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AP Lang Vocab 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Terms in this set (90)
If there's one song on your playlist that always brings tears to your eyes, maybe it's because it has an elegiac quality. Elegiac means "mournful or sad."
Perfunctory means done as part of a routine or duty. If you give someone a gift and they look at it like it's roadkill and say nothing about it but a perfunctory "thank you," you might not be giving them another one anytime soon.
Are you always challenging the establishment? Or provoking popular thought by attacking traditions and institutions? Then you're definitely an iconoclast. To be called an iconoclast today is usually kind of cool — they're rugged individualists, bold thinkers who don't give a hoot what tradition calls for
Something that deviates from the norm is anomalous. Something anomalous can be good, such as an exciting new direction in music or art. But that anomalously low score on your math test? Not so good.Something that is anomalous is not just different; it is also unexpected, and may even be completely inconsistent with the norm.
Something dilatory creates a delay. If you are a high school student, once in a while you might have used dilatory tactics if you forgot to do your homework
Something that is staid is dignified, respectable — possibly even boring, like a staid dinner party that is heavy on the important guests but light on the laughs.
If you feel a sense of disquiet, you're worried or anxious about something. Disquiet at the dinner table means that everyone feels upset or on edge.
You can use the word disquiet as a noun or a verb. A feeling of disquiet might fill you as you walk slowly through a truly spooky haunted house. You can also say that a low, frightening sound coming from the room ahead disquiets you.
Something that's nebulous is clouded or hazy. When you walk through the woods on a foggy morning, the trees may all have a mysterious, nebulous look to them. When you fly in a plane on an overcast day, the land below you looks nebulous and indistinct. You can also use nebulous in a more figurative way, to describe vague ideas or fuzzy concepts
If you know someone who's outgoing, sociable, and fond of the company of others, you might want to call her gregarious.
Incongruity means out of place — something that doesn't fit in its location or situation. The art show patrons couldn't help but chuckle at the incongruity of a toilet sitting in the middle of an exhibition of Renaissance paintings.
An incongruity is very different from everything around it, to the point of being inappropriate to the situation. A cat at a dog's birthday party would be an incongruity, as would a pacifist at a meeting of the War Lovers' Society
A formal, high-minded speech can be described with a formal, high-minded word — the word panegyric, which is a very elaborate tribute to someone. You could consider most eulogies as panegyrics.
A magnanimous person has a generous spirit. Letting your little sister have the last of the cookies, even though you hadn't eaten since breakfast, would be considered a magnanimous act.
If you are sad and can't be cheered up, you're disconsolate. Why are you disconsolate after scoring a touchdown? Oh . . . for the other team.
A mendacious person is one who tells lies habitually and intentionally. Don't get stuck at the water cooler or bus stop next to someone you consider mendacious!
A timorous person is timid or shy, like your timorous friend who likes to hang out with close pals but gets nervous around big groups of new people.
Give off (a liquid, light, smell, or quality)
If you're pugilistic, you're a boxer — or you just like to fight. When you're heading to watch a boxing match, you could say you're going to see a pugilistic event (and you'll sound really smart).
You know that teacher who always has a goofy smile on his face and a bad pun for the kids? He's got a jocund personality, meaning he's merry and cheerful.
Use the adjective chimerical to describe something that is wildly fanciful or imaginative — like the chimerical illustrations of magical creatures in a children's book.
A provincial person comes from the backwaters. Someone from a small province outside of Provence, France, might seem a little more provincial and less worldly than someone from, say, Paris.
Use the adjective clandestine to describe something that is done in secret, like your clandestine attempts to steal your brother's Halloween candy.
Use exuberance to describe joyful enthusiasm and liveliness. You appreciate the natural exuberance of small children, but you prefer to enjoy it from a distance
Reticent means either quiet or restrained. If you're reticent about your feelings, you like to keep them to yourself, and you're probably quiet in rowdy groups where everyone is talking over each other.
If you call someone assiduous, it's a compliment. It means they're careful, methodical and very persistent. Good detectives are classically assiduous types.
To vilify someone is to spread nasty stories about them, whether true or not.
To enervate is to weaken, wear down, or even bum out. A three-hour lecture on the history of socks might thrill someone, it would enervate most people. So would a too-long soak in a hot tub. With your parents.
There aren't many things more depressing than walking on a beautiful beach and discovering a stretch of it that's covered in detritus. Detritus means trash or debris.
Laudatory has to do with praise. If you do great things, then you've done praise-worthy acts and people will use laudatory words when talking about you.
If you want to improve the gustatory appeal of a grapefruit, you might add a spoonful of sugar. Gustatory is an adjective that refers to tasting or the sense of taste.
If you're a rookie or new to something, you could be described as callow — like callow freshmen in high school or the callow receptionist who can't figure out how to transfer a call.
Perspicacity is a quality that many professionals need, from detectives to doctors to therapists. If someone is perspicacious, we might also say they have a "shrewd mind," or a "keen intelligence."
Today an artisan can just be someone who makes attractive and creative work with their hands, like jewelry or pottery. Although, if they're trying to sell their goods, it probably helps if they're very skilled.
Someone who is altruistic always puts others first. An altruistic firefighter risks his life to save another's life, while an altruistic mom gives up the last bite of pie so her kid will be happy.
If you're in a fight with a friend and you want to end it, you should make a conciliatory gesture, such as inviting her to a party you're having. Conciliatory describes things that make other people less angry.
If you say something acerbic, or harshly bitter, to someone, it can leave a bitter taste in your own mouth that lingers, and the acerbic, or acidic, words can eat away at the person on the receiving end too.
Indigence is a synonym for extreme poverty. If you experience indigence, you have a critical need for food, money, and other resources.
A legal word, extradition means sending someone back to the country or state where they've been accused of a crime. Getting countries to agree on the terms of extradition can take years.
When a teacher says, "Bear with me for a moment," while he writes on the board, he is asking for the class's forbearance. He wants them to wait patiently during the delay
Zeitgeist is the spirit or essence of a particular time. In the 1920s, flappers and speakeasies contributed to that era's Zeitgeist.
To deprecate is to show disapproval or to make someone feel unimportant by speaking to them disrespectfully, like seniors who deprecate younger students just for fun.
If something seems likely to bring success — either because it creates favorable conditions or you just consider it a lucky sign — label it auspicious.
Something arcane is understood or known by only a few people. Almost everyone knows the basics of baseball, but only an elite few possess the arcane knowledge of its history that marks the true fan.
Use the adjective convivial to describe your friend who is "the life of the party."
Obdurate is a formal word meaning stubborn. If you want to major in English, but your parents are obdurate that you should go premed, they might go so far as to threaten not to pay your tuition.
If something is fleeting or lasts a short time, it is transitory. Your boss declared the company's restructuring to be transitory, and promised that the company would emerge stronger and better than ever.
Someone who is imperious gives orders in a way that shows they feel superior or more important than other people. You might want the smartest kid in the class as your lab partner, but not if they have an imperious attitude and boss you around.
When something is monolithic it's big, and made of one thing. A large piece of stone jutting from the earth is a monolith, and Detroit's economy when it depended entirely on the auto industry was monolithic.
When you are unwilling to make a decision and almost intentionally go back and forth between two choices, you are equivocating. When politicians equivocate, they are often afraid of upsetting, and thus alienating, voters with their decisions
Extemporaneous means spoken without preparation. The orator's performance was impressive, but only after we learn that his speech was extemporaneous did we realize the true depth of his talent.
When something's copacetic, it's fine. If you tell a classroom full of kids that they'll be spending the day at the beach instead of going to math class, they'll probably be copacetic with the idea.
The word dint is used to indicate that something came about through a particular force or means. So if you make a lot of money, that's probably by dint of hard work.
If something is vicarious, it delivers a feeling or experience from someone else. If your child becomes a big star, you might have a vicarious experience of celebrity.
Lassitude is the weariness you'd experience after attempting to run a marathon around the equator. Lassitude can also describe a lack of interest, like deciding you'd rather lie on your couch than run that marathon along the equator.
Someone who is licentious behaves or speaks inappropriately, usually in regards to sex.
If something has to do with money, it's pecuniary. If your grandfather's antique watch has pecuniary value, it's worth money — you could sell it for cash if you weren't sentimentally attached to keeping it.
An avocation is an activity that you pursue when you're not at work — a hobby. Pretty much anything can be an avocation: tennis, sudoku, writing poetry. If you're the journalist Clark Kent, your avocation is changing into a skintight red and blue jumpsuit and fighting crime.
The degree to which a method or medicine brings about a specific result is its efficacy. You might not like to eat it, but you can't question the efficacy of broccoli as a health benefit.
It's everywhere! It's everywhere! When something seems like it's present in all places at the same time, reach for the adjective ubiquitous.
Something that is moribund is almost dead, like a moribund economy that has been stuck in a recession for years.
Because spices and salts are left out, hospital food is usually considered insipid. The most common use of the word is in a metaphorical sense for dull or flat. You might think that your goody-two-shoes cousin is the most insipid girl you've ever met.
Suppliant means someone who is asking humbly. You enter church as a suppliant, asking God to spare you from illness. You ask in a suppliant (humble) manner, because you know God is stern and demands total faith.
So feckless essentially means "ineffective," but is also used to describe someone who is irresponsible, incompetent, inept, or without purpose in life.
Indolent is an adjective meaning slow or lazy. It can take an indolent teenager hours to get out of bed on a weekend morning. Often it's noon before he finally comes shuffling down to breakfast in his pajamas.
lugubrious sounds slow, heavy, and sad, funerals are lugubrious. So are rainy days and Mondays. Anything that makes you sad, gloomy, or mournful can be called lugubrious.
Ribald is an adjective you would use to describe someone who makes dirty sexual jokes. Vulgar, perverted, but still kind of funny — that's a ribald person.
When you dissemble, you disguise your true intentions or feelings behind a false appearance. To dissemble is to pretend that you don't know something, to pretend that you think one way when you act another way.
The noun dissimulation describes the act of faking your true feelings. Your dissimulation of happiness might fool strangers but your close friends can tell it's all an act.
The word dissimulation implies that the wool is being pulled over someone's eyes, or they're being fooled or tricked by someone's deceit.
There's no way around it — expectorating is pretty gross. If you have a respiratory problem like bronchitis, you're going to expectorate a lot: phlegm and mucus will build up in your lungs, and you'll eventually cough it up and spit it out. A doctor might prescribe a special cough medicine to help you expectorate. Sometimes people use expectorate to mean spitting out plain old saliva, too
To palpate is to examine with the hands, by pressing. Your doctor might palpate your abdomen if you have a pain in your stomach.
You're most likely to come across the verb palpate in a doctor's office or another medical context. A veterinarian will palpate a limping dog to feel for broken bones or tight muscles, and it's common for a doctor to palpate the glands in your neck during a routine exam
Peremptory comments are like orders. If you say something in a peremptory manner, you want people to stop what they're doing and do what you say. Peremptory comments put an end to a discussion, and that's final!
pusillanimous means "very small spirit." If you are pusillanimous, pronounced "pew-sill-AN-ih-mus," you don't have the spirit — or the confidence or drive — to step up when it matters. The pusillanimous person stays quiet, doesn't get involved, waits for someone else to take a stand — not out of laziness, but out of fear.
When something is really big and holds a lot, it is capacious, like a woman's capacious purse that is so big, people mistake it for a piece of luggage.
If you walk into class in your underwear, you'll know what the word ignominy means. Ignominy is a noun meaning great public shame, disgrace, or embarrassment, or a situation or event that causes this.
It may be their training more than their natural behavior, but those palace guards who wear the red coats and big hats and show absolutely no expression on their faces are phlegmatic. Attempts to make them laugh, smile, or twist their faces in irritation won't work, because being phlegmatic is important to their role as stone-faced keepers of the palace. Phlegmatic people show less emotion on the outside — but who knows, they may be jumping up and down on the inside.
The verb prostrate means "to make helpless or defenseless." Illness, injury, food poisoning, grief — any of these things can prostrate people, or lying down in a helpless position.
There's a friend of yours who doesn't talk very much, and when he does, he says maybe three words and then becomes quiet again. You could describe that friend as laconic.
Angry at the long lines at the grocery store? Irritated because the driver ahead cut you off? Take a deep breath, and approach life's messes with aplomb. When you think of aplomb, think cool, calm and collected. Not frazzled, furious, and fiery
Cognizance can be used to refer to more than just school-based learning (like vocabulary words). It can also mean that you have awareness, or notice certain things. Your cognizance of where the exits are located in the movie theater could save your life in a fire. The noun cognizance can also refer to your state of consciousness: "You passed out from the smoke, but when you woke up you had the cognizance to know who you were and where you were."
The noun collusion almost always implies that plans are being made because of some nefarious, most likely illegal, purpose. An art thief could be in collusion with a museum director to steal a famous painting from an art museum. Things get sticky when there is collusion between government and business, between union and management, or between your siblings.
Hegemony is political or cultural dominance or authority over others. The hegemony of the popular kids over the other students means that they determine what is and is not cool.
The verb defenestrate describes throwing someone or something out of a window. Drivers who defenestrate gum wrappers may not think they're littering, but they are.
Use the word gauche when you want to call something tacky, graceless, tactless, rude, boorish, or awkward and foolish. Have you just pointed out someone's misuse of this word? Oh dear, how gauche!
It's pretty overwhelming when you ask your friend a seemingly innocuous question, like "Do you like hot dogs?" and she unleashes a diatribe about the evils of eating meat. A diatribe is an angry, critical speech.
A charlatan is a quack, a person who is trying to deceive you with false claims. Beware of charlatans who try to sell you access to the fountain of youth or to a Ponzi scheme disguised as an exclusive investment fund.
If you want to surprise your mom with a sweatshirt, but don't know her size, it might take an act of subterfuge, like going through her closet, to find it out. Subterfuge is the use of tricky actions to hide or get something.
To denigrate is to say bad things — true or false — about a person or thing. Your reputation as a math whiz might be hurt if your jealous classmate manages to denigrate you, even though the accusations are unfounded.
A maelstrom is a powerful whirlpool. A luckless ship might go down in one, conflicting ocean currents might cause one. You hear it more often metaphorically, to describe disasters where many competing forces are at play.
To be truculent is to be defiant, aggressive, and quarrelsome. A truculent student will get in trouble with teachers, and a truculent teacher might get fired. In a violent sport like football, it helps to be truculent, but it's usually not a great quality.
Use specious to describe an argument that seems to be good, correct, or logical, but is not so. We live on the earth, therefore the earth must be the center of the universe has been proven to be a specious theory of the solar system.
Today, the word implies you're pretending to be more of an artist than you're interested in or capable of being, so if you call your friend who likes to paint a dilettante, it's like you're calling him or her a poser.