyes from the dead cat on the highway.
aviary
n. enclosure for birds. The aviary at the zoo held nearly 300 birds.
avid
adj. greedy; eager for. He was avid for learning and read everything he could get. avidity, N.
avocation
n. secondary or minor occupation. His hobby proved to be so fascinating and profitable that gradually he abandoned his regular occupation and concentrated on his avocation.
avow
v. declare openly. Lana avowed that she never meant to steal Debbie's boyfriend, but no one believed her avowal of innocence.
avuncular
adj. like an uncle. Avuncular pride did not prevent him from noticing his nephew's shortcomings.
awe
n. solemn wonder. The tourists gazed with awe at the tremendous expanse of the Grand Canyon.
awl
n. pointed tool used for piercing. She used an awl to punch additional holes in the leather belt she had bought.
awry
adv. distorted; crooked. He held his head awry, giving the impression that he had caught cold in his neck during the night. also ADJ.
axiom
n. self-evident truth requiring no proof. The Declaration of Independence records certain self-evident truths or axioms, the first of which is "All men are created equal." To Sherlock Holmes, it was axiomatic that the little things were infinitely the most important; he based his theory of detection on this obvious truth.
azure
adj. sky blue. Azure skies are indicative of good weather.
babble
v. chatter idly. The little girl babbled about her doll. also N.
bacchanalian
adj. drunken. Emperor Nero attended the bacchanalian orgy.
badger
v. pester; annoy. She was forced to change her telephone number because she was badgered by obscene phone calls.
badinage
n. teasing conversation. Her friends at work greeted the news of her engagement with cheerful badinage.
baffle
v. frustrate; perplex. The new code baffled the enemy agents.
bait
v. harass; tease. The school bully baited the smaller children, terrorizing them.
baleful
adj. threatening; menacing; sinister; foreshadowing evil. The bully's baleful glare across the classroom warned Tim to expect trouble after school. Blood-red in color. the planet Mars has long been associated with warfare and slaughter because of its ominous, baleful appearance.
balk
v. stop short, as if faced with an obstacle, and refuse to continue. The chief of police balked at sending his officers into the riot-torn area.
balk
v. foil. When the warden learned that several inmates were planning to escape, he took steps to balk their attempt.
ballast
n. heavy substance used to add stability or weight. The ship was listing badly to one side; it was necessary to shift the ballast in the hold to get her back on an even keel. also v.
balm
n. something that relieves pain. Friendship is the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.
balmy
adj. mild; fragrant. A balmy breeze refreshed us after the sultry blast.
■banal
adj. hackneyed; commonplace; trite; lacking originality. The hack writer's worn-out clichés made his comic sketch seem banal. He even resorted to the banality of having someone slip on a banana peel!
bandy
v. discuss lightly or glibly; exchange (words) heatedly. While the president was happy to bandy patriotic generalizations with anyone who would listen to him, he refused to bandy words with unfriendly reporters at the press conference.
bane
n. curse; cause of ruin. Lucy's little brother was the bane of her existence, scribbling on walls with her lipstick and pouring her shampoo down the drain. While some factions praised technology as the mainspring of social progress, others criticized it as the bane of modern man, responsible for the tyranny of the machine and the squalor of urban life.
baneful
adj. destructive; causing ruin or death. Anointment seems intended to apply the power of natural and supernatural forces to the sick and thus to ward off the baneful influences of diseases and of demons.
bantering
adj. good-naturedly ridiculing. They resented his bantering remarks because they misinterpreted his teasing as sarcasm.
barb
n. sharp projection from fishhook or other object; openly cutting remark. If you were a politician, which would you prefer, being caught on the barb of a fishhook or being subjected to malicious verbal barbs? Who can blame the president if he's happier fishing than he is listening to his critics' barbed remarks?
bard
n. poet. The ancient bard Homer sang of the fall of Troy.
barefaced
adj. shameless; bold; unconcealed. Shocked by Huck Finn's barefaced lies, Miss Watson prayed the good Lord would give him a sense of his unregenerate wickedness.
baroque
adj. highly ornate. Accustomed to the severe, angular lines of modern skyscrapers, they found the flamboyance of baroque architecture amusing.
barrage
n. barrier laid down by artillery fire; overwhelming profusion. The company was forced to retreat through the barrage of heavy cannons.
barrister
n. counselor-at-law. Galsworthy started as a barrister, but, when he found the practice of law boring, turned to writing.
barterer
n. trader. The barterer exchanged trinkets for the natives' furs.
bask
v. luxuriate; take pleasure in warmth. Basking on the beach, she relaxed so completely that she fell asleep.
bastion
n. stronghold; something seen as a source of protection. The villagers fortified the town hall, hoping this improvised bastion could protect them from the guerrilla raids.
bate
v. let down; restrain. Until it was time to open the presents, the children had to bate their curiosity. bated, ADJ.
bauble
n. trinket; trifle. The child was delighted with the bauble she had won in the grab bag.
bawdy
adj. indecent; obscene. Jack took offense at Jill's bawdy remarks. What kind of young man did she think he was?
beatific
adj. showing or producing joy; blissful. When Johnny first saw the new puppy, a beatific smile spread across his face. In his novel, Waugh praises Limbo, not Heaven: "Limbo is the place. In Limbo one has natural happiness without the beatific vision; no harps; no communal order; but wine and conversation and imperfect, various, humanity."
beatify
v. bless or sanctify; proclaim someone dead to be one of the blessed. In 1996 Pope John Paul II traveled to Belgium to beatify Joseph De Veuster, better known as Father Damien, who died in 1889 after caring for lepers in Hawaii. How can you tell the pope from a cosmetologist? A cosmetologist beautifies someone living; the Pope beatifies someone dead.
beatitude
n. blessedness; state of bliss. Growing closer to God each day, the mystic achieved a state of indescribable beatitude.
bedizen
v. dress with vulgar finery. The witch doctors were bedizened in their gaudiest costumes.
bedraggle
v. wet thoroughly. We were so bedraggled by the severe storm that we had to change into dry clothing. bedraggled, ADJ.
beeline
n. direct, quick route. As soon as the movie was over, Jim made a beeline for the exit.
befuddle
v. confuse thoroughly. His attempts to clarify the situation succeeded only in befuddling her further.
beget
v. father; produce; give rise to. One good turn may deserve another; it does not necessarily beget another.
begrudge
v. resent. I begrudge every minute I have to spend attending meetings.
beguile
v. mislead or delude; cheat; pass time. With flattery and big talk of easy money, the con men beguiled Kyle into betting his allowance on the shell game. The men quickly beguiled poor Kyle of his money. Broke, he beguiled himself during the long hours by playing solitaire.
behemoth
n. huge creature; something of monstrous size or power. Sportscasters nicknamed the linebacker "The Behemoth."
beholden
adj. obligated; indebted. Since I do not wish to be beholden to anyone, I cannot accept this favor.
behoove
v. be necessary or proper for; be incumbent upon. Because the interest of the ruler and the ruled are incompatible, it behooves the ruler to trust no one; to be suspicious of sycophants; to permit no one to gain undue power or influence; and, above all, to use guile to unearth plots against the throne.
belabor
v. explain or go over excessively or to a ridiculous degree; assail verbally. The debate coach warned her student not to bore the audience by belaboring his point.
belated
adj. delayed. He apologized for his belated note of condolence to the widow of his friend and explained that he had just learned of her husband's untimely death.
beleaguer
v. besiege or attack; harass. The babysitter was surrounded by a crowd of unmanageable brats who relentlessly beleaguered her.
■belie
v. contradict; give a false impression. His coarse, hard-bitten exterior belied his innate sensitivity.
belittle
v. disparage; deprecate. Parents should not belittle their children's early attempts at drawing, but should encourage their efforts.
bellicose
adj. warlike; pugnacious; naturally inclined to fight. Someone who is spoiling for a fight is by definition bellicose.
belligerent
adj. quarrelsome. Whenever he had too much to drink, he became belligerent and tried to pick fights with strangers. belligerence, N.
bemoan
v. lament; express disapproval of. The widow bemoaned the death of her beloved husband. Although critics bemoaned the serious flaws in the author's novels, each year his latest book topped the best-seller list.
bemused
adj. confused; lost in thought; preoccupied. Jill studied the garbled instructions with a bemused look on her face.
benediction
n. blessing. The appearance of the sun after the many rainy days was like a benediction.
benefactor
n. gift giver; patron. Scrooge later became Tiny Tim's benefactor and gave him gifts.
■beneficent
adj. kindly; doing good. The overgenerous philanthropist had to curb his beneficent impulses before he gave away all his money and left himself with nothing.
beneficial
adj. helpful; useful. Tiny Tim's cheerful good nature had a beneficial influence on Scrooge's once-uncharitable disposition.
beneficiary
n. person entitled to benefits or proceeds of an insurance policy or will. In Scrooge's will, he made Tiny Tim his beneficiary: everything he left would go to young Tim.
benevolent
adj. generous; charitable. Mr. Fezziwig was a benevolent employer who wished to make Christmas merrier for young Scrooge and his other employees. benevolence, N.
benign
adj. kindly; favorable; not malignant. Though her benign smile and gentle bearing made Miss Marple seem a sweet little old lady, in reality she was a tough-minded. shrewd observer of human nature. benignity, N.
benison
n. blessing. Let us pray that the benison of peace once more shall prevail among the nations of the world.
bent ADJ.;
n. determined; natural talent or inclination. Bent on advancing in the business world, the secretary-heroine of Working Girl had a true bent for high finance.
bequeath
v. leave to someone by means of a will; hand down. In his will, Father bequeathed his watch to Philip; the bequest meant a great deal to the boy. bequest, N.
berate
v. scold strongly. He feared she would berate him for his forgetfulness.
bereavement
n. state of being deprived of something valuable or beloved. His friends gathered to console him upon his sudden bereavement.
bereft
adj. deprived of; lacking. The foolish gambler soon found himself bereft of funds.
berserk
adv. frenzied. Angered, he went berserk and began to wreck the room.
beseech
v. beg; plead with. The workaholic executive's wife beseeched him to spend more time with their son.
beset
v. harass or trouble; hem in. Many vexing problems beset the American public school system. Sleeping Beauty's castle was beset on all sides by dense thickets that hid it from view.
besiege
v. surround with armed forces; harass (with requests). When the bandits besieged the village, the villagers holed up in the town hall and prepared to withstand a long siege. Members of the new administration were besieged with job applications from people who had worked on the campaign.
besmirch
v. soil, defile. The scandalous remarks in the newspaper besmirch the reputations of every member of the society.
bestial
adj. beastlike; brutal; inhuman. According to legend, the werewolf was able to abandon its human shape and assume a bestial form. The Red Cross sought to put an end to the bestial treatment of prisoners of jar.
bestow
v. confer. He wished to bestow great honors upon the hero.
betoken
v. signify; indicate. The well-equipped docks, all piles of cargo containers, and numerous vessels ieing loaded all betoken Oakland's importance as a port.
betray
v. be unfaithful; reveal (unconsciously or unwillingly). The spy betrayed his country by selling military secrets to the enemy. When he was taken in for questioning, the tightness of his lips betrayed his fear of incriminating himself. betrayal, N.
betroth
v. become engaged to marry. The announcement -iat they had become betrothed surprised their friends who had not suspected any romance. betrothal, N.
bevy
n. large group. The movie actor was surrounded )y a bevy of starlets.
bicameral
adj. two-chambered, as a legislative body. the United States Congress is a bicameral body.
bicker
v. quarrel. The children bickered morning, noon and night, exasperating their parents.
biennial
adj. every two years. Seeing no need to meet more frequently, the group held biennial meetings instead of annual ones. Plants that bear flowers biennially ire known as biennials.
bifurcated
adj. divided into two branches; forked. With a )ifurcated branch and a piece of elastic rubber, he made a crude but effective slingshot.
bigotry
n. stubborn intolerance. Brought up in a democratic atmosphere, the student was shocked by the bigotry and narrowness expressed by several of his classmates.
billious
adj. suffering from a liver complaint; peevishly ill humored.
bilk
v. swindle; cheat. The con man specialized in bilk-rig insurance companies.
billowing
adj. swelling out in waves; surging. Standing over the air vent, Marilyn Monroe tried vainly to control her billowing skirts.
bivouac
n. temporary encampment. While in bivouac, ye spent the night in our sleeping bags under the stars. also v.
bizarre
adj. fantastic; violently contrasting. The plot of he novel was too bizarre to be believed.
blanch
v. bleach; whiten. Although age had blanched his hair, he was still vigorous and energetic.
bland
adj. soothing or mild; agreeable. Jill tried a bland ointment for her sunburn. However, when Jack absentmindedly patted her on the sunburned shoulder, she couldn't maintain her bland persona. blandness, N.
blandish
v. cajole; coax with flattery. Despite all their tweet-talking, Suzi and Cher were unable to blandish the doorman into letting them into the hot new club.
blandishment
n. flattery. Despite the salesperson's blandishments, the customer did not buy the outfit.
blare
n. loud, harsh roar or screech; dazzling blaze of light. I don't know which is worse: the steady blare of a boom box deafening your ears or a sudden blare of flashbulbs dazzling your eyes. also v.
blasé
adj. bored with pleasure or dissipation. Although Beth was as thrilled with the idea of a trip to Paris as her classmates were, she tried to act supercool and blasé, as if she'd been abroad hundreds of times.
blasphemy
n. irreverence; sacrilege; cursing. In my father's house, the Dodgers were the holiest of holies; to cheer for another team was to utter words of blasphemy. blasphemous, ADJ.
blatant
adj. extremely obvious; loudly offensive. Caught in a blatant lie, the scoundrel had only one regret: he wished that he had lied more subtly. blatancy, N.
bleak
adj. cold or cheerless; unlikely to be favorable. The frigid, inhospitable Aleutian Islands are bleak military outposts. It's no wonder that soldiers assigned there have a bleak attitude toward their posting.
blighted
adj. suffering from a disease; destroyed. The extent of the blighted areas could be seen only when viewed from the air.
blithe
adj. carefree and unconcerned (perhaps foolishly so); cheerful and gay. Micawber's blithe optimism that something would turn up proved unfounded, and he wound up in debtors' prison. Marie Antoinette's famous remark, "Let them eat cake!" epitomizes her blithe ignorance of the harsh realities endured by the common people.
bloated
adj. swollen or puffed as with water or air. Her bloated stomach came from drinking so much water.
blowhard
n. talkative boaster. After all Sol's talk about his big show business connections led nowhere, Sally decided he was just another blowhard.
bludgeon
n. club; heavy-headed weapon. Attacked by Dr. Moriarty, Holmes used his walking stick as a bludgeon to defend himself. "Watson," he said. "I fear I may have bludgeoned Moriarty to death."
bluff
adj. rough but good-natured. Jack had a bluff and hearty manner that belied his actual sensitivity; he never let people know how thin-skinned he really was.
bluff
n. pretense (of strength); deception; high cliff. Claire thought Lord Byron's boast that he would swim the Hellespont was just a bluff; she was astounded when he dove from the high bluff into the waters below.
blunder
n. error. The criminal's fatal blunder led to his capture. also v.
blurt
v. utter impulsively. Before she could stop him, he blurted out the news.
bluster
v. blow in heavy gusts; threaten emptily; bully. "Let the stormy winds bluster," cried Jack, "we'll set sail tonight." Jill let Jack bluster she wasn't going anywhere, no matter what he said. also N.
bode
v. foreshadow; portend. The gloomy skies and the sulfurous odors from the mineral springs seemed to bode evil to those who settled in the area.
bogus
adj. counterfeit; not authentic. The police quickly found the distributors of the bogus twenty-dollar bills.
bohemian
adj. unconventional (in an artistic way). Gertrude Stein ran off to Paris to live an eccentric, bohemian life with her writer friends. Oakland was not bohemian: it was too bourgeois, too middle-class.
boisterous
adj. violent; rough; noisy. The unruly crowd became even more boisterous when he tried to quiet them.
■bolster
v. support; reinforce. The debaters amassed file boxes full of evidence to bolster their arguments.
bolt
n. door bar; fastening pin or screw; length of fabric. The carpenter shut the workshop door, sliding the heavy metal bolt into place. He sorted through his toolbox for the nuts and bolts and nails required for the job. Before he cut into the bolt of canvas, he measured how much fabric he would need.
bolt
v. dash or dart off; fasten (a door); gobble down. Jack was set to bolt out the front door, but Jill bolted the door. "Eat your breakfast," she said, "don't bolt your food."
bombardment
n. attack (as with missiles). The enemy bombardment demolished the town. Members of the opposition party bombarded the prime minister with questions about the enemy attack.
■bombastic
adj. pompous; using inflated language. Puffed up with conceit, the orator spoke in such a bombastic manner that we longed to deflate him. bombast, N.
boon
n. blessing; benefit. The recent rains that filled our empty reservoirs were a boon to the whole community.
■boorish
adj. rude; insensitive. Though Mr. Potts constantly interrupted his wife, she ignored his boorish behavior, for she had lost hope of teaching him courtesy.
bouillon
n. clear beef soup. The cup of bouillon served by the stewards was welcomed by those who had been chilled by the cold ocean breezes.
bountiful
adj. abundant; graciously generous. Thanks to the good harvest, we had a bountiful supply of food and we could be as bountiful as we liked in distributing food to the needy.
bourgeois
adj. middle class; selfishly materialistic; dully conventional. Technically, anyone who belongs to the middle class is bourgeois, but, given the word's connotations, most people resent it if you call them that.
bovine
adj. cowlike; placid and dull. Nothing excites Esther; even when she won the state lottery, she still preserved her air of bovine calm.
bowdlerize
v. expurgate. After the film editors had bowdlerized the language in the script, the motion picture's rating was changed from "R" to "PG."
boycott
v. refrain from buying or using. To put pressure on grape growers to stop using pesticides that harmed the farm workers' health, Cesar Chavez called for consumers to boycott grapes. also N.
brackish
adj. somewhat saline. He found the only wells in the area were brackish; drinking the water made him nauseous.
braggadocio
n. boasting. He was disliked because his manner was always full of braggadocio.
braggart
n. boaster. Modest by nature, she was no braggart, preferring to let her accomplishments speak for themselves.
brandish
v. wave around; flourish. Alarmed, Doctor Watson wildly brandished his gun until Holmes told him to put the thing away before he shot himself.
bravado
n. swagger; assumed air of defiance. The bravado of the young criminal disappeared when he was confronted by the victims of his brutal attack.
brawn
n. muscular strength; sturdiness. It takes brawn to become a champion weight-lifter. brawny, ADJ.
brazen
adj. insolent. Her brazen contempt for authority angered the officials.
breach
n. breaking of contract or duty; fissure or gap. Jill sued Jack for breach of promise, claiming he had broken their engagement. The attackers found a breach in the enemy's fortifications and penetrated their lines. also v.
breadth
n. width; extent. We were impressed by the breadth of her knowledge.
brevity
n. conciseness. Brevity is essential when you send a telegram or cablegram; you are charged for every word.
brindled
adj. tawny or grayish with streaks or spots. He was disappointed in the litter because the puppies were brindled; he had hoped for animals of a uniform color.
bristling
adj. rising like bristles; showing irritation. The dog stood there, bristling with anger.
brittle
adj. easily broken; difficult. My employer's brittle personality made it difficult for me to get along with her.
broach
v. introduce; open up. Jack did not even try to broach the subject of religion with his in-laws. If you broach a touchy subject, the result may be a breach.
brocade
n. rich, figured fabric. The sofa was covered with expensive brocade.
brochure
n. pamphlet. This brochure of farming was issued by the Department of Agriculture.
brooch
n. ornamental clasp. She treasured the brooch because it was an heirloom.
brook
v. tolerate; endure. The dean would brook no interference with his disciplinary actions. (secondary meaning)
browbeat
v. bully; intimidate. Billy resisted Ted's attempts to browbeat him into handing over his lunch money.
browse
v. graze; skim or glance at casually. "How now, brown cow, browsing in the green, green grass." I remember lines of verse that I came across while browsing through the poetry section of the local bookstore.
brunt
n. main impact or shock. Tom Sawyer claimed credit for painting the fence, but the brunt of the work fell on others. However, Tom bore the brunt of Aunt Polly's complaints when the paint began to peel.
brusque
adj. blunt; abrupt. She was offended by his brusque reply.
buccaneer
n. pirate. At Disneyland the Pirates of the Caribbean sing a song about their lives as bloody buccaneers.
bucolic
adj. rustic; pastoral. Filled with browsing cows and bleating sheep, the meadow was a charmingly bucolic sight.
buffet
n. table with food set out for people to serve themselves; meal at which people help themselves to food that's been set out. (Buffet rhymes with tray.) Please convey the soufflé on the tray to the buffet.
buffet
v. slap; batter; knock about. To buffet something is to rough it up. (Buffet rhymes with Muffett.) Was Miss Muffett buffeted by the crowd on the way to the buffet tray?
buffoonery
n. clowning. In the Ace Ventura movies, Jim Carrey's buffoonery was hilarious: like Bozo the Clown, he's a natural buffoon.
bugaboo
n. bugbear; object of baseless terror. If we become frightened by such bugaboos, we are no wiser than the birds who fear scarecrows.
bullion
n. gold and silver in the form of bars. Much bullion is stored in the vaults at Fort Knox.
bulwark
n. earthwork or other strong defense; person who defends. The navy is our principal bulwark against invasion.
bungle
v. mismanage; blunder. Don't botch this assignment, Bumstead; if you bungle the job, you're fired!
buoyant
adj. able to float; cheerful and optimistic. When the boat capsized, her buoyant life jacket kept Jody afloat. Scrambling back on board, she was still in a buoyant mood, certain that despite the delay she'd win the race. buoyancy, N.
bureaucracy
n. overregulated administrative system marked by red tape. The Internal Revenue Service is the ultimate bureaucracy: taxpayers wasted so much paper filling out IRS forms that the IRS bureaucrats printed up a new set of rules requiring taxpayers to comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act. bureaucratic, ADJ.
■burgeon
v. grow forth; send out buds. In the spring, the plants that burgeon are a promise of the beauty that is to come.
burlesque
v. give an imitation that ridicules. In Galaxy Quest, Alan Rickman burlesques Mr. Spock of Star Trek, outrageously parodying Spock's unemotional manner and stiff bearing. also N.
■burnish
v. make shiny by rubbing; polish. The maid burnished the brass fixtures until they reflected the lamplight.
■buttress
v. support; prop up. Just as architects buttress the walls of cathedrals with flying buttresses, debaters buttress their arguments with facts. also N.
buxom
adj. full-bosomed; plump; jolly. High-fashion models usually are slender rather than buxom.
cabal
n. small group of persons secretly united to promote their own interests. The cabal was defeated when its scheme was discovered.
cache
n. hiding place. The detectives followed the suspect until he led them to the cache where he had stored his loot. also v.
cacophonous
adj. discordant; inharmonious. Do the students in the orchestra enjoy the cacophonous sounds hey make when they're tuning up? I don't know how they ;an stand the racket. cacophony, N.
cadaver
n. corpse. In some states, it is illegal to dissect cadavers.
cadaverous
adj. like a corpse; pale. From his cadaver-)us appearance, we could see how the disease had ravaged him.
cadence
n. rhythmic rise and fall (of words or sounds); )eat. Marching down the road, the troops sang out, following the cadence set by the sergeant.
cadge
v. beg; mooch; panhandle. While his car was in he shop, Bob had to cadge a ride to work each day. unwilling to be a complete moocher, however, he offered o pay for the gas.
cajole
v. coax; wheedle. Cher tried to cajole her father not letting her drive the family car. cajolery, N.
calamity
n. disaster; misery. As news of the calamity spread, offers of relief poured in to the stricken community.
calculated
adj. deliberately planned; likely. Lexy's choice of clothes to wear to the debate tournament was carefully calculated. Her conventional suit was calculated to appeal to the conservative judges.
caldron
n. large kettle. "Why, Mr. Crusoe," said the savage heating the giant caldron, "we'd love to have you 'or dinner!"
caliber
n. ability; quality. Einstein's cleaning the blackboards again? Albert, quit it! A man of your caliber shouldn't have to do such menial tasks.
calligraphy
n. beautiful writing; excellent penmanship. As we examine ancient manuscripts, we become impressed with the calligraphy of the scribes.
callous
adj. hardened; unfeeling. He had worked in the hospital for so many years that he was callous to the suffering in the wards. callus, N.
callow
adj. youthful; immature; inexperienced. As a freshman, Jack was sure he was a man of the world; as a sophomore, he made fun of freshmen as callow youths. In both cases, his judgment showed just how callow he was.
calorific
adj. heat-producing. Coal is much more calorific than green wood.
calumny
n. malicious misrepresentation; slander. He could endure his financial failure, but he could not bear the calumny that his foes heaped upon him. According to Herodotus, someone calumniated is doubly injured, first by the person who utters the calumny, and then by the person who believes the slander.
camaraderie
n. good-fellowship. What he loved best about his job was the sense of camaraderie he and his coworkers shared.
cameo
n. shell or jewel carved in relief; star's special appearance in a minor role in a film. Don't bother buying cameos from the street peddlers in Rome: the carvings they sell are clumsy jobs. Did you enjoy Bill Murray's cameo in Little Shop of Horrors? He was onscreen for only a minute, but he cracked me up.
camouflage
v. disguise; conceal. In order to rescue Han Solo, Princess Leia camouflaged herself in the helmet and cloak of a space bandit. also N.
canard
n. false or unfounded story; fabricated report. Rather than becoming upset by the National Enquirer story about Tony's supposed infidelity, Tina refused to take the canard seriously. To call a lying tale a base canard or a vile canard is to descend to a cliché.
candor
n. frankness; open honesty. Jack can carry candor too far: when he told Jill his honest opinion of her, she nearly slapped his face. candid, ADJ.
canine
adj. related to dogs; doglike. Some days the canine population of Berkeley seems almost to outnumber the human population.
canker
n. any ulcerous sore; any evil. Poverty is a canker in the body politic; it must be cured.
canny
adj. shrewd; thrifty. The canny Scotsman was more than a match for the swindlers.
canon
n. collection or authoritative list of books (e.g., by an author, or accepted as scripture). Scholars hotly debated whether the newly discovered sonnet should be accepted as part of the Shakespearean canon.
canon
n. rule or principle, frequently religious. "One catastrophe, one locality, one day"—these are Aristotle's rules for tragedy, and classic French plays strictly follow them; Shakespeare, however, disregards all these canons. A born rebel, Katya was constitutionally incapable of abiding by the canons of polite society.
cant
n. insincere expressions of piety; jargon of thieves. Shocked by news of the minister's extramarital love affairs, the worshippers dismissed his talk about the sacredness of marriage as mere cant. Cant is a form of hypocrisy: those who can, pray; those who cant, pretend.
cantankerous
adj. ill-humored; irritable. Constantly complaining about his treatment and refusing to cooperate with the hospital staff, he was a cantankerous patient.
cantata
n. story set to music, to be sung by a chorus. The choral society sang the new cantata composed by its leader.
canter
n. slow gallop. Because the racehorse had outdistanced its competition so easily, the reporter wrote that the race was won in a canter. also v.
canto
n. division of a long poem. Dante's poetic masterpiece The Divine Comedy is divided into cantos.
canvass
v. determine or seek opinions, votes, etc. After canvassing the sentiments of his constituents, the congressman was confident that he represented the majority opinion of his district. also N.
capacious
adj. spacious. In the capacious areas of the railroad terminal, thousands of travelers lingered while waiting for their trains.
capacity
n. mental or physical ability; role; ability to accommodate. Mike had the capacity to handle several jobs at once. In his capacity as president of SelecTronics he marketed an electronic dictionary with a capacity of 200,000 words.
capillary
adj. having a very fine bore. The changes in surface tension of liquids in capillary vessels is of special interest to physicists. also N.
capitulate
v. surrender. The enemy was warned to capitulate or face annihilation.
caprice
n. whim. She was an unpredictable creature, acting on caprice, never taking thought of the consequences.
■capricious
adj. unpredictable; fickle. The storm was capricious: it changed course constantly. Jill was capricious, too: she changed boyfriends almost as often as she changed clothes.
caption
n. title; chapter heading; text under illustration. The captions that accompany The Far Side cartoons are almost as funny as the pictures. also v.
captious
adj. faultfinding. His criticisms were always captious and frivolous, never offering constructive suggestions.
carafe
n. glass water bottle; decanter. With each dinner, the patron receives a carafe of red or white wine.
carapace
n. shell covering the back (of a turtle, crab, etc.). At the children's zoo, Richard perched on top of the giant turtle's hard carapace as the creature slowly made its way around the enclosure.
carat
n. unit of weight for precious stones; measure of fineness of gold. He gave her a diamond that weighed three carats and was mounted in an eighteen-carat gold band.
carcinogenic
adj. causing cancer. Many supposedly harmless substances have been revealed to be carcinogenic.
cardinal
adj. chief. If you want to increase your word power, the cardinal rule of vocabulary-building is to read.
cardiologist
n. doctor specializing in ailments of the heart. When the pediatrician noticed Philip had a slight heart murmur, she referred him to a cardiologist for further tests.
careen
v. lurch; sway from side to side. The taxicab careened wildly as it rounded the corner.
caricature
n. distortion; burlesque. The caricatures he drew always emphasized personal weaknesses of the people he burlesqued. also v.
carillon
n. a set of bells capable of being played. The carillon in the bell tower of the Coca-Cola pavilion at the New York World's Fair provided musical entertainment every hour.
carnage
n. destruction of life. The film The Killing Fields vividly depicts the carnage wreaked by Pol Pot's followers in Cambodia.
carnal
adj. fleshly. Is the public more interested in carnal pleasures than in spiritual matters? Compare the number of people who read Playboy daily to the number of those who read the Bible every day.
carnivorous
adj. meat-eating. The lion's a carnivorous beast; a hunk of meat makes up his feast. A cow is not a carnivore; she likes the taste of grain, not gore.
carousal
n. drunken revel. Once the beer-chugging contests started, the drinking got out of control, and the party degenerated into an ugly carousal.
carping
n. petty criticism; fault-finding. Welcoming constructive criticism, Lexy appreciated her editor's comments, finding them free of carping. also ADJ.
carrion
n. rotting flesh of a dead body. Buzzards are nature's scavengers; they eat the carrion left behind by other predators.
cartographer
n. map-maker. Though not a professional cartographer, Tolkien was able to construct a map of his fictional world.
cascade
n. small waterfall. We were too tired to appreciate the beauty of the many cascades because we had o detour around them to avoid being drenched by the torrents cascading down.
caste
n. one of the hereditary classes in Hindu society, social stratification; prestige. The differences created by caste in India must be wiped out if true democracy is to prevail in that country.
castigation
n. punishment; severe criticism. Sensitive to mild criticism, Woolf could not bear the castigation that she found in certain reviews. Ben Jonson was a highly moral playwright: in his plays, his purpose was to castigate vice and hypocrisy by exposing them publicly.
casualty
n. serious or fatal accident. The number of automotive casualties on this holiday weekend was high.
cataclysm
n. deluge; upheaval. A cataclysm such as the French Revolution affects all countries. cataclysmic, ADJ.
catalyst
n. agent that influences the pace of a chemical reaction while it remains unaffected and unchanged; Jerson or thing that causes action. After a banana is harvested, certain enzymes within its cells continue to act as a catalyst for the biochemical processes of ripening, thereby causing the banana eventually to rot. In 1969 the IRA split into two factions: the "officials," who advocated a united socialist Ireland but disavowed terrorist activities, and the "provisionals," who argued that terrorism was a necessary catalyst for unification.
catapult
n. slingshot; hurling machine. Airplanes are sometimes launched from battleships by catapults. also v.
cataract
n. great waterfall; eye abnormality. She gazed with awe at the mighty cataract known as Niagara Falls.
catastrophe
n. calamity; disaster. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a catastrophe that destroyed most of the city. A similar earthquake striking today could have even more catastrophic results.
catcall
n. shout of disapproval; boo. Every major league pitcher has off days during which he must learn to ignore catcalls and angry hisses from the crowd.
catechism
n. book for religious instruction; instruction by question and answer. He taught by engaging his pupils in a catechism until they gave him the correct answer.
categorical
adj. without exceptions; unqualified; absolute. Though the captain claimed he was never, never sick at sea, he finally qualified his categorical denial: he was "hardly ever" sick at sea.
catharsis
n. purging or cleansing of any passage of the body. Aristotle maintained that tragedy created a catharsis by purging the soul of base concepts.
cathartic
n. purgative. Some drugs act as laxatives when taken in small doses but act as cathartics when taken in much larger doses. also ADJ.
catholic
adj. universal; wide-ranging liberal. He was extremely catholic in his taste and read everything he could find in the library.
caucus
n. private meeting of members of a party to select officers or determine policy. At the opening of Congress the members of the Democratic Party held a caucus to elect the majority leader of the House and the party whip.
caulk
v. to make watertight (by plugging seams). When water from the shower leaked into the basement, we knew it was time to caulk the tiles at the edges of the shower stall.
causal
adj. implying a cause-and-effect relationship. The psychologist maintained there was a causal relationship between the nature of one's early childhood experiences and one's adult personality. causality, N.
■caustic
adj. burning; sarcastically biting. The critic's caustic remarks angered the hapless actors who were the subjects of his sarcasm.
cauterize
v. burn with hot iron or caustic. In order to prevent infection, the doctor cauterized the wound.
cavalcade
n. procession; parade. As described by Chaucer, the cavalcade of Canterbury pilgrims was a motley group.
cavalier
adj. casual and offhand; arrogant. Sensitive about having her ideas taken lightly, Marcia felt insulted by Mark's cavalier dismissal of her suggestion.
cavil
v. make frivolous objections. I respect your sensible criticisms, but I dislike the way you cavil about unimportant details. also N.
cede
v. yield (title, territory) to; surrender formally. Eventually the descendants of England's Henry II were forced to cede their French territories to the King of France. cession, N.
celerity
n. speed; rapidity. Hamlet resented his mother's celerity in remarrying within a month after his father's death.
celestial
adj. heavenly. She spoke of the celestial joys that awaited virtuous souls in the hereafter.
celibate
adj. abstaining from sexual intercourse; unmarried. Though the late Havelock Ellis wrote extensively about sexual customs and was considered an expert in such matters, recent studies maintain he was celibate throughout his life. celibacy, N.
censor
n. overseer of morals; person who eliminates inappropriate matter. Soldiers dislike having their mail read by a censor but understand the need for this precaution. also v.
censorious
adj. critical, Censorious people delight in casting blame.
censure
v. blame; criticize. The senator was censured for behavior inappropriate to a member of Congress. also N.
centaur
n. mythical figure, half man and half horse. I was particularly impressed by the statue of the centaur in the Roman Hall of the museum.
centigrade
adj. denoting a widely used temperature scale (basically same as Celsius). On the centigrade thermometer, the freezing point of water is zero degrees.
centrifugal
adj. radiating; departing from the center. Many automatic drying machines remove excess moisture from clothing by centrifugal force.
centrifuge
n. machine that separates substances by whirling them. At the dairy, we employ a centrifuge to separate cream from milk. also v.
centripetal
adj. tending toward the center. Does centripetal force or the force of gravity bring orbiting bodies to the earth's surface?
centurion
n. Roman army officer. Because he was in command of a company of one hundred soldiers, he was called a centurion.
cerebral
adj. pertaining to the brain or intellect. The content of philosophical works is cerebral in nature and requires much thought.
cerebration
n. thought. Mathematics problems sometimes require much cerebration.
ceremonious
adj. marked by formality. Ordinary dress would be inappropriate at so ceremonious an affair.
certitude
n. certainty. Though there was no certitude of his getting the job, Lou thought he had a good chance of being hired.
cessation
n. stoppage. The airline's employees threatened a cessation of all work if management failed to meet their demands. cease, v.
cession
n. yielding (something) to another; ceding. The Battle of Lake Erie, a major U.S. naval victory in the War of 1812, ensured U.S. control over Lake Erie and ruled out any territorial cession in the Northwest to Great Britain in the peace settlement.
chafe
v. warm by rubbing; make sore (by rubbing). Chilled, he chafed his hands before the fire. The collar of his school uniform chafed Tom's neck, but not as much the school's strict rules chafed his spirit. also N.
chaff
n. worthless products of an endeavor. When you separate the wheat from the chaff, be sure you throw out the chaff.
chaffing
adj. bantering; joking. Sometimes Chad's flippant, chaffing remarks annoy us. Still, Chad's chaffing keeps us laughing.
chagrin
n. vexation (caused by humiliation or injured pride); disappointment. Embarrassed by his parents' shabby, working-class appearance, Doug felt their visit to his school would bring him nothing but chagrin. A person filled with chagrin doesn't grin: he's too mortified.
chalice
n. goblet; consecrated cup. In a small room adjoining the cathedral, many ornately decorated chalices made by the most famous European goldsmiths were on display.
chameleon
n. lizard that changes color in different situations. Like the chameleon. he assumed the political coloration of every group he met.
champion
v. support militantly. Martin Luther King, Jr., won the Nobel Peace Prize because he championed the oppressed in their struggle for equality, also N.
chaotic
adj. in utter disorder. He tried to bring order into the chaotic state of affairs. chaos, N.
charisma
n. divine gift; great popular charm or appeal. Political commentators have deplored the importance of a candidate's charisma in these days of television campaigning.
charlatan
n. quack; pretender to knowledge. When they realized that the Wizard didn't know how to get them back to Kansas, Dorothy and her friends were sure they'd been duped by a charlatan.
chary
adj. cautious; sparing or restrained about giving. A prudent, thrifty New Englander, DeWitt was as chary of investing money in junk bonds as he was chary of paying people unnecessary compliments.
chase
v. ornament a metal surface by indenting. With his hammer, he carefully chased an intricate design onto the surface of the chalice. (secondary meaning)
chasm
n. abyss. They could not see the bottom of the chasm.
chassis
n. framework and working parts of an automobile. Examining the car after the accident, the owner discovered that the body had been ruined but that the chassis was unharmed.
chaste
adj. pure; virginal; modest. To ensure that his bride would stay chaste while he was off to the wars, the crusader had her fitted out with a chastity belt. chastity, N.
chasten
v. correct by punishment or scolding; restrain. \lo matter how much a child deserves to be chastened or doing wrong, the maxim "Spare the rod and spoil the Mild" never justifies physical abuse. Someone sadder put wiser has been chastened or subdued by experience.
chastened
adj. humbled; subdued; rebuked. After a series of meddlesome and unsuccessful attempts at Thatch making among her friends, a chastened Emma minds her destiny in marriage to her protective neighbor -2-Aeorge Knightley, long her mentor and friend.
chastise
v. punish or scold; reprimand. Miss Watson liked nothing better than to chastise Huck for his alleged affenses.
chauvinist
n. blindly devoted patriot; zealous adherent of a group or cause. A chauvinist cannot recognize any faults in his country, no matter how flagrant they may be. Likewise, a male chauvinist cannot recognize how biased he is in favor of his own sex, no matter how flagrant that bias may be. chauvinistic, ADJ.
check
v. stop motion; curb or restrain. Thrusting out her arm, Grandma checked Bobby's lunge at his sister. "Young man," she said, "you'd better check your temper." (secondary meaning)
checkered
adj. marked by changes in fortune. During his checkered career he had lived in palatial mansions and in dreary boardinghouses.
cherubic
adj. angelic; innocent-looking. With her cheerful smile and rosy cheeks, she was a particularly cherubic child.
■chicanery
n. trickery; deception. Those sneaky lawyers misrepresented what occurred, made up all sorts of implausible alternative scenarios to confuse the jurors, and in general depended on chicanery to win the case.
chide
v. scold. Grandma began to chide Steven for his lying.
chimerical
adj. fantastically improbable; highly unrealistic; imaginative. As everyone expected, Ted's chimerical scheme to make a fortune by raising ermines in his backyard proved a dismal failure. chimera, N.
chisel
n. wedgelike tool for cutting. With his hammer and chisel, the sculptor chipped away at the block of marble.
chisel
v. swindle or cheat; cut with a chisel. That crook chiseled me out of a hundred dollars when he sold me that "marble" statue he'd chiseled out of some cheap hunk of rock.
chivalrous
adj. courteous; faithful; brave. Chivalrous behavior involves noble words and good deeds.
choleric
adj. hot-tempered. His flushed, angry face indicated a choleric nature.
choreography
n. art of representing dances in written symbols; arrangement of dances. Merce Cunningham uses a computer in designing choreography: a software program allows him to compose arrangements of possible moves and immediately view them onscreen.
chortle
v. chuckle with delight. When she heard that her rival had just been jailed for embezzlement, she chortled with joy. She was not a nice lady.
chronic
adj. long established, as a disease. The doctors were finally able to attribute his chronic headaches and nausea to traces of formaldehyde gas in his apartment.
chronicle
v. report; record (in chronological order). The gossip columnist was paid to chronicle the latest escapades of the socially prominent celebrities. also N.
churlish
adj. boorish; rude. Dismayed by his churlish manners at the party, the girls vowed never to invite him again.
ciliated
adj. having minute hairs. The paramecium is a ciliated, one-celled animal.
cipher
n. nonentity; worthless person or thing. She claimed her ex-husband was a total cipher and wondered why she had ever married him.
cipher
n. secret code. Lacking his code book, the spy was unable to decode the message sent to him in cipher.
circlet
n. small ring; band. This tiny circlet is very costly because it is set with precious stones.
circuitous
adj. roundabout. Because of the traffic congestion on the main highways, she took a circuitous route. circuit, N.
circumlocution
n. unnecessarily wordy and indirect speech; evasive language. Don't beat about the bush, but just say what you want to say: I'm fed up with listening to your circumlocutions.
circumscribe
v. limit narrowly; confine or restrict; define. The great lords of state tried to circumscribe the queen's power by having her accept a set of conditions that left the decisive voice in all important matters to the privy council.
circumspect
adj. prudent; cautious. Investigating before toting, she tried always to be circumspect.
circumvent
v. outwit; baffle. In order to circumvent the enemy, we will make two preliminary attacks in other sections before starting our major campaign.
cistern
n. reservoir or water tank. The farmers were able o withstand the dry season by using rainwater they had stored in an underground cistern.
citadel
n. fortress. The citadel overlooked the city like a protecting angel.
cite
v. quote; commend. She could cite passages in the 3ible from memory. citation, N.
civil
adj. having to do with citizens or the state; courteous and polite. Although Internal Revenue Service agents are civil servants, they are not always civil to suspected tax evaders.
clairvoyant ADJ.,
n. having foresight; fortuneteller. Cassandra's clairvoyant warning was not heeded by the Trojans. clairvoyance, N.
clamber
v. climb by crawling. She clambered over the wall.
clamor
n. noise. The clamor of the children at play outside made it impossible for her to take a nap. also v.
clandestine
adj. secret. After avoiding their chaperon, he lovers had a clandestine meeting.
clangor
n. loud, resounding noise. The blacksmith was accustomed to the clangor of hammers on steel.
clappet
n. striker (tongue) of a bell. Wishing to be undisturbed by the bell, Dale wound his scarf around the -clapper to muffle its striking.
clarion
adj. shrill, trumpetlike sound. We woke to the 3Iarion call of the bugle.
claustrophobia
n. fear of being locked in. His fellow classmates laughed at his claustrophobia and often threatened to lock him in his room.
clavicle
n. collarbone. Even though he wore shoulder )ads, the football player broke his clavicle during a practice scrimmage.
cleave
v. split or sever; cling to; remain faithful to. With her heavy cleaver, Julia Child can cleave a whole roast luck in two. Soaked through, the soldier tugged at the Uniform that cleaved annoyingly to his body. He would :leave to his post, come rain or shine. cleavage,
cleft
n. split. Trying for a fresh handhold, the mountain climber grasped the edge of a cleft in the sheer rock-ace. also ADJ.
clemency
n. disposition to be lenient; mildness, as of the weather. Why did the defense lawyer look pleased when lis case was sent to Judge Bland's chambers? Bland Alas noted for her clemency to first offenders.
cliche
n. phrase dulled in meaning by repetition. High school compositions are often marred by such clichés as 'strong as an ox."
clientele
n. body of customers. The rock club attracted a young, stylish clientele.
climactic
adj. relating to the highest point. When he reached the climactic portions of the book, he could not stop reading. climax, N.
clime
n. region; climate. His doctor advised him to move to a milder clime.
clique
n. small, exclusive group. Fitzgerald wished that he belonged to the clique of popular athletes and big men on campus who seemed to run Princeton's social life.
cloister
n. monastery or convent. The nuns lived in the cloister.
clout
n. great influence (especially political or social). Gatsby wondered whether he had enough clout to be admitted to the exclusive club.
cloying
adj. distasteful (because excessive); excessively sweet or sentimental. Disliking the cloying sweetness of standard wedding cakes, Jody and Tom chose a homemade carrot cake for their reception. cloy, v.
■coagulate
v. thicken; congeal: clot. Even after you remove the pudding from the burner, it will continue to coagulate as it stands. coagulant, N.
coalesce
v. combine; fuse. The brooks coalesce into one large river. When minor political parties coalesce, their coalescence may create a major coalition.
coalition
n. partnership; league; union. The Rainbow Coalition united people of all races in a common cause.
■coda
n. concluding section of a musical or literary composition; something that rounds out, summarizes, or concludes. The piece concluded with a distinctive coda that strikingly brought together various motifs. Several months after Charlie Chaplin's death, his body was briefly kidnapped from a Swiss cemetery by a pair of bungling thieves—a macabre coda that Chaplin might have concocted for one of his own two-reelers.
codicil
n. supplement to the body of a will. Miss Havisham kept her lawyers busy drawing up codicils to her already complicated will.
codify
v. arrange (laws, rules) as a code; classify. We need to take the varying rules and regulations of the different health agencies and codify them into a national health code.
coercion
n. use of force to get someone to obey. The inquisitors used both physical and psychological coercion to force Joan of Arc to recant her assertions that her visions were sent by God. coerce, v.
coeval
adj. living at the same time as; contemporary. Coeval with the dinosaur, the pterodactyl flourished during the Mesozoic era.
cog
n. tooth projecting from a wheel. A bicycle chain moves through a series of cogs in order to propel the bike.
■cogent
adj. convincing. It was inevitable that David chose to go to Harvard: he had several cogent reasons for doing so, including a full-tuition scholarship. Katya argued her case with such cogency that the jury had to decide in favor of her client.
cogitate
v. think over. Cogitate on this problem; the solution will come.
cognate
adj. related linguistically; allied by blood; similar or akin in nature. The English word "mother" is cognate to the Latin word "mater," whose influence is visible in the words "maternal" and "maternity." also N.
cognitive
adj. having to do with knowing or perceiving related to the mental processes. Though Jack was emotionally immature, his cognitive development was admirable; he was very advanced intellectually.
cognizance
n. knowledge. During the election campaign, the two candidates were kept in full cognizance of the international situation.
cohabit
v. live together. Many unwed couples who cohabit peacefully for years wind up fighting night and day once they marry.
cohere
v. stick together. Solids have a greater tendency to cohere than liquids.
cohesion
n. tendency to keep together. A firm believer in the maxim "Divide and conquer," the emperor. by lies and trickery, sought to disrupt the cohesion of the free nations.
cohorts
n. armed band. Caesar and his Roman cohorts conquered almost all of the known world.
coiffure
n. hairstyle. You can make a statement with your choice of coiffure: in the '60's many African-Americans affirmed their racial heritage by wearing their hair in Afros.
coin
v. make coins; invent or fabricate. Mints coin good money; counterfeiters coin fakes. Slanderers coin nasty rumors; writers coin words. A neologism is a newly coined expression.
coincidence
n. the chance occurrence, at the same time, of two or more seemingly connected events. Was it just a coincidence that John arid she had met at the market for three days running, or was he deliberately trying to seek her out? coincidental, ADJ.
colander
n. utensil with perforated bottom used for straining. Before serving the spaghetti, place it in a colander to drain it.
collaborate
v. work together. Two writers collaborated in preparing this book.
collage
n. work of art put together from fragments. Scraps of cloth, paper doilies, and old photographs all went into her collage.
collate
v. examine in order to verify authenticity; arrange in order. They collated the newly found manuscripts to determine their age.
collateral
n. security given for loan. The sum you wish to borrow is so large that it must be secured by collateral.
collation
n. a light meal. Tea sandwiches and cookies were offered at the collation.
colloquial
adj. pertaining to conversational or common speech; informal. Some of the new colloquial reading passages on standardized tests have a conversational tone intended to make them more appealing to test-takers.
colloquy
n. informal discussion. While a colloquium often is a formal seminar or conference, a colloquy traditionally is merely a conversational exchange.
collusion
n. conspiring in a fraudulent scheme. The swindlers were found guilty of collusion.
colossal
adj. huge. Radio City Music Hall has a colossal stage.
colossus
n. gigantic statue. The legendary Colossus of Rhodes, a bronze statue of the sun god that dominated the harbor of the Greek seaport, was one of the. Seven Wonders of the World.
comatose
adj. in a coma; extremely sleepy. The longwinded orator soon had his audience in a comatose state.
combustible
adj. easily burned. After the recent outbreak of fires in private homes, the fire commissioner ordered that all combustible materials be kept in safe containers. also N.
comely
adj. attractive; agreeable. I would rather have a Door and comely wife than a rich and homely one.
comestible
n. something fit to be eaten. The roast turkey and other comestibles, the wines, and the excellent service made this Thanksgiving dinner particularly memorable.
comeuppance
n. rebuke; deserts. After his earlier rudeness, we were delighted to see him get his comeuppance.
comity
n. courtesy; civility. A spirit of comity should exist among nations.
commandeer
v. to draft for military purposes; to take for public use. The policeman commandeered the first car that approached and ordered the driver to go to the nearest hospital.
commemorative
adj. remembering; honoring. The new commemorative stamp honors the late Martin Luther King, Jr.
■commensurate
adj. corresponding in extent, degree, amount, etc.; proportionate. By the close of World War II much progress had been made in assigning nurses rank and responsibilities commensurate with their training and abilities. Critics in the industry charged that imposing new meat inspection regulations without dismantling the traditional system would raise costs without bringing about a commensurate improvement in safety.
conglomeration
n. mass of material sticking together. In such a conglomeration of miscellaneous statistics, it was impossible to find a single area of analysis.
congruence
n. correspondence of parts; harmonious relationship. The student demonstrated the congruence of the two triangles by using the hypotenuse-leg theorem.
congruent
adj. in agreement; corresponding. In formulating a hypothesis, we must keep it congruent with what we know of the real world; it cannot disagree with our experience.
conifer
n. pine tree; cone-bearing tree. According to geologists, the conifers were the first plants to bear flowers.
conjecture
v. infer on the basis of insufficient data; surmise; guess. In the absence of any eyewitness reports, we can only conjecture what happened in the locked room on the night of the 13th. Would it be a reasonable conjecture to decide that the previous sentence is an excerpt from a mystery novel?
conjugal
adj. pertaining to marriage. Their dreams of conjugal bliss were shattered as soon as their temperaments clashed.
conjure
v. summon a devil; practice magic; imagine or invent. Sorcerers conjure devils to appear. Magicians conjure white rabbits out of hats. Political candidates conjure up images of reformed cities and a world at peace.
connivance
n. pretense of ignorance of something wrong; assistance; permission to offend. With the connivance of his friends; he plotted to embarrass the teacher. connive, v.
■connoisseur
n. person competent to act as a judge of art, etc.; a lover of an art. Bernard Berenson, the American art critic and connoisseur of Italian art, was hired by wealthy art lovers to select paintings for their collections.
connotation
n. suggested or implied meaning of an expression. Foreigners frequently are unaware of the connotations of the words they use.
connubial
adj. pertaining to marriage or the matrimonial state. In his telegram, he wished the newlyweds a lifetime of connubial bliss.
consanguinity
n. kinship. Wanting to be rid of yet another wife, Henry VIII sought a divorce on the grounds of consanguinity, claiming their blood relationship was improperly close.
conscientious
adj. scrupulous; careful. A conscientious editor, she checked every definition for its accuracy.
conscript
n. draftee; person forced into military service. Did Rambo volunteer to fight in Vietnam, or was he a conscript, drafted against his will? also v.
consecrate
v. dedicate; sanctify. In 1804, Napoleon forced Pope Pius VII to come to Paris to consecrate him as emperor, only to humiliate Pius at the last minute by taking the crown from the pope's hands and crowning himself.
consensus
n. general agreement; opinion reached by a group as a whole. Letty Cottin Pogrebin argues that, although the ultra-right would like us to believe that families disintegrate because of secular education and sexual liberation, the consensus of Americans is that what tears families apart is unemployment, inflation, and financial worries.
consequential
adj. pompous; self-important. Convinced of his own importance. the actor strutted about the dressing room with a consequential air.
conservatory
n. school of the fine arts (especially music or drama). A gifted violinist, Marya was selected to study at the conservatory.
consign
v. deliver officially; entrust; set apart. The court consigned the child to her paternal grandmother's care. consignment, N.
consistency
n. absence of contradictions; dependability; uniformity; degree of thickness. Holmes judged puddings and explanations on their consistency: he liked his puddings without lumps and his explanations without improbabilities.
console
v. lessen sadness or disappointment; give comfort. When her father died, Marius did his best to console Cosette. consolation, N.
consolidation
n. unification; process of becoming firmer or stronger. The recent consolidation of several small airlines into one major company has left observers of the industry wondering whether room still exists for the "little guy" in aviation. consolidate, v.
consonance
n. harmony; agreement. Her agitation seemed out of consonance with her usual calm. The 1815 so-called "Holy Alliance" of the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia accomplished nothing, since it was merely a vague agreement that the sovereigns would conduct themselves in consonance with Christian principles.
consort
v. associate with. We frequently judge people by the company with whom they consort.
consort
n. husband or wife. The search for a consort for the young Queen Victoria ended happily.
conspiracy
n. treacherous plot. Brutus and Cassius joined in the conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar.
constituent
n. supporter. The congressman received hundreds of letters from angry constituents after the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass.
constraint
n. compulsion; repression of feelings. There was a feeling of constraint in the room because no one dared to criticize the speaker. constrain, v.
construe
v. explain; interpret. If I construe your remarks correctly, you disagree with the theory already advanced.
consummate
adj. wholly without flaw; supremely skilled; complete and utter. Free of her father's autocratic rule, safely married to the man she loved, Elizabeth Barrett Browning felt consummate happiness. Da Vinci depicted in his drawings, with scientific precision and consummate artistry, subjects ranging from flying machines to intricate anatomical studies of people, animals, and plants. There is no one as boring as Boris; he is a consummate bore.
contagion
n. infection. Fearing contagion, they took drastic steps to prevent the spread of the disease.
contaminate
v. pollute. The sewage system of the city so contaminated the water that swimming was forbidden.
contempt
n. scorn; disdain. The heavyweight boxer looked on ordinary people with contempt, scorning them as weaklings who couldn't hurt a fly. We thought it was contemptible of him to be contemptuous of people for being weak.
contend
v. struggle; compete; assert earnestly. In Revolt of the Black Athlete, sociologist Harry Edwards contends that young black athletes have been exploited by some college recruiters. contention, N.
■contention
n. claim; thesis. It is our contention that, if you follow our tactics, you will boost your score on the GRE. contend, v.
■contentious
adj. quarrelsome. Disagreeing violently with the referees' ruling, the coach became so contentious that the referees threw him out of the game.
contest
v. dispute. The defeated candidate attempted to contest the election results.
context
n. writings preceding and following the passage quoted. Because these lines are taken out of context, they do not convey the message the author intended.
contiguous
adj. adjacent to; touching upon. The two countries are contiguous for. a few miles; then they are separated by the gulf.
continence
n. self-restraint; sexual chastity. At the convent, Connie vowed to lead a life of continence. The question was, could Connie be content with always being continent?
contingent
adj. dependent on; conditional. Cher's father informed her that any increase in her allowance was contingent on the quality of her final grades. contingency, N.
contingent
n. group that makes up part of a gathering. The New York contingent of delegates at the Democratic National Convention was a boisterous, sometimes rowdy lot.
contortions
n. twistings; distortions. As the effects of the opiate wore away, the contortions of the patient became more violent and demonstrated how much pain she was enduring.
contraband
n. illegal trade; smuggling; smuggled goods. The Coast Guard tries to prevent contraband in U.S. waters. also ADJ.
contravene
v. contradict; oppose: infringe on or transgress. Mr. Barrett did not expect his frail daughter Elizabeth to contravene his will by eloping with Robert Browning.
■contrite
adj. penitent. Her contrite tears did not influence the judge when he imposed sentence. contrition, N.
contrived
adj. forced; artificial; not spontaneous. Feeling ill at ease with his new in-laws, James made a few contrived attempts at conversation and then retreated into silence.
controvert
v. oppose with arguments; attempt to refute; contradict. The witness's testimony was so clear and her reputation for honesty so well established that the defense attorney decided it was wiser to make no attempt to controvert what she said.
contumacious
adj. disobedient; resisting authority. The contumacious mob shouted defiantly at the police. contumacy, N.
contusion
n. bruise. Black and blue after her fall, Sue was treated for contusions and abrasions.
■conundrum
n. riddle; difficult problem. During the long car ride, she invented conundrums to entertain the children.
convene
v. assemble. Because much needed legislation had to be enacted, the governor ordered the legislature to convene in special session by January 15.
convention
n. social or moral custom; established practice. Flying in the face of convention, George Sand (Amandine Dudevant) shocked her contemporaries by taking lovers and wearing men's clothes.
conventional
adj. ordinary; typical. His conventional upbringing left him wholly unprepared for his wife's eccentric family.
■converge
v. approach; tend to meet; come together. African-American men from all over the United States converged on Washington to take part in the historic Million Man March. convergence, N.
conversant
adj. familiar with. In this age of specialization, someone reasonably conversant with modern French literature may be wholly unacquainted with the novels of Latin America and Spain.
converse
n. opposite. The inevitable converse of peace is not war but annihilation.
convert
n. one who has adopted a different religion or opinion. On his trip to Japan, though the president spoke at length about the merits of American automobiles, he made few converts to his beliefs. also v.
convex
adj. curving outward. She polished the convex lens of her telescope.
conveyance
n. vehicle; transfer. During the transit strike, commuters used various kinds of conveyances.
conviction
n. judgment that someone is guilty of a crime; strongly held belief. Even her conviction for murder did not shake Lord Peter's conviction that Harriet was innocent of the crime.
convivial
adj. festive; gay; characterized by joviality. The convivial celebrators of the victory sang their college songs.
convoke
v. call together. Congress was convoked at the outbreak of the emergency. convocation, N.
■convoluted
adj. coiled around; involved; intricate. His argument was so convoluted that few of us could follow it intelligently.
copious
adj. plentiful. She had copious reasons for rejecting the proposal.
coquette
n. flirt. Because she refused to give him an answer to his proposal of marriage, he called her a coquette. also v.
cordial
adj. gracious; heartfelt. Our hosts greeted us at the airport with a cordial welcome and a hearty hug.
cordon
n. extended line of men or fortifications to prevent access or egress. The police cordon was so tight that the criminals could not leave the area. also v.
cornice
n. projecting molding on building (usually above columns). Because the stones forming the cornice had been loosened by the storms, the police closed the building until repairs could be made.
cornucopia
n. horn overflowing with fruit and grain; symbol of abundance. The encyclopedia salesman claimed the new edition was a veritable cornucopia of information, an inexhaustible source of knowledge for the entire family.
corollary
n. consequence; accompaniment. Brotherly love is a complex emotion, with sibling rivalry its natural corollary.
corporeal
adj. bodily; material. The doctor had no patience with spiritual matters: his job was to attend to his patients' corporeal problems, not to minister to their souls.
corpulent
adj. very fat. The corpulent man resolved to reduce. corpulence, N.
correlation
n. mutual relationship. He sought to determine the correlation that existed between ability in algebra and ability to interpret reading exercises. correlate, v., N.
corroborate
v. confirm; support. Though Huck was quite willing to corroborate Tom's story, Aunt Polly knew better than to believe either of them.
corrode
v. destroy by chemical action. The girders supporting the bridge corroded so gradually that no one suspected any danger until the bridge suddenly collapsed. corrosion, N.
corrosive
adj. eating away by chemicals or disease. Stainless steel is able to withstand the effects of corrosive chemicals.
corrugated
adj. wrinkled; ridged. Crack open the rough shell of the walnut and you will find within it a ridged and corrugated edible seed or nut.
cosmic
adj. pertaining to the universe; vast. Cosmic rays derive their name from the fact that they bombard the earth's atmosphere from outer space. cosmos, N.
coterie
n. group that meets socially; select circle. After his book had been published, he was invited to join the literary coterie that lunched daily at the hotel.
countenance
v. approve; tolerate. Miss Manners refused to countenance such rude behavior on their part.
countenance
n. face. When Jose saw his newborn daughter, a proud smile spread across his countenance.
countermand
v. cancel; revoke. The general countermanded the orders issued in his absence.
counterpart
n. a thing that completes another; things very much alike. Night and day are counterparts.
coup
n. highly successful action or sudden attack. As the news of his coup spread throughout Wall Street, his fellow brokers dropped by to congratulate him.
couple
v. join; unite. The Flying Karamazovs couple expert juggling and amateur joking in their nightclub act.
courier
n. messenger. The publisher sent a special courier to pick up the manuscript.
covenant
n. agreement. We must comply with the terms of the covenant.
covert
adj. secret; hidden; implied. Investigations of the Central Intelligence Agency and other secret service networks reveal that such covert operations can get out of control.
covetous
adj. avaricious; eagerly desirous of. The poor man wants many things; the covetous man, all. During the Civil War, the Confederates cast covetous eyes on California, hoping to seize ports for privateers, as well as gold and silver to replenish the South's sagging treasury. covet, v.
cow
v. terrorize; intimidate. The little boy was so cowed by the hulking bully that he gave up his lunch money without a word of protest.
cower
v. shrink quivering, as from fear. The frightened child cowered in the corner of the room.
coy
adj. shy; modest; coquettish. Reluctant to commit herself so early in the game, Kay was coy in her answers to Ken's offer.
cozen
v. cheat; hoodwink; swindle. He was the kind of individual who would cozen his friends in a cheap card game but remain eminently ethical in all his business dealings.
crabbed
adj. sour; peevish. The children avoided the crabbed old man because he scolded them when they made noise.
crass
adj. very unrefined; grossly insensible. The film critic deplored the crass commercialism of movie-makers who abandon artistic standards in order to make a quick buck.
craven
adj. cowardly. Lillian's craven refusal to join the protest was criticized by her comrades, who had expected her to be brave enough to stand up for her beliefs.
credence
n. belief. Do not place any credence in his promises.
credo
n. creed. Just two months before his death, as he talked about life with some friends, the writer Jack London proclaimed his credo: "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
credulity
n. belief on slight evidence; gullibility; naiveté. Con artists take advantage of the credulity of inexperienced investors to swindle them out of their savings. credulous, ADJ.
creed
n. system of religious or ethical belief. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ."We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."(Martin Luther King, Jr.)
crescendo
n. increase in the volume or intensity, as in a musical passage; climax. The overture suddenly changed from a quiet pastoral theme to a crescendo featuring blaring trumpets and clashing cymbals.
crestfallen
adj. dejected; dispirited. We were surprised at his reaction to the failure of his project; instead of being crestfallen, he was busily engaged in planning new activities.
crevice
n. crack; fissure. The mountain climbers found footholds in the tiny crevices in the mountainside.
cringe
v. shrink back, as if in fear. The dog cringed, expecting a blow.
criteria
n. PL. standards used in judging. What criteria did you use when you selected this essay as the prize winner? criterion, SING.
crone
n. hag. The toothless crone frightened us when she smiled.
crotchety
adj. eccentric; whimsical. Although he was reputed to be a crotchety old gentleman, I found his ideas substantially sound and sensible.
crux
n. essential or main point. This is the crux of the entire problem: everything centers on its being resolved. crucial, ADJ.
crypt
n. secret recess or vault usually used for burial. Until recently only bodies of rulers and leading statesmen were interred in this crypt.
cryptic
adj. mysterious; hidden; secret. Thoroughly baffled by Holmes's cryptic remarks, Watson wondered whether Holmes was intentionally concealing his thoughts about the crime.
cubicle
n. small chamber used for sleeping. After her many hours of intensive study in the library, she retired to her cubicle.
cuisine
n. style of cooking. French cuisine is noted for its use of sauces and wines.
culinary
adj. relating to cooking. Many chefs attribute their culinary success to the wise use of spices.
cull
v. pick out; reject. Every month the farmer culls the nonlaying hens from his flock and sells them to the local butcher. also N.
culmination
n. attainment of highest point. His inauguration as President of the United States marked the culmination of his political career.
culpable
adj. deserving blame. Corrupt politicians who condone the activities of the gamblers are equally culpable.
culvert
n. artificial channel for water. If we build a culvert under the road at this point, we will reduce the possibility of the road's being flooded during the rainy season.
cumbersome
adj. heavy; hard to manage. She was burdened with cumbersome parcels.
cumulative
adj. growing by addition. Vocabulary-building is a cumulative process: as you go through your flash cards, you will add new words to your vocabulary, one by one.
cupidity
n. greed. The defeated people could not satisfy the cupidity of the conquerors, who demanded excessive tribute.
curator
n. superintendent; manager. The members of the board of trustees of the museum expected the new curator to plan events and exhibits that would make the museum more popular.
curmudgeon
n. churlish, miserly individual. Although many regarded him as a curmudgeon, a few of us were aware of the many kindnesses and acts of charity that he secretly performed.
cursive
adj. flowing, running. In normal writing we run our letters together in cursive form; in printing, we separate the letters.
cursory
adj. casual; hastily done. Because a cursory examination of the ruins indicates the possibility of arson, we believe the insurance agency should undertake a more extensive investigation of the fire's cause.
curtail
v. shorten; reduce. When Elton asked Cher for a date, she said she was really sorry she couldn't go out with him, but her dad had ordered her to curtail her social life.
cynical
adj. skeptical or distrustful of human motives. Cynical from birth, Sidney was suspicious whenever anyone gave him a gift "with no strings attached." cynic,
cynosure
n. object of general attention. As soon as the movie star entered the room, she became the cynosure of all eyes.
dabble
v. work at in a nonserious fashion; splash around. The amateur painter dabbled at art, but seldom produced a finished piece. The children dabbled their hands in the bird bath, splashing one another gleefully.
dais
n. raised platform for guests of honor. When she approached the dais, she was greeted by cheers from the people who had come to honor her.
daily
v. trifle with; procrastinate. Laertes told Ophelia that Hamlet would only dally with her affections.
damp
v. lessen in intensity; diminish; mute. Not even the taunts of his brother, who considered ballet no proper pursuit for a lad, could damp Billy Elliot's enthusiasm for dancing.
dank
adj. damp. The walls of the dungeon were dank and slimy.
dapper
adj. neat and trim. In The Odd Couple, Tony Randall played Felix Unger, an excessively dapper soul who could not stand to have a hair out of place.
dappled
adj. spotted. The sunlight filtering through the screens created a dappled effect on the wall.
daub
v. smear (as with paint). From the way he daubed his paint on the canvas, I could tell he knew nothing of oils. also N.
■daunt
v. intimidate; frighten. "Boast all you like of your prowess. Mere words cannot daunt me," the hero answered the villain.
dauntless
adj. bold. Despite the dangerous nature of the undertaking, the dauntless soldier volunteered for the assignment.
dawdle
v. loiter; waste time. We have to meet a deadline. Don't dawdle; just get down to work.
deadlock
n. standstill; stalemate. Because negotiations had reached a deadlock, some of the delegates had begun to mutter about breaking off the talks. also v.
deadpan
adj. wooden; impassive. We wanted to see how long he could maintain his deadpan expression.
dearth
n. scarcity. The dearth of skilled labor compelled the employers to open trade schools.
debacle
n. sudden downfall; complete disaster. In the Airplane movies, every flight turns into a debacle, with passengers and crew members collapsing, engines falling apart, and carry-on baggage popping out of the overhead bins.
debase
v. reduce the quality or value; lower in esteem; degrade. In The King and 1, Anna refuses to kneel down and prostrate herself before the king; she feels that to do so would debase her position, and she will not submit to such debasement.
debauch
v. corrupt; seduce from virtue. Did Socrates' teachings lead the young men of Athens to be virtuous citizens, or did they debauch the young men, causing them to question the customs of their fathers? Clearly, Socrates' philosophical talks were nothing like the wild debauchery of the toga parties in Animal House.
debilitate
v. weaken; enfeeble. Michael's severe bout of the flu debilitated him so much that he was too tired to go to work for a week.
debonair
adj. urbane and suave; amiable; cheerful and carefree. Reporters frequently describe polished and charming leading men—Cary Grant or Pierce Brosnan, for example—as debonair.
debris
n. rubble. A full year after the earthquake in Mexico City, workers were still carting away the debris.
debunk
v. expose as false, exaggerated, worthless, etc.; ridicule. Pointing out that he consistently had voted against strengthening antipollution legislation, reporters debunked the candidate's claim that he was a fervent environmentalist.
debutante
n. young woman making formal entrance into society. As a debutante, she was often mentioned in the society columns of the newspapers.
decadence
n. decay. The moral decadence of the people was reflected in the lewd literature of the period.
decant
v. pour off gently. Be sure to decant this wine before serving it.
decapitate
v. behead. They did not hang Lady Jane Grey; they decapitated her. "Off with her head!" cried the Duchess, eager to decapitate poor Alice.
decelerate
v. slow down. Seeing the emergency blinkers in the road ahead, he decelerated quickly.
deciduous
adj. falling off, as of leaves. The oak is a deciduous tree.
decimate
v. kill, usually one out of ten. We do more to decimate our population in automobile accidents than we do in war.
decipher
v. decode. I could not decipher the doctor's handwriting.
declivity
n. downward slope. The children loved to ski down the declivity.
décolleté
adj. having a low-cut neckline. Fashion decrees that evening gowns be décolleté this season; bare shoulders are again the vogue.
decomposition
n. decay. Despite the body's advanced state of decomposition, the police were able to identify the murdered man.
■decorum
n. propriety; orderliness and good taste in manners. Even the best-mannered students have trouble behaving with decorum on the last day of school. decorous, ADJ.
decoy
n. lure or bait. The wild ducks were not fooled by the decoy. also v.
decrepitude
n. state of collapse caused by illness or old age. I was unprepared for the state of decrepitude in which I had found my old friend; he seemed to have aged twenty years in six months.
decry
v. express strong disapproval of; disparage. The founder of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, strongly decries the lack of financial and moral support for children in America today.
deducible
adj. derived by reasoning. If we accept your premise, your conclusions are easily deducible,
deface
v. mar; disfigure. If you deface a library book you will have to pay a hefty fine.
defame
v. harm someone's reputation; malign; slander. If you try to defame my good name, my lawyers will see you in court. If rival candidates persist in defaming one another, the voters may conclude that all politicians are crooks. defamation, N.
■default
n. failure to act. When the visiting team tailed to show up for the big game, they lost the game by default. When Jack failed to make the payments on his Jaguar, the dealership took back the car because he had defaulted on his debt.
defeatist
adj. resigned to defeat; accepting defeat as a natural outcome. If you maintain your defeatist attitude, you will never succeed. also N.
defection
n. desertion. The children, who had made him an idol, were hurt most by his defection from our cause.
defer
v. delay till later; exempt temporarily. In wartime, some young men immediately volunteer to serve; others defer making plans until they hear from their draft boards. During the Vietnam War, many young men, hoping to be deferred, requested student deferments.
defer
v. give in respectfully; submit. When it comes to making decisions about purchasing software, we must defer to Michael, our computer guru; he has the final word. Michael, however, can defer these questions to no one; only he can decide.
■deference
n. courteous regard for another's wish. In deference to the minister's request, please do not take photographs during the wedding service.
defiance
n. refusal to yield; resistance. When John reached the "terrible two's," he responded to every parental request with howls of defiance. defy,
defile
v. pollute; profane. The hoodlums defiled the church with their scurrilous writing.
definitive
adj. most reliable or complete. Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln may be regarded as the definitive work on the life of the Great Emancipator.
deflect
v. turn aside. His life was saved when his cigarette case deflected the bullet.
defoliate
v. destroy leaves. In Vietnam the army made extensive use of chemical agents to defoliate the woodlands.
defray
v. provide for the payment of. Her employer offered to defray the costs of her postgraduate education.
defrock
v. to strip a priest or minister of church authority. We knew the minister had violated church regulations, but we had not realized his offense was serious enough to cause him to be defrocked.
deft
adj. neat; skillful. The deft waiter uncorked the champagne without spilling a drop.
defunct
adj. dead; no longer in use or existence. The lawyers sought to examine the books of the defunct corporation.
degenerate
v. become worse; deteriorate. As the fight dragged on, the champion's style degenerated until he could barely keep on his feet.
degradation
n. humiliation; debasement; degeneration. Some secretaries object to fetching the boss a cup of coffee because they resent the degradation of being made to perform such lowly tasks. degrade, v.
dehydrate
v. remove water from; dry out. Running under a hot sun quickly dehydrates the body; joggers avoid dehydration by carrying water bottles and drinking from them frequently.
deify
v. turn into a god; idolize. Admire the rock star all you want; just don't deify him.
deign
v. condescend; stoop. The celebrated fashion designer would not deign to speak to a mere seamstress; his overburdened assistant had to convey the master's wishes to the lowly workers assembling his great designs.
delete
v. erase; strike out. if you delete this paragraph, the composition will have more appeal.
deleterious
adj. harmful. If you believe that smoking is deleterious to your health (and the Surgeon General surely does), then quit!
deliberate
v. consider; ponder. Offered the new job, she asked for time to deliberate before she made her decision.
■delineate
v. portray; depict; sketch. Using only a few descriptive phrases, Austen delineates the character of Mr. Collins so well that we can predict his every move. delineation, N.
delirium
n. mental disorder marked by confusion. In his delirium, the drunkard saw pink panthers and talking pigs. Perhaps he wasn't delirious: he might just have wandered into a movie house.
delta
n. flat plain of mud or sand between branches of a river. His dissertation discussed the effect of intermittent flooding on the fertility of the Nile delta.
delude
v. deceive. The mistress deludes herself into believing that her lover will leave his wife and marry her.
deluge
n. flood; rush. When we advertised the position we received a deluge of applications. also v.
delusion
n. false belief; hallucination. Don suffers from delusions of grandeur: he thinks he's a world-famous author when he's published just one paperback book.
delusive
adj. deceptive; raising vain hopes. Do not raise your hopes on the basis of his delusive promises.
delve
v. dig; investigate. Delving into old books and manuscripts is part of a researcher's job.
demagogue
n. person who appeals to people's prejudice; false leader. He was accused of being a demagogue because he made promises that aroused futile hopes in his listeners.
demean
v. degrade; humiliate. Standing on his dignity, he refused to demean himself by replying to the offensive letter. If you truly believed in the dignity of labor, you would not think it would demean you to work as a janitor.
demeanor
n. behavior; bearing. His sober demeanor quieted the noisy revelers.
demented
adj. insane. Doctor Demento was a radio personality who liked to act as if he were truly demented. If you're demented, your mental state is out of whack; in other words, you're wacky.
demise
n. death. Upon the demise of the dictator, a bitter dispute about succession to power developed.
demographic
adj. related to population balance. In conducting a survey, one should take into account demographic trends in the region. demography, N.
demolition
n. destruction. One of the major aims of the air force was the complete demolition of all means of transportation by the bombing of rail lines and terminals. demolish, v.
demoniac
adj. fiendish. The Spanish Inquisition devised many demoniac means of torture. demon, N.
demotic
adj. pertaining to the people. He lamented the passing of aristocratic society and maintained that a demotic society would lower the nation's standards.
demur
n. objection; protest. Michelangelo regularly denied that Leonardo Da Vinci had influenced him, and critics have usually accepted his statements without demur.
demur
v. object (because of doubts, scruples); hesitate. When offered a post on the board of directors, David demurred: he had scruples about taking on the job because he was unsure he could handle it in addition to his other responsibilities.
demure
adj. grave; serious; coy. She was demure and reserved, a nice modest girl whom any young man would be proud to take home to his mother.
■denigrate
v. blacken. All attempts to denigrate the character of our late president have failed; the people still love him and cherish his memory.
denizen
n. inhabitant or resident; regular visitor. In The Untouchables, Eliot Ness fights Al Capone and the other denizens of Chicago's underworld. Ness's fight against corruption was the talk of all the denizens of the local bars.
denotation
n. meaning; distinguishing by name. A dictionary will always give us the denotation of a word; frequently, it will also give us its connotation.
denouement
n. outcome; final development of the plot of a play or other literary work. The play was childishly written; the denouement was obvious to sophisticated theatergoers as early as the middle of the first act.
denounce
v. condemn; criticize. The reform candidate denounced the corrupt city officers for having betrayed the public's trust. denunciation, N.
depict
v. portray. In this sensational exposé, the author depicts Beatle John Lennon as a drug-crazed neurotic. Do you question the accuracy of this depiction of Lennon?
deplete
v. reduce; exhaust. We must wait until we deplete our present inventory before we order replacements.
deplore
v. regret. Although I deplore the vulgarity of your language, I defend your right to express yourself freely.
deploy
v. spread out [troops] in an extended though shallow battle line. The general ordered the battalion to deploy in order to meet the enemy offensive.
depose
v. dethrone; remove from office. The army attempted to depose the king and set up a military government.
deposition
n. testimony under oath. She made her deposition in the judge's chamber.
depravity
n. extreme corruption; wickedness. The depravity of Caligula's behavior eventually sickened even those who had willingly participated in his earlier, comparatively innocent orgies. deprave, v.
deprecate
v. express disapproval of; protest against; belittle. A firm believer in old-fashioned courtesy, Miss Post deprecated the modern tendency to address new acquaintances by their first names. deprecatory, ADJ.
depreciate
v. lessen in value. If you neglect this property, it will depreciate.
depredation
n. plundering. After the depredations of the invaders, the people were penniless.
derange
v. make insane; disarrange. Hamlet's cruel rejection deranged poor Ophelia; in her madness, she drowned herself.
derelict
adj. abandoned; negligent. The derelict craft was a menace to navigation. Whoever abandoned it in the middle of the harbor was derelict in living up to his responsibilities as a boat owner. also N.
■deride
v. ridicule; make fun of. The critics derided his pretentious dialogue and refused to consider his play seriously. Despite the critics' derision, however, audiences were moved by the play, cheering its unabashedly sentimental conclusion. derisive, ADJ.
■derivative
adj. unoriginal; obtained from another source. Although her early poetry was clearly derivative in nature, the critics thought she had promise and eventually would find her own voice.
dermatologist
n. one who studies the skin and its diseases. I advise you to consult a dermatologist about your acne.
derogatory
adj. expressing a low opinion. Because the word Eskimo has come under strong attack in recent years for its supposedly derogatory connotations, many Americans today either avoid the term or feel uneasy using it.
descry
v. catch sight of. In the distance, we could barely descry the enemy vessels.
desecrate
v. profane; violate the sanctity of. Shattering the altar and trampling the holy objects underfoot, the invaders desecrated the sanctuary.
■desiccate
v. dry up. A tour of this smokehouse will give you an idea of how the pioneers used to desiccate food in order to preserve it.
desolate
adj. unpopulated; joyless. After six months in the crowded, bustling metropolis, David was so sick of people that he was ready to head for the most desolate patch of wilderness he could find.
desolate
v. rob of joy; lay waste to; forsake. The bandits desolated the countryside, burning farms and carrying off the harvest.
desperado
n. reckless outlaw. Butch Cassidy was a bold desperado with a price on his head.
despise
v. look on with scorn; regard as worthless or distasteful. Mr. Bond, I despise spies; I look down on them as mean, despicable, honorless men, whom I would wipe from the face of the earth with as little concern as I would scrape dog droppings from the bottom of my shoe.
despoil
v. strip of valuables; rob. Seeking plunder, the raiders despoiled the village, carrying off any valuables they found.
despondent
adj. depressed; gloomy. To the distress of his parents, William became seriously despondent after he broke up with Jan. despondency, N.
despot
n. tyrant; harsh, authoritarian ruler. How could a benevolent king turn overnight into a despot? despotism, N.
destitute
adj. extremely poor. Because they had no health insurance, the father's costly illness left the family destitute. destitution, N.
desuetude
n. state of disuse. Overshadowed by the newly popular waltzes and cotillions, the English country dances of Jane Austen's time fell into desuetude until they were rediscovered during the folk dance revival of the early twentieth century.
■desultory
adj. aimless; haphazard; digressing at random. In prison Malcolm X set himself the task of reading straight through the dictionary; to him, reading was purposeful, not desultory.
detached
adj. emotionally removed; calm and objective; physically separate. A psychoanalyst must maintain a detached point of view and stay uninvolved with her patients' personal lives. To a child growing up in an apartment or a row house, to live in a detached house was an unattainable dream. (secondary meaning) detachment, N.
determinate
adj. having a fixed order of procedure; invariable. At the royal wedding, the procession of the nobles followed a determinate order of precedence.
determination
n. resolve; measurement or calculation; decision. Nothing could shake his determination that his children would get the best education that money could buy. Thanks to my pocket calculator, my determination of the answer to the problem took only seconds of my time.
■deterrent
n. something that discourages; hindrance. Does the threat of capital punishment serve as a deterrent to potential killers? also ADJ.
detonation
n. explosion. The detonation of the bomb could be heard miles away.
detraction
n. slandering; aspersion. Because Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton dared to fight for women's rights, their motives, manners, dress, personal appearance, and character were held up to ridicule and detraction.
detrimental
adj. harmful; damaging. The candidate's acceptance of major financial contributions from a well-known racist ultimately proved detrimental to his campaign, for he lost the backing of many of his early grassroots supporters. detriment, N.
deviate
v. turn away from (a principle, norm); depart; diverge. Richard never deviated from his daily routine: every day he set off for work at eight o'clock, had his sack lunch at noon, and headed home at the stroke of five.
devious
adj. roundabout; erratic; not straightforward. The Joker's plan was so devious that it was only with great difficulty we could follow its shifts and dodges.
devise
v. think up; invent; plan. How clever he must be to have devised such a devious plan! What ingenious inventions might he have devised if he had turned his mind to science rather than crime.
devoid
adj. lacking. You may think Cher's mind is a total void, but she's actually not devoid of intelligence. She just sounds like an airhead.
devolve
v. be transferred to another; delegate to another; gradually worsen. Because Humpty Dumpty was too shattered by his fall to clean up his own mess, all the work of picking up the pieces devolved upon poor Alice.
devotee
n. enthusiastic follower. A devotee of the opera, she bought season tickets every year.
devout
adj. pious. The devout man prayed daily.
dexterous
adj. skillful. The magician was so dexterous that we could not follow his movements as he performed his tricks.
diabolical
adj. devilish. "What a fiend I am, to devise such a diabolical scheme to destroy Gotham City," chortled the Joker.
diadem
n. crown. The king's diadem was on display at the museum.
dialectical
adj. relating to the art of debate; mutual or reciprocal. The debate coach's students grew to develop great forensic and dialectical skill. Teaching, however, is inherently a dialectical situation: the coach learned at least as much from her students as they learned from her. dialectics, N.
diaphanous
adj. sheer; transparent. Through the diaphanous curtains, the burglar could clearly see the large jewelry box on the dressing table. Sexy nightgowns are diaphanous; wooly long johns, fortunately, are not.
diatribe
n. bitter scolding; invective. During the lengthy diatribe delivered by his opponent he remained calm and self-controlled.
■dichotomy
n. split; branching into two parts (especially contradictory ones). Willie didn't know how to resolve the dichotomy between his ambition to go to college and his childhood longing to run away and join the circus. Then he heard about Ringling Brothers Circus College, and he knew he'd found his school.
dictum
n. authoritative and weighty statement; saying; maxim. University administrations still follow the old dictum "Publish or perish." They don't care how good a teacher you are; if you don't publish enough papers, you're out of a job.
didactic
adj. teaching; instructional. Pope's lengthy poem An Essay on Man is too didactic for my taste: I dislike it when poets turn preachy and moralize. didacticism, N.
die
n. device for stamping or impressing; mold. In coining pennies, workers at the old mint squeezed sheets of softened copper between two dies.
■diffidence
n. shyness. You must overcome your diffidence if you intend to become a salesperson.
■diffuse
adj. wordy; rambling; spread out (like a gas). If you pay authors by the word, you tempt them to produce diffuse manuscripts rather than brief ones. also
■digression
n. wandering away from the subject. Nobody minded when Professor Renoir's lectures wandered away from their official theme; his digressions were always more fascinating than the topic of the day. digress, v.
dilapidated
adj. ruined because of neglect. The dilapidated old building needed far more work than just a new coat of paint. dilapidation, N.
dilate
v. expand. In the dark, the pupils of your eyes dilate.
dilatory
adj. tending to delay; intentionally delaying. If you are dilatory in paying your bills, your credit rating may suffer.
dilemma
n. problem; choice of two unsatisfactory alternatives. In this dilemma, he knew no one to whom he could turn for advice.
dilettante
n. aimless follower of the arts; amateur; dabbler. According to Turgenev, without painstaking work, any writer or artist remains a dilettante. In an age of increasing professionalism, the terms amateur and dilettante have taken on negative connotations they did not originally possess.
diligence
n. steadiness of effort; persistent hard work. Her employers were greatly impressed by her diligence and offered her a partnership in the firm.
dilute
v. make less concentrated; reduce in strength. She preferred her coffee diluted with milk.
diminution
n. lessening; reduction in size. Old Jack was as sharp at eighty as he had been at fifty; increasing age led to no diminution of his mental acuity.
din
n. continued loud noise. The din of the jackhammers outside the classroom window drowned out the lecturer's voice. also v.
dinghy
n. small boat (often ship's boat). In the film Lifeboat, an ill-assorted group of passengers from a sunken ocean liner are marooned at sea in a dinghy.
dingy
adj. dull; not fresh; cheerless. Refusing to be depressed by her dingy studio apartment, Bea spent the weekend polishing the floors and windows and hanging bright posters on the walls.
dint
n. means; effort. By dint of much hard work, the volunteers were able to control the raging forest fire.
diorama
n. life-size, three-dimensional scene from nature or history. Because they dramatically pose actual stuffed animals against realistic painted landscapes, the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History particularly impress high school biology students.
dire
adj. disastrous. People ignored her dire predictions of an approaching depression.
■dirge
n. lament with music. The funeral dirge stirred us to tears.
■disabuse
v. correct a false impression; undeceive. I will attempt to disabuse you of your impression of my client's guilt; I know he is innocent.
disaffected
adj. disloyal. Once the most loyal of Bradley's supporters, Senator Moynihan found himself becoming increasingly disaffected.
disapprobation
n. disapproval; condemnation. The conservative father viewed his daughter's radical boyfriend with disapprobation.
disarray
n. a disorderly or untidy state. After the New Year's party, the once orderly house was in total disarray.
disavowal
n. denial; disclaiming. The novelist Andre Gide was controversial both for his early support of communism and for his subsequent disavowal of it after a visit to the Soviet Union, disavow, v.
disband
v. dissolve; disperse. The chess club disbanded after its disastrous initial season.
disburse
v. pay out. When you disburse money on the company's behalf, be sure to get a receipt.
discernible
adj. distinguishable; perceivable. The ships in the harbor were not discernible in the fog.
■discerning
adj. mentally quick and observant; having insight. Though no genius, the star was sufficiently discerning to distinguish her true friends from the countless phonies who flattered her. discern,
disclaim
v. disown; renounce claim to. If I grant you this privilege, will you disclaim al! other rights?
disclose
v. reveal. Although competitors offered him bribes, he refused to disclose any information about his company's forthcoming product. disclosure, N.
discombobulated
adj. confused; discomposed. The novice square dancer became so discombobulated that he wandered into the wrong set.
discomfit
v. put to rout; defeat; disconcert. This ruse will discomfit the enemy. discomfiture,
disconcert
v. confuse; upset; embarrass. The lawyer was disconcerted by the evidence produced by her adversary.
disconsolate
adj. sad. The death of his wife left him disconsolate.
discord
n. conflict; lack of harmony. Watching Tweedledum battle Tweedledee, Alice wondered what had caused this pointless discord.
■discordant
adj. not harmonious; conflicting. Nothing is quite so discordant as the sound of a junior high school orchestra tuning up.
discount
v. disregard. Be prepared to discount what he has to say about his ex-wife.
discourse
n. formal discussion; conversation. The young Plato was drawn to the Agora to hear the philosophical discourse of Socrates and his followers. also v.
discredit
v. defame; destroy confidence in; disbelieve. The campaign was highly negative in tone; each candidate tried to discredit the other.
■discrepancy
n. lack of consistency; difference. The police noticed some discrepancies in his description of the crime and did not believe him.
■discrete
adj. separate; unconnected; consisting of distinct parts. In programmed instruction, the information to be learned is presented in discrete units; you must respond correctly to each unit before you may advance to the next. Because human populations have been migrating and intermingling for hundreds of centuries, it is hard to classify humans into discrete racial groups. Do not confuse discrete (separate) with discreet (prudent in speech and actions).
discretion
n. prudence in speech, actions; ability to decide responsibly; freedom to act on one's own. Charlotte was the soul of discretion: she never would repeat anything told to her in confidence. Because we trusted our architect's judgment, we left many decisions about the house renovation to his discretion.
discriminating
adj. able to see differences; prejudiced. A superb interpreter of Picasso, she was sufficiently discriminating to judge the most complex works of modern art. discrimination, N.
discursive
adj. digressing; rambling. As the lecturer wandered from topic to topic, we wondered what if any point there was to his discursive remarks.
disdain
v. view with scorn or contempt. In the film Funny Face, the bookish heroine disdained fashion models for their lack of intellectual interests. also N.
disembark
v. go ashore; unload cargo from a ship. Before the passengers could disembark, they had to pick up their passports from the ship's purser.
disenfranchise
v. deprive of a civil right. The imposition of the poll tax effectively disenfranchised poor Southern blacks, who lost their right to vote.
disengage
v. uncouple; separate; disconnect. A standard movie routine involves the hero's desperate attempt to disengage a railroad car from a moving train.
disfigure
v. mar the appearance of; spoil, An ugly frown disfigured her normally pleasant face.
disgorge
v. surrender something; eject; vomit. Unwilling to disgorge the cash he had stolen from the pension fund, the embezzler tried to run away.
disgruntle
v. make discontented. The passengers were disgruntled by the numerous delays.
dishearten
v. discourage. His failure to pass the bar exam disheartened him.
disheveled
adj. untidy. Your disheveled appearance will hurt your chances in this interview.
disinclination
n. unwillingness. Some mornings I feel a great disinclination to get out of bed.
■disingenuous
adj. lacking genuine candor; insincere. Now that we know that the mayor and his wife are engaged in a bitter divorce fight, we find their earlier remarks regretting their lack of time together remarkably disingenuous.
disinter
v. dig up; unearth. They disinterred the body and held an autopsy.
■disinterested
adj. unprejudiced. Given the judge's political ambitions and the lawyers' financial interest in the case, the only disinterested person in the courtroom may have been the court reporter.
■disjointed
adj. lacking coherence; separated at the joints. Unable to think of anything to say about the assigned topic, the unprepared student scribbled a few disjointed sentences on his answer sheet.
disjunction
n. act or state of separation; disunity. Believing the mind could greatly affect the body's health, the holistic doctor rejected the notion of a necessary disjunction of mind and body.
dislodge
v. remove (forcibly). Thrusting her fist up under the choking man's lower ribs, Margaret used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food caught in his throat.
dismantle
v. take apart. When the show closed, they dismantled the scenery before storing it.
dismember
v. cut into small parts. When the Austrian Empire was dismembered, several new countries were established.
■dismiss
v. eliminate from consideration; reject. Believing in John's love for her, she dismissed the notion that he might be unfaithful. (secondary meaning)
■disparage
v. belittle. A doting mother, Emma was more likely to praise her son's crude attempts at art than to disparage them.
■disparate
adj. basically different; unrelated. Unfortunately Tony and Tina have disparate notions of marriage: Tony sees it as a carefree extended love affair, while Tina sees it as a solemn commitment to build a family and a home.
disparity
n. difference; condition of inequality. Their disparity in rank made no difference at all to the prince and Cinderella.
dispassionate
adj. calm; impartial. Known in the company for his cool judgment, Bill could impartially examine the causes of a problem, giving a dispassionate analysis of what had gone wrong, and go on to suggest how to correct the mess.
dispatch
n. speediness; prompt execution; message sent with all due speed. Young Napoleon defeated the enemy with all possible dispatch; he then sent a dispatch to headquarters, informing his commander of the great victory. also v.
dispel
v. scatter; drive away; cause to vanish. The bright sunlight eventually dispelled the morning mist.
disperse
v. scatter, The police fired tear gas into the crowd to disperse the protesters. dispersion, N.
dispirited
adj. lacking in spirit. The coach used all the tricks at his command to buoy up the enthusiasm of his team, which had become dispirited at the loss of the star player.
disport
v. amuse. The popularity of Florida as a winter resort is constantly increasing; each year, thousands more disport themselves at Miami and Palm Beach.
disputatious
adj. argumentative; fond of arguing. Convinced he knew more than his lawyers, Tony was a disputatious client, ready to argue about the best way to conduct the case.
disquietude
n. uneasiness; anxiety. When Holmes had been gone for a day, Watson felt only a slight sense of disquietude, but after a week with no word, Watson's uneasiness about his missing friend had grown into a deep fear for Holmes's safety. disquiet, v., N.
disquisition
n. a formal systematic inquiry; an explanation of the results of a formal inquiry. In his disquisition, he outlined the steps he had taken in reaching his conclusions.
dissection
n. analysis; cutting apart in order to examine. The dissection of frogs in the laboratory is particularly unpleasant to some students.
■ dissemble
v. disguise; pretend. Even though John tried to dissemble his motive for taking modern dance, we all knew he was there not to dance but to meet girls.
■disseminate
v. distribute; spread; scatter (like seeds). By their use of the Internet, propagandists have been able to disseminate their pet doctrines to new audiences around the globe.
dissent
v. disagree. In the recent Supreme Court decision, Justice O'Connor dissented from the majority opinion. also N.
dissertation
n. formal essay. In order to earn a graduate degree from many of our universities, a candidate is frequently required to prepare a dissertation on some scholarly subject.
dissident
adj. dissenting; rebellious. In the purge that followed the student demonstrations at Tianamen Square, the government hunted down the dissident students and their supporters. also N.
dissimulate
v. pretend; conceal by feigning. Although the governor tried to dissimulate his feelings about the opposing candidate, we all knew he despised his rival.
dissipate
v. squander; waste; scatter. He is a fine artist, but I fear he may dissipate his gifts if he keeps wasting his time playing Trivial Pursuit.
■dissolution
n. disintegration; looseness in morals. The profligacy and dissolution of life in Caligula's Rome appall some historians. dissolute, ADJ.
■dissonance
n. discord; opposite of harmony. Composer Charles Ives often used dissonance—clashing or unresolved chords—for special effects in his musical works. dissonant, ADJ.
dissuade
v. persuade not to do; discourage. Since Tom could not dissuade Huck from running away from home, he decided to run away with his friend. dissuasion, N.
distant
adj. reserved or aloof; cold in manner. Her distant greeting made me feel unwelcome from the start. (secondary meaning)
■distend
v. expand: swell out. I can tell when he is under stress by the way the veins distend on his forehead.
■distill
v. purify; refine; concentrate. A moonshiner distills mash into whiskey; an epigrammatist distills thoughts into quips.
distinction
n. honor; contrast; discrimination. A holder of the Medal of Honor. George served with great distinction in World War II. He made a distinction, however, between World War II and Vietnam, which he considered an immoral conflict.
distort
v. twist out of shape. It is difficult to believe the newspaper accounts of the riots because of the way some reporters distort and exaggerate the actual events. distortion, N.
distrait
adj. inattentive; distracted, often by anxiety. Jane was so caught up in her wedding plans that her family and friends considered her absent-minded, distrait, aloof and generally useless.
distraught
adj. upset; distracted by anxiety. The distraught parents frantically searched the ravine for their lost child.
diurnal
adj. daily. A farmer cannot neglect his diurnal tasks at any time; cows, for example, must be milked regularly.
diva
n. operatic singer; prima donna. Although world famous as a diva, she did not indulge in fits of temperament.
■diverge
v. vary; go in different directions from the same point. The spokes of the wheel diverge from the hub.
divergent
adj. differing; deviating. Since graduating from medical school, the two doctors have followed divergent paths, the one going on to become a nationally prominent surgeon, the other dedicating himself to a small family practice in his hometown. divergence, N.
diverse
adj. differing in some characteristics; various. The professor suggested diverse ways of approaching the assignment and recommended that we choose one of them.
diversion
n. act of turning aside; pastime. After studying for several hours, he needed a diversion from work. divert, v.
diversity
n. variety; dissimilitude. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. (John Fitzgerald Kennedy)
■divest
v. strip; deprive. He was divested of his power to act and could no longer govern. divestiture, N.
divine
v. perceive intuitively; foresee the future. Nothing infuriated Tom more than Aunt Polly's ability to divine when he was not telling the truth.
divulge
v. reveal. No lover of gossip, Charlotte would never divulge anything that a friend told her in confidence.
docile
adj. obedient; easily managed. As docile as he seems today, that old lion was once a ferocious, snarling beast. docility, N.
docket
n. program as for trial; book where such entries are made. The case of Smith
doctrinaire
adj. unable to compromise about points of doctrine; dogmatic; unyielding. Weng had hoped that the student-led democracy movement might bring about change in China, but the repressive response of the doctrinaire hard-liners crushed his dreams of democracy.
doctrine
n. teachings in general; particular principle (religious, legal, etc.) taught. He was so committed to the doctrines of his faith that he was unable to evaluate them impartially.
■document
v. provide written evidence. She kept all the receipts from her business trip in order to document her expenses for the firm. also N.
doddering
adj. shaky; infirm from old age. Lear's cruel daughters treat him as a doddering old fool, too aged and infirm to be taken seriously.
doff
v. take off. A gentleman used to doff his hat to a lady.
dogged
adj. determined; stubborn. Les Miserables tells of Inspector Javert's long, dogged pursuit of the criminal Jean Valjean.
doggerel
n. poor verse. Although we find occasional snatches of genuine poetry in her work, most of her writing is mere doggerel.
■dogmatic
adj. opinionated; arbitrary; doctrinal. We tried to discourage Doug from being so dogmatic, but never could convince him that his opinions might be wrong.
doldrums
n. blues; listlessness; slack period. Once the excitement of meeting her deadline was over, she found herself in the doldrums.
doleful
adj. mournful; causing sadness. Eeyore, the lugubrious donkey immortalized by A. A. Milne, looked at his cheerful friend Tigger and sighed a doleful sigh.
dolorous
adj. sorrowful. The conflict between Lancelot's love for Guinevere and his loyalty to King Arthur led to Arthur's "dolorous death and departing out of this world."
dolt
n. stupid person; dunce. The heroes of Dumb and Dumber are, as the title suggests, a classic pair of dolts.
domicile
n. home. Although his legal domicile was in New York City, his work kept him away from his residence for many years. also v.
domineer
v. rule over tyrannically. Students prefer teachers who guide, not ones who domineer.
don
v. put on. When Clark Kent had to don his Superman outfit, he changed clothes in a convenient phone booth.
■dormant
adj. sleeping; lethargic; latent. At fifty her long-dormant ambition to write flared up once more; within a year she had completed the first of her great historical novels. dormancy, N.
dormer
n. window projecting from roof. In remodeling the attic into a bedroom, we decided that we needed to put in dormers to provide sufficient ventilation for the new room.
dorsal
adj. relating to the back of an animal. A shark may be identified by its dorsal fin, which projects above the surface of the ocean.
dossier
n. file of documents on a subject. Ordered by J. Edgar Hoover to investigate the senator, the FBI compiled a complete dossier on him.
dotage
n. senility. In his dotage, the old man bored us with long tales of events in his childhood.
dote
v. be excessively fond of; show signs of mental decline. Not only grandmothers bore you with stories about their brilliant grandchildren; grandfathers dote on the little rascals, too.
dour
adj. sullen; stubborn. The man was dour and taciturn.
douse
v. plunge into water; drench; extinguish. They doused each other with hoses and water balloons.
dowdy
adj. slovenly; untidy. She tried to change her dowdy image by buying a fashionable new wardrobe.
downcast
adj. disheartened; sad. Cheerful and optimistic by nature, Beth was never downcast despite the difficulties she faced.
drab
adj. dull; lacking color; cheerless. The Dutch woman's drab winter coat contrasted with the distinctive, colorful native costume she wore beneath it.
draconian
adj. extremely severe. When the principal canceled the senior prom because some seniors had been late to school that week, we thought the draconian punishment was far too harsh for such a minor violation of the rules.
dregs
n. sediment; worthless residue. David poured the wine carefully to avoid stirring up the dregs.
drivel
n. nonsense; foolishness. Why do I have to spend my days listening to such idiotic drivel? Drivel is related to dribble; think of a dribbling, driveling idiot.
droll
adj. queer and amusing. He was a popular guest because his droll anecdotes were always entertaining.
drone
n. idle person; male bee. Content to let his wife support him, the would-be writer was in reality nothing but a drone.
drone
v. talk dully; buzz or murmur like a bee. On a gorgeous day, who wants to be stuck in a classroom listening to the teacher drone?
dross
n. waste matter; worthless impurities. Many methods have been devised to separate the valuable metal from the dross.
drudgery
n. menial work. Cinderella's fairy godmother rescued her from a life of drudgery.
dubious
adj. questionable; filled with doubt. Some critics of the GRE contend the test is of dubious worth. Tony claimed he could get a perfect score on the test, but Tina was dubious: she knew he hadn't cracked a book in three years. dubiety, N.
ductile
adj. malleable; flexible; pliable. Copper is an extremely ductile material: you can stretch it into the thinnest of wires, bend it, even wind it into loops. ductility, N.
dulcet
adj. sweet sounding. The dulcet sounds of the birds at dawn were soon drowned out by the roar of traffic passing our motel.
dumbfound
v. astonish. Egbert's perfect score on the GRE dumbfounded his classmates, who had always considered him to be utterly dumb.
■ dupe
n. someone easily fooled. While the gullible Watson often was made a dupe by unscrupulous parties, Sherlock Holmes was far more difficult to fool.
duplicity
n. double-dealing; hypocrisy. When Tanya learned that Mark had been two-timing her, she was furious at his duplicity. duplicitous, ADJ.
duration
n. length of time something lasts. Because she wanted the children to make a good impression on the dinner guests, Mother promised them a treat if they'd behave well for the duration of the meal.
duress
n. forcible restraint, especially unlawfully. The hostages were held under duress until the prisoners' demands were met.
dutiful
adj. respectful; obedient. When Mother told Billy to kiss Great-Aunt Hattie, the boy obediently gave the old woman a dutiful peck on her cheek.
dwindle
v. shrink; reduce. The food in the lifeboat gradually dwindled away to nothing; in the end, they ate the ship's cook.
dynamic
adj. energetic; vigorously active. The dynamic aerobics instructor kept her students on the run; she was a little dynamo.
dyspeptic
adj. suffering from indigestion. All the talk about rich food made him feel dyspeptic. dyspepsia, N.
earthy
adj. unrefined; coarse. His earthy remarks often embarrassed the women in his audience.
ebb
v. recede; lessen, Sitting on the beach, Mrs. Dalloway watched the tide ebb: the waters receded, drawing away from her as she sat there all alone. also N.
■ebullient
adj. showing excitement; overflowing with enthusiasm. Amy's ebullient nature could not be repressed; she was always bubbling over with excitement. ebullience, N.
eccentric
adj. irregular; odd; whimsical; bizarre. The comet veered dangerously close to the earth in its eccentric orbit, People came up with some eccentric ideas for dealing with the emergency: one kook suggested tying a knot in the comet's tail!
eccentricity
n. oddity; idiosyncrasy. Some of his friends tried to account for his rudeness to strangers as the eccentricity of genius.
ecclesiastic
adj. pertaining to the church. The minister donned his ecclesiastic garb and walked to the pulpit. also N.
■eclectic
adj. selective; composed of elements drawn from disparate sources. His style of interior decoration was eclectic: bits and pieces of furnishings from widely divergent periods, strikingly juxtaposed to create a unique decor. eclecticism, N.
eclipse
v. darken; extinguish; surpass. The new stock market high eclipsed the previous record set in 1985.
ecologist
n. person concerned with the interrelationship between living organisms and their environment. The ecologist was concerned that the new dam would upset the natural balance of the creatures living in Glen Canyon.
economy
n. efficiency or conciseness in using something. Reading the epigrams of Pope, I admire the economy of his verse: in few words he conveys worlds of meaning. (secondary meaning)
ecstasy
n. rapture; joy; any overpowering emotion. When Allison received her long-hoped-for letter of acceptance from Harvard, she was in ecstasy. ecstatic, ADJ.
eddy
n. swirling current of water, air, etc. The water in the tide pool was still, except for an occasional eddy. also v.
edict
n. decree (especially one issued by a sovereign); official command. The emperor issued an edict decreeing that everyone should come see him model his magnificent new clothes.
edify
v. instruct; correct morally. Although his purpose was to edify and ,not to entertain his audience, many of his listeners were amused and not enlightened.
eerie
adj. weird. In that eerie setting, it was easy to believe in ghosts and other supernatural beings.
efface
v. rub out. The coin had been handled so many times that its date had been effaced.
effectual
adj. able to produce a desired effect; valid. Medical researchers are concerned because of the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria; many once-useful antibiotics are no longer effectual in curing bacterial infections.
effeminate
adj. having womanly traits. "Effeminate men intrigue me more than anything in the world. I see them as my alter egos. I feel very drawn to them. I think like a guy, but I'm feminine. So I relate to feminine men." (Madonna)
effervescence
n. inner excitement or exuberance; bubbling from fermentation or carbonation. Nothing depressed Sue for long; her natural effervescence soon reasserted itself. Soda that loses its effervescence goes flat. effervescent,
effete
adj. lacking vigor; worn out; sterile. Is the Democratic Party still a vital political force, or is it an effete, powerless faction, wedded to outmoded liberal policies?
■efficacy
n. power to produce desired effect. The efficacy of this drug depends on the regularity of the dosage. efficacious, ADJ.
effigy
n. dummy. The mob showed its irritation by hanging the judge in effigy.
effluvium
n. noxious smell. Air pollution has become a serious problem in our major cities; the effluvium and the poisons in the air are hazards to life. effluvia, PL.
■effrontery
n. impudence; shameless boldness; sheer nerve; presumptuousness. When the boss told Frank she was firing him for laziness and insubordination, he had the effrontery to ask her for a letter of recommendation.
effusion
n. pouring forth. The critics objected to her literary effusion because it was too flowery.
effusive
adj. pouring forth; gushing. Unmoved by Martha's many compliments on his performance, George dismissed her effusive words of praise as the sentimental outpourings of emotional fool.
egoism
n. excessive interest in one's self; belief that one should be interested in one's self rather than in others. His egoism prevented him from seeing the needs of his colleagues.
egotistical
adj. excessively self-centered; self-important; conceited. Typical egotistical remark: "But enough of this chitchat about you and your little problems. Let's talk about what's really important: me!" egotistic,
egregious
adj. notorious; conspicuously bad or shocking. She was an egregious liar; we all knew better than to believe a word she said. Ed's housekeeping was egregious: he let his dirty dishes pile up so long that they were stuck together with last week's food.
egress
n. exit. Barnum's sign "To the Egress" fooled many people who thought they were going to see an animal and instead found themselves in the street.
ejaculation
n. exclamation. He could not repress an ejaculation of surprise when he heard the news.
elaboration
n. addition of details; intricacy. Tell what happened simply, without any elaboration. elaborate, v.
elated
adj. overjoyed; in high spirits. Grinning from ear to ear, Bonnie Blair was clearly elated by her fifth Olympic gold medal. elation, N.
■elegy
n. poem or song expressing lamentation. On the death of Edward King, Milton composed the elegy "Lycidas." elegiacal, ADJ.
■elicit
v. draw out by discussion. The detectives tried to elicit where he had hidden his loot.
elixir
n. cure-all; something invigorating. The news of her chance to go abroad acted on her like an elixir.
ellipsis
n. omission of words from a text. Sometimes an ellipsis can lead to a dangling modifier, as in the sentence "Once dressed, ... you should refrigerate the potato salad."
elliptical
adj. oval; ambiguous, either purposely or because key words have been left out. An elliptical billiard ball wobbles because it is not perfectly round; an elliptical remark baffles because it is not perfectly clear.
eloquence
n. expressiveness; persuasive speech. The crowds were stirred by Martin Luther King's eloquence.
elucidate
v. explain; enlighten. He was called upon to elucidate the disputed points in his article.
elusive
adj. evasive; baffling; hard to grasp. Trying to pin down exactly when the contractors would be done remodeling the house, Nancy was frustrated by their elusive replies. elude, v.
elysian
adj. relating to paradise; blissful. An afternoon sail on the bay was for her an elysian journey.
emaciated
adj. thin and wasted. A severe illness left him acutely emaciated, and he did not recover fully until he had regained most of his lost weight.
emanate
v. issue forth. A strong odor of sulfur emanated from the spring.
emancipate
v. set free. At first, the attempts of the Abolitionists to emancipate the slaves were unpopular in New England as well as in the South.
embargo
n. ban on commerce or other activity. As a result of the embargo, trade with the colonies was at a standstill.
embark
v. commence; go on board a boat; begin a journey. In devoting herself to the study of gorillas, Dian Fossey embarked on a course of action that was to cost her her life.
embed
v. enclose; place in something. Tales of actual historical figures like King Alfred have become embedded in legends.
■embellish
v. adorn; ornament; enhance, as a story. The costume designer embellished the leading lady's ball gown with yards and yards of ribbon and lace.
embezzlement
n. stealing. The bank teller confessed his embezzlement of the funds.
emboss
v. produce a design in raised relief. The secretary of the corporation uses a special stamp to emboss the corporate seal on all official documents.
embrace
v. hug; adopt or espouse; accept readily; encircle; include. Clasping Maid Marian in his arms, Robin Hood embraced her lovingly. In joining the outlaws in Sherwood Forest, she had openly embraced their cause. also N.
embroider
v. decorate with needlework; ornament with fancy or fictitious details. For her mother's birthday, Beth embroidered a lovely design on a handkerchief. When asked what made her late getting home, Jo embroidered her account with tales of runaway horses and rescuing people from a ditch. embroidery, N.
embroil
v. throw into confusion; involve in strife; entangle. He became embroiled in the heated discussion when he tried to arbitrate the dispute.
embryonic
adj. undeveloped; rudimentary. The CEO reminisced about the good old days when the computer industry was still in its embryonic stage and start-up companies were being founded in the family garage.
emend
v. correct, usually a text. In editing Beowulf for his new scholarly edition, Professor Oliver freely emended the manuscript's text whenever it seemed to make no sense.
emendation
n. correction of errors; improvement. Please initial all the emendations you have made in this contract.
emetic
n. substance causing vomiting. Ingesting an emetic like mustard is useful in some cases of poisoning.
eminent
adj. high; lofty. After her appointment to this eminent position, she seldom had time for her former friends.
emissary
n. agent; messenger. The Secretary of State was sent as the president's special emissary to the conference on disarmament.
emollient
n. soothing or softening remedy. Emollients soften the skin by slowing evaporation of water. Beeswax, spermaceti, almond oil, and rosewater were used in ancient Greece, while lanolin or sheep fat was commonly used in medieval Europe. also ADJ.
emolument
n. salary; compensation. In addition to the emolument this position offers, you must consider the social prestige it carries with it.
empathy
n. ability to identify with another's feelings, ideas, etc. What made Ann such a fine counselor was her empathy, her ability to put herself in her client's place and feel his emotions as if they were her own. empathize, v.
■empirical
adj. based on experience. He distrusted hunches and intuitive flashes; he placed his reliance entirely on empirical data.
enamored
adj. in love. Narcissus became enamored of his own beauty.
encipher
v. encode; convert a message into code. In one of Bond's first lessons he learned how to encipher the messages he sent to Miss Moneypenny so that none of his other lady friends could read them.
enclave
n. territory enclosed within an alien land. The Vatican is an independent enclave in Italy.
encomiastic
adj. praising; eulogistic. Some critics believe that his encomiastic statements about Napoleon were inspired by his desire for material advancement rather than by an honest belief in the Emperor's genius.
encomium
n. high praise; eulogy. Uneasy with the encomiums expressed by his supporters, Tolkien felt unworthy of such high praise.
encompass
v. surround or encircle; enclose; include. A moat, or deep water-filled trench, encompassed the castle, protecting it from attack. The term alternative medicine can encompass a wide range of therapies, including chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation, biofeedback, massage therapy, and various "new age" therapies such as guided imagery and naturopathy.
encroachment
n. gradual intrusion. The encroachment of the factories upon the neighborhood lowered the value of the real estate.
encumber
v. burden. Some people encumber themselves with too much luggage when they take short trips.
endearment
n. fond word or act. Your gifts and endearments cannot make me forget your earlier insolence.
■endemic
adj. prevailing among a specific group of people or in a specific area or country. This disease is endemic in this part of the world; more than 80 percent of the population are at one time or another affected by it.
endorse
v. approve; support. Everyone waited to see which one of the rival candidates for the city council the mayor would endorse. (secondary meaning) endorsement, N.
endue
v. provide with some quality; endow. He was endued with a lion's courage.
enduring
adj. lasting; surviving. Keats believed in the enduring power of great art, which would outlast its creators' brief lives.
energize
v. invigorate; make forceful and active. Rather than exhausting Maggie, dancing energized her.
■enervate
v. weaken. She was slow to recover from her illness; even a short walk to the window enervated her. enervation, N.
enfranchise
v. admit to the rights of citizenship (especially the right to vote). Although blacks were enfranchised shortly after the Civil War, women did not receive the right to vote until 1920.
engage
v. attract; hire; pledge oneself; confront. "Your case has engaged my interest, my lord," said Holmes. "You may engage my services."
engaging
adj. charming; attractive. Everyone liked Nancy's pleasant manners and engaging personality.
■engender
v. cause; produce. To receive praise for real accomplishments engenders self-confidence in a child.
engross
v. occupy fully. John was so engrossed in his studies that he did not hear his mother call.
■enhance
v. increase; improve. You can enhance your chances of being admitted to the college of your choice by learning to write well; an excellent essay will enhance any application.
enigma
n. puzzle; mystery. "What do women want?" asked Dr. Sigmund Freud. Their behavior was an enigma to him.
enigmatic
adj. obscure; puzzling. Many have sought to fathom the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa.
enjoin
v. command; order; forbid. The owners of the company asked the court to enjoin the union from picketing the plant.
enmity
n. ill will; hatred. At Camp David President Carter labored to bring an end to the enmity that prevented Egypt and Israel from living in peace.
ennui
n. boredom. The monotonous routine of hospital life induced a feeling of ennui that made her moody and irritable. "This vacation is bor-ing!" complained Heather, tired of being stuck riding in the car with no way to relieve her growing ennui.
enormity
n. hugeness (in a bad sense). He did not realize the enormity of his Grime until he saw what suffering he had caused.
enrapture
v. please intensely. The audience was enraptured by the freshness of the voices and the excellent orchestration.
ensconce
v. settle comfortably. Now that their children were ensconced safely in the private school, the jet-setting parents decided to leave for Europe.
ensue
v. follow as a consequence; result. What a holler would ensue if people had to pay the minister as much to marry them as they have to pay a lawyer to get them a divorce. (Claire Trevor)
entail
v. require; necessitate; involve. Building a college-level vocabulary will entail some work on your part.
enterprising
adj. full of initiative. By coming up with fresh ways to market the company's products, Mike proved himself to be an enterprising businessman.
enthrall
v. capture; enslave. From the moment he saw her picture, he was enthralled by her beauty.
entice
v. lure; attract; tempt. Will Mayor Bloomberg's attempts to entice the members of the International Olympic Committee to select New York as the site of the 2012 Olympic Games succeed? Only time will tell.
entity
n. real being. As soon as the charter was adopted, the United Nations became an entity and had to be considered as a factor in world diplomacy.
entomology
n. study of insects. Kent found entomology the most annoying part of his biology course; studying insects bugged him.
entrance
v. put under a spell; carry away with emotion. Shafts of sunlight on a wall could entrance her and leave her spellbound.
entreat
v. plead; ask earnestly. She entreated her father to let her stay out till midnight.
entree
n. entrance; a way in. Because of his wealth and social position, he had entree into the most exclusive circles.
entrepreneur
n. businessperson; contractor. Opponents of our present tax program argue that it discourages entrepreneurs from trying new fields of business activity.
enumerate
v. list; mention one by one. Huck hung his head in shame as Miss Watson enumerated his many flaws.
enunciate
v. utter or speak, especially distinctly. Stop mumbling! How will people understand you if you do not enunciate clearly?
environ
v. enclose; surround. In medieval days, Paris was environed by a wall. environs, N.
eon
n. long period of time; an age. It has taken eons for our civilization to develop.
epaulet
n. ornament worn on the shoulder (of a uniform, etc.). The shoulder loops on Sam Spade's trench coat are the nonmilitary counterparts of the fringed epaulets on George Washington's uniform.
■ephemeral
adj. short-lived; fleeting. The mayfly is an ephemeral creature: its adult life lasts little more than a day.
epic
n. long heroic poem, novel, or similar work of art. Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai is an epic portraying the struggle of seven warriors to destroy a band of robbers. also ADJ.
epicure
n. connoisseur of food and drink. Epicures frequent this restaurant because it features exotic wines and dishes. epicurean, ADJ.
epigram
n. witty thought or saying, usually short. Poor Richard's epigrams made Benjamin Franklin famous.
epilogue
n. short speech at conclusion of dramatic work. The audience was so disappointed in the play that many did not remain to hear the epilogue.
episodic
adj. loosely connected. Though he tried to follow the plot of Gravity's Rainbow, John found the novel too episodic.
epistemologist
n. philosopher who studies the nature of knowledge. "What is more important, a knowledge of nature or the nature of knowledge?" the epistemologist asked the naturalist.
epitaph
n. inscription in memory of a dead person. In his will, he dictated the epitaph he wanted placed on his tombstone.
epithet
n. word or phrase characteristically used to describe a person or thing. So many kings of France were named Charles that modern students need epithets to tell them apart: Charles the Wise, for example, was someone far different from Charles the Fat.
epitome
n. perfect example or embodiment. Singing "I am the very model of a modern Major-General" in The Pirates of Penzance, Major-General Stanley proclaimed himself the epitome of an officer and a gentleman. epitomize, v.
epoch
n. period of time. The glacial epoch lasted for thousands of years.
equable
adj. tranquil; steady; uniform. After the hot summers and cold winters of New England, she found the climate of the West Indies equable and pleasant.
■equanimity
n. calmness of temperament; composure. Even the inevitable strains of caring for an ailing mother did not disturb Bea's equanimity.
equestrian
n. rider on horseback. These paths in the park are reserved for equestrians and their steeds. also ADJ.
equilibrium
n. balance. After the divorce, he needed some time to regain his equilibrium.
equine
adj. resembling a horse. Her long, bony face had an equine look to it.
equinox
n. period of equal days and nights; the beginning of spring and autumn. The vernal equinox is usually marked by heavy rainstorms.
equipoise
n. balance; balancing force; equilibrium. The high-wire acrobat used his pole as an equipoise to overcome the swaying caused by the wind.
equitable
adj. fair; impartial. I am seeking an equitable solution to this dispute, one that will be fair and acceptable to both sides.
equity
n. fairness; justice. Our courts guarantee equity to all.
equivocal
adj. ambiguous; intentionally misleading. Rejecting the candidate's equivocal comments on tax reform, the reporters pressed him to state clearly where he stood on the issue. equivocate,
■equivocate
v. lie; mislead; attempt to conceal the truth. No matter how bad the news is, give it to us straight. Above all, don't equivocate.
erode
v. eat away. The limestone was eroded by the dripping water until only a thin shell remained. erosion, N.
erotic
adj. Films with significant erotic content are rated R; pornographic films are rated X.
errant
adj. wandering. Many a charming tale has been written about the knights-errant who helped the weak and punished the guilty during the Age of Chivalry.
erratic
adj. odd; unpredictable. Investors become anxious when the stock market appears erratic.
erroneous
adj. mistaken; wrong. I thought my answer was correct, but it was erroneous.
■erudite
adj. learned; scholarly. Unlike much scholarly writing, Huizinga's prose was entertaining as well as erudite, lively as well as learned. erudition, N.
escapade
n. prank; flighty conduct. The headmaster could not regard this latest escapade as a boyish joke and expelled the young man.
eschew
v. avoid. Hoping to present himself to his girlfriend as a totally reformed character, he tried to eschew all the vices, especially chewing tobacco and drinking bathtub gin.
■esoteric
adj. hard to understand; known only to the chosen few. New Yorker short stories often include esoteric allusions to obscure people and events. The implication is, if you are in the in-crowd, you'll get the reference; if you come from Cleveland, you won't. esoterica, N.
espionage
n. spying. In order to maintain its power, the government developed a system of espionage that penetrated every household.
espouse
v. adopt; support. She was always ready to espouse a worthy cause.
essay
v. make an attempt at; test. In an effort to enrich the contemporary operatic repertoire, the Santa Fe Opera commissioned three new operas by American composers who had not previously essayed the form. Although Lydgate essayed courtly verse in Chaucer's manner, his imitations of the master's style rarely succeeded. In 1961 the actor Paul Newman essayed the role that perhaps best defined his screen persona, that of pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson in The Hustler.
esteem
v. respect; value. Jill esteemed Jack's taste in music, but she deplored his taste in clothes. also N.
estimable
adj. worthy of esteem; admirable. Tennis star Andre Agassi survived a near loss in the semifinals to win the seventh Grand Slam tournament title of his uneven yet estimable career.
estranged
adj. separated; alienated. The estranged wife sought a divorce. estrangement, N.
ethereal
adj. light; heavenly; unusually refined. In Shakespeare's The Tempest, the spirit Ariel is an ethereal creature, too airy and unearthly for our mortal world.
ethnic
adj. relating to races. Intolerance between ethnic groups is deplorable and usually is based on lack of information.
ethnology
n. study of humankind. Sociology is one aspect of the science of ethnology.
ethos
n. underlying character of a culture, group, etc. Seeing how tenderly Spaniards treated her small daughter made author Barbara Kingsolver aware of how greatly children were valued in the Spanish ethos.
etymology
n. study of word parts. A knowledge of etymology can help you on many English tests: if you know what the roots and prefixes mean, you can determine the meanings of unfamiliar words.
eugenic
adj. pertaining to the improvement of race. It is easier to apply eugenic principles to the raising of racehorses or prize cattle than to the development of human beings.
eulogistic
adj. praising. To everyone's surprise, the speech was eulogistic rather than critical in tone.
■eulogy
n. expression of praise, often on the occasion of someone's death. Instead of delivering a spoken eulogy at Genny's memorial service, Jeff sang a song he had written in her honor. eulogize, v.
■euphemism
n. mild expression in place of an unpleasant one. The expression "he passed away" is a euphemism for "he died."
euphony
n. sweet sound. Noted for its euphony even when it is spoken, the Italian language is particularly pleasing to the ear when sung. euphonious, ADJ.
euphoria
n. feeling of exaggerated (or unfounded) well-being. "Jill's been on cloud nine ever since Jack asked her out," said Betty, dismissing her friend's euphoria.
euthanasia
n. mercy killing. Many people support euthanasia for terminally ill patients who wish to die.
evanescent
adj. fleeting; vanishing. For a brief moment, the entire skyline was bathed in an orange-red hue in the evanescent rays of the sunset.
evasive
adj. not frank; eluding. Your evasive answers convinced the judge that you were withholding important evidence. evade, v.
evince
v. show clearly. When he tried to answer the questions, he evinced his ignorance of the subject matter.
evenhanded
adj. impartial; fair. Do men and women receive evenhanded treatment from their teachers, or, as recent studies suggest, do teachers pay more attention to male students than to females?
evocative
adj. tending to call up (emotions, memories). Scent can be remarkably evocative. The aroma of pipe tobacco evokes the memory of my father; a whiff of talcum powder calls up images of my daughter as a child.
evoke
v. call forth. He evoked much criticism by his hostile manner. evocation, N.
ewe
n. female sheep. The flock of sheep was made up of dozens of ewes, together with only a handful of rams.
■exacerbate
v. worsen; embitter. The latest bombing exacerbated England's already existing bitterness against the IRA, causing the Prime Minister to break off the peace talks abruptly. exacerbation, N.
exact
v. require or demand, often forcibly; take. In feudal times, landowners exacted heavy payments from their peasants in both goods and labor. Asa Philip Randolph proclaimed, "Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted." The war in Algeria exacted a heavy toll in casualties.
exacting
adj. extremely demanding. Cleaning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was an exacting task, one that demanded extremely meticulous care on the part of the restorers. exaction, N.
exalt
v. raise in rank or dignity; praise. The actor Sean Connery was exalted to the rank of knighthood by the Queen; he now is known as Sir Sean Connery.
exasperate
v. vex. Johnny often exasperates his mother with his pranks.
exceptionable
adj. objectionable. Do you find the punk rock band Green Day a highly exceptionable, thoroughly distasteful group, or do you think they are exceptionally talented performers?
excerpt
n. selected passage (written or musical). The cinematic equivalent of an excerpt from a novel is a clip from a film. also v.
excise
v. cut away; cut out. When you excise the dead and dying limbs of a tree, you not only improve its appearance but also enhance its chances of bearing fruit. excision, N.
exclaim
v. cry out suddenly. "Watson! Behind you!" Holmes exclaimed, seeing the assassin hurl himself on his friend. exclamation,
excoriate
v. scold with biting harshness; strip the skin off. Seeing the rips in Bill's new pants, his mother furiously excoriated him for ruining his good clothes. The tight, starched collar chafed and excoriated his neck, rubbing it raw.
■exculpate
v. clear from blame. She was exculpated of the crime when the real criminal confessed.
execrable
adj. very bad. The anecdote was in such execrable taste that the audience was revolted.
execrate
v. curse; express abhorrence for. The world execrates the memory of Hitler and hopes that genocide will never again be the policy of any nation.
execute
v. put into effect; carry out. The choreographer wanted to see how well she could execute a pirouette. (secondary meaning) execution, N.
exegesis
n. explanation, especially of biblical passages. The minister based her sermon on her exegesis of a difficult passage from the book of Job.
exemplary
adj. serving as a model; outstanding. At commencement the dean praised Ellen for her exemplary behavior as class president.
exemplify
v. show by example: furnish an example. Three-time winner of the Super Bowl, Joe Montana exemplifies the ideal quarterback.
exempt
adj. not subject to a duty or obligation. Because of his flat feet, Foster was exempt from serving in the armed forces. also v.
exertion
n. effort; expenditure of much physical work. The exertion involved in unscrewing the rusty bolt left her exhausted.
exhilarating
adj. invigorating and refreshing; cheering. Though some of the hikers found tramping through the snow tiring, Jeffrey found the walk on the cold, crisp day exhilarating. His exhilaration was so great that, at the hike's end, he wanted to walk another five miles.
exhort
v. urge. The evangelist exhorted all the sinners in the audience to repent. exhortation, N.
exhume
v. dig out of the ground; remove from the grave. Could evidence that might identify the serial killer have been buried with his victim? To answer this question, the police asked the authorities for permission to exhume the victim's body.
■exigency
n. urgent situation; pressing needs or demands; state of requiring immediate attention. The exigencies of war gave impetus and funding to computer research in general and in particular to the development of code-breaking machines. Denmark's Gustav I proved to be a harsh master and an exigent lord, known for his heavy taxes and capricious demands.
exiguous
adj. small; minute. Grass grew here and there, an exiguous outcropping among the rocks.
existential
adj. pertaining to existence; pertaining to the philosophy of existentialism. To the existential philosopher, human reason is inadequate to explain an irrational, meaningless universe.
exodus
n. departure. The exodus from the hot and stuffy city was particularly noticeable on Friday evenings.
exonerate
v. acquit; exculpate. The defense team feverishly sought fresh evidence that might exonerate their client.
exorbitant
adj. excessive. The people grumbled at his exorbitant prices but paid them because he had a monopoly.
exorcise
v. drive out evil spirits. By incantation and prayer, the medicine man sought to exorcise the evil spirits that had taken possession of the young warrior.
exotic
adj. not native; strange. Because of his exotic headdress, he was followed in the streets by small children who laughed at his strange appearance.
expansive
adj. outgoing and sociable; broad and extensive; able to increase in size. Mr. Fezziwig was in an expansive humor, cheerfully urging his guests to join in the Christmas feast. Looking down on his expansive paunch, he sighed: if his belly expanded any further, he'd need an expansive waistline for his pants.
expatiate
v. talk at length. At this time, please give us a brief résumé of your work; we shall permit you to expatiate later.
expatriate
n. exile; someone who has withdrawn from his native land. Henry James was an American expatriate who settled in England.
expedient
adj. suitable; practical; politic. A pragmatic politician, she was guided by what was expedient rather than by what was ethical. expediency, N.
expedite
v. hasten. Because we are on a tight schedule, we hope you will be able to expedite the delivery of our order. The more expeditious your response is, the happier we'll be.
expenditure
n. payment or expense; output. When you are operating on an expense account, you must keep receipts for all your expenditures. If you don't save your receipts, you won't get repaid without the expenditure of a lot of energy arguing with the firm's accountants.
expertise
n. specialized knowledge; expert skill. Although she was knowledgeable in a number of fields, she was hired for her particular expertise in computer programming.
expiate
v. make amends for (a sin). Jean Valjean tried to expiate his crimes by performing acts of charity.
expletive
n. interjection; profane oath. The sergeant's remarks were filled with expletives that offended the new recruits.
explicate
v. explain; interpret; clarify. Harry Levin explicated James Joyce's novels with such clarity that even Finnegan's Wake seemed comprehensible to his students.
explicit
adj. totally clear; definite; outspoken. Don't just hint around that you're dissatisfied: be explicit about what's bugging you.
exploit
n. deed or action, particularly a brave deed. Raoul Wallenberg was noted for his exploits in rescuing Jews from Hitler's forces.
exploit
v. make use of, sometimes unjustly. Cesar Chavez fought attempts to exploit migrant farmworkers in California. exploitation, N.
expository
adj. explanatory; serving to explain. The manual that came with my VCR was no masterpiece of expository prose: its explanations were so garbled that I couldn't even figure out how to rewind a tape.
expostulation
n. protest; remonstrance. Despite the teacher's scoldings and expostulations, the class remained unruly.
exposure
n. risk, particularly of being exposed to disease or to the elements; unmasking; act of laying something open. Exposure to sun and wind had dried out her hair and weathered her face, She looked so changed that she no longer feared exposure as the notorious Irene Adler, one-time antagonist of Sherlock Holmes.
expropriate
v. take possession of. He questioned the government's right to expropriate his land to create a wildlife preserve.
expunge
v. cancel; remove. If you behave, I will expunge this notation from your record.
expurgate
v. clean; remove offensive parts of a book. The editors felt that certain passages in the book had to be expurgated before it could be used in the classroom,
extant
adj. still in existence. Although the book is out of print, some copies are still extant. Unfortunately, all of them are in libraries or private collections; none is for sale.
extemporaneous
adj. not planned; impromptu. Because her extemporaneous remarks were misinterpreted, she decided to write all her speeches in advance.
extenuate
v. weaken; mitigate. It is easier for us to extenuate our own shortcomings than those of others.
extirpate
v. root up. The Salem witch trials were a misguided attempt to extirpate superstition and heresy.
extol
v. praise; glorify. The president extolled the astronauts, calling them the pioneers of the Space Age.
extort
v. wring from; get money by threats, etc. The blackmailer extorted money from his victim.
extradition
n. surrender of prisoner by one state to another. The lawyers opposed the extradition of their client on the grounds that for more than five years he had been a model citizen.
extraneous
adj. not essential; superfluous. No wonder Ted can't think straight! His mind is so cluttered up with extraneous trivia, he can't concentrate on the essentials.
■extrapolation
n. projection; conjecture. Based on their extrapolation from the results of the primaries on Super Tuesday, the networks predicted that George W. Bush would be the Republican candidate for the presidency. extrapolate, v.
extricate
v. free; disentangle. Icebreakers were needed to extricate the trapped whales from the icy floes that closed them in.
extrinsic
adj. external; not essential; extraneous. A critically acclaimed extrinsic feature of the Chrysler Building is its ornate spire. The judge would not admit the testimony, ruling that it was extrinsic to the matter at hand.
extrovert
n. person interested mostly in external objects and actions. A good salesperson is usually an extrovert who likes to mingle with people.
extrude
v. force or push out. Much pressure is required to extrude these plastics.
exuberance
n. overflowing abundance; joyful enthusiasm; flamboyance; lavishness. I was bowled over by the exuberance of Amy's welcome. Cheeks glowing, she was the picture of exuberant good health.
exude
v. discharge; give forth. We get maple syrup from the sap that the trees exude in early spring. exudation, N.
exult
v. rejoice. We exulted when our team won the victory.
fabricate
v. build; lie. If we fabricate the buildings in this project out of standardized sections, we can reduce construction costs considerably. Because of Jack's tendency to fabricate, Jill had trouble believing a word he said.
facade
n. front (of building); superficial or false appearance. The ornate facade of the church was often photographed by tourists, who never bothered to walk around the building to view its other sides. Cher's outward show of confidence was just a facade she assumed to hide her insecurity.
facet
n. small plane surface (of a gem); a side. The stonecutter decided to improve the rough diamond by providing it with several facets.
■facetious
adj. joking (often inappropriately); humorous. I'm serious about this project; I don't need any facetious, smart-alecky cracks about do-good little rich girls.
facile
adj. easily accomplished; ready or fluent; superficial. Words came easily to Jonathan: he was a facile speaker and prided himself on being ready to make a speech at a moment's notice. facility, N.
■facilitate
v. help bring about; make less difficult. Rest and proper nourishment should facilitate the patient's recovery.
facsimile
n. copy. Many museums sell facsimiles of the works of art on display.
faction
n. party; clique; dissension. The quarrels and bickering of the two small factions within the club disturbed the majority of the members.
factious
adj. inclined to form factions; causing dissension. The pollsters' practice of dividing up the map of America into Red and Blue states reinforces factious feelings among Americans, who increasingly define themselves as members of one of the two major political parties. Do not confuse factious with fractious (unruly; unmanageable) or with factitious (not natural; not genuine; bogus).
factitious
adj. artificial; sham. Hollywood actresses often create factitious tears by using glycerine.
factotum
n. handyman; person who does all kinds of work. Although we had hired him as a messenger, we soon began to use him as a general factotum around the office.
faculty
n. mental or bodily powers; teaching staff. As he grew old, Professor Twiggly feared he might lose his faculties and become unfit to teach. However, while he was in full possession of his faculties, the school couldn't kick him off the faculty.
■fallacious
adj. false; misleading. Paradoxically, fallacious reasoning does not always yield erroneous results: even though your logic may be faulty, the answer you get may be correct.
fallacy
n. mistaken idea based on flawed reasoning; invalid argument. The challenge that today's social scientists face is to use computers in ways that are most suited to them without falling into the fallacy that, by themselves, computers can guide and organize the study of human society.
fallible
adj. liable to err. Although I am fallible, I feel confident that I am right this time.
fallow
adj. plowed but not sowed; uncultivated. Farmers have learned that it is advisable to permit land to lie fallow every few years.
falter
v. hesitate. When told to dive off the high board, she did not falter, but proceeded at once.
fanaticism
n. excessive zeal; extreme devotion to a belief or cause. When Islamic fundamentalists demanded the death of Salman Rushdie because his novel questioned their faith, world opinion condemned them for their fanaticism. fanatic, ADJ., N.
fancied
adj. imagined; unreal. One of the carpal (wrist) bones, the navicular bone was given its name because of its fancied resemblance to a boat.
fancier
n. breeder or dealer of animals. The dog fancier exhibited her prize collie at the annual Kennel Club show.
fancy
n. notion; whim; inclination. Martin took a fancy to paint his toenails purple. Assuming he would outgrow such a fanciful notion, his parents ignored his fancy feet. also ADJ.
fanfare
n. call by bugles or trumpets; showy display. The exposition was opened with a fanfare of trumpets and the firing of cannon.
farce
n. broad comedy; mockery. Nothing went right; the entire interview degenerated into a farce. farcical, ADJ.
fastidious
adj. difficult to please; squeamish. Bobby was such a fastidious eater that he would eat a sandwich only if his mother first cut off every scrap of crust.
fatalism
n. belief that events are determined by forces beyond one's control. With fatalism, he accepted the hardships that beset him. fatalistic, ADJ.
fathom
v. comprehend; investigate. I find his motives impossible to fathom; in fact, I'm totally clueless about what goes on in his mind.
■fatuous
adj. brainless; inane; foolish, yet smug. Attacking the notion that women should defer to men's supposedly superior intelligence, Germaine Greer wrote that she was sick of pretending that some fatuous male's self-important pronouncements were the objects of her undivided attention. Fatheads are by definition fatuous.
fauna
n. animals of a period or region. The scientist could visualize the fauna of the period by examining the skeletal remains and the fossils.
■fawning
adj. trying to please by behaving obsequiously, flattering, or cringing. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins is the archetypal fawning clergyman, wholly dependent for his living on the goodwill of his patron, Lady Catherine, whom he flatters shamelessly. Courtiers fawn upon princes; groupies fawn upon rock stars.
faze
v. disconcert; dismay. No crisis could faze the resourceful hotel manager.
feasible
adj. practical. Is it feasible to build a new stadium for the Yankees on New York's West Side? Without additional funding, the project is clearly unrealistic.
febrile
adj. feverish. In his febrile condition, he was subject to nightmares and hallucinations.
feckless
adj. feeble and ineffective; careless and irresponsible. Richard II proved such a feckless ruler that Bolingbroke easily convinced Parliament to elect him king in Richard's place. The film The Perfect Circle tells the tale of a feckless poet who, unwillingly saddled with two war orphans, discovers a sense of responsibility and community that had eluded him in his own previous family life.
fecundity
n. fertility; fruitfulness. The fecundity of her mind is illustrated by the many vivid images in her poems. Rabbits are noted for their fecundity: in the absence of natural predators, they multiply, well, like rabbits, as the Australians learned to their dismay.
feign
v. pretend. Lady Macbeth feigned illness in the courtyard although she was actually healthy.
feint
n. trick; shift; sham blow. The boxer was fooled by his opponent's feint and dropped his guard. also v.
■felicitous
adj. apt: suitably expressed; well chosen. He was famous for his felicitous remarks and was called upon to serve as master-of-ceremonies at many a banquet.
felicity
n. happiness; appropriateness (of a remark, choice, etc.). She wrote a note to the newlyweds wishing them great felicity in their wedded life.
fell
adj. cruel; deadly. The newspapers told of the tragic spread of the fell disease.
fell
v. cut or knock down; bring down (with a missile). Crying "Timber!" Paul Bunyan felled the mighty redwood tree. Robin Hood loosed his arrow and felled the king's deer.
felon
n. person convicted of a grave crime. A convicted felon loses the right to vote.
feral
adj. not domestic; wild. Abandoned by their owners, dogs may revert to their feral state, roaming the woods in packs.
ferment
n. agitation; commotion. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, much of Eastern Europe was in a state of ferment, also v.
ferret
v. drive or hunt out of hiding. She ferreted out their secret.
fervent
adj. ardent; hot. She felt that the fervent praise was excessive and somewhat undeserved.
fervid
adj. ardent. Her fervid enthusiasm inspired all of us to undertake the dangerous mission.
■fervor
n. glowing ardor; intensity of feeling. At the protest rally, the students cheered the strikers and booed the dean with equal fervor.
fester
v. rankle; produce irritation or resentment. Joe's insult festered in Anne's mind for days, and made her too angry to speak to him.
festive
adj. joyous; celebratory. Their wedding in the park was a festive occasion.
fete
v. honor at a festival. The returning hero was feted at a community supper and dance. also N.
fetid
adj. malodorous; foul-smelling. When a polecat is alarmed, the scent gland under its tail emits a fetid secretion used for territorial marking. Stinky! Does feta cheese smell fetid to you?
fetter
v. shackle. The prisoner was fettered to the wall.
fiasco
n. total failure. Our ambitious venture ended in a fiasco and we were forced to flee.
fiat
n. command; authorization. Although the bill abolishing the allowances and privileges of the former princes was rejected by the upper house, it was put into effect by presidential fiat.
fickle
adj. changeable; faithless. As soon as Romeo saw Juliet, he forgot all about his crush on Rosaline. Was Romeo fickle?
fictitious
adj. imaginary. Although this book purports to be a biography of George Washington, many of the incidents are fictitious.
fidelity
n. loyalty. lago wickedly manipulates Othello, arousing his jealousy and causing him to question his wife's fidelity.
figment
n. invention; imaginary thing. Was he hearing real voices in the night, or were they just a figment of his imagination?
figurative
adj. not literal, but metaphorical; using a figure of speech. "To lose one's marbles" is a figurative expression; if you're told Jack has lost his marbles, no one expects you to rush out to buy him a replacement set.
figurine
n. small ornamental statuette. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade was hired to trace the missing figurine of a black bird.
filch
v. steal. The boys filched apples from the fruit stand.
filial
adj. pertaining to a son or daughter. Many children forget their filial obligations and disregard the wishes of their parents.
filibuster
v. block legislation by making long speeches. Even though we disapproved of Senator Foghorn's political goals, we were impressed by his ability to filibuster endlessly to keep an issue from coming to a vote.
filigree
n. delicate, lacelike metalwork. The pendant with gold filigree that she wore round her neck trembled with each breath she took.
filing
n. particle removed by a file. As the prisoner filed away at the iron bar on the cell window, a small heap of filings accumulated on the window sill.
finale
n. conclusion. It is not until we reach the finale of this play that we can understand the author's message.
finesse
n. delicate skill. The finesse and adroitness with which the surgeon wielded her scalpel impressed the observers in the operating theater.
finicky
adj. too particular; fussy. The little girl was finicky about her food, leaving anything that wasn't to her taste.
finite
adj. limited. It is difficult for humanity with its finite existence to grasp the infinite.
firebrand
n. hothead; troublemaker. The police tried to keep track of all the local firebrands when the president came to town.
fissure
n. crevice. The mountain climbers secured footholds in tiny fissures in the rock.
fitful
adj. spasmodic; intermittent. After several fitful attempts, he decided to postpone the start of the project until he felt more energetic.
flaccid
adj. flabby. His sedentary life had left him with flaccid muscles.
■flag
v. droop; grow feeble. When the opposing hockey team scored its third goal only minutes into the first period, the home team's spirits flagged. flagging, ADJ.
flagrant
adj. conspicuously wicked; blatant; outrageous. The governor's appointment of his brother-in-law to the state Supreme Court was a flagrant violation of the state laws against nepotism (favoritism based on kinship).
flail
v. thresh grain by hand; strike or slap; toss about. In medieval times, warriors flailed their foe with a metal ball attached to a handle.
flair
n. talent. She has an uncanny flair for discovering new artists before the public has become aware of their existence.
flamboyant
adj. ornate. Modern architecture has discarded the flamboyant trimming on buildings and emphasizes simplicity of line.
flaunt
v. display ostentatiously. Mae West saw nothing wrong with showing off her considerable physical charms, saying, "Honey, if you've got it, flaunt it!"
flay
v. strip off skin; plunder; whip; attack with harsh criticism. The reviewer's stinging comments flayed the actress's sensitive spirit. How could she go on, after such a vicious attack?
fleck
v. spot. Pollack's coveralls, flecked with paint, bore' witness to the sloppiness of the spatter school of art.
■fledgling
adj. inexperienced. The folk dance club set up an apprentice program to allow fledgling dance callers a chance to polish their skills. also N.
fleece
n. wool coat of a sheep. They shear sheep of their fleece, which they then comb into separate strands of wool.
fleece
v. rob; plunder. The tricksters fleeced him of his inheritance.
flick
n. light stroke as with a whip. The horse needed no encouragement; only one flick of the whip was all the jockey had to apply to get the animal to run at top speed.
flinch
v. hesitate; shrink. She did not flinch in the face of danger but fought back bravely.
flippant
adj. lacking proper seriousness. When Mark told Mon he loved her, she dismissed his earnest declaration with a flippant "Oh, you say that to all the girls!" flippancy, N.
flit
v. fly; dart lightly; pass swiftly by. Like a bee flitting from flower to flower, Rose flitted from one boyfriend to the next.
floe
n. mass of floating ice. The ship made slow progress as it battered its way through the ice floes.
flora
n. plants of a region or era. Because she was a botanist, she spent most of her time studying the flora of the desert.
florid
adj. ruddy; reddish; flowery. If you go to Florida and get a sunburn, your complexion will look florid, If your postcards about your trip praise it in flowery words, your prose will be florid, too.
flotsam
n. drifting wreckage. Beachcombers eke out a living by salvaging the flotsam and jetsam of the sea.
flounder
v. struggle and thrash about; proceed clumsily or falter. Up to his knees in the bog, Floyd floundered about, trying to regain his footing. Bewildered by the new software, Flo floundered until Jan showed her how to get started.
flourish
v. grow well; prosper; make sweeping gestures. The orange trees flourished in the sun.
■flout
v. reject; mock; show contempt for. The painter Julian Schnabel is known for works that flout the conventions of high art, such as paintings on velvet or linoleum. Do not confuse flout with flaunt: to flaunt something is to show it off; to flout something is to show your scorn for it, Perhaps by flouting the conventions of high art, Schnabel was flaunting his ability to get away with breaking the rules.
fluctuate
v. waver; shift. The water pressure in our shower fluctuates wildly; you start rinsing yourself off with a trickle, and two minutes later a blast of water nearly knocks you off your feet. I'll never get used to these fluctuations.
fluency
n. smoothness of speech. She spoke French with fluency and ease.
fluke
n. unlikely occurrence; stroke of fortune. When Douglas defeated Tyson for the heavyweight championship, some sportscasters dismissed his victory as a fluke.
fluster
v. confuse. The teacher's sudden question flustered him and he stammered his reply.
fluted
adj. having vertical parallel grooves (as in a pillar). All that remained of the ancient building were the fluted columns.
flux
n. flowing; series of changes. While conditions are in such a state of flux, I do not wish to commit myself too deeply in this affair.
fodder
n. coarse food for cattle, horses, etc. One of Nancy's chores at the ranch was to put fresh supplies of fodder in the horses' stalls.
foible
n. weakness; slight fault. We can overlook the foibles of our friends; no one is perfect.
foil
n. contrast. In Star Wars, dark, evil Darth Vader is a perfect foil for fair-haired, naive Luke Skywalker.
foil
v. defeat; frustrate. In the end, Skywalker is able to foil Vader's diabolical schemes.
foist
v. insert improperly; palm off. I will not permit you to foist such ridiculous ideas upon the membership of this group.
foliage
n. masses of leaves. Every autumn before the leaves fell he promised himself he would drive through New England to admire the colorful fall foliage.
■foment
v. stir up; instigate. Cher's archenemy Heather spread some nasty rumors that fomented trouble in the club. Do you think Cher's foe meant to foment such discord?
foolhardy
adj. rash. Don't be foolhardy. Get the advice of experienced people before undertaking this venture.
fop
n. dandy; man excessively preoccupied with his clothes. People who dismissed young Mizrahi as a fop for his exaggerated garments felt chagrined when he turned into one of the top fashion designers of his day. foppish, ADJ.
foray
n. raid. The company staged a midnight foray against the enemy outpost.
forbearance
n. patience. Be patient with John. Treat him with forbearance: he is still weak from his illness.
ford
n. place where a river can be crossed on foot. Rather than risk using the shaky rope bridge, David walked a half-mile downstream until he came to the nearest ford. also v.
forebears
n. ancestors. Reverence for one's forebears (sometimes referred to as ancestor worship) plays an important part in many Oriental cultures.
foreboding
n. premonition of evil. Suspecting no conspiracies against him, Caesar gently ridiculed his wife's forebodings about the Ides of March.
forensic
adj. suitable to debate or courts of law. In her best forensic manner, the lawyer addressed the jury.
foreshadow
v. give an indication beforehand; portend;prefigure. In retrospect, political analysts realized that Yeltsin's defiance of the attempted coup foreshadowed his emergence as the dominant figure of the new Russian republic.
foresight
n. ability to foresee future happenings; prudence. A wise investor, she had the foresight to buy land just before the current real estate boom.
■forestall
v. prevent by taking action in advance. By setting up a prenuptial agreement, the prospective bride and groom hoped to forestall any potential arguments about money in the event of a divorce.
forgo
v. give up; do without. Determined to lose weight for the summer, Ida decided to forgo dessert until she could fit into a size eight again.
forlorn
adj. sad and lonely; wretched. Deserted by her big sisters and her friends, the forlorn child sat sadly on the steps awaiting their return.
formality
n. ceremonious quality; something done just for form's sake. The president received the visiting heads of state with due formality: flags waving, honor guards standing at attention, bands playing anthems at full blast. Signing this petition is a mere formality; it does not obligate you in any way.
formidable
adj. inspiring fear or apprehension; difficult; awe-inspiring. In the film Meet the Parents, the hero is understandably nervous around his fiancée's father, a formidable CIA agent.
forsake
v. desert; abandon; renounce. No one expected Foster to forsake his wife and children and run off with another woman.
forswear
v. renounce; abandon. The captured knight could escape death only if he agreed to forswear Christianity and embrace Islam as the one true faith.
forte
n. strong point or special talent. I am not eager to play this rather serious role, for my forte is comedy.
forthright
adj. straightforward; direct; frank. I prefer Jill's forthright approach to Jack's tendency to beat around the bush. Never afraid to call a spade a spade, she was perhaps too forthright to be a successful party politician.
fortitude
n. bravery; courage. He was awarded the medal for his fortitude in the battle.
fortuitous
adj. accidental; by chance. Though he pretended their encounter was fortuitous, he'd actually been hanging around her usual haunts for the past two weeks, hoping she'd turn up.
foster
v. rear; encourage. According to the legend, Romulus and Remus were fostered by a she-wolf that raised the abandoned infants as her own. also ADJ.
founder
v. fail completely; sink. After hitting the submerged iceberg, the Titanic started taking in water rapidly and soon foundered.
founder
n. person who establishes (an organization, business). Among those drowned when the Titanic sank was the founder of the Abraham & Straus department store chain.
fracas
n. brawl, melee. The military police stopped the fracas in the bar and arrested the belligerents.
fractious
adj. unruly; disobedient; irritable. Bucking and kicking, the fractious horse unseated its rider.
frail
adj. weak. The delicate child seemed too frail to lift the heavy carton. frailty, N.
franchise
n. right granted by authority; right to vote; license to sell a product in a particular territory. The city issued a franchise to the company to operate surface transit lines on the streets for 99 years. For most of American history women lacked the right to vote: not until the early twentieth century was the franchise granted to women. Stan owns a Carvel's ice cream franchise in Chinatown.
frantic
adj. wild. At the time of the collision, many people became frantic with fear.
fraudulent
adj. cheating; deceitful. The government seeks to prevent fraudulent and misleading advertising.
fraught
adj. filled or charged with; causing emotional distress. "Parenting, like brain surgery, is now all-consuming, fraught with anxiety, worry; and self-doubt. We have allowed what used to be simple and natural to become bewildering and intimidating." (Fred Gosman)
fray
n. brawl. The three musketeers were in the thick of the fray.
frenetic
adj. frenzied; frantic. The novels of the beat generation reflect a frenetic, restless pursuit of new sensation and experience, and a disdain for the conventional measures of economic and social success.
frenzied
adj. madly excited. As soon as they smelled smoke, the frenzied animals milled about in their cages.
fresco
n. painting on plaster (usually fresh). The cathedral is visited by many tourists who wish to admire the frescoes by Giotto.
fret
v. be annoyed or vexed. To fret over your poor grades is foolish; instead, decide to work harder in the future.
friction
n. clash in opinion; rubbing against. The activist Saul Alinsky wrote, "Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict."