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Manhattan Prep 1000 GRE Words: Usage

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abate
Her stress over spending so much money on a house abated when the real estate broker told her about the property's 15-year tax abatement.
abdicate
King Edward VIII of England famously abdicated the throne in order to marry an American divorcée. / Parents can be charged with neglect for abdicating their responsibilities towards their children.
aberrant
The teen's aberrant behavior made his family suspect that he was using drugs. / Losing rather than gaining weight over the holidays is certainly an aberration.
abhor
"Go out with you?" she replied. "I abhor you! I would rather stab myself with a rusty bread knife than be your girlfriend!"
abjure
To become a citizen of the United States, you must abjure loyalty to the nation of your birth. / Since enrolling in that nutrition class, she has abjured sugar and saturated fats.
abrasive
Could the inside of this mascot costume be any more abrasive? It's rubbing my skin raw! I have some seriously abrasive remarks for whoever designed this thing.
abridge
Our romantic vacation was abridged when the babysitter called to say that the kids were sick and we should come home. / Audio books are almost always abridged, since few people want to listen to a 200-hour book.
abstain
The church board voted on whether to hold an abstinence rally to encourage young people not to become sexually active; while most members voted in favor, one voted against and two abstained, with one abstainer commenting that, as far as she knew, the church's teens were pretty abstemious already.
acme
The acme of my vacation was when I finally climbed to the acme of the mountain and enjoyed the gorgeous vista.
activism
Lindsay's parents had a hard time accepting that, after incurring $100,000 in student loans, their daughter had decided to enter the low-paying field of environmental activism.
adhere
I have a message board that adheres to my refrigerator with magnets; on it, I've written some affirmations to help me adhere to my diet plan.
admonish
She was an exacting boss who upbraided an employee for jamming the copier, yet she merely admonished her five-year-old for the same offense.
adverse
Pioneer women persevered despite adverse circumstances, even when fording a river—baby in one arm, leading a horse with the other—against an adverse current.
advocate
I cannot possibly vote for a candidate who advocates oil drilling in federally protected nature preserves. / Children often have advocates appointed to represent them in court.
aesthetic
The twins were so different—one possessed a truly baroque aesthetic, preferring golden, gilded decor. The other lived in a world of pure logic, untouched by any aesthetic sense whatsoever; art did not move him, his house was bare, and he married his wife solely because she was a master of calculus.
affable
The professional wrestler played at belligerence in the ring, but in real life, he was quite an affable fellow—sociable, easy-going, and always ready to lend a hand.
affectation
I'm annoyed whenever Americans move to England and suddenly start speaking with an affected British accent; such affectations, when practiced by celebrities, are only likely to alienate their fans.
aggrandize
I can't stand when my coworker aggrandizes her role in our group projects. / Stop it with your constant self-aggrandizing—we don't care how many automobiles you own!
aggregate
While some of the company's divisions did better than others, in aggregate, we made a profit. / Concrete is created when crushed rock or glass is aggregated with cement; in aggregate, concrete is stronger than cement alone.
alacrity
Any boss wants an employee to respond with alacrity to his or her requests, handling them promptly and with enthusiasm.
alienate
The talk-show host was trying to help, but only alienated her viewers when she suggested that they cope with a tough economy by checking themselves into a spa.
alleviate
The stimulus package has alleviated the pangs of the Great Recession, but times are still tough.
ambiguous
The meaning of this ancient text is ambiguous—either we are missing some cultural context, or else the writer actually wanted to be mysterious.
ambivalent
I've been accepted to two amazing graduate programs, one inexpensive and close to home, and one in a big, exciting city. I'm ambivalent—I don't know how I'm going to decide. / When I asked you if you thought we'd get married some day, your ambivalence hurt my feelings.
analogous
In the U.S., whenever opponents of a war want to suggest that the war is unwinnable, they point out all the ways in which the war is analogous to the Vietnam War.
anarchy
Once the dictator was assassinated, the country fell into total anarchy, as none of the opposition groups were strong enough to seize power.
anoint
After Principal Smitters raised test scores over 60% at her school, it was only a matter of time before she was anointed superintendent by a fawning school board.
anomaly
While the cosmetics division of this company has many female executives, it is an anomaly—in the rest of the company, sadly, only 4% of management positions are filled by women.
antagonize
"Josie! Stop antagonizing your little brother! Give him back that firetruck and tell him you're sorry for pulling his hair!"
apathy
Many parents of teenagers are concerned by their indolent teens' apathy about the future. Few teens are totally apathetic, however—many get quite excited about video games, flirting, or trips to the mall.
apocryphal
I'm sorry, but this putative letter from George Washington that you found at a garage sale is clearly apocryphal—it is riddled with anachronisms (for instance, Washington was long dead by the time silent films were invented), and also, Washington most certainly didn't refer to Martha Washington as "hey baby."
arcane
To win at Jeopardy, you must be full of arcane knowledge. / The wizard's shop was full of arcana, from Latin-to-Ancient Greek dictionaries to entire books on magic spells relating only to elephants.
archaic
The school's archaic computer system predated even floppy disks—it stored records on tape drives! / Sometimes, when you look a word up in the dictionary, certain definitions are marked "archaic"—unless you are a Shakespeare scholar, you can safely ignore those archaisms.
arduous
The arduous hike up rocky terrain was all worth it once the hikers reached the summit. / It was an arduous winter on the prairie; the family barely survived.
articulate
She's so articulate that I'm sure she'll make a good lawyer. / The group voted on who would be the best spokesperson, able to articulate their needs to the panel.
artifact
The archaeologists dug up countless artifacts, from simple pottery shards and coins to complex written tablets. / The girl's room was full of the artifacts of modern teenage life: Justin Bieber posters, Twilight books, and a laptop open to Facebook.
artless
Children can be so artless that, when you try to explain war to them, they say things like, "But isn't that mean?"/ His artless attempt at negotiating a raise began with "I need more money, please" and ended with "Okay, sorry I asked."
ascertain
Hopefully, the investigation will allow us to ascertain who is at fault here.
ascetic
Ascetics such as monks actually take vows of poverty. / The graduate student lived an ascetic existence, her apartment containing only a futon couch and a single bowl and set of chopsticks, which she used to eat ramen noodles every night.
assuage
After losing a million-dollar account, he tried to assuage his furious boss by pointing out that he was close to winning a new account worth at least as much.
audacious
He audaciously asked for a raise after working at the company for less than two months!
augment
If you memorize the definitions on all of these flashcards, you will have notably augmented your vocabulary!
austere
Her design sense was so minimalist as to be austere; all-white walls, hard, wooden furniture, not a single picture, throw pillow, or cozy comfort anywhere. / The graduation speaker delivered an austere message: the economy is bad, and academic success alone isn't enough to succeed in the job market.
autonomous
As leader of an autonomous region, the newly-elected president was received as a peer by some world leaders, although he was not entitled to send a representative to the United Nations. / It is normal for young people to desire greater autonomy as they grow up.
aver
"Despite your insistence that ethics are completely situational," said the philosophy professor, "I aver that the existence of natural rights inevitably leads to certain immutable ethical boundaries."
avid
An avid cyclist, she was on her bike every weekend, and even bought the same bike that Lance Armstrong last used in the Tour de France. / Avid of power, the young Senator compromised every principle to gain the support—and money—of large corporations.
balk
At the company retreat, he reluctantly agreed to participate in the ropes course, but balked at walking over hot coals as a "trust exercise."
base
His philanthropy was underlied by truly base motives—he not only craved the fawning publicity his donations brought, but he was actually funneling drug money through the Children's Defense Fund! / The supposed "gold bricks" were really base metals covered in a very thin layer of real gold.
belie
The actress's public persona as a perky "girl next door" belied her private penchant for abusing her assistants and demanding that her trailer be filled with ridiculous luxury goods. / The data belie the accepted theory—either we've made a mistake, or we have an amazing new discovery on our hands!
benign
He was relieved when the biopsy results came back, informing him that the growth was benign. / He's a benign fellow. I'm sure having him assigned to your team at work will be perfectly pleasant, without changing the way you do things.
bogus
The back of this bodybuilding magazine is just full of ads for bogus products—this one promises 22-inch biceps just from wearing magnetic armbands!
bolster
The general requested reinforcements to bolster the defensive line set up at the border. / Many people use alcohol to bolster their confidence before approaching an attractive person in a bar.
boor
Milton was such a boor that, when Jane brought him home to meet her parents, he laughed at their garden gnome and made fun of everyone's hairstyles in old family photos. "Don't be so boorish!" said his mortified girlfriend.
buffer
During the colonial era, England wanted Georgia as a buffer between its original colonies and Spanish Florida. / A railroad car has a buffer (similar to a bumper on a car) to absorb shock in case of contact with other cars. / When Joel came out to his family, he used his mother as a buffer—he knew she would be supportive, so he allowed her to relay the news to everyone else, and to relay their responses back to him.
bureaucracy
Some nations have a worse reputation for bureaucracy than others—in order to get a visa, he had to file papers with four different agencies, wait for hours in three different waiting rooms, and, weeks later, follow up with some petty bureaucrat who complained that the original application should've been filed in triplicate.
burgeon
The dictator was concerned about the people's burgeoning discontent and redoubled his personal security. / Spending an hour a day on vocabulary studies will soon cause your lexicon to burgeon.
buttress
A self-defense class really helped to buttress Elaine's confidence. / David used his Ph.D. as a buttress against criticism. "I have a doctorate," he would say. "I just don't think you can understand."
bygone
At the nursing home, the time to reminisce about bygone days was pretty much all the time. / It's tempting to spend our whole high school reunion talking about bygones, but instead, let's toast to the future!
cacophony
The first day of elementary school marching band practice was nothing but cacophony, as students who hadn't learned to play their instruments at all nevertheless banged on or puffed air into them.
candid
Allow me to be candid: you do look rather portly in those pants, and I think you should wear something else. / You have been really secretive about where you've been going after work; we could use a little more candor in this relationship.
canonical
School boards often start controversies when replacing canonical books in the curriculum with modern literature; while many people think students should read works more relevant to their lives, others point out that Moby Dick is part of the canon for a reason.
capricious
The headmaster's punishments were capricious—break the rules one day, you get a warning; break them another day, you get expelled. / Who needs a plan? A date is more fun with a little caprice—let's just start driving and see what we find!
cartography
The invention of better navigation tools had major effects on cartography—the more ships knew precisely where they were sailing, the better the world could be mapped.
castigate
At the grocery store, the mother attracted stares when she castigated—rather than merely admonished—her child for throwing a box of instant oatmeal.
catalyst
The young manager was a catalyst at the stodgy old company—once he introduced employee laptops, telecommuting, and mobile workstations, even the most conventional of employees totally changed the way they worked. / Reaching 500 pounds on the scale was a catalyst for Marcus to really change his lifestyle.
caustic
Wait, those chemicals are caustic! You need safety gloves and goggles before performing this experiment, or else you risk not only getting your skin burned off, but also some seriously caustic remarks from our chemistry teacher.
censure
The senator was censured by the Senate for campaign fund improprieties—in fact, he narrowly avoided being expelled from office.
chauvinism
He's such a chauvinist that he denies that any other nation could be better than ours at anything—he insists our wine is better than France's, our ski slopes are better than Norway's, and even that we grow more rice than China! Absurd.
chronological
Joey, I'm afraid you've done the assignment wrong—the point of making a timeline is to put the information in chronological order. You've made an alphabetical-order-line instead!
clamor
As soon as a scent of scandal emerged, the press was clamoring for details. / The mayor couldn't even make herself heard over the clamor of the protestors.
clinch
When their best player was benched, the team fell behind, but once he was allowed back in the game, the team was able to clinch the win. / These two pieces have been clinched together with a clamp while the glue dries.
coalesce
While at first everyone on the team was jockeying for power and recognition, eventually, the group coalesced and everyone was happy to share credit for a job well-done. / East and West Germany coalesced into a single country in 1990.
cogent
Studying logic is an excellent way to improve at formulating cogent arguments. / Nurses who work in the Alzheimer's ward must develop skills for communicating with people who are often not cogent.
commensurate
According to the course catalog, you may take Advanced Japanese following Japanese III or commensurate experience with the language.
complacent
The coach gave a pep talk: "I know we've never won a championship before, but we do have an advantage over the six-time state champions we're about to play—they have grown complacent with their success, and now they just assume they'll win without having to sweat."
complementary
"That scarf really complements your outfit," said Elle. "Thanks for the compliment," said Danica. / The couple had complementary personalities—when Mark got overwhelmed with the details, Lee took care of everything, and when Lee got too introspective, Mark cheered him up with an insatiable zest for life.
compliant
Those who are not compliant with the regulations will be put on probation and possibly expelled. / A compliant child, he never gave his parents any trouble.
concede
The negotiations were pointless, with each side's representatives instructed by their home countries to make no concessions whatsoever. / Quebec was a French concession to Britain in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. / I suppose I will have to concede the argument now that you've looked up evidence on Wikipedia.
conciliatory
The hotel manager was horrified at how the guest had been treated, and approached him in a conciliatory manner, offering him numerous freebies and apologizing repeatedly.
concur
John Locke wrote that justice is based on the social contract, and I concur—in fact, my latest book is all about contractual justice.
condone
While underage drinking is illegal, at many universities, it is tacitly condoned by administrations that neglect to enforce antidrinking policies.
confer
A Ph.D. confers upon a person the right to be addressed as "Doctor" as well as eligibility to pursue a tenure-track professorship. / Excuse me for a moment to make a call—I can't buy this car until I confer with my spouse.
connoisseur
A chocolate connoisseur, Mom eschews grocery store brands and will only eat 80% -cocoa-or-higher artisanal chocolate that is less than a week old.
console
I was unable to console Tina after she fell asleep at the console of her airplane and thereby failed her pilot's exam.
consolidate
She consolidated her student loans so she would only have to make one payment per month. / As group leader, Muriel will consolidate all of our research into a single report.
constrict
The children strongly disliked being gussied up in constrictive clothing for a formal wedding. / Tourism is now allowed in North Korea, but tourists must stay with official tour groups, and their movements are heavily constricted.
construe
I don't know how you construed my comment as an insult. All I said was, "Wow, I never knew you could sing."
contentious
The death penalty is a contentious issue. / My uncle is so contentious that every attempt I made to introduce an uncontroversial topic met with failure—he ranted and raved about the weather, trees, math, and my daughter's enjoyment of oatmeal.
contextualize
Virginia Woolf's feminism is hard to truly understand unless contextualized within the mores of the highly restrained, upper-class English society of her time.
conundrum
A classic conundrum is "What's black and white and red all over?" The answer, of course, is a newspaper. / How to count the entire population accurately—including those without fixed addresses—is a bit of a conundrum.
converge
I know we're driving to the wedding from different states, but our routes ought to converge when each of us hits I-95—maybe we could converge at a Cracker Barrel for lunch!
conversant
For an opera singer, she is unusually conversant in physics—she just explained to everyone the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider.
conversely
I am not here to argue that lack of education causes poverty. Conversely, I am here to argue that poverty causes lack of education.
convoluted
Your argument is so convoluted that I'm not even able to understand it enough to start critiquing it. / To get from the hotel room to the pool requires following a convoluted path up two staircases and down two others—to get to someplace on the same floor we started on!
copious
Although she took copious notes in class, she found that she was missing a big picture that would have tied all the information together. / The fertile, copious land yielded a rich harvest.
corroborate
You're telling me you were 30 miles away riding a roller coaster when the school was vandalized? I have a hard time believing that—is there anyone who can corroborate your story?
cosmopolitan
Trapped in a small town, he dreamed of a more cosmopolitan existence filled with world travel, exotic cuisine, and scintillating parties where he would meet famous authors and other cosmopolites.
countenance
Her countenance said it all—the look on her face was pure terror. / I saw you cheating off my paper, and I can't countenance cheating—either you turn yourself in or I'll report you.
counterintuitive
Although it seems counterintuitive, for some extreme dieters, eating more can actually help them to lose weight, since the body is reassured that it is not facing a period of prolonged starvation.
counterpoint
The play's lighthearted, witty narrator provides a welcome counterpoint to the seriousness and grief expressed by the other characters. / The hot peppers work in counterpoint to an otherwise sweet dish.
counterproductive
The candidate's attempt to win swing votes in Ohio was actually counterproductive—following his speech in Toledo, his poll numbers actually went down 5%.
covert
The soldier trained to be part of covert operations, moving silently and remaining out of the enemy's sight.
crafty
A crafty play in basketball is the "head-fake"—moving the head in one direction slightly prior to running in the other direction, to try to get a tiny head start on a disoriented pursuer.
craven
The nervous soldier feared he would turn craven in his first firefight, but he actually acted quite bravely.
credibility
Many famous "experts" with "Dr." before their names are not medical doctors at all. Any television "doctor" who turns out to have a Ph.D. in botany, for instance, ought to suffer a serious drop in credibility.
credulous
"Did you know you can wash your ears by turning your head on its side in the shower and letting the water run straight through your head?" said the father to his five-year-old daughter. "I'll try that!" said the credulous little girl.
crescendo
Mrs. Higgins did love the symphony, but she was also coming down with a migraine—by the time the music reached its towering crescendo, her head was pounding. / The administration tried to ignore the protest, but finally had to address the issue when the demonstration reached a crescendo.
culminate
A Ph.D. program generally culminates in a written dissertation and its defense to a committee.
cynical
Shilpa was so cynical that even when her friends threw her a surprise party, she figured that they only did it so they wouldn't feel so guilty about all the mean things they must be saying behind her back.
daunt
Amazingly undaunted after his accident, Devon vowed to complete a marathon in his wheelchair. Not even a dented rim on mile 19 could daunt him—he dauntlessly completed the race anyway.
debase
You have debased yourself by accepting bribes. / Members of the mainstream church argued that the fringe sect was practicing a debased version of the religion, twisting around its precepts and missing the point. / I can tell from the weight that this isn't pure gold, but rather some debased mixed metal.
debunk
Galileo spent his last years under house arrest for debunking the widely held idea that the Sun revolved around the Earth. / The show MythBusters debunks pseudoscientific claims.
decorous
Miss Etiquette writes an advice column about decorum. One writer asked, "What's the most decorous way to tell guests exactly what I want for my wedding?" Miss Etiquette replied, "Young lady, there is no decorous way to solicit gifts, and even asking that question is entirely indecorous of you."
deem
"You can take the black belt exam when I deem you ready, and not a moment before," said the karate instructor.
deface
Ernest was charged with three counts of vandalism after being caught defacing a row of townhouses with spraypaint.
default
The government is cracking down on for-profit colleges where a large percentage of the graduates cannot use their degrees to gain employment and end up defaulting on their student loans. / You must elect a new health plan by December 31st or by default you will be re-enrolled in the plan you selected last year.
deference
In many cultures, young people are expected to show deference to older people at all times. / I'm not an expert in databases—I'll defer to our programmers on that decision. / Ingrid deferred her college admissions for a year so she could travel the world.
deflect
The purpose of a shield is to deflect arrows or bullets from an enemy./ Every time he was asked a difficult question, Senator Warrington deflected by changing the topic, saying he'd answer later, or even—insincerely, it seemed—calling for a moment of prayer.
deleterious
The Resident Assistant told the first-year students, "I think you will find not only that drugs are illegal and will result in expulsion, but also that drug abuse will have a deleterious effect on anyone's grades."
delineate
I do need the cash, but I'm not signing up for this psychological experiment unless you delineate what's going to happen.
denigrate
Many jokes in the Meet the Parents trilogy come from Robert De Niro's character denigrating Ben Stiller's character for being a male nurse.
denote
The company's brand denotes quality; the marketing team has done a fantastic job of associating the company's image with fine service. / There's nothing in the denotation of "crotchety" (grumpy, having strong and irrational preferences) that indicates any particular group of people, but due to the expression "crotchety old man," the word connotes, for many people, an image of an especially unpleasant male senior citizen.
deride
The manager really thought that deriding his employees as "stupid" or "lazy" would motivate them to work harder; instead, it motivated them to constantly hide his office supplies as an act of revenge.
derivative
The singer's first album was a disappointment, derivative of several hit albums from the previous year, as though a management team had simply picked out the elements from other popular songs that they thought would make the most money.
desiccate
The key to maintaining odor-free shoes is to desiccate the insole by placing a drying agent, such as a small pouch of baking soda, inside the shoe between wears. / Beef jerky is a desiccated meat product.
detached
He found her detached demeanor inappropriate for a funeral. It's fine to politely ask how someone died, but it's not appropriate to coldly question a relative on the medical history of the deceased. / The divorce proceeding was full of anger and recriminations, but the judge was able to make a detached decision.
deterrent
Some argue that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime—that is, the point is not just to punish the guilty, but to frighten other prospective criminals.
diatribe
I'd stay out of the living room for a while—Grandpa's on another one of his diatribes about how it's un-American to call a large coffee a "venti." You can hear him ranting from here!
didactic
She might have been Teacher of the Year at work, but at home, her husband wished she would turn off her didactic personality. "Honey," he said, "I really don't need you to use everything as a learning opportunity." / The child was disappointed when the storybook turned didactic in the end, with the teddy bears—and the reader—being admonished never to lie.
digress
Grandpa digressed quite a bit while you were in the kitchen—he was telling us an old war story, but somehow now he's ranting about how nobody celebrates Arbor Day anymore. That digression could take awhile.
din
This hotel was described as "near all the hot spots," but I didn't realize that I wouldn't be able to sleep due to the all-night din from partygoers.
disabuse
Do you really believe that toilets flush one way in the Northern hemisphere and another way in the Southern? Any physicist would be happy to disabuse you of that silly notion.
discerning
In an age in which we are bombarded with advertising, it's important to be a discerning consumer. For instance, the term "all natural" is not federally regulated and doesn't have to mean anything at all, so a smart shopper still reads ingredients.
discredit
Congresswoman Huffman's opponent tried to use her friendship with a certain radical extremist to discredit her, even though the congresswoman hadn't seen this so-called extremist since sixth grade summer camp.
discrepancy
When there is a discrepancy between a store's receipts and the amount of money in the register, the cashier's behavior is generally called into question.
discriminating
He is a man of discriminating tastes—all his suits are handmade in Italy, and I once saw him send back an entree when he complained that black truffle oil had been substituted for white. The chef was astounded. / You can tell a real Prada bag by the discriminating mark on the inside.
disingenuous
Christine used the fact that her mother spoke limited English as an opportunity to be disingenuous. When her mother asked, "Will there be boys at this sleepover?" she replied "There won't not be boys there!"
disinterested
Let's settle this argument once and for all! We'll get a disinterested observer to judge who can sing the highest note!
disjointed
The novel seemed disjointed, as though whole chunks of it were missing, or as though the author had tried to stitch together drafts of several different stories. / To begin the recipe, you'll need a whole chicken that has been disjointed.
dismiss
"Before I dismiss class," said the teacher, "I want to remind you of the importance of dismissing biases in your research by ruling out or adjusting for factors other than the variable you are testing that may have led to your results."
dispassionate
The defendant tearfully described how much her young child needed her at home, but the judge, who dispassionately sentenced her to 10 years for selling drugs, was unmoved.
dispatch
So, you want to be a bike messenger? I need messengers who approach every delivery with alacrity, care, and dispatch—if the customers wanted their packages to arrive slowly, they'd use the post office. / Acting with all possible dispatch, emergency services dispatched a rescue squad to the scene.
disperse
Because the demonstrators didn't have a permit, the police showed up with megaphones, demanding loudly that the crowd disperse. / Get the hose so I can disperse the dirt on our driveway.
disposition
She was possessed of a kind and helpful disposition—she wouldn't just help you move, she'd bring home-baked muffins to the affair. / I could really use some help in the kitchen, if you are so disposed.
disquieting
Mr. Peters' lack of emotion at his wife's death was disquieting—so much so, in fact, that even his own family began to suspect he'd had something to do with it. / He was deeply disquieted by the racism he encountered in his new neighborhood.
disseminate
Many plants use attractive fruits to disseminate their seeds—animals eat the fruit and excrete the seeds, allowing new plants to grow. / In the 1760s, revolutionary ideas were disseminated via pamphlets such as Thomas Paine's "Common Sense."
dissent
Judge Antonin Scalia cast the only dissenting vote, explaining in his written decision why he thought all the other justices had it wrong. / Not every country has a right to free speech (and thus to dissent), although nations that throw dissenters in jail are condemned by the international community at large.
dissonance
After allowing her sixth-grader's heavy metal band to practice in her living room, Mrs. Rosen decided she'd better get used to dissonance.
distill
While traveling in certain countries, it is important to only drink distilled water so you don't get sick. / Bob, it's not necessary to read your entire PowerPoint presentation to us—can you just distill it down to the main point?
diverge
Go five miles until the old post office, then the road diverges—you want the branch that winds off to the left. / The high school sweethearts found that their paths diverged when they were accepted to different colleges.
divest
When she found out that the most profitable stock in her portfolio was that of a company that tested products on animals, she immediately divested by telling her broker to sell the stock. / Once his deception was exposed, he was divested of his position on the Board.
divine
I've been poring over these quarterly reports all day, trying to divine whether I should buy or sell this stock.
document
Journalists embedded with military units are able to document a war as it happens. / It's hard to deny her conclusion when her book is so well documented—she cites a relevant scientific study on practically every page.
dogma
It is part of the dogma of modern education that there are multiple intelligences that are equally valuable; try to suggest that some people just aren't that smart, and you'll find yourself a pariah. / Dogmatic people will never change their minds, even in the face of evidence.
dormant
Some famous writers' skills have lain dormant until quite late in life; Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't publish Little House on the Prairie until she was 65.
dubious
This applicant's resume is filled with dubious qualifications—this is a marketing position, and this resume is mostly about whitewater rafting.
e.g.
He was positively traumatized by the romantic comedies his girlfriend made him watch (e.g., He's Just Not That into You).
eccentric
The old woman was harmless but eccentric—not many senior citizens wear a train conductor's uniform and carry a boom box. / The eccentricity of a planet's orbit is the amount by which it deviates from a perfect circle; in general, comets are far more eccentric than known planets.
eclectic
Eclectic taste is helpful in being a DJ—crowds love to hear the latest hip-hop mixed with '80s classics and other unexpected genres of music. / The restaurant features an eclectic menu—if you don't like artisanal pasta or steak frites, try the chow mein!
eclipse
During a solar eclipse, the moon eclipses the Sun. / Billy Ray Cyrus, who had a hit song, "Achy Breaky Heart," in the '90s, has long since found his fame eclipsed by that of his daughter, Miley.
efficacy
Extensive trials will be necessary to determine whether the drug's efficacy outweighs the side effects. / I am having trouble cutting my steak with this butter knife; I'm going to ask the waiter for a more efficacious implement.
egalitarian
After moving to a more liberal part of the country, the couple was pleased to have neighbors who shared their views of egalitarian marriage—for instance, men and women could be found in equal proportions downshifting to part-time work to make time for childcare.
egregious
Your conduct is an egregious violation of our Honor Code—not only did you steal your roommate's paper off his computer and turn it in as your own, you also sold his work to a plagiarism website so other cheaters could purchase it!
elated
I am elated that you flew my twin brother in from Australia to surprise me at my birthday party!
elevate
After a year getting coffee and making copies, he hoped to be promoted to a more elevated position suitable for a law school graduate. / Our goal here at Morality Publishing is not just to sell books, but to elevate our readers.
elicit
The touchdown elicited wild cheers from the crowd. / While the death of Ellen's elderly cat was indeed sad, Ellen's constant, mournful looks whenever anyone mentioned any animal at all were nothing but a play to elicit sympathy.
eloquent
Wow, he's such an eloquent speaker, he could sell snow to Antarcticans! / When Mom suggested that everyone might enjoy a museum instead of the beach, she was met with the children's eloquent looks of disgust.
embellish
Every time she tells that story, she embellishes it quite a bit—at first, she was lost in the woods, and then she was found. The part with the grizzly bear was added later. / The Christmas sweater was embellished with festive jingle bells!
eminent
The undergraduate shocked everyone by asking the eminent old professor, "Really? What makes you such an expert?" / "Your Eminence!" said the bishop to the Pope, "Don't forget this copy of your speech!"
empirical
The Ancient Greeks philosophized about the nature of matter (concluding, for instance, that everything was made of earth, water, air, and fire) without any empirical evidence—that is, the very idea of conducting experiments hadn't been invented yet. / People always knew empirically that when something is dropped, it falls to the ground; the theory of gravity later explained why.
emulate
The ardent Star Trek fan emulated Captain Kirk in every way possible—his brash and confident leadership might have gotten him somewhere, but the women he tried to impress weren't so impressed.
enervate
After taking the SAT in the morning and playing in a soccer game in the afternoon, Trina was truly enervated before the prom even began. "You dance like a grandmother with osteoporosis," said her date.
enhance
The cosmetics industry stays in business because so many people want to enhance their appearances.
enigma
The enormous rock sculptures in Stonehenge are truly an enigma—were they created as part of a religious observance, or in deference to a great ruler? We may never know.
entitlement
Many bosses complain about young people's sense of entitlement—raised on a steady diet of praise from parents and teachers, these young people are shocked to be expected to "pay their dues" at a new job.
enumerate
The Bill of Rights enumerates the basic rights held by every citizen of the United States. / I don't have time to enumerate all the steps involved in baking a cake—just find a recipe on the internet!
ephemeral
"Thank you for this jacket that says 'Eugene's Girl,'" said Marie, "but I fear that your love will prove to be ephemeral—over the last two years, I've seen four other girls in school with the same jacket. Do you buy them in six-packs?"
equitable
As the university president was heavily biased towards the sciences, faculty in the liberal arts felt they had to fight to get an equitable share of funding for their departments.
erratic
When someone engages in erratic behavior, family members often suspect drug use or mental illness. However, sometimes the person is just building a top-secret invention in the garage!
erroneous
Hilda was completely unable to assemble her new desk chair after the instructions erroneously instructed her to screw the left armrest onto a small lever on the bottom of the seat.
erudite
Some have said that Americans dislike erudite leaders; while German leaders frequently have Ph.D.'s, even speaking a foreign language is considered pretentious by many American voters.
eschew
As a vegan, he eschewed not only meat and dairy but also anything made of leather.
esoteric
In his first year of university-level physics, he felt he was merely memorizing information found in every textbook on the subject; by his fourth year, he spent his days poring over esoteric journal articles that few people had ever read or understood.
estimable
As the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, Barack Obama presented an estimable resume when he ran for president in 2008. / Riding a roller coaster is safer than driving on the highway, but there is still an estimable risk.
eulogy
While it was hard for Xing to write a eulogy for his friend, he was pleased to be able to tell others at the funeral some wonderful things about him that they hadn't known. / The review of the book was pure eulogy—usually, this publication runs more balanced articles.
exacerbate
Allowing your band to practice in our garage has greatly exacerbated my headache.
exacting
The boxing coach was exacting, analyzing Joey's footwork down to the millimeter and forcing him to repeat movements hundreds of times until they were correct.
exculpate
The security camera footage showing Mr. Murphy to have been in a casino the entire night turned out to be just the evidence needed to exculpate him of robbing a bank 50 miles away.
exhaustive
The Standard Book of British Birds provides an exhaustive treatment of the subject—you will find that not a single British bird has been omitted. / The rebels finally surrendered after an exhaustive siege that left them without ammunition or even food.
explicit
The goal of my motivational talk is to make explicit the connection between staying in school and avoiding a life of crime.
exponent
An exponent of clean fuel, he petitioned the state government to commit to replacing conventional energy with solar and wind energy where possible.
extraneous
This essay would be stronger if you removed extraneous information; this paragraph about the author's life doesn't happen to be relevant to your thesis. / Maize, which originated in the New World, is extraneous to Europe.
extrapolate
No, I've never been to Bryn Mawr, but I've visited several small, private women's colleges in the Northeast, so I think I can extrapolate.
facetious
When I said, "Sure, you can take anything in my house as a souvenir of this study session," I was being facetious! I would like my nightgown back now. / He's a facetious person—I doubt he will take your offer of a spiritual quest very seriously.
facilitate
A good meeting facilitator lets everyone be heard while still keeping the meeting focused. / As a midwife, my goal is simply to facilitate a natural process.
fallacious
The formal study of logic can enable a student to more easily identify fallacious reasoning and, furthermore, to point out its fallacies.
fanatical
We avoid our neighbors—they're fanatics who can't go five minutes without trying to convert you to their beliefs. / Mrs. Becker was fanatical about grammar, once deducting 15 points from a student's paper for a misused semicolon—and it was a physics class!
fanciful
The play was set in a fanciful version of New York City, one where all the cab drivers spoke perfect English and the Statue of Liberty seemed to be in the middle of the island.
fathom
I cannot even remotely fathom how you interpreted an invitation to sleep on my couch as permission to take my car on a six-hour joyride!
feasible
Your plan to promote our product launch with a parade is just not feasible—we don't have the money or enough time to get the permits.
fidelity
Wedding vows typically include a promise of fidelity—such as by "forsaking all others as long as I may live."
finesse
After the prince deeply insulted his hosts, the diplomat was able to finesse the situation, playing it off as a translation error and getting the negotiations back on track.
flag
Our grandmother is so physically fit that she was ready to make the rounds of the entire amusement park again after lunch, while most of us were flagging and just wanted to sit.
fleeting
I had assumed our summer romance would be fleeting, so I was very surprised when you proposed marriage!
figurative
The painter was renowned for his figurative art, including many portraits—he had been known to say that abstract artists were just people who had never learned to draw. / Highly figurative language can be difficult for English language learners—for instance, to "throw the baby out with the bath water" refers to being too hasty and unwisely getting rid of the good with the bad.
foment
The revolutionary group was quietly fomenting a rebellion, galvanizing student radicals, leading unions in revolutionary songs, and anonymously pasting incendiary posters in every quarter of the city.
foreshadow
You didn't know this was a horror movie? I thought it was pretty clear that the children's ghost story around the campfire was meant to foreshadow the horrible things that would happen to them years later as teenagers at a motel in the middle of the woods.
forfeit
"The rules are clear," said the umpire. "This is a co-ed league, and if your team doesn't have at least three women, you forfeit. Sorry, everybody, no game today!" / If you are found guilty of defrauding this casino, the forfeiture of your winnings will be only the first of the consequences coming your way.
fortify
The white bread found in American grocery stores has been stripped of all the nutrients naturally found in wheat, and then artificially fortified with vitamins and minerals. / The general called for reinforcements to fortify the defenses around the capital.
fringe
In America, reincarnation is a fringe belief, but in primarily Hindu countries, the belief is quite mainstream. / Stacey and Mark liked to say they lived on the fringe of the big city, but really they had just moved to the suburbs.
frugal
It wasn't terribly surprising when Lea—who was so frugal in restaurants that she always drank water, ate salad, and requested a separate check—said she had never tried lobster.
futile
She spent months trying to coax Fluffy to fetch and sit, but it was futile—cats just can't be trained to perform tricks.
gainsay
The professor is quite doctrinaire—she's been known to lower the grade of any student who dares gainsay her.
garrulous
Uncle Bill is so garrulous that our dinner conversation lasted three hours—and the only person who said more than ten words was Uncle Bill.
gauche
It is terribly gauche to put ketchup on your steak and then talk with your mouth full as you eat it. That's the last time I ever bring you to a nice place.
gawky
As a teenager, she thought of herself as gawky and often slouched so as not to seem so much taller than her peers; of course, now that she's a supermodel, no one thinks of her as gawky at all.
germane
This is a business meeting, not a social club—let's keep our comments germane to the issue of the new campaign.
gist
I didn't read the whole book, but I read enough to get the gist.
glib
She was the worst teacher he had ever encountered, giving glib responses to every question. "Can you help me with this algebra problem?" he asked. "Oh, just solve for x," she said, and walked away.
goosebumps
That detective novel is hard to put down! I've got goosebumps just waiting to find out what happens next! / You've got goosebumps—why don't you borrow my jacket?
gradation
The hill's gradation was so gradual that even those on crutches were able to enjoy the nature trail. / The short story's language graded from the vernacular to the erudite so gradually that you practically didn't realize until the end that the speaker had become educated almost before your eyes.
gregarious
"We need to be a little more productive and a little less gregarious," said the chemistry teacher when he saw that the two-person lab groups had devolved into clusters of five and six students standing around talking and laughing.
guile
The game of poker is all about guile, manipulating your own body language and patter to lead other players to erroneous conclusions about the cards you're holding.
hackneyed
This screenplay is so hackneyed—the leading lady has a quirky, artsy job in the city and has a minor problem early in the movie from which the male lead rescues her, and they get together but then break up due to a misunderstanding, and then they end up together anyway, all while the female lead's "sassy" friend gives advice. Ugh. I'll bet they're auditioning Jennifer Aniston right now.
hardy
While the entire family enjoyed the trip to South America, only the hardier members even attempted to hike to the top of Ecuador's tallest volcano.
haven
The relief workers set up the camp as a haven from persecution.
hearken
Hearken, students!" said the old-fashioned music teacher. "We are going to practice 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."
hedonist
A vacation is a fine time to practice hedonism, letting your troubles go and pursuing massages and cocktails as though it's your life mission.
heterogeneous
Rather than build the wall with plain brick, we used a heterogeneous mixture of stones—they are not only different colors, but a variety of sizes as well.
hierarchy
The activist, accustomed to groups ruled by consensus, was quite surprised to find that the Eco-Action Coalition was led by a strict hierarchy—members followed orders from district leaders, district leaders from regional leaders, and regional leaders from the national head.
hodgepodge
The comedian's book wasn't a proper memoir, but more a hodgepodge of old bits, personal stories that went nowhere, random political opinions, and childhood photos.
homogeneous
While Sweden seems to have solved many of its social ills, critics point out that Sweden's largely homogeneous population doesn't present the challenges extant in a more diverse nation with many cultures and languages.
hyberbole
Oh, come on. Saying "That movie was so bad it made me puke" was surely hyperbole. I strongly doubt that you actually vomited during or following The Back-Up Plan.
idiosyncrasy
Sometimes, the richer people get, the more idiosyncratic they become. After he made his first billion, he began traveling with a pet iguana, sleeping in an oxygen chamber, and, oddly, speaking with a slight Dutch accent.
illiberality
Students protested the illiberality of an admissions policy that made no allowances for those from disadvantaged areas or backgrounds who may not have had access to advanced classes and tutors.
imminent
In the face of imminent war, the nation looked to FDR for reassurance. / Everyone was excited and nervous; Madonna's arrival was imminent!
impair
Playing in a rock band without earplugs will almost certainly impair your hearing over time.
impartial
Judge Gonzales removed himself from the case because, having a personal connection to the school where the shooting took place, he did not think he could be appropriately impartial.
impede
I didn't realize business school would be entirely group work—sadly, there's always at least one person in every group who impedes the group's progress more than helps it.
implication
When the boss said, "Times are tight around here, I just think you should know," the implication was that maybe we should start looking for new jobs. / She implicated her boyfriend in the robbery after less than 20 minutes of interrogation.
implicit
He didn't have to be told to resign; it was implicit in his not getting the promotion that he had no future at the company. / I enjoy ice climbing with my father because, in such a dangerous situation, it's important to have a partner you trust implicitly.
implode
The startup struggled for years before it simply imploded—the management team broke into factions, all the clients were scared off, and employees who hadn't been paid in weeks began taking the office computers home with them in retribution.
inadvertent
In attempting to perfect his science project, he inadvertently blew a fuse and plunged his family's home into darkness.
inasmuch
Inasmuch as you missed my birthday party to do the Walk for the Cure, I am not angry at all. Good for you for doing that! / Normally, a student would graduate in four years, but inasmuch as you failed several courses in your first two semesters, that will now be impossible for you.
incendiary
The college suspended him for creating an incendiary website, encouraging sit-ins and protests, but the ACLU defended his right to freedom of speech. / It is illegal to bring incendiaries on a plane—there are many good reasons why you may not have a stick of dynamite in your carry-on.
incentive
A controversial program in a failing school system uses cash payments as an incentive for students to stay in school.
inchoate
The first few weeks of language class went well, but her inchoate French was all but useless when she found herself at an academic conference in Quebec.
incipient
The movie producer was devastated when, due to legal trouble over the screenplay, the incipient project was crushed before it had even begun shooting.
incongruous
Among the student artwork posted in the halls, Angelina's submission was incongruous, a dark, gruesome, and even worldly work amidst the happy family portraits and other childish drawings.
inconsequential
You wrote a bestselling book and got a stellar review in the New York Times—whatever your cousin has to say about it is simply inconsequential. / Given that your entire essay is about Hamlet's relationship with his mother, your thesis that Hamlet's relationship with Laertes drives the plot is inconsequential—that is, it does not follow as a consequence of the evidence you've provided.
incorporate
When a business incorporates, it becomes a separate legal entity—for instance, the business can declare bankruptcy without the owners doing so. / Local legend has it that ghosts can incorporate on one night of the year and walk among the living.
indeterminate
The results of the drug trial were indeterminate; further trials will be needed to ascertain whether the drug can be released. / The lottery can have an indeterminate number of winners—the prize is simply divided among them.
indifferent
Do whatever you want—I'm indifferent. I won't even notice.
inform
Her work as an art historian is informed by a background in drama; where others see a static tableau, she sees a protagonist, a conflict, a denouement. / Marjorie's desire to work in forensics is informed by a family history in the police department.
ingenuous
Multilevel marketing scams prey on the ingenuous, those who really think there's someone out there who just wants to help them get rich.
ingrained
Religious observance had been ingrained in him since birth; he could not remember a time when he didn't pray five times a day.
inherent
New research seems to support the idea that humans have an inherent sense of justice—even babies become upset at puppet shows depicting unfairness, and are gratified at seeing the "bad" puppets punished.
innocuous
While it's quite acrid in here, fortunately the fumes that come from our factory are completely innocuous—you don't need a face mask unless you'd like one.
intelligible
You are doing a disservice to all music by listening through those horrible speakers! None of the lyrics are even intelligible! I'll bet you have no idea what this song is even about!
intractable
That student is positively intractable! Last week, we talked about the importance of staying in your seat during the lesson—this week, she not only got up mid-class, but she actually scrambled on top of a bookcase and refused to come down! / Back injuries often result in intractable pain; despite treatment, patients never feel fully cured.
intrepid
Intrepid explorers Lewis and Clark led the first U.S. expedition to the West Coast, facing bitter winters and rough terrain.
intrinsic
Despite all this high-tech safety equipment, skydiving is an intrinsically dangerous proposition. / Communication is intrinsic to a healthy relationship.
jargon
The information my doctor gave me was so full of medical jargon I couldn't understand it at all! I'm going to look on the Internet for something written for regular people.
jocular
He's certainly a jocular fellow—if we were friends, I'm sure I'd find his antics amusing, but as his professor, I do wish he'd contribute some serious comments to the class discussion instead of his constant stream of jocular comments.
judicious
In his will, the old titan of industry left little to his hard-partying younger son, and left the bulk of his estate to the more judicious older son, with instructions that the older son see that the rest of the family was taken care of.
juncture
We are at a critical juncture in the history of this organization: either we can remain a nonprofit, or we can register as a political action committee and try to expand our influence. / The little canoe started to sink when it split at the juncture between the old wood and the new material used to repair it.
keen
Dogs have a keen sense of smell. / As homecoming queen, she had experienced the envy of others, but their jealousy only grew more keen when she was selected for a small role in a movie.
kudos
"Kudos on your amazing GRE score!" said the teacher. / While the critics weren't impressed, the play received plentiful kudos from the audience.
lackluster
Many young people today are so accustomed to being praised by parents and adults that they are shocked when a lackluster effort in the workplace receives the indifference or mild disapproval it deserves.
laconic
The boss was famously laconic; after allowing his employees to present their new plan for an entire hour, he finally responded, "Confirmed."
lament
Silda said she couldn't make it to the party—she's still lamenting the death of her cat. In fact, she wrote a poem: "A Lament on the Topic of Buttons McFlufferton." Lamentably, Silda is a very bad poet.
lampoon
"As a Democrat," said Bob, "I can't say I appreciated watching that comedian in the Obama mask lampoon the State of the Union address."
landmark
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark in the battle for equality. / In Lebanon, many roads are unmarked, and people navigate by landmarks—for instance, "third house down from the water tower."
languid
We signed up for a fitness boot camp, but after a single hour of exercise in the heat, we all felt so overcome with languor that we refused to go on. Turns out the reason we need a fitness boot camp in the first place is that we're pretty languid people.
lassitude
It's so difficult to get anything done in the dead heat of August! I can't seem to shake my lassitude enough to get out of this hammock, much less study for the GRE.
laudable
When a major discount mart fired several employees for subduing a gunman, most people considered the action a laudable act of heroism, but the discount chain fired the employees for "violating company policies." Nevertheless, the mayor lauded the former employees in a medal-granting ceremony.
lavish
Anita wanted to live as she imagined Beyoncé lived, and ran up huge credit card bills pursuing a lavish lifestyle she could scarcely afford. / Although her rich banker boyfriend lavished gifts on her, she didn't want to be with someone she didn't really love.
layperson
The actress Jenny McCarthy has written a book about autism. While her experience as a parent is interesting to anyone in a similar situation, it's still important to remember that McCarthy is a layperson, not a doctor.
levity
My late uncle Bill loved practical jokes and absolutely would have approved of the iPod mix my aunt played at the wake, which added a little levity by segueing from "Amazing Grace" to the party anthem "Let's Get It Started."
levy
When England levied yet another tax on the colonists, the colonists were pushed one further step towards levying war. Soon, the worried British began to levy troops.
liberal
Split pea soup benefits from a liberal application of pepper. / Liberal reformers in Egypt pushed for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.
libertine
A famed libertine, the sitcom star was constantly in the news for cavorting with women of dubious occupations and overdosing on drugs often enough to regularly hold up production of his popular television show.
likewise
Chip was baffled by all the silverware set before him, so when his host began eating salad with the smallest, leftmost fork, Chip did likewise.
log
Lawyers who bill by the hour have to be sure to log all the time they spend on every client's case. / You cannot get your pilot's license until you have logged 40 hours of flight time.
loquacious
The loquacious professor spoke at a million miles an hour and still regularly talked past the scheduled end time of the class.
lucid
After surgery, it'll take at least an hour until she's lucid—it's nothing to worry about, but patients sometimes talk complete nonsense until the anesthesia wears off and their speech becomes lucid.
lull
Tisha always tried to be polite—if she had to slip out of class to use the bathroom, she waited for a lull in the action so as not to attract too much attention. / Grandma's singing lulled the baby to sleep—much as, in her work as a spy during World War II, Grandma used her beauty and charm to lull foreign dignitaries into giving up their secrets.
makeshift
Lost in the woods for over 24 hours, the children were eventually found sleeping under a makeshift tent made from branches and old plastic bags. / I don't have a ladder, but I can stack up some boxes as a makeshift.
malleable
The more malleable the material, the easier it is to bend into jewelry—and the easier it is to damage that jewelry. / My mother is a little too malleable—she said she liked all the things her first husband liked, and now she says she likes all the things her second husband likes.
maverick
Most cop movies feature heroes who are maverick police officers, breaking all the rules, blowing things up, and getting their guns confiscated by the chief—but ultimately saving the day.
mendacious
She was so mendacious that, when she broke the television, she blamed it on her little brother, even though he was in a wheelchair and could hardly have tipped over a piece of furniture. Her mendacity knows no bounds!
mercurial
It's tough being married to someone so mercurial. I do pretty much the same thing every day—some days, she thinks I'm great, and other days, the exact same behaviors make her inexplicably angry.
metamorphosis
Many reality show competitions are based on the idea of a contestant undergoing a metamorphosis, such as through dieting, exercise, life coaching, rehab, or plastic surgery—or all of the above.
meticulous
As a surgeon, of course Mom needs to be highly meticulous in her work—she gets things right down to a fraction of a millimeter. But this also means that when it's her night to cook, she's sometimes a little too meticulous—no one really needs a meatloaf to be sculpted into an absolutely perfect rectangular prism.
mitigate
Sadly, his illness could not be cured, but the nurses made every effort to mitigate the symptoms.
modest
The reporter was surprised that the celebrity lived in such a modest house, one that looked just like every other plain, two-story house on the block. / Her first job out of college was a rude awakening—her modest salary was barely enough for rent, much less going out and having fun.
mollify
The cellular company's billing practices were so infuriating to customers that the customer service representatives spent every workday mollifying angry customers.
monotony
The monotony of working on a factory assembly line made her feel as though she would go insane from boredom.
moreover
You are fired. Moreover, the police are coming to arrest you for theft.
mores
An American in Saudi Arabia should study the culture beforehand so as to avoid violating deeply conservative cultural mores.
mundane
Dominique had been excited to visit France for the first time, but she was soon disappointed at how mundane the stay with her relatives was: they shopped at the market, cooked dinner, chatted with one another, and occasionally went shopping.
naïve
I was a little naïve during the hiring process—the HR rep asked for my acceptable salary range, and I answered honestly. Of course I got an offer for the very lowest number in the range! Now I know I should have tried to get a number from her first, or named a higher number so I could negotiate down.
nascent
The violin teacher was always very encouraging with children. All children sound terrible the first couple of years, so she offered plenty of praise to encourage nascent talents.
negate
Darling, if you add "I promise to try to work things out for at least a couple of weeks before giving up" to our wedding vows, it would kind of negate the part where you promise to love, honor, and cherish me "until death do us part." / The debate coach reminded the students that they had to negate each one of their opponents' major points in order to win.
net
In one day of trading, my portfolio went up $10,000 and down $8,000, for a net gain of $2,000. / All those weeks of working weekends and playing golf with the boss ought to net her a promotion.
nevertheless or nonetheless
While losing the P&G account was a serious blow, we nevertheless were able to achieve a new sales goal this month due to the tireless efforts of the sales team in bringing in three new clients. / I really can't stand working with you. Nonetheless, we're stuck on this project together and we're going to have to get along.
notoriety
Bill was notorious for being late to everything—after awhile, his friends just stopped inviting him to the movies. / Some countries ban convicted criminals from capitalizing on their notoriety by writing books from prison or selling rights to movies about their lives.
novel
You can make your writing better by eliminating clichés and replacing those clichés with more novel turns of speech. / Smoked salmon on a pizza? That's certainly a novel idea.
nuance
People with certain cognitive disabilities cannot understand the nuances of nonliteral speech. For instance, "You can come if you want to, but it's really going to be mostly family" means that you shouldn't try to come.
objective
You cannot be forced to testify against your spouse in a court of law—it's pretty impossible for anyone to be objective about the guilt or innocence of a spouse. / Some philosophers argue that things like "love" and "guilt" don't exist, and that only objective reality—that is, physical matter—is of consequence.
obsequious
Sammy thought he could get ahead by being obsequious, but instead, his boss gave a promotion to someone he viewed as more of a peer; truthfully, he thought Sammy's sucking up was pretty pathetic.
obsolete
She kept her old laptop so long that it was obsolete—she couldn't sell it on Craigslist, and the local elementary school didn't even want it as a donation. / When you look up a word in the dictionary and see "Archaic" next to a definition, that means that definition is obsolete—people don't use the word that way anymore, although you might want to know that meaning if you're reading old texts.
obstinate
It's difficult to get an obstinate child to eat food he doesn't want to eat. When Toby realized that his son would rather sit and starve than eat mahi-mahi, he gave in and made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
obviate
Adding protective heel taps to your dress shoes can obviate the need to take them to the shoe repair store later, once the heels have worn down.
occult
A group of religious parents demanded that a popular series of young adult vampire novels be banned in schools because it promoted the occult. / During a solar eclipse, the moon occults the sun, and it is momentarily dark in the middle of the day.
offhand
I was pretty happy with my salary until my coworker Deena mentioned offhandedly that she was thinking about buying a house now that she made six figures.
officious
Lisa's dinner parties are exhausting. She's an officious host who butts in and runs everyone's conversations, keeps an eye on what everyone is eating, and makes sure you finish your vegetables, and even knocks on the bathroom door to make sure you're "okay in there."
offset
Property taxes did go up this year, but the hit to our finances was offset by a reduction in fees paid to our homeowners association.
onerous
Doctors are often faced with the onerous task of telling waiting families that their loved one has died.
opaque
The school dress code required opaque tights under skirts—the rules specified that sheer stockings were unacceptable. / Rena was tragically opaque—when her boyfriend said "I want to see other people," she thought he meant he needed glasses.
optimal or
Many believe that the U.S. Constitution's genius lies in its striking and optimal balance between freedom and order.
optimum
...
orthodox
I appreciate that the new dentist thinks that my oral health can be improved through yoga, but I really prefer a more orthodox approach to dental care.
oscillate
I wish we had air conditioning, but at least I replaced our old fan with this oscillating one that swings side to side and blows air on the whole room. / Stop oscillating and pick a restaurant! Seriously—Indian or Thai?
outstrip
Our sales figures this quarter have outstripped those of any other quarter in the company's history.
overshadow
She was a straight-A student who excelled at field hockey, but she still felt overshadowed by her older sister, who won a national science competition for her work on cancer in mice, and also had time to become a pole vaulting champion and model who walked in Fashion Week.
paradigm
Far from being atypically bawdy, this limerick is a paradigm of the form—nearly all of them rely on off-color jokes.
paradox
Kayla was always bothering the youth minister with her paradoxes, like "If God is all-powerful, can He make a burrito so big He can't eat it?"
pariah
After the schoolteacher was fired for participating in what some called a "hate rally," he became a pariah in his own town, glared at in the grocery store—even his longtime barber refused him a haircut.
partial
Although I grew up in New York, I've always been partial to country music. / His lawyers are appealing on the grounds that the judge was partial to the plaintiff, even playing golf with the plaintiff during the trial.
partisan
It is unconscionable to engage in partisan politics in a time of crisis. People are trapped in the rubble of an earthquake, and you suggest that we vote for your tax bill in exchange for your voting for our relief bill?
patent
Her resume was full of patent lies: anyone could check to see that she had never been president of UNICEF.
pathological
She thought her skin darkening was simply a result of the sun, but it was actually pathological, the result of a serious disease. / I can't believe you stole from the Make a Wish Foundation—you're pathological!
patronizing
I'm not surprised that Professor McDougal used to teach kindergarten. His patronizing tone has been driving me crazy. Not only does he assume we can barely add or subtract, he also makes us put our heads down and have a moment of silence.
paucity
Our school has such a disgraceful paucity of textbooks that the students are sharing, and so cannot even count on being able to take the books home to do homework.
peccadillo
I'm going to propose to Melinda tomorrow—sure, she has her peccadillos, like anyone, but she's the perfect woman for me.
pedestrian
It was so amazing when you had us over to dinner and made that rack of lamb! I'm afraid neither of us is a professional chef like you are, though, so we hope you won't mind that we've made something more pedestrian: hot dogs and French fries.
penchant
He seems like a mild-mannered accountant, but twice a year he jets off to Australia to satisfy his penchant for adventure sports.
perfidious
The perfidious soldier sold out his comrades, giving secrets to the enemy in exchange for money and protection.
peripheral
My main goal is to get into a good grad school. Whether it has good fitness facilities is really a peripheral concern.
permeate
Under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity began to permeate every sector of public life.
pervasive
Poverty is pervasive in our school system; 65% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.
philanthropy
Many wealthy people turn to philanthropy as a way to create social good, and many others turn to it as a way to hobnob with the rich and famous.
phony
Phony Louis Vuitton bags are easily purchased in Chinatown, but they are illegal—selling them can land a vendor in jail, and the counterfeit bags are often made with child labor. / She's such a phony person, pretending to befriend people and then talking about them behind their backs.
pious
Some matrimonial websites catering to conservative religious groups contain listings for young women that feature testimonials from the woman's relatives about her piety. Naturally, only similarly pious suitors need apply.
pith
I can only stay at this meeting for a minute—can you get to the pith of the issue now, and discuss the details after I leave? / This presentation has no pith—there's no central point and nothing I didn't already know.
placate
"It's an interesting business model," said the flower shop owner. "Outside of Valentine's Day, our average customer uses our product to placate an angry partner."
placid
Famed Spanish tenor Placido Domingo has an unusual name—literally, "Peaceful Sunday." It's certainly not a coincidence that Placido looks so much like placid.
plastic
A young child's mind is quite plastic, and exposure to violent movies and video games can have a much greater effect on children than they typically do on adults.
plausible
When three doctors treating crash victims were suddenly stricken with what looked like the effects of nerve gas, hospital officials posited "hysteria" as the culprit—hardly a plausible explanation, as emergency room doctors are accustomed to seeing horrific things every day.
plummet
During the first 60 seconds or so of a skydive, the diver plummets towards Earth in freefall; then, he or she activates a parachute and floats down at what seems like a relatively leisurely pace.
polarized
The school board was used to rationally discussing issues, but when it came to the teaching of evolution in schools, the board was polarized, immediately splitting into two camps, with the discussion devolving into a shouting match within minutes.
ponderous
The book assigned by her professor was a ponderous tome, more a reference book than something you could read straight through. She was so bored she thought she would die.
posthumous
Ernest Hemingway died in 1961. His novel The Garden of Eden was published posthumously in 1986.
potentate
62-year-old Prince Charles has certainly waited long enough to become potentate of England; his mother, Elizabeth II, has been ruling for his entire life.
pragmatic
Megan and Dave were in love, but Megan decided to be pragmatic—she doubted they'd stay together through a four-year long distance relationship as they attended different colleges, so she figured they might as well end things now.
preamble
The Preamble to the Constitution is a brief introduction that begins, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union..." / The unusual outfit the pop star wore to her first awards ceremony was a mere preamble to a career of full-blown crazy dressing.
precarious
Recognizing that his position at the company was precarious, Sanjay requested that his bonus structure be formally written down as a contract, rather than dangled over him as a mere verbal promise.
precursor
We cannot ignore this warning sign—it is clearly a precursor of larger problems to come. / The new CEO decided to do things differently from his precursors.
predisposed
Some autoimmune disorders don't kill the patient directly, but rather make the patient predisposed to contracting other, potentially fatal illnesses. / His defense attorney argued that his abusive childhood predisposed him to a life of crime.
pre-empt
The speaker attempted to preempt an excessively long Q&A session by handing out a "Frequently Asked Questions" packet at the beginning of the seminar.
presumptive
The dictator's favorite nephew is the presumptive heir to power, but anything could happen. / He's the presumptive winner of the election—we haven't counted all the votes, but at this point it's almost mathematically impossible for the other guy to win.
presumptuous
I would never date that presumptuous jerk! I mean, I thought he was attractive until he walked up to me and said, "We should go out—I looked up your address on Google and I'll pick you up at 8." The nerve!
pretentious
Josie found her date's habit of constantly dropping French phrases into conversation to be incredibly pretentious, especially since he knew she didn't speak French. He sure did sound fancy, though.
principled
Donna was only an intern, but she was also quite principled—although she knew it would kill her shot at a full-time job, she was the one who alerted the authorities when asked to violate federal law via corrupt accounting practices.
pristine
Having grown up in a rural area, Billy had been in plenty of forests where people regularly left beer cans and shotgun shells behind. So it truly took his breath away, after hiking hours through the Himalayas, to visit a pristine forest, seemingly untouched by humans.
probity
After losing the last election when their candidate's string of mistresses came to light, this time, the party would only nominate a candidate whose probity was beyond any doubt.
prodigal
If you're going to leave a trust fund for your children, you should raise them not to be prodigal, or they'll blow through all the cash the minute they get their hands on it. / The prodigal land produced larger crops than the people could even consume.
prodigious
The Great Wall of China consists of a prodigious series of fortifications stretching over 5,000 miles! / If we don't double our sales with this new product, we will have to declare bankruptcy—we have a prodigious task ahead.
profligate
The billionaire software developer was so disgusted with his profligate daughter's spending that he cut her off—she had bought champagne for an entire nightclub full of strangers one too many times.
profound
Certain fish that live in the dark, profound depths of the ocean have long since evolved to have sightless eyes. / He was profoundly disappointed when the project he had worked on for 15 years failed.
profuse
It didn't mean anything at all to me, giving my old microwave to the family next door, but the woman's profuse thanks made me think that maybe the family was having some financial troubles. / She came home on Valentine's Day to an apartment decorated with a profusion of flowers.
prohibitive
I was admitted to NYU, but it was prohibitively expensive, so I ended up at state school instead. / My parents installed a high fence as a prohibitive barrier against the neighborhood hooligans.
proliferate
The book alleged that terrorist cells are proliferating across the United States faster than law enforcement can keep up.
prologue
The novel's prologue gives some historical background so that the main story can be better understood in context.
pronounced
Aunt Shirley claimed we would never know that her "secret recipe" for brownies involved lots of healthy vegetables, but the brownies had a pronounced asparagus flavor.
propriety
The parent questioned the propriety of the punishment meted out to her son—sitting in a corner all day seemed a little harsh for using the pencil sharpener at the wrong time. / Saying the accounting firm was complicit in "financial impropriety" was a rather polite way to refer to the fraud it committed against its investors.
prosaic
Finding his friends' bar mitzvahs at the local synagogue a bit prosaic, Justin instead asked his dad to rent out the local laser tag center.
proscribe
Plagiarism is proscribed by every college's code of conduct.
prospective
Everyone had a hard time correctly saying the name of the seminar, "Perspectives for Prospective Doctors." Even the prospective doctors—college students hoping to be admitted to medical school—were a bit confused.
prudent
Katie's friends blew all kinds of money on spring break, but Katie prudently kept to her usual spending habits: she'd drink one of whatever was least expensive, and then watch her friends get stupid while she checked her bank balances on her phone and dreamed about the day she'd have a full-time job and a 401K.
pugnacious
Amy had hoped to avoid inviting Uncle Ed to the wedding, as he was a pugnacious fellow—and, sure enough, he managed to start a fistfight with the best man.
qualified
The scientist gave her qualified endorsement to the book, pointing out that, while it posed a credible theory, more research was still needed before the theory could be applied.
quandary
He knew it sounded like the plot of a cheesy movie, but he really had accidentally asked two girls to the prom, and now he was in quite a quandary.
quibble
Look, I am telling you some of the serious consequences of global warming, as predicted by the scientific establishment—I think you're just quibbling to complain that I said "carbon monoxide" when I meant "carbon dioxide."
quotidian
He was so involved in his quest for spiritual enlightenment that he regularly forgot more quotidian concerns—sure, he meditated for six hours today, but he hasn't done laundry in weeks.
ranks
Among the ranks of our alumni are two senators and many famous authors.
reap
He worked night and day in the strange new country, never stopping to rest, for he knew he would reap his reward when his family greeted him as a hero for all the money he had sent back home.
recluse
That show about "hoarders" featured a recluse who hadn't left her house in six years.
refute
She's not a very valuable member of the debate team, actually—she loves making speeches, but she's not very good at refuting opponents' arguments.
relegate
After the legal associate offended one of the partners, he found himself relegated to working on minor—even unwinnable—cases. / This protest is occurring because we refuse to be relegated to the fringes of society—we demand full inclusion!
remedial
After harassment occurs in the workplace, it is important that the company take remedial action right away, warning or firing the offender as appropriate, and making sure the complainant's concerns are addressed. / For those who need remedial reading help, we offer a summer school program that aims to help students read at grade level.
render
When you render your past due payments, we will turn your phone back on. / Only in her second year of Japanese, she was unable to render the classic poem into English. / The judge rendered a verdict that rendered us speechless.
replete
This essay is replete with errors—I don't think you even bothered to use spellcheck, much less carefully edit your work.
reproach
I'm not really enjoying my foreign study program. My host mom reproached me in Spanish—it sounded really harsh, but I couldn't really understand her, and I have no idea what I did wrong!
repudiate
If you receive an erroneous notice from a collections agency, you have 30 days to repudiate the debt by mail. / As part of becoming an American citizen, Mr. Lee repudiated his former citizenship.
requite
Ashley felt that her unrequited love for George would surely kill her. George barely noticed her—he cared about nothing but requiting his father's death.
rescind
The governor rescinded his proclamation making September 10th "Pastafarian Day" once someone told him it wasn't a real religion.
resolution
The city government passed a resolution to support the new monorail. / A few setbacks did not dampen her resolution to complete her Ph.D.—equipped with her new prosthetic leg, she made her way back into the lab and continued her research.
resolve
She was resolved to find a marrow donor for her son, and led a stunningly successful drive to get people to sign up for a national donor registry. Even when no match was found for her son in the first year, her resolve was undampened.
respectively
His poems "An Ode to the Blossoms of Sheffield" and "An Entreaty to Ladies All Too Prim" were written in 1756 and 1758, respectively.
restive
The company was purchased by a larger competitor, and the employees grew restive as the new bosses curtailed their freedoms and put a hold on their projects.
reticent
She figured that, to rise to the top, it was best to be reticent about her personal life; thus, even her closest colleagues were left speculating at the water cooler about whether her growing belly actually indicated a pregnancy she simply declined to mention to anyone.
retrospective
The proposed law is retrospective: anyone who violated the law before the law even existed can be prosecuted.
reverent
Ayn Rand is a controversial figure, but critical views are not welcome at the local Objectivist Club meeting, where everyone expresses a reverent view of the author.
rhetoric
The ancient Greeks used to study rhetoric as a major academic subject. Today, if you want to improve your rhetorical skills, you will probably have to hunt down a public speaking class or join Toastmasters. / The politician's blather is all rhetoric and no substance.
rife
Reports of financial corruption are rife.
rudimentary
My knowledge of Chinese is quite rudimentary—I get the idea of characters, and I can order food, but I really can't read this document you've just given me.
rustic
For their honeymoon, they eschewed fancy hotels and instead chose a rustic cabin in the woods. / Grandpa was a true rustic—I was happy to have him visit, but not so happy to find him urinating outside in a bucket when we have several perfectly nice bathrooms.
sacrosanct
In our house, family dinners were sacrosanct—if being in the school play meant you would miss dinner, then you just couldn't be in the school play.
sagacious
It's important to choose a mentor who is not only successful, but also sagacious—plenty of people are successful through luck and have little insight about how to attack someone else's situation.
salubrious
After spending her twenties smoking and drinking, Jessica recognized the necessity of adopting a more salubrious lifestyle, but found it difficult to cut back.
sanction
Professional boxers may only fight in sanctioned matches—fighting outside the ring is prohibited. / America's sanctions on Cuba mean that it is illegal for Americans to do business with Cuban companies.
sanguine
She had three papers due in three days, but she maintained her typically sanguine attitude. "Things always just work out for me," she said, happily.
sap
I really thought that if I clicked on that Facebook ad and entered all my information, I would get a free iPad to test and keep! I feel like such a sap. / In order to make maple syrup, you must drain sap from a sugar maple tree—they call this "sapping" the tree, which I can understand, because I feel pretty sapped doing it! Fortunately, it's just a metaphor.
satiate or sate
I usually just eat a tiny salad or something while I'm at work, but since I had a half day off, I went to the Indian buffet and stayed for a whole hour! I've never been more satiated (or sated) in my life. / To maintain a healthy weight, stop eating before you reach the point of satiety.
saturate
We got married on a rainy beach, and my dress was saturated. Although the pictures were a bit dark, the photographer was able to increase the saturation in Photoshop, making our wedding photos ultimately look quite vivid! / I simply cannot dissolve any more sugar into this iced tea—it's saturated!
savor
As a parent, it's important to take a step back and really savor the special moments—those children will grow up sooner than you think!
scant
The new intern was scant help at the conference—he disappeared all day to smoke and didn't seem to realize that he was there to assist his coworkers. / The soldiers were always on the verge of hunger, complaining about their scanty rations.
scathing
The school superintendant gave a scathing criticism of the education bill, calling it "an attack on our community's children that will surely do down in infamy." / How is it possible that she flew off her bicycle like that and walked away unscathed?
secular
Forty years ago, American companies wished their employees "Merry Christmas"—even the employees who didn't celebrate Christmas. Today, the secular "Happy Holidays" is common. / Western governments have grown increasingly secular over the last century; many have laws prohibiting religious expression from being sponsored by the government.
sedulous
Sedulous effort is necessary to improve your GRE verbal score—you need to study vocab in a serious way, nearly every day.
sentient
Tia became a vegan because she refused to eat any sentient creature. / Look at the mold in your fridge! Let it grow any more, it might become sentient!
simultaneous
It is rare in a duel that the two shooters draw their guns simultaneously and actually kill each other in an instant.
skeptic
I wish you'd be more of a skeptic—I can't believe you spent money on a pet psychic so we can "talk" to our dearly departed shih tzu. / Descartes was a great skeptic, famously declaring that we cannot truly be sure of anything except our own existence—hence, "I think, therefore I am."
skirt
Melissa spent all of Thanksgiving skirting the issue of who she was dating and when she might get married and make her mother a grandmother. It was exhausting changing the subject two dozen times! / The creek skirts our property on the west, so it's easy to tell where our farm ends.
slack
As the product of slack parenting, I never learned good time management skills—Mom and Dad never checked my homework or made me go to bed at a certain time. / The holidays represent a lull or slack in work at many companies.
slew
As soon as we switched software packages, we encountered a whole slew of problems.
slight
She was very sensitive, always holding a grudge against her coworkers for a variety of slights, both real and imagined. / Natalie Portman has always been slight, but she became even thinner to portray a ballerina in Black Swan. / I felt slighted when my husband told you about his promotion before he told me.
solicitous
A solicitous host, Derek not only asked each person how he or she was doing, but asked by name about everyone's spouses and kids. / Solicitous of fame, she would do anything to get near celebrities.
soporific
I was excited to take a class with Professor Baria because I had enjoyed her books, but sadly, she is a better writer than speaker—her lectures are soporific. / I was so distressed after the crash that the doctor gave me a soporific—and, sure enough, I was able to think more clearly after sleeping.
sound
The psychiatrist appointed by the court felt he would need more time to sound the depths of the defendant's tortured mind—clearly, she was mentally ill, but did she know on any level that what she was doing was wrong?
spartan
A young soldier in the spartan environment of boot camp can really long for a home-cooked meal or even just a comfortable couch to sit on. / Her apartment was so spartan that she couldn't even serve us both soup—she only had one bowl and one spoon. Instead, we sat in hard-backed chairs and drank water.
spate
After a brief spate of post-exam partying, Lola is ready for classes to begin again. / He was so furious that a spate of expletives just flew out of his mouth.
spearhead
Lisa agreed to spearhead the "healthy office" initiative, and was instrumental in installing two treadmills and getting healthy food stocked in the vending machines.
specious
"All squares are rectangles, all candy bars are rectangles, therefore all squares are candy bars" is clearly a specious argument.
spectrum
A test showed she was partially colorblind—she did see blues and greens, but was unable to perceive some other colors on the spectrum. / A "dialect continuum" is a spectrum of dialects of a language where speakers in different dialect groups can understand some, but not all, of the other groups—for instance, people in the west can understand people in the middle, and people in the middle can understand people in the east, but people in the west and the east cannot talk to one another.
speculate
During the Gold Rush, speculators bought up land, sometimes with borrowed funds, expecting to prospect the land for gold and get rich quickly. / She speculated that, in zero gravity, showers would have to exist as closed rooms in which a giant bubble of water formed, and a person got inside it.
sporadic
Her attendance was sporadic at best, so when she flounced into class after a two-session absence, she discovered that not only was everyone working on group projects, but that the professor hadn't even thought to assign her to a group.
sportive
After Will shot a ball entirely off the pool table, knocking a woman's purse off a bar stool, his friends laughed hysterically and called him "purse-snatcher" all night, but he took it as sportive and bought the next round of drinks.
standing
As he had feared, his divorce greatly reduced his standing as a relationship expert. / I'm disappointed that you don't want to leave your current job, but I want you to know that you have a standing invitation—as long as I'm the boss, you have a job here anytime you want one. / While the U.S. has a standing army (that is, an army that is not disbanded in times of peace), Costa Rica's constitution actually forbids a standing military.
stark
The designer's work is appreciated for its stark beauty, but most people prefer to live in a cozier, more welcoming home—the kind with carpets and pillows, for instance. / She is stark raving mad! / The stark reality is that we will have to begin burning our furniture for warmth if we are to survive.
static
The anthropologist studied a society in the Amazon that had been deliberately static for hundreds of years—the fiercely proud people disdained change, and viewed all new ideas as inferior to the way of life they had always practiced.
status quo
Many opposed the establishment of a needle-exchange program, but others reasoned that the plan would be an improvement on the status quo, in which disease spread rapidly through certain communities.
stingy
Billionaire industrialist J. Paul Getty was so famously stingy that he installed pay phones in his mansion for guests to use. When his grandson was kidnapped, he refused to pay ransom and only changed his mind when the kidnappers cut off the boy's ear. This famous cheapskate then demanded that his son (the boy's father) pay him back! What a miser.
stoic or stoical
Della was not only calm but positively stoic, thanking her family for driving her home from chemotherapy, and then simply never mentioning it until it was time to go again.
stolid
Dad is so stolid that we can't get a rise out of him no matter what we do—Jody got a tattoo, Max declared himself a communist, and Helen won a Rhodes Scholarship. No response! Dad just nods and says "Alright, then."
stymie or stymy
Sara feared that her learning disability would stymie her success in college, but the support services offered were excellent, and she was fine academically; the thing that really stymied her college career was poor time management.
subjective
Naturally, anyone's experience of a movie is subjective, and some will enjoy this picture despite its flaws; however, it is an objective fact that the cinematography is very bad. / We can give names to colors, but we can never quite convey the subjective experience of them—what if my "red" is different from your "red"?
subside
When her terror subsided, she realized that the house wasn't really haunted. / It is a chronic illness—symptoms will flare up and subside over one's lifetime.
substantiate
You say you were at home when the crime occurred two towns over—is there anyone who can substantiate your claim? / Your business ideas are interesting, but you never substantiate them—you haven't put a single plan into action.
succeeding
After the sale of the company, you will receive 5% of the profits from the current year, and 1% in all succeeding years. / In 1797, George Washington was succeeded by John Adams.
supersede
Of course, electric washing machines supplanted hand-powered ones many decades ago, but my great-grandmother used her hand-cranked washer until she died in the 1990s.
supplicate
She had been estranged from her wealthy father for years, but when she needed money for her daughter's medical care, she supplicated the old man for assistance.
surfeit
The soup kitchen would like to announce that it has a serious surfeit of those cans of jellied cranberries that no one seems to want, but it could still use at least 10 Thanksgiving turkeys.
surmise
Based on your rather sad attempt to figure out the tip on our restaurant bill, I would surmise that you actually have no idea how percents work.
sycophant
Stop being such a sycophant. I don't need you to compliment my tie or get me coffee; I just need you to do your job without bothering me.
synchronous
The sound of that bell is a signal for the dancers to make perfectly synchronous entrances from opposite sides of the stage. / The two nearby churches have synchronous church bells—if you stand halfway between the buildings as the bells chime out the hour, it sounds really cool!
table
I see we're not going to agree on whether to scrap our entire curriculum and develop a new one, so let's table that discussion and move on to voting on the budget.
tacit
Her parents never told her she could smoke, but they gave their tacit consent when they didn't say anything about the obvious smell coming from her bedroom.
taciturn
Because he felt self-conscious about his stutter, Mike had always been taciturn, but after some very good speech therapy, soon he was much more voluble.
tangential
It's hard to get a quick answer out of Noah—ask him any question, and you'll get a wide range of tangential remarks before you can find a polite way to move on.
temperance
After the end of the Civil War, economic change led to an increase in alcohol problems and the birth of the Temperance Movement, which ultimately led to Prohibition. / Grandma is a model of temperance—she drinks red wine every night, but only the 1/3 of a glass that she read was conducive to preventing heart attacks.
tenuous
Your argument is quite tenuous—it depends on our accepting the results of a 1955 study published in an obscure medical journal not subject to peer review.
timely
Your arrival is quite timely—we were just mulling over a question we're sure you can answer! / His timely departure prevented him from having to do any work.
timorous
An expression describing a timorous person as "quaking in his boots"—that is, a scared person would shake or shiver from fear.
tirade
I hate that television show where that commentator goes on angry tirades about all the liberal conspiracies taking over America. Even my conservative friends find his ranting embarrassing.
torpor
Sam had hoped to be able to play in the game after having his wisdom teeth out, but the anesthesia left him in such torpor that he obviously couldn't play soccer.
torrid
They had a torrid love affair in the '80s, but split up because a royal was not permitted to marry a commoner. / The wandering refugees were in serious danger in the torrid Sahara.
tractable
He's a tractable fellow—when I asked if we could see a different movie than the one we'd come to see, he shrugged and said "Cool." / The clay had hardened overnight, but adding water made it tractable again.
transitory
While a few people marry their high school sweethearts, generally, our teenage years are full of transitory crushes.
trifling
Luis broke up with Cara because she was always obsessed with some trifling matter—he tried to talk about foreign aid dependency, and she changed the subject to what the actress Katie Holmes dressed her daughter Suri in for a shopping trip. / The young heiress was so wealthy that she considered the salary from her internship a mere trifle, and didn't even notice when her paycheck was days late.
trite
The topic of your speech is "Children are the Future"? That's pretty trite. Maybe you should think harder and come up with something original.
ubiquitous
Thirty years ago, women would lie about coloring their hair, considering the admission embarrassing. Today, blatantly fake hair color—not to mention fake tans and unnaturally white teeth—are ubiquitous, not only on starlets, but even on the checkers at the local grocery store. / Maggie learned in Sunday school that God was ubiquitous, leading to the question nearly all children ask when they hear this: "Does that mean God sees me in the bathroom?"
undermine
Rather than searching impartially for the truth, these pharmaceutical company "scientists" willfully ignored any evidence that undermined the conclusion they were being paid to produce. / You are nice to my face, but you are undermining me behind my back, suggesting to others in the office that I am making mistakes in my work and that you have been fixing them!
underscore
"You're not going to mess with Joey anymore," said Joey. His new bodyguards stepped forward threatening, as though to underscore Joey's point.
unearth
The ACLU's Prison Project works tirelessly to unearth evidence from old cases that might exonerate innocent people who have spent years or even decades in prison. / The archaeologist unearthed what appears to be the world's oldest known gravesite, showing that the earliest humans cared for their deceased loved ones.
unequivocal
Although Chuck denied he had a problem, his family was unequivocal in demanding that he check into rehab. Chuck knew there was no getting around it this time. / Mark equivocated, going back and forth on the issue, but his brother Ben was unequivocal—he knew what he wanted and went and got it.
unprecedented
When Nixon resigned, American bravado was at an all-time low—the resignation of a sitting President was disgraceful and unprecedented.
unseemly
The activist really did want to get the candidate's support for the equal-rights measure, so she did what the candidate's aides asked—but she found it very unseemly that they suggested a specific dollar amount for the "donation" she was asked to make in order to get a meeting.
vacillate
In need of a good used car, I was vacillating between the Ford and the Hyundai until a recommendation from a friend helped me decide.
venerate
The boys were utterly crushed when the baseball player they venerated saw them waiting and refused to sign an autograph.
veracity
I question the veracity of your story—I just don't think you've been to outer space. / She was known for her veracity only because she had no choice—she was a terrible liar.
verbose
Twitter's 140-character limit really forces the verbose to go against their natural tendencies and instead write succinctly.
viable
I have three screenplay ideas, but the studio head said only one was commercially viable. Apparently, it's important to have a human lead character and a satisfying ending. / Due to leaps forward in technology, premature babies are considered viable earlier and earlier—currently around 24 weeks.
vintage
He didn't want just any vintage Darth Vader action figure—he wanted a particular vintage, the 1978 telescoping lightsaber one. / She special-ordered her favorite vintage of the Côtes du Rhône, then turned to her George Clooney-lookalike husband and joked that she liked men of a certain vintage as well.
virtual
The Tamagotchi is a handheld virtual pet made in Japan—you have to "care" for it by performing various actions with the device, but in the end, your "pet" still looks very much like a keychain.
vituperate
All couples fight, but your girlfriend vituperates you so severely that I'm not sure she loves you at all. Verbal abuse is actually a pretty good reason to break up.
volatile
Following the sudden revolution, the political environment in the country was so volatile that anything could have started a riot. / Stock prices are by nature volatile—if you want a "safe and steady" investment, try mutual funds.
warranted
The pundit's comments don't even warrant a response from our organization—they were mere name-calling, not suitable for public discourse. / Your criticism of Anne is unwarranted—as your assistant, she has done everything you've asked her to do. / He doesn't have his documents with him, but I'll warrant that he is indeed a certified forklift operator.
wary
Be wary of anyone who tells you that "anyone" can get rich with some special plan or scheme.
whereas
Mr. Katsoulas had always assumed his son would take over the family business, whereas his son had always assumed he would go away to college and never come back. / Whereas peppers and squash are technically fruits, they are typically considered vegetables for culinary purposes.
whimsical
Alice in Wonderland is a famously whimsical story in which a little girl falls down a rabbit hole and finds a strange and at times absurd world. / She enjoyed a whimsical day at the seashore—no plan, just wandering around and making sand castles as the mood struck.
wily
The wily criminal stole eight laptops by simply walking into a branch of a large company, introducing himself as the laptop repairman, and waiting for people to hand him their computers. / She was quite offended when her coworker suggested that she use her "feminine wiles" to make the sale.
zeal
Whether you agree with their views or not, you have to admit that the employees of PETA have great zeal for animal rights—most work for less than $25,000 a year, and often participate in protests that get them shouted at or even arrested.
zenith
At the zenith of her career, the actress could command $5 million per film. Now, she is mostly seen in made-for-TV movies.
abase
After messing up at work, the man faced a thorough abasement from his boss; when he realized he had forgotten his own wedding anniversary, he further abased himself in front of his wife.
abeyance
The baseball player's contract negotiations are in abeyance while doctors try to determine whether his injuries will heal in time for the season.
abreast
As the professor walked abreast down the street with her mentor, she was amazed that the old man, long since retired, still kept abreast of all the latest developments in neurobiology.
abscission
The abscission of leaves from the trees is normal in fall. / An inflamed appendix calls for an immediate surgical abscission.
abscond
A robber absconds with stolen goods. People who eat in a restaurant and run out without paying—or criminals who jump bail—could also be said to be absconding.
abyss
Walking a tightrope over an active volcano, the acrobat was terrified of falling into the abyss. / Now recovering, the patient remembered her experience with clinical depression as an abyss of hopelessness.
accede
While the Englishman was a strong believer in democracy, he had to accede that watching Prince Charles someday accede to the throne would indeed be exciting.
accretion
Accretion of money in his portfolio. / Some charitable funds keep the principal in their accounts untouched and use only the accretion for philanthropic purposes.
acerbic
Lemons are acerbic. Harsh comments are also acerbic, like putting lemon juice on a wound.
acidulous
Grapefruit juice is acidulous. / I'm skipping Thanksgiving this year just to avoid my mother's acidulous comments about what she thinks I ought to be doing with my life.
acumen
His political acumen allowed him to bargain behind the scenes and get bills passed despite being in the minority party.
adulterate
Some bars adulterate top-shelf liquor by pouring cheaper brands into the more expensive brands' bottles.
adumbrate
When I took on the lead role in the movie, I agreed not to give away the plot, but I suppose I could give a brief adumbration of the premise.
aerie
The billionaire smoked a cigar out his window and watched the riots in the streets below, safe in the aerie of his penthouse apartment.
albeit
The village leader was illiterate albeit highly intelligent. / The trip was exciting, albeit brief.
aloof
Perceiving her parents as cold and aloof, the child was naturally drawn to her warm, genial aunt.
amalgamate
The Amalgamated Transit Union is so called because it contains many local unions of bus operators, subway operators, baggage handlers, etc. / When turning her life story into a memoir, she amalgamated two important relatives into a single character, even amalgamating their names (Mary and Rose) into the character "Aunt Mary Rose."
ameliorate
If you spill water on your computer keyboard, you can ameliorate the damage by leaving the keyboard upside down to dry—it may still be ruined, but that's still the best chance you've got of saving it.
amortize
A mortgage is a common form of amortized debt—spreading the payments out over as long as 30 years is not uncommon. / On his company balance sheet, Joe amortized the value of his patent, estimating that the patent's value as an asset would decline steadily over the course of the year as competitors patented competing products.
anachronism
The Queen of England is a bit of an anachronism, with her old-fashioned pillbox hats. / Did you catch the anachronisms in the latest action blockbuster set in ancient Rome? One of the characters was wearing a wristwatch with his toga!
analgesia
While natural-birth advocates decline analgesia in childbirth, many women are very eager to take advantage of modern anesthesia. / A disease of the spinal cord can cause analgesia, which can be dangerous because the patient doesn't know when he has injured himself.
annul
Can we appreciate the art of a murderer? For many, the value of these paintings is annulled by the artist's crimes.
anodyne
While aspirin is a nice analgesic, the construction worker argued that, for sore and tired muscles, nothing beat the anodyne effects of a six-pack of beer.
antedate
Dinosaurs antedate the first human beings by about 65 million years. / Jamal didn't get around to writing the "Best Vocabulary Words of 2010" blog post until January 3rd, but he antedated the post for December 31st so at least the infrequent readers wouldn't notice.
antithetical
Partying all night, every night, is antithetical to one's academic performance.
apostate
Many people considered "freedom fighters" by some are considered apostates by others; some women's rights leaders in very conservative nations receive death threats from religious leaders who consider them apostate.
apostle
In the 1980's, when low-fat diets were all the rage, Dr. Rubens became an apostle of the Mediterranean diet, high in healthy fats, and traveled the world proselytizing to groups of physicians and nutritionists.
apposite
He searched his brain for an apposite word to describe wealthy Americans' addiction to consumer goods, until he discovered the neologism "affluenza."
apprise
I can't believe you failed to apprise me that my child was biting the other children in his preschool class! If I had known, I could've addressed this issue before all the other parents threatened to sue!
approbation
In her speech for class president, she won the approbation of her peers by promising not only to save the prom, but to raise enough money to make it free for everyone.
appropriate
The school board appropriated money for new textbooks. / In putting together the perfect outfit for Career Day at her high school, Mackenzie appropriated her mother's stethoscope and her little brother's stuffed pig, making it clear to everyone that she wanted to be a veterinarian.
arbiter
Professional mediators arbitrate disputes. / The principal said, "As the final arbiter of what is and is not appropriate in the classroom, I demand that you take down that poster of the rapper Ice-T and his scantily-clad wife Coco."
ardent
He was an ardent heavy metal lover and became offended anytime someone referred to Poison as a "hair band." / They were so in love that not even meeting each other's awful relatives could dampen their ardor.
arrogate
In order to build the oil pipeline, the government arrogated the land of many small farmers who are still fighting for compensation. / The bride's mother arrogated the right to decide on the venue, the food, and even the wedding dress!
ascribe
He ascribed his good grades to diligent studying. / The young boy ascribed to his imaginary friend all the powers he wished he had himself—being able to fly, having dozens of friends, and never having to eat his broccoli.
aseptic
It is very important to perform surgery in an aseptic environment, lest a patient contract sepsis (a systemic infection) and die.
asperity
Used to a more lax school environment, the freshman at military school was shocked by the asperity of punishments meted out for even the most minor offenses, as well as the asperity with which his drill sergeant bossed him around. / The asperity of her cheap, scratchy sweater made her wish she could afford cashmere.
aspersions
He could no longer work with his duplicitous business partner, who acted friendly to his face but then spewed aspersions about him behind his back. / If you asperse me one more time, I will sue you for libel!
assail
One strategy for winning in boxing is to simply assail your opponent with so many blows that he becomes disoriented. / The debate team assailed the opposition with more evidence than they could respond to.
assiduous
Through assiduous effort over a substantial period of time, anyone can develop a prodigious vocabulary.
attenuate
When you pull a piece of bubblegum so that it becomes long and thin, you are attenuating it. / Sadly, the day care center was so understaffed that the carers' efforts were attenuated, and many of the children barely received any attention at all.
attuned
Research shows that new mothers are keenly attuned to their babies' cries; even those who were formerly heavy sleepers often find that they now wake up immediately when their babies need attention. / In the sixth week of Melanie's foreign study program, she finally attuned herself to life on a French farm.
augury
Value investors such as Warren Buffett (who attempt to buy shares in undervalued companies by analyzing the businesses themselves) consider others' attempts to "time the market" as mere augury, equivalent to trying to predict rain by reading tea leaves.
august
"I welcome you to this august institution, where presidents and Nobel Prize winners have received the fruits of erudition," said the university president (rather bombastically) to the new crop of first-year students.
avarice
It is hard to fathom the sheer avarice of a company that would fraudulently overcharge a struggling school system for new computers.
axiom
Given the last decade of research into the brain—as well as our own experience trying to function while deprived of sleep or food—we must take as axiomatic that the brain is influenced by the body.
balloon
During the dot-com bubble, the university's investments ballooned to three times their former value.
banal
The drama professor despaired at reading another banal play from his uninspired students. "Oh look," he said sarcastically, "yet another young person has decided to write a play about a young person breaking free of society's constraints. Can you see me yawning?"
bane
Mosquitoes are the bane of my existence! They just love me, and by "love" I mean ruin my summer! / The closure of the hospital could not have been more baneful to the already strained community.
baying
The lonely dog bayed all night. / The mob bayed for the so-called traitors to be put to death.
beneficent
The billionaire had been a mean and stingy fellow, but after his death, his beneficent widow gave all his money to charity, even accompanying the donations with handwritten notes thanking the charities for all the good work they did.
bent
He had a pedantic bent—he was just naturally inclined to correct people's grammar and otherwise act like an imperious schoolmaster. / Even a vow of silence couldn't dampen the nun's garrulous bent—even her prayers were verbose!
besiege
The regiment was besieged by attackers on all sides and finally surrendered. / I cannot go out this weekend—I am besieged by homework!
bevy
The bar owner cringed when a bevy of women in plastic tiaras came in—"Another drunken bachelorette party," he sighed.
bifurcate
The medical student carefully bifurcated the cadaver brain, separating it precisely into right and left hemispheres. / The bifurcate tree stood tall, its two massive branches reaching for the sky.
bilk
The con artist bilked many elderly people out of their savings, promising to cure illnesses from diabetes to cancer with only 36 monthly payments of $99.99—for which the victims received nothing but useless placebo pills.
blight
Many potato farmers have fallen into poverty as a result of blight killing their crops. / Gang violence is a blight on our school system, causing innocent students to fear even attending classes. / Violence has blighted our town.
blithe
Delighted about making the cheerleading team, she blithely skipped across the street without looking, and just narrowly avoided being hit by a bus.
bombastic
Professor Knutsen's friends joked that he became quite bombastic after a few drinks, once asking a woman in a bar, "Is your daddy an aesthete? Because you are the epitome of ineffable pulchritude." She replied, "I'm not impressed by your bombast."
bonhomie
By the end of the summer, the campers were overflowing with bonhomie, vowing to remain Facebook friends forever.
brandish
The Renaissance Fair ended badly, with one drunken fellow brandishing a sword and refusing to leave the ladies' dressing tent.
brook
"You will do your homework every night before you go anywhere, you will do your chores, and you will be home by 9 p.m. I will brook no disobeying of these rules, young man!"
bucolic
The play was set in a bucolic wonderland—while getting some shepherd's robes for the lead actor was no problem, the stagehands had a hard time bringing in a flock of sheep.
burnish
Mr. Hoffenstotter replaced all of the rustic wood doorknobs with newer models made of burnished steel. "So shiny," said his delighted wife.
calumny
I've had enough of your calumnious accusations! Admit that you made up all those wicked things about me, or I will see you in court when I sue you for slander!
canard
The idea that we only use 10% of our brains is a tired, old canard; actually, even the dumbest people use all of their brains.
cardinal
The cardinal rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club.
catholic
Some precursors to the Constitution (such as documents governing the colonies) enumerated the rights of male property holders only. The U.S. Constitution took a more catholic approach, declaring that "All men are created equal." Today, policy writers would probably take catholicism a step further and write "All people."
chicanery
The defense lawyer's strategy for getting her client acquitted by knowingly misinterpreting words in an obscure precedent was nothing but chicanery. / Nice try, passing off last week's homework as this week's by changing the date at the top. I've had enough of your chicanery, young man!
circumscribe
Suki's parent circumscribed her after-school activities; she was permitted only to study and to join organizations directly related to academic subjects. / A square circumscribed in a circle has all four of its vertices on the circle's circumference. / Our land is circumscribed by hedges and fences.
circumspect
Luann immediately forked over an initiation fee to become a vitamin distributor, but her more circumspect brother had a list of at least 20 questions he wanted answered before he would consider joining.
clamber
The hiker had spent the last hour plodding lethargically up the side of the mountain, but when she caught sight of the summit, she excitedly began to clamber up even the steepest inclines.
cloying
I do like visiting our grandmother, but I can't stand those cloying movies she watches—last time it was some heart-tugging story where an orphan saves a suffering pony. / I do like cake, but I find that honey-covered angel food cake positively cloying.
coagulate
Hemophilia is a medical condition in which the blood doesn't coagulate, meaning that a hemophiliac can easily bleed to death from a small wound. / When making jam, use pectin to get the fruit to coagulate.
coda
"You play this middle section twice, then move to the coda," the music teacher explained to the child. "The coda always comes last." / Dropping my purse in a mud puddle right outside my own front door was a fine coda to a horrible evening.
coffer
The dishonest employee called it "dipping into the company coffers," but the arresting officer called it "embezzlement." / Rather than rent a safety-deposit box, I keep my priceless antique coins in a coffer here at home.
collude
After two competing software companies doubled their prices on the same day, leaving consumers no lower-priced alternative, the federal government investigated the companies for collusion.
compendium
I could hardly bring my whole collection of poetry books on vacation, so instead, I brought a lightweight poetry compendium containing a few selections each from 30 or so poets thought to represent various styles and eras. / This movie review is unusually compendious—although a scant 500 words, it tells every single thing that happens in the entire film.
complaisant
Coming from a more uptight corporate background, Chris found the soup kitchen volunteers remarkably complaisant—when he asked the greeters to sweep the floor and the cooks to wash dishes, everyone happily moved to their new positions.
confound
He was positively confounded by a map that seemed to show "East Bethlehem" as being to the west of "West Bethlehem." / He was already a little flummoxed in regards to differential equations, but reading an incorrectly-edited Wikipedia page on the topic only confounded the problem.
connote
The word "titanic" simply means large or majestic, but because of the word's association with the sunken ship, "titanic" has a negative connotation to many people.
contraries
The Machiavellian among us would say that ethics and expedience are contraries—at some point, one must win out over the other.
contrite
He would have punished his son more severely for breaking his car's windshield in a "rock throwing contest," but the boy seemed truly contrite.
contumacious
The psychologist's book Dealing With Your Contumacious Teenager would have sold many more copies to parents of rude and rebellious youth if only people knew what contumacious meant.
convoke
The dean has convoked this gathering to discuss the Honor Code.
cosset
The cosseted toddler was lovingly wrapped up in his snow gear, so much so that he could barely even move his arms enough to make his first snowball.
coterie
The pop star never traveled anywhere without a coterie of assistants and managers.
cupidity
The doctor's medical license was revoked after it was discovered that, out of sheer cupidity, he had diagnosed people with illnesses they didn't have and pocketed insurance money for performing procedures they didn't need.
curmudgeon
The college students' party was hampered by constant complaints from a curmudgeonly neighbor who insisted that making noise after 8pm was unreasonable, and called the police over a single beer can on his lawn.
declaim
After a drink or two, Gabe will declaim all night about campaign finance reform—you won't be able get a word in edgewise in between all his grandstanding and "expertise."
declivity
Not just any declivity can serve as a wheelchair ramp—I'm pretty sure this thing is too steep to pass regulations.
delimit
The role of an executive coach is delimited by our code of conduct—we may not counsel people for psychological conditions, for instance.
demagogue
Political demagogues lie and twist the facts, depending more on their natural charisma and ability to determine exactly what their audience wants to hear than any actual understanding or perspicacity.
demur
When asked to name her favorite professor in the department, she demurred—she was pretty sure that, if she said anything, it would come back to haunt her.
desultory
Lulu said she'd been studying for the GRE for a year, but she had been doing so in only the most desultory way—a few vocab words here and there, then nothing for a month, and practice tests whenever she felt like it, which was rarely. / Don't mind my daughter—there's no need to let a toddler's desultory remarks pull an adult conversation off track.
diaphanous
The wedding dress was a confection of diaphanous silk, made of at least ten layers of the thin fabric, each layer of which was so fine you could see through it.
dichotomy
There is a dichotomy in the sciences between theoretical or "pure" sciences such as physics and chemistry, and the life sciences, which often deal more with classifying than with theorizing.
dictum
"A stitch in time saves nine" is an old dictum meaning that it's easier to solve a problem before it gets too big. / The king's dictum stated that each feudal lord must provide a certain number of soldiers within three weeks' time.
diffident
Natasha was so diffident that she never believed her comments could be worth anything in class, even when she knew the answer.
diffuse
The spy attempted to root out the dissenters at the gala, but he was only able to detect a diffuse sense of discontent all around the room. / It will be very difficult to diffuse the power among the people when transitioning from autocracy to democracy.
dilate
The doctor gave her eye drops to make her pupils dilate. / These dinners at Professor Hwang's house usually run rather late—after the meal, he'll typically dilate on his latest research for at least an hour.
dilatory
Jack was supposed to start his presentation 10 minutes ago and he isn't even here? I'm not surprised—he's a dilatory fellow.
dilettante
The "arts center" in the rich neighborhood was populated by dilettantes—a sculpture here, a bit of music appreciation there, two weeks of painting class until they got bored and quit.
dirge
It was supposed to be a wedding march, but when the organist started playing, the reluctant bride thought the song sounded more like a dirge for her former, carefree life.
discomfiting
His fiancée's family said they were comfortable with the fact that he was of a different religion, but he found their constant probing about his beliefs quite discomfiting./ He hates telemarketers so much that he likes to discomfit them by asking them personal questions and suggesting he call them at their homes instead.
discordant
In a graduation ceremony full of hopeful and congratulatory speeches, the salutatorian's address about the terrible economy struck a discordant note.
discrete
Be sure to use quotation marks and citations as appropriate in your paper in order to keep your ideas discrete from those of the experts you are quoting. / The advertising agency pitched us not on one campaign, but on three discrete ideas.
disparage
An ad hominem attack is a logical fallacy in which the arguer disparages his opponent rather than addressing the opponent's ideas. / Your shoplifting arrest has disparaged this family!
disparate
He chose the college for two disparate reasons: the strength of the computer science program, and the excellence of the hip-hop dance squad.
dissemble
Roxanne was used to dissembling in job interviews; when asked about the gap on her resume from 1999-2003, she would say, "Oh, I was out of the workforce fulfilling some obligations"—a somewhat misleading way to describe a prison stint. / He won so much money at pool halls by dissembling inexperience, pretending at first that he had no idea how to even hold a pool cue; once bets were placed, he handily defeated his opponents.
dissolution
Raoul went from garden-variety hedonism to utter dissolution—his three-day drug benders cost him his job and may land him in jail. / Following the dissolution of the corporation and the liquidation of our assets, each investor will receive a cash payment proportional to his or her shareholding in the company.
distaff
In completing your medical history, please try to remember which illnesses occurred on the distaff side of your family. / Medical studies using all-male study groups may produce results that cannot be replicated in distaff subjects.
distend
The emergency room doctor constantly saw people who came in with distended bellies, sure that they had appendicitis; usually, it was just gas.
dither
"Stop dithering," said the mother to her daughter. "Pick which sweater you want so I can pay for it and we can get out of here." / The haunted house brought the children to a dither from which it was difficult for their parents to calm them down.
diurnal
While many Americans rarely have a sit-down family meal, in many other cultures, dining as a family is a diurnal affair. / Wall Street is a diurnal neighborhood—hectic in the day, but quiet once people pile on the rush hour trains to go home.
doctrinaire
The old science professor was so doctrinaire that he refused to even consider any evidence that flew in the face of his own research, and thereby failed to recognize when his graduate students made an exciting new discovery. / Don't be a doctrinaire—try actually considering the views of those you disagree with!
doff
Before the spring break revelers could consider doffing their clothes, they saw the sign: "No skinny dipping." / In my grandfather's day, it was considered polite to doff your hat when a lady entered the room; to us today, lifting your hat a few inches off your head and then putting it right back seems to some like a silly way to show respect.
dovetail
When the neuroscientist married an exercise physiologist, neither thought they'd end up working together, but when Dr. Marion Ansel received a grant to study how exercise improves brain function and Dr. Jim Ansel was assigned to her team, the two found that their careers dovetailed nicely.
droll
The play was a droll production—not laugh-out-loud hilarious, but funny especially because it was so strange. Who's ever seen a fairy be mistaken for a block of cheese?
dupe
The dashing rogue used flattery and lies to dupe several old ladies out of their money. "I feel like a total dupe," said Hazel Rosenbaum, 87. "I thought he and I were going to get married, but he really just wanted my Social Security checks."
duplicity
The campaign worker's duplicity finally came to light when it was discovered that, despite rising to a trusted position within the local Workers Party, he was actually a registered National Party member and was feeding information back to his cronies.
dyspeptic
The dyspeptic professor was so angered by a question from a student who hadn't done the homework that he actually stomped out of class.
ebullient
The children were so ebullient upon their arrival at Disneyworld that their parents, while happy to see them so excited, wished that there were a way to forcibly restrain them in case they took off running towards the rides.
echelon
Obtaining a job on Wall Street doesn't guarantee access to the upper echelon of executives, where multimillion dollar bonuses are the norm. / I'm not sure I'm cut out to analyze poetry; I find it hard to dig beyond the most accessible echelon of meaning.
edify
Look, Son, I'm glad that you're reading, but I really wish you would read something more edifying than that magazine that gives tips for winning at violent video games.
effigy
The dictator was disturbed to look out the palace window and see himself being burned in effigy. "That paper mache dummy doesn't even look like me!" he said.
effrontery
Mr. Jackson thought his daughter's boyfriend guilty of the worst effrontery when he asked for her hand in marriage—and, as soon as Mr. Jackson gave his blessing, followed up by asking for a job at Mr. Jackson's company.
egress
It is against the fire code to put those boxes there—you can't block a primary or secondary egress from the building.
elegy
While composing an elegy is certainly old-fashioned, the poet felt that it was a fitting way for her to honor her father at his funeral.
emaciate
After 50 days floating on a raft at sea, he was quite emaciated—his family was elated that he was alive, but shocked to see a formerly 165-pound man looking skeletal at just 125 pounds.
encomium
Just after all the encomia at his retirement party, he received a gold watch. / The first draft of your dissertation is little but an encomium of the works of Christopher Marlowe, whereas I'm afraid that doctoral-level work requires a more nuanced and critical view.
endemic
Certain diseases—especially those that require a precise mix of environmental conditions and local plant and animal life to thrive—remain endemic to particular regions.
engender
The television demagogue was blamed for engendering hate and divisiveness. / Having four wives helped the magnate engender 15 children.
epicure
A true epicure, he served only the finest wines, and bragged about how the pancetta was imported from Italy and the Stilton cheese from the English countryside.
equanimity
Having worked for many years in mental hospitals, her equanimity was unparalleled—you could throw a chair or a bowl of spaghetti at her, and she would just say, "Settle down, now."
equivocate
Not wanting to lose supporters, the politician equivocated on the issue, tossing out buzzwords related to each side while also claiming more study was needed.
ersatz
I hate this health food restaurant! I do not want to eat some ersatz meatballs made of textured vegetable protein!
erstwhile
A novelist and erstwhile insurance salesman, he told us his story of the long road to literary success, before he was able to quit his day job.
ethos
At the prep school, the young man happily settled into an ethos of hard work and rigorous athletic competition.
euphemism
Many euphemisms surround death and disease; rather than "Joe died of cancer," many people feel better saying "Joe's suffering is finally over." / When potty training their children, some parents use hilarious euphemisms for body parts.
euphony
Poetry in translation can keep its meaning, but often loses the euphony the poet worked so laboriously to create.
exigent
My boss said she would take me out to lunch and "mentor" me, but that idea always gets tossed aside in favor of more exigent matters.
exonerate
When the defendant was exonerated after a long trial, his family wept for joy.
expedient
"I need this report by 2pm, and I don't care what you have to do to make that happen," said the boss. "I expect you to deal with it expediently." / When invited to a wedding you cannot attend, it is expedient to send a gift.
expurgate
When the girl discovered that her ninth-grade class had been reading an expurgated version of Romeo and Juliet, she immediately checked the original out from the library so she could read all the "forbidden" parts.
extemporaneous
The way the Public Affairs Forum works is that the moderator will announce a topic, and then anyone who wishes may speak extemporaneously on that topic for a few minutes—as you can imagine, our members are very well-read. / Lost in the jungle, the hikers fashioned an extemporaneous shelter from palm leaves.
faction
The opposition movement was once large enough to have a chance at succeeding, but it has since broken into numerous, squabbling factions, each too small to have much impact. / The caucus began in a spirit of unity but now, sadly, is marked by faction and petty squabbles.
fallow
Crop yields were increased substantially when the villagers discovered that leaving a portion of their fields lie fallow allowed that unused part of the land to become renewed with minerals. / It is terribly important that we make college affordable for underprivileged students, lest great minds lie fallow, and the world never benefit from their genius.
fastidious
Steve was a fastidious housekeeper, fluffing his couch pillows at least twice a day and never allowing the tiniest speck of dust to settle on any exposed surface.
fatuous
Sadly, every philosophy class seems to have one person who responds to every discussion, from metaphysics to ethics, with the fatuous question, "But what if we don't really exist?"
fawn
Although he was only president of a chain of grocery stores, he was used to being fawned over like a king or rock star. "You are truly king of the low-priced produce world," said the regional manager. "May I wash your car for you?"
fecund
Rabbits are quite fecund; if you've got two, you'll soon have forty. / While some novelists seem to return to the same themes over and over, Bredlaw's fecund mind produced whole new universes for every story he wrote.
felicitous
"What a felicitous occasion!" said the new grandfather, arriving at the hospital with an "It's a Girl!" balloon. The new father found the balloon remarkably felicitous, especially since the baby's gender had been announced less than an hour ago.
fervid
He is a fervid fan of Virginia Tech football, so much so that we've all gotten used to receiving "Go Hokies!" hats and shirts for every birthday.
fetid
I hate doing your laundry—it's always full of fetid gym socks.
fledgling
The zoo's EagleCam will hopefully be able to catch the moment the fledglings fly out of the nest for the very first time! / The Society of Engineers is available for Career Day presentations in elementary schools, where we hope to encourage fledgling talents in the applied sciences.
florid
His writing was so florid that it was hard for modern readers to understand, and unintentionally humorous when they did. He once called a woman in a hoop skirt a "confection of gossamer-clad ephemerality, the bounty of her raiment ringing in my turgid heart like the tintinnabulation of so many church bells."
flout
He flouted the boarding school's curfew so blatantly that, on his way back from a party that lasted past midnight, he actually stopped by the headmaster's house to say hello to his daughter.
fluke
It's amazing that I won the prize during halftime, but I guarantee you, it was just a fluke that I made that basket—if I tried a thousand more times, I'm sure I couldn't do it again.
forage
It's important to seal your trash cans tightly in this neighborhood, or else you'll get raccoons foraging for food in your backyard.
ford
The pioneers made camp near the riverbank, waiting for the rains to die down and the river to become fordable again. A week later, the waters were shallow enough to ford the river with their entire caravan—horses, wagons, and all.
forestall
Our research has been forestalled by a lack of funding; we're all just biding our time while we wait for the university to approve our grant proposal.
fortuitous
It was amazingly fortuitous that the exclusive beach resort had a cancellation for exactly the weekend she had wanted to get married, allowing her to have the perfect wedding after all.
fracas
Rugby is one of the most aggressive of sports—when the players rush to pile on top of the person with the ball, bones can easily be broken in the fracas.
fractious
The Students for Progressive Action were a fractious bunch, always fighting with one another over exactly which progressive action should take priority.
frenetic
The advice in the expert's time management book struck many as unrealistic, as not everyone can handle the frenetic lifestyle the author espouses: getting up before dawn to begin work before spending quality time with the kids over breakfast, taking conference calls from the treadmill, etc.
fulminate
Please don't bring up anything related to gun control around my family, or my dad will fulminate for hours about the Second Amendment.
furtive
As a spokesperson for a popular diet plan, the actress had to be quite furtive about eating junk food, even hiding her M&Ms in a breath mint container lest the paparazzi snap photos of the inside of her car.
gambol
Watching the children gambol in the park like frisky little lambs, she wondered how they could have so much energy.
garner
The publisher sent copies of the soon-to-be-published manuscript to reviewers, hoping to garner acclaim and publicity for the book.
gestation
The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months, more than twice as long as that of humans!
glacial
He had wanted to appear in the singing reality competition his whole young life, but he was not encouraged by the judges' glacial response to his audition. The awkward silence was excruciating as he waited for the stony-faced panel to say anything at all.
glower
He couldn't figure out why his girlfriend was glowering at him throughout dinner. "Oh," he finally realized, "Is it your birthday? Oh, and I forgot you hate seafood. Sorry about the fishsticks."
goad
He never forgave his friends for goading him into spray-painting the school with them. While the effect was temporarily hilarious, he lost a scholarship over the incident.
gouge
I was happy with this new video game console for a day or two, until I saw it advertised all over town for half the price and realized I'd been gouged. / He loves gory horror films, where people's eyes are gouged out and gross stuff like that.
graft
The part of the book describing the financial crisis is good, but the "What You Can Do" section seems grafted on, almost as though written by a different author. / It's not cool for your boss to pressure you into buying Girl Scout cookies from his daughter. If she were selling something larger, we'd call that graft.
grandiloquent
After memorizing 1,000 vocabulary flashcards for the GRE, Derek couldn't help but become a little grandiloquent, declaring his desire to "abscond from my familial domicile and satisfy my penchant for erudition." "You can do that later," said his mother, "but now it's your turn to do the dishes."
grandstand
I was really passionate about the candidate when he spoke at our school, but now that I think about it, he was just grandstanding. I mean, who could disagree that young people are the future? And doing a cheer for the environment doesn't actually signify a commitment to change any public policies about it.
grating
Folding jeans at the mall finally became unbearable when her kindly old supervisor was replaced with a young woman whose grating tone made commands like "Fold faster and then clean up this display!" sound like nails on a chalkboard.
grievous
While people certainly do injure themselves on hot stoves, such burns rarely compare to the grievous injuries sustained by people who do not observe safety procedures with twelve-gallon deep fryers.
grouse
By the end of the trip, everyone was annoyed by Lena's grousing—the bus ride was too bumpy, the food was too spicy, the air conditioning was too dehydrating, etc.... / Don't be offended, but I've got a grouse about the way you're handling this project.
grovel
Most of the laid-off employees packed their things and left the building—only one was seen groveling, literally on his knees asking his boss not to fire him and even offering to wash the boss's car.
halcyon
Installing drywall wasn't the career he'd planned for—every day he reminisced about the halcyon days of his high school football career, when he was treated like a god, and he had not a care in the world other than the next big game.
hallmark
Signature red soles are the hallmark of Christian Louboutin's shoes. / Fast-paced rhymes, an angry tenor, and personal attacks on celebrities are hallmarks of Eminem's music.
hand-wringing
There has been much hand-wringing (or wringing of hands) over falling test scores, with so-called experts acting as if the world will end if students do 1% worse in math and science.
hapless
Hiring this hapless new office manager was a mistake—he's always losing and breaking things, as though bad luck simply follows wherever he goes.
harangue
Look, I'll clean the gutters when I get a free weekend—I don't need you to keep haranguing me about it.
harrow
Let's start our garden together—you harrow, and I'll follow behind you planting the seeds. / The bus ride across Siberia was a harrowing experience—the roads were all ice, and the ancient, barely heated vehicle seemed to be lacking both headlights and brakes.
hedge
While he coaxed and cajoled us all into seeing "the best movie ever," he hedged once we were in the theater: "I don't know if you all like this sort of thing," he said. "I mean, you can make up your own minds." / When the professor called on him to take a stand on the issue, he hedged for fear of offending her: "Well, there are valid points on both sides," he said.
hegemony
The discovery of oil by a previously poor nation disrupted the larger, richer nation's hegemony in the region—suddenly, the hegemon had a competitor.
hermetic
These packaged meals are hermetically sealed—they'll last years in storage, but once opened, you need to finish the contents within a couple of days. / While writing hundreds of vocabulary flashcards, the GRE instructor lived a hermetic lifestyle, her skin growing pallid and her social network drastically shrinking.
hew
The pioneer had to hew his own way through the brush in order to proceed westward. / She preferred rustic furniture; her dining room chairs were little more than stumps roughly hewn into stools.
hoary
Hoary with age, his white beard making his age obvious even from the top of the bleachers, the old man surprised everyone when he was able to make a free throw. / Dad, I've heard your hoary old college fraternity stories a hundred times.
homage
This structure I built in the backyard is not just a skateboard ramp; it is an homage to my hero Tony Hawk. I have dubbed it the "Tony Hawk Rocks Western Pennsylvania Skateboard Ramp." / I'm not copying Madonna's song—I am referencing it in my own song as an homage to her work.
hoodwink
Pretending to be the building's landlord, the shyster was able to hoodwink 11 people into paying deposits on a vacant apartment—of course, he absconded with the money, leaving the victims without their money or a place to live.
hotly
The issue of how evolution should be taught in schools was hotly disputed by members of the school board, religious leaders, and parent groups.
husband
As we are dealing with cutbacks, I am calling on you as the office manager to husband our resources, parceling out office supplies and buying new ones only when absolutely necessary.
iconoclast
A lifelong iconoclast, Ayn Rand wrote a controversial book entitled The Virtue of Selfishness.
idolatry
After a year in an education Ph.D. program, she'd had enough with the idolatry of Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences—"Gardner isn't a god," she would say, "and you simply can't learn calculus through movement or interpersonal skills."
idyllic
An action-packed vacation wasn't their style—for their honeymoon, they enjoyed a quiet idyll in a cabin in the woods, just watching the deer and enjoying nature.
ignoble
What you have done may not be illegal, but it surely is ignoble—people who don't read the user agreement surely do not expect that, by clicking "I Agree," they have signed up for a Jelly of the Month club!
imbue
After shearing the sheep and spinning the yarn, the next step is to imbue the yarn with dye. / His poems are imbued with a sense of longing for a lost homeland.
immutable
Studies of the brains of stroke patients have shown that our identities are not fixed and immutable; rather, physical injuries to the brain can drastically change our personalities.
impasse
If the union won't budge on its demands and the transit authority won't raise salaries, then we are at an impasse.
impassive
Having been in and out of hospitals all his life, he accepted this latest diagnosis impassively—"Whatever happens, happens," he said.
impecunious
Having grown up with impecunious parents who could barely keep the electricity on in the house, she was now obsessed with wealth and security.
imperious
Her friend were peeved by her imperious attitude and talked about her while she was in the ladies' room: "Who does she think she is, not only picking the bar and the meeting time but also telling us where to sit?"
impermeable
A good raincoat is totally impermeable to water.
imperturbable
Having seen pretty much everything, the kindergarten teacher was truly imperturbable: a morning containing a discipline problem, two bathroom accidents, one fight, and one temper tantrum didn't bother her in the least.
impervious
The problem with arrogant people is that they are impervious to criticism of their arrogance; anything you say to them just rolls right off.
impetuous
Reflecting on her most recent breakup, Heather decided that next time she would like to date someone less impetuous; a man who quits his job on a whim and suggests moving together to Utah and raising llamas was just a little too impulsive for her tastes.
impious
In religious schools, impious behavior is generally prohibited.
implacable
After the dog groomer misunderstood and shaved the family Weimaraner totally bald, Mr. Garcia was implacable; neither an offer of a free gift certificate nor a complimentary doggie sweater would reduce his fury.
imprecation
The haunted house features a "wicked witch" chanting imprecations at all who pass through.
impugn
I hate to impugn the motives of the volunteers, but I think that some of them are here for personal gain, not to help.
impute
The ineffectual CEO was nevertheless a master of public relations—he made sure that all successes were imputed to him, and all of the failures were imputed to others.
incarnadine
The police took the body to the morgue; all that was left at the murder scene was an incarnadine stain on a pillow.
inconstancy
Old-fashioned poems often praised a lover's constancy; the poet would likely be shocked by any inconstancy from his lady, such as if she were receiving poems from other poets.
inculcate
Parents spend years trying to inculcate morality in their children, constantly teaching and correcting them.
indefatigable
The boxer was indefatigable; round after round, he never lost speed or energy, even after he had thoroughly defatigated his opponent.
indigence
The city government has several agencies that provide shelter, food, and other assistance to the indigent.
indolent
Having worked all his life, the CEO was constantly frustrated with his indolent son, who used his inherited wealth as an excuse to sunbathe and party.
inert
"All of the missiles at the military museum are inert, Timmy," said the tour guide, answering the question children always asked. "They're not going to blow up." / When she saw her father's inert body on the floor, she thought the worst, but fortunately he was just practicing very slow yoga.
inexorable
Many people fled Europe in the face of Hitler's inexorable march across the continent.
infallible
No good scientist thinks he or she is infallible—it is fundamental to the scientific method that every theory is open to revision based on new evidence.
ingrate
You ingrate! I have slaved at this laundromat to pay for your college education, and you quit two weeks before graduation to become a Marxist revolutionary, and then you tell me I'm the enemy of the working class?
ingratiate
Ryan's attempts to ingratiate himself with the boss were quite transparent—no one really believes that a 25 year old loves the same cigars, classic rock, and AARP crosswords as the 65 year old company president.
inimical
Most people think that being shouted at in the freezing rain is inimical to learning; sadly, our boot camp instructor disagreed.
iniquity
The preacher's sermon about loving your neighbor was regarded by some as a welcome departure from his usual fiery homilies railing against iniquity. / Iniquitous corporations, such as those that spill oil into our oceans, must be punished.
inordinate
Students taking practice Computer Adaptive Tests at home often take an inordinate number of breaks—remember, on the real thing, you can't stop just because you're tired or hungry.
inquest
The family waited nervously for the results of the inquest, which finally returned a verdict of misadventure; that is, their grandfather had not been murdered, but rather died in a freak accident of his own doing.
insensible
Very intoxicated people can be insensible to pain, leading to serious problems as they injure themselves and don't realize it. / I cannot believe that, while I was insensible after the operation, you put funny hats on me and took pictures! You are insensible to shame!
insinuate
"Where's your boyfriend? You didn't leave him home alone, did you?" asked Ming. "Are you insinuating something?" asked Helen. "If you have something to say, just say it."
insipid
This is a university-level poetry class, and your insipid drivel just won't cut it here. "Things that are bad always make me sad"? Really? / The restaurant critic called the dish "insipid"—I did think it was bland, but I probably would've been more polite about it.
insular
The young actress couldn't wait to escape the insularity of her small town, where life revolved around high school football and Taco Bell was considered exotic international cuisine.
insurrection
Due to frequent insurrections, the nation has had six governments in just five years. / The principal prepared for insurrection as she announced that all teachers were to spend the rest of the year exclusively preparing for standardized tests.
inter
After the funeral, the body will be interred in the cemetery. / Occasionally, a criminal investigation requires disinterring, or exhuming, a body for autopsy; this can be upsetting to family members who have already buried their loved one.
interplay
Bilingual readers will enjoy the interplay of English and Spanish in many of the poems in this anthology of the work of Mexican-American poets.
interregnum
When the king died with no heir, his ministers ruled in the interregnum as the nobles argued over which of the king's nephews should rule next. / In the interregnum between Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was no single female pop star who commanded such titanic audiences.
intransigent
"Even three detentions and a note home to your parents haven't convinced you to behave yourself in class!" the teacher said to the intransigent child.
inundate
As the city was inundated with water, the mayor feared that many evacuees would have nowhere to go. / I can't go out—I am inundated with homework!
inure
Having had over a dozen surgeries before she was 10, spending months at a time in the hospital, she considered herself inured to pain and disappointment.
invective
Although the money was good, she quit her job after nearly having a nervous breakdown from her boss's invective.
inveigle
After Mrs. Kim found out that her son's friends had inveigled him into doing something stupid, she gave him a lecture on standing up to peer pressure.
investiture
The former dean had her academic robes dry cleaned in preparation for her investiture as university president.
invidious
School bullying has become a serious problem, with ongoing invidious behavior driving students to suicide.
irascible
"I spent my entire childhood tiptoeing around so as not to anger my irascible mother," Joe told his therapist.
irresolute
If we were voting on the bill this moment, we'd have enough votes to pass it. But many of our supporters are irresolute—we're worried that when lobbyists get to them, they'll quickly change their minds.
itinerant
In rural areas in the 1940s, it was common that a small town would lack its own doctor, instead being seen by an itinerant family physician who made rounds to many such towns.
itinerary
Great, that was the Parthenon! What's next on our itinerary?
jettison
We got so tired while hiking the Appalachian Trail that we jettisoned some of our fancy camping supplies just so we could drag ourselves to a place where we could get medical attention.
jingoism
He is such a jingoist that he's always yelling at the TV, calling even the most conservative commentators "wimps" for failing to suggest that we simply nuke, burn, pillage, and otherwise extirpate our so-called enemies.
juxtapose
Making a decision between two engagement rings from two different stores was difficult, he noted—it would be much easier if he could juxtapose them and compare them directly.
kindle
It's hard to kindle a campfire when it's so damp out. / Although they were apart, the lovers' passion was only further kindled by the love letters they wrote to one another.
kinetic
Marisa told her mother what she had learned in science class: a ball sitting on a table has potential energy, but a ball falling towards the ground has kinetic energy.
knell
The Senate minority leader's speech was a death knell for the bill; all hope of bipartisan cooperation was lost.
lachrymose
Accustomed to lachrymose occasions, the funeral home kept boxes of tissues near every seat.
larceny
The department store employs a security officer whose job it is to prevent larceny.
largess or largesse
While I did attend a tony private school, my parents were actually quite poor—I was at that school through the largesse of my grandfather.
latent
Certain experts believe that some people have a genetic propensity for addiction; however, if such a person never comes into contact with drugs, the propensity for addiction can remain latent for life.
laudable
When a major discount mart fired several employees for subduing a gunman, most people considered the action a laudable act of heroism, but the discount chain fired the employees for "violating company policies." Nevertheless, the mayor lauded the former employees in a medal-granting ceremony.
lax
My parents were really lax about homework—they never checked to see if I did it or not. Sadly, this legacy of laxity is not serving me well while studying for the GRE.
leery
You should be leery of any business opportunity that requires a startup fee and a "sponsor"—you might find yourself sucked into a scam.
legerdemain
The child was astounded when her uncle pulled out a quarter from behind her ear. Of course, she hadn't actually lost a quarter there; it was just a bit of legerdemain from an amateur magician.
lethargic
I do love the Golden Corral's reasonably priced buffet, but I feel so lethargic after I eat my weight in mac-and-cheese and hand-carved turkey.
licentious
The licentious behavior Joe was accustomed to practicing at the local strip club was enough to get him thrown out of a nice restaurant and fired from his new job.
limpid
Hawaii was amazing! The water was crystal clear—so limpid that when you were scuba diving, you could see ahead for what seemed like miles! / After two years meditating in religious seclusion, he had a totally limpid attitude, affected by nothing from the outside world.
lionize
Being a chef has long been a prestigious profession, but it is only in the last decade or so that "celebrity chefs" have been lionized and given their own television shows.
lissome
The actress exercised and stretched every day, but was ultimately told by the casting director that she wasn't lissome enough to play a ballet dancer. The actress had to agree—"I walk like an ogre," she said.
listless
I'm too tired to care about homework," mumbled the listless child, staring blankly at the wall. "Maybe if someone brought me a glass of milk and a cookie...
livid
Diane was livid when she discovered that her daughter had borrowed her wedding dress to wear to an '80s party. "I have never been angrier in my life," she said.
lugubrious
Helen was having a good time at the Irish pub until the Traditional Music Hour started, and the lugubrious tunes made her cry into her Guinness.
lumber
Alicia was a model and was accustomed to walking everywhere as though on a catwalk, so she was quite displeased when she broke her leg and had to lumber around in a cast, thumping the ground everywhere she went.
luminous
Use our new light-reflecting shimmer blush for a luminous complexion! / We are conferring this honorary degree on the author in appreciation for sharing his luminous intellect with the world. He is truly a luminary.
lurid
I do like to keep up with what celebrities are doing, but that tabloid is just too lurid for me—just look at the cover: "Worst Cellulite in Hollywood" and "Exclusive Crash Photos." Truly horrible.
machination or machinations
It's cute to think that teen idols became famous because their talent was simply so great that the music industry reached out to them, but usually, any teen idol is the product of intense coaching and parental machinations.
maelstrom
The Smiths lost their houseboat in a maelstrom, but were at least thankful that they weren't on the boat at the time and thus escaped the violent storm at sea. / After having been homeschooled her whole life, the first week of college was a maelstrom of social events, orientations, and business.
magnanimous
The twins were so different from one another—while Andrea was petty and vengeful and would hold a grudge for years, Marina was quite magnanimous, easily forgiving insults or slights, and simply rising above the petty bickering and cliquish behavior of our high school.
magnate
Many students pursue MBAs in hopes of becoming wealthy and powerful magnates; some students never quite make it there, instead spending their careers staring at spreadsheets and taking orders from magnates.
malediction
Sheila thought the fortune teller was her friend, but when she didn't pay her bill, the fortune teller cast a hex on her, a malediction intended to cause terrible things to befall her.
malinger
Joey was sick in class on Monday and was sent to the school nurse to sleep it off. The next day, having realized that illness was a good way to get out of class, Joey said his stomach hurt and spent the afternoon in the nurse's office. By Wednesday, though, the nurse accused him of malingering and sent him back to class.
manifest
My superstitious aunt claims that she saw a manifestation of our deceased grandfather, who appeared during a thunderstorm to warn us all about our cousin's fiance. / Lupus is difficult to diagnose, but sometimes manifests as muscular weakness or joint pain.
mannered
Although he grew up in rural Ohio, sometime before he got his own makeover show on television he adopted a mannered way of speaking, as though he had grown up in some very odd corner of Victorian England.
mar
The interior designer's secret was to buy furnishings and fixtures that had been marred on the shop floor and therefore were sold at steep discounts; she would then fix the defects herself or add additional aging effects to the pieces.
martinet
It was no fun growing up with a military officer for a dad. He was such a martinet he once made me do 20 pushups for being one minute late to bed—even though the reason I was late was that I wanted to kiss him goodnight.
maudlin
I had no idea the film was going to be a maudlin affair in which the male lead dies and the female lead has his baby, who then also dies. Half the theater was weeping, and the other half was just shaking their heads at how badly written the movie was.
maxim
My favorite maxim is "seize the day!" How much would it cost to get that on a tattoo? How much more for "curiosity killed the cat"?
mendicant
Having joined a mendicant order, the friar had vowed not to own property, and instead to subsist on the donations of the faithful.
meretricious
The singer performed her concert draped in what looked from far away like precious jewels. Up close, though, the fan could see that the accessories were just meretricious plastic, glittery junk, like what little girls buy at the mall.
metaphysical
My poetry class has all kinds. In contrast to Gary's poetry about dogs and horses, Neil's poetry is very metaphysical, exploring the relation of mortal humans to a timeless universe. It's a little over Gary's head.
milieu
Becoming a priest in the anything-goes milieu of the 1960s gave Father Bryant an interesting perspective on two contrasting philosophies. / After the fall of the Soviet Union, a milieu of crushing poverty, yet hopeful aspiration, existed in the former satellite state.
militate
While his resume was stellar, his speech impediment militated against his performance in job interviews.
mired
Mired in her predecessor's mess and mistakes, the new CEO found it difficult to take the company in a new direction.
mirth
Nothing could beat the mirth of the office holiday party—once everyone had heard how fat their bonuses would be, the delighted staff formed a conga line and drank and danced the night away.
misanthrope or misanthropist
He is such a misanthrope that when some Girl Scouts going door to door asked if he'd like to sponsor a hungry child overseas, he replied, "The fewer people in the world, the better," and shut the door in their faces!
missive
While Don was overseas fighting in World War II, he lived for the missives from the wife he had left behind.
modicum
In her first five years in Hollywood, she experienced only a modicum of success as an actress, appearing twice in commercials and once as a waitress onDesperate Housewives.
modish
While some sculptors sought to make their work universal and timeless, Dania sculpted modish creations that captured the pop cultural zeitgeist—for instance, a sculpture of Rihanna with an umbrella, or a three-foot high representation of the latest Alexander McQueen heels.
molt
Wow, the special effects in that movie were really cool! The actress grew scales all over her body and then molted, leaving behind a scaly skin covering shaped like an entire woman, and then she looked like herself again.
monastic
Christine decided that the only way she was going to finish her Ph.D. was to live a monastic lifestyle: she broke up with her boyfriend, cancelled her cable service, left the house only when necessary, and ultimately had a draft of her dissertation a few months later.
morose
She had always been a happy child, but once she hit high school and decided to become a goth, she adopted a morose attitude to match her all-black clothing.
multifarious
Last year's jewelry line was all metal and neutrals, but this year's presents a multifarious array of brilliant colors.
munificent
The elderly titan of industry was notoriously miserly, sometimes called "the cheapest man alive." But his wife was quite munificent, and after his death, she used his fortune to support numerous charities and to buy a house for their longtime maid.
myopic
To raise prices in a time of crisis is both wrong and deeply myopic—our profits would go up in the short term, but our customers' resentment would simmer for decades. / Myron's myopia is so strong that he cannot be helped by contact lenses and has to wear the heavy glasses he has worn for decades.
nadir
It was only when Ming reached her absolute nadir—what her recovery program called "rock bottom"—that she admitted she had a problem and checked herself into rehab.
neologism
You won't find "fauxhawk" in the dictionary—it's a neologism that describes a fake mohawk (faux means fake and is pronounced "foe") created by sculpting the hair into a mohawk-like crest without actually shaving the sides.
neophyte
It was totally outrageous of our law firm to send a neophyte into the courtroom to defend our case against a team of experienced attorneys.
nettle
His first year in college, my little brother failed gym. How is that even possible? I always remind him about it just to nettle him. Of course, he usually strikes back by reminding me of that time I crashed an amusement park's go-cart.
noisome
Everyone knows that smoking is deadly, but even "herbal" cigarettes are a noisome habit—and noisome to your health!
nominal
A notary public will certify a document for a nominal fee, usually under $3. / The country has a nominal president, but his detractors say he's just a puppet leader for the more powerful countries providing foreign aid.
nontrivial
The chief of staff told the assembled doctors, "We all make mistakes. But this mistake was nontrivial, and there is going to be an investigation."
normative
The reason we are not understanding each other in this argument about grammar is that you are arguing normatively, telling me how people should talk, and I am simply reporting and analyzing how people actually talk.
obdurate
The first mate reported that there was some fuzzy shape on the horizon, but the captain insisted that the instruments showed no such object, and obdurately sailed straight ahead—right into an iceberg. / This obdurate criminal should never be let out on parole—he simply cannot be reformed.
oblique
After the fifteenth oblique reference that Bella made to George or George made to Bella, everyone in the office figured out that they were dating. / The serial killer loved to talk to interrogators, but gave only oblique answers that were useless in finding the bodies.
occlude
This drain guard is here to make sure nothing (like silverware) ends up occluding your garbage disposal. / Don't eat that enormous wad of gum! I'm no doctor, but what if it occludes your intestines or something?
opine
After all was said and done, he opined that he wished he had never tried to sail around the world in a canoe, and he was sorry that the rescue effort was so expensive.
opprobrium
Some young starlets seem to think a DUI offense isn't such a big deal, but drunk driving deserves opprobrium—driving under the influence maims and kills innocent people every year.
orotund
The actor James Earl Jones has long been sought after for voiceover work as well as acting jobs because of his dignified, orotund voice.
ossify
I remember having many broad-ranging discussions with him back in college, but since then, his opinions have ossified—sadly, he is now the most close-minded person I know.
ostensible or ostensive
Ostensibly, she came to volunteer out of the goodness of her heart. However, I think she's really here because she has a crush on one of the other volunteers. / He's an ostensive candidate for the job, but we need to check these references before we move further.
ostentatious
Her ostentatious clothing is simply not appropriate in a business environment—in fact, nothing emblazoned with 2,000 Swarovski crystals is.
overwrought
By the time her boyfriend met her in the park, she was overwrought, thinking he must have chosen a public place so he could break up with her—turned out, he had just invited her to a picnic. / Accustomed to more spare American churches, Father Smith found the churches of South America a bit overwrought, with enormous, flowery, gold altars and gold-plating on everything imaginable.
palatial
After a career spent in budget hotels, she was thrilled when the client put her up in a palatial room at a five-star hotel. She raided the minibar and then promptly fell asleep on the 600-thread-count duvet.
palliate
The doctors said it would be pointless to subject Uncle Al to continued treatments when there was no hope of a cure, so we gave consent for him to be transferred to the palliative care wing where he would be made as comfortable as possible in his final weeks or months.
pallid
When Eric left the office mid-day, we knew from the pallor that had overtaken him that he really was getting sick. / We need this blog to really hit hard against the special interest groups ruining our country, and your pallid writing isn't doing it—you're going to bore people to death with this wimpy prose.
panache
Not only did he quit, but he did so with panache, actually delivering a PowerPoint presentation that we thought would be about the budget, but which turned out to be quite obscene. He then pulled out a flask, guzzled its contents, and walked out. That guy's kind of a legend.
panegyric
Lincoln enthusiasts were excited that a new biography was to be published, and many hoped that new light would be cast on certain controversies. However, the book was pure panegyric, nothing but heroic tales, uncritically presented.
panoply
Our old cafeteria had only premade salads, but the new cafeteria has a salad bar with a panoply of toppings.
paragon
Unlike his sister, he was a paragon of responsibility, taking in her three children when she went to jail, and even switching jobs so he could be there to pick them up from school.
pare
We need to pare down our budget if we're going to survive on unemployment for a while. / She simplified her life by paring commitments from her schedule.
parley
The industry trade show is our chance to parley with our competitors. We do go out for drinks together, but really, we're just hoping someone slips up and tells us about their new product line.
parry
When asked by a reporter if rumors of his infidelity were true, the candidate parried, answering that he had always supported legislation bolstering the sanctity of marriage.
pastiche
The slickly-produced boy band's first album was deeply unimaginative, just a pastiche of every other boy band album ever produced.
pathogenic
Many common and legal food additives are pathogenic, known to lead to diabetes or even cancer.
pedant
I hate when pedants interrupt you to correct your grammar, especially if what you're saying is important—and in my opinion, almost anything is more important than pedantic quibbles over whether it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition.
peddle
After an unsuccessful year spent peddling cutlery door-to-door, he turned to peddling drugs, thus landing himself in jail. / "I don't want these people peddling lies to our children," said Mrs. Hoffman, protesting an event in which fringe political candidates were invited to speak to kids.
pejorative
I'm open to constructive criticism, but I think my supervisor's remarks are inappropriately pejorative—it's never okay to call an employee a "sniveling dullard." / Although these insults wouldn't be understood by most, "poetaster" and "mathematicaster" are pejoratives for minor, incompetent poets and mathematicians, respectively.
pellucid
He decided that the cove's pellucid waters were an excellent place to teach his daughter to swim, reasoning that, if she started to sink, he would easily be able to see where she was.
penitent
After being "separated" from the college for plagiarism, she wrote a letter to the Dean expressing her deep regret and penitence and hoping to be readmitted.
penumbra
The Constitution doesn't specifically mention a right to privacy, but some experts consider this to exist in the penumbra of the Constitution, as a guarantee of privacy is needed in order to exercise the rights that are enumerated. / The rent in Chicago was too high, so they moved to a suburb in the penumbra of the city.
penury
The young model married an elderly billionaire thinking she'd be set for life, but she ended up living in penury after her husband died and his middle-aged children held up the probate case for years, keeping her from receiving any money whatsoever.
per se
The policy isn't sexist, per se, but it has had a disproportionate impact on women that deserves further study.
peregrinate
After college, he took a year off to peregrinate across the country, visiting friends and seeing the forty-odd states he had never before had the chance to see.
perennial
Fighting over the bathroom is a perennial problem in our house—there are eight of us, and we're homeschooled, so we're all pretty much always here.
perfunctory
She did a really perfunctory job on this PowerPoint. Sure, it has a dozen slides, but most of them just say things like "Sales—Ways to Improve" in Times New Roman on a white background. Maybe she's planning to fill in the details later.
peripatetic
He quit his office job to become a peripatetic musician, traveling from town to town playing in bars and sleeping on couches.
pernicious
Bullying has a pernicious effect on the learning environment, keeping victims too intimidated to speak up and also silencing others who fear that they could be next.
perspicacious
A good detective is shrewd and perspicacious, judging when someone is lying, noticing things the rest of us would ignore, and making connections that allow an investigation to move forward.
phalanx
To even enter the embassy, the diplomats had to make their way through a phalanx of protestors.
philistine
Her date was very handsome, but she decided he was an absolute philistine when he said that documentaries were "boring" and that the "best picture" Oscar should go to Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D.
phlegmatic
A phlegmatic child, he declined to participate in the youth soccer league. He preferred to stay at home, mostly sitting outside poking at dirt with a stick, and occasionally stopping for naptime.
platitude
Everyone who knew my mother knows she was an atheist, so I can't imagine why people at her funeral would think we'd enjoy their soppy platitudes about Mom's "being in a better place now."
plebian
I toured a luxury apartment building, and I laughed when I saw that the apartments had luxurious walk-in closets and whirlpool bathtubs—but hilariously tiny ovens. Because, of course, the wealthy would never do something so plebian as cook their own food.
plethora
She had a plethora of excuses, but there is simply no justification for arriving to class drunk.
plucky
Feminist critics have commented that today's romantic comedies tend to feature passive, helpless female leads, whereas the romantic comedies of the 1940s featured plucky heroines who took the lead in cleverly solving problems. / While the police hit a dead end, a band of plucky children was able to find the stolen bicycle.
plutocracy
There have always been rich and poor people, of course, but some argue that the U.S. is becoming a plutocracy, with the richest 10% controlling two-thirds of the nation's wealth and nearly half of our Congressional representatives being millionaires.
polemic
Laura Kipnis's 2003 book Against Love: A Polemic has been called "shocking" and "scathing," Perhaps Kipnis used the word polemic in the title to indicate that she's making an extreme argument as a means of starting a debate. After all, who's really against love?
politic
Celebrities have to watch what they say, as even an offhand comment can end up splashed across the covers of magazines. When the starlet was asked what she thought of her ex-husband marrying the swimsuit model he left her for, she gave the politic reply, "I wish both of them the best."
polyglot
New York's public service announcements often take the form of polyglot posters in the subway, suggesting in six languages that readers give up their seats for pregnant women or those with disabilities.
posit
For thousands of years, philosophers have thought of the self as a unified entity, but neuroscientists today posit the existence of a modular brain—a self that is a mix of different brain parts, with no central "coordinator."
prattle
It was infuriating to listen to the boss prattle on about some new restaurant in town when everyone was just waiting to find out if they'd been laid off.
precipitate
Mr. and Mrs. Rosen had been considering a move to Florida for years, but the sudden destruction of their house in a hurricane precipitated their decision to finally make the move. / "Stay away from the precipice!" said the mother to her child. "I wouldn't want my darling son to be precipitated to his doom!"
précis
Just as scientific journals publish abstracts of their articles online (and then charge for access to the full version), the entrepreneur decided to publish a précis of her whitepaper online, while charging for access to the full version.
predilection
She has completed teacher training allowing her to teach grades K-6, but she discovered that she really has a predilection for teaching kindergarten.
prescient
Mariposa swears she's prescient—she thinks she sees the future in her dreams. / The science fiction novel, published in 1955, was strangely prescient—it pictures the year 2000 as having no flying cars, but a communication system known as the "interconnect," used largely for online shopping and wasting time.
preternatural
While Tiger Woods has been mired in scandal, his preternatural golfing talent is still undeniable. / Dad was convinced that the house was haunted, but I doubted that the strange sounds were due to preternatural causes—as it turned out, we had a raccoon in the basement.
prevaricate
Maryanne had been shoplifting—when her mother asked where her new clothes had come from, she prevaricated, vaguely suggesting that a rich friend had bought them for her.
primacy
The conservative senator argued that the very fabric of society depended on the primacy of the family, and that legislation was needed to shore up the institution of marriage.
proclivity
After his therapist pointed out that he had a natural proclivity to judge people prematurely, he tried to work on that by imagining things from the other person's point of view.
prolix
My mother is incredibly verbose. She'll tell a boring, prolix story for five whole minutes, and at the end, it turns out that the point was that she got a 50 cent discount on a box of spaghetti at the store.
propagate
Hackers can take down a large computer system in days or even minutes as a virus propagates and infects all of the machines on a network.
propensity
He was an introvert with a propensity for solitary brooding, and thus was considered a bit strange or unfriendly by the others in his dorm.
prophetic
While most of the country was consumed with irrational optimism about the economy, this particular journalist possessed an almost prophetic pessimism—not only did she predict the crash, she even predicted the month it actually happened.
propitiate
The ancient Greeks would often attempt to propitiate angry gods by sacrificing animals to them.
propitious
After having to postpone the game earlier in the week due to rain, the officials were pleased to see the propitious weather forecast. "We'll get this game in after all," one of them exclaimed.
providential
Every time their religious sister ran out of money, help always arrived! She viewed this as God's providential hand, but her family members viewed it as their always having to bail her out, and it was getting annoying.
proxy
She was in the hospital, but certainly didn't want to miss voting on the proposal, so she sent a proxy to the board meeting to vote "yes."
puerile
The retiring film critic decried the puerile humor common in so many modern American movies, pointing out that the classic comedies of the '40s were so much smarter and less reliant on jokes about bodily functions.
pugilism
Pugilism has been called "the sweet science" by some, but others feel that hitting other people in the head until they can't get up isn't much of a sport.
puissance
When people asked the 25-year-old bride what had attracted her to her commanding, 60-year-old CEO husband, she replied that she had always been drawn to puissance. That tended to end conversations as people went to go look up "puissance."
pulchritude
Marilyn Monroe's mystique is based not only on her obvious pulchritude, but also on her mysterious death and likely dalliance with JFK.
pungent
The new assistant chef received some rather pungent criticism from the head chef for her idea to make feta cheese soup, which the customers found much too pungent.
pusillanimous
He was so pusillanimous that not only was he afraid to ask his boss for a raise, he was even afraid to tell the waitress that he didn't like sugar in his tea.
querulous
Norma had been happy to be a grandmother, but was somewhat less happy when a querulous child was dropped off on her doorstep—"I don't want to come inside," "I don't like sandwiches," "It's too cold in the bathroom." Would the whining and moaning ever stop?
quiescent
After hours of moaning and shaking from his illness, the child finally exhausted himself and grew quiescent.
quixotic
Prompted by a lesson their teacher devised for election year, the children shared what they would do if elected president. The plans were adorably quixotic, involving housing all the homeless in floating homes on the ocean, or teaching everyone to be nice to each other.
raconteur
Miguel was quite the raconteur—the laughing party guests naturally congregated in a cluster around him as he held court.
rarefied
Among the rarefied ranks of conference attendees, she counted two Nobel Prize Winners, a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, and Bill Gates—and that was just at one lunch table!
reactant
The two men had been rivals since high school; when both were elected to the city council, they became reactants in the worsening deadlock of an already-polarized city government.
recalcitrant
As an aspiring kindergarten teacher, she had imagined days filled with giggles and singing songs about friendship—she was not prepared for a roomful of 20 recalcitrant children who wouldn't even sit down, much less learn the words to "Holding Hands around the World."
recant
For saying that the Sun and not the Earth was the center of the universe, Galileo was brought on trial for heresy, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Of course, a forced recantation doesn't say much about whether the person really abjures his former views.
recapitulate
I'm sorry I had to leave your presentation to take a call—I only have a minute, but can you recapitulate what you're proposing?
recondite
Professor Ryan's office is full of books, every single one of which is more than 400 years old, and many of them in ancient Greek. He deals in some seriously recondite information.
recrudescent
The recrudescence of his psoriasis came at the worst possible time. "Oh, great," he said, "Now I'm going to be shedding skin flakes all over my new coworkers on the first day of work."
redound
"Cramming" vocabulary words probably won't be very effective, but studying a little every day will redound to your success.
redress
My client was an innocent victim of medical malpractice. As would anyone who had the wrong leg amputated in surgery, he is seeking financial redress.
refractory
No matter how much job training the city gives them, refractory ex-criminals are simply unemployable.
refulgent
Her new engagement ring was refulgent—she was so happy with it. I'll bet she polished it every night.
rejoinder
In retrospect, I could have come up with a better rejoinder than "I know you are, but what am I?" I always think of the perfect witty comeback hours after I actually needed it.
rend
Many figures in the Bible rent their clothing from grief at a loved one's death, an event that can surely rend one's heart as well.
repast
After a light repast in a country inn, the men got back on their horses and rode away.
repertorial
One theater observer noted that repertorial community theater can tie together different plays for a repeat audience: seeing the same actor as Hamlet one night and Romeo another prompts interesting parallels between the two plays.
repose
Thousands of people lined up to see the prime minister's body lying in repose in the capital building. / After working the last two weekends, Myrna was perfectly happy spending her day off in repose in her living room armchair with a cup of tea and a good book.
reprobate
The police joked that they had so many mug shots of the old reprobate that they could assemble them into a photography book called, Faces of Petty Crime, 1976-2011.
resurgent
Burlesque has experienced a resurgence in the last decade, as young women dress in old-fashioned finery and perform routines appropriate for the vaudeville halls or nightclubs of previous decades.
revamp
I have my whole room decorated in Twilight: Eclipse paraphernalia. When Breaking Dawn comes out, I will surely have to revamp my decor.
ribald
Nearly all limericks are based on ribald humor—hence, the constant rhymes with "Nantucket." / The movie's humor was so ribald that a PG-13 rating was assigned, and Joey's mother covered up his eyes nearly every time a woman was on the screen.
ridden
The neighborhood was ridden with crime. / In this corruption-ridden nation, you simply have to pay bribes if you want anything to get done.
rift
Olaf's Swedish family was offended when he married a Norwegian girl—so offended that it caused a rift that lasted for decades. / The hikers considered the rift in their path, wondering if it would be possible to leap across.
rococo
Although Dot Von Derian was born in Ohio as Melissa Worshowski, she insisted on being called "Madame Von D," and bought herself a mansion she furnished in the most rococo style imaginable—it was gilded cherubs and gold leafing as far as the eye could see.
rue
Movie or cartoon villains sometimes say, "You'll rue the day!" What they mean is,"I will make you regret that you did what you just did." / The couple broke up in high school for a foolish reason, and each hastily married another person. Twenty years later, they were still full of endless rue over having lost each other.
ruminate
Oh, I just don't know about that...let me ruminate on it for a few days and I'll get back to you.
salient
The attack on our organization was mostly just partisan bickering, but it did have a few salient points that I think we should respond to. / The windowless prison's side wall had only one salient feature, a sculpture of the state bird jutting out from the building.
sardonic
A sardonic movie critic is one thing, but a sardonic film professor is another—I really wish Professor Dahl wouldn't sarcastically cut down his students the way he does cheesy horror films. / Dorothy Parker wrote sardonically, "If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people he gave it to."
savant
The TED conferences feature savants and newsmakers speaking on topics of great importance to the world. / Many people associate autism with being an "autistic savant," but most people who have autism do not actually have the ability to mentally multiply a five-digit number by a five-digit number in five seconds, for instance.
scintilla
With not one scintilla of food in the house, the pioneer woman resorted to desperate means, boiling weeds and even shoe leather to feed her children.
scurvy
Our neighbor is so scurvy that he deliberately broke my little brother's bicycle because, as he said, "You kids are too loud!"
searchingly
"I'm fired?" said Ron, looking searchingly at his boss. "I thought I was like a son to you." / Breaking up is hard to do, but the searching look of her brokenhearted soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was just too much.
secrete
When threatened, skunks secrete an odor that humans consider horrible. / The late-night infomercial offered a pheromone perfume that promised to mimic the "attraction" hormones that humans secrete naturally.
sedition
Amnesty International regularly fights for the release of political prisoners imprisoned for sedition. While inciting violence is illegal in most of the world, what is considered sedition under many restrictive governments is what Americans consider a normal exercise of freedom of speech—for instance, writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper criticizing the government's policies.
semantic
Bob said plastic surgery should be covered under the health care plan, and Marion said it shouldn't, but it turns out that their disagreement was purely semantic—what Bob meant was reconstructive surgery and what Marion meant was cosmetic surgery.
seraphic
The gospel choir looked seraphic in their shimmering white robes.
shard
Seeing her broken plate-glass window, Mrs. Chadhury bravely grabbed a shard of glass to defend herself against a possible burglar.
sinecure
It's a wealthy university—it's sort of understood that professors who relocate to campus are rewarded with sinecures for their spouses, whether those spouses have any qualifications or not. / In medieval times, a sinecure was a paying position for a priest but without an attachment to a parish where he would actually have to show up and do something.
skittish
After his first experience working with a skittish horse who nervously jerked around and ended up stepping on his foot, Ernest learned to wear steel-toed boots. / The band began with an audience of 80 college students but could see that they were skittish—there was a whole festival going on outside, and the student were ready to head for the door if the band wasn't that great.
slake
Having been lost for hours, the weary hikers were more than willing to slake their thirst in a mountain stream. / The teacher's harsh, demanding attitude soon slaked the girls' enthusiasm for the ballet class.
sobriquet
James Brown, often referred to with the sobriquet "The Godfather of Soul," scored numerous smash hits and was also known for his feverish dancing.
solecism
"I could care less" is a solecism—what the speaker really means to say is "I couldn't care less." / Apparently, Libby had committed a solecism by asking a man if he wanted to dance. "In Lubbock, Texas," said her friend, "we keep things traditional."
solidarity
The governor attempted to outlaw collective bargaining by unions, but backed down once he was made aware of the union's solidarity with churches and community groups across the state.
somatic
While some depression is caused by outside forces (the death of a loved one, for instance), many cases of depression have a somatic cause—for instance, postpartum depression can be related to hormones and physical changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
squalid
Social Services removed the children from the home due to the squalid conditions, including rats running freely in the kitchen and spoiled food all over the house.
squelch
The repressive government squelched the rebellion immediately. / Ew, I just squelched a slug in my bare feet!
stasis
Edie felt that her career was in stasis: her boss made it clear she wasn't getting promoted, but she also couldn't leave because of her health insurance situation.
steeped
A person steeped in classic literature probably thinks about almost everything in terms of old, famous books. / The Met's new campaign seeks to answer affirmatively the question of whether music lovers steeped in hip-hop and pop can learn to love opera.
stentorian
The substitute teacher had a hard time calling the rowdy class to order. He poked his head into the hallway and flagged down the football coach walking by, who shut down the chaos immediately with a stentorian "Sit down and shut up!"
stigma
In the 1950s, bearing a child out of wedlock was severely stigmatized, but today in many social circles, there is no stigma whatsoever to unmarried parents having a child.
stint
After a stint in combat, Jared was used to eating whatever he was given, and being sparing with the few condiments available. After watching him stint on ketchup, his wife said, "Honey, seriously, here you can use all you want!"
stipulate
Before taking the job, Owen stipulated in his contract that he would be able to leave early on Fridays to attend religious services.
stratagem
The party's stratagem was to dig up a scandal on their candidate's opponent, and then release the photos the day before the election, leaving the opponent no time to defend himself before voters took to the polls.
stratum
From overhearing his rich and powerful passengers' conversations, the chauffeur grew to despise the upper stratum of society. / I love this dish—it's like a lasagna, but with strata made of bread, eggs, and pancetta! Oh, look at the menu—it's actually called a strata! That makes perfect sense.
strut
Looking out the window of the small biplane, Maureen could see the struts, the vertical connectors between the lower and upper sets of wings.
sublime
She loved visiting Gothic churches, which truly filled even a nonbeliever with a sense of the sublime. / It was sublime idiocy that caused him to invest all his money in the market without doing any research. / This dinner is sublime! I will leave a glowing review on Yelp!
subpoena
Lea was served with a subpoena requiring her to testify against her former colleague.
sully
The senator did win his campaign for re-election, but his reputation was sullied when he was photographed shaking hands with the tobacco executives who apparently bankrolled his campaign.
supplant
In the 1950s, many people took cod liver oil as a health supplement. Today, fish oil capsules and flaxseed oil have supplanted the smelly old standby our grandparents used. / He did achieve his dream of becoming CEO, but only after supplanting our previous CEO by wresting control while she was battling cancer.
supposition
In order to test our supposition that customers will buy our product if they associate it with celebrities, let's send free samples to some popular young starlets, track mentions in the press, and see if our sales increase accordingly.
surly
This diner is terrible. My eggs are overcooked, and our surly waitress actually told me, "If you don't like it, scram."
surrogate
A study found that baby monkeys, once separated from their mothers, preferred a surrogate mother made of cloth to a less comforting, rigid monkey doll, even when induced with treats to change their behavior.
sybarite
The reality show about Beverly Hills "housewives" portrayed wealthy sybarites who actually seemed to be pursuing champagne and Pilates full-time.
symbiosis
In biology, one example of symbiosis is when a small creature feeds off bugs that live on a larger creature—thus protecting the larger creature from discomfort and possibly disease. / Although some celebrities complain about paparazzi, many have a symbiotic relationship with those same intrusive photographers—the paparazzi need to get paid, and the celebs need the photos to stay in the news.
synoptic
The movie studio had interns read screenplays and write up synoptic outlines for the executives to review.
syntax
Now that my linguistics class is studying syntax, it makes a little more sense when my computer flashes "SYNTAX ERROR" at me. / Anyone learning a language is bound to make syntactical mistakes—even if he or she knows the appropriate vocabulary, it is still difficult to assemble the words perfectly.
tawdry
Tara modeled her prom look after something she saw in a Pussycat Dolls video. Her mom didn't care for it, but her grandmother found it downright tawdry.
tendentious
It's hard to become absorbed in the world of a fantasy novel when the author is so tendentious—the planet of Xerxon is clearly meant to mimic the United States, and the author's politics intrude on the story on every page.
terrestrial
Mr. and Mrs. Daruza were certain they had seen a UFO, plus aliens running around in the night. What they really saw was an especially dense flock of birds in the air, and some mundane, terrestrial animals on the ground.
terse
Hoping to talk to her doctor at length about her condition, she was disappointed to be treated so tersely by a doctor who simply renewed her prescription and disappeared.
toady
Look at that toady, sucking up and offering to do the boss's Christmas shopping for his kids. Gross.
token
I am starting to realize that this law firm hired me to be its token woman. There I am, smiling in all the ads—but I never actually get to work on important cases. / Hollywood movies are often guilty of tokenism—many have exactly one black character (the "token minority"), often present to give advice to the (usually white) main characters. / I am giving you this "Best Friends Forever" necklace as a token of our friendship.
tome
When she discovered that the books she needed for her paper were in the university's online system, she ended up lugging some truly impressive tomes back from the library—she actually had to stop and rest twice on the way home.
tortuous
If I can follow your tortuous logic, you're saying that people who want the new law protecting the environment are actually hurting the environment because the majority of people deliberately do the opposite of laws? What? / The children found the tortuous path of the roller coaster both terrifying and exciting.
transgression
His transgression was so serious that his family disowned him: no one would be visiting him in prison.
travesty
That Saturday Night Live sketch was a pretty good travesty of the election scandal. / You call that a sales presentation? What you just did in front of our clients was a travesty! I can't believe you lost what was supposed to be an easy sale.
treacherous
Betraying one's country for money is the most base of acts—his treachery cost the lives of several soldiers whom he had pledged to fight alongside. / The small boat was capsized in the treacherous waters.
trenchant
The school's trenchant new antitruancy policy immediately increased class attendance by a noticeable margin. / Claudia would have gone on making excuses for hours had Juan not trenchantly stepped in and said, "You want to quit, right?" "Yes!" she said, quite relieved.
truculent
That guy is too truculent to work in customer service—when the customers are already angry, the last thing this store needs is someone prone to blow up at any moment! / The honey badger is a truculent hunter—it can and will eat anything, and sometimes tortures its prey before eating it.
tumultuous
Poland's tumultuous history includes a Nazi invasion, a period of Soviet rule, and, well before that, over 120 years during which it was partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria and simply didn't exist. / She had been enjoying the game, but lost her hat, left earring, and keys in the tumult that resulted when fans went crazy over a referee's call.
turgid
His prose was so turgid he used the phrase "synchronous repast" to mean a lunch break. / Jimmy carefully carried the turgid water balloons to the balcony, ready for a serious splash attack on members of the rival fraternity.
turpitude
Worried about her grandson's turpitude—as evinced by his constant detentions and a three-day stay in a juvenile jail—Mrs. Worthington offered to pay for military school. / It's hard to fathom the kind of turpitude required to make a movie that could get banned in modern-day Europe! When I read the screenplay, I nearly threw up.
tyro
Kenneth felt called to work as a missionary, but he was really a tyro in the field, and was unprepared for many of the questions people asked him.
umbrage
With 30 years' experience in the field and quite recent successes on a variety of projects, the executive understandably took umbrage when a coworker suggested that he was good to have around to remind others of "ancient history."
unconscionable
It is unconscionable that you would deny your sister a bone marrow transplant knowing that you're the only person in the family who's a match.
unsparing
The mother was unsparing in praising her son—so he was in for quite a shock when his new teacher told him his work was substandard.
untempered
The report was an untempered condemnation of the company's practices—the investigators didn't have a single good thing to say.
upbraid
I'm not surprised they got divorced—you can't upbraid someone every time he forgets to put a water glass in the sink and then expect him to stick around.
usury
I can't see how that payday lending place is even legal—a person borrowing $100 will end up paying over $150 interest in just a few months! Isn't that usury? I don't know how that place is skirting the law.
vanguard
While Google has won the search engine wars, in 1994, Yahoo was on the vanguard of search technology.
variegated
Unusually, the bridesmaids' dresses were boldly variegated, having many different colors. The bride reasoned that the dresses could be worn again—"Rainbow goes with anything!" she said. The bridesmaids privately agreed that they would never again wear those dresses as long as they lived.
verdant
Having grown up in Ethiopia, Dabir loved the lushness of the verdant forests in rainy Oregon. / The first-year associate was a little too verdant to be assigned to the big case.
verisimilar
It's a verisimilar story, sure, but where's the proof?
vernal
Alma's favorite part of gardening was the vernal reawakening that followed a frozen winter.
vestige
They hadn't officially broken up, but she felt their relationship was running on fumes—that only vestiges of their former affection remained.
vex
"Don't vex me," said the nanny. "Behave, or I'll tell your parents." / She was totally vexed by the crossword clue—9 letters, starting with "b," meaning "person whose socks are either scratchy or imbued with magical powers." What?
via
We will be flying to Russia via Frankfurt. / Many of the students at our college got here via special programs that assist low-income students in preparing for college.
vicissitude
While she scrubbed pots and pans, she pondered the vicissitudes of life—she once had a house full of servants, and now was a maid herself.
vim
"I'm old, not dead!" said Grandpa Albert, full of vim and ready for his first bungee jump.
virulent
Racism is a virulent force that corrupts schools, workplaces, and the basic machinery of democracy. / Discipline in the classroom is one thing, but the teacher's virulence towards misbehaving students was enough to get her suspended from teaching.
viscid or viscous
Ugh, what did you spill on this floor? It's too viscous to be absorbed by these paper towels. Is this hair conditioner? / Teaching a troop of Cub Scouts to make maple syrup means cleaning the viscid substance off uniforms, boys, and every other object those boys touch.
vitriol
After another embarrassing loss, the team's shortstop was full of vitriol for the coach who had led them to their worst season in history.
vociferous
He has always been a vociferous opponent of the estate tax, appearing on numerous news programs to rail against "double taxation."
voluble
The journalist's new book is a voluble tome, covering three centuries of history with numerous flowing, almost conversational asides into the scientific discoveries and cultural advances of various time periods.
wan
Are you okay? You're looking wan. / Bryan's wan attempt at asking for a raise was easily brushed off by his boss.
wanton
Kids do like to play pranks on Halloween, but driving an SUV into people's mailboxes isn't a prank—it's wanton destruction of property. / Many hip-hip videos depict a wanton lifestyle that is attractive to some, but unattainable (and possibly illegal!). / During my grandmother's adolescence in Ireland, a girl might be sent off to a convent as punishment for "wanton ways," such as being alone with boys.
welter
It said "thrift store," but inside it was just a welter of used clothing, draped everywhere and even lying in piles. / By the time the teacher broke up the fight, it was already pretty much over—the loser was weltering on the floor. / They struggled to keep the sailboat afloat on the weltering sea.
whet
Dinner will take another 20 minutes, but maybe this cheese plate can whet your appetite?
whitewash
The journalist accused the government of trying to whitewash the scandal, implying that the officials covered up the incident out of concern for national security rather than to protect themselves.
winnow
We got 120 resumes for one job—it's going to take me awhile just to winnow this down to a reasonable stack of people we want to interview.
winsome
It's hard for some to believe that Lindsay Lohan was once the winsome young starlet in Freaky Friday.
wizened
Fortunately, the wizened heads for sale at the Ecuadorian market weren't really shrunken heads—just souvenirs for tourists. / The wizened old man still possessed a remarkably sharp mind.
xenophobia
My mother's xenophobia is so great that she refuses to cross the border into Canada, and once told me that she'd rather die than try a mango because those foreign fruits are "sketchy."
yoke
The speaker argued that humanity had traded the yoke of servitude to kings and tyrants for the yoke of consumerism, which enslaves us just as much in the end.