English Vocabulary

For many readers, the words listed here were last seen on a standardized test, such as the SAT or GRE. However, they also are used in elite publications, from the New York Times to the Atlantic Monthly. Some of these words were once widely-used and appear in classic literature. Some modern novelists use them to great effect.

We believe the greater the vocabulary, the more concise the writing. Unfortunately, readers might not understand what you write. The definitions for some words listed are not the “common” meanings; we have chosen to focus on the words and meanings used to impress audiences.

Serious readers enjoy new words and writers love using the rare greats. Reading teaches vocubulary as we study context at all levels: elemental grammar, plot, setting, and more. Readers thrill at the discovery of new words; writers should thrill at using them wisely. There is more to words than winning at Scrabble™.

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]
[N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

- A -

abate (v) - to lessen; to lower the intensity

abbreviate (v) - shorten

aberrant (adj) - abnormal

aberration (n) - anomally; something unusual

abet (v) - aid, encourage

abhor (v) - detest, hate

ablution (n) - washing

abominable (adj) - extremely unpleasant, very bad

abortive (adj) - unsuccessful, fruitless

abridge (v) - condense or shorten

abrogate (v) - void, do away with, repeal

abscond (v) - to depart secretly

abstemious (adj) - moderate in consumption

abstinent (adj) - stubborn, refraining from, keeping from

abstain (v) - to avoid

abstruse (adj) - obscure, confusing, difficult

accede (v) - to agree

acclaim (v) - to applaud, to praise

accolade (n) - public praise, award

accoutre (v) - to equip, to supply

accretion (n) - mass gained (astronomy, geology)

acerbic (adj) - severe manner, bitter

acidulous (adj) - bitter, sour in mood

acme (n) - peak, highest point

acquiesce (v) - agree passively

acolyte (n) - follower, trainee; assistant to a priest

acrimonious (adj) - bitter, sharp, severe; looking to argue acrimony (n)

actuate (v) - to start, to motivate

acumen (n) - quick insight; accurate knowledge

adamant (adj) - hard, inflexible

adulterate (v) - make impure, contaminate

aeon (n) - long period of time

aesthetic (adj) - appreciating art and beauty

aggrandize (v) - to inflate; to promote

alacrity (n) - eagerness, willingness; quickness, briskness

alchemy (n) - medieval “science” of transmutation, especially changing of metals into gold

alchemist (n) - a fraud; chemist, especially one seeking to create gold from other metals

alliteration (n) - repetition of beginning sound in poetry

amalgamate (v) - to combine things into a whole

ameliorate (v) - to improve; to make tolerable. amelioration (n)

amenable (adj) - agreeable, responsive

anachronism (n) - something out of its era; misplaced in time. anachronistic (adj)

analogous (adj) - comparable, equal

anarchy (n) - absence of governing body

animus (n) - hostile feeling or intent

annihilate (v) - to destroy

annotate (v) - comment, make explanatory notes

anomalous (adj) - abnormal, irregular. anomally (n)

anomaly (n) - abnormal. anomalous (adj)

antecede (v) - to precede, to come before

antipathy (n) - hostility, hatred; repugnance, abhorrence, disgust

antithesis (n) - a direct opposite

antithetic (adj) - opposite, contrast

aplomb (n) - self-confidence; perpendicularity

apocryphal (adj) - false, counterfeit, questionable sources

apostate (n/adj) - one who forsakes his religion or principles; renegade, traitor

apathy (n) - lack of caring, indifference

ape (v) - to imitate, mimic

apex (n) - tip, summit, climax

appellation (n) - name, title

approbation (n) - approval

arbiter (n) - a judge

arcane (adj) - understood by specialists; rare knowledge

array (v) - placed in proper or desired order

ascetic (n) - one who is abstinent, austere, often for religious reasons

asperity (n) - a harshness of condition, severity

asperse (v) - to slander; calumniate, vilify, traduce; to sprinkle with water. aspersion (n)

assay (v) - analyze, evaluate

assuage (v) - to ease, relieve

astringent (adj) - harsh, severe; tightening living tissue

audacious (adj) - daring, fearless; reckless. audacity (n)

augment (v) - increase, add to

augur (n/v) - prophet; to predict, to prophesy

austere (adj) - ascetic; bare, severely simple

avarice (n) - greed

aver (v) - to affirm

axiom (n) - self-evident truth. axiomatic (adj)

- B -

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Bacchanalia (n) - any wild party; ancient festival in honor of Bacchus, Roman god of wine

bacchanalian (adj) - drunken and wildly merry. bacchantic / bacchic (adj), bacchant (n)

baleful (adj) - evil, harmful, malignant

banal (adj) - common, trite

banality (n) - conventional, common

baneful (adj) - bad, evil, pernicious

bellicose (adj) - warlike

bereave (v) - to deprive; to leave isolated

bombastic (adj) - pompous writing or speech; grandiloquent. bombast (n)

bountiful (adj) - abundant, generous

brook (v) - to endure, tolerate

bucolic (adj) - rustic, pastoral, natural; simple

burgeoning (v) - to sprout, grow, flourish. burgeon (v)

buttress (v) - to support, reinforce, defend

- C -

cacophony (n) - dissonance, discord

callow (adj) - young, inexperienced; low, flood-prone

calumny (n) - a slander, lies

cajole (v) - to cheat by flattery

canon (n) - established code (religion). canonical (adj)

capricious (adj) - erratic, unpredictable, impulsive

carnage (n) - destruction of life

carping (adj) - finding fault

castigate (v) - to criticize severely, punish. castigation (n)

catalyst (n) - person or thing accelerating change

catechism (n) - book for religious instruction

catholic (adj) - universal, general, inclusive

caustic (adj) - corrosive; burning, stinging

celerity (n) - speed, rapidity

censure (v) - to rebuke officially

chary (adj) - wary, cautious

chicanery (n) trickery, mischief

churlish - (adj) surly, ill-tempered

circumlocution (n) - roundabout speech; confusing tale

climactic (adj) - relating to the highest point

cloy (v) - to make weary by too much of anything pleasant; satiate, surfeit

coda (n) - completing music; the end

cogent (adj) - convincing, reasonable

cognizant (adj) - aware, knowing

cohere (v) - stick together

culpability (n) - responsibility, guilt

colloquy (n) - informal discussion

commensurate (adj) - proportional, fair, even

compendium (n) - brief comprehensive summary

compilation (n) - listing of statistical information in tabular or book form

complaisant (adj) - eager to please, wanting to comply

complaisance (n) - (antiquated spelling, but appears on some exams)

compliant (adj) - submissive

conciliatory (adj) - calming, pacifying

concordat (n) - agreement

confer (v) - discuss or compare ideas

conformity (n) - harmony, agreement

conjoin (v) - to connect

connoisseur (n) - astute judge of taste; cultural expert

contentious (adj) - quarrelsome, argumentative

contingent (adj) - dependent on, conditional

contrite (adj) - penitent, regretful

conundrum (n) - puzzle, riddle with a “pun” answer

conventional (adj) - common, accepted, normal

convention (n) - standard

convoluted (adj) - complicated, twisted; questionable

copious (adj) - plentiful

correlate (v) - bring into relation; (n) either of two things implying the other

corroborate (v) - to confirm. corroboration

counterpart (n) - a thing that completes another, things alike

covert (adj) - secret, hidden, implied

craven (adj) - cowardly, abject

credulous (adj) - gullible

culpable (adj) - guilty, responsible

cupidity (n) - greed

curmudgeon (n) - miser; bitter person

curtail (v) - shorten, reduce

cynicism (n) - distrust of people

- D -

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dally (v) - procrastinate

dearth (n) - a lack, scarcity

debacle (n) - disaster; bad plan

debase (v) - reduce in quality or value

debonair (adj) - friendly, aiming to please

declivity (n) - downward slope

debauchery (n) - reckless indulgence

decorum (n) - proper conduct. decorous (adj)

defer (v) - to show respect. deference

deference (n) - courteous regard for another’s wish

deleterious (adj) - harmful

deliberate (v) - consider, ponder

demur (v) - to question; to oppose

deplete (v) - reduce, exhaust

deposition (n) - testimony under oath

depraved (v/adj) - made corrupt, perverted, damaged. depravity (n)

derelict (adj) - abandoned

derision (n) - scorn, ridicule, contempt

derivative (adj) - unoriginal, derived from another source

descant (v) - discuss fully

desiccate (v) - to dehydrate, dry. desiccation (n)

detriment (n) - harm, damage

diatribe (n) - harsh denunciation; rant

didactic (adj) - intended to teach, for educating

diffident (adj) - shy, unsure. diffidence

diffuse (adj) - spread out, wide-ranging; using too many words

dilate (v) - expand

dilatory (adj) - delaying

dilettante (n) - amateur, superficial

disabuse (v) - to set right; to free from error, remove misconception

discernible (adj) - distinguishable, perceivable

disconsolate (adj) - sad

discordant (adj) - conflicting, harsh; dissonant sound

discourse (n) - discussion

discrete (adj) - separate, distinct

discretion (n) - caution; confidential, private manner

disinterested (adj) - unbiased; without self-interest

dismember (v) - cut into small parts

disparage (v) - to slight, to insult

disparate (adj) - distinct, different

dispersion (n) - scattering

disputatious (adj) - argumentative

dissemble (v) - to pretend, to disguise, to mislead

dissipated (adj) - corrupted; scattered

dissipation (n) - frivilous life

dissonant (adj) - jarring; discordant. dissonance (n)

diurnal (adj) - daily

divulge (v) - to disclose

doggerel (n) - trivial verse, bad poetry

dogma (n) - fixed opinion or belief. dogmatic (adj), dogmatism (n)

dogmatic (adj) - opinionated, arbitrary, doctrinal

dubious (adj) - questionable, filled with doubt

duplicity (n) - deceitfulness; conspirator

- E -

ebullience (n) - enthusiasm, lively

eclectic (adj) - unorthodox; varied parts, a mixture

ecstasy (n) - rapture, joy, any overpowering emotion

edify (v) - instruct, correct morally

effete (adj) - worn out, exhausted, barren

efficacy (n) - effectiveness, efficiency. efficacious

effluvium (n) - vapors, odors (plural noun)

effrontery (n) - brazen boldness, presumptuousness

elegy (n) - mournful poem, lamentation

elucidate (v) - explain, enlighten

emollient (adj) - soothing, mollifying

empirical (adj) - measured, factual; experimental results

emulate (v) - to copy, to imitate

encomium (n) - elaborate expression of praise

encompass (v) - surround

encumber (v) - burden

endemic (adj) - localized, regional

enervate (v) - to weaken, to drain, to take vitality from

engender (v) - to create, to produce, to cause

engrossed (adj) - occupied fully

enigma (n) - a puzzle, mystery. enigmatic (adj)

ennui (n) - restlessness, dissatisfaction; result of apathy

ephemeral (adj) - temporary, fleeting, transient

epic (n) - long heroic poem, novel, similar work of art

epitome (n) - perfect example of embodiment

epoch (n) - period of time

equivocal (adj) - ambiguous, intentionally confusing. equivocate (v), equivocation (n)

equivocate (v) - lie, mislead, attempt to conceal the truth

ersatz (n/adj) - substitute; inferior type

erudite (adj) - scholarly, learned. erudition (n)

erudition (n) - high degree of knowledge and learning

esoteric (adj) - understood by few; intended for a minority; trivial

espouse (v) - to support, to advocate; to marry

estheticism (n) - belief in beauty as the basic standard of value in life

eulogy (n) - high praise. eulogize

evanescent (adj) - vanishing; like vapor

exacerbate (v) - to make worse

excoriate (v) - strip raw; censure, denounce

exculpate (v) - to exonerate, to clear

execrable (adj) - very bad

exegesis (n) - explanation, especially of Biblical passages

exhaustive (adj) - thorough, comprehensive

exigent (adj) - urgent, pressing; immediate

exonerate (v) - to clear; to prove innocent

exorbitant (adj) - excessive

expatiate (v) - talk at length

expediency (n) - that which is advisable or practical

explication (n) - detailed explanation

exposition (n) - introduction, background; underlying theme (music)

extemporaneous (adj) - improvised; without preparation

extol (v) - to praise

exuberant (adj) - abundant, excessive

- F -

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fabricate (v) - build, lie

facetious (adj) - playful, humorous; sarcastic

facile (adj) - easily accomplished, ready or fluent, superficial

fallacious (adj) - incorrect, mistaken. fallacy (n)

fancied (adj) - imagined, unreal

fanciful (adj) - whimsical, visionary

fatalism (n) - belief that events are determined by forces beyond one’s control

fatuous (adj) - silly, foolish

fawn (v) - to flatter excessively. fawning

fecund (adj) - fertile. fecundity

feign (v) - to pretend, act, deceive

fervent (adj) - emotional; zealous

fester (v) - ulcerate; rankle. festering (v)

festor (n) - a sore

fetid (adj) - stinking; rotting

filibuster (n) - obstruction; a delay by speech

finesse (n) - delicate skill

flag (v) - to waiver, to decline

flay (v) - to strip off the skin; to criticize without mercy; to rob, cheat; to inflict acute pain or torture

florid (adj) - gaudy, ornate; ruddy, flushed

flout (v) - to show contempt

fluster (v) - confuse

forbear (v) - to refrain; to cease

forbearance (n) - patience

fortuitous (adj) - by fortunate accident

frenetic (adj) - frantic; insane

frieze (n) - decoration

froward (adj) - willful, obstinate; adverse

fulminate (v) - to loudly denounce; to attack

fulsome (adj) - offensively excessive; fawning

furtive (adj) - stealth, covert, surreptitious

fusillade (n/v) - continuous discharge of many weapons; rapid verbal attack. fusilladed (v), fusillading (v)

futile (adj) - useless, hopeless, ineffectual

- G -

gainsay (v) - to speak against, to oppose, to deny

galvanize (v) - stimulate by shock, stir up

gape (v) - open widely

garner (v) - gather, store up

garrulity (n) - talkativeness

garrulous (adj) - talkative, pointlessly wordy

gaunt (adj) - lean and angular, barren

genial (adj) - kindly, jovial; conducive to growth

genre (n) - kind, sort, a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition

germane (adj) - relevant

gerrymander (v) - change voting district lines in order to favor a political party

ghastly (adj) - horrible

gingerly (adv) - very carefully

glib (adj) - superficial; informal

glutinous (adj) - sticky, viscous

goad (v) - urge; irritate

gossamer (adj) - sheer, like cobwebs

gourmand (n) - epicure, person who takes excessive pleasure in food and drink

grandiloquent (adj) - pompous

gratuitous (adj) - given freely, unwarranted, uncalled for

gregarious (adj) - sociable, outgoing, charming

grotesque (adj) - fantastic, comically hideous

guffaw (n) - boisterous laughter

guile (n) - deception. guileless - lacking guile, unable to deceive

gustatory (adj) - affecting the sense of taste

gusto (n) - enjoyment, enthusiasm

- H -

hackneyed (adj) - trite; overused

haggard (adj) - wasted away, gaunt

halcyon (adj) - calm, peaceful

hamper (v) - obstruct

haphazard (adj) - random, by chance

hapless (adj) - unfortunate

harangue (v) - to rant, tirade; to lecture

harping (n) - tiresome dwelling on a subject

harrowing (adj) - agonizing, distressing, traumatic

haughtiness (n) - pride, arrogance

hedonism (n) - devotion to pleasure

hegemony (n) - dominance of one ideology

heretic (n) - person who maintains opinions contrary to the doctrines of the church

hiatus (n) - gap, interruption in duration or continuity, pause

hierarchy (n) - body divided into ranks

hubris (n) - arrogant pride; presumption

hyperbole (n) - exaggeration, overstatement

hypocritical (adj) - pretending to be virtuous, deceiving

hypothetical (adj) - based on assumptions or hypotheses, supposed

- I -

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iconoclastic (adj) - attacking tradition. iconoclast (n)

ideology (n) - system of ideas of a group

idiom (n) - expression whose meaning as a whole differs from the meanings of it’s individual words

idolatrous (adj) - excessive devotion

idyllic (adj) - simple, charming; rustic

ignominious(adj) - deeply disgraceful, shameful

imbroglio (n) - complicated situation

immune (adj) - resistant to, free or exempt from

immutable (adj) unchanging; constant

impervious (adj) - resistant, strong, incapable of being affected

impalpable (adj) - imperceptible, intangible

impassive (adj) - without emotion; controlled

impeccable (adj) - faultless

impecunious (adj) - poor, lacking funds

impediment (n) - hindrance, stumbling block

impermeable (adj) - impervious

imperturbable (adj) - extremely calm, steady

impetuous (adj) - hasty, rash, impulsive; vehement

impinge (v) - infringe, touch, collide with

implacable (adj) - difficult to pacify or soothe, inflexible

implausible (adj) - unlikely, unbelievable

impolitic (adj) - not wise

improvident (adj) - lacking foresight; not planning; not conserving

impudent (adj) - without shame, immodest; rudely bold, insolent; forward

impropriety (n) - improperness, unsuitableness

imprudent (adj) - lacking caution, injudicious

impugn (v) - question, challenge

impunity (n) - immunity (law)

inadvertence (n) - oversight, carelessness

inarticulate (adj) - speechless, producing indistinct speech

inchoate (adj) - unfinished; imperfect, malformed

incipient (adj) - becoming apparent; beginning

incisive (adj) - sharp, pointed; trenchant

incoherence (n) - unintelligibility, lack of logic

incontrovertible (adj) - indisputable, not open to question

incorrigible (adj) - uncorrectable

incredulous (adj) - withholding belief

inculcate (v) - teach

incumbent (adj) - obligatory; currently holding an office

indifferent (adj) - without concern; unbiased

indignant (adj) - moved by anger or scorn

indolence (n) - laziness

indubitably (adv) - beyond a doubt; unquestionably

ineffable (adj) - too great to be described; not to be known

ineluctable (adj) - inevitable

inept (adj) - lacking skill; unsuited ; incompetent

inert (adj) - lethargic, sluggish

inexorable (adj) - unrelenting

inference (n) - conclusion drawn from data

infirmity (n) - weakness

infelicitous (adj) - unfortunate; inappropriate

ingenuous (adj) - artless; unsophisticated; frank, candid

inimical (adj) - harmful, malevolent, damaging

iniquity (n) - injustice; wickedness

injurious (adj) - harmful

innocuous (adj) - harlmess, safe

inordinate (adj) - unrestrained; excessive

inscrutable (adj) - mysterious; impenetrable

insidious (adj) - treacherous; stealthy

insipid (adj) - bland, plain, lacking

insouciant (adj) - indifferent; without concern or care

intractable (adj) - hard to control, unyielding

intransigent (adj) - uncompromising; solid, strong

intrepid (adj) - courageous; steadfast, loyal

inured (adj) - immune; accustomed to misery. inure (v)

invective (n) - abusive speech

inveigh (v) - to speak against, to oppose

inveigle (v) - to seduce; to obtain by deception; to receive by manipulation

interregnum (n) - interval between reigns

interrex (n) - regent; authority, leader

invidious (adj) - causing resentment; enviable

irascible (adj) - easily angered; prone to outbursts

irksome (adj) - repetitious; tedious

- J -

jactation (n) - throwing; boasting

jactitation (n) - falsely posing as married

jaundiced (adj) - jealous, soured on

jejune (adj) - poor; unsatisfying

jetsam (n) - object tossed overboard to lighten a ship

jingoism (n) - extremely aggressive and militant patriotism

juxtapose (v) - place side by side

- K -

kalology (n) - study of beauty

kilter (n) - orderly arrrangement

kindred (adj) - related; similar in nature or character

kinematic (adj) - relating to motion

knavery (n) - untrustworthiness; lack of principles

- L -

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laconic (adj) - using few words, aloof

languid (adj) - weary; sluggish; listless

languish (v) - lose animation; lose strength

lambaste (v) - to scold; to criticize

latency (n) - present but hidden. latent (adj)

laud (v) - to praise. laudable (adj), laudatory (adj)

laudatory (adj) - expressing praise

lecherous (adj) - impure in thought and act, lustful

levity (n) - lack of seriousness; lightness

libertine (n) - a dissolute person; lax in morals

libidinous (adj) - lustful

licentious (adj) - sexually immoral

lieu (n) - instead of

linguistic (adj) - pertaining to language

loquacious (adj) - talkative

lucid (adj) - clear, understood (speech)

lugubrious (adj) - mournful

luminous (adj) - bright; emitting light

lymphatic (adj) - fatty; sluggish

- M -

magnanimity (n) - generosity. magnanimous (adj)

magnate (n) - person of prominence or influence

malaise (n) - uneasiness; vague feeling of ill heath

malevolent (adj) - evil; causing harm

malicious (adj) - hateful; spiteful

malleable (adj) - pliable; easily twisted

manifest (adj) - clearly revealed; fated

marshal (v) - to organize, to gather

martial (adj) - of war

materiel (n) - all things used by an army, weapons

maverick (n) - an independent

meddlesome (adj) - interfering

meditation (n) - reflection; though

melancholy (adj/n) - sadness, gloom

mellifluous (adj) - sweet like/as honey

mendacious (adj) - dishonest. mendacity (n)

mercurial (adj) - unpredictable; violent moods

metamorphosis (n) - change of form

metaphor (n) - implied comparison

meticulous (adj) - organized, careful, precise

miasma (n) - foul-smelling vapor from decay

mien (n) - demeanor; bearing

migratory (adj) - wandering

mimicry (n) - imitation

minatory (adj) - threatening, menacing

misanthrope (n) - person who dislikes humanity. misanthropic (adj)

miscellany (n) - mixture of writing on various subjects

misconstrue (v) - interpret incorrectly; misjudge

misogamy (n) - hatred of marriage

mitigate (v) - to soften, to ease. mitigation

mnemonic (adj) - pertaining to memory

mogul (n) - powerful person

moiety (n) - half; part

mollify (v) - to calm, to reduce

monarchy (n) - government under a single ruler

monotheism (n) - belief in one God

moot (adj) - debatable; controversial; hypothetical

mordant (adj/n) - biting, cutting, sarcastic; acute, burning; corrosive; acid that eats into metal. mordacious

mores (n) - conventions; moral standards

moribund (adj) - near death

morose (adj) - sad, sullen, melancholy

motility (n) - quality of movement; self-propelled

muddle (v) - confuse; mix up

multifarious (adj) - varied; greatly diversified

mundane (adj) - plain, common

munificent (adj) - extremely generous

mutinous (adj) - unruly; rebellious

myriad (v) - very large number

- N -

nadir (n) - lowest point

nascent (adj) - new; developing

nebulous (adj) - vague, cloudy, murky; lacking form

neologism (n) - a new word or usage

neophyte (n) - convert; beginner, novice

nepotism (n) - favoritism to a relative

niggle (v) - spend too much time on minor points

nihilism (n) - philosophy that traditional beliefs are groundless and existence meaningless

noisome (adj) - disgusting; pestilential

nonage (n) - immaturity

nonchalance (n) - indifference; lack of concern

notorious (adj) - outstandingly bad; unfavorably known

novice (n) - beginner

noxious (adj) - harmful, toxic

nugatory (adj) - futile; worthless

- O -

obdurate (adj) - stubborn (person), physically hard or resistant (thing)

obfuscate (v) - to make confusing; to mislead

objurgate (v) - to scold

obliquity (n) - indirectness; deviation from a position

obliterate (v) - destroy completely

obloquy (n) - abuse; disgrace

obscure (adj) - unexplained; humble

obsequious (adj) - fawning, overly attentive

obsolete (adj) - outmoded

obstinate (adj) - stubborn

obstreperous (adj) - boisterous; noisy

obtuse (adj) - imprecise, unclear; dimwitted, ignorant

obviate (v) - to anticipate and prevent, to render pointless

occlude (v) - to shut, block; to absorb, retain. occlusion (n)

odious (adj) - evoking aversion; dislikable, distasteful

olfactory (adj) - concerning the sense of smell

oligarchy (n) - government by a privileged few

omnipotent (adj) - all-powerful

onomatopoeia (n) - words formed in imitation of natural sounds

ontology (n) - science of being; the nature of things

opaque (adj) - solid color; blocking light

opprobrium (n) - contempt, scorn; disgrace

oratorio (n) - dramatic poem set to music

oscillate (v) - swinging motion; rhythmic movement. oscillation (n)

ossify (v) - harden; get stuck, rigid in ideas

ostentatious (adj) - pretentious

oust (v) - expel; drive out

overt (adj) - open to view

overweening (adj) - presumptuous: arrogant

- P -

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I]
[J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R]
[S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

paean (n) - hymn of praise

pacifist (n) - one opposed to force

palatable (adj) - agreeable; pleasing to the taste

palliate (v) - to relieve without curing; to excuse

palpable (adj) - certain; obvious

panegyric (n) - speech of praise

pantomime (n) - acting without dialogue

parable (n) - short, simple story

paradox (n) - seeming contradiction

parody (n) - imitation for ridicule

pastoral (adj) - rural; simple and peaceful

paucity (n) - scarcity; lack

pedagogue (n) - narrow-minded teacher

pedagogy (n) - art of teaching

pedantic (adj) - boring, academic; trying to impress with facts

pedestrian (adj) - uninspired, common; dull, slow

pejorative (adj) - negative in connotation

penchant (n) - strong inclination

penurious (adj) - miserly, thrifty; greedy

penury (n) - poverty, destitution

perennial (adj) - persistent

perfidious (adj) - treacherous; disloyal

perfidy (n) - treachery, disloyalty. perfidious (adj)

perfunctory (adj) - cursory, without care

periphrastic (adj) - wordy. periphrasis (n)

permeable (adj) - penetrable; porous

permeate (v) - to spread; to diffuse itself

pernicious (adj) - harmful, deadly

peroration (n) - conclusion of an oration

perspicacious (adj) - perceptive, discerning; keenly aware

perspicuity (n) - clearness of expression

pertinacious (adj) - obstinate

pertinent (adj) - to the point

peruse (v) - to examine carefully

pervade (v) - to permeate; to spread. pervasive (adj)

petulant (adj) - given to fits; moody

phlegmatic (adj) - calm, sluggish; unemotional

pique (n) : irritation; resentment

pillory (v) - to attack; to ridicule

pine (v) - to yearn, to desire; to languish, to decline

pious (adj) - devout, religious

piquant (adj) - pungent; stimulating

pirate (v) - to illegally reproduce; to use illegally

pith (n) - the central part

pithy (adj) - precise, brief

placate (v) - to pacify, to soothe; to appease

platitude (n) - superficial remark

plauditory (adj) : approving; applauding

plenary (adj) : complete; full

plenitude (n) : abundance; completeness

plethora (n) - a surplus, an abundance

plumb (v) - to explore; to test the depth

plummet (v) - to plunge, to drop

polemic (n) - argument; controversial statement. polemical (adj)

potent (adj) : powerful; persuasive

pragmatic (adj) - practical

prattle (v) - to babble, to ramble

preamble (n) : introductory statement

precipitate (v/adj) - to cause; acting in haste, impulsive

precursor (n) - one that indicates; signal of something to come

predilection (n) - disposition, preference

preen (v) - to primp, to groom

prefatory (adj) : introductory

preposterous (adj) : absurd; ridiculous

prescience (n) - foreknowledge

presumptuous (adj) - overstepping; taking liberties

prevaricate (v) - to lie evasively. prevarication

pristine (adj) - pure, uncorrupted, clean

probity (n) - integrity, honesty

proclivity (n) - predisposition, inclination

prodigal (adj) - reckless, lavish, wasteful, extravagant

prodigious (adj) - abundant; extraordinary

profligate (adj) - reckless, lavish, wasteful, extravagant

profundity (n) - depth of thought, wisdom

profuse (adj) - abundant; extravagant; given generously

prognosticate (v) : predict

proliferate (v) - to grow, to increase swiftly. proliferation (n)

prolific (adj) - productive; producing in abundance

prolix (adj) - wordy, long-winded

promiscuous (adj) : indiscriminate

propensity (n) - inclincation, tendency; penchant

propinquity (n) - nearness; affinity

propitiate (v) - to appease, to sway, to convince

prosaic (adj) - dull, unimaginative

proselyte (n) - a convert, new member

proselytize (v) - to attempt to convert; to preach

puissance (n) - power

pungent (adj) - strong smell or taste

pusillanimous (adj) - cowardly

putrefy (v) - to rot, to decay

- Q -

quaff (v) - to drink; to quench thirst

qualm (n) - misgiving, reservation

quandary (n) - dilemma

querulous (adj) - quarrelsome; prone to complaining

query (n) - question; doubt, reservation

quiescence (n) - stillness, state of rest. quiescent (adj)

quixotic (adj) - impractical; romantic idealism

quorum (n) - number of members necessary to conduct a meeting

quotidian (adj) - commonplace; recurring daily

- R -

ramification (n) - branching out; subdivision

rancorous (adj) - bitter, long-lasting resentment

rapprochement (n) - reconciliation

rarefy (v) - to make pure. rarefied (adj), rarefaction (n)

rebuke (v) - to reprimand; to cast aside

recalcitrant (adj) - defiant; difficult to manage

recapitulate (v) - summarize

recant (v) - to retract

refutation (n) - disproof of opponents arguments

reciprocal (adj) - mutual, shared, exchanged in kind

recondite (adj) - hidden, concealed; obscure

recreant (adj) - crave, cowardly; apostate

redoubtable (adj) - worthy of honor; awe-inspiring

refractory (adj) - unmanageable, difficult; breaking the path (of light)

refulgent (adj) - radiant, shiny, brilliant

refute (v) - to disprove

relegate (v) - to forcibly assign; to demote

reminiscence (n) - recollection

remonstrate (v) - to protest; to argue

remunerative (adj) - compensating; rewarding

renaissance (n) - revival, rebirth, rediscovery. renascence (alt sp)

renege (v) - to fail a commitment; to break a promise

renitent (adj) - resisting pressure

repertoire (n) - list of works of music

reprobate (v/adj/n) - to reject; rejected, depraved; someone rejected by others

reprobation (n) - severe disapproval

reprove (v) - to blame; to rebuke

repudiate (v) - to reject, to ignore authority; to disown

repugnant (adj) - contrary; distateful

rescind (v) - to repeal, to retract

resolute (adj) - unyielding

restive (adj) - restless, uneasy; hard to manage; refusing to move, balky

reticent (adj) - reluctant; quiet, reserved

retrospective (adj) - looking back on the past

reverent (adj) - expressing awe, respectful

rhetoric (n) - study of effective persuasion; skilled language

ribald (adj) - irreverent; indecent

rivet (v) - to fascinate

ruddy (adj) - reddish; blushing

rusticate (v) - to send away, to dismiss; to make a rough surface

- S -

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I]
[J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R]
[S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

sagacious (adj) - shrewed, wise

salacious (adj) - lustful

salubrious (adj) - promoting health

salutary (adj) - tending to improve; beneficial

sanction (n/v) - permission, authorized; a penalty

sanguine (adj) - cheerful; hopeful

sapient (adj) - wise; shrewd

satiate (v) - to feed fully; satisfy fully; to disgust with too much; glut, cloy

satire (n) - literary ridicule of a vice. satiric (adj)

saturnine (adj) - gloomy; sluggish

savor (n/v) - the teaste of; to enjoy

scupper (v) - to sink intentionally, damage in a way that dooms

scurrilous (adj) - vulgar; coarse

sedulous (adj) - diligent, persistent

sequester (v) - isolate; retire from public life

serendipity (n) - gift for finding valuable or desirable things

servile (adj) - yielding through fear; lack of spirit; politically enslaved

shibboleth (n) - word or pronunciation used by one group but not by another

sinuous (adj) - curving, winding

sobriety (n) - moderation

solicitous (adj) - concerned, attentive; eager

soporific (adj) - inducing sleep, causing drowsiness; boring

sordid (adj) - dirty, filthy, foul

sparse (adj) - thin, loose; few, small amount

specious (adj) - showy, false. speciousness (n)

spendthrift (n) - a wasteful person

sporadic (adj) - occasionally, scattered, random

spurious (adj) - counterfeit, flase, invalid

squalid (adj) - dirty from neglect; sordid

static (adj) - still, motionless

sterile (adj) - barren, empty

stoic (adj) - unmoved by emotion; extreme self-control

stultify (v) - to render useless; to make absurd

stupefy (v) - to stun, to baffle, to amaze

stymie (v) - to block, to prevent

subaltern (n) - subordinate

subjugate (v) - to conquer

subtle (adj) - not obvious, elusive

succinct (adj) - brief, concise

sullen (adj) - resentful; dismal

superfluous (adj) - extra, excessive

supercilious (adj) - arrogant; patronizing

supplant (v) - to supersede, to replace

suppress (v) - crush, subdue, inhibit

suppurating (v) - festering, ulcering. suppurate (v), supperation (n)

surfeit (n/v) - excess, overindulgence; to extreme; satiate; stuff

surreptitious (adj) - done secretly; stealth

synthesis (n) - combining of parts; a merging

- T -

tacit (adj) - implied quietly; existing out of custom

taciturn (adj) - silent; not fond of talking

tantamount (adj) - equivalent in effect or value

taut (adj) - tight, tense

tautological (adj) - needlessly repetitious

temerity (n) - rashness, foolhardy. temerarious (adj)

tenacity (n) - adherence, persistence

tenuous (adj) - without substance, weak, flimsy

terse (adj) - brief, concise

timbre (n) - distinct sound

timorous (adj) - cowardly; shy, timid

tirade (n) - denunciation; extremely critical speech

torpid (adj) - lethargic, sluggish, dormant

torque (n) - force, causing rotation

tortuous (adj) - winding, twisting, complicated

tout (v) - to praise

tractable (adj) - obedient, yielding, compliant, easy to control

transgression (n) - violation of a law; sin

transient (adj) - fleeting, brief, passing quickly. transitory (adj)

transmute (v) - change

trenchant (adj) - perceptive, keen, penetrating; forceful and vigorous

trepidation (n) - state of alarm; shaking from fear

trite (adj) - overused, common

truculent (adj) - fierce, cruel; eager to fight

turbid (adj) - muddy; thick

turgid (adj) - pompous, bombastic; inflated

turpitude (n) - depravity, baseness

tutelary (adj) - protective

tyro (n) - beginner, novice

- U -

ubiquitous (adj) - everywhere, widespread

ulterior (adj) - unstated; hidden

unconscionable (adj) - unscrupulous

unfaltering (adj) - steadfast

unfeigned (adj) - genuine

unfettered (adj) - free, unrestrained

unfledged (adj) - immature

uniformity (n) - sameness; consistency

unprecedented (adj) - novel

untenable (adj) - indefensible; uninhabitable

untoward (adj) - inconvenient

urbane (adj) - sophisticated, refined, cultured

usurpation (n) - act of seizing power and rank of another

- V -

vacillate (v) - to waver; to be undecided

vacuous (adj) - vacant; mindless

vainglorious (adj) - boastful

variegated (adj) - multicolored; various patches

vapid (adj) - dull and unimaginative, lacking energy

vehement (adj) - forceful

venerate (v) - to respect. veneration (n)

veracity (n) - truthfulness, honesty

verbose (adj) - wordy

vernacular (n) - living language

vex (v) - to annoy, to irritate. vexation (n)

viable (adj) - practical or workable

vigilant (adj) - alert, watchful

vilify (v) - to defame

vindicate (v) - clear from blame

vindictive (adj) - vengeful, spiteful

virulent (adj) - poisonous; harmful

viscous (adj) - thick, sticky

vitiate (v) - to deprive; to weaken

vituperate (v) - to abuse, to berate

volatile (adj) - fickle; explosive; quickly vaporizing

volition (n) - act of making a conscious choice

voluptuous (adj) - suggesting sensual delights

vulnerable (adj) - susceptible to wounds

voracious (adj) - ravenous; insatiable need to pursue

- W -

wane (v) - decrease in size or strength

wangle (v) - bring about by manipulation

welter (n/v) - turmoil; to roll, to tumble

wheedle (v) - to influence, to entice with flattery

whet (v) - sharpen; stimulate

winnow (v) - to blow free; to separate

winsome (adj) - agreeable; gracious

- X -

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I]
[J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R]
[S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

xanthic (adj) - yellowing

xenophobia (n) - fear and hatred of anything foreign

xenophobe (n) - one afraid of strangers

xyloid (adj) - like wood

- Y -

yammer (v) - to talk with a sad tone

yoke (v) - join together, unite

- Z -

zealot (n) - fanatic

zealous (adj) - ardent, impassioned, fervent

zymotic (adj) - of fermentation; caused by disease


Many of these words were culled from ACT, GRE, and SAT study guides.

New Oxford American Dictionary, digital edition.


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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 21-Oct-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach