Full GRE Word List M through Z Flashcards

Terms Definitions
macabre
adj. gruesome; grisly. The city morgue is a macabre spot for the uninitiated.
mace
n. ceremonial staff; clublike medieval weapon. The Grand Marshal of the parade raised his mace to signal that it was time for the procession to begin.
macerate
v. soften by soaking in liquid; waste away. The strawberries had been soaking in the champagne for so long that they had begun to macerate: they literally fell apart at the touch of a spoon.
Machiavellian
adj. crafty; double-dealing. I do not think he will be a good ambassador because he is not accustomed to the Machiavellian maneuverings of foreign diplomats.
machinations
n. evil schemes or plots. Fortunately, Batman saw through the wily machinations of the Riddler and saved Gotham City from destruction by the forces of evil.
maculated
adj. spotted; stained. Instead of writing that Gorbachev had a birthmark on his forehead, the pompous young poet sang of the former premier's maculated brow.
madrigal
n. pastoral song. Her program of folk songs included several madrigals that she sang to the accompaniment of a lute.
maelstrom
n. whirlpool. The canoe was tossed about in the maelstrom.
magisterial
adj. authoritative; imperious. The learned doctor laid down the law to his patient in a magisterial tone of voice.
■magnanimity
n. generosity. Noted for his magnanimity, philanthropist Eugene Lang donated millions to charity. magnanimous, ADJ.
magnate
n. person of prominence or influence. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Annie Dillard was surrounded by the mansions of the great steel and coal magnates who set their mark on that city.
magniloquent
adj. boastful, pompous. In their stories of the trial, the reporters ridiculed the magniloquent speeches of the defense attorney.
magnitude
n. greatness; extent. It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of his crime.
maim
v. mutilate; injure. The hospital could not take care of all who had been mangled or maimed in the railroad accident.
maladroit
adj. clumsy; bungling. "Oh! My stupid tongue!" exclaimed Jane, embarrassed at having said anything so maladroit.
malady
n. illness. A mysterious malady swept the country, filling doctors' offices with feverish, purple-spotted patients.
malaise
n. uneasiness; vague feeling of ill health. Feeling slightly queasy before going onstage, Carol realized that this touch of malaise was merely stage fright.
malapropism
n. comic misuse of a word. When Mrs. Malaprop criticizes Lydia for being "as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile," she confuses "allegory" and "alligator" in a typical malapropism.
malcontent
n. person dissatisfied with- existing state of affairs. He was one of the few malcontents in Congress; he constantly voiced his objections to the presidential program. also ADJ.
malediction
n. curse. When the magic mirror revealed that Snow White was still alive, the wicked queen cried out in rage and uttered dreadful maledictions.
malefactor
n. evildoer; criminal. Mighty Mouse will save the day, hunting down malefactors and rescuing innocent mice from peril.
malevolent
adj. wishing evil. lago is a malevolent villain who takes pleasure in ruining Othello. malevolence, N.
malfeasance
n. wrongdoing. The authorities did not discover the campaign manager's malfeasance until after he had spent most of the money he had embezzled.
malicious
adj. hateful; spiteful. Jealous of Cinderella's beauty, her malicious stepsisters expressed their spite by forcing her to do menial tasks. malice, N.
malign
v. speak evil of; bad-mouth; defame. Putting her hands over her ears, Rose refused to listen to Betty malign her friend Susan.
malignant
adj. injurious; tending to cause death; aggressively malevolent. Though many tumors are benign, some are malignant, growing out of control and endangering the life of the patient. malignancy, N.
■malingerer
n. one who feigns illness to escape duty. The captain ordered the sergeant to punish all malingerers and force them to work. malinger, v.
■malleable
adj. capable of being shaped by pounding; impressionable. Gold is a malleable metal, easily shaped into bracelets and rings. Fagin hoped Oliver was a malleable lad, easily shaped into a thief.
malodorous
adj. foul-smelling. The compost heap was most malodorous in summer.
mammal
n. vertebrate animal whose female suckles its young. Many people regard the whale as a fish and do not realize that it is a mammal.
mammoth
adj. gigantic; enormous. To try to memorize every word on this vocabulary list would be a mammoth undertaking; take on projects that are more manageable in size.
manacle
v. restrain; handcuff. The police immediately manacled the prisoner so he could not escape. also N.
mandate
n. order; charge. In his inaugural address, the president stated that he had a mandate from the people to seek an end to social evils such as poverty and poor housing. also v.
mandatory
adj. obligatory. These instructions are mandatory; any violation will be severely punished.
mangy
adj. shabby; wretched. We finally threw out the mangy rug that the dog had destroyed.
maniacal
adj. raging mad; insane. Though Mr. Rochester had locked his mad wife in the attic, he could still hear her maniacal laughter echoing throughout the house. maniac, N.
manifest
adj. evident; visible; obvious. Digby's embarrassment when he met Madonna was manifest: his ears turned bright pink, he kept scuffing one shoe in the dirt, and he couldn't look her in the eye.
manifestation
n. outward demonstration; indication. Mozart's early attraction to the harpsichord was the first manifestation of his pronounced musical bent.
manifesto
n. declaration; statement of policy. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels proclaimed the principles of modern communism.
manifold
adj. numerous; varied. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your manifold kindnesses.
manipulate
v. operate with one's hands; control or play upon (people, forces, etc.) artfully. Jim Henson understood how to manipulate the Muppets. Madonna understands how to manipulate publicity (and men).
mannered
adj. affected; not natural. Attempting to copy the style of his wealthy neighbors, Gatsby adopted a mannered, artificial way of speech.
manumit
v. emancipate; free from bondage. Enlightened slave owners were willing to manumit their slaves and thus put an end to the evil of slavery in the country.
marital
adj. pertaining to marriage. After the publication of his book on marital affairs, he was often consulted by married people on the verge of divorce.
maritime
adj. bordering on the sea; nautical. The Maritime Provinces depend on the sea for their wealth.
marked
adj. noticeable; targeted for vengeance. He walked with a marked limp, a souvenir of an old IRA attack. As British ambassador, he knew he was a marked man.
marred
adj. damaged; disfigured. She had to refinish the marred surface of the table. mar, v.
marshal
v. put in order. At a debate tournament, extemporaneous speakers have only a minute or two to marshal their thoughts before addressing their audience.
marsupial
n. one of a family of mammals that nurse their offspring in a pouch. The most common marsupial in North America is the opossum.
martial
adj. warlike. The sound of martial music inspired the young cadet with dreams of military glory.
martinet
n. No talking at meals! No mingling with the servants! Miss Minchin was a martinet who insisted that the schoolgirls in her charge observe each regulation to the letter.
martyr
n. one who voluntarily suffers death for his or her religion or cause; great sufferer. By burning her at the stake, the English made Joan of Arc a martyr for her faith. Mother played the martyr by staying home to clean the house while the rest of the family went off to the beach.
masochist
n. person who enjoys his own pain. The masochist begs, "Hit me." The sadist smiles and says, "I won't."
masticate
v. chew. We must masticate our food carefully and slowly in order to avoid digestive disorders.
materialism
n. preoccupation with physical comforts and things. By its nature, materialism is opposed to idealism, for where the materialist emphasizes the needs of the body, the idealist emphasizes the needs of the soul.
maternal
adj. motherly. Many animals display maternal instincts only while their offspring are young and helpless. maternity, N.
matriarch
n. woman who rules a family or larger social group. The matriarch ruled her gypsy tribe with a firm hand.
matriculate
v. enroll (in college or graduate school). Incoming students formally matriculate at our college in a special ceremony during which they sign the official register of students.
matrix
n. point of origin; array of numbers or algebraic symbols; mold or die. Some historians claim the Nile Valley was the matrix of Western civilization.
maudlin
adj. effusively sentimental. Whenever a particularly maudlin tearjerker was playing at the movies, Marvin would embarrass himself by weeping copiously.
maul
v. handle roughly. The rock star was mauled by his overexcited fans.
mausoleum
n. monumental tomb. His body was placed in the family mausoleum.
mauve
adj. pale purple. The mauve tint in the lilac bush was another indication that spring had finally arrived.
■maverick
n. rebel; nonconformist. To the masculine literary establishment, George Sand with her insistence on wearing trousers and smoking cigars was clearly a maverick who fought her proper womanly role.
mawkish
adj. mushy and gushy; icky-sticky sentimental; maudlin. Whenever Gigi and her boyfriend would sigh and get all lovey-dovey, her little brother would shout, "Yuck!" protesting their mawkish behavior.
maxim
n. proverb; a truth pithily stated. Aesop's fables illustrate moral maxims.
mayhem
n. injury to body. The riot was marked not only by mayhem, with its attendant loss of life and limb, but also by arson and pillage.
meager
adj. scanty; inadequate. Still hungry after his meager serving of porridge, Oliver Twist asked for a second helping.
mealymouthed
adj. indirect in speech; hypocritical; evasive. Rather than tell Jill directly what he disliked, Jack made a few mealymouthed comments and tried to change the subject.
meander
v. wind or turn in its course. Needing to stay close to a source of water, he followed every twist and turn of the stream as it meandered through the countryside.
meddlesome
adj. interfering. He felt his marriage was suffering because of his meddlesome mother-in-law.
mediate
v. settle a dispute through the services of an outsider. King Solomon was asked to mediate a dispute between two women, each of whom claimed to be the mother of the same child.
mediocre
adj. ordinary; commonplace. We were disappointed because he gave a rather mediocre performance in this role.
meditation
n. reflection; thought. She reached her decision only after much meditation.
medium
n. element that is a creature's natural environment; nutrient setting in which microorganisms are cultivated. We watched the dolphins sporting in the sea and marveled at their grace in their proper medium. The bacteriologist carefully observed the microorganisms' rapid growth in the culture medium.
medium
n. appropriate occupation or means of expression; channel of communication; compromise. Film was Anna's medium: she expressed herself through her cinematography. However, she never watched television, claiming she despised the medium. For Anna, it was all or nothing: she could never strike a happy medium.
medley
n. mixture. To avoid boring dancers by playing any one tune for too long, bands may combine three or four tunes into a medley.
meek
adj. submissive; patient and long-suffering. Mr. Barrett never expected his meek daughter would dare to defy him by eloping with her suitor.
megalomania
n. mania for doing grandiose things. Developers who spend millions trying to build the world's tallest skyscraper suffer from megalomania.
melancholy
adj. gloomy; morose; blue. To Eugene, stuck in his small town, a train whistle was a melancholy sound, for it made him think of all the places he would never get to see.
melee
n. fight. The captain tried to ascertain the cause of the melee that had broken out among the crew members.
mellifluous
adj. sweetly or smoothly flowing; melodious. Italian is a mellifluous language, especially suited to being sung.
memento
n. token; reminder. Take this book as a memento of your visit.
memorialize
v. commemorate. Let us memorialize his great contribution by dedicating this library in his honor.
menagerie
n. collection of wild animals. Whenever the children run wild around the house, Mom shouts, "Calm down! I'm not running a menagerie!"
■mendacious
adj. lying; habitually dishonest. Distrusting Huck from the start, Miss Watson assumed he was mendacious and refused to believe a word he said. mendacity, N.
mendicant
n. beggar. "0 noble sir, give alms to the poor," cried Aladdin, playing the mendicant. mendicancy, N.
menial
adj. suitable for servants; lowly; mean. Her wicked stepmother forced Cinderella to do menial tasks around the house while her ugly stepsisters lolled around painting their toenails. also N.
mentor
n. counselor; teacher. During this very trying period, she could not have had a better mentor, for the teacher was sympathetic and understanding.
mercantile
adj. concerning trade. I am more interested in the opportunities available in the mercantile field than I am in those in the legal profession.
mercenary
adj. motivated solely by money or gain. "I'm not in this war because I get my kicks waving flags," said the mercenary soldier. "I'm in it for the dough." also N.
mercurial
adj. capricious; changing; fickle. Quick as quicksilver to change, he was mercurial in nature and therefore unreliable.
meretricious
adj. flashy; tawdry. Her jewels were inexpensive but not meretricious.
merger
n. combination (of two business corporations). When the firm's president married the director of financial planning, the office joke was that it wasn't a marriage, it was a merger.
mesmerize
v. hypnotize. The incessant drone seemed to mesmerize him and place him in a trance.
metallurgical
adj. pertaining to the art of removing metals from ores. During the course of his metallurgical research, the scientist developed a steel alloy of tremendous strength.
■metamorphosis
n. change of form. The metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly is typical of many such changes in animal life. metamorphose, v.
metaphor
n. implied comparison. "He soared like an eagle" is an example of a simile; "He is an eagle in flight," a metaphor.
metaphysical
adj. pertaining to speculative philosophy. The modern poets have gone back to the fanciful poems of the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century for many of their images. metaphysics, N.
mete
v. measure; distribute. He tried to be impartial in his efforts to mete out justice.
meteoric
adj. swift; momentarily brilliant. We all wondered at his meteoric rise to fame.
methodical
adj. systematic. An accountant must be methodical and maintain order among his financial records.
■meticulous
adj. excessively careful; painstaking; scrupulous. Martha Stewart was a meticulous housekeeper, fussing about each and every detail that went into making up her perfect home.
metropolis
n. large city. Every evening this terminal is filled with the thousands of commuters who are going from this metropolis to their homes in the suburbs.
mettle
n. courage; spirit. When challenged by the other horses in the race, the thoroughbred proved its mettle by its determination to hold the lead. mettlesome, ADJ.
miasma
n. swamp gas; heavy, vaporous atmosphere, often emanating from decaying matter; pervasive corrupting influence. The smog hung over Victorian London like a dark cloud; noisome, reeking of decay, it was a visible miasma.
microcosm
n. small world; the world in miniature. The village community that Jane Austen depicts serves as a microcosm of English society in her time, for in this small world we see all the social classes meeting and mingling.
migrant
adj. changing its habitat; wandering. These migrant birds return every spring. also N.
migratory
adj. wandering. The return of the migratory birds to the northern sections of this country is a harbinger of spring.
milieu
n. environment; means of expression. Surrounded by smooth preppies and arty bohemians, the country boy from Smalltown, USA, felt out of his milieu. Although he has produced excellent oil paintings and lithographs, his proper milieu is watercolor.
militant
adj. combative; bellicose. Although at this time he was advocating a policy of neutrality, one could usually find him adopting a more militant attitude. also N.
militate
v. work against. Your record of lateness and absence will militate against your chances of promotion.
millennium
n. thousand-year period; period of happiness and prosperity. I do not expect the millennium to come during my lifetime.
mimicry
n. imitation. Her gift for mimicry was so great that her friends said that she should be in the theater.
minatory
adj. menacing; threatening. Jabbing a minatory forefinger at Dorothy, the Wicked Witch cried, "I'll get you, and your little dog, too!"
mincing
adj. affectedly dainty. Yum-Yum walked across the stage with mincing steps.
minion
n. a servile dependent. He was always accompanied by several of his minions because he enjoyed their subservience and flattery.
minuscule
adj. extremely small. Why should I involve myself with a project with so minuscule a chance for success?
minute
adj. extremely small. The twins resembled one another closely; only minute differences set them apart.
minutiae
n. petty details. She would have liked to ignore the minutiae of daily living.
mirage
n. unreal reflection; optical illusion. The lost prospector was fooled by a mirage in the desert.
mire
v. entangle; stick in swampy ground. Their rear wheels became mired in mud. also N.
mirth
n. merriment; laughter. Sober Malvolio found Sir Toby's mirth improper.
misadventure
n. mischance; ill luck. The young explorer met death by misadventure.
■misanthrope
n. one who hates mankind. In Gulliver's Travels, Swift portrays human beings as vile, degraded beasts; for this reason, various critics consider him a misanthrope. misanthropic, ADJ.
misapprehension
n. error; misunderstanding. To avoid misapprehension, I am going to ask all of you to repeat the instructions I have given.
miscellany
n. mixture of writings on various subjects. This is an interesting miscellany of nineteenth-century prose and poetry.
mischance
n. ill luck. By mischance, he lost his week's salary.
misconstrue
v. interpret incorrectly; misjudge. She took the passage seriously rather than humorously because she misconstrued the author's ironic tone.
miscreant
n. wretch; villain. His kindness to the miscreant amazed all of us who had expected to hear severe punishment pronounced.
misdemeanor
n. minor crime. The culprit pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor rather than face trial for a felony.
miserly
adj. stingy; mean. Transformed by his vision on Christmas Eve, mean old Scrooge ceased being miserly and became a generous, kind old man. miser, N.
misgivings
n. doubts. Hamlet described his misgivings to Horatio but decided to fence with Laertes despite his foreboding of evil.
mishap
n. accident. With a little care you could have avoided this mishap.
misnomer
n. wrong name; incorrect designation. His tyrannical conduct proved to all that his nickname, King Eric the Just, was a misnomer.
misogamy
n. hatred of marriage. He remained a bachelor not because of misogamy but because of ill fate: his fiancée died before the wedding.
misogynist
n. hater of women. She accused him of being a misogynist because he had been a bachelor all his life.
missile
n. object to be thrown or projected. After carefully folding his book report into a paper airplane, Beavis threw the missile across the classroom at Butthead. Rocket scientists are building guided missiles; Beavis and Butthead can barely make unguided ones.
missive
n. letter. The ambassador received a missive from the Secretary of State.
mite
n. very small object or creature; small coin. Gnats are annoying mites that sting.
■mitigate
v. appease; moderate. Nothing Jason did could mitigate Medea's anger; she refused to forgive him for betraying her.
mnemonic
adj. pertaining to memory. She used mnemonic tricks to master new words.
mobile
adj. movable; not fixed. The mobile blood bank operated by the Red Cross visited our neighborhood today. mobility, N.
mock
v. ridicule; imitate, often in derision. It is unkind to mock anyone; it is stupid to mock anyone significantly bigger than you. mockery, N.
mode
n. prevailing style; manner; way of doing something. The rock star had to have her hair done in the latest mode: frizzed, with occasional moussed spikes for variety. Henry plans to adopt a simpler mode of life: he is going to become a mushroom hunter and live off the land.
modicum
n. limited quantity. Although his story is based on a modicum of truth, most of the events he describes are fictitious.
modish
adj. fashionable. She always discarded all garments that were no longer modish.
modulate
v. tone down in intensity; regulate; change from one key to another. Always singing at the top of her lungs, the budding Brunhilde never learned to modulate her voice. modulation, N.
mogul
n. powerful person. The oil moguls made great profits when the price of gasoline rose.
molecule
n. the smallest particle (one or more atoms) of a substance that has all the properties of that substance. In chemistry, we study how atoms and molecules react to form new substances.
■mollify
v. soothe. The airline customer service representative tried to mollify the angry passenger by offering her a seat in first class.
mollycoddle
v. pamper; indulge excessively. Don't mollycoddle the boy, Maud! You'll spoil him.
molt
v. shed or cast off hair or feathers. When Molly's canary molted, he shed feathers all over the house.
molten
adj. melted. The city of Pompeii was destroyed by volcanic ash rather than by molten lava flowing from Mount Vesuvius.
momentous
adj. very important. When Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium, they had no idea of the momentous impact their discovery would have upon society.
momentum
n. quantity of motion of a moving body; impetus. The car lost momentum as it tried to ascend the steep hill.
monarchy
n. government under a single ruler. Though England today is a monarchy, there is some question whether it will be one in 20 years, given the present discontent at the prospect of Prince Charles as king.
monastic
adj. related to, monks or monasteries; removed from worldly concerns. Withdrawing from the world, Thomas Merton joined a contemplative religious order and adopted the monastic life.
monetary
adj. pertaining to money. Jane held the family purse strings: she made all monetary decisions affecting the household.
monochromatic
adj. having only one color. Most people who are color blind actually can distinguish several colors; some, however, have a truly monochromatic view of a world all in shades of gray.
monolithic
adj. solidly uniform; unyielding. Knowing the importance of appearing resolute, the patriots sought to present a monolithic front.
monotheism
n. belief in one God. Abraham was the first to proclaim his belief in monotheism.
monotony
n. sameness leading to boredom. What could be more deadly dull than the monotony of punching numbers into a computer hour after hour? monotonous, ADJ.
monumental
adj. massive. Writing a dictionary is a monumental task.
moodiness
n. fits of depression or gloom. We could not discover the cause of her recurrent moodiness.
moratorium
n. legal delay of payment. If we declare a moratorium and delay collection of debts for six months, I am sure the farmers will be able to meet their bills.
morbid
adj. given to unwholesome thought; moody; characteristic of disease. People who come to disaster sites just to peer at the grisly wreckage are indulging their morbid curiosity. morbidity, N.
mordant
adj. biting; sarcastic; stinging. Actors feared the critic's mordant pen.
mores
n. conventions; moral standards; customs. In America, Benazir Bhutto dressed as Western women did; in Pakistan, however, she followed the mores of her people, dressing in traditional veil and robes.
moribund
adj. dying. Hearst took a moribund, failing weekly newspaper and transformed it into one of the liveliest, most profitable daily papers around.
■morose
adj. ill-humored; sullen; melancholy. Forced to take early retirement, Bill acted morose for months; then, all of a sudden, he shook off his gloom and was his usual cheerful self.
mortician
n. undertaker. The mortician prepared the corpse for burial.
mortify
v. humiliate; punish the flesh. She was so mortified by her blunder that she ran to her room in tears.
mosaic
n. picture made of small, colorful inlaid tiles. The mayor compared the city to a beautiful mosaic made up of people of every race and religion on earth. also ADJ.
mote
n. small speck. The tiniest mote in the eye is very painful.
motif
n. theme. This simple motif runs throughout the score.
motility
n. ability to move spontaneously. Certain organisms exhibit remarkable motility; motile spores, for example, may travel for miles before coming to rest. motile, ADJ.
motley
adj. multicolored; mixed. The jester wore a motley tunic, red and green and blue and gold all patched together haphazardly. Captain Ahab had gathered a motley crew to sail the vessel: old sea dogs and runaway boys, pillars of the church and drunkards, even a tattooed islander who terrified the rest of the crew.
mottled
adj. blotched in coloring; spotted. When old Falstaff blushed, his face became mottled, all pink and purple and red.
mountebank
n. charlatan; boastful pretender. The patent medicine man was a mountebank.
muddle
v. confuse; mix up. Her thoughts were muddled and chaotic. also N.
muggy
adj. warm and damp. August in New York City is often muggy.
mulct
v. defraud a person of something. The lawyer was accused of trying to mulct the boy of his legacy.
multifarious
adj. varied; greatly diversified. A career woman and mother, she was constantly busy with the multifarious activities of her daily life.
multiform
adj. having many forms. Snowflakes are multiform but always hexagonal.
multilingual
adj. having many languages. Because they are bordered by so many countries, the Swiss people are multilingual.
multiplicity
n. state of being numerous. She was appalled by the multiplicity of details she had to complete before setting out on her mission.
■mundane
adj. worldly as opposed to spiritual; everyday. Uninterested in philosophical or spiritual discussions, Tom talked only of mundane matters such as the daily weather forecast or the latest basketball results.
munificent
adj. very generous. Shamelessly fawning over a particularly generous donor, the dean kept referring to her as "our munificent benefactor." munificence, N.
mural
n. wall painting. The walls of the Chicano Community Center are covered with murals painted in the style of Diego Rivera, the great Mexican artist.
murky
adj. dark and gloomy; thick with fog; vague. The murky depths of the swamp were so dark that you couldn't tell the vines and branches from the snakes. murkiness, N.
muse
v. ponder. For a moment he mused about the beauty of the scene, but his thoughts soon changed as he recalled his own personal problems. also N.
musky
adj. having the odor of musk. She left a trace of musky perfume behind her.
muster
v. gather; assemble. Washington mustered his forces at Trenton.
musty
adj. stale; spoiled by age. The attic was dark and musty.
mutability
n. ability to change in form; fickleness. Going from rags to riches, and then back to rags again, the bankrupt financier was a victim of the mutability of fortune. mutable, ADJ.
muted
adj. silent; muffled; toned down. Thanks to the thick, sound-absorbing walls of the cathedral, only muted traffic noise reached the worshippers within. mute, v., N.
mutilate
v. maim. The torturer threatened to mutilate his victim.
mutinous
adj. unruly; rebellious. The captain had to use force to quiet his mutinous crew. mutiny, N.
myopic
adj. nearsighted; lacking foresight. Stumbling into doors despite the coke-bottle lenses on his glasses, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo is markedly myopic. In playing all summer long and failing to store up food for winter, the grasshopper in Aesop's fable was myopic as well. myopia, N.
myriad
n. very large number. Myriads of mosquitoes from the swamps invaded our village every twilight. also ADJ.
nadir
n. lowest point. Although few people realized it, the Dow-Jones averages had reached their nadir and would soon begin an upward surge.
naiveté
n. quality of being unsophisticated; simplicity; artlessness; gullibility. Touched by the naiveté of sweet, convent-trained Cosette, Marius pledges himself to protect her innocence. naive, ADJ.
narcissist
n. conceited person. A narcissist is his own best friend.
narrative
adj. related to telling a story. A born teller of tales, Olsen used her impressive narrative skills to advantage in her story "I Stand Here Ironing." also
nascent
adj. incipient; coming into being. If we could identify these revolutionary movements in their nascent state, we would be able to eliminate serious trouble in later years.
natation
n. swimming. The Red Cross emphasizes the need for courses in natation.
natty
adj. neatly or smartly dressed. Priding himself on being a natty dresser, the gangster Bugsy Siegel collected a wardrobe of imported suits and ties.
nauseate
v. cause to become sick; fill with disgust. The foul smells began to nauseate her.
nautical
adj. pertaining to ships or navigation. The Maritime Museum contains models of clipper ships, logbooks, anchors, and many other items of a nautical nature.
navigable
adj. wide and deep enough to allow ships to pass through; able to be steered. So much sand had built up at the bottom of the canal that the waterway was barely navigable.
nebulous
adj. vague; hazy; cloudy. Phil and Dave tried to come up with a clear, intelligible business plan, not some hazy, nebulous proposal.
necromancy
n. black magic; dealings with the dead. The evil sorcerer performed feats of necromancy, calling on the spirits of the dead to tell the future. necromancer, N.
nefarious
adj. very wicked. The villain's crimes, though various, were one and all nefarious.
■negate
v. cancel out; nullify; deny. A sudden surge of adrenalin can negate the effects of fatigue: there's nothing like a good shock to wake you up. negation, N.
negligence
n. neglect; failure to take reasonable care. Tommy failed to put back the cover on the well after he fetched his pail of water; because of his negligence, Kitty fell in. negligent, ADJ.
negligible
adj. so small, trifling, or unimportant as to be easily disregarded. Because the damage to his car had been negligible, Michael decided he wouldn't bother to report the matter to his insurance company.
nemesis
n. someone seeking revenge. Abandoned at sea in a small boat, the vengeful Captain Bligh vowed to be the nemesis of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers.
neologism
n. new or newly coined word or phrase. As we invent new techniques and professions, we must also invent neologisms such as "microcomputer" and "astronaut" to describe them.
■neophyte
n. recent convert; beginner. This mountain slope contains slides that will challenge experts as well as neophytes.
nepotism
n. favoritism (to a relative). John left his position with the company because he felt that advancement was based on nepotism rather than ability.
nether
adj. lower. Tradition locates hell in the nether regions.
nettle
v. annoy; vex. Do not let her nettle you with her sarcastic remarks.
nexus
n. connection. I fail to see the nexus that binds these two widely separated events.
nib
n. beak; pen point. The nibs of fountain pens often become clotted and corroded.
nicety
n. precision; minute distinction. I cannot distinguish between such niceties of reasoning. nice,
niggardly
adj. meanly stingy; parsimonious. The niggardly pittance the widow receives from the government cannot keep her from poverty.
niggle
v. spend too much time on minor points; carp. Let's not niggle over details. niggling, ADJ.
nihilist
n. one who considers traditional beliefs to be groundless and existence meaningless; absolute skeptic; revolutionary terrorist. In his final days, Hitler revealed himself a power-mad nihilist, ready to annihilate all of Western Europe, even to destroy Germany itself, in order that his will might prevail. The root of the word nihilist is nihil, Latin for "nothing." nihilism, N.
nip
v. stop something's growth or development; snip off; bite; make numb with cold. The twins were plotting mischief, but Mother intervened and nipped their plan in the bud, The gardener nipped off a lovely rose and gave it to me. Last week a guard dog nipped the postman in the leg; this week the extreme chill nipped his fingers till he could barely hold the mail.
nirvana
n. in Buddhist teachings, the ideal state in which the individual loses himself in the attainment of an impersonal beatitude. Despite his desire to achieve nirvana, the young Buddhist found that even the buzzing of a fly could distract him from his meditation.
nocturnal
adj. done at night. Mr. Jones obtained a watchdog to prevent the nocturnal raids on his chicken coops.
noisome
adj. foul-smelling; unwholesome. The noisome atmosphere downwind of the oil refinery not only stank but also damaged the lungs of everyone living in the area.
nomadic
adj. wandering. Several nomadic tribes of Indians would hunt in this area each year. nomad, N.
nomenclature
n. terminology; system of names. Sharon found Latin word parts useful in translating medical nomenclature: when her son had to have a bilateral myringotomy, she figured out that he needed a hole in each of his eardrums to end his earaches.
nominal
adj. in name only; trifling. He offered to drive her to the airport for only a nominal fee.
nonchalance
n. indifference; lack of concern; composure. Cool, calm, and collected under fire, James Bond shows remarkable nonchalance in the face of danger. nonchalant, ADJ.
noncommittal
adj. neutral; unpledged; undecided. We were annoyed by his noncommittal reply for we had been led to expect definite assurances of his approval.
nondescript
adj. undistinctive; ordinary. The private detective was a short, nondescript fellow with no outstanding features, the sort of person one would never notice in a crowd.
nonentity
n. person of no importance; nonexistence. Because the two older princes dismissed their youngest brother as a nonentity, they did not realize that he was quietly plotting to seize the throne.
nonplus
v. bring to a halt by confusion; perplex. Jack's uncharacteristic rudeness nonplussed Jill, leaving her uncertain how to react.
nostalgia
n. homesickness; longing for the past. My grandfather seldom spoke of life in the old country; he had little patience with nostalgia. nostalgic, ADJ.
nostrum
n. questionable medicine. No quack selling nostrums is going to cheat me.
notable
adj. conspicuous; important; distinguished. Normally notable for his calm in the kitchen, today the head cook was shaking, for the notable chef Julia Child was coming to dinner. also N.
notoriety
n. disrepute; ill fame. To the starlet, any publicity was good publicity: if she couldn't have a good reputation, she'd settle for notoriety. notorious, ADJ.
novelty
n. something new; newness. The computer is no longer a novelty around the office. novel, ADJ.
novice
n. beginner. Even a novice at working with computers can install Barron's Computer Study Program for the GRE by following the easy steps outlined in the user's manual.
noxious
adj. harmful. We must trace the source of these noxious gases before they asphyxiate us.
nuance
n. shade of difference in meaning or color; subtle distinction. Jody gazed at the Monet landscape for an hour, appreciating every subtle nuance of color in the painting.
nubile
adj. marriageable. Mrs. Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, was worried about finding suitable husbands for her five nubile daughters.
nugatory
adj. futile; worthless. This agreement is nugatory for no court will enforce it.
nullify
v. to make invalid. Once the contract was nullified, it no longer had any legal force.
numismatist
n. person who collects coins. The numismatist had a splendid collection of antique coins.
nuptial
adj. related to marriage. Reluctant to be married in a traditional setting, they decided to hold their nuptial ceremony at the carousel in Golden Gate Park. nuptials,
nurture
v. nourish; educate; foster. The Head Start program attempts to nurture prekindergarten children so that they will do well when they enter public school. also N.
nutrient
n. nourishing substance. As a budding nutritionist, Kim has learned to design diets that contain foods rich in important basic nutrients. also ADJ.
oaf
n. stupid, awkward person. "Watch what you're doing, you clumsy oaf!" Bill shouted at the waiter who had drenched him with iced coffee.
■obdurate
adj. stubborn. He was obdurate in his refusal to listen to our complaints.
obeisance
n. bow. She made an obeisance as the king and queen entered the room.
obelisk
n. tall column tapering and ending in a pyramid. Cleopatra's Needle is an obelisk in New York City's Central Park.
obese
adj. excessively fat. It is advisable that obese people try to lose weight. obesity, N.
obfuscate
v. confuse; muddle; cause confusion; make needlessly complex. Was the president's spokesman trying to clarify the Whitewater mystery, or was he trying to obfuscate the issue so the voters would never figure out what went on?
obituary
n. death notice. I first learned of her death when I read the obituary in the newspaper. also ADJ.
objective
adj. not influenced by emotions; fair. Even though he was her son, she tried to be objective about his behavior.
objective
n. goal; aim. A degree in medicine was her ultimate objective.
obligatory
adj. binding; required. It is obligatory that books borrowed from the library be returned within two weeks.
oblique
adj. indirect; slanting (deviating from the perpendicular or from a straight line). Casting a quick, oblique glance at the reviewing stand, the sergeant ordered the company to march "Oblique Right."
obliterate
v. destroy completely. The tidal wave obliterated several island villages.
oblivion
n. obscurity; forgetfulness. After a decade of popularity, Hurston's works had fallen into oblivion; no one bothered to read them any more.
oblivious
adj. inattentive or unmindful; wholly absorbed. Deep in her book, Nancy was oblivious to the noisy squabbles of her brother and his friends.
obloquy
n. slander; disgrace; infamy. I resent the obloquy that you are casting upon my reputation.
obnoxious
adj. offensive. I find your behavior obnoxious; please mend your ways.
obscure
adj. dark; vague; unclear. Even after I read the poem a fourth time, its meaning was still obscure. obscurity, N.
obscure
v. darken; make unclear. At times he seemed purposely to obscure his meaning, preferring mystery to clarity.
■obsequious
adj. slavishly attentive; servile; sycophantic. Helen valued people who behaved as if they respected themselves; nothing irritated her more than an excessively obsequious waiter or a fawning salesclerk.
obsequy
n. funeral ceremony. Hundreds paid their last respects at his obsequies.
obsessive
adj. related to thinking about something constantly; preoccupying. Ballet, which had been a hobby, began to dominate his life: his love of dancing became obsessive. obsession, N.
obsidian
n. black volcanic rock. The deposits of obsidian on the mountain slopes were an indication that the volcano had erupted in ancient times.
obsolete
adj. outmoded. "Hip" is an obsolete expression; it went out with love beads and tie-dye shirts.
obstetrician
n. physician specializing in delivery of babies. Unlike midwives, who care for women giving birth at home, obstetricians generally work in a hospital setting.
obstinate
adj. stubborn; hard to control or treat. We tried to persuade him to give up smoking, but he was obstinate and refused to change. Blackberry stickers are the most obstinate weeds I know: once established in a yard, they're extremely hard to root out. obstinacy, N.
obstreperous
adj. boisterous; noisy. What do you do when an obstreperous horde of drunken policemen carouses through your hotel, crashing into potted plants and singing vulgar songs?
obtrude
v. push (oneself or one's ideas) forward or intrude; butt in; stick out or extrude. Because Fanny was reluctant to obtrude her opinions about child-raising upon her daughter-in-law, she kept a close watch on her tongue. obtrusive,
obtuse
adj. blunt; stupid. What can you do with somebody who's so obtuse that he can't even tell that you're insulting him?
■obviate
v. make unnecessary; get rid of. I hope this contribution will obviate any need for further collections of funds.
Occident
n. the West. It will take time for the Occident to understand the ways and customs of the Orient.
■occlude
v. shut; close. A blood clot occluded an artery to the heart. occlusion, N.
Occult
adj. mysterious; secret; supernatural. The occult rites of the organization were revealed only to members. also N.
Oculist
n. physician who specializes in treatment of the eyes. In many states, an oculist is the only one who may apply medicinal drops to the eyes for the purpose of examining them.
odious
adj. hateful; vile. Cinderella's ugly stepsisters had the odious habit of popping their zits in public.
odium
n. detestation; hatefulness; disrepute. Prince Charming could not express the odium he felt toward Cinderella's stepsisters because of their mistreatment of poor Cinderella.
odoriferous
adj. giving off an odor. The odoriferous spices stimulated her jaded appetite.
odorous
adj. having an odor. This variety of hybrid tea rose is more odorous than the one you have in your garden.
odyssey
n. long, eventful journey. The refugee's journey from Cambodia was a terrifying odyssey.
offensive
adj. attacking; insulting; distasteful. Getting into street brawls is no minor offense for professional boxers, who are required by law to restrict their offensive impulses to the ring.
offhand
adj. casual; done without prior thought. Expecting to be treated with due propriety by her hosts, Great-Aunt Maud was offended by their offhand manner.
■officious
adj. meddlesome; excessively pushy in offering one's services. After her long flight, Jill just wanted to nap, but the officious bellboy was intent on showing her all the special features of the deluxe suite.
ogle
v. look at amorously; make eyes at. At the coffee house, Walter was too shy to ogle the pretty girls openly; instead, he peeked out at them from behind a rubber plant.
olfactory
adj. concerning the sense of smell. A wine taster must have a discriminating palate and a keen olfactory sense, for a good wine appeals both to the taste buds and to the nose.
oligarchy
n. government by a privileged few. One small clique ran the student council: what had been intended as a democratic governing body had turned into an oligarchy.
ominous
adj. threatening. Those clouds are ominous; they suggest that a severe storm is on the way.
omnipotent
adj. all-powerful. The monarch regarded himself as omnipotent and responsible to no one for his acts.
omnipresent
adj. universally present; ubiquitous. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus is omnipresent.
omniscient
adj. all-knowing. I do not pretend to be omniscient, but I am positive about this fact.
omnivorous
adj. eating both plant and animal food; devouring everything. Some animals, including humans, are omnivorous and eat both meat and vegetables; others are either carnivorous or herbivorous.
■onerous
adj. burdensome. She asked for an assistant because her work load was too onerous.
onomatopoeia
n. words formed in imitation of natural sounds. Words like "rustle" and "gargle" are illustrations of onomatopoeia.
onslaught
n. vicious assault. We suffered many casualties during the unexpected onslaught of the enemy troops.
onus
n. burden; responsibility. The emperor was spared the onus of signing the surrender papers; instead, he relegated the assignment to his generals.
opalescent
adj. iridescent; lustrous. The oil slick on the water had an opalescent, rainbowlike sheen. opalescence, N.
opaque
adj. dark; not transparent. The opaque window shade kept the sunlight out of the room. opacity, N.
opiate
n. medicine to induce sleep or deaden pain; something that relieves emotions or causes inaction. To say that religion is the opiate of the people is to condemn religion as a drug that keeps the people quiet and submissive to those in power.
opportune
adj. timely; well-chosen. Cher looked at her father struggling to balance his checkbook; clearly this would not be an opportune moment to ask him for an increase in her allowance.
opportunist
n. individual who sacrifices principles for expediency by taking advantage of circumstances. Forget about ethics! He's such an opportunist that he'll vote in favor of any deal that will give him a break.
■opprobrium
n. infamy; vilification. He refused to defend himself against the slander and opprobrium hurled against him by the newspapers; he preferred to rely on his record.
optician
n. maker and seller of eyeglasses. The patient took the prescription given him by his oculist to the optician.
optimist
n. person who looks on the bright side. The pessimist says the glass is half-empty; the optimist says it is half-full.
optimum
adj. most favorable. If you wait for the optimum moment to act, you may never begin your project. also N.
optional
adj. not compulsory; left to one's choice. I was impressed by the range of optional accessories for my microcomputer that were available. option, N.
optometrist
n. one who fits glasses to remedy visual defects. Although an optometrist is qualified to treat many eye disorders, she may not use medicines or surgery in her examinations.
opulence
n. extreme wealth; luxuriousness; abundance. The glitter and opulence of the ballroom took Cinderella's breath away. opulent, ADJ.
opus
n. work. Although many critics hailed his Fifth Symphony, he did not regard it as his major opus.
oracular
adj. prophetic; uttered as if with divine authority; mysterious or ambiguous. Like many others who sought divine guidance from the oracle at Delphi, Oedipus could not understand the enigmatic oracular warning he received. oracle, N.
orator
n. public speaker. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass was a brilliant orator whose speeches brought home to his audience the evils of slavery.
oratorio
n. dramatic poem set to music. The Glee Club decided to present an oratorio during their recital.
ordain
v. decree or command; grant holy orders; predestine. The king ordained that no foreigner should be allowed to enter the city.' The Bishop of Michigan ordained David a deacon in the Episcopal Church. The young lovers felt that fate had ordained their meeting.
ordeal
n. severe trial or affliction. June was so painfully shy that it was an ordeal for her to speak up when the teacher called on her in class.
ordinance
n. decree. Passing a red light is a violation of a city ordinance.
ordination
n. ceremony conferring holy orders. The candidate for ordination had to meet with the bishop and the diocesan officers before being judged ready to be ordained a deacon. ordain, v.
orgy
n. wild, drunken revelry; unrestrained indulgence. The Roman emperor's orgies were far wilder than the toga party in the movie Animal House. When her income tax refund check finally arrived, Sally indulged in an orgy of shopping.
orient
v. get one's bearings; adjust. Philip spent his first day in Denver orienting himself to the city.
orientation
n. act of finding oneself in society. Freshman orientation provides the incoming students with an opportunity to learn about their new environment and their place in it.
orifice
n. mouthlike opening; small opening. The Howe Caverns were discovered when someone observed that a cold wind was issuing from an orifice in the hillside.
ornate
adj. excessively or elaborately decorated. With its elaborately carved, convoluted lines, furniture of the Baroque period was highly ornate.
ornithologist
n. scientific student of birds. Audubon's drawings of American bird life have been of interest not only to ornithologists but also to the general public.
orthodox
adj. traditional; conservative in belief. Faced with a problem, she preferred to take an orthodox approach rather than shock anyone. orthodoxy, N.
orthography
n. correct spelling. Many of us find English orthography difficult to master because so many of our words are not written phonetically.
■oscillate
v. vibrate pendulumlike; waver. It is interesting to note how public opinion oscillates between the extremes of optimism and pessimism.
osseous
adj. made of bone; bony. The hollow "soft spot" found at the top of the infant's skull gradually closes as new osseous tissue fills in the gap.
ossify
v. change or harden into bone. When he called his opponent a "bonehead," he implied that his adversary's brain had ossified and that he was not capable of clear thinking.
ostensible
adj. apparent; professed; pretended. Although the ostensible purpose of this expedition is to discover new lands, we are really interested in finding new markets for our products.
■ostentatious
adj. showy; pretentious; trying to attract attention. Trump's latest casino in Atlantic City is the most ostentatious gambling palace in the East: it easily out-glitters its competitors. ostentation, N.
ostracize
v. exclude from public favor; ban. As soon as the newspapers carried the story of his connection with the criminals, his friends began to ostracize him. ostracism, N.
oust
v. expel; drive out. The world wondered if Aquino would be able to oust Marcos from office.
outlandish
adj. bizarre; peculiar; unconventional. The eccentric professor who engages in markedly outlandish behavior is a stock figure in novels with an academic setting.
outmoded
adj. no longer stylish; old-fashioned. Unconcerned about keeping in style, Lenore was perfectly happy to wear outmoded clothes as long as they were clean and unfrayed.
outskirts
n. fringes; outer borders. Living on the outskirts of Boston, Sarah sometimes felt as if she were cut off from the cultural heart of the city.
outspoken
adj. candid; blunt. The candidate was too outspoken to be a successful politician; he had not yet learned to weigh his words carefully.
outstrip
v. surpass; outdo. Jesse Owens easily outstripped his competitors to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games.
outwit
v. outsmart; trick. By disguising himself as an old woman, Holmes was able to outwit his pursuers and escape capture.
ovation
n. enthusiastic applause. When Placido Domingo came on stage in the first act of La Bohéme, he was greeted by a tremendous ovation.
overbearing
adj. bossy; arrogant; decisively important. Certain of her own importance and of the unimportance of everyone else, Lady Bracknell was intolerably overbearing in manner. "In choosing a husband," she said, "good birth is of overbearing importance; compared to that, neither wealth nor talent signifies."
overt
adj. open to view. According to the United States Constitution, a person must commit an overt act before he may be tried for treason.
overweening
adj. presumptuous; arrogant. His overweening pride in his accomplishments was not justified.
overwrought
adj. extremely agitated; hysterical. When Kate heard the news of the sudden tragedy, she became too overwrought to work and had to leave the office early.
ovoid
adj. egg-shaped. At Easter she had to cut out hundreds of brightly colored ovoid shapes.
pachyderm
n. thick-skinned animal. The elephant is probably the best-known pachyderm.
pacifist
n. one opposed to force; antimilitarist. During the war, pacifists, though they refused to bear arms, served in the front lines as ambulance drivers and medical corpsmen. also
pacify
v. soothe; make calm or quiet; subdue. Dentists criticize the practice of giving fussy children sweets to pacify them.
paean
n. song of praise or joy. Paeans celebrating the victory filled the air.
painstaking
adj. showing hard work; taking great care. The new high-frequency word list is the result of painstaking efforts on the part of our research staff.
palatable
adj. agreeable; pleasing to the taste. Neither Jack's underbaked opinions nor his overcooked casseroles were palatable to me.
palate
n. roof of the mouth; sense of taste. When you sound out the letter "d," your tongue curves up to touch the edge of your palate. When Alice was sick, her mother made special meals to tempt her palate.
palatial
adj. magnificent. He proudly showed us through his palatial home.
paleontology
n. study of prehistoric life. The professor of paleontology had a superb collection of fossils.
palette
n. board on which a painter mixes pigments. At the present time, art supply stores are selling a paper palette that may be discarded after use.
palimpsest
n. parchment used for second time after original writing has been erased. Using chemical reagents, scientists have been able to restore the original writings on many palimpsests.
pall
v. grow tiresome. The study of word lists can eventually pall and put one to sleep.
pallet
n. small, poor bed. The weary traveler went to sleep on his straw pallet.
palliate
v. ease pain; make less severe or offensive. If we cannot cure this disease at present, we can, at least, try to palliate the symptoms. palliation, N.
pallid
adj. pale; wan. Because his occupation required that he work at night and sleep during the day, he had an exceptionally pallid complexion.
palpable
adj. tangible; easily, perceptible. I cannot understand how you could overlook such a palpable blunder.
palpitate
v. throb; flutter. As she became excited, her heart began to palpitate more and more erratically.
paltry
adj. insignificant; petty; trifling. "One hundred dollars for a genuine imitation Rolex watch! Lady, this is a paltry sum to pay for such a high-class piece of jewelry."
pan
v. criticize harshly. Hoping for a rave review of his new show, the playwright was miserable when the critics panned it unanimously.
panacea
n. cure-all; remedy for all diseases. There is no easy panacea that will solve our complicated international situation.
panache
n. flair; flamboyance. Many performers imitate Noel Coward, but few have his panache and sense of style.
pandemic
adj. widespread; affecting the majority of people. They feared the AIDS epidemic would soon reach pandemic proportions.
pandemonium
n. wild tumult. When the ships collided in the harbor, pandemonium broke out among the passengers.
pander
v. cater to the low desires of others. The reviewer accused the makers of Lethal Weapon of pandering to the masses' taste for violence.
panegyric
n. formal praise. Blushing at all the praise heaped upon him by the speakers, the modest hero said, "I don't deserve such panegyrics."
panoramic
adj. denoting an unobstructed and comprehensive view. On a clear day, from the top of the Empire State Building you can get a panoramic view of New York City and neighboring stretches of New Jersey and Long Island. panorama, N.
pantomime
n. acting without dialogue. Because he worked in pantomime, the clown could be understood wherever he appeared. also v.
papyrus
n. ancient paper made from stem of papyrus plant. The ancient Egyptians were among the first to write on papyrus.
parable
n. short, simple story teaching a moral. Let us apply to our own conduct the lesson that this parable teaches.
paradigm
n. model; example; pattern. Pavlov's experiment in which he trains a dog to salivate on hearing a bell is a paradigm of the conditioned-response experiment in behavioral psychology. paradigmatic, ADJ.
paradox
n. something apparently contradictory in nature; statement that looks false but is actually correct. Richard presents a bit of a paradox, for he is a card-carrying member of both the National Rifle Association and the relatively pacifist American Civil Liberties Union. paradoxical, ADJ.
■paragon
n. model of perfection. Her fellow students disliked Lavinia because Miss Minchin always pointed her out as a paragon of virtue.
parallelism
n. state of being parallel; similarity. Although the twins were separated at birth and grew up in different adoptive families, a striking parallelism exists between their lives.
parameter
n. limit; independent variable. We need to define the parameters of the problem.
paramount
adj. foremost in importance; supreme. Proper nutrition and hygiene are of paramount importance in adolescent development and growth.
paramour
n. illicit lover. She sought a divorce on the grounds that her husband had a paramour in another town.
paranoia
n. psychosis marked by delusions of grandeur or persecution. Suffering from paranoia, he claimed everyone was out to get him. Ironically, his claim was accurate; even paranoids have enemies. paranoid, paranoiac,
paraphernalia
n. equipment; odds and ends. Her desk was cluttered with paper, pen, ink, dictionary and other paraphernalia of the writing craft.
paraphrase
v. restate a passage in one's own words while retaining thought of author. In 250 words or less, paraphrase this article. also N.
parasite
n. animal or plant living on another; toady; sycophant. The tapeworm is an example of the kind of parasite that may infest the human body.
parched
adj. extremely dry; very thirsty. The parched desert landscape seemed hostile to life.
pariah
n. social outcast. If everyone ostracized singer Mariah Carey, would she then be Mariah the pariah?
parity
n. equality; close resemblance. I find your analogy inaccurate because I do not see the parity between the two illustrations.
parlance
n. language; idiom. All this legal parlance confuses me; I need an interpreter.
parley
n. conference. The peace parley has not produced the anticipated truce. also v.
parochial
adj. narrow in outlook; provincial; related to parishes. Although Jane Austen writes novels set in small rural communities, her concerns are universal, not parochial.
parody
n. humorous imitation; spoof; takeoff; travesty. The show Forbidden Broadway presents parodies spoofing the year's new productions playing on Broadway. also v.
paroxysm
n. fit or attack of pain, laughter, rage. When he heard of his son's misdeeds, he was seized by a paroxysm of rage.
parquet
n. floor made of wood strips inlaid in a mosaic-like pattern. In laying the floor, the carpenters combined redwood and oak in an elegant parquet.
parry
v. ward off a blow; deflect. Unwilling to injure his opponent in such a pointless clash, Dartagnan simply tried to parry his rival's thrusts. What fun it was to watch Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy parry each other's verbal thrusts in their classic screwball comedies! also N.
parsimony
n. stinginess; excessive frugality. Silas Marner's parsimony did not allow him to indulge in any luxuries. parsimonious, ADJ.
partial
adj. incomplete; having a liking for something. In this issue we have published only a partial list of contributors because we lack space to acknowledge everyone. I am extremely partial to chocolate eclairs. partiality, N.
partiality
n. inclination; bias. As a judge, not only must I be unbiased, but I must also avoid any evidence of partiality when I award the prize.
■partisan
adj. one-sided; prejudiced; committed to a party. Rather than joining forces to solve our nation's problems, the Democrats and Republicans spend their time on partisan struggles. also N.
partition
v. divide into parts. Before their second daughter was born, Jason and Lizzie decided each child needed a room of her own, and so they partitioned a large bedroom into two small but separate rooms. also N.
passé
adj. old-fashioned; past the prime. Her style is passé and reminiscent of the Victorian era.
passive
adj. not active; acted upon. Mahatma Gandhi urged his followers to pursue a program of passive resistance as he felt that it was more effective than violence and acts of terrorism.
pastiche
n. imitation of another's style in musical composition or in writing. We cannot even say that her music is a pastiche of this or that composer; it is, rather, reminiscent of many musicians.
pastoral
adj. rural. In these stories of pastoral life, we find an understanding of the daily tasks of country folk.
patent
adj. open for the public to read; obvious. It was patent to everyone that the witness spoke the truth.
pathetic
adj. causing sadness, compassion, pity; touching. Everyone in the auditorium was weeping by the time she finished her pathetic tale about the orphaned boy.
■pathological
adj. pertaining to disease. As we study the pathological aspects of this disease, we must not overlook the psychological elements.
pathos
n. tender sorrow; pity; quality in art or literature that produces these feelings. The quiet tone of pathos that ran through the novel never degenerated into the maudlin or the overly sentimental.
patina
n. green crust on old bronze works; tone slowly taken by varnished painting. Judging by the patina on this bronze statue, we can conclude that this is the work of a medieval artist.
patois
n. local or provincial dialect. His years of study of the language at the university did not enable him to understand the patois of the natives.
patriarch
n. father and ruler of a family or tribe. In many primitive tribes, the leader and lawmaker was the patriarch.
patrician
adj. noble; aristocratic. We greatly admired her well-bred, patrician elegance. also N.
patronize
v. support; act superior toward; be a customer of. Penniless artists hope to find some wealthy art lover who will patronize them. If some condescending wine steward patronized me because he saw I knew nothing about fine wine, I'd refuse to patronize his restaurant.
■paucity
n. scarcity. They closed the restaurant because the paucity of customers made it uneconomical to operate.
pauper
n. very poor person. Though Widow Brown was living on a reduced income, she was by no means a pauper.
peccadillo
n. slight offense. Whenever Huck swiped a cookie from the jar, Miss Watson reacted as if he were guilty of armed robbery, not of some mere peccadillo.
pecuniary
adj. pertaining to money. Seldom earning enough to cover their expenses, folk-dance teachers work because they love dancing, not because they expect any pecuniary reward.
pedagogue
n. teacher. He could never be a stuffy pedagogue,: his classes were always lively and filled with humor.
pedagogy
n. teaching; art of education. Though Maria Montessori gained fame for her innovations in pedagogy, it took years before her teaching techniques became common practice in American schools.
pedant
n. scholar who overemphasizes book learning or technicalities. Her insistence that the book be memorized marked the teacher as a pedant rather than a scholar.
■pedantic
adj. showing off learning; bookish. Leavening her decisions with humorous, down-to-earth anecdotes, Judge Judy was not at all the pedantic legal scholar. pedantry, N.
pedestrian
adj. ordinary; unimaginative. Unintentionally boring, he wrote page after page of pedestrian prose.
pediatrician
n. physician specializing in children's diseases. The family doctor advised the parents to consult a pediatrician about their child's ailment.
peerless
adj. having no equal; incomparable. The reigning operatic tenor of his generation, to his admirers Luciano Pavarotti was peerless: no one could compare with him.
pejorative
adj. negative in connotation; having a belittling effect. Instead of criticizing Clinton's policies, the Republicans made pejorative remarks about his character.
pell-mell
adv. in confusion; disorderly. The excited students dashed pell-mell into the stadium to celebrate the victory.
pellucid
adj. transparent; limpid; easy to understand. After reading these stogy philosophers, I find his pellucid style very enjoyable.
penance
n. self-imposed punishment for sin, The Ancient Mariner said, "I have penance done and penance more will do," to atone for the sin of killing the albatross.
■penchant
n. strong inclination; liking. Dave has a penchant for taking risks: one semester he went steady with three girls, two of whom were stars on the school karate team.
pendant
adj. hanging down from something. Her pendant earrings glistened in the light.
pendant
n. ornament (hanging from a necklace, etc.). The grateful team presented the coach with a silver chain and pendant engraved with the school's motto.
pendulous
adj. hanging, suspended. The pendulous chandeliers swayed in the breeze as if they were about to fall from the ceiling.
penitent
adj. repentant. When he realized the enormity of his crime, he became remorseful and penitent. also N.
pensive
adj. dreamily thoughtful; thoughtful with a hint of sadness; contemplative. The pensive lover gazed at the portrait of his beloved and sighed deeply.
penumbra
n. partial shadow (in an eclipse). During an eclipse, we can see an area of total darkness and a lighter area, which is the penumbra.
■penury
n. severe poverty; stinginess. When his pension fund failed, George feared he would end his days in penury. He became such a penny-pincher that he turned into a closefisted, penurious miser.
peon
n. landless agricultural worker; bond servant. The land reformers sought to liberate the peons and establish them as independent farmers. peonage, N.
perceptive
adj. insightful; aware; wise. Although Maud was a generally perceptive critic, she had her blind spots: she could never see flaws in the work of her friends.
percussion
adj. striking one object against another sharply. The drum is a percussion instrument. also N.
perdition
n. damnation; complete ruin. Praying for salvation, young Daedalus feared he was damned to eternal perdition.
peregrination
n. journey. Auntie Mame was a world traveler whose peregrinations took her from Tijuana to Timbuktu.
peremptory
adj. demanding and leaving no choice. From Jack's peremptory knock on the door, Jill could tell he would not give up until she let him in.
■perennial
n. something long-lasting. These plants are hardy perennials and will bloom for many years. also ADJ.
■perfidious
adj. treacherous; disloyal. When Caesar realized that Brutus had betrayed him, he reproached his perfidious friend. perfidy, N.
perforate
v. pierce; put a hole through. Before you can open the aspirin bottle, you must first perforate the plastic safety seal that covers the cap.
■perfunctory
adj. superficial; not thorough; lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm. The auditor's perfunctory inspection of the books overlooked many errors.
perigee
n. point of moon's orbit when it is nearest the earth. The rocket which was designed to take photographs of the moon was launched as the moon approached its perigee.
perimeter
n. outer boundary. To find the perimeter of any quadrilateral, we add the lengths of the four sides.
peripatetic
adj. walking about; moving. The peripatetic school of philosophy derives its name from the fact that Aristotle walked with his pupils while discussing philosophy with them.
peripheral
adj. marginal; outer. We lived, not in central London, but in one of those peripheral suburbs that spring up on the outskirts of a great city.
periphery
n. edge, especially of a round surface. He sensed that there was something just beyond the periphery of his vision.
perjury
n. false testimony while under oath. Rather than lie under oath and perhaps be indicted for perjury, the witness chose to take the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer any questions on the grounds that he might incriminate himself.
■permeable
adj. penetrable; porous; allowing liquids or gas to pass through. If your jogging clothes weren't made out of permeable fabric, you'd drown in your own sweat (figuratively speaking). permeate, v.
pernicious
adj. very destructive. The Athenians argued that Socrates's teachings had a pernicious effect on young and susceptible minds; therefore, they condemned him to death.
peroration
n. conclusion of an oration. The peroration was largely hortatory and brought the audience to its feet clamoring for action at its close.
perpetrate
v. commit an offense. Oniy an insane person could perpetrate such a horrible crime.
perpetual
adj. everlasting. Ponce de Leon hoped to find the legendary fountain of perpetual youth.
perpetuate
v. make something last; preserve from extinction. Some critics attack The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because they believe Twain's book perpetuates a false image of blacks in this country. perpetuity, N.
perquisite
n. any gain above stipulated salary. The perquisites attached to this job make it even more attractive than the salary indicates.
personable
adj. attractive. The individual I am seeking to fill this position must be personable since he or she will be representing us before the public.
perspicacious
adj. having insight; penetrating; astute. The brilliant lawyer was known for his perspicacious deductions.
perspicuity
n. clearness of expression; freedom from ambiguity. One of the outstanding features of this book is the perspicuity of its author; her meaning is always clear.
perspicuous
adj. plainly expressed. Her perspicuous comments eliminated all possibility of misinterpretation.
pert
adj. impertinent; forward. I think your pert and impudent remarks call for an apology.
pertinacious
adj. stubborn; persistent. She is bound to succeed because her pertinacious nature will not permit her to quit.
pertinent
adj. suitable; to the point. The lawyer wanted to know all the pertinent details.
perturb
v. disturb greatly. The thought that electricity might be leaking out of the empty light-bulb sockets perturbed my aunt so much that at night she crept about the house screwing fresh bulbs in the vacant spots. perturbation, N.
peruse
v. read with care. After the conflagration that burned down her house, Joan closely perused her home insurance policy to discover exactly what benefits her coverage provided. perusal, N.
■pervasive
adj. spread throughout. Despite airing them for several hours, she could not rid her clothes of the pervasive odor of mothballs that clung to them. pervade, v.
perverse
adj. stubbornly wrongheaded; wicked and unacceptable. When Jack was in a perverse mood, he would do the opposite of whatever Jill asked him. When Hannibal Lecter was in a perverse mood, he ate the flesh of his victims. perversity, N.
perversion
n. corruption; turning from right to wrong. Inasmuch as he had no motive for his crimes, we could not understand his perversion.
pessimism
n. belief that life is basically bad or evil; gloominess. Considering how well you have done in the course so far, you have no real reason for such pessimism about your final grade. pessimistic, ADJ.
pestilential
adj. causing plague; baneful. People were afraid to explore the pestilential swamp. pestilence, N.
pestle
n. tool for mashing or grinding substances in a hard bowl. From the way in which the elderly pharmacist pounded the drug with his pestle, young George could tell that his employer was agitated about something.
petrify
v. turn to stone. His sudden and unexpected appearance seemed to petrify her.
petty
adj. trivial; unimportant; very small. She had no major complaints to make about his work, only a few petty quibbles that were almost too minor to state.
petulant
adj. touchy; peevish. If you'd had hardly any sleep for three nights and people kept on phoning and waking you up, you'd sound petulant, too. petulance, N.
pharisaical
adj. pertaining to the Pharisees, who paid scrupulous attention to tradition; self-righteous; hypocritical. Walter Lippmann has pointed out that moralists who do not attempt to explain the moral code they advocate are often regarded as pharisaical and ignored.
philanderer
n. faithless lover; flirt. Swearing he had never so much as looked at another woman, Jack assured Jill he was no philanderer.
philanthropist
n. lover of mankind; doer of good. In his role as philanthropist and public benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., donated millions to charity; as an individual, however, he was a tight-fisted old man.
philatelist
n. stamp-collector. When she heard the value of the Penny Black stamp, Phyllis was inspired to become a philatelist.
philistine
n. narrow-minded person, uncultured and exclusively interested in material gain. We need more men and women of culture and enlightenment; we have too many philistines among us.
philology
n. study of language. The professor of philology advocated the use of Esperanto as an international language.
■phlegmatic
adj. calm; not easily disturbed. The nurse was a cheerful but phlegmatic person, unexcited in the face of sudden emergencies.
phobia
n. morbid fear. Her fear of flying was more than mere nervousness; it was a real phobia.
phoenix
n. symbol of immortality or rebirth. Like the legendary phoenix rising from its ashes, the city of San Francisco rose again after its destruction during the 1906 earthquake.
phylum
n. major classification, second to kingdom, of plants and animals; division. In sorting out her hundreds of packets of seeds, Katya decided to file them by phylum.
physiognomy
n. face. He prided himself on his ability to analyze a person's character by studying his physiognomy.
physiological
adj. pertaining to the science of the function of living organisms. To understand this disease fully, we must examine not only its physiological aspects but also its psychological elements.
piebald
adj. of different colors; mottled; spotted. You should be able to identify Polka Dot in this race; he is the only piebald horse running.
piecemeal
adv. one part at a time; gradually. Tolstoy's War and Peace is too huge to finish in one sitting; I'll have to read it piecemeal.
pied
adj. variegated; multicolored. The Pied Piper of Hamelin got his name from the multicolored clothing he wore.
■piety
n. devoutness; reverence for God. Living her life in prayer and good works, Mother Teresa exemplified the true spirit of piety. pious, ADJ.
pigment
n. coloring matter. Van Gogh mixed various pigments with linseed oil to create his paints.
pillage
v. plunder. The enemy pillaged the quiet village and left it in ruins. also N.
pillory
v. punish by placing in a wooden frame; subject to criticism and ridicule. Even though he was mocked and pilloried, he maintained that he was correct in his beliefs. also N.
pine
v. languish, decline; long for; yearn. Though she tried to be happy living with Clara in the city, Heidi pined for the mountains and for her gruff but loving grandfather.
pinion
v. restrain. They pinioned his arms against his body but left his legs free so that he could move about. also N.
pinnacle
n. peak. We could see the morning sunlight illuminate the pinnacle while the rest of the mountain lay in shadow.
pious
adj. devout; religious. The challenge for church people today is how to be pious in the best sense, that is, to be devout without becoming hypocritical or sanctimonious. piety, N.
piquant
adj. pleasantly tart-tasting; stimulating. The piquant sauce added to our enjoyment of the meal. piquancy, N.
pique
n. irritation; resentment. She showed her pique at her loss by refusing to appear with the other contestants at the end of the competition.
pique
v. provoke or arouse; annoy. "I know something you don't know," said Lucy, trying to pique Ethel's interest.
piscatorial
adj. pertaining to fishing. He spent many happy hours at the lake in his piscatorial activities.
pitfall
n. hidden danger; concealed trap. The preacher warned his flock to beware the pitfall of excessive pride, for pride brought on the angels' fall.
pith
n. core or marrow; essence; substance. In preparing a pineapple for the table, first slice it in half and remove the woody central pith.
pithy
adj. concise; meaningful; substantial; meaty. While other girls might have gone on and on about how uncool Elton was, Cher summed it up in one pithy remark: "He's bogus!"
pittance
n. a small allowance or wage. He could not live on the pittance he received as a pension and had to look for an additional source of revenue.
pivotal
adj. central; critical. De Klerk's decision to set Nelson Mandela free was pivotal; without Mandela's release, there was no possibility that the African National Congress would entertain talks with the South African government.
■placate
v. pacify; conciliate. The store manager tried to placate the angry customer, offering to replace the damaged merchandise or to give back her money.
placebo
n. harmless substance prescribed as a dummy pill. In a controlled experiment, fifty volunteers were given erythromycin tablets; the control group received only placebos.
placid
adj. peaceful; calm. After his vacation in this placid section, he felt soothed and rested.
plagiarize
v. steal another's ideas and pass them off as one's own. The teacher could tell that the student had plagiarized parts of his essay; she recognized whole paragraphs straight from Barron's Book Notes. plagiarism, N.
plaintive
adj. mournful. The dove has a plaintive and melancholy call.
plait
v. braid; intertwine. The maypole dancers plaited bright green ribbons in their hair. also N.
■plasticity
n. ability to be molded. When clay dries out, it loses its plasticity and becomes less malleable.
■platitude
n. trite remark; commonplace statement. In giving advice to his son, old Polonius expressed himself only in platitudes; every word out of his mouth was a truism.
platonic
adj. purely spiritual; theoretical; without sensual desire. Accused of impropriety in his dealings with female students, the professor maintained he had only a platonic interest in the women involved.
plaudit
n. enthusiastic approval; round of applause. The theatrical company reprinted the plaudits of the critics in its advertisements. plauditory, ADJ.
plausible
adj. having a show of truth but open to doubt; specious. Your mother made you stay home from school because she needed you to program the VCR? I'm sorry, you'll have to come up with a more plausible excuse than that.
plebeian
adj. common; pertaining to the common people. His speeches were aimed at the plebeian minds and emotions; they disgusted the more refined.
plenary
adj. complete; full. The union leader was given plenary power to negotiate a new contract with the employers.
plenitude
n. abundance; completeness. Looking in the pantry, we admired the plenitude of fruits and pickles we had preserved during the summer.
■plethora
n. excess; overabundance. She offered a plethora of excuses for her shortcomings.
pliable
adj. flexible; yielding; adaptable. In remodeling the bathroom, we replaced all the old, rigid lead pipes with new, pliable copper tubing.
pliant
adj. flexible; easily influenced. Pinocchio's disposition was pliant; he was like putty in his tempters' hands.
plight
n. condition, state (especially a bad state or condition); predicament. Loggers, unmoved by the plight of the spotted owl, plan to keep on felling trees whether or not they ruin the bird's habitat.
pluck
n. courage. Even the adversaries of young Indiana Jones were impressed by the boy's pluck in trying to rescue the archeological treasure they had stolen.
plumage
n. feathers of a bird. Bird watchers identify different species of birds by their characteristic songs and distinctive plumage.
plumb
v. examine critically in order to understand; measure depth (by sounding). Try as he would, Watson could never fully plumb the depths of Holmes's thought processes.
plumb
adj. vertical. Before hanging wallpaper it is advisable to drop a plumb line from the ceiling as a guide. also N.
■plummet
v. fall sharply. Stock prices plummeted as Wall Street reacted to the rise in interest rates.
plutocracy
n. society ruled by the wealthy. From the way the government caters to the rich, you might think our society is a plutocracy rather than a democracy.
podiatrist
n. doctor who treats ailments of the feet. He consulted a podiatrist about his fallen arches.
podium
n. pedestal; raised platform. The audience applauded as the conductor made her way to the podium.
poignancy
n. quality of being deeply moving; keenness of emotion. Watching the tearful reunion of the long-separated mother and child, the social worker was touched by the poignancy of the scene. poignant, ADJ.
polarize
v. split into opposite extremes or camps. The abortion issue has polarized the country into pro-choice and anti-abortion camps.
polemic
n. controversy; argument in support of point of view. Her essays were, for the main part, polemics for the party's policy.
polemical
adj. aggressive in verbal attack; disputatious. Lexy was a master of polemical rhetoric; she should have worn a T-shirt with the slogan "Born to Debate."
politic
adj. expedient; prudent; well devised. Even though he was disappointed, he did not think it politic to refuse this offer.
polity
n. form of government of nation or state. Our polity should be devoted to the concept that the government should strive for the good of all citizens.
polygamist
n. one who has more than one spouse at a time. He was arrested as a polygamist when his two wives filed complaints about him.
polyglot
adj. speaking several languages. New York City is a polyglot community because of the thousands of immigrants who settle there.
pomposity
n. self-important behavior; acting like a stuffed shirt. Although the commencement speaker had some good things to say, we had to laugh at his pomposity and general air of parading his own dignity. pompous, ADJ.
ponderous
adj. weighty; unwieldy. His humor lacked the light touch; his jokes were always ponderous.
pontifical
adj. pertaining to a bishop or pope; pompous or pretentious. From the very beginning of his ministry it was clear from his pontifical pronouncements that John was destined for a high pontifical office.
pore
v. study industriously; ponder; scrutinize. Determined to become a physician, Beth spends hours poring over her anatomy text.
■porous
adj. full of pores; like a sieve. Dancers like to wear porous clothing because it allows the ready passage of water and air.
portend
v. foretell; presage. The king did not know what these omens might portend and asked his soothsayers to interpret them.
portent
n. sign; omen; forewarning. He regarded the black cloud as a portent of evil.
portly
adj. stout; corpulent. The salesclerk tactfully referred to the overweight customer as portly rather than fat.
poseur
n. person who pretends to be sophisticated, elegant, etc., to impress others. Some thought Dali was a brilliant painter; others dismissed him as a poseur.
posterity
n. descendants; future generations. We hope to leave a better world to posterity.
posthumous
adj. after death (as of child born after father's death or book published after author's death). The critics ignored his works during his lifetime; it was only after the posthumous publication of his last novel that they recognized his great talent.
postulate
n. self-evident truth. We must accept these statements as postulates before pursuing our discussions any further. also v.
posture
v. assume an affected pose; act artificially. No matter how much Arnold boasted or postured, I could not believe he was as important as he pretended to be.
potable
adj. suitable for drinking. The recent drought in the Middle Atlantic States has emphasized the need for extensive research in ways of making sea water potable. also N.
potent
adj. powerful; persuasive; greatly influential. Looking at the expiration date on the cough syrup bottle, we wondered whether the medication would still be potent. potency, N.
potentate
n. monarch; sovereign. The potentate spent more time at Monte Carlo than he did at home on his throne.
potential
adj. expressing possibility; latent. This juvenile delinquent is a potential murderer. also N.
potion
n. dose (of liquid). Tristan and Isolde drink a love potion in the first act of the opera.
potpourri
n. heterogeneous mixture; medley. The folk singer offered a potpourri of songs from many lands.
poultice
n. soothing application applied to sore and inflamed portions of the body. She was advised to apply a flaxseed poultice to the inflammation.
practicable
adj. feasible. The board of directors decided that the plan was practicable and agreed to undertake the project.
practical
adj. based on experience; useful. He was a practical man, opposed to theory.
■pragmatic
adj. practical (as opposed to idealistic); concerned with the practical worth or impact of something. This coming trip to France should provide me with a pragmatic test of the value of my conversational French class.
pragmatist
n. practical person. No pragmatist enjoys becoming involved in a game that he can never win.
prate
v. speak foolishly; boast idly. Let us not prate about our qualities; rather, let our virtues speak for themselves.
prattle
v. babble. Baby John prattled on and on about the cats and his ball and the Cookie Monster. also N.
■preamble
n. introductory statement. In the Preamble to the Constitution, the purpose of the document is set forth.
■precarious
adj. uncertain; risky. Saying the stock was currently overpriced and would be a precarious investment, the broker advised her client against purchasing it.
precedent
n. something preceding in time that may be used as an authority or guide for future action; an earlier occurrence. The law professor asked Jill to state which famous case served as a precedent for the court's decision in Brown II. precede, v.
precedent
adj. preceding in time, rank, etc. Our discussions, precedent to this event, certainly did not give you any reason to believe that we would adopt your proposal.
precept
n. practical rule guiding conduct. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is a worthwhile precept.
precipice
n. cliff; dangerous position. Suddenly Indiana Jones found himself dangling from the edge of a precipice.
precipitant
n. something that causes a substance in a chemical solution to separate out in solid form. Solvents by definition dissolve; precipitants, however, cause solids to precipitate or form. precipitate, v.
■precipitate
adj. rash; premature; hasty; sudden. Though I was angry enough to resign on the spot, I had enough sense to keep myself from quitting a job in such a precipitate fashion.
precipitate
v. throw headlong; hasten. The removal of American political support appeared to have precipitated the downfall of the Marcos regime.
precipitous
adj. steep; overhasty. This hill is difficult to climb because it is so precipitous; one slip, and our descent will be precipitous as well.
précis
n. concise summing up of main points. Before making her presentation at the conference, Ellen wrote a neat précis of the major elements she would cover.
precise
adj. exact. If you don't give me precise directions and a map, I'll never find your place.
preclude
v. make impossible; eliminate. The fact that the band was already booked to play in Hollywood on New Year's Eve precluded their accepting the offer of a New Year's Eve gig in London.
precocious
adj. advanced in development. Listening to the grown-up way the child discussed serious topics, we couldn't help remarking how precocious she was. precocity, N.
■precursor
n. forerunner. Though Gray and Burns share many traits with the Romantic poets who followed them, most critics consider them precursors of the Romantic Movement, not true Romantics.
predator
n. creature that seizes and devours another animal; person who robs or exploits others. Not just cats, but a wide variety of predators—owls, hawks, weasels, foxes—catch mice for dinner. A carnivore is by definition predatory, for he preys on weaker creatures. predation, N.
predecessor
n. former occupant of a post. I hope I can live up to the fine example set by my late predecessor in this office.
predetermine
v. predestine; settle or decide beforehand; influence markedly. Romeo and Juliet believed that Fate had predetermined their meeting. Bea gathered estimates from caterers, florists, and stationers so that she could predetermine the costs of holding a catered buffet. Philip's love of athletics predetermined his choice of a career in sports marketing.
predicament
n. tricky or dangerous situation; dilemma. Tied to the railroad tracks by the villain, Pauline strained against her bonds. How would she escape from this terrible predicament?
predilection
n. partiality; preference. Although the artist used various media from time to time, she had a predilection for watercolors.
predispose
v. give an inclination toward; make susceptible to. Oleg's love of dressing up his big sister's Barbie doll may have predisposed him to become a fashion designer. Genetic influences apparently predispose people to certain forms of cancer. predisposition, N.
preeminent
adj. outstanding; superior. The king traveled to Boston because he wanted the preeminent surgeon in the field to perform the operation.
preempt
v. head off; forestall by acting first; appropriate for oneself; supplant. Hoping to preempt any attempts by the opposition to make educational reform a hot political issue, the candidate set out her own plan to revitalize the public schools. preemptive, ADJ.
preen
v. make oneself tidy in appearance; feel self-satisfaction. As Kitty preened before the mirror, carefully smoothing her shining hair, she couldn't help preening herself on her good looks.
prefatory
adj. introductory. The chairman made a few prefatory remarks before he called on the first speaker.
prehensile
adj. capable of grasping or holding. Monkeys use not only their arms and legs but also their prehensile tails in traveling through the trees.
prelate
n. church dignitary. The archbishop of Moscow and other high-ranking prelates visited the Russian Orthodox seminary.
prelude
n. introduction; forerunner. I am afraid that this border raid is the prelude to more serious attacks.
premeditate
v. plan in advance. She had premeditated the murder for months, reading about common poisons and buying weed killer that contained arsenic.
premise
n. assumption; postulate. On the premise that there's no fool like an old fool, P. T. Barnum hired a 90year-old clown for his circus.
premonition
n. forewarning. We ignored these premonitions of disaster because they appeared to be based on childish fears.
premonitory
adj. serving to warn. You should have visited a doctor as soon as you felt these premonitory chest pains.
preponderance
n. superiority of power, quantity, etc. The rebels sought to overcome the preponderance of strength of the government forces by engaging in guerrilla tactics. preponderate,
preposterous
adj. absurd; ridiculous. When the candidate tried to downplay his youthful experiments with marijuana by saying he hadn't inhaled, we all thought, "What a preposterous excuse!"
prerogative
n. privilege; unquestionable right. The President cannot levy taxes; that is the prerogative of the legislative branch of government.
presage
v. foretell. The vultures flying overhead presaged the discovery of the corpse in the desert.
prescience
n. ability to foretell the future. Given the current wave of Japan-bashing, it does not take prescience for me to foresee problems in our future trade relations with Japan.
presentiment
n. feeling something will happen; anticipatory fear; premonition. Saying goodbye at the airport, Jack had a sudden presentiment that this was the last time he would see Jill.
prestige
n. impression produced by achievements or reputation. Many students want to go to Harvard University, not for the education offered, but for the prestige of Harvard's name. prestigious, ADJ.
■presumptuous
adj. arrogant; taking liberties. It seems presumptuous for one so relatively new to the field to challenge the conclusions of its leading experts. presumption, N.
pretentious
adj. ostentatious; pompous; making unjustified claims; overambitious. The other prize winner isn't wearing her medal; isn't it a bit pretentious of you to wear yours?
preternatural
adj. beyond that which is normal in nature. John's mother's total ability to tell when he was lying struck him as almost preternatural.
pretext
n. excuse. She looked for a good pretext to get out of paying a visit to her aunt.
prevail
v. induce; triumph over. He tried to prevail on her to type his essay for him.
prevalent
adj. widespread; generally accepted. A radical committed to social change, Reed had no patience with the conservative views prevalent in the America of his day.
■prevaricate
v. lie. Some people believe that to prevaricate in a good cause is justifiable and regard the statement as a "white lie."
prey
n. target of a hunt; victim. In Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons has as his prey not wild beasts but wild plants. also v.
prim
adj. very precise and formal; exceedingly proper. Many people commented on the contrast between the prim attire of the young lady and the inappropriate clothing worn by her escort.
primogeniture
n. seniority by birth. By virtue of primogeniture, in some cultures the first-born child has many privileges denied his brothers and sisters.
primordial
adj. existing at the beginning (of time); rudimentary. The Neanderthal Man is one of our primordial ancestors.
primp
v. groom oneself with care; adorn oneself. The groom stood by idly while his nervous bride-to-be primped one last time before the mirror.
■pristine
adj. characteristic of earlier times; primitive, unspoiled. This area has been preserved in all its pristine wildness.
privation
n. hardship; want. In his youth, he knew hunger and privation.
privy
adj. secret; hidden; not public. We do not care for privy chamber government.
probe
v. explore with tools. The surgeon probed the wound for foreign matter before suturing it. also N.
■probity
n. uprightness; incorruptibility. Everyone took his probity for granted; his defalcations, therefore, shocked us all.
■problematic
adj. doubtful; unsettled; questionable; perplexing. Given the way building costs have exceeded estimates for the job, whether the arena will ever be completed is problematic.
proclivity
n. inclination; natural tendency. Watching the two-year-old voluntarily put away his toys, I was amazed by his proclivity for neatness.
procrastinate
v. postpone; delay or put off. Looking at four years of receipts and checks he still had to sort through, Bob was truly sorry he had procrastinated for so long and had not finished filing his taxes long ago.
procurement
n. obtaining. The personnel department handles the procurement of new employees.
prod
v. poke; stir up; urge. If you prod him hard enough, he'll eventually clean his room.
■prodigal
adj. wasteful; reckless with money. Don't be so prodigal spending my money; when you've earned some money, you can waste as much of it as you want! also N.
prodigious
adj. marvelous; enormous. Watching the champion weight lifter heave the weighty barbell to shoulder height and then boost it overhead, we marveled at his prodigious strength.
prodigy
n. highly gifted child; marvel. Menuhin was a prodigy, performing wonders on his violin when he was barely eight years old.
profane
v. violate; desecrate; treat unworthily. The members of the mysterious Far Eastern cult sought to kill the British explorer because he had profaned the sanctity of their holy goblet by using it as an ashtray. also ADJ.
profligate
adj. dissipated; wasteful; wildly immoral. Although surrounded by wild and profligate companions, she managed to retain some sense of decency. also
■profound
adj. deep; not superficial; complete. Freud's remarkable insights into human behavior caused his fellow scientists to honor him as a profound thinker. profundity, N.
profusion
n. overabundance; lavish expenditure; excess. Freddy was so overwhelmed by the profusion of choices on the menu that he knocked over his wine glass and soaked his host. He made profuse apologies to his host, the waiter, the busboy, the people at the next table, and the man in the men's room giving out paper towels.
progenitor
n. ancestor. The Roth family, whose progenitors emigrated from Germany early in the nineteenth century, settled in Peru, Illinois.
progeny
n. children; offspring. He was proud of his progeny but regarded George as the most promising of all his children.
prognosis
n. forecasted course of a disease; prediction. If the doctor's prognosis is correct, the patient will be in a coma for at least twenty-four hours.
prognosticate
v. predict. I prognosticate disaster unless we change our wasteful ways.
■prohibitive
adj. tending to prevent the purchase or use of something; inclined to prevent or forbid. Susie wanted to buy a new Volvo but had to settle for a used Dodge because the new car's price was prohibitive. prohibition, N.
projectile
n. missile. Man has always hurled projectiles at his enemy whether in the form of stones or of highly explosive shells.
proletarian
n. member of the working class; blue collar guy. "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains" is addressed to proletarians, not preppies. also
■proliferate
v. grow rapidly; spread; multiply. Times of economic hardship inevitably encourage countless get-rich-quick schemes to proliferate. proliferation, N.
prolific
adj. abundantly fruitful. She was a prolific writer who produced as many as three books a year.
prolixity
n. tedious wordiness; verbosity. A writer who suffers from prolixity tells his readers everything they never wanted to know about his subject (or were too bored to ask). prolix, ADJ.
prologue
n. introduction (to a poem or play). In the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare introduces the audience to the feud between the Montagues and the Capu lets.
prolong
v. extend; draw out; lengthen. In their determination to discover ways to prolong human life, doctors fail to take into account that longer lives are not always happier ones.
prominent
adj. conspicuous; notable; protruding. Have you ever noticed that Prince Charles's prominent ears make him resemble the big-eared character in Mad comics?
promiscuous
adj. mixed indiscriminately; haphazard; irregular, particularly sexually. In the opera La Boheme, we get a picture of the promiscuous life led by the young artists of Paris. promiscuity, N.
promontory
n. headland. They erected a lighthouse on the promontory to warn approaching ships of their nearness to the shore.
promote
v. help to flourish; advance in rank; publicize. Founder of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman ceaselessly promotes the welfare of young people everywhere.
prompt
v. cause; provoke; provide a cue for an actor. Whatever prompted you to ask for such a big piece of cake when you're on a diet?
promulgate
v. proclaim a doctrine or law; make known by official publication. When Moses came down from the mountaintop prepared to promulgate God's commandments, he was appalled to discover his followers worshipping a golden calf.
prone
adj. inclined to; prostrate. She was prone to sudden fits of anger during which she would lie prone on the floor, screaming and kicking her heels.
propagate
v. multiply; spread. Since bacteria propagate more quickly in unsanitary environments, it is important to keep hospital rooms clean.
propellant
n. substance that propels or drives forward. The development of our missile program has forced our scientists to seek more powerful propellants. also ADJ.
■propensity
n. natural inclination. Convinced of his own talent, Sol has an unfortunate propensity to belittle the talents of others.
prophetic
adj. having to do with predicting the future. In interpreting Pharaoh's prophetic dream, Joseph said that the seven fat cows eaten by the seven lean cows represented seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. prophecy, N.
prophylactic
adj. used to prevent disease. Despite all prophylactic measures introduced by the authorities, the epidemic raged until cool weather set in. prophylaxis, N.
propinquity
n. nearness; kinship. Their relationship could not be explained as being based on mere propinquity. They were more than relatives; they were true friends.
■propitiate
v. appease. The natives offered sacrifices to propitiate the gods.
propitious
adj. favorable; fortunate; advantageous. Chloe consulted her horoscope to see whether Tuesday would be a propitious day to dump her boyfriend.
proponent
n. supporter; backer; opposite of opponent. In the Senate, proponents of the universal health care measure lobbied to gain additional support for the controversial legislation.
propound
v. put forth for analysis. In your discussion, you have propounded several questions; let us consider each one separately.
■propriety
n. fitness; correct conduct. Miss Manners counsels her readers so that they may behave with propriety in any social situation and not embarrass themselves.
propulsive
adj. driving forward. The jet plane has a greater propulsive power than the engine-driven plane.
prosaic
adj. dull and unimaginative; matter-of-fact; factual. Though the ad writers had come up with a highly creative campaign to publicize the company's newest product, the head office rejected it for a more prosaic, down-to-earth approach.
proscenium
n. part of stage in front of curtain. In the theater-in-the-round there can be no proscenium or proscenium arch. also ADJ.
■proscribe
v. ostracize; banish; outlaw. Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus proscribed all those who had conspired against Julius Caesar.
proselytize
v. induce someone to convert to a religion or belief. In these interfaith meetings, there must be no attempt to proselytize; we must respect all points of view.
prosody
n. the art of versification. This book on prosody contains a rhyming dictionary as well as samples of the various verse forms.
prosperity
n. good fortune; financial success; physical well-being. Promising to stay together "for richer, for poorer," the newlyweds vowed to be true to one another in prosperity and hardship alike.
prostrate
v. stretch out full on ground. He prostrated himself before the idol. also ADJ.
protean
adj. versatile; able to take on many forms. A remarkably protean actor, Alec Guinness could take on any role.
protégé
n. person receiving protection and support from a patron. Born with an independent spirit, Cyrano de Bergerac refused to be a protégé of Cardinal Richelieu.
protocol
n. diplomatic etiquette. We must run this state dinner according to protocol if we are to avoid offending any of our guests.
prototype
n. original work used as a model by others. The crude typewriter on display in this museum is the prototype of the elaborate machines in use today.
protract
v. prolong. Seeking to delay the union members' vote, the management team tried to protract the negotiations endlessly, but the union representatives saw through their strategy.
protrude
v. stick out. His fingers protruded from the holes in his gloves.
protuberance
n. protrusion; bulge. A ganglionic cyst is a fluid-filled tumor (generally benign) that develops near a joint membrane or tendon sheath, and that bulges beneath the skin, forming a protuberance.
provenance
n. origin or source of something. I am not interested in its provenance; I am more concerned with its usefulness than with its source.
provender
n. dry food; fodder. I am not afraid of a severe winter because I have stored a large quantity of provender for the cattle.
provident
adj. displaying foresight; thrifty; preparing for emergencies. In his usual provident manner, he had insured himself against this type of loss.
provincial
adj. pertaining to a province; limited in outlook; unsophisticated. As provincial governor, Sir Henry administered the Queen's law in his remote corner of Canada. Caught up in local problems, out of touch with London news, he became sadly provincial.
provisional
adj. tentative. Kim's acceptance as an American Express cardholder was provisional: before issuing her a card, American Express wanted to check her employment record and credit history.
proviso
n. stipulation. I am ready to accept your proposal with the proviso that you meet your obligations within the next two weeks.
provocative
adj. arousing anger or interest; annoying. In a typically provocative act, the bully kicked sand into the weaker man's face. provoke,
prowess
n. extraordinary ability; military bravery. Performing triple axels and double lutzes at the age of six, the young figure skater was world famous for her prowess on the ice.
proximity
n. nearness. Blind people sometimes develop a compensatory ability to sense the proximity of objects around them.
proxy
n. authorized agent. Please act as my proxy and vote for this slate of candidates in my absence.
prude
n. excessively modest or proper person. The X-rated film was definitely not for prudes.
prudent
adj. cautious; careful. A miser hoards money not because he is prudent but because he is greedy. prudence, N.
prune
v. cut away; trim. With the help of her editor, she was able to prune her manuscript into publishable form.
prurient
adj. having or causing lustful thoughts and desires. Aroused by his prurient impulses, the dirty old man leered at the sweet young thing and offered to give her a sample of his "prowess"; his prurience appalled her.
pry
v. inquire impertinently; use leverage to raise or open something. Though Nora claimed she didn't mean to pry, everyone knew she was just plain nosy. With a crowbar Long John Silver pried up the lid of the treasure chest.
pseudonym
n. pen name. Samuel Clemens' pseudonym was Mark Twain.
psyche
n. soul; mind. It is difficult to delve into the psyche of a human being.
psychiatrist
n. a doctor who treats mental diseases. A psychiatrist often needs long conferences with his patient before a diagnosis can be made.
psychopathic
adj. pertaining to mental derangement. The psychopathic patient suffers more frequently from a disorder of the nervous system than from a diseased brain.
psychosis
n. mental disorder. We must endeavor to find an outlet for the patient's repressed desires if we hope to combat this psychosis. psychotic, ADJ.
pterodactyl
n. extinct flying reptile. The remains of pterodactyls indicate that these flying reptiles had a wingspan of as much as twenty feet.
puerile
adj. childish. His puerile pranks sometimes offended his more mature friends.
pugilist
n. boxer. The famous pugilist Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali.
pugnacity
n. combativeness; disposition to fight. "Put up your dukes!" he cried, making a fist to show his pugnacity. pugnacious, ADJ.
puissant
adj. powerful; strong; potent. We must keep his friendship for he will make a puissant ally.
pulchritude
n. beauty; comeliness. I do not envy the judges who have to select this year's Miss America from this collection of female pulchritude.
pulmonary
adj. pertaining to the lungs. In his researches on pulmonary diseases, he discovered many facts about the lungs of animals and human beings.
pulsate
v. throb. We could see the blood vessels in his temple pulsate as he became more angry.
pulverize
v. crush or grind into very small particles. Before sprinkling the dried herbs into the stew, Michael first pulverized them into a fine powder.
pummel
v. beat or pound with fists. Swinging wildly, Pammy pummeled her brother around the head and shoulders.
punctilious
adj. stressing niceties of conduct or form; minutely attentive (perhaps too much so) to fine points. Percy is punctilious about observing the rules of etiquette whenever Miss Manners invites him to stay. punctiliousness, N.
pundit
n. authority on a subject; learned person; expert. Some authors who write about the GRE as if they are pundits actually know very little about the test.
■pungent
adj. stinging; sharp in taste or smell; caustic. The pungent odor of ripe Limburger cheese appealed to Simone but made Stanley gag. pungency, N.
punitive
adj. punishing. He asked for punitive measures against the offender.
puny
adj. insignificant; tiny; weak. Our puny efforts to stop the flood were futile.
purchase
n. firm grasp or footing. The mountaineer struggled to get a proper purchase on the slippery rock.
purgatory
n. place of spiritual expiation. In this purgatory, he could expect no help from his comrades.
purge
v. remove or get rid of something unwanted; free from blame or guilt; cleanse or purify. The Communist government purged the party to get rid of members suspected of capitalist sympathies, sending those believed to be disloyal to labor camps in Siberia. also N.
purport
n. intention; meaning. If the purport of your speech was to arouse the rabble, you succeeded admirably. also v.
purported
adj. alleged; claimed; reputed or rumored. The purported Satanists sacrificing live roosters in the park turned out to be a party of Shriners holding a chicken barbecue.
purse
v. pucker; contract into wrinkles. Miss Watson pursed her lips to show her disapproval of Huck's bedraggled appearance.
purveyor
n. furnisher of foodstuffs; caterer. As purveyor of rare wines and viands, he traveled through France and Italy every year in search of new products to sell.
pusillanimous
adj. cowardly; fainthearted. You should be ashamed of your pusillanimous conduct during this dispute. pusillanimity, N.
putative
adj. supposed; reputed. Although there are some doubts, the putative author of this work is Massinger.
putrid
adj. foul; rotten; decayed. When the doctor removed the bandages, the putrid smell indicated that the wound had turned gangrenous. putrescence, putrefaction, N.
pylon
n. marking post to guide aviators; steel tower supporting cables or telephone lines. Amelia Earhart carefully banked her airplane as she followed the line of pylons set up to mark the course of the Great Plane Race.
pyromaniac
n. person with an insane desire to set things on fire. The detectives searched the area for the pyromaniac who had set these costly fires.
quack
n. charlatan; impostor. Do not be misled by the exorbitant claims of this quack; he cannot cure you.
quadruped
n. four-footed animal. Most mammals are quadrupeds.
quaff
v. drink with relish. As we quaffed our ale, we listened to the gay songs of the students in the tavern.
quagmire
n. soft, wet, boggy land; complex or dangerous situation from which it is difficult to free oneself. Up to her knees in mud, Myra wondered how on earth she was going to extricate herself from this quagmire.
quail
v. cower; lose heart. He was afraid that he would quail in the face of danger.
quaint
adj. odd; old-fashioned; picturesque. Her quaint clothes and old-fashioned language marked her as an eccentric.
■qualified
adj. limited; restricted. Unable to give the candidate full support, the mayor gave him only a qualified endorsement. (secondary meaning)
qualms
n. misgivings; uneasy fears, especially about matters of conscience. I have no qualms about giving this assignment to Helen; I know she will handle it admirably.
quandary
n. dilemma. When both Harvard and Stanford accepted Laura, she was in a quandary as to which school she should attend.
quarantine
n. isolation of a person, place, or ship to prevent spread of infection. We will have to place this house under quarantine until we determine the exact nature of the disease. also v.
quarry
n. victim; object of a hunt. The police closed in on their quarry.
quarry
v. dig into. They quarried blocks of marble out of the hillside.
quash
v. subdue; crush; squash. The authorities acted quickly to quash the student rebellion, sending in tanks to cow the demonstrators.
quay
n. dock; landing place. Because of the captain's carelessness, the ship crashed into the quay.
queasy
adj. easily nauseated; squeamish. Remember that great chase movie, the one with the carsick passenger? That's right: Queasy Rider!
quell
v. extinguish; put down; quiet. Miss Minchin's demeanor was so stern and forbidding that she could quell any unrest among her students with one intimidating glance.
quench
v. douse or extinguish; assuage or satisfy. What's the favorite song of the Fire Department? "Baby, Quench My Fire!" After Bob ate the heavily salted popcorn, he had to drink a pitcherful of water to quench his thirst.
querulous
adj. fretful; whining. Even the most agreeable toddlers can begin to act querulous if they miss their nap.
query
n. inquiry; question. In her column "Ask Beth," the columnist invites young readers to send their queries about life and love to her. also v.
queue
n. line. They stood patiently in the queue outside the movie theatre.
■quibble
n. minor objection or complaint. Aside from a few hundred teensy-weensy quibbles about the set, the script, the actors, the director, the costumes, the lighting, and the props, the hypercritical critic loved the play. also v.
■quiescent
adj. at rest; dormant; temporarily inactive. After the devastating eruption, fear of Mount Etna was great; people did not return to cultivate its rich hillside lands until the volcano had been quiescent for a full two years. quiescence, N.
quietude
n. tranquility. He was impressed by the air of quietude and peace that pervaded the valley.
quintessence
n. purest and highest embodiment. Noel Coward displayed the quintessence of wit.
quip
n. taunt. You are unpopular because you are too free with your quips and sarcastic comments. also v.
quirk
n. startling twist; caprice, By a quirk of fate, he found himself working for the man whom he had discharged years before.
quisling
n. traitor who aids invaders. In his conquest of Europe, Hitler was aided by the quislings who betrayed their own people and served in the puppet governments established by the Nazis.
quiver
n. case for arrows. Robin Hood reached back and plucked one last arrow from his quiver. (secondary meaning)
quiver
v. tremble; shake. The bird dog's nose twitched and his whiskers quivered as he strained eagerly against the leash. also N.
quixotic
adj. idealistic but impractical. Constantly coming up with quixotic, unworkable schemes to save the world, Simon has his heart in the right place, but his head is somewhere off in the clouds.
quizzical
adj. teasing; bantering; mocking; curious. When the skinny teenager tripped over his own feet stepping into the bullpen, Coach raised one quizzical eyebrow, shook his head, and said, "Okay, kid. You're here; let's see what you've got."
quorum
n. number of members necessary to conduct a meeting. The senator asked for a roll call to determine whether a quorum was present.
quotidian
adj. daily; commonplace; customary. To Philip, each new day of his internship was filled with excitement; he could not dismiss his rounds as merely quotidian routine.
rabid
adj. like a fanatic; furious. He was a rabid follower of the Dodgers and watched them play whenever he could go to the ballpark.
raconteur
n. story-teller. My father was a gifted raconteur with an unlimited supply of anecdotes.
ragamuffin
n. person wearing tattered clothes. He felt sorry for the ragamuffin who was begging for food and gave him money to buy a meal.
rail
v. scold; rant. You may rail at him all you want; you will never change him.
raiment
n. clothing. "How can I go to the ball?" asked Cinderella. "I have no raiment fit to wear."
rakish
adj. stylish; sporty. He wore his hat at a rakish and jaunty angle.
rally
v. call up or summon (forces, vital powers, etc.); revive or recuperate. Washington quickly rallied his troops to fight off the British attack. The patient had been sinking throughout the night, but at dawn she rallied and made a complete recovery. also N.
ramble
v. wander aimlessly (physically or mentally). Listening to the teacher ramble, Judy wondered whether he'd ever get to his point, also N.
ramification
n. branching out; subdivision. We must examine all the ramifications of this problem.
ramify
v. divide into branches or subdivisions. When the plant begins to ramify, it is advisable to nip off most of the new branches.
ramp
n. slope; inclined plane. The house was built with ramps instead of stairs in order to enable the man in the wheelchair to move easily from room to room and floor to floor.
rampant
adj. growing in profusion; unrestrained. The rampant weeds in the garden choked the asters and marigolds until the flowers died. rampancy, N.
rampart
n. defensive mound of earth. "From the ramparts we watched" as the fighting continued.
ramshackle
adj. rickety; falling apart. The boys propped up the ramshackle clubhouse with a couple of boards.
rancid
adj. having the odor of stale fat. A rancid odor filled the ship's galley and nauseated the crew.
rancor
n. bitterness; hatred. Thirty years after the war, she could not let go of the past but was still consumed with rancor against the foe. rancorous, ADJ.
random
adj. without definite purpose, plan, or aim; haphazard. Although the sponsor of the raffle claimed all winners were chosen at random, people had their suspicions when the grand prize went to the sponsor's brother-in-law.
rankle
v. irritate; fester. The memory of having been jilted rankled him for years.
rant
v. rave; talk excitedly; scold; make a grandiloquent speech. When he heard that I'd totaled the family car, Dad began to rant at me like a complete madman.
rapacious
adj. excessively grasping; plundering. Hawks and other rapacious birds prey on a variety of small animals.
rapport
n. emotional closeness; harmony. In team teaching, it is important that all teachers in the group have good rapport with one another.
rapt
adj. absorbed; enchanted. Caught up in the wonder of the storyteller's tale, the rapt listeners sat motionless, hanging on his every word.
■rarefied
adj. made less dense [of a gas]. The mountain climbers had difficulty breathing in the rarefied atmosphere. rarefy,
raspy
adj. grating; harsh. The sergeant's raspy voice grated on the recruits' ears.
ratify
v. approve formally; confirm; verify. Party leaders doubted that they had enough votes in both houses of Congress to ratify the constitutional amendment.
ratiocination
n. reasoning; act of drawing conclusions from premises. While Watson was a man of average intelligence, Holmes was a genius, whose gift for ratiocination made him a superb detective.
rationale
n. fundamental reason or justification; grounds for an action. Her need for a vehicle large enough to accommodate five children and a Saint Bernard was Judy's rationale for buying a minivan.
rationalize
v. give a plausible reason for an action in place of a true, less admirable one; offer an excuse. When David refused gabby Gabrielle a ride to the dance because, he said, he had no room in the car, he was rationalizing; actually, he couldn't stand being cooped up in a car with anyone who talked as much as she did. rationalization, N.
raucous
adj. harsh and shrill; disorderly and boisterous. The raucous crowd of New Year's Eve revelers grew progressively noisier as midnight drew near.
ravage
v. plunder; despoil. The marauding army ravaged the countryside.
rave
n. overwhelmingly favorable review. Though critic John Simon seldom has a good word to say about contemporary plays, his review of All in the Timing was a total rave.
ravel
v. fall apart into tangles; unravel or untwist; entangle. A single thread pulled loose, and the entire scarf started to ravel.
ravenous
adj. extremely hungry. The ravenous dog upset several garbage pails in its search for food.
ravine
n. narrow valley with steep sides. Steeper than a gully, less precipitous than a canyon, a ravine is, like them, the product of years of erosion.
raze
v. destroy completely. Spelling matters: to raise a building is to put it up; to raze a building is to tear it down.
reactionary
adj. opposing progress; politically ultraconservative. Opposing the use of English in worship services, reactionary forces in the church fought to reinstate the mass in Latin. also N.
realm
n. kingdom; field or sphere. In the animal realm, the lion is the king of beasts.
reaper
n. one who harvests grain. Death, the Grim Reaper, cuts down mortal men and women, just as a farmer cuts down the ripened grain.
rebate
n. discount, We offer a rebate of ten percent to those who pay cash.
rebuff
v. snub; beat back. She rebuffed his invitation so smoothly that he did not realize he had been snubbed. also N.
rebuke
v. scold harshly; criticize severely. No matter how sharply Miss Watson rebuked Huck for his misconduct, he never talked back but just stood there like a stump. also N.
rebus
n. puzzle in which pictures stand for words. A coven of witches beside a tree is a possible rebus for the town Coventry.
rebuttal
n. refutation; response with contrary evidence. The defense lawyer confidently listened to the prosecutor sum up his case, sure that she could answer his arguments in her rebuttal.
■recalcitrant
adj. obstinately stubborn; determined to resist authority; unruly. Which animal do you think is more recalcitrant, a pig or a mule?
■recant
v. disclaim or disavow; retract a previous statement; openly confess error. Hoping to make Joan of Arc recant her sworn testimony, her English captors tried to convince her that her visions had been sent to her by the Devil.
recapitulate
v. summarize. Let us recapitulate what has been said thus far before going ahead.
recast
v. reconstruct (a sentence, story, etc.); fashion again. Let me recast this sentence in terms your feeble brain can grasp: in words of one syllable, you are a fool.
receptive
adj. quick or willing to receive ideas, suggestions, etc. Adventure-loving Huck Finn proved a receptive audience for Tom's tales of buried treasure and piracy.
recession
n. withdrawal; retreat; time of low economic activity. The slow recession of the flood waters created problems for the crews working to restore power to the area.
recidivism
n. habitual return to crime. Prison reformers in the United States are disturbed by the high rate of recidivism; the number of persons serving second and third terms indicates the failure of the prisons to rehabilitate the inmates.
recipient
n. receiver. Although he had been the recipient of many favors, he was not grateful to his benefactor.
reciprocal
adj. mutual; exchangeable; interacting. The two nations signed a reciprocal trade agreement.
reciprocate
v. repay in kind. If they attack us, we shall be compelled to reciprocate and bomb their territory. reciprocity, N.
■recluse
n. hermit; loner. Disappointed in love, Miss Emily became a recluse; she shut herself away in her empty mansion and refused to see another living soul. reclusive, ADJ.
reconcile
v. correct inconsistencies; become friendly after a quarrel. Every time we try to reconcile our checkbook with the bank statement, we quarrel. However, despite these monthly lovers' quarrels, we always manage to reconcile.
■recondite
adj. abstruse; profound; secret. He read many recondite books in order to obtain the material for his scholarly thesis.
reconnaissance
n. survey of enemy by soldiers; reconnoitering. If you encounter any enemy soldiers during your reconnaissance, capture them for questioning.
recount
v. narrate or tell; count over again. About to recount the latest adventure of Sherlock Holmes, Watson lost track of exactly how many cases Holmes had solved and refused to begin his tale until he'd recounted them one by one.
recourse
n. resorting to help when in trouble. The boy's only recourse was to appeal to his father for aid.
recrimination
n. countercharges. Loud and angry recriminations were her answer to his accusations.
rectify
v. set right; correct. You had better send a check to rectify your account before American Express cancels your credit card.
rectitude
n. uprightness; moral virtue; correctness of judgment. The Eagle Scout was a model of rectitude; smugness was the only flaw he needed to correct.
recumbent
adj. reclining; lying down completely or in part. The command "AT EASE" does not permit you to take a recumbent position.
recuperate
v. recover. The doctors were worried because the patient did not recuperate as rapidly as they had expected.
recurrent
adj. occurring again and again. These recurrent attacks disturbed us and we consulted a physician.
redolent
adj. fragrant; odorous; suggestive of an odor. Even though it is February, the air is redolent of spring.
redoubtable
adj. formidable; causing fear. During the Cold War period, neighboring countries tried not to offend the Russians because they could be redoubtable foes.
redress
n. remedy; compensation. Do you mean to tell me that I can get no redress for my injuries? also v.
redundant
adj. superfluous; repetitious; excessively wordy. The bottle of wine I brought to Bob's party was certainly redundant. how was Ito know Bob owned a winery? In your essay, you repeat several points unnecessarily; try to avoid redundancy in the future.
reek
v. emit (odor). The room reeked with stale tobacco smoke. also N.
refectory
n. dining hall. In this huge refectory, we can feed the entire student body at one sitting.
refraction
n. bending of a ray of light. When you look at a stick inserted in water, it looks bent because of the refraction of the light by the water.
■refractory
adj. stubborn; unmanageable. The refractory horse was eliminated from the race when he refused to obey the jockey.
refrain
v. abstain from; resist.
refulgent
adj. brightly shining; gleaming. The squire polished the knight's armor until it gleamed in the light like the refulgent moon.
refurbish
v. renovate; make bright by polishing. The flood left a deposit of mud on everything; it was necessary to refurbish our belongings.
■refute
v. disprove. The defense called several respectable witnesses who were able to refute the false testimony of the prosecution's only witness. refutation, N.
regal
adj. royal. Prince Albert had a regal manner.
regale
v. entertain. John regaled us with tales of his adventures in Africa.
regatta
n. boat or yacht race. Many boating enthusiasts followed the regatta in their own yachts.
regeneration
n. spiritual rebirth. Modern penologists strive for the regeneration of the prisoners.
regicide
n. murder of a king or queen. The beheading of Mary Queen of Scots was an act of regicide.
regime
n. method or system of government. When a Frenchman mentions the Old Regime, he refers to the government existing before the revolution.
regimen
n. prescribed diet and habits. I doubt whether the results warrant our living under such a strict regimen.
rehabilitate
v. restore to proper condition. We must rehabilitate those whom we send to prison.
reimburse
v. repay. Let me know what you have spent and I will reimburse you.
reiterate
v. repeat. She reiterated the warning to make sure everyone understood it.
rejoinder
n. retort; comeback; reply. When someone has been rude to me, I find it particularly satisfying to come up with a quick rejoinder.
rejuvenate
v. make young again. The charlatan claimed that his elixir would rejuvenate the aged and weary.
■relegate
v. banish to an inferior position; delegate; assign. After Ralph dropped his second tray of drinks that week, the manager swiftly relegated him to a minor post cleaning up behind the bar.
relent
v. give in. When her stern father would not relent and allow her to marry Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with her suitor. relentless, ADJ.
relevant
adj. pertinent; referring to the case in hand. Teri was impressed by how relevant Virginia Woolf's remarks were to her as a woman writer; it was as if Woolf had been writing with Teri's situation in mind. relevance,
relic
n. surviving remnant; memento. Egypt's Department of Antiquities prohibits tourists from taking mummies and other ancient relics out of the country. Mike keeps his photos of his trip to Egypt in a box with other relics of his travels.
relinquish
v. give up something with reluctance; yield. Once you get used to fringe benefits like expense-account meals and a company car, it's very hard to relinquish them.
relish
v. savor; enjoy. Watching Peter enthusiastically chow down, I thought, "Now there's a man who relishes a good dinner!" also N.
remediable
adj. reparable. Let us be grateful that the damage is remediable,
reminiscence
n. recollection. Her reminiscences of her experiences are so fascinating that she ought to write a book.
remiss
adj. negligent. When the prisoner escaped, the guard was accused of being remiss in his duty.
remission
n. temporary moderation of disease symptoms; cancellation of a debt; forgiveness or pardon. Though Senator Tsongas had been treated for cancer, his symptoms were in remission, and he was considered fit to handle the strains of a presidential race.
remnant
n. remainder. I suggest that you wait until the store places the remnants of these goods on sale.
remonstrance
n. protest; objection. The authorities were deaf to the pastor's remonstrances about the lack of police protection in the area. remonstrate, v.
remorse
n. guilt; self-reproach. The murderer felt no remorse for his crime.
remunerative
adj. compensating; rewarding. I find my new work so remunerative that I may not return to my previous employment. remuneration, N.
rend
v. split; tear apart. In his grief, he tried to rend his garments. rent, N.
render
v. deliver; provide; represent. He rendered aid to the needy and indigent.
rendezvous
n. meeting place. The two fleets met at the rendezvous at the appointed time. also v.
rendition
n. translation; artistic interpretation of a song, etc. The audience cheered enthusiastically as she completed her rendition of the aria.
renegade
n. deserter; traitor. Because he had abandoned his post and joined forces with the Indians, his fellow officers considered the hero of Dances with Wolves a renegade. also ADJ.
renege
v. deny; go back on. He reneged on paying off his debt.
renounce
v. abandon; disown; repudiate. Even though she knew she would be burned at the stake as a witch, Joan of Arc refused to renounce her belief that her voices came from God. renunciation, N.
renovate
v. restore to good condition; renew. They claim that they can renovate worn shoes so that they look like new ones.
renown
n. fame. For many years an unheralded researcher, Barbara McClintock gained international renown when she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. renowned, ADJ.
rent
n. rip; split. Kit did an excellent job of mending the rent in the lining of her coat. rend, v.
reparable
adj. capable of being repaired. Fortunately, the damages we suffered in the accident were reparable and our car looks brand new.
reparation
n. amends; compensation. At the peace conference, the defeated country promised to pay reparations to the victors.
repartee
n. clever reply. He was famous for his witty repartee and his sarcasm.
repast
n. meal; feast; banquet. The caterers prepared a delicious repast for Fred and Judy's wedding day.
repeal
v. revoke; annul. What would the effect on our society be if we decriminalized drug use by repealing the laws against the possession and sale of narcotics?
repel
v. drive away; disgust. At first, the Beast's ferocious appearance repelled Beauty, but she came to love the tender heart hidden behind that beastly exterior.
repellent
adj. driving away; unattractive. Mosquitoes find the odor so repellent that they leave any spot where this liquid has been sprayed. also N.
repercussion
n. rebound; reverberation; reaction. I am afraid that this event will have serious repercussions.
repertoire
n. list of works of music, drama, etc., a performer is prepared to present. The opera company decided to include Madame Butterfly in its repertoire for the following season.
repine
v. fret; complain. There is no sense repining over the work you have left undone.
replenish
v. fill up again. Before she could take another backpacking trip, Carla had to replenish her stock of freeze-dried foods.
replete
adj. filled to the brim or to the point of being stuffed; abundantly supplied. The movie star's memoir was replete with juicy details about the love life of half of Hollywood.
replica
n. copy. Are you going to hang this replica of the Declaration of Independence in the classroom or in the auditorium?
replicate
v. reproduce; duplicate. Because he had always wanted a palace, Donald decided to replicate the Taj Mahal in miniature on his estate.
repository
n. storehouse. Libraries are repositories of the world's best thoughts.
reprehensible
adj. deserving blame, Shocked by the viciousness of the bombing, politicians of every party uniformly condemned the terrorists' reprehensible deed.
repress
v. restrain; crush; oppress. Anne's parents tried to curb her impetuosity without repressing her boundless high spirits.
reprieve
n. temporary stay. During the twenty-four-hour reprieve, the lawyers sought to make the stay of execution permanent. also v.
reprimand
v. reprove severely; rebuke. Every time Ermengarde made a mistake in class, she was afraid that Miss Minchin would reprimand her and tell her father how badly, she was doing in school, also N.
reprisal
n. retaliation. I am confident that we are ready for any reprisals the enemy may undertake.
reprise
n. musical repetition; repeat performance; recurrent action. We enjoyed the soprano's solo in Act I so much that we were delighted by its reprise in the finale. At Waterloo, it was not the effect of any one skirmish that exhausted Colonel Audley; rather, it was the cumulative effect of the constant reprises that left him spent.
■reproach
v. express disapproval or disappointment. He never could do anything wrong without imagining how the look on his mother's face would reproach him afterwards. also
■reprobate
n. person hardened in sin, devoid of a sense of decency. I cannot understand why he has so many admirers if he is the reprobate you say he is.
reprobation
n. severe disapproval. The students showed their reprobation of his act by refusing to talk with him.
reprove
v. censure; rebuke. Though Aunt Bea at times would reprove Opie for inattention in church, she believed he was at heart a God-fearing lad. reproof, N.
■repudiate
v. disown; disavow. On separating from Tony, Tina announced that she would repudiate all debts incurred by her soon-to-be ex-husband.
repugnance
n. loathing. She looked at the snake with repugnance.
repulsion
n. distaste; act of driving back. Hating bloodshed, she viewed war with repulsion. Even defensive battles distressed her, for the repulsion of enemy forces is never accomplished bloodlessly. repulse, v.
reputable
adj. respectable. If you want to buy antiques, look for a reputable dealer; far too many dealers today pass off fakes as genuine antiques.
reputed
adj. supposed. He is the reputed father of the child. repute,
requiem
n. mass for the dead; dirge. They played Mozart's Requiem at the funeral.
requisite
n. necessary requirement. Many colleges state that a student must offer three years of a language as a requisite for admission.
requite
v. repay; revenge. The wretch requited his benefactors by betraying them.
■rescind
v. cancel. Because of the public outcry against the new taxes, the senator proposed a bill to rescind the unpopular financial measure.
resentment
n. indignation; bitterness; displeasure. Not wanting to appear a sore loser, Bill tried to hide his resentment of Barry's success.
reserve
n. self-control; formal but distant manner. Although some girls were attracted by Mark's reserve, Judy was put off by it, for she felt his aloofness indicated a lack of openness. reserved, ADJ.
residue
n. remainder; balance. In his will, he requested that after payment of debts, taxes, and funeral expenses, the residue be given to his wife.
resignation
n. patient submissiveness; statement that one is quitting a job. If Bob Cratchit had not accepted Scrooge's bullying with timid resignation; he might have gotten up the nerve to hand in his resignation. resigned, ADJ.
resilient
adj. elastic; having the power of springing back. Highly resilient, steel makes excellent bedsprings. resilience, N.
■resolution
n. determination. Nothing could shake his resolution to succeed despite all difficulties. resolute, ADJ.
■resolve
n. determination; firmness of purpose. How dare you question my resolve to take up sky-diving! Of course I haven't changed my mind! also v.
resolve
v. decide; settle; solve. Holmes resolved to travel to Bohemia to resolve the dispute between Irene Adler and the King.
resonant
adj. echoing; resounding; deep and full in sound. The deep, resonant voice of the actor James Earl Jones makes him particularly effective when he appears on stage.
respiration
n. breathing; exhalation. The doctor found that the patient's years of smoking had adversely affected both his lung capacity and his rate of respiration.
respite
n. interval of relief; time for rest; delay in punishment. For David, the two weeks vacationing in New Zealand were a delightful respite from the pressures of his job.
resplendent
adj. dazzling; glorious; brilliant. While all the adults were commenting how glorious the emperor looked in his resplendent new clothes, one little boy was heard to say, "But he's naked!"
responsiveness
n. state of reacting readily to appeals, orders, etc. The audience cheered and applauded, delighting the performers by its responsiveness.
restitution
n. reparation; indemnification. He offered to make restitution for the window broken by his son.
restive
adj. restlessly impatient; obstinately resisting control. Waiting impatiently in line to see Santa Claus, even the best-behaved children grow restive and start to fidget.
restraint
n. moderation or self-control; controlling force; restriction. Show some restraint, young lady! Three desserts is quite enough!
resumption
n. taking up again; recommencement. During the summer break, Don had not realized how much he missed university life: at the resumption of classes, however, he felt marked excitement and pleasure. resume, v.
resurge
v. rise again; flow to and fro. It was startling to see the spirit of nationalism resurge as the Soviet Union disintegrated into a loose federation of ethnic and national groups. resurgence,
resuscitate
v. revive. The lifeguard tried to resuscitate the drowned child by applying artificial respiration.
retain
v. keep; employ. Fighting to retain his seat in Congress, Senator Foghorn retained a new manager to head his reelection campaign.
retaliation
v. repayment in kind (usually for bad treatment). Because everyone knew the Princeton band had stolen Brown's mascot, the whole Princeton student body expected some sort of retaliation from Brown. retaliate, v.
retentive
adj. holding; having a good memory. The pupil did not need to spend much time in study as he had a retentive mind.
■reticent
adj. reserved; uncommunicative; inclined to silence. Fearing his competitors might get advance word about his plans from talkative staff members, Hughes preferred reticent employees to loquacious ones. reticence, N.
retinue
n. following; attendants. The queen's retinue followed her down the aisle.
retiring
adj. modest; shy. Given Susan's retiring personality, no one expected her to take up public speaking; surprisingly enough, she became a star of the school debate team.
retort
n. quick, sharp reply. Even when it was advisable for her to keep her mouth shut, she was always ready with a retort. also v.
retract
v. withdraw; take back. When I saw how Fred and his fraternity brothers had' trashed the frat house, I decided to retract my offer to let them use our summer cottage for the weekend. retraction, N.
retrench
v. cut down; economize. If they were to be able to send their children to college, they would have to retrench.
retribution
n. vengeance; compensation; punishment for offenses. The evangelist maintained that an angry deity would exact retribution from the sinners.
retrieve
v. recover; find and bring in. The dog was intelligent and quickly learned to retrieve the game killed by the hunter. retrieval, N.
retroactive
adj. taking effect before its enactment (as a law) or imposition (as a tax). Because the new pension law was retroactive to the first of the year, even though Martha had retired in February she was eligible for the pension.
retrograde
v. go backwards; degenerate. Instead of advancing, our civilization seems to have retrograded in ethics and culture. also ADJ.
retrospective
adj. looking back on the past. The Museum of Graphic Arts is holding a retrospective showing of the paintings of Michael Whelan over the past two decades. also
revelry
n. boisterous merrymaking. New Year's Eve is a night of revelry.,
reverberate
v. echo; resound. The entire valley reverberated with the sound of the church bells.
■reverent
adj. respectful; worshipful. Though I bow my head in church and recite the prayers, sometimes I don't feel properly reverent. revere,
reverie
n. daydream; musing. She was awakened from her reverie by the teacher's question.
revert
v. relapse; backslide; turn back to. Most of the time Andy seemed sensitive and mature, but occasionally he would revert to his smart-alecky, macho, adolescent self. reversion, N.
revile
v. attack with abusive language; vilify. Though most of his contemporaries reviled Captain Kidd as a notorious, bloody-handed pirate, some of his fellow merchant-captains believed him innocent of his alleged crimes.
revoke
v. cancel; retract. Repeat offenders who continue to drive under the influence of alcohol face having their driver's licenses permanently revoked. revocation, N.
revulsion
n. sudden violent change of feeling; negative reaction. Many people in this country who admired dictatorships underwent a revulsion when they realized what Hitler and Mussolini were trying to do.
rhapsodize
v. to speak or write in an exaggeratedly enthusiastic manner. She greatly enjoyed her Hawaiian vacation and rhapsodized about it for weeks.
rhetoric
n. art of effective communication; insincere or grandiloquent language. All writers, by necessity, must be skilled in rhetoric. rhetorical, ADJ.
ribald
adj. wanton; profane. He sang a ribald song that offended many of the more prudish listeners. ribaldry, N.
riddle
v. pierce with holes; permeate or spread throughout. With his machine gun, Tracy riddled the car with bullets till it looked like a slice of Swiss cheese. During the proofreaders' strike, the newspaper was riddled with typos.
rider
n. amendment or clause added to a legislative bill. Senator Foghorn said he would support Senator Filibuster's tax reform bill only if Filibuster agreed to add an antipollution rider to the bill.
rife
adj. abundant; current. In the face of the many rumors of scandal, which are rife at the moment, it is best to remain silent.
rift
n. opening; break. The plane was lost in the stormy sky until the pilot saw the city through a rift in the clouds.
rig
v. fix or manipulate. The ward boss was able to rig the election by bribing people to stuff the ballot boxes with ballots marked in his candidate's favor.
rigid
adj. stiff and unyielding; strict; hard and unbending. By living with a man to whom she was not married, George Eliot broke Victorian society's most rigid rule of respectable behavior.
rigor
n. severity. Many settlers could not stand the rigors of the New England winters.
rile
v. vex; irritate; muddy. Red had a hair-trigger temper: he was an easy man to rile.
riveting
adj. absorbing; engrossing. The reviewer described Byatt's novel Possession as a riveting tale: absorbed in the story, she had finished it in a single evening.
rivulet
n. small stream. As the rains continued, the trickle of water running down the hillside grew into a rivulet that threatened to wash away a portion of the slope.
robust
adj. vigorous; strong. After pumping iron and taking karate for six months, the little old lady was far more robust in health and could break a plank with her fist.
rococo
adj. ornate; highly decorated. The rococo style in furniture and architecture, marked by scrollwork and excessive decoration, flourished during the middle of the eighteenth century.
roil
v. to make liquids murky by stirring up sediment; to disturb. Be careful when you pour not to roil the wine; if you stir up the sediment you'll destroy the flavor.
roseate
adj. rosy; optimistic. I am afraid you will have to alter your roseate views in the light of the distressing news that has just arrived.
roster
n. list. They print the roster of players in the season's program.
rostrum
n. platform for speech-making; pulpit. The crowd murmured angrily and indicated that they did not care to listen to the speaker who was approaching the rostrum.
rote
n. repetition. He recited the passage by rote and gave no indication he understood what he was saying. also ADJ.
rotunda
n. circular building or hall covered with a dome. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the Capitol.
rotundity
n. roundness; sonorousness of speech. Washington Irving emphasized the rotundity of the governor by describing his height and circumference.
rousing
adj. lively; stirring. "And now, let's have a rousing welcome for TV's own Rosie O'Donnell, who'll lead us in a rousing rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'"
rout
v. stampede; drive out. The reinforcements were able to rout the enemy. also N.
rubble
n. fragments. Ten years after World War II, some of the rubble left by enemy bombings could still be seen.
rubric
n. title or heading (in red print); directions for religious ceremony; protocol. In ordaining the new priests, the bishop carefully observed all the rubrics for the ordination service.
ruddy
adj. reddish; healthy-looking. Santa Claus's ruddy cheeks nicely complement Rudolph the Reindeer's bright red nose.
rudimentary
adj. not developed; elementary; crude. Although my grandmother's English vocabulary was limited to a few rudimentary phrases, she always could make herself understood.
rue
v. regret; lament; mourn. Tina rued the night she met Tony and wondered how she ever fell for such a jerk. also
ruffian
n. bully; scoundrel. The ruffians threw stones at the police.
ruminate
v. chew over and over (mentally or, like cows, physically); mull over; ponder. Unable to digest quickly the baffling events of the day, Reuben ruminated about them till four in the morning.
rummage
v. ransack; thoroughly search. When we rummaged through the trunks in the attic, we found many souvenirs of our childhood days. also N.
runic
adj. mysterious; set down in an ancient alphabet. Tolkien's use of Old English words and inscriptions in the runic alphabet give The Lord of the Rings its atmosphere of antiquity.
ruse
n. trick; stratagem. You will not be able to fool your friends with such an obvious ruse.
rustic
adj. pertaining to country people; uncouth. The backwoodsman looked out of place in his rustic attire.
rusticate
v. banish to the country; dwell in the country. I like city life so much that I can never understand how people can rusticate in the suburbs.
ruthless
adj. pitiless; cruel. Captain Hook was a dangerous, ruthless villain who would stop at nothing to destroy Peter Pan.
saboteur
n. one who commits sabotage; destroyer of property. Members of the Resistance acted as saboteurs, blowing up train lines to prevent supplies from reaching the Nazi army.
saccharine
adj. cloyingly sweet. She tried to ingratiate herself, speaking sweetly and smiling a saccharine smile.
sacrilegious
adj. desecrating; profane. His stealing of the altar cloth was a very sacrilegious act.
sacrosanct
adj. most sacred; inviolable. The brash insurance salesman invaded the sacrosanct privacy of the office of the president of the company.
sadistic
adj. inclined to cruelty. If we are to improve conditions in this prison, we must first get rid of the sadistic warden. sadism, N.
saga
n. Scandinavian myth; any legend. This is a saga of the sea and the men who risk their lives on it.
sagacious
adj. perceptive; shrewd; having insight. My father was a sagacious judge of character: he could spot a phony a mile away. sagacity, N.
■sage
n. person celebrated for wisdom. Hearing tales of a mysterious Master of All Knowledge who lived in the hills of Tibet, Sandy was possessed with a burning desire to consult the legendary sage. also ADJ.
salacious
adj. lascivious; lustful. Chaucer's monk is not pious but salacious, a teller of lewd tales and ribald jests.
salient
adj. prominent. One of the salient features of that newspaper is its excellent editorial page.
saline
adj. salty. The slightly saline taste of this mineral water is pleasant.
sallow
adj. yellowish; sickly in color. We were disturbed by her sallow complexion, which was due to jaundice.
■salubrious
adj. healthful. Many people with hay fever move to more salubrious sections of the country during the months of August and September.
salutary
adj. tending to improve; beneficial; wholesome. The punishment had a salutary effect on the boy, as he became a model student.
salvage
v. rescue from loss. All attempts to salvage the wrecked ship failed. also N.
sanctimonious
adj. displaying ostentatious or hypocritical devoutness. You do not have to be so sanctimonious to prove that you are devout.
■sanction
v. approve; ratify. Nothing will convince me to sanction the engagement of my daughter to such a worthless young man.
sanctuary
n. refuge; shelter; shrine; holy place. The tiny attic was Helen's sanctuary to which she fled when she had to get away from her bickering parents and brothers.
sanguinary
adj. bloody. The battle of Iwo Jima was unexpectedly sanguinary, with many casualties.
sanguine
adj. cheerful; hopeful. Let us not be too sanguine about the outcome; something could go wrong.
sap
v. diminish; undermine. The element kryptonite had an unhealthy effect on Superman: it sapped his strength.
sarcasm
n. scornful remark; stinging rebuke. Though Ralph pretended to ignore the mocking comments of his supposed friends, their sarcasm wounded him deeply. sarcastic, ADJ.
sardonic
adj. disdainful; sarcastic; cynical. The sardonic humor of nightclub comedians who satirize or ridicule patrons in the audience strikes some people as amusing and others as rude.
sartorial
adj. pertaining to tailors. He was as famous for the sartorial splendor of his attire as he was for his acting.
sate
v. satisfy to the full; cloy. Its hunger sated, the lion dozed.
satellite
n. small body revolving around a larger one. During the first few years of the Space Age, hundreds of satellites were launched by Russia and the United States.
■satiate
v. satisfy fully. Having stuffed themselves with goodies until they were satiated, the guests were so full they were ready for a nap. satiety, N.
satire
n. form of literature in which irony, sarcasm, and ridicule are employed to attack vice and folly. Gulliver's Travels, which is regarded by many as a tale for children, is actually a bitter satire attacking human folly.
satirical
adj. mocking. The humor of cartoonist Gary Trudeau often is satirical; through the comments of the Doonesbury characters, Trudeau ridicules political corruption and folly.
■saturate
v. soak thoroughly. Thorough watering is the key to lawn care: you must saturate your new lawn well to encourage its growth.
saturnine
adj. gloomy. Do not be misled by his saturnine countenance; he is not as gloomy as he looks.
satyr
n. half-human, half-bestial being in the court of Dionysus, portrayed as wanton and cunning. He was like a satyr in his lustful conduct.
saunter
v. stroll slowly. As we sauntered through the park, we stopped frequently to admire the spring flowers.
savant
n. scholar. Our faculty includes many world-famous savants.
■savor
v. enjoy; have a distinctive flavor, smell, or quality. Relishing his triumph, Costner especially savored the chagrin of the critics who had predicted his failure.
savory
adj. tasty; pleasing, attractive, or agreeable. Julia Child's recipes enable amateur chefs to create savory delicacies for their guests.
scabbard
n. case for a sword blade; sheath. The drill master told the recruit to wipe the blood from his sword before slipping it back into the scabbard.
scad
n. a great quantity. Refusing Dave's offer to lend him a shirt, Phil replied, "No, thanks; I've got scads of clothes."
scaffold
n. temporary platform for workers; bracing framework; platform for execution. Before painting the house, the workers put up a scaffold to allow them to work on the second story.
scale
v. climb up; ascend. To locate a book on the top shelf of the stacks, Lee had to scale an exceptionally rickety ladder.
scanty
adj. meager; insufficient. Thinking his helping of food was scanty, Oliver Twist asked for more.
scapegoat
n. someone who bears the blame for others. After the Challenger disaster, NASA searched for scapegoats on whom they could cast the blame.
scavenge
v. hunt through discarded materials for usable items; search, especially for food. If you need car parts that the dealers no longer stock, try scavenging for odd bits and pieces at the auto wreckers' yards. scavenger, N.
scenario
n. plot outline; screenplay; opera libretto. Scaramouche startled the other actors in the commedia troupe when he suddenly departed from their customary scenario and began to improvise.
schematic
adj. relating to an outline or diagram; using a system of symbols. In working out the solution to an analytical logic question, you may find it helpful to construct a simple schematic diagram illustrating the relationships between the items of information given in the question. schema, N.
schism
n. division; split. Let us not widen the schism by further bickering.
scintilla
n. shred; least bit. You have not produced a scintilla of evidence to support your argument.
scintillate
v. sparkle; flash. I enjoy her dinner parties because the food is excellent and the conversation scintillates.
scoff
v. mock; ridicule. He scoffed at dentists until he had his first toothache.
scotch
v. stamp out; thwart; hinder. Heather tried to scotch the rumor that she had stolen her best friend's fiancé.
scourge
n. lash; whip; severe punishment. They feared the plague and regarded it as a deadly scourge. also v.
scruple
v. fret about; hesitate, for ethical reasons. Fearing that her husband had become involved in an affair, she did not scruple to read his diary. also N.
scrupulous
adj. conscientious; extremely thorough. Though Alfred is scrupulous in fulfilling his duties at work, he is less conscientious about his obligations to his family and friends.
scrutinize
v. examine closely and critically. Searching for flaws, the sergeant scrutinized every detail of the private's uniform.
scuffle
v. struggle confusedly; move off in a confused hurry. The twins briefly scuffled, wrestling to see which of them would get the toy. When their big brother yelled, "Let go of my Gameboy!" they scuffled off down the hall.
scurrilous
adj. obscene; indecent. Your scurrilous remarks are especially offensive because they are untrue.
scurry
v. move briskly. The White Rabbit had to scurry to get to his appointment on time.
scurvy
adj. despicable; contemptible. Peter Pan sneered at Captain Hook and his scurvy crew.
scuttle
v. sink. The sailors decided to scuttle their vessel rather than surrender it to the enemy.
seamy
adj. sordid; unwholesome. In The Godfather, Michael Corleone is unwilling to expose his wife and children to the seamy side of his life as the son of a Mafia don.
sear
v. char or burn; brand. Accidentally brushing against the hot grill, she seared her hand badly.
seasoned
adj. experienced. Though pleased with her new batch of rookies, the basketball coach wished she had a few more seasoned players on the team.
secession
n. withdrawal. The secession of the Southern states provided Lincoln with his first major problem after his inauguration. secede, v.
seclusion
n. isolation; solitude. One moment she loved crowds; the next, she sought seclusion.
■secrete
v. hide away or cache; produce and release a substance into an organism. The pack rat secretes odds and ends in its nest; the pancreas secretes insulin in the islets of Langerhans.
sect
n. separate religious body; faction. As university chaplain, she sought to address universal religious issues and not limit herself to the concerns of any one sect. sectarian, ADJ.
secular
adj. worldly; not pertaining to church matters; temporal. The church leaders decided not to interfere in secular matters.
sedate
adj. composed; grave. The parents were worried because they felt their son was too quiet and sedate.
sedentary
adj. requiring sitting. Sitting all day at the computer, Sharon grew to resent the sedentary nature of her job.
sedition
n. resistance to authority; insubordination. Her words, though not treasonous in themselves, were calculated to arouse thoughts of sedition.
sedulous
adj. diligent. The young woman was so sedulous that she received a commendation for her hard work. sedulity, N.
seedy
adj. run-down; decrepit; disreputable. I would rather stay in dormitory lodgings in a decent youth hostel than have a room of my own in a seedy downtown hotel.
seemly
adj. proper; appropriate. Lady Bracknell did not think it was seemly for Ernest to lack a proper family: no baby abandoned on a doorstep could grow up to marry her daughter.
seep
v. ooze; trickle. During the rainstorm, water seeped through the crack in the basement wall and damaged the floor boards. seepage, N.
seethe
v. be disturbed; boil. The nation was seething with discontent as the noblemen continued their arrogant ways.
seine
n. net for catching fish. When the shad run during the spring, you may see fishermen with seines along the banks of our coastal rivers.
seismic
adj. pertaining to earthquakes. The Richter scale is a measurement of seismic disturbances.
semblance
n. outward appearance; guise. Although this book has a semblance of wisdom and scholarship, a careful examination will reveal many errors and omissions.
seminal
adj. germinal; influencing future developments; related to seed or semen. Although Freud has generally been regarded as a seminal thinker who shaped the course of psychology, his psychoanalytic methods have come under attack recently.
seminary
n. school for training future ministers; secondary school, especially for young women. Sure of his priestly vocation, Terrence planned to pursue his theological training at the local Roman Catholic seminary.
senility
n. old age; feeblemindedness of old age. Most of the decisions are being made by the junior members of the company because of the senility of the president. senile, ADJ.
sensitization
n. process of being made sensitive or acutely responsive to an external agent or substance. The paint fumes triggered a bad allergic response in Vicky; even now, her extreme sensitization to these chemicals causes her to faint whenever she is around wet paint.
sensual
adj. devoted to the pleasures of the senses; carnal; voluptuous. I cannot understand what caused him to drop his sensual way of life and become so ascetic.
sensuous
adj. pertaining to the physical senses; operating through the senses. She was stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells about her; she was enjoying her sensuous experience.
sententious
adj. terse; concise; aphoristic. After reading so many redundant speeches, I find his sententious style particularly pleasing.
sentient
adj. capable of sensation; aware; sensitive. In the science fiction story, the hero had to discover a way to prove that the rocklike extraterrestrial creature was actually a sentient, intelligent creature. sentience, N.
sentinel
n. sentry; lookout. Though camped in enemy territory, Bledsoe ignored the elementary precaution of posting sentinels around the encampment.
septic
adj. putrid; producing putrefaction. The hospital was in such a filthy state that we were afraid that many of the patients would suffer from septic poisoning. sepsis, N.
sepulcher
n. tomb. Annabel Lee was buried in a sepulcher by the sea.
sequester
v. isolate; retire from public life; segregate; seclude. To prevent the jurors from hearing news broadcasts about the case, the judge decided to sequester the jury.
sere
adj. parched; dry. After the unseasonably dry winter the Berkeley hills looked dusty and sere.
serendipity
n. gift for finding valuable or desirable things by accident; accidental good fortune or luck. Many scientific discoveries are a matter of serendipity: Newton was not sitting there thinking about gravity when the apple dropped on his head.
serenity
n. calmness, placidity. The serenity of the sleepy town was shattered by a tremendous explosion.
serpentine
adj. winding; twisting. The car swerved at every curve in the serpentine road.
serrated
adj. having a sawtoothed edge. The beech tree is one of many plants that have serrated leaves.
servile
adj. slavish; cringing. Constantly fawning on his employer, humble Uriah Heep was a servile creature. servility, N.
servitude
n. slavery; compulsory labor. Born a slave, Douglass resented his life of servitude and plotted to escape to the North.
sever
v. cut; separate. Dr. Guillotin invented a machine that could neatly sever an aristocratic head from its equally aristocratic body. Unfortunately, he couldn't collect any severance pay.
severity
n. harshness; intensity; sternness; austerity. The severity of Jane's migraine attack was so great that she took to her bed for a week. severe, ADJ.
sextant
n. navigation tool used to determine a ship's latitude and longitude. Given a clear night, with the aid of his sextant and compass he could keep the ship safely on course.
shackle
v. chain; fetter. The criminal's ankles were shackled to prevent his escape. also N.
sham
v. pretend. She shammed sickness to get out of going to school. also N.
shambles
n. wreck; mess. After the hurricane, the Carolina coast was a shambles. After the New Year's Eve party, the host's apartment was a shambles.
■shard
n. fragment, generally of pottery. The archaeologist assigned several students the task of reassembling earthenware vessels from the shards he had brought back from the expedition.
shaving
n. very thin piece, usually of wood. As the carpenter pared away the edge of the board with his plane, a small pile of shavings began to accumulate on the floor.
sheaf
n. bundle of stalks of grain; any bundle of things tied together. The lawyer picked up a sheaf of papers as she rose to question the witness.
sheathe
v. place into a case. As soon as he recognized the approaching men, he sheathed his dagger and hailed them as friends.
sherbet
n. flavored dessert ice. I prefer raspberry sherbet to ice cream since it is less fattening.
shimmer
v. glimmer intermittently. The moonlight shimmered on the water as the moon broke through the clouds for a moment. also N.
shirk
v. avoid (responsibility, work, etc.); malinger. Brian has a strong sense of duty; he would never shirk any responsibility.
shoddy
adj. sham; not genuine; inferior. You will never get the public to buy such shoddy material.
shrew
n. scolding woman. No one wanted to marry Shakespeare's Kate because she was a shrew.
shun
v. keep away from. Cherishing his solitude, the recluse shunned the company of other human beings.
shunt
v. turn aside; divert; sidetrack. If the switchman failed to shunt the Silver Streak onto a side track, the train would plow right into Union Station.
shyster
n. lawyer using questionable methods. On L.A. Law, respectable attorney Brackman was horrified to learn that his newly discovered half brother was a cheap shyster.
sibling
n. brother or sister. We may not enjoy being siblings, but we cannot forget that we still belong to the same family.
sibylline
adj. prophetic; oracular. Until their destruction by fire in 83 B.C., the sibylline books were often consulted by the Romans.
sidereal
adj. relating to the stars. Although hampered by optical and mechanical flaws, the orbiting Hubble space telescope has relayed extraordinary images of distant sidereal bodies.
silt
n. sediment deposited by running water. The harbor channel must be dredged annually to remove the silt.
simian
adj. monkeylike. Lemurs are nocturnal mammals and have many simian characteristics, although they are less intelligent than monkeys.
simile
n. comparison of one thing with another, using the word like or as. "My love is like a red, red rose" is a simile.
simper
v. smirk; smile affectedly. Complimented on her appearance, Stella self-consciously simpered.
simplistic
adj. oversimplified. Though Jack's solution dealt adequately with one aspect of the problem, it was simplistic in failing to consider various complicating factors that might arise.
simulate
v. feign. She simulated insanity in order to avoid punishment for her crime.
sinecure
n. well-paid position with little responsibility. My job is no sinecure; I work long hours and have much responsibility.
sinewy
adj. tough; strong and firm. The steak was too sinewy to chew.
singular
adj. unique; extraordinary; odd. Though the young man tried to understand Father William's singular behavior, he still found it odd that the old man incessantly stood on his head.
sinister
adj. evil. We must defeat the sinister forces that seek our downfall.
sinuous
adj. winding; bending in and out; not morally honest. The snake moved in a sinuous manner.
■skeptic
n. doubter; person who suspends judgment until having examined the evidence supporting a point of view. I am a skeptic about the new health plan; I want some proof that it can work. skeptical,
skiff
n. small, light sailboat or rowboat. Tom dreamed of owning an ocean-going yacht but had to settle for a skiff he could sail in the bay.
skimp
v. provide scantily; live very economically. They were forced to skimp on necessities in order to make their limited supplies last the winter.
skinflint
n. stingy person; miser. Scrooge was an ungenerous old skinflint until he reformed his ways and became a notable philanthropist.
skirmish
n. minor fight. Custer's troops expected they might run into a skirmish or two on maneuvers; they did not expect to face a major battle. also v.
skittish
adj. lively; frisky. She is as skittish as a kitten playing with a piece of string.
skulduggery
n. dishonest behavior. The investigation into municipal corruption turned up new instances of skulduggery daily.
skulk
v. move furtively and secretly. He skulked through the less fashionable sections of the city in order to avoid meeting any of his former friends.
slacken
v. slow up; loosen. As they passed the finish line, the runners slackened their pace.
slag
n. residue from smelting metal; dross; waste matter. The blast furnace had a special opening at the bottom to allow the workers to remove the worthless slag.
slake
v. quench; sate. When we reached the oasis, we were able to slake our thirst.
slander
n. defamation; utterance of false and malicious statements. Considering the negative comments politicians make about each other, it's a wonder that more of them aren't sued for slander. also
slapdash
adj. haphazard; careless; sloppy. From the number of typos and misspellings I've found in it, it's clear that Mario proofread the report in a remarkably slapdash fashion.
sleazy
adj. flimsy; unsubstantial. This is a sleazy fabric; it will not wear well.
sleeper
n. something originally of little value or importance that in time becomes very valuable. Unnoticed by the critics at its publication, the eventual Pulitzer Prize winner was a classic sleeper.
sleight
n. dexterity. The magician amazed the audience with his sleight of hand.
slew
n. large quantity or number. Although Ellen had checked off a number of items on her "To Do" list, she still had a whole slew of errands left.
slight
n. insult to one's dignity; snub. Hypersensitive and ready to take offense at any discourtesy, Bertha was always on the lookout for real or imaginary slights. also v.
slipshod
adj. untidy or slovenly; shabby. As a master craftsman, the carpenter prided himself on never doing slipshod work.
slither
v. slip or slide. During the recent ice storm, many people slithered down this hill as they walked to the station.
sloth
n. slow-moving tree-dwelling mammal. Note how well the somewhat greenish coat of the sloth enables it to blend in with its arboreal surroundings. (secondary meaning)
slothful
adj. lazy. The British word "layabout" is a splendid descriptive term for someone slothful: What did the lazy bum do? He lay about the house all day. sloth, N.
slough
v. cast off. Each spring, the snake sloughs off its skin. also N.
slovenly
adj. untidy; careless in work habits. Unshaven, sitting around in his bathrobe all afternoon, Gus didn't care about the slovenly appearance he presented. sloven, N.
sluggard
n. lazy person. "You are a sluggard, a drone, a parasite," the angry father shouted at his lazy son.
sluggish
adj. slow; lazy; lethargic. After two nights without sleep, she felt sluggish and incapable of exertion.
sluice
n. artificial channel for directing or controlling the flow of water. In times of drought, this sluice enables farmers to obtain water for irrigation.
slur
n. insult to one's character or reputation; slander. Polls revealed that the front-runner's standing had been damaged by the slurs and innuendoes circulated by his opponent's staff. (secondary meaning) also v.
slur
v. speak indistinctly; mumble. When Sol has too much to drink, he starts to slur his words: "Washamatter? Cansh you undershtand what I shay?"
smattering
n. slight knowledge. I don't know whether it is better to be ignorant of a subject or to have a mere smattering of information about it.
smelt
v. melt or blend ores, changing their chemical composition. The furnaceman smelts tin with copper to create a special alloy used in making bells.
smirk
n. conceited smile. Wipe that smirk off your face! also v.
smolder
v. burn without flame; be liable to break out at any moment. The rags smoldered for hours before they burst into flame.
snicker
n. half-stifled laugh. The boy could not suppress a snicker when the teacher sat on the tack. also v.
snivel
v. run at the nose; snuffle; whine. Don't you come sniveling to me complaining about your big brother.
sobriety
n. moderation (especially regarding indulgence in alcohol); seriousness. Neither falling-down drunks nor stand-up comics are noted for sobriety. sober, ADJ.
sodden
adj. soaked; dull, as if from drink. He set his sodden overcoat near the radiator to dry.
sojourn
n. temporary stay. After his sojourn in Florida, he began to long for the colder climate of his native New England home.
solace
n. comfort in trouble. I hope you will find solace in the thought that all of us share your loss.
solder
v. repair or make whole by using a metal alloy. The plumber fixed the leak in the pipes by soldering a couple of joints from which water had been oozing.
solecism
n. construction that is flagrantly incorrect grammatically. I must give this paper a failing mark because it contains many solecisms.
solemnity
n. seriousness; gravity. The minister was concerned that nothing should disturb the solemnity of the marriage service.
solicit
v. request earnestly; seek. Knowing she needed to have a solid majority for the budget to pass, the mayor telephoned all the members of the city council to solicit their votes.
■solicitous
adj. worried, concerned. The employer was very solicitous about the health of her employees as replacements were difficult to get. solicitude, N.
soliloquy
n. talking to oneself. The soliloquy is a device used by the dramatist to reveal a character's innermost thoughts and emotions.
solitude
n. state of being alone; seclusion. Much depends on how much you like your own company. What to one person seems fearful isolation to another is blessed solitude. solitary, ADJ.
solstice
n. point at which the sun is farthest from the equator. The winter solstice usually occurs on December 21.
soluble
adj. able to be dissolved; able to be worked out. Sugar is soluble in water; put a sugar cube in water and it will quickly dissolve. Because the test-maker had left out some necessary data, the problem was not soluble.
solvent
adj. able to pay all debts. By dint of very frugal living, he was finally able to become solvent and avoid bankruptcy proceedings. solvency, N.
solvent
n. substance that dissolves another. Dip a cube of sugar into a cup of water; note how the water acts as a solvent, causing the cube to break down.
somatic
adj. pertaining to the body; physical. Why do you ignore the spiritual aspects and emphasize only the corporeal and the somatic ones?
somber
adj. gloomy; depressing. From the doctor's grim expression, I could tell he had somber news.
somnambulist
n. sleepwalker. The most famous somnambulist in literature is Lady Macbeth; her monologue in the sleepwalking scene is one of the highlights of Shakespeare's play.
somnolent
adj. half asleep. The heavy meal and the overheated room made us all somnolent and indifferent to the speaker. somnolence, N.
sonorous
adj. resonant. His sonorous voice resounded through the hall.
sophist
n. teacher of philosophy; quibbler; employer of fallacious reasoning. You are using all the devices of a sophist in trying to prove your case; your argument is specious.
sophisticated
adj. worldly wise and urbane; complex. When Sophy makes wisecracks, she thinks she sounds sophisticated, but instead she sounds sophomoric. The IBM laptop with the butterfly keyboard and the built-in FAX modem is a pretty sophisticated machine. sophistication, N.
sophistry
n. seemingly plausible but fallacious reasoning. Instead of advancing valid arguments, he tried to overwhelm his audience with a flood of sophistries.
sophomoric
adj. immature; half-baked, like a sophomore. Even if you're only a freshman, it's no compliment to be told your humor is sophomoric. The humor in Dumb and Dumber is sophomoric at best.
■soporific
adj. sleep-causing; marked by sleepiness. Professor Pringle's lectures were so soporific that even he fell asleep in class. also N.
sordid
adj. filthy; base; vile. The social worker was angered by the sordid housing provided for the homeless.
spangle
n. small metallic piece sewn to clothing for ornamentation. The thousands of spangles on her dress sparkled in the glare of the stage lights.
sparse
adj. not thick; thinly scattered; scanty. No matter how carefully Albert combed his hair to make it appear as full as possible, it still looked sparse.
spartan
adj. lacking luxury and comfort; sternly disciplined. Looking over the bare, unheated room with its hard cot, he wondered what he was doing in such spar-tan quarters. Only his spartan sense of duty kept him at his post.
spasmodic
adj. fitful; periodic. The spasmodic coughing in the auditorium annoyed the performers.
spat
n. squabble; minor dispute. What had started out as a mere spat escalated into a full-blown argument.
spate
n. sudden flood. I am worried about the possibility of a spate if the rains do not diminish soon.
spatial
adj. relating to space. Certain exercises test your sense of spatial relations by asking you to identify two views of an object seen from different points in space.
spatula
n. broad-bladed instrument used for spreading or mixing. The manufacturers of this frying pan recommend the use of a rubber spatula to avoid scratching the specially treated surface.
spawn
v. lay eggs. Fish ladders had to be built in the dams to assist the salmon returning to spawn in their native streams. also N.
■specious
adj. seemingly reasonable but incorrect; misleading (often intentionally). To claim that, because houses and birds both have wings, both can fly is extremely specious reasoning.
spectral
adj. ghostly. We were frightened by the spectral glow that filled the room.
■spectrum
n. colored band produced when a beam of light passes through a prism. The visible portion of the spectrum includes red at one end and violet at the other.
spendthrift
n. someone who wastes money. Easy access to credit encourages people to turn into spendthrifts who shop till they drop.
sphinx-like
adj. enigmatic; mysterious. The Mona Lisa's sphinx-like expression has puzzled art lovers for centuries.
splice
v. fasten together; unite. Before you splice two strips of tape together, be sure to line them up evenly. also N.
spontaneity
n. lack of premeditation; naturalness; freedom from constraint. The cast overrehearsed the play so much that the eventual performance lacked any spontaneity. spontaneous, ADJ.
spoonerism
n. accidental transposition of sounds in successive words. When the radio announcer introduced the President as Hoobert Herver, he was guilty of a spoonerism.
■sporadic
adj. occurring irregularly. Although you can still hear sporadic outbursts of laughter and singing outside, the big Halloween parade has passed; the party's over till next year.
sportive
adj. playful. Such a sportive attitude is surprising in a person as serious as you usually are.
spruce
adj. neat and trim. Every button buttoned, tie firmly in place, young Alex Keaton looked spruce and tidy for his job interview at the bank. also v.
spry
adj. vigorously active; nimble. She was eighty years old, yet still spry and alert.
spurious
adj. false; counterfeit; forged; illogical. The hero of Jonathan Gash's mystery novels is an antique dealer who gives the reader advice on how to tell spurious antiques from the real thing.
spurn
v. reject; scorn. The heroine spurned the villain's advances.
squabble
n. minor quarrel; bickering. Children invariably get involved in petty squabbles; wise parents know when to interfere and when to let the children work things out on their own.
squalor
n. filth; degradation; dirty, neglected state. Rusted, broken-down cars in the yard, trash piled on the porch, tar paper peeling from the roof—the shack was the picture of squalor. squalid, ADJ.
squander
v. waste. If you squander your allowance on candy and comic books, you won't have any money left to buy the new box of crayons you want.
squat
adj. stocky; short and thick. Tolkien's hobbits are somewhat squat, sturdy little creatures, fond of good ale, good music, and good food.
staccato
adj. played in an abrupt manner; marked by abrupt, sharp sound. His staccato speech reminded one of the sound of a machine gun.
stagnant
adj. motionless; stale; dull. Mosquitoes commonly breed in ponds of stagnant water. Mike's career was stagnant; it wasn't going anywhere, and neither was he! stagnate, v.
staid
adj. sober; sedate. Her conduct during the funeral ceremony was staid and solemn.
stalemate
n. deadlock. Negotiations between the union and the employers have reached a stalemate; neither side is willing to budge from previously stated positions.
stalwart
adj. strong, brawny; steadfast. His consistent support of the party has proved that he is a stalwart and loyal member. also N.
stamina
n. strength; staying power. I doubt that she has the stamina to run the full distance of the marathon race.
stanch
v. check flow of blood. It is imperative that we stanch the gushing wound before we attend to the other injuries.
stanza
n. division of a poem. Do you know the last stanza of "The Star-Spangled Banner"?
static
adj. unchanging; lacking development. Why do you watch chess on TV? I like watching a game with action, not something static where nothing seems to be going on. stasis, N.
statute
n. law enacted by the legislature. The statute of limitations sets limits on how long you have to take legal action in specific cases.
statutory
adj. created by statute or legislative action. The judicial courts review and try statutory crimes.
steadfast
adj. loyal; unswerving. Penelope was steadfast in her affections, faithfully waiting for Ulysses to return from his wanderings.
stealth
n. slyness; sneakiness; secretiveness. Fearing detection by the sentries on duty, the scout inched his way toward the enemy camp with great stealth.
steep
v. soak; saturate. Be sure to steep the fabric in the dye bath for the full time prescribed.
stellar
adj. pertaining to the stars. He was the stellar attraction of the entire performance.
stem
v. check the flow. The paramedic used a tourniquet to stem the bleeding from the slashed artery.
stem from
v. arise from. Milton's problems in school stemmed from his poor study habits.
stentorian
adj. extremely loud. The town crier had a stentorian voice.
stereotype
n. fixed and unvarying representation; standardized mental picture, often reflecting prejudice. Critics object to the character of Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because he seems to reflect the stereotype of the happy, ignorant slave. also v.
stickler
n. perfectionist; person who insists things be exactly right. The Internal Revenue Service agent was a stickler for accuracy; no approximations or rough estimates would satisfy him.
stifle
v. suppress; extinguish; inhibit. Halfway through the boring lecture, Laura gave up trying to stifle her yawns.
■stigma
n. token of disgrace; brand. I do not attach any stigma to the fact that you were accused of this crime; the fact that you were acquitted clears you completely. stigmatize, N.
stilted
adj. bombastic; stiffly pompous. His stilted rhetoric did not impress the college audience; they were immune to bombastic utterances.
■stint
v. be thrifty; set limits. "Spare no expense," the bride's father said, refusing to stint on the wedding arrangements.
stint
n. supply; allotted amount; assigned portion of work. She performed her daily stint cheerfully and willingly.
stipend
n. pay for services. There is a nominal stipend for this position.
stipple
v. paint or draw with dots. Seurat carefully stippled dabs of pure color on the canvas, juxtaposing dots of blue and yellow that the viewer's eye would interpret as green.
■stipulate
v. make express conditions, specify. Before agreeing to reduce American military forces in Europe, the president stipulated that NATO teams be allowed to inspect Russian bases.
stock
adj. typical; standard; kept regularly in supply. Victorian melodramas portrayed stock characters—the rich but wicked villain, the sweet young ingenue, the poor but honest young man—in exaggerated situations. Although the stationery store kept only stock sizes of paper on hand, the staff would special-order any items not regularly in stock.
stockade
n. wooden enclosure or pen; fixed line of posts used as defensive barrier. The Indians are coming! Quick! Round up the horses and drive them into the stockade.
stodgy
adj. stuffy; boringly conservative. For a young person, Winston seems remarkably stodgy: you'd expect someone his age to have a little more life.
stoic
adj. impassive; unmoved by joy or grief. I wasn't particularly stoic when I had my flu shot; I squealed like a stuck pig. also
stoke
v. stir up a fire; feed plentifully. As a Scout, Marisa learned how to light a fire, how to stoke it if it started to die down, and how to extinguish it completely.
■stolid
adj. dull; impassive. The earthquake shattered Stuart's usual stolid demeanor; trembling, he crouched on the no longer stable ground. stolidity, N.
stratagem
n. clever trick; deceptive scheme. What a gem of a stratagem! Watson, I have the perfect plan to trick Moriarty into revealing himself.
stratified
adj. divided into classes; arranged into strata. As the economic gap between the rich and the poor increased, Roman society grew increasingly stratified. stratify, v.
stratum
n. layer of earth's surface; layer of society. Unless we alleviate conditions in the lowest stratum of our society, we may expect grumbling and revolt. strata, PL.
strew
v. spread randomly; sprinkle; scatter. Preceding the bride to the altar, the flower girl will strew rose petals along the aisle.
■striated
adj. marked with parallel bands; grooved. The glacier left many striated rocks. striate, v.
stricture
n. critical comments; severe and adverse criticism. His strictures on the author's style are prejudiced and unwarranted.
strident
adj. loud and harsh; insistent. We could barely hear the speaker over the strident cries of the hecklers. stridency, N.
stringent
adj. binding; rigid. I think these regulations are too stringent.
■strut
n. pompous walk. His strut as he marched about the parade ground revealed him for what he was: a pompous buffoon. also v.
■strut
n. supporting bar. The engineer calculated that the strut supporting the rafter needed to be reinforced.
studied
adj. unspontaneous; deliberate; thoughtful. Given Jill's previous slights, Jack felt that the omission of his name from the guest list was a studied insult.
stultify
v. cause to appear or become stupid or inconsistent; frustrate or hinder. His long hours in the blacking factory left young Dickens numb and incurious, as if the menial labor had stultified his mind.
stupefy
v. make numb; stun; amaze. Disapproving of drugs in general, Laura refused to take sleeping pills or any other medicine that might stupefy her.
stupor
n. state of apathy; daze; lack of awareness. In his stupor, the addict was unaware of the events taking place around him.
stygian
adj. gloomy; hellish; deathly. Shielding the flickering candle from any threatening draft, Tom and Becky descended into the stygian darkness of the underground cavern. Stygian derives from Styx, the chief river in the subterranean land of the dead.
stymie
v. present an obstacle; stump. The detective was stymied by the contradictory evidence in the robbery investigation.
suavity
n. urbanity; polish. He is particularly good in roles that require suavity and sophistication. suave, ADJ.
subaltern
n. subordinate. The captain treated his subalterns as though they were children rather than commissioned officers.
subdued
adj. less intense; quieter. Bob liked the subdued lighting at the restaurant because he thought it was romantic. I just thought the place was dimly lit.
subjective
adj. occurring or taking place within the mind; unreal. Your analysis is highly subjective; you have permitted your emotions and your opinions to color your thinking.
subjugate
v. conquer; bring under control. It is not our aim to subjugate our foe; we are interested only in establishing peaceful relations.
sublimate
v. refine; purify. We must strive to sublimate these desires and emotions into worthwhile activities.
sublime
adj. exalted; noble and uplifting; utter. Lucy was in awe of Desi's sublime musicianship, while he was in awe of her sublime naiveté.
subliminal
adj. below the threshold. We may not be aware of the subliminal influences that affect our thinking.
submissive
adj. yielding; timid. When he refused to permit Elizabeth to marry her poet, Mr. Barrett expected her to be properly submissive; instead, she eloped with the guy!
subordinate
adj. occupying a lower rank; inferior; submissive. Bishop Proudie's wife expected the subordinate clergy to behave with great deference to the wife of their superior. also N.
suborn
v. persuade to act unlawfully (especially to commit perjury). In The Godfather, the mobsters used bribery and threats to suborn the witnesses against Don Michael Corleone.
■subpoena
n. writ summoning a witness to appear. The prosecutor's office was ready to serve a subpoena on the reluctant witness. also v.
subsequent
adj. following; later. In subsequent lessons, we shall take up more difficult problems.
subservient
adj. behaving like a slave; servile; obsequious. She was proud and dignified; she refused to be subservient to anyone. subservience, N.
■subside
v. settle down; descend; grow quiet. The doctor assured us that the fever would eventually subside.
subsidiary
adj. subordinate; secondary. This information may be used as subsidiary evidence but is not sufficient by itself to prove your argument. also N.
subsidy
n. direct financial aid by government, etc. Without this subsidy, American ship operators would not be able to compete in world markets.
subsistence
n. existence; means of support; livelihood. In those days of inflated prices, my salary provided a mere subsistence.
substantial
adj. ample; solid; essential or fundamental. The generous scholarship represented a substantial sum of money. If you don't eat a more substantial dinner, you'll be hungry later on.
■substantiate
v. establish by evidence; verify; support. These endorsements from satisfied customers substantiate our claim that Barron's How to Prepare for the GRE is the best GRE-prep book on the market.
substantive
adj. essential; pertaining to the substance. Although the delegates were aware of the importance of the problem, they could not agree on the substantive issues.
subsume
v. include; encompass. Does the general theory of relativity contradict Newtonian physics, or is Newton's law of gravity subsumed into Einstein's larger scheme?
subterfuge
n. pretense; evasion. As soon as we realized that you had won our support by a subterfuge, we withdrew our endorsement of your candidacy.
subtlety
n. perceptiveness; ingenuity; delicacy. Never obvious, she expressed herself with such subtlety that her remarks went right over the heads of most of her audience. subtle, ADJ.
subversive
adj. tending to overthrow; destructive. At first glance, the notion that Styrofoam cups may actually be more ecologically sound than paper cups strikes most environmentalists as subversive.
succinct
adj. brief; terse; compact. Don't bore your audience with excess verbiage: be succinct.
succor
v. aid; assist; comfort. If you believe that con man has come here to succor you in your hour of need, you're even a bigger sucker than I thought. also N.
succulent
adj. juicy; full of richness. To some people, Florida citrus fruits are more succulent than those from California. also N.
succumb
v. yield; give in; die. I succumb to temptation whenever it comes my way.
suffragist
n. advocate of voting rights (for women). In recognition of her efforts to win the vote for women, Congress authorized coining a silver dollar honoring the suffragist Susan B. Anthony.
suffuse
v. spread over. A blush suffused her cheeks when we teased her about her love affair.
sully
v. tarnish; soil. He felt that it was beneath his dignity to sully his hands in such menial labor.
sultry
adj. sweltering. He could not adjust himself to the sultry climate of the tropics.
summation
n. act of finding the total; summary. In his summation, the lawyer emphasized the testimony given by the two witnesses.
sumptuous
adj. lavish; rich. I cannot recall when I have had such a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast.
sunder
v. separate; part. Northern and southern Ireland are politically and religiously sundered.
sundry
adj. various; several. My suspicions were aroused when I read sundry items in the newspapers about your behavior.
superannuated
adj. retired or disqualified because of age. Don't call me superannuated; I can still perform a good day's work!
supercilious
adj. arrogant; condescending; patronizing. The supercilious headwaiter sneered at customers who he thought did not fit the image of a restaurant catering to an ultrafashionable crowd.
supererogatory
adj. superfluous; more than needed or demanded. We have more than enough witnesses to corroborate your statement; to present any more would be supererogatory.
superficial
adj. trivial; shallow. Since your report gave only a superficial analysis of the problem, I cannot give you more than a passing grade.
superfluous
adj. excessive; overabundant, unnecessary. Please try not to include so many superfluous details in your report; just give me the bare facts. superfluity, N.
superimpose
v. place over something else. Your attempt to superimpose another agency in this field will merely increase the bureaucratic nature of our government.
supernumerary
n. person or thing in excess of what is necessary; extra. His first appearance on the stage was as a supernumerary in a Shakespearean tragedy.
■supersede
v. cause to be set aside; replace; make obsolete. Bulk mailing postal regulation 326D supersedes bulk mailing postal regulation 326C. If, in bundling your bulk mailing, you follow regulation 326C, your bulk mailing will be returned. supersession, N.
supine
adj. lying on back. The defeated pugilist lay supine on the canvas.
supplant
v. replace; usurp. Did the other woman actually supplant Princess Diana in Prince Charles's affections, or did Charles never love Diana at all? Bolingbroke, later to be known as King Henry IV, fought to supplant his cousin, Richard III, as King of England.
supple
adj. flexible; pliant. Years of yoga exercises made Grace's body supple.
suppliant
adj. entreating; beseeching. Unable to resist the dog's suppliant whimpering, he gave it some food. also N.
supplicate
v. petition humbly; pray to grant a favor. We supplicate Your Majesty to grant him amnesty.
■supposition
n. hypothesis; surmise. I based my decision to confide in him on the supposition that he would be discreet. suppose, v.
supposititious
adj. assumed; counterfeit; hypothetical. I find no similarity between your supposititious illustration and the problem we are facing.
suppress
v. stifle; overwhelm; subdue; inhibit. Too polite to laugh in anyone's face, Roy did his best to suppress his amusement at Ed's inane remark.
surfeit
v. satiate; stuff; indulge to excess in anything. Every Thanksgiving we are surfeited with an overabundance of holiday treats. also N.
surly
adj. rude; cross. Because of his surly attitude, many people avoided his company.
surmise
v. guess. I surmise that he will be late for this meeting. also N.
surmount
v. overcome. I know you can surmount any difficulties that may stand in the way of your getting an education.
surpass
v. exceed. Her SAT scores surpassed our expectations.
surreptitious
adj. secret; furtive; sneaky; hidden. Hoping to discover where his mom had hidden the Christmas presents, Timmy took a surreptitious peek into the master bedroom closet.
surrogate
n. substitute. For a fatherless child, a male teacher may become a father surrogate.
surveillance
n. watching; guarding. The FBI kept the house under constant surveillance in the hope of capturing all the criminals at one time.
susceptible
adj. impressionable: easily influenced: having little resistance, as to a disease; receptive to. Said the patent medicine man to his very susceptible customer: "Buy this new miracle drug, and you will no longer be susceptible to the common cold." susceptibility, N.
sustain
v. experience; support; nourish. He sustained such a severe injury that the doctors feared he would be unable to work to sustain his growing family.
sustenance
n. means of support, food, nourishment. In the tropics, the natives find sustenance easy to obtain because of all the fruit trees.
suture
n. stitches sewn to hold the cut edges of a wound or incision; material used in sewing. We will remove the sutures as soon as the wound heals. also v.
swarthy
adj. dark; dusky. Despite the stereotype, not all Italians are swarthy; many are fair and blond.
swathe
v. wrap around; bandage. When I visited him in the hospital, I found him swathed in bandages.
swelter
v. be oppressed by heat. I am going to buy an air conditioning unit for my apartment as I do not intend to swelter through another hot and humid summer.
swerve
v. deviate; turn aside sharply. The car swerved wildly as the driver struggled to regain control of the wheel.
swill
v. drink greedily. Singing "Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum," Long John Silver and his fellow pirates swilled their grog.
swindler
n. cheat. She was gullible and trusting, an easy victim for the first swindler who came along.
sybarite
n. lover of luxury. Rich people are not always sybarites; some of them have little taste for a life of luxury.
sycophant
n. servile flatterer; bootlicker; yes man. Fed up with the toadies and brownnosers who made up his entourage, the star cried, "Get out, all of you! I'm sick of sycophants!" sycophantic, ADJ.
syllogism
n. logical formula consisting of a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion; deceptive or specious argument. There must be a fallacy in this syllogism; I cannot accept its conclusion.
sylvan
adj. pertaining to the woods; rustic. His paintings of nymphs in sylvan backgrounds were criticized as oversentimental.
symbiosis
n. interdependent relationship (between groups, species), often mutually beneficial. Both the crocodile bird and the crocodile derive benefit from their symbiosis; pecking away at food particles embedded in the crocodile's teeth, the bird derives nourishment; the crocodile, meanwhile, derives proper dental hygiene. symbiotic, ADJ.
symmetry
n. arrangement of parts so that balance is obtained; congruity. By definition, something lopsided lacks symmetry. symmetrical, ADJ.
synchronous
adj. similarly timed; simultaneous with. We have many examples of scientists in different parts of the world who have made synchronous discoveries.
synoptic
adj. providing a general overview; summary. The professor turned to the latest issue of Dissertation Abstracts for a synoptic account of what was new in the field. synopsis, N.
synthesis
n. combining parts into a whole. Now that we have succeeded in isolating this drug, our next problem is to plan its synthesis in the laboratory. syntheses, PL., synthesize, v.
synthetic
adj. artificial; resulting from synthesis. During the twentieth century, many synthetic products have replaced their natural counterparts. also N.
■tacit
adj. understood; not put into words. We have a tacit agreement based on only a handshake.
taciturn
adj. habitually silent; talking little. The stereotypical cowboy is a taciturn soul, answering lengthy questions with a "Yep" or "Nope."
tactile
adj. pertaining to the organs or sense of touch. His callused hands had lost their tactile sensitivity.
taint
v. contaminate; cause to lose purity; modify with a trace of something bad. One speck of dirt on your utensils may contain enough germs to taint an entire batch of preserves. also N.
talisman
n. charm. She wore the talisman to ward off evil.
talon
n. claw of bird. The falconer wore a leather gauntlet to avoid being clawed by the hawk's talons.
■tangential
adj. peripheral; only slightly connected; digressing. Despite Clark's attempts to distract her with tangential remarks, Lois kept on coming back to her main question: Why couldn't he come out to dinner with Superman and her?
tangible
adj. able to be touched; real; palpable. Although Tom did not own a house, he had several tangible assets—a car, a television, a PC—that he could sell if he needed cash.
tanner
n. person who turns animal hides into leather. Using a solution of tanbark, the tanner treated the cowhide, transforming it into supple leather.
tantalize
v. tease; torture with disappointment. Tom loved to tantalize his younger brother with candy; he knew the boy was forbidden to have it.
tantamount
adj. equivalent in effect or value. Because so few Southern blacks could afford to pay the poll tax, the imposition of this tax on prospective voters was tantamount to disenfranchisement for black voters.
tantrum
n. fit of petulance; caprice. The child learned that he could have almost anything if he went into tantrums.
taper
n. candle. She lit the taper on the windowsill.
tarantula
n. venomous spider. We need an antitoxin to counteract the bite of the tarantula.
tarry
v. delay; dawdle. We can't tarry if we want to get to the airport on time.
tatty
adj. worn and shabby; bedraggled. Cinderella's stepsisters sneered at her in her frayed apron and tatty old gown.
taut
adj. tight; ready. The captain maintained that he ran a taut ship.
tautological
adj. needlessly repetitious. In the sentence "It was visible to the eye," the phrase "to the eye" is tautological. tautology, N.
tawdry
adj. cheap and gaudy. He won a few tawdry trinkets at Coney Island.
taxonomist
n. specialist in classifying (animals, etc.). Dental patterns often enable the taxonomist to distinguish members of one rodent species from those of another.
tedium
n. boredom; weariness. We hope this new Game Boy will help you overcome the tedium of your stay in the hospital. tedious, ADJ.
teetotalism
n. practice of abstaining totally from alcoholic drinks. Though the doctor warned Bert to cut down his booze intake, she didn't insist that he practice teetotalism. teetotaler, N.
temerity
n. boldness; rashness. Do you have the temerity to argue with me?
temper
v. moderate; tone down or restrain; toughen (steel). Not even her supervisor's grumpiness could temper Nancy's enthusiasm for her new job.
temperament
n. characteristic frame of mind; disposition; emotional excess. Although the twins look alike, they differ markedly in temperament: Tod is calm, but Rod is excitable.
temperate
adj. restrained; self-controlled; moderate in respect to temperature. Try to be temperate in your eating this holiday season; if you control your appetite, you won't gain too much weight. Goldilocks found San Francisco's temperate climate neither too hot nor too cold but just right.
tempestuous
adj. stormy; impassioned; violent. Racket-throwing tennis star John McEnroe was famed for his displays of tempestuous temperament.
tempo
n. speed of music. I find the band's tempo too slow for such a lively dance.
temporal
adj. not lasting forever; limited by time; secular. At one time in our history, temporal rulers assumed that they had been given their thrones by divine right.
temporize
v. act evasively to gain time; avoid committing oneself. Ordered by King John to drive Robin Hood out of Sherwood Forest, the sheriff temporized, hoping to put off any confrontation with the outlaw band.
tenacious
adj. holding fast. I had to struggle to break his tenacious hold on my arm.
tenacity
n. firmness; persistence. Jean Valjean could not believe the tenacity of Inspector Javert. Here all Valjean had done was to steal a loaf of bread, and the inspector had pursued him doggedly for 20 years!
tendentious
adj. having an aim; biased; designed to further a cause. The editorials in this periodical are tendentious rather than truth-seeking.
tender
v. offer; extend. Although no formal charges had been made against him, in the wake of the recent scandal the mayor felt he should tender his resignation.
tenet
n. doctrine; dogma. The agnostic did not accept the tenets of their faith.
tensile
adj. capable of being stretched. Mountain climbers must know the tensile strength of their ropes.
tentative
adj. hesitant; not fully worked out or developed; experimental; not definite or positive. Unsure of his welcome at the Christmas party, Scrooge took a tentative step into his nephew's drawing room.
■tenuous
adj. thin; rare; slim. The allegiance of our allies is held by such tenuous ties that we have little hope they will remain loyal.
tenure
n. holding of an office; time during which such an office is held. A special recall election put an end to Gray Davis's tenure in office as governor of California.
tepid
adj. lukewarm. To avoid scalding the baby, make sure the bath water is tepid, not hot.
termination
n. end. Though the time for termination of the project was near, we still had a lot of work to finish before we shut up shop. terminate, v.
terminology
n. terms used in a science or art. The special terminology developed by some authorities in the field has done more to confuse laypersons than to enlighten them.
terminus
n. last stop of railroad. After we reached the railroad terminus, we continued our journey into the wilderness on saddle horses.
terrestrial
adj. on or relating to the earth. We have been able to explore the terrestrial regions much more thoroughly than the aquatic or celestial regions.
terse
adj. concise; abrupt; pithy. There is a fine line between speech that is terse and to the point and speech that is too abrupt.
tertiary
adj. third. He is so thorough that he analyzes tertiary causes where other writers are content with primary and secondary reasons.
tesselated
adj. inlaid; mosaic. I recall seeing a table with a tesselated top of bits of stone and glass in a very interesting pattern.
testator
n. maker of a will. The attorney called in his secretary and his partner to witness the signature of the testator.
testy
adj. irritable; short-tempered. My advice is to avoid discussing this problem with her today as she is rather testy and may shout at you. testiness, N.
tether
v. tie with a rope. Before we went to sleep, we tethered the horses to prevent their wandering off during the night.
thematic
adj. relating to a unifying motif or idea. Those who think of Moby Dick as a simple adventure story about whaling miss its underlying thematic import.
theocracy
n. government run by religious leaders. Though some Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower favored the establishment of a theocracy in New England, many of their fellow voyagers preferred a nonreligious form of government.
theoretical
adj. not practical or applied; hypothetical. Bob was better at applied engineering and computer programming than he was at theoretical physics and math. While I can still think of some theoretical objections to your plan, you've convinced me of its basic soundness.
therapeutic
adj. curative. Now better known for its racetrack, Saratoga Springs first gained attention for the therapeutic qualities of its famous "healing waters."
thermal
adj. pertaining to heat. The natives discovered that the hot springs gave excellent thermal baths and began to develop their community as a health resort. also N.
thespian
adj. pertaining to drama. Her success in the school play convinced her she was destined for a thespian career. also N.
thrall
n. slave; bondage. The captured soldier was held in thrall by the conquering army.
threadbare
adj. worn through till the threads show; shabby and poor. The poorly paid adjunct professor hid the threadbare spots on his jacket by sewing leather patches on his sleeves.
thrifty
adj. careful about money; economical. A thrifty shopper compares prices before making major purchases.
thrive
v. prosper; flourish. Despite the impact of the recession on the restaurant trade, Philip's cafe thrived.
throes
n. violent anguish. The throes of despair can be as devastating as the spasms accompanying physical pain.
throng
n. crowd. Throngs of shoppers jammed the aisles. also v.
throttle
v. strangle. The criminal tried to throttle the old man with his bare hands.
thwart
v. baffle; frustrate. He felt that everyone was trying to thwart his plans and prevent his success.
tightwad
n. excessively frugal person; miser. Jill called Jack a tightwad because he never picked up the check.
tiller
n. handle used to move boat's rudder (to steer). Fearing the wind might shift suddenly and capsize the skiff, Tom kept one hand on the tiller at all times.
timbre
n. quality of a musical tone produced by a musical instrument. We identify the instrument producing a musical sound by its timbre.
timidity
n. lack of self-confidence or courage. If you are to succeed as a salesperson, you must first lose your timidity and fear of failure.
timorous
adj. fearful; demonstrating fear. Her timorous manner betrayed the anxiety she felt at the moment.
tipple
v. drink (alcoholic beverages) frequently. He found that his most enjoyable evenings occurred when he tippled with his friends at the local pub. N.
■tirade
n. extended scolding; denunciation; harangue. Every time the boss holds a meeting, he goes into a lengthy tirade, scolding us for everything from tardiness to padding our expenses.
titanic
adj. gigantic. Titanic waves beat against the majestic S.S. Titanic, driving it against the concealed iceberg. titan, N.
tithe
n. tax of one-tenth. Because he was an agnostic, he refused to pay his tithes to the clergy. also v.
titillate
v. tickle. I am here not to titillate my audience but to enlighten it.
title
n. right or claim to possession; mark of rank; name (of a book, film, etc.). Though the penniless Duke of Ragwort no longer held title to the family estate, he still retained his title as head of one of England's oldest families.
titter
n. nervous laugh. Her aunt's constant titter nearly drove her mad. also v.
titular
adj. having the title of an office without the obligations. Although he was the titular head of the company, the real decisions were made by his general manager.
toady
n. servile flatterer; yes man. Never tell the boss anything he doesn't wish to hear: he doesn't want an independent adviser, he just wants a toady. also v.
toga
n. Roman outer robe. Marc Antony pointed to the slashes in Caesar's toga.
tome
n. large volume. She spent much time in the libraries poring over ancient tomes.
tonsure
n. shaving of the head, especially by person entering religious orders. His tonsure, even more than his monastic garb, indicated that he was a member of the religious order.
topography
n. physical features of a region. Before the generals gave the order to attack, they ordered a complete study of the topography of the region.
■torpor
n. lethargy; sluggishness; dormancy. Throughout the winter, nothing aroused the bear from his torpor. he would not emerge from hibernation until spring. torpid, ADJ.
torque
n. twisting force; force producing rotation. With her wrench she applied sufficient torque to the nut to loosen it.
torrent
n. rushing stream; flood. Day after day of heavy rain saturated the hillside until the water ran downhill in torrents. torrential, ADJ.
torrid
adj. passionate; hot or scorching. The novels published by Harlequin Romances feature torrid love affairs, some set in torrid climates.
torso
n. trunk of statue with head and limbs missing; human trunk. This torso, found in the ruins of Pompeii, is now on exhibition in the museum in Naples.
■tortuous
adj. winding; full of curves. Because this road is so tortuous, it is unwise to go faster than twenty miles an hour on it.
totter
v. move unsteadily; sway, as if about to fall. On unsteady feet, the drunk tottered down the hill to the nearest bar.
touchstone
n. stone used to test the fineness of gold alloys; criterion. What touchstone can be used to measure the character of a person?
touchy
adj. sensitive; irascible. Do not discuss his acne with Archy; he is very touchy about it.
tout
v. publicize; praise excessively. I lost confidence in my broker after he touted some junk bonds that turned out to be a bad investment.
toxic
adj. poisonous. We must seek an antidote for whatever toxic substance he has eaten. toxicity, N.
tract
n. pamphlet; a region of indefinite size. The King granted William Penn a tract of land in the New World.
■tractable
adj. docile; easily managed. Although Susan seemed a tractable young woman, she had a stubborn streak of independence that occasionally led her to defy the powers-that-be when she felt they were in the wrong. tractability, N.
traduce
v. expose to slander. His opponents tried to traduce the candidate's reputation by spreading rumors about his past.
trajectory
n. path taken by a projectile. The police tried to locate the spot from which the assassin had fired the fatal shot by tracing the trajectory of the bullet.
tranquillity
n. calmness; peace. After the commotion and excitement of the city, I appreciate the tranquillity of these fields and forests.
transcendent
adj. surpassing; exceeding ordinary limits; superior. Standing on the hillside watching the sunset through the Golden Gate was a transcendent experience for Lise: the sight was so beautiful it surpassed her wildest dreams. transcend,
transcribe
v. copy. When you transcribe your notes, please send a copy to Mr. Smith and keep the original for our files. transcription, N.
transfigure
v. transform outwardly, usually for the better; change in form or aspect. Elizabeth Barrett's love for Robert Browning transfigured her poetry as well as transforming her life. Bely's poetic novel, Peterburg, is a travel fantasy set within a city that is both real and transfigured into a myth.
■transgression
n. violation of a law; sin. Although Widow Douglass was willing to overlook Huck's minor transgressions, Miss Watson refused to forgive and forget.
transient
adj. momentary; temporary; staying for a short time. Lexy's joy at finding the perfect Christmas gift for Phil was transient; she still had to find presents for the cousins and Uncle Bob. Located near the airport, this hotel caters to the largely transient trade. also N.
transition
n. going from one state of action to another. During the period of transition from oil heat to gas heat, the furnace will have to be shut off.
transitory
adj. impermanent; fleeting. Fame is transitory: today's rising star is all too soon tomorrow's washed-up has-been. transitoriness, N.
translucent
adj. partly transparent. We could not recognize the people in the next room because of the translucent curtains that separated us.
transmute
v. change; convert to something different. He was unable to transmute his dreams into actualities.
transparent
adj. easily detected; permitting light to pass through freely. John's pride in his son is transparent; no one who sees the two of them together can miss it. transparency, N.
transpire
v. be revealed; happen. When Austen writes the sentence "It had just transpired that he had left gaming debts behind him," her meaning is not that the debts had just been incurred, but that the shocking news had just leaked out.
transport
n. strong emotion. Margo was a creature of extremes, at one moment in transports of joy over a vivid sunset, at another moment .in transports of grief over a dying bird. also v.
trappings
n. outward decorations; ornaments. He loved the trappings of success: the limousines, the stock options, the company jet.
traumatic
adj. pertaining to an injury caused by violence. In his nightmares, he kept on recalling the traumatic experience of being wounded in battle. trauma, N.
travail
n. painful physical or mental labor; drudgery; torment. Like every other recent law school graduate she knew, Shelby hated the seemingly endless travail of cramming for the bar exam.
traverse
v. go through or across. When you traverse this field, be careful of the bull.
travesty
n. harshly distorted imitation; parody; debased likeness. Phillips's translation of Don Quixote is so inadequate and clumsy that it seems a travesty of the original.
treatise
n. article treating a subject systematically and thoroughly. He is preparing a treatise on the Elizabethan playwrights for his graduate degree.
trek
n. travel; journey. The tribe made their trek further north that summer in search of game. also v.
tremor
n. trembling; slight quiver. She had a nervous tremor in her right hand.
tremulous
adj. trembling; wavering. She was tremulous more from excitement than from fear.
trenchant
adj. forceful and vigorous; cutting. With his trenchant wit, reviewer Frank Rich cut straight to the heart of the matter, panning a truly dreadful play.
trepidation
n. fear; nervous apprehension. As she entered the office of the dean of admissions, Sharon felt some trepidation about how she would do in her interview.
tribulation
n. distress; suffering. After all the trials and tribulations we have gone through, we need this rest.
tribunal
n. court of justice. The decision of the tribunal was final and the prisoner was sentenced to death.
tribute
n. tax levied by a ruler; mark of respect. The colonists refused to pay tribute to a foreign despot.
trident
n. three-pronged spear. Neptune is usually depicted as rising from the sea, carrying his trident on his shoylder.
trifling
adj. trivial; unimportant. Why bother going to see a doctor for such a trifling, everyday cold? trifle, N.
trigger
v. set off. John is touchy today; say one word wrong and you'll trigger an explosion.
trilogy
n. group of three works. Having read the first two volumes of Philip Pullman's trilogy, Alison could hardly wait to read volume three.
trinket
n. knickknack; bauble. Whenever she traveled abroad, Ethel would pick up costume jewelry and other trinkets as souvenirs.
trite
adj. hackneyed; commonplace. The trite and predictable situations in many television programs turn off many viewers, who, in turn, turn off their sets.
trivia
n. trifles; unimportant matters. Too many magazines ignore newsworthy subjects and feature trivia.
troth
n. pledge of good faith especially in betrothal. He gave her his troth and vowed to cherish her always.
trough
n. container for feeding farm animals; lowest point (of a wave, business cycle, etc.). The hungry pigs struggled to get at the fresh swill in the trough. The surfer rode her board, coasting along in the trough between two waves.
■truculence
n. aggressiveness; ferocity. Tynan's reviews were noted for their caustic attacks and general tone of truculence. truculent, ADJ.
truism
n. self-evident truth. Many a truism is summed up in a proverb; for example, "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."
truncate
v. cut the top off. The top of the cone that has been truncated in a plane parallel to its base is a circle.
tryst
n. meeting. The lovers kept their tryst even though they realized their danger. also v.
tumid
adj. swollen; pompous; bombastic. I especially dislike his tumid style; I prefer writing that is less swollen and bombastic.
tumult
n. commotion; riot; noise. She could not make herself heard over the tumult of the mob.
tundra
n. rolling, treeless plain in Siberia and arctic North America. Despite the cold, many geologists are trying to discover valuable mineral deposits in the tundra.
turbid
adj. muddy; having the sediment disturbed. The water was turbid after the children had waded through it.
turbulence
n. state of violent agitation. Warned of approaching turbulence in the atmosphere, the pilot told the passengers to fasten their seat belts.
tureen
n. deep dish for serving soup. The waiters brought the soup to the tables in silver tureens.
turgid
adj. swollen; distended. The turgid river threatened to overflow the levees and flood the countryside.
turmoil
n. great commotion and confusion. Lydia running off with a soldier! Mother fainting at the news! The Bennet household was in turmoil.
turncoat
n. traitor. The British considered Benedict Arnold a loyalist; the Americans considered him a turncoat.
turpitude
n. depravity. A visitor may be denied admittance to this country if she has been guilty of moral turpitude.
tutelage
n. guardianship; training. Under the tutelage of such masters of the instrument, she made rapid progress as a virtuoso.
tutelary
adj. protective; pertaining to a guardianship. I am acting in my tutelary capacity when I refuse to grant you permission to leave the campus.
tycoon
n. wealthy leader. John D. Rockefeller was a prominent tycoon.
typhoon
n. tropical hurricane or cyclone. If you liked Twister, you'll love Typhoon!
tyranny
n. oppression; cruel government. Frederick Douglass fought against the tyranny of slavery throughout his entire life.
tyro
n. beginner; novice. For a mere tyro, you have produced some marvelous results.
ubiquitous
adj. being everywhere; omnipresent. That Christmas "The Little Drummer Boy" seemed ubiquitous: Justin heard the tune everywhere he went. ubiquity, N.
ulterior
adj. situated beyond; unstated and often questionable. You must have an ulterior motive for your behavior, since there is no obvious reason for it.
ultimate
adj. final; not susceptible to further analysis. Scientists are searching for the ultimate truths.
ultimatum
n. last demand; warning. Since they have ignored our ultimatum, our only recourse is to declare war.
umbrage
n. resentment; anger; sense of injury or insult. She took umbrage at his remarks and stormed away in a huff.
unaccountable
adj. inexplicable; unreasonable or mysterious. I have taken an unaccountable dislike to my doctor: "I do not love thee, Doctor Fell. The reason why, I cannot tell."
unanimity
n. complete agreement. We were surprised by the unanimity with which our proposals were accepted by the different groups. unanimous, ADJ.
unassailable
adj. not subject to question; not open to attack. Penelope's virtue was unassailable; while she waited for her husband to come back from the war, no other guy had a chance.
unassuaged
adj. unsatisfied; not soothed. Her anger is unassuaged by your apology.
unassuming
adj. modest. He is so unassuming that some people fail to realize how great a man he really is.
unbridled
adj. violent. She had a sudden fit of unbridled rage.
uncanny
adj. strange; mysterious. You have the uncanny knack of reading my innermost thoughts.
unconscionable
adj. unscrupulous; excessive. She found the loan shark's demands unconscionable and impossible to meet.
uncouth
adj. outlandish; clumsy; boorish. Most biographers portray Lincoln as an uncouth and ungainly young man.
unction
n. the act of anointing with oil. The anointing with oil of a person near death is called extreme unction.
unctuous
adj. oily; bland; insincerely suave. Uriah Heep disguised his nefarious actions by unctuous protestations of his "humility."
underlying
adj. fundamental; lying below. The underlying cause of the student riot was not the strict curfew rule but the moldy cafeteria food. Miss Marple seems a sweet little old lady at first, but an iron will underlies that soft and fluffy facade.
undermine
v. weaken; sap. The recent corruption scandals have undermined many people's faith in the city government.
underscore
v. emphasize. Addressing the jogging class, Kim underscored the importance to runners of good nutrition.
undulating
adj. moving with a wavelike motion. The Hilo Hula Festival featured an undulating sea of grass skirts.
unearth
v. dig up. When they unearthed the city, the archeologists found many relics of an ancient civilization.
unearthly
adj. not earthly; weird. There is an unearthly atmosphere in her work that amazes the casual observer.
unequivocal
adj. plain; obvious. My answer to your proposal is an unequivocal and absolute "No."
unerringly
adv. infallibly. My teacher unerringly pounced on the one typographical error in my essay.
unexceptionable
adj. not offering any basis for criticism; entirely acceptable. Objecting to Jack's lack of a respectable family background, Lady Bracknell declared that Cecily could marry only a man of unexceptionable lineage and character.
unfaltering
adj. steadfast. She approached the guillotine with unfaltering steps.
unfeigned
adj. genuine; real. She turned so pale that I am sure her surprise was unfeigned.
unfettered
adj. liberated; freed from chains. Chained to the wall for months on end, the hostage despaired that he would ever be unfettered. unfetter, v.
unfledged
adj. immature. It is hard for an unfledged writer to find a sympathetic publisher.
unfrock
v. to strip a priest or minister of church authority. To disbar a lawyer, to unfrock a priest, to suspend a doctor's license to practic6---these are extreme steps that the authorities should take only after careful consideration.
ungainly
adj. awkward; clumsy; unwieldy. "If you want to know whether Nick's an ungainly dancer, check out my bruised feet," said Nora. Anyone who has ever tried to carry a bass fiddle knows it's an ungainly instrument.
unguent
n. ointment. Apply this unguent to the sore muscles before retiring.
uniformity
n. sameness; monotony. At Persons magazine, we strive for uniformity of style; as a result, all our writers wind up sounding exactly alike. uniform, ADJ.
unilateral
adj. one-sided. This legislation is unilateral since it binds only one party in the controversy.
unimpeachable
adj. blameless and exemplary. Her conduct in office was unimpeachable and her record is spotless.
uninhibited
adj. unrepressed. The congregation was shocked by her uninhibited laughter during the sermon.
unintimidating
adj. unfrightening. Though Phil had expected to feel overawed when he met Joe Montana, he found the world-famous quarterback friendly and unintimidating.
unique
adj. without an equal: single in kind. You have the unique distinction of being the first student whom I have had to fail in this course.
unison
n. unity of pitch; complete accord. The choir sang in unison.
universal
adj. characterizing or affecting all; present everywhere. At first, no one shared Christopher's opinions; his theory that the world was round was met with universal disdain.
unkempt
adj. disheveled; uncared for in appearance. Jeremy hated his neighbor's unkempt lawn: he thought its neglected appearance had a detrimental effect on neighborhood property values.
unmitigated
adj. unrelieved or immoderate; absolute. After four days of unmitigated heat, I was ready to collapse from heat prostration. The congresswoman's husband was an unmitigated jerk: not only did he abandon her, but also he took her campaign funds!
unobtrusive
adj. inconspicuous; not blatant. Reluctant to attract notice, the governess took a chair in a far corner of the room and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.
unpalatable
adj. distasteful; disagreeable. "I refuse to swallow your conclusion," she said, finding his logic unpalatable.
unprecedented
adj. novel; unparalleled. For a first novel, Margaret Mitchell's book Gone with the Wind was an unprecedented success.
unprepossessing
adj. unattractive. During adolescence many attractive young people somehow acquire the false notion that their appearance is unprepossessing.
unravel
v. disentangle; solve. With equal ease Miss Marple unraveled tangled balls of yarn and baffling murder mysteries.
unrequited
adj. not reciprocated. Suffering the pangs of unrequited love, Olivia rebukes Cesario for his hardheartedness.
unruly
adj. disobedient; lawless. The only way to curb this unruly mob is to use tear gas.
unsavory
adj. distasteful; morally offensive. People with unsavory reputations should not be allowed to work with young children.