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A composition that is usually short and has a literary theme is called an essay. You should probably start writing your essay on "To Kill a Mockingbird" sometime before the bus ride to school the day it is due. As a noun, an essay is also an attempt, especially a tentative initial one. Your essay to make friends at your new school would probably work better if you actually spoke to other students. As a verb, to essay is to make an attempt. If you essay to run for student council, you might lose to the girl who promises more recess, longer lunches, and less homework.
noun - A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author.
noun - Something resembling such a composition: a photojournalistic essay.
noun - A testing or trial of the value or nature of a thing: an essay of the students' capabilities.
noun - An initial attempt or endeavor, especially a tentative attempt.
verb-transitive - To make an attempt at; try.
verb-transitive - To subject to a test.
hyponym - gamble, fight, verify, paper, lay on the line, give it a whirl, put on the line, chance, float, endeavour
The person who creates an organization or a company is known as the founder. Founder is also a verb meaning "fail miserably," which is something a company's founder hopes the company will never do. Choose Your Words:flounder / founderThese words have similar meanings with a slight though significant difference (particularly if you're the one doing the floundering/foundering).
Continue reading...As a noun, founder means "the beginner or originator of something." You might talk about the founder of a nation, the founder of club, or the founder of a website. As a verb, founder can mean stumble, like when you trip and fall, but more generally it means "collapse or fall apart." A sports team might founder by slumping on a ten-game losing streak; a ship that sinks in a bad storm can be said to have foundered at sea.
verb-intransitive - To sink below the surface of the water: The ship struck a reef and foundered.
verb-intransitive - To cave in; sink: The platform swayed and then foundered.
verb-intransitive - To fail utterly; collapse: a marriage that soon foundered.
verb-intransitive - To stumble, especially to stumble and go lame. Used of horses.
verb-intransitive - To become ill from overeating. Used of livestock.
verb-intransitive - To be afflicted with laminitis. Used of horses.
verb-transitive - To cause to founder.
noun - See laminitis.
noun - One who establishes something or formulates the basis for something: the founder of a university; the founders of a new nation.
hyponym - flop, bell founder, go off, buckle, sink, slide down, crumple, break, implode, cofounder
A coda is a concluding segment of a piece of music, a dance, or a statement. It's usually short and adds a final embellishment beyond a natural ending point. Like this. Coda comes from the Italian word couda, and it's good to think of it as a tail tacked onto something that in and of itself is already a whole. If you tell a story about your crazy experience getting lost in the country and sleeping at a farmer's house, you might add, as a coda, that the farmer ended up visiting you too, a year later.
noun - Music The concluding passage of a movement or composition.
noun - A conclusion or closing part of a statement.
synonym - finale
cross-reference - chorus, onset, refrain
hypernym - conclusion, end, closing, ending, close
same-context - argument
The verb expatiate means "to add details to in order to clear up." If your story is confusing to everyone who hears it, certain key parts must be missing. Better expatiate so that people can understand it. To pronounce expatiate correctly, accent the second syllable: "ex-PAY-she-ate." When you expatiate, you add details, usually to something you are writing. The goal is to make your ideas clearer to readers, perhaps by offering an example to help them understand. Teachers can tell when you are expatiating and when you are just adding to what you've written, say, reach a certain length requirement. That's usually called "padding."
verb-intransitive - To speak or write at length: expatiated on the subject until everyone was bored.
verb-intransitive - To wander freely.
hyponym - specialize, expound, detail, specialise, exposit, exemplify, particularise, particularize, set forth, specify
The dissolution of a relationship means that it's broken up or ended. The dissolution of your band means you better get started on your solo album. Dissolution comes from the Latin word dissolutio, meaning "a dissolving of something." Dissolution looks very similar to "dissolve," so to help you remember the meaning, think about what happens if you put paper in water it breaks apart. A dissolution of a marriage is the same thing as divorce. Although it sounds like disillusion, if you try to use them interchangeably, your logic will fall apart.
noun - Decomposition into fragments or parts; disintegration.
noun - Indulgence in sensual pleasures; debauchery.
noun - Termination or extinction by disintegration or dispersion: The dissolution of the empire was remarkably swift.
noun - Extinction of life; death.
noun - Annulment or termination of a formal or legal bond, tie, or contract.
noun - Formal dismissal of an assembly or legislature.
noun - Reduction to a liquid form; liquefaction.
hyponym - lysis, fibrinolysis, splitsville, annulment, invalidation
synonym - melting, decomposition, ruin, death, separation
To obviate means to eliminate the need for something or to prevent something from happening. If you want to obviate the possibility of a roach infestation, clean your kitchen regularly. The prefix ob means "to go against." That makes sense when you look at the words obstruct and obstacle, but how about obstetrics? Why does the name of the branch of medicine dealing with birth have the same root as words that mean "stop" or "get in the way"? Because a midwife stands opposite to, or against, the woman giving birth.
verb-transitive - To anticipate and dispose of effectively; render unnecessary. See Synonyms at prevent.
hyponym - preclude, close out, rule out
form - obviating, obviated
synonym - anticipate, overcome
verb-form - obviating, obviates, obviated
The verb pique means to make someone angry or annoyed. But when something piques your interest or curiosity, here the verb pique just means to arouse, stimulate, or excite. Choose Your Words:peak / peek / piqueLet's look at three homophones: peak, peek, and pique. Peak is a topmost point, such as a mountain peak, or to reach that point.
Continue reading...Both the noun and verb are pronounced "pk" and were borrowed from a French word meaning "a prick, irritation," from Old French, from piquer "to prick." So you can see how something that pricks you could make you both excited and angry. But it's frustratingenough to make you want to storm away from learning vocab. That storming away, by the by, might be called a "fit of pique."
noun - A state of vexation caused by a perceived slight or indignity; a feeling of wounded pride.
verb-transitive - To cause to feel resentment or indignation.
verb-transitive - To provoke; arouse: The portrait piqued her curiosity.
verb-transitive - To pride (oneself): He piqued himself on his stylish attire.
form - piquing, piqued
synonym - displease, fret, grudge, sting, nettle, spite, displeasure, stimulate
An elegy is a sad poem, usually written to praise and express sorrow for someone who is dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, you might later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave. The purpose of this kind of poem is to express feelings rather than tell a story. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a poem that reflects on the lives of common people buried in a church cemetery, and on the nature of human mortality. The noun elegy was borrowed in the 16th century from Middle French lgie, from Latin elega, from Greek elegeia, from elegos "mournful poem or song."
noun - A poem composed in elegiac couplets.
noun - A poem or song composed especially as a lament for a deceased person.
noun - Something resembling such a poem or song.
noun - Music A composition that is melancholy or pensive in tone.
form - elegiac
synonym - threnody, dirge
cross-reference - eulogy
hypernym - poem, verse form
same-context - ode, allegory, madrigal, sonnet
To renege is to go back on your word or fail to keep a promise. Not quite lying, reneging is more a sin of omission failing to do what you said you would. The Latin negre means "to deny," so by reneging on your word, you are denying someone whatever you promised them. In card games, you are said to renege if you play against the rules. To renege may be wrong, but it's not necessarily a punishable offense (unless you put that promise legally binding in writing). Still, it certainly doesn't make you look good!
verb-intransitive - To fail to carry out a promise or commitment: reneged on the contract at the last minute.
verb-intransitive - Games To fail to follow suit in cards when able and required by the rules to do so.
verb-transitive - To renounce; disown.
noun - The act of reneging.
synonym - revoke, disown, deny
verb-form - reneges, reneging, reneged
hypernym - revoke, mistake, reverse, vacate
If it reeks of humiliation or looks like the lowest of lows, then you can safely describe it as abject. The pronunciation of abject is up for debate: you can decide whether to stress the first or the second syllable. But what's more important is understanding how extreme this adjective is. Abject means absolutely miserable, the most unfortunate, with utter humiliation. You might have heard the phrase abject poverty, which is the absolute worst, most hopeless level of poverty you've ever seen.
adjective - Brought low in condition or status. See Synonyms at mean2.
adjective - Being of the most contemptible kind: abject cowardice.
adjective - Being of the most miserable kind; wretched: abject poverty.
equivalent - unfortunate, submissive, contemptible, hopeless
synonym - mean-spirited, lower, humiliating, hangdog, degrade, servile
If you believe that movies should entertain, but your friend insists that movies should inspire, then the two of you hold discordant views on the purpose of movies. That means your opinions are in conflict. You can see the word discord in discordant. Discord is tension felt between people who strongly disagree about something. So discordant describes experiencing discord, a lack of harmony. A discordant conversation at your dinner table may make some people upset they want everyone to get along. Discordant can also describe harsh and unpleasant sounds, like the blaring horns in city traffic.
adjective - Not being in accord; conflicting.
adjective - Disagreeable in sound; harsh or dissonant.
equivalent - factious, dissentious, discrepant, inharmonious, unharmonious, dissonant, divisive, at variance
synonym - disagreeing, opposing
Idolatry means the worship of images as if they were gods. Many religions prohibit idolatry, some even to the extent of forbidding any representational objects in houses of worship. Idol sits at the head of the word idolatry. If you worshipor even just look up toa person or a thing, you are said to idolize them. For some modern idolaters, money is their idol, while for others it is celebrities and for still others their jobs.
noun - Worship of idols.
noun - Blind or excessive devotion to something.
hyponym - gynaeolatry, bible-worship, symbolatry, verbolatry, anthropolatry, word-worship, worship of man, iconolatry, symbololatry, topolatry
When something is teeny tiny, it is minuscule. If your mother calls your miniskirt minuscule, it probably means she wants you to change into something a bit less revealing. In minuscule, you see the word, minus, which means lesser. The word minuscule has its roots in the Latin expression minuscula littera, a phrase used to describe the smaller letters in text. In the late 1800s, the use of the word expanded to mean very small in general so the definition of minuscule became less minuscule.
adjective - Very small; tiny. See Synonyms at small.
adjective - Of, relating to, or written in minuscule.
noun - A small cursive script developed from uncial between the seventh and ninth centuries and used in medieval manuscripts.
noun - A letter written in minuscule.
noun - A lowercase letter.
equivalent - lowercase, little, small
synonym - tiny, minute, lower-case, microscopic, small, minuscular
hypernym - cursive script
If a liquid is dark and murky and you can't see through it, it's turbid. Usually used as a criticism a turbid river is generally a polluted one, but then again a good pint of real ale should be turbid. Go figure. Choose Your Words:turbid / turgidTurbid can refer to something thick with suspended matter, while turgid means swollen or bombastic.
Continue reading...Not to be confused with turgid, meaning swollen or inflated, though it almost always is. When applied to literary criticism, both words are highly critical and take on slightly different meanings turgid means "pompous or bombastic" and turbid tends to mean "confused or muddled." If a critic calls you both turbid and turgid, it might be time to think of another career.
adjective - Having sediment or foreign particles stirred up or suspended; muddy: turbid water.
adjective - Heavy, dark, or dense, as smoke or fog.
adjective - In a state of turmoil; muddled: turbid feelings.
equivalent - opaque
form - turbidity
synonym - unsettled, muddy, drumly, lutulent, Riley, thick, confused, roily
Reserved for the harmlessly stupid and truly meaningless, vacuous is a smart-sounding way to describe something dumb. Celebrity gossip and reality TV is usually pretty vacuous, even if it's fun. If someone smiles at you in a way that seems fake or empty, you could describe the smile as vacuous. An example of a vacuous comment would be a politician promising to make things better without explaining how. If something is vacuous, it's like a vacuum hollow, empty, devoid of substance.
adjective - Devoid of matter; empty.
adjective - Lacking intelligence; stupid.
adjective - Devoid of substance or meaning; inane: a vacuous comment.
adjective - Devoid of expression; vacant: "The narrow, swinelike eyes were open, no more vacuous in death than they had been in life ( Nicholas Proffitt).
adjective - Lacking serious purpose or occupation; idle. See Synonyms at empty.
equivalent - meaningless, incommunicative, uncommunicative, nonmeaningful, empty, foolish
form - vacuously, vacuousness, vacuity
synonym - vacant
If you assuage an unpleasant feeling, you make it go away. Assuaging your hunger by eating a bag of marshmallows may cause you other unpleasant feelings. The most common things that we assuage are fears, concerns, guilt, grief, anxiety, and anger. That makes a lot of sense these are all things we seek relief from. The word comes from Old French assouagier, from the Latin root suavis, "sweet" think of adding a bit of honey to something unpleasant. A word with a similar meaning is mollify.
verb-transitive - To make (something burdensome or painful) less intense or severe: assuage her grief. See Synonyms at relieve.
verb-transitive - To satisfy or appease (hunger or thirst, for example).
verb-transitive - To pacify or calm: assuage their chronic insecurity.
hyponym - soothe, comfort, ease
form - assuaging, assuager, assuaged, assuagement
synonym - calm, relieve, appease
Spooky, sneaky, powerful and strange, necromancy is the art of raising the spirits of the dead, either for their predictions about the future, or their ghostly help in making something happen. Necromancy, also called black magic, comes from the ancient Greek word for corpse necro and prophecy mancy. If you travel to the underworld to speak to the dead, then you have the power of necromancy, not to mention geomancy, the ability to read signs from the earth to find the necropolis, or city of the dead. As you might guess, necromancy isnt discussed much these days. But if youre reading about old witch trials, you might find accusations of necromancy abound.
noun - The practice of supposedly communicating with the spirits of the dead in order to predict the future.
noun - Black magic; sorcery.
noun - Magic qualities.
hyponym - witchery, obiism, bewitchment, enchantment, witchcraft, diabolism, Satanism, demonism
form - thread necromancy
synonym - conjuration
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. An indolent person is slow and lazy not the type of person you'd want running your corporation or competing with you in a relay race. Doctors use the word indolent to describe medical conditions that are slow to progress. If you're diagnosed with an illness, you'd prefer an indolent one over one that spreads quickly.
adjective - Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. See Synonyms at lazy.
adjective - Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic: humid, indolent weather.
adjective - Causing little or no pain: an indolent tumor.
adjective - Slow to heal, grow, or develop; inactive: an indolent ulcer.
equivalent - idle, inactive
synonym - idler, easygoing, fat, otiose, sluggish, inert, inactive, idle
Extraneous means coming from or belonging to the outsideextraneous noise is what you hear when you're in a theater and a train passes by, extraneous wires bring your cable connection into the house. In Latin, extra means outside, as in extraordinary "outside the ordinary," or extraterrestrial 'coming from outside earth.' (Bonus pointsding! ding!if you knew that terra is Latin for "earth.") The meaning of extraneous also extends to more abstract things that come from the outside: extraneous details are ones that don't matter.
adjective - Not constituting a vital element or part.
adjective - Inessential or unrelated to the topic or matter at hand; irrelevant. See Synonyms at irrelevant.
adjective - Coming from the outside: extraneous interference.
equivalent - adulterating, adulterant, extrinsic, irrelevant
form - extraneousness, extraneously
synonym - superfluous, intrusive, additional, extra
We're not sure why poor dogs always seem to get used to describe something really dreadful, but it's the case with doggerel meaning irregularly rhyming, really bad poetry, usually comic in tone and fit only for dogs. Sometimes doggerel has a non-critical meaning: plenty of popular comic poets (like Lewis Carroll or any limerick inventor) had no aim to make great art, just great light verse, and they succeeded brilliantly. They were masters of doggerel. But pity the earnest highbrow poet like the immortal Scotsman William McGonagall whose doggerel was so bad his audience frequently pelted him with eggs and rotting vegetables. Now his poetry was only fit for the dogs.
noun - Crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature.
synonym - verse, trivial
hypernym - verse, rhyme
same-context - rigmarole, traditionary, Gaelic, Orphic, travesty, commendatory
Use fervor to describe an intensity of emotion or expression. Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers show so much fervor that they "bleed Dodger blue."This noun comes to us from Latin fervere, meaning "to boil, glow." In the English word fervor, the suffix or means "a condition or property of something." There is another or suffix that means "a person or thing that does the thing expressed by the verb." A corresponding adjective is fervent; synonyms of the noun and adjective are ardor and ardent.
noun - Great warmth and intensity of emotion. See Synonyms at passion.
noun - Intense heat.
hyponym - zeal, sensation, fever pitch
synonym - earnestness, ardor, passion, heat
etymologically-related-term - fervent, fervid, fever
Use the adjective analogous to describe something that is similar to something else and can be compared to another. Analogous things can be compared to each other, so a near synonym is the adjective comparable. Analogous is a term used in biology to refer to body parts that have a similar function but differ in structure, such as the wings of a bird and the wings of an airplane. Analogous is from Latin analogus, from Greek analogos, meaning "according to a proper ratio or proportion."
adjective - Similar or alike in such a way as to permit the drawing of an analogy.
adjective - Biology Similar in function but not in structure and evolutionary origin.
equivalent - similar
synonym - correlative, parallel, equivalent, corresponding, cognate, like, correspondent, similar
etymologically-related-term - analogue
Plaintive is an adjective for describing someone or something with a pleading, sorrowful, desperate tone. If you have ever heard the plaintive howl of a wolf, then you know what we are getting at here. A plaint, as in complaint, is an expression of sorrow or grief. This word has also been bent a little at the ends to become plaintiff, or complainantthe suffererin a lawsuit. So, whether you are hearing a plaintive tone in a courtroom, at a funeral, or in the wild (as in an animal's plaintive howl), you can be assured that someone or something desires something desperately.
adjective - Expressing sorrow; mournful or melancholy.
equivalent - sorrowful
synonym - repining, complaining, sad, lamenting, mournful
etymologically-related-term - plaintiff, plaint
same-context - doleful, piteous
If you can't change it, it's immutable. There are many things in life that are immutable; these unchangeable things include death, taxes, and the laws of physics. The adjective immutable has Latin roots that mean "not changeable." The Latin prefix for not is in, but the spelling changes when the prefix is put before the consonant m. It is im before a root word starting with m as in immutable. If you learn this rule, you'll know the immutable fact that immutable begins with i-m-m.
adjective - Not subject or susceptible to change.
synonym - unchangeable, unalterable
cross-reference - immutable accent
same-context - steadfast, infallible, undying, incorruptible, inflexible, indivisible, inviolable
Antediluvian means "before the flood" that is, the Biblical flood with Noah's ark. Generally, though, the word is used often humorously to describe something really, really old. In popular language, antediluvian is almost always used to exaggerate how comically, ridiculously old and out-of-date something is. You may laugh at your parents' antediluvian ideas of what's proper for going out on a date. And how about those antediluvian computers they still insist are fine! When the word was coined in the seventeenth century, however, it was meant literally. Back then, the science of reconstructing the Earth's history used the Bible as a frame of reference.
adjective - Extremely old and antiquated. See Synonyms at old.
adjective - Bible Occurring or belonging to the era before the Flood.
equivalent - old
synonym - antediluvial, prediluvial, prediluvian
etymologically-related-term - diluvial, deluge
hypernym - golden ager, old person, senior citizen, patriarch
The word iconoclastic is an adjective referring to a breaking of established rules or destruction of accepted beliefs. It might refer to an artist with an unorthodox style, or an iconoclastic attack, either physical or verbal, on a religious doctrine or image. Consider the Greek word eikn, or "image," coupled with -klasts, "one who breaks," and you get a good image of someone who is iconoclastic. An iconoclastic approach to religion involves tearing down the icons representing the church. While this was once done physically, through riots and mayhem, todays iconoclasts usually prefer using words. Not all iconoclasts are destructive, however. An iconoclastic approach to art and music has given rise to the development of new genres and styles through breaking the rules.
adjective - Characterized by attack on established beliefs or institutions; of or pertaining to iconoclasm.
equivalent - unorthodox, destructive
etymologically-related-term - iconoclast, iconoclasm
same-context - knights-errant, see-sawing, unsubdued, factious, quell, antiforeign
If the thrill is gone, you are blas. If you yawn on a roller coaster, then maybe you've had one too many rides. The adjective blase (most often spelled blas), describes someone who is bored with the pleasures of life because of frequent indulgence or exposure. When asked what she thought of the award ceremony, the actress yawned and replied, "It was blas. It was just like the last 15 award ceremonies I've been too."
adjective - alternative spelling of blas.
Someone who is facetious is only joking: "I was being facetious when I told my mother I want Brussels sprouts with every meal, but she took me seriously!"Facetious is a useful word to describe something that's humorous, or meant to be humorous. If a joke falls flat, then you can back off from it by saying you're only being facetious. There are limits to this use of the word: if you stage an elaborate prank on your friend, making him run out into the street in his underwear because he thinks his house is on fire, calling the joke facetious will probably earn you a punch in the face.
adjective - Playfully jocular; humorous: facetious remarks.
equivalent - humourous, humorous
form - facetiously, facetiousness
synonym - merry, witty, funny, jocular, humorous, sportive
To stipulate something means to demand that it be part of an agreement. So when you make a contract or deal, you can stipulate that a certain condition must be met. Anytime you draw up a legal agreement, you can stipulate a requirement that has to be met for that agreement to be complete. This stipulation might put some sort of limit on the agreement. For example, if you run a fencing company and offer a sale, you can stipulate that to get the sale price, the fence must be ordered by a certain date. Your customer, in turn, might stipulate that the work must be finished before the ground freezes.
verb-transitive - To lay down as a condition of an agreement; require by contract.
verb-transitive - To specify or arrange in an agreement: stipulate a date of payment and a price.
verb-transitive - To guarantee or promise (something) in an agreement.
verb-intransitive - To make an express demand or provision in an agreement.
verb-intransitive - To form an agreement.
adjective - Having stipules.
hyponym - provide
form - stipulated, stipulating, stipulative, stipulation
synonym - arrange, condition, contract, bespeak, provided
Eugenics is the idea that you can engineer a better human population by breeding for certain genes. Since such a program would entail ranking human beings and the desirability of their genes, eugenics is widely considered unethical. The term eugenics was coined in 1883 by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, and it comes from the Greek roots eu- "good" and genos "birth." Galton believed that the human race could be improved by encouraging people who have "good" genes to marry early and have lots of children, and discouraging people with "bad" genes from procreating at all. Nazi Germany provided a horrifying example of such a program at work, and eugenics is now seen as abhorrent.
noun - The study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding.
hypernym - bioscience, life science
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!Gauche was used for a long time to refer to things that were just so wrong, it almost hurt to talk about them, like publicly asking someone why they dont like you. That is so gauche, it could induce a cringe! Gauche is almost a gauche word, as it is comes from a French word meaning left (as opposed to right). It would be gauche to call left-handed people tacky!
adjective - Lacking social polish; tactless.
equivalent - inelegant
synonym - twisted, warped, unpolished, winding, graceless, gawky, awkward, crude, unsophisticated
Something that's Implausible is farfetched or unlikely. If it's 3pm and you still have to study for three exams and write an essay before midnight, its implausible that youll also have time to watch a movie. The adjective implausible breaks down into im, meaning not, and "plausible," meaning likely. So it simply means "not likely." Implausible ideas or stories usually get high marks for creativity, but they're just too crazy to be believable. But as philosopher Rene Descartes noted, One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another.
adjective - Difficult to believe; not plausible.
equivalent - unconvincing, unbelievable, unlikely, improbable
same-context - stagey, suggestible, unproved, untrustworthy, inconclusive, dissimilar
A tenet is a principle or belief honored by a person or, more often, a group of people. "Seek pleasure and avoid pain" is a basic tenet of Hedonism. "God exists" is a tenet of most major religions. Tenet is pronounced "tenit." The word evolved from the Latin tenere "to hold." The noun tenet is an opinion or doctrine one holds. It usually refers to a philosophy or a religion, but it doesn't have to for instance, Eastern medicine has different tenets from Western medicine. One of the central tenets of succeeding in the workplace is that a good offense is the best defense.
noun - An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization. See Synonyms at doctrine.
hyponym - article of faith, credendum
synonym - position, principle, dogma, opinion, doctrine, creed
hypernym - church doctrine, gospel
If something's exact it means it's precise and completely accurate as opposed to a guess, an estimate or an approximation. Exact also has the meaning of taking something from someone, often money, and generally only given up with reluctance under the threat of force. The Mob might exact a shakedown from unfortunate businessmen, for example. The word comes from the Latin exactus "exact or accurate," a form of the verb exigere meaning "to force out or demand," like the Mob demanding its money.
adjective - Strictly and completely in accord with fact; not deviating from truth or reality: an exact account; an exact replica; your exact words.
adjective - Characterized by accurate measurements or inferences with small margins of error; not approximate: an exact figure; an exact science.
adjective - Characterized by strict adherence to standards or rules: an exact speaker.
verb-transitive - To force the payment or yielding of; extort: exact tribute from a conquered people.
verb-transitive - To demand and obtain by or as if by force or authority: a harsh leader who exacts obedience. See Synonyms at demand.
hyponym - call, command, call in
equivalent - direct, photographic, verbatim, correct, mathematical, rigorous, strict
Gainsay, a verb, means "contradict" or "speak out against." When you challenge authority, you gainsay, as in teachers don't like it when unruly students gainsay them. Gainsay comes from an Old English word that means "contradict" or "say against," as in, no one dared gainsay the principal, who is well-known for giving detention to students who so much as frown at him. If you know someone who constantly corrects others, tells them that they're wrong, and says, "That's not true," more than anyone else, you have first-hand experience with the art of the gainsay.
verb-transitive - To declare false; deny. See Synonyms at deny.
verb-transitive - To oppose, especially by contradiction.
hyponym - call
form - gainsaying, gainsaid, gainsayer
synonym - dispute, deny, contradict, controvert, forbid
verb-form - gainsays
A dupe is a furry, ceremonial hat occasionally worn during ancient pagan rituals... or not. Dupe actually means trick or deceive. Were sorry we tried to dupe you into believing the wrong definition. Dupe can also refer to the victim of a trick or hoax, and used in this sense it sometimes conveys the idea that the victim is easily fooled. Dupe comes from the French word for a type of bird called the hoopoe, which has an extravagant crest and a reputation for being dim-witted. (And no, that's not another attempt to dupe you; it's the truth!)
noun - An easily deceived person.
noun - A person who functions as the tool of another person or power.
verb-transitive - To deceive (an unwary person). See Synonyms at deceive.
hyponym - laughingstock, fall guy, pull the leg of, goat, mark, lamb, soft touch, sitting duck, fool, kid
The meaning of physiognomy means the look of your face. When traveling in Italy, you may be struck by the wide eyes and pleasing physiognomy of the Italian people you meet. The reason physiognomy sounds like it should be something you study in school right after biology, geometry, and astronomy is that people used to think that it was a science by which you could tell someone's character through their facial features. If you've ever read any Nancy Drew stories, you will know how this plays outanyone with "shifty eyes" is not to be trusted.
noun - The art of judging human character from facial features.
noun - Divination based on facial features.
noun - Facial features, especially when regarded as revealing character.
noun - Aspect and character of an inanimate or abstract entity: the physiognomy of New England.
hyponym - pudding-face, pudding face
synonym - countenance
etymologically-related-term - physiognomist
hypernym - face, human face
same-context - mesmerism, stature, mien, demeanour
Perhaps if you are a superhero, you can tackle an insuperable problem one that is considered impossible to overcome. Insuperable is an adjective that is often paired with nouns like difficulty, obstacle, and barrier. An insuperable difficulty is not just difficult; its impossible. And an insuperable obstacle is not like a hurdle on a running track that slows you down a little; it stops you entirely. The opposite of insuperable is, of course, superable, though its less commonly used than its negative counterpart.
adjective - Impossible to overcome; insurmountable: insuperable odds.
equivalent - unconquerable, insurmountable, unsurmountable
form - insuperableness
synonym - unconquerable, impassable, invincible, insurmountable
etymologically-related-term - insuperability
cross-reference - unconquerable
If you are guileless, you are not a liar; you are innocent, and you might be a touch on the gullible side. To be guileless is to be without guile. Guile is "deceit, duplicity and trickery." The young and uninitiated are the ones we call guileless, and they are the ones who often get stung by the more heartless among us. You might recall being a guileless freshman trying out for the school play, and being told by a veteran performer that it would be best to come to the audition for Our Town in a chicken costume, so you did.
adjective - Free of guile; artless. See Synonyms at naive.
equivalent - square, straight
synonym - simpl, artless, nave
same-context - innocent, amiable, childlike, truthful, unaffected
A vendetta is blood feud, a quest for revenge. In Corsica, a vendetta will separate families for generations, with members of one family murdering those of the other, all to satisfy an ancient grudge. If a friend of yours breaks into your locker and fills it with crumpled up newspaper, you will not be able to hold your head up until you have carried out a vendetta. Perhaps you can tie his shoes together during French class without his noticing?
noun - A feud between two families or clans that arises out of a slaying and is perpetuated by retaliatory acts of revenge; a blood feud.
noun - A bitter, destructive feud.
hypernym - feud
same-context - moglie, giovane, Meryl, slayings
To laud someone doesn't mean to give them knighthood, but to praise them extravagantly usually in a very public manner. Being lauded, of course, can have the same tonic effect as having been made a lord. Fun fact: the word laud is related to the drug laudanum, a potent combo of alcohol and opium first invented in the sixteenth century. Its creator, the alchemist Parcelsus, clearly knowing the effect it had on people, took its name from the Latin word laudere, meaning "to praise." Not surprisingly, it remained one of the world's most lauded drugs until its use became strictly controlled in the early twentieth century.
verb-transitive - To give praise to; glorify. See Synonyms at praise.
noun - Praise; glorification.
noun - A hymn or song of praise.
noun - Ecclesiastical The service of prayers following the matins and constituting with them the first of the seven canonical hours.
noun - The time appointed for this service.
hyponym - ensky, crack up, hymn, canonise, canonize
form - lauded, lauding
synonym - honor, glory, praise
When something is viable, the adjective refers to something workable with the ability to grow and function properly. The adjective viable refers to something able to function properly and even grow. It is made up of the Latin roots vita which means "life," and the ending -able which means "to be possible." In terms of science or botany, when a plant is viable it can live and flourish in an environment such as a cactus in the desert. Consider also the Wright brothers, who were the first to develop a viable airplane after many tries and spectacular failures.
adjective - Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions.
adjective - Capable of living outside the uterus. Used of a fetus or newborn.
adjective - Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable: a viable plan; a viable national economy. See Synonyms at possible.
equivalent - possible, alive, live
form - viability
etymologically-related-term - vital, survive, vivid, devive, revive
same-context - specialize
If you are gullible, the joke is on you because you are easily fooled. It is thought that gullible might be derived from the verb gull, meaning "to swallow." This would be a funny coincidence as gullible describes an overly trusting person who tends to swallow the stories he hears whole. The related word, gull, can be used as a noun "don't be such a gull!" or as a verb "you can't gull me into believing that!"
adjective - Easily deceived or duped.
equivalent - naive, naf, unwary
form - gullibility, gullibly
synonym - naif, fleeceable, green, nave
same-context - artless
Discrete means separate, or divided. A discrete unit is a separate component of something larger. A room is a discrete space within a house, just as the transmission is a discrete part of a cars engine. Choose Your Words:discreet / discreteDiscreet and discrete are doublets of each other. That is, they come from the same ultimate source, although they took different paths from it.
Continue reading...Don't confuse discrete meaning separate, or divided, or distinct, with its close cousin discreet, which means "with discretion," or "appropriately private." They come from the same word root, and each basically means to keep something apart. Billionaire Bruce Wayne, for example, is very discreet about his secret life as Batman. You could say Batman is a discrete part of Bruce Waynes identity.
adjective - Constituting a separate thing. See Synonyms at distinct.
adjective - Consisting of unconnected distinct parts.
adjective - Mathematics Defined for a finite or countable set of values; not continuous.
equivalent - separate
form - discreteness, discrete variable
synonym - separate, disjunctive, discontinuous, disjunct, distinct
cross-reference - discrete degrees
same-context - optical
Something can be described as invidious when it is resentful, discriminatory or envious, as in: "Fred was angered by the invidious gossip about his divorce being spread by his ex-wife's allies."Choose Your Words:insidious / invidiousIt's easy to see why insidious and invidious are easily confused. With just one letter separating them, both of which are pronounced at the front of the mouth, you can easily mishear a speaker. What's more, both are negative terms.
Continue reading...The adjective invidious is used to describe an act, thought, opinion or critique that is full of ill will or prejudice. It comes from a Latin word that means "hostile." When the captain of a cheerleading squad says nasty things about an opposing cheer captain's new party dress, those are invidious comments.
adjective - Tending to rouse ill will, animosity, or resentment: invidious accusations.
adjective - Containing or implying a slight; discriminatory: invidious distinctions.
adjective - Envious.
equivalent - unfavourable, unfavorable
synonym - envious, desirable, offensive, enviable, hateful, malignant
etymologically-related-term - invidiously, invidiousness
Turgid describes something that's swollen, typically by fluids, like a turgid water balloon that's way too big to resist dropping on your friend's head. Choose Your Words:turbid / turgidTurbid can refer to something thick with suspended matter, while turgid means swollen or bombastic.
Continue reading...Turgid comes from the Latin word turgidus, meaning "swollen, inflated." Turgid can be used in a figurative sense to describe things that are overblown. That might remind you of some people's egos! If a famous singer wants to showcase his incredible vocal range and his love of yodeling in a single song, the result may well be turgid, something so swollen with notes and styles that it seems ready to burst.
adjective - Excessively ornate or complex in style or language; grandiloquent: turgid prose.
adjective - Swollen or distended, as from a fluid; bloated: a turgid bladder; turgid veins.
equivalent - unhealthy, rhetorical
synonym - pompous, bombastic, grandiose, bloated, swelled, inflated, swollen, distended
Use the verb burgeon to describe something that is growing, expanding, and flourishing. If you have a green thumb, in the spring your flower gardens will burgeon in a cacophony of color. If you don't have a green thumb, your collection of plastic plants will burgeon. Although burgeon means to grow and flourish, it doesn't necessarily have to apply only to plants. Your town can have >burgeoning downtown development. Your tiny retirement account can burgeon into an excellent emergency fund if you invest even a small amount each month. You may have a burgeoning career as a villain if you overthrow a planet by using your mind-controlling ray gun on the populace.
verb-intransitive - To put forth new buds, leaves, or greenery; sprout.
verb-intransitive - To begin to grow or blossom.
verb-intransitive - To grow or develop rapidly.
synonym - green, grow, expand, sprout, germinate, bud, blossom
verb-form - burgeoned, burgeoning, burgeons
A cloister is an enclosed garden, usually surrounded by covered walkways. Because such spaces are often featured in buildings that house religious orders, cloister can be used to mean "monastery" or "convent."In enclosed religious orders, monks and nuns withdraw from society to devote themselves to prayer and contemplation. In order to provide them with access to the outdoors while protecting them from contact with the secular world, the cloister became a common element of convents and monasteries. When used as a verb, cloister generally loses its religious connotation and means "to seclude" or "isolate." Don't get a lunch detention or you'll be cloistered in the classroom while all the other kids are running around outside.
noun - A covered walk with an open colonnade on one side, running along the walls of buildings that face a quadrangle.
noun - A place, especially a monastery or convent, devoted to religious seclusion.
noun - Life in a monastery or convent.
noun - A secluded, quiet place.
verb-transitive - To shut away from the world in or as if in a cloister; seclude.
verb-transitive - To furnish (a building) with a cloister.
hyponym - convent, priory, monastery
form - cloistered, cloistral, cloistering, cloisterer
synonym - enter religion, convent, priory
A rubric is a heading or a category in a chart, or a rule of conduct. A teacher's grading rubrics may include participation, homework completion, tests, quizzes, and papers. A rubric can also mean a rule or a procedure. If you use "might makes right" as the rubric for the formation of a list of classroom rules, you'll have a different-feeling classroom culture than if your rubric is "everyone deserves respect."
noun - A class or category: "This mission is sometimes discussed under the rubric of 'horizontal escalation' . . . from conventional to nuclear war ( Jack Beatty).
noun - A title; a name.
noun - A part of a manuscript or book, such as a title, heading, or initial letter, that appears in decorative red lettering or is otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
noun - A title or heading of a statute or chapter in a code of law.
noun - Ecclesiastical A direction in a missal, hymnal, or other liturgical book.
noun - An authoritative rule or direction.
noun - A short commentary or explanation covering a broad subject.
noun - Red ocher.
adjective - Red or reddish.
adjective - Written in red.
equivalent - rubrical
synonym - rubricate, class, redden
etymologically-related-term - rubricate
cross-reference - rubric lakes, ornaments rubric
hypernym - title, category, direction
Thespian is a fancy word for actor. Since this word is related to Thespis, the guy who first took the stage in Ancient Greece, you can feel real scholarly using the word thespian. As an adjective, you can use the word thespian to describe something that is related to drama. If you enjoy theater, you can say you enjoy thespian pursuits. Many high school drama clubs offer Thespian status to club members who earn a certain number of points by acting in shows or working on backstage tech for them. Note that the word thespian is sometimes capitalized because it is taken from a person's name.
adjective - Of or relating to drama; dramatic: thespian talents.
adjective - Of or relating to Thespis.
noun - An actor or actress.
hyponym - Olivier, douglas elton fairbanks, Jolson, dustin hoffman, lee strasberg, principal, bela ferenc blasko, stand-by, edward g. robinson, asa yoelson
The verb plummet means "to drop sharply," like eagles that plummet toward earth, seeking prey, or school attendance that plummets when there is a flu outbreak. To correctly pronounce plummet, say "PLUH-met." This verb describes something that drops sharply or quickly, like a roller coaster that plummets down a hill, temperatures that plummet overnight, or sales of roses and candy that plummet after Valentine's Day. If something plummets, this doesn't mean it will stay down or low forever, just that it has experienced a sharp drop.
noun - See plumb bob.
noun - Something that weighs down or oppresses; a burden.
verb-intransitive - To fall straight down; plunge.
verb-intransitive - To decline suddenly and steeply: Stock prices plummeted.
synonym - weight, drop, Bob, fall, plumb, dive, lead
verb-form - plummeting, plummeted, plummetted
To describe a person or a solution that takes a realistic approach, consider the adjective pragmatic. The four-year-old who wants a unicorn for her birthday isn't being very pragmatic. The opposite of idealistic is pragmatic, a word that describes a philosophy of "doing what works best." From Greek pragma "deed," the word has historically described philosophers and politicians who were concerned more with real-world application of ideas than with abstract notions. A pragmatic person is sensible, grounded, and practical and doesn't expect a birthday celebration filled with magical creatures.
adjective - Dealing or concerned with facts or actual occurrences; practical.
adjective - Philosophy Of or relating to pragmatism.
adjective - Relating to or being the study of cause and effect in historical or political events with emphasis on the practical lessons to be learned from them.
adjective - Archaic Active; busy.
adjective - Archaic Active in an officious or meddlesome way.
adjective - Archaic Dogmatic; dictatorial.
noun - A pragmatic sanction.
noun - Archaic A meddler; a busybody.
equivalent - realistic, practical, pragmatical
form - pragmatically, pragma
synonym - realistic, utilitarian, practical, philosophical, down-to-earth
Use the noun simile when describing a comparison between two fundamentally different things, such as: "His voice was smooth, like butter in a warm pan."A simile (pronounced SIM-uh-lee) is a comparison that usually uses the words "like" or "as": "Me without a mic is like a beat without a snare," rapped Lauryn Hill in the song "How Many Mics." The word comes from similus, a Latin word meaning "the same." A simile is different from a metaphor, in which the comparison is less explicit, as in Shakespeare's line "All the world's a stage."
noun - A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in "How like the winter hath my absence been or "So are you to my thoughts as food to life (Shakespeare).
synonym - similitude, comparison
cross-reference - English similes, metaphor
hypernym - figure, trope, image, figure of speech
same-context - visum, res
Have you ever cut out a bunch of pictures from magazines and pasted them together to make a big picture? If you have, you have made a collage. Collage came to English through French from the Greek word for glue, kolla, about 100 years ago. A collage is not only made from magazine pictures. In the world of fine art, it refers to a work made with various small objects sometimes with paint sometimes without. The word can also be used to mean a collection of different things. If it's very loud in your house, you might come home to a collage of sounds from the dog, the TV, your mom on the phone and your brother on the guitar. Years after you graduate, high school might just seem like a collage of memories.
noun - An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and color.
noun - A work, such as a literary piece, composed of both borrowed and original material.
noun - The art of creating such compositions.
noun - An assemblage of diverse elements: a collage of conflicting memories.
verb-transitive - To paste (diverse materials) over a surface, thereby creating an artistic product.
verb-intransitive - To create such an artistic product.
hyponym - photomontage
synonym - montage
verb-form - collaging, collages, collaged
cross-reference - montage
hypernym - aggregation, picture, paste-up, icon
A recluse lives alone, works alone, eats alone, and generally stays away from other people. Anti-social old hermits are recluses, as are a lot of students during exam time. In the early 13th century, a recluse was a person who shut out the world to go meditate on religious issues. But nowadays recluses can think about whatever they want while they're sitting in solitude they're simply people who shy away from social interaction and live secluded lives. Or think of the Brown Recluse spider, who likes to hide out in dark old boots or undisturbed corners of the basement.
noun - A person who withdraws from the world to live in seclusion and often in solitude.
adjective - Withdrawn from the world; reclusive.
hyponym - St. John the Baptist, John the Baptist
equivalent - unsocial
form - brown recluse, recluse spider
synonym - solitary, seclude, reclusive, hermit
hypernym - lone hand
That seductive gleam on that Porsche behind the dealer's window? It's called a burnish, a gloss only achieved by loads of polishing. Likewise, you can burnish resume, by polishing it until it's perfect. A caution about usage: burnish in the physical sense is usually reserved for inanimate objects a woman will not be happy to hear that her appearance is "burnished to perfection." But your car will thank you. Also, one of the most common non-physical things to be burnished? A reputation. People are forever burnishing them and its opposite, besmirching them (i. e., making them dirty).
verb-transitive - To make smooth or glossy by or as if by rubbing; polish.
verb-transitive - To rub with a tool that serves especially to smooth or polish.
noun - A smooth glossy finish or appearance; luster.
hyponym - French polish, glaze
form - burnishing, burnished
synonym - brightness, polis, brighten, gloss, luster, polish
Tangential refers to something that's not part of the whole. If you make a comment that is tangential to the story you're telling, it's a digression. The story could still be understood without it. In geometry, a tangent is a line that touches a curve in one spot but doesn't intersect it anywhere else. Tangential means something that goes off in one direction that way and doesn't return. People can feel tangentialas though they're inessential and not relevant to a larger group.
adjective - Of, relating to, or moving along or in the direction of a tangent.
adjective - Merely touching or slightly connected.
adjective - Only superficially relevant; divergent: a tangential remark.
equivalent - irrelevant
cross-reference - tangential cordinates, simple tangential strain, conic tangential, tangential plane
same-context - northeasterly, transversal, 2-level, upward, rotational
A query is a question, or the search for a piece of information. The Latin root quaere means "to ask" and it's the basis of the words inquiry, question, quest, request, and query. Query often fits the bill when referring to Internet searches, polite professional discourse, and subtle pleas. You could query as to the whereabouts of the lavatory, but you'd sound a bit prim and be better off asking "Where's the toilet?" If your job entails dealing with annoying questions and complaints, you could make it sound better by proclaiming, "I respond to customer queries."
noun - A question; an inquiry.
noun - A doubt in the mind; a mental reservation.
noun - A notation, usually a question mark, calling attention to an item in order to question its validity or accuracy.
verb-transitive - To express doubt or uncertainty about; question: query someone's motives.
verb-transitive - To put a question to (a person). See Synonyms at ask.
verb-transitive - To mark (an item) with a notation in order to question its validity or accuracy.
hyponym - inquire, interpellate, examine, enquire, wonder, debrief, sound out, pump, checkout, feel out
Describe a person's actions as sordid if they are so immoral or unethical that they seem dirty. Think of the worst parts of a bad soap opera!Sordid comes from the Latin word sordes "dirt." Something that is filthy or run down such as a neighborhood or someone's living conditions can be called sordid, but it is usually used figuratively to mean immoral or dishonest. If you want to hear the sordid details of someone's actions, it's because they were extremely dishonest or sexually immoral and also because they were supposed to be kept a secret.
adjective - Filthy or dirty; foul.
adjective - Depressingly squalid; wretched: sordid shantytowns.
adjective - Morally degraded: "The sordid details of his orgies stank under his very nostrils ( James Joyce). See Synonyms at mean2.
adjective - Exceedingly mercenary; grasping.
equivalent - acquisitive, dirty, disreputable, soiled, unclean, corrupt
form - sordidity, sordidly, sordidness
synonym - selfish
If you disapprove of the overly submissive way someone is acting like the teacher's pet or a celebrity's assistant call them by the formal adjective obsequious. There are many words in the English language for a person or an action that is overly obedient and submissive. Obsequious is a more formal adjective, whereas fawning or servile belong to standard language use. An obsequious person can be called a bootlicker, a brownnoser or a toady. You can also say that someone gives an obsequious bow, a gesture that means, "your wish is my command."
adjective - Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning.
equivalent - servile, insincere
synonym - truckling, yielding, slavish, subservient, abject, pickthank, supple, sycophantic
noun - Self-restraint; moderation.
noun - Voluntary control over urinary and fecal discharge.
noun - Partial or complete abstention from sexual activity. See Synonyms at abstinence.
equivalent - continency
synonym - continuity, self-control, self-command, self-restraint
etymologically-related-term - continent
hypernym - self-denial, control, restraint, self-discipline
A skeptic is a doubter. The one who can't be convinced. The guy who's ready to poke holes in the most brilliant argument you've ever made. For every great idea, there are probably 100 skeptics waiting to shoot it down. These are the naysayers that didn't think rock music would last, questioned the usefulness of seat belts, and even wondered if the internet would catch on. Coming from the Greek word skeptikos, which means "thoughtful or inquiring," it's no surprise that a skeptic is someone who asks a lot of questions and isn't easily convinced, even by the smartest answers.
noun - One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
noun - One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
noun - Philosophy An adherent of a school of skepticism.
noun - Philosophy A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism, especially that of Pyrrho of Elis (360?-272? B.C.).
hyponym - doubting thomas, pessimist
equivalent - skeptical
synonym - unbeliever, doubter, minimifidian, infidel, freethinker, pyrrhonist
etymologically-related-term - skeptical
It takes a bit of planning to forestall something, meaning stop it from happening. To forestall the effects of aging, exercise and take care of your health all your life. You can break the word forestall into parts to figure out its meaning. The prefix fore is one you've seen in words like forewarn, which means "to warn in advance." And you probably know that stall means "delay." So to forestall is to stall in advance, or put another way, to try to prevent or put off something you don't want to happen.
verb-transitive - To delay, hinder, or prevent by taking precautionary measures beforehand. See Synonyms at prevent.
verb-transitive - To deal with or think of beforehand; anticipate.
verb-transitive - To prevent or hinder normal sales in (a market) by buying up merchandise, discouraging persons from bringing their goods to market, or encouraging an increase in prices in goods already on sale.
hyponym - queer, stop, ward off, save, stymy, bilk, scotch, block, deflect, fend off
You may have heard it said that the fastest way to a persons heart is through his stomach. So, if you need to please or impress someone, regale them that is, treat them to lavish food and drink. While food is reliable way to regale someone, regale can also involve providing forms of entertainment such as music or storytelling. Regale is akin to the word gala, meaning a festive party, and gallant, which can mean spirited and adventurous (though gallant can also mean noble and brave). If you regale someone with a gala attended by partygoers who are gallant, in either sense of the word, everyone should have a pretty good time.
verb-transitive - To provide with great enjoyment; entertain. See Synonyms at amuse.
verb-transitive - To entertain sumptuously with food and drink; provide a feast for.
verb-intransitive - To feast.
noun - A great feast.
noun - A choice food; a delicacy.
noun - Refreshment.
hyponym - wine, feast, feed, alcoholize
form - regaling, regaled
synonym - feast, banquet, entertain, gratify
For a formal-sounding verb that means to make worse, try exacerbate. If you're in trouble, complaining about it will only exacerbate the problem. Exacerbate is related to the adjective acrid, often used to describe sharp-smelling smoke. Think of exacerbate then as a sharp or bitter thing that makes something worse. A drought will exacerbate a country's food shortage. Worsen, intensify, aggravate and compound are similar, but exacerbate has the sense of an irritant being added in to make something bad even worse.
verb-transitive - To increase the severity, violence, or bitterness of; aggravate: a speech that exacerbated racial tensions; a heavy rainfall that exacerbated the flood problems.
hyponym - degrade, inflame, irritate, cheapen
form - exacerbatingly, exacerbation, exacerbated, exacerbating
synonym - exasperate, irritate
Insinuate means you imply or suggest something that may or may not be true. If you say things seemed to go wrong about the time your brother took over, you insinuate that he had something to do with the decline. There's another way to insinuate. Suppose you're in line to get into a popular dance club when a celebrity appears, surrounded by a big entourage. If you strike up a conversation with one of the entourage, you may be able to insinuate that you're part of the group and go in with them. Don't feel bad people have been doing it at least since the 1520s, when insinuate evolved from the Latin word insinuare, meaning "wind one's way into."
verb-transitive - To introduce or otherwise convey (a thought, for example) gradually and insidiously. See Synonyms at suggest.
verb-transitive - To introduce or insert (oneself) by subtle and artful means.
verb-intransitive - To make insinuations.
form - insinuating, insinuated
synonym - instill, intimate, introduce, hint, suggest, insert, ingratiate
etymologically-related-term - insinuation
Watch out when a situation becomes volatile it is likely to change for the worse suddenly. You fight and then make up with your partner often if you two have a volatile relationship. Volatile from Latin volatilis "fleeting, transitory" always gives the sense of sudden, radical change. Think of it as the opposite of stable. A person who is volatile loses his or her temper suddenly and violently. A volatile political situation could erupt into civil war. When the stock market is volatile, it fluctuates greatly. And in scientific language, a volatile oil evaporates quickly.
adjective - Chemistry Evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures.
adjective - Chemistry That can be readily vaporized.
adjective - Tending to vary often or widely, as in price: the ups and downs of volatile stocks.
adjective - Inconstant; fickle: a flirt's volatile affections.
adjective - Lighthearted; flighty: in a volatile mood.
adjective - Ephemeral; fleeting.
adjective - Tending to violence; explosive: a volatile situation with troops and rioters eager for a confrontation.
adjective - Flying or capable of flying; volant.
equivalent - evaporable, vaporizable, inconstant, unstable, vaporific, changeful, vapourisable, volatilisable, volatilizable, vapourific
If something is pristine it's immaculately clean or has never been used. So please check your shoes before walking on a pristine white carpet. A long, long time ago pristine was used to describe primitive or ancient things. It wasnt until 1899 that the word grew to mean "unspoiled" or "pure." Ecologists strive to preserve pristine rain forests, just as vacationers are always looking for a pristine strip of beach to lounge on. A new car should arrive to you in pristine condition, and hopefully you'll do your best to keep it that way.
adjective - Remaining in a pure state; uncorrupted by civilization.
adjective - Remaining free from dirt or decay; clean: pristine mountain snow.
adjective - Of, relating to, or typical of the earliest time or condition; primitive or original.
equivalent - pure, clean
synonym - old, original, primitive, primeval
same-context - unblemished, dazzle, unclouded, unbroken
The word commensurate has to do with things that are similar in size and therefore appropriate. Many people think the death penalty is a commensurate punishment for murder. In other words, the penalty fits the crime. When things are commensurate, they're fair, appropriate, and the right size. If you got a ticket for jaywalking, you shouldn't get ten years in prison that penalty is not commensurate with the crime. The word commensurate is usually followed by with or to; one thing is commensurate with or to another.
adjective - Of the same size, extent, or duration as another.
adjective - Corresponding in size or degree; proportionate: a salary commensurate with my performance.
adjective - Measurable by a common standard; commensurable.
equivalent - coextensive, conterminous, commensurable, proportionate, coterminous
form - commensurated, commensurating
synonym - adequate, adjust, commensurable
A maverick is a rebel, someone who shows a lot of independence. A maverick on a motorcycle might blaze his own trail, or show a maverick touch in a rough sport by wearing a helmet with the word "Mom" inside a heart. Samuel A. Maverick owned a lot of cattle, and he let them roam around Texas without a brand, or identification mark, seared into their skins. Samuel was a maverick for going against the common practice of tracking his animals, and his last name became part of the English language as both an adjective and a noun in the 19th century. Someone who acts very independently is a maverick, and individual actions that stand out are maverick, as in "her maverick jumping style on the ice was both wild and delicate."
noun - An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.
noun - One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
adjective - Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence: maverick politicians; a maverick decision.
equivalent - unconventional
synonym - nonconformist, lone gunman, individualist, rebel
cross-reference - heteroclite
hypernym - nonconformist, recusant, calf
same-context - misfit
To prate means to talk on and on about something. While it may be interesting to hear about other peoples vacations, when they prate about them until the wee hours, it becomes intolerable. There are more than a few instances where the famous have discouraged prating. Nursing great Clara Barton discouraged prating about moral influences when she encouraged a cigarette and a good, stiff glass of whiskey for Civil War soldiers. Herman Melville warned against mocking a lovers wounded heart, saying the stabbed man knows steel; prate not to him that it is only a ticking feather.
verb-intransitive - To talk idly and at length; chatter.
verb-transitive - To utter idly or to little purpose.
noun - Empty, foolish, or trivial talk; idle chatter.
hyponym - babble, blether, blather, smatter, blither
form - prattle, prattler, pratingly, prating, prated
An itinerary is your travel plan where you will go and when you will be there. If you make plans to fly to Paris from Beijing or take a train to Chicago from Mexico City, you will need an itinerary. That means you will have a plan that displays how you will get from point to point in your travels and when you will be at each point. This word comes from the Middle English itinerarius and is defined as being "about a journey." Itineraries can be really useful because if you give your mother yours, she will always know where you are!
noun - A route or proposed route of a journey.
noun - An account or record of a journey.
noun - A guidebook for travelers.
adjective - Of or relating to a journey or route.
adjective - Traveling from place to place; itinerant.
hyponym - celestial orbit, traffic pattern, flyway, direction, way, round, fairway, crosscut, feeder line, line of flight
Someone sentient is able to feel things, or sense them. Sentient usually occurs in phrases like "sentient beings" and "sentient creatures," making it clear that things that dont have life dont have feelings. Explain that to a pet rock. Sentient comes from the Latin sentient-, "feeling," and it describes things that are alive, able to feel and perceive, and show awareness or responsiveness. Having senses makes something sentient, or able to smell, communicate, touch, see, or hear. Whether or not plants and living things other than animals and people are sentient depends on whom you ask.
adjective - Having sense perception; conscious: "The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God's stage ( T.E. Lawrence).
adjective - Experiencing sensation or feeling.
equivalent - sensate, conscious
synonym - sensible, sensate, feeling, sensive, sensitive
cross-reference - conscious, sentient soul
same-context - sane
Abscond is to escape into hiding, often taking something along. As a kid, you may have absconded from your lemonade stand with the coffee can of cash in hand, and your bewildered sister still filling cups for your customers. Abscond is generally used to describe someone running from law or capture, and the word abscond has been in use since the early sixteenth century running away and hiding being nothing new. Dogs who get off the leash and dart into the woods are not necessarily absconding; they are simply making a break for it. On the other hand, the Ponzi schemer who went to live in the South of France with his client's money? He absconded.
verb-intransitive - To leave quickly and secretly and hide oneself, often to avoid arrest or prosecution.
hyponym - levant
form - absconding, absconded
synonym - hide, depart, conceal
verb-form - absconding, absconded, absconds
hypernym - flee
Use the verb stanch to describe stopping a liquid from spreading, like a bandage that stanches bleeding or thick towels that stanch the flow of water across the kitchen floor when you drop a full glass of water. The vowel sound in stanch most frequently sounds like on: "stonch." Stanch can also be pronounced to rhyme with branch. Though it's a verb mostly commonly associated with keeping blood from flowing from a wound, the origin is likely the Latin word stagnum, meaning "pond, pool." This word is related to stagnate, describing water that has no movement.
verb-transitive - To stop or check the flow of (blood or tears, for example).
verb-transitive - To stop the flow of blood from (a wound).
verb-transitive - To stop, check, or allay: "My anxiety is stanched; I am at peace ( Scott Turow). See Usage Note at staunch1.
adjective - Variant of staunch1. See Usage Note at staunch1.
form - stanching, stanched
synonym - loyal, steadfast, constant, check, firm, prop, courageous, private
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!People may tell "white lies" if they forgot your birthday or really don't like your new haircut, but if you catch someone intentionally manipulating you with a falsehood, that person is just plain mendacious. So think of the most deceptive, insincere, perfidious, duplicitous, false person you've ever met, and then add the word mendacious to that list.
adjective - Lying; untruthful: a mendacious child.
adjective - False; untrue: a mendacious statement. See Synonyms at dishonest.
equivalent - false, untruthful
synonym - lying, false, counterfeit
same-context - covetous, illusive, insincere, crafty, untrue
adjective - Full of mettle; spirited and plucky. See Synonyms at brave.
equivalent - brave, courageous, spirited
synonym - fiery, energetic, courageous
same-context - restive, country-bred, foam-flecked, barebacked
If you want to keep cookies crisp for a long time, store them in a jar with a hermetic, or airtight, seal. Hermetic means sealed so that no air can get in. The word can be used metaphorically as well. A child who is completely protected from the outside world might be said to come from a hermetic environment. The word comes from the name of the Greek god, Hermes Trismegistus, who was a magician and alchemist and was credited with creating the process for making a completely airtight glass tube, a god-like feat if there ever was one.
adjective - Completely sealed, especially against the escape or entry of air.
adjective - Impervious to outside interference or influence: the hermetic confines of an isolated life.
adjective - Mythology Of or relating to Hermes Trismegistus or the works ascribed to him.
adjective - Having to do with the occult sciences, especially alchemy; magical.
equivalent - hermetical, tight
form - hermetical, hermeticity, hermetically sealed, hermetic seal
synonym - chemic
cross-reference - hermetic column, hermetic medicine, hermetic art
If you're prone to picking fights, making snarky comments, and being frustratingly stubborn, you're fractious. And odds are you're not invited to too many parties. Someone who is fractious is cranky, rebellious and inclined to cause problems. Tempers and children are commonly described as such. In To Kill A Mockingbird, author Harper Lee uses the word to describe the trouble-making Calpurnia: "She had always been too hard on me, she had at last seen the error of her fractious ways, she was sorry and too stubborn to say so."
adjective - Inclined to make trouble; unruly.
adjective - Having a peevish nature; cranky.
equivalent - difficult, disobedient, hard, ill-natured
form - fractiously, fractiousness
synonym - snappish, ugly, waspish, peevish
A preamble is a brief introduction to a speech, like the Preamble to the Constitution that starts out "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...do ordain and establish this Constitution."Preamble comes from the Latin praeambulus which means "walking before." And that's what a preamble does it "walks" before a speech, often explaining what's coming. It's like the White Rabbit introducing the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Since it goes before a speech, think of it as a pre-ramble. A preamble is usually used for formal documents; you wouldn't include one in a text to your best friend.
noun - A preliminary statement, especially the introduction to a formal document that serves to explain its purpose.
noun - An introductory occurrence or fact; a preliminary.
synonym - preface, introduction
hypernym - preface, premise, introduce, introduction, precede
same-context - preface, contravention, stipulation
If you adulterate something, you mess it up. You may not want to adulterate the beauty of freshly fallen snow by shoveling it, but how else are you going to get to work?The verb adulterate comes from the Latin word adulterare, which means to falsify, or to corrupt. Whenever something original, pure, fresh, or wholesome is marred, polluted, defaced, or otherwise made inferior, it has been adulterated. Your grandfather may, for instance, believe that bartenders adulterate the name Martini by applying it to combinations of vodka, chocolate or anything other than a mixture of five parts gin to one part dry vermouth, on the rocks, with a twist.
verb-transitive - To make impure by adding extraneous, improper, or inferior ingredients.
adjective - Spurious; adulterated.
adjective - Adulterous.
hyponym - water down, doctor up, sophisticate, doctor
equivalent - impure
form - adulteration, adulterating, adulterant, adulterated
synonym - lace
A connoisseur is a person who, through study and interest, has a fine appreciation for something, like the connoisseur who can identify the clarinet player on a jazz recording by the sound of his inhalations alone. A connoisseur is an authority in his field, someone who has expert knowledge and training, especially in the arts. A connoisseur may also be someone with an extremely developed sense of taste, like the connoisseur who can identify rare wine by a flavor others can't even detect. Then again, some people call themselves connoisseurs of just about anything they like pizza, old vinyl albums, even cartoons because they know so much about it.
noun - A person with expert knowledge or training, especially in the fine arts.
noun - A person of informed and discriminating taste: a connoisseur of fine wines.
hyponym - aesthete, esthete, wine lover
synonym - epicure, expert, virtuosa, virtuoso, judge, cognoscente, lapidary
You've heard the old saying "Pride comes before the fall?" Well, you could just as easily say pride is a precursor to the fall. A precursor is something that happens before something else. You don't have to be a dead languages scholar to guess that this word springs from a Latin source praecursor, "to run before." A precursor is usually related to what it precedes. It's a catalyst or a harbinger, leading to what follows or providing a clue that it's going to happen. Binging on holiday candy is a precursor to tummy aches and promises to exercise more. Draconian policies in unstable nations are often a precursor to rebellion.
noun - One that precedes and indicates, suggests, or announces someone or something to come: Colonial opposition to unfair taxation by the British was a precursor of the Revolution.
noun - One that precedes another; a forerunner or predecessor: The new principal's precursor was an eminent educator.
noun - A biochemical substance, such as an intermediate compound in a chain of enzymatic reactions, from which a more stable or definitive product is formed: a precursor of insulin.
hyponym - predecessor
synonym - predecessor, sign, omen, forerunner, messenger, harbinger
hypernym - person, mortal, individual
Feeling a little saucy? Perhaps a bit provocative but in a good way? Then it's safe to say your personality is a little piquant. Coming to us from the French word piquer, which means "to prick," something that's piquant certainly piques your interest. Someone who's piquant engages you with charm and wit. A story that's filled with piquant details has plenty of juicy, provocative points. And grandma's homemade gravy? It's certainly zesty and piquant, even with all the lumps.
adjective - Pleasantly pungent or tart in taste; spicy.
adjective - Appealingly provocative: a piquant wit.
adjective - Charming, interesting, or attractive: a piquant face.
adjective - Archaic Causing hurt feelings; stinging.
equivalent - tasty, attractive, stimulating
synonym - tart, sharp, pungent, stimulating
same-context - captivate, vivacious, whimsical
If you figure out the etiology of your friend's incessant hiccups, she'll be incredibly grateful, because etiology means "the cause of a disease or condition."The noun etiology is usually used by doctors and researchers who study disease and other medical topics. It means "origin" when you use it to describe illness or medical disorders, and it also refers to the study of the way things are caused. This second definition of etiology includes the study of disease, but you can use it to talk about the origins of anything at all.
noun - The study of causes or origins.
noun - The branch of medicine that deals with the causes or origins of disease.
noun - Assignment of a cause, an origin, or a reason for something.
noun - The cause or origin of a disease or disorder as determined by medical diagnosis.
hypernym - cause, philosophy
same-context - causation, symptomatology, pathology, prevalence, diagnosis, epidemiology, pathogenesis, ethyl
The adjective equable means "not easily irritated" or "steady," like someone's equable manner that makes everyone instantly feel comfortable. To correctly pronounce equable, accent the first syllable: "EK-wah-bul." It comes from the Latin word aequabilis, meaning "equal, consistent, uniform." An equable person isn't moody. You wouldn't expect him or her to fly into a rage one minute and be humming a happy tune the next. Instead, someone who is equable takes things in stride the good, the bad, and the ugly, with a smile and the occasional reminder that "this too shall pass."
adjective - Unvarying; steady.
adjective - Free from extremes.
adjective - Not easily disturbed; serene: an equable temper.
equivalent - good-natured, temperate
synonym - tranquil, constant, smooth, uniform, unvarying, even, even-tempered, imperturbable
To vaunt is to brag and boast and flaunt and go on and on about how great something is. It's over-the-top showing off, and when you taunt and exaggerate your greatness, you vaunt to the point of no longer seeming so great. From the Latin vnitre which comes from vnus, meaning "vain" or "empty" vaunt is a verb for taking praise too far or talking something up too much. Even if it's earned or deserved bragging, vaunting about something gets old and loses it impact. Other times, vaunt, as a noun, is a sure sign that a hard sell is going on someone is talking big but can't deliver.
verb-transitive - To speak boastfully of; brag about.
verb-intransitive - To speak boastfully; brag. See Synonyms at boast1.
noun - A boastful remark.
noun - Speech of extravagant self-praise.
hyponym - crow, puff, gloat, triumph
form - vaunted, vaunting, vaunter
synonym - boast, brag, rejoice
If something is caused by a physical or mental disease, it is pathological, like someone whose need to wash the floor every evening is part of a pathological compulsion for cleanliness, or a growth on someone's elbow that turned out to be a pathological. Pathological comes from a Greek word, pathologikos, which means treating of diseases pathos means "suffering." Anyone who studies or works with diseases, from their causes to their symptoms, identifies how the disease affects its victims, in other words, its pathological effects. Remember that this is a medical distinction. If a person has, for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder, his or her repetitive actions are pathological.
adjective - Of or relating to pathology.
adjective - Relating to or caused by disease.
adjective - Of, relating to, or manifesting behavior that is habitual, maladaptive, and compulsive: a pathological liar.
equivalent - psychoneurotic, unhealthy, neurotic
form - pathologically
synonym - pathologic, morbid, morbific
cross-reference - pathological anatomy
same-context - psychotic, congenital
The adjective tutelary describes something that is supervising or guarding something else, like the tutelary duties of a babysitter who makes sure the kids don't hurt themselves at the playground. To correctly pronounce tutelary, say "TOO-tuh-leh-ree." Tutelary comes from the Latin word tutus, meaning "watch over." You see this root in words like tutor and tutorial, which also involve watching over, though in a more specific sense that applies primarily to instructing. Tutelary's suffix -ary means "having to do with." So something that is tutelary has to do with keeping watch, like the tutelary presence of a parent supervising a child, or even a tutelary god in an ancient society.
adjective - Being or serving as a guardian or protector: tutelary gods.
adjective - Of or relating to a guardian or guardianship.
noun - One that serves as a guardian or protector.
equivalent - protective
etymologically-related-term - tutelage, tutor
same-context - heaven-born, benignant, avenge, titulary, torch-bearing, beneficent, eponymous
If your little brother quietly obeys your instructions and waits for you at the food court while you and your friends wander around the mall, he's probably a tractable child, meaning he's obedient, flexible, and responds well to directions. Note the similarity between tractable and tractor. Both come from the Latin word tractare, which originally meant "to drag about." You can think of a tractable person as someone who can be dragged about easily, like a plow being dragged by a tractor.
adjective - Easily managed or controlled; governable.
adjective - Easily handled or worked; malleable.
equivalent - tamable, malleable, tameable, docile, ductile, teachable, susceptible
synonym - palpable, governable, adaptable
A punctilious person pays attention to details. Are you always precisely on time? Is your room perfectly neat? Do you never forget a birthday or a library book's due date? Then you are one of the punctilious people. The adjective punctilious, pronounced "punk-TIL-ee-us," is related to the Italian word puntiglio, meaning "fine point." For someone who is punctilious no point is too fine, no detail too small, to be overlooked. The word is often used to describe people, but it can be used more broadly to apply to observations, behavior, or anything else that is characterized by close attention to detail.
adjective - Strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct. See Synonyms at meticulous.
adjective - Precise; scrupulous.
equivalent - precise
form - punctiliously, punctiliousness
synonym - meticulous, formal, scrupulous, precise
etymologically-related-term - point, punctuate, punctual
Use the noun welter to describe an enormous, messy pile, like the jumble of papers, coffee mugs, pens, and food wrappers on the desk of the messiest person in the office. Welter can also be a verb the items in the pile on the messy desk welter every time someone tries to pull something out. This means they roll and get tossed around. Maybe the person isn't as messy as you think. Possibly his projects keep him so weltered meaning "deeply involved" that he doesn't have the time or energy to deal with the mess.
noun - A confused mass; a jumble: a welter of papers and magazines.
noun - Confusion; turmoil.
verb-intransitive - To wallow, roll, or toss about, as in mud or high seas.
verb-intransitive - To lie soaked in a liquid.
verb-intransitive - To roll and surge, as the sea.
hyponym - rummage
form - welter-weight, weltered, weltering
synonym - wilt, filth, wallow, wither, slough, tumble
Something that abates becomes fewer or less intense. Your enthusiasm for skiing might abate after falling off a ski lift and getting a mouthful of snow. Abate comes from the Old French verb abattre, "to beat down," and means to reduce or become less intense or numerous. As an intransitive verb, it is often used with something physically, emotionally, or figuratively violent, as in "the flood of fan mail began to abate." Using it transitively, if you take measures to abate pollution or noise, you reduce them. Pronounce abate with the stress on the second syllable (uh-BATE).
verb-transitive - To reduce in amount, degree, or intensity; lessen. See Synonyms at decrease.
verb-transitive - To deduct from an amount; subtract.
verb-transitive - Law To put an end to.
verb-transitive - Law To make void.
verb-intransitive - To fall off in degree or intensity; subside.
verb-intransitive - Law To become void.
equivalent - to abate in lands
form - abatement, abater, abate of, unabated, abated, abatable, abating
synonym - depress, fall through
A miscreant is a person who is badwho lies, breaks the law, yells at small puppies. It's a somewhat old-fashioned word, popular with old ladies shocked at having their purses stolen at the opera. Miscreant, like lout, lecher, good-for-nothing they're the words proper people use to condemn the improper. Improper people consult an entirely different thesaurus of condemnation, perhaps familiar to you but not possible to quote from in this PG-rated word blurb.
noun - An evildoer; a villain.
noun - An infidel; a heretic.
hyponym - deviate, degenerate, wretch, pervert, black sheep, scapegrace, deviant
synonym - troublemaker, misbeliever, depraved
In a plutocracy, the people are ruled by the wealthy few. We know that's not true of our democracy. "One person, one vote" is how our system works. There's no plutocracy here. Rich people theoretically have no more power than do the poor. Whenever you see cracy, you know you're dealing with a form of rulership or government. The first part of the word comes from the Greek ploutos, meaning wealth. Put them together, and you get plutocracy, a government ruled by the rich. How does this differ from, say, an aristocracy? Well, the truth is that it isn't very different. Members of the aristocracy tend to be rich, but their money tends to be "old money." In a pure plutocracy, even the overnight billionaire can be a ruler.
noun - Government by the wealthy.
noun - A wealthy class that controls a government.
noun - A government or state in which the wealthy rule.
etymologically-related-term - plutodemocracy
hypernym - form of government, political system
same-context - scoliosis, reformism, deregulation, consumerism, plutocrat, fellow-countryman, upperclass
If you call someone erudite, that means they show great learning. After you've earned your second Ph. D., you will be truly erudite. Erudite is from Latin verb erudire, "to teach," which comes from rudis for "raw, unskilled, ignorant" (the source of our word rude). If you bring someone out of a raw state, you educate them, so someone who is erudite is very educated indeed (and perhaps a bit of a showoff). You can say either ER-oo-dite or ER-yoo-dite; the second one, being a bit harder to say, can seem a bit more erudite.
adjective - Characterized by erudition; learned. See Synonyms at learned.
equivalent - scholarly
synonym - learned, learne
etymologically-related-term - erudition, eruditely
same-context - scholarly, well-informed, studious, readable, astute
A clique is an exclusive group of people or friends. Before Rudolph pulled Santa's sled through the fog, the clique of flying reindeer never let him play their reindeer games. In high school, the exclusive nature of cliques causes a lot of hurt feelings. Clique carries this less than nice feeling with it wherever it goes, whether it be a set of elites who surround a government official, a group of popular kids who don't let others join their group or the closed circle of people at the office who always make sure they get the best jobs.
noun - A small exclusive group of friends or associates.
verb-intransitive - Informal To form, associate in, or act as a clique.
hyponym - rogues' gallery, hard core, Bloomsbury Group, kitchen cabinet, Bohemia, galere, faction, military junta, brain trust, Mafia
Paragon applies to someone who is a model of perfection in some quality or trait. We link paragon with other words that follow it, such as "paragon of virtue" or "paragon of patience."A paragon means someone or something that is the very best. The English noun paragon comes from the Italian word paragone, which is a touchstone, a black stone that is used to tell the quality of gold. You rub the gold on the touchstone and you can find out how good the gold is. You are hoping that it is the paragon of "goldness."
noun - A model of excellence or perfection of a kind; a peerless example: a paragon of virtue.
noun - An unflawed diamond weighing at least 100 carats.
noun - A very large spherical pearl.
noun - Printing A type size of 20 points.
verb-transitive - To compare; parallel.
verb-transitive - To equal; match.
hyponym - gold standard, jimdandy, jimhickey, crackerjack, class act, humdinger
synonym - parallel, model, queen, rival
Fatuous means lacking intelligence. When your mother outlaws calling your brother stupid, use fatuous instead. Fatuous derives from the Latin fatuus meaning "foolish." It sounds like it should have something to do with being fat, but it actually has no relation to size. Back in Old English times, when the word fat was emerging, food was a lot more scarce than it is today, and the word fat meant simply plump or well-fed. Times have changed, and now that we have more food than we know what to do with, fat people are thought to lack self control, which makes them seem foolish, or even fatuous, which is hardly the case.
adjective - Foolish or silly, especially in a smug or self-satisfied way: "'Don't you like the poor lonely bachelor?' he yammered in a fatuous way ( Sinclair Lewis). See Synonyms at foolish.
equivalent - foolish
synonym - puerile, silly, fatuitous, childish, imbecilic, insipid, deranged, inane, stupid
To plumb a body of water, you measure its depth. To plumb a house, you connect all of its pipes. To make carpentry plumb, you get it exactly vertical. Originally, the verb plumb only meant to measure the depth of water. These days, if you plumb the depths of something, you go in deep for knowledge and experience: your Heidegger seminar may plumb the depths of German Existentialism like Jacques Cousteau plumbed the depths of the ocean.
noun - A weight on the end of a line, used to determine water depth.
noun - A weight on the end of a line, used especially by masons and carpenters to establish a true vertical.
adverb - In a vertical or perpendicular line.
adverb - Informal Directly; squarely: fell plumb in the middle of the puddle.
adverb - Informal Utterly; completely: plumb worn out. See Note at right.
adjective - Exactly vertical. See Synonyms at vertical.
adjective - Informal Utter; absolute; sheer: a plumb fool.
verb-transitive - To determine the depth of with a plumb; sound.
verb-transitive - To test the verticality or alignment of with a plumb.
verb-transitive - To straighten or make perpendicular: plumb up the wall.
verb-transitive - To examine closely or deeply; probe: "Shallow ideas are plumbed and discarded ( Gilbert Highet).
verb-transitive - To seal with lead.
verb-intransitive - To work as a plumber.
idiom - out of Not vertical.
equivalent - vertical, perpendicular
form - plumb line, plumb bob, out of plumb, plumbing, plumb rule, off plumb, plumbed
synonym - plummet
Limn is a verb that means to represent or portray. It is most often used to describe the act of drawing or painting a portrait, but it can also refer to describing or outlining a scene or event. The verb limn evolved from the Latin luminre, "to illuminate." The word referred originally to coloring (illuminating) manuscripts. The sense of "portray" or "depict" did not come into use until the late 16th century, but that meaning is close to the original, since someone who paints a portrait usually illuminates something about the subject's character. The word is less often used of written description, as in "Her reviews tended to limn the worst aspects of the performance, ignoring the best."
verb-transitive - To describe.
verb-transitive - To depict by painting or drawing. See Synonyms at represent.
hyponym - contour, lipstick
form - limner, limning, limned
synonym - depict, describe
verb-form - limning, limned, limns
The verb extirpate originally literally meant "to weed out by the roots." Now you'd use it when you want to get rid of something completely as if pulling it up by the root. Use the verb extirpate when you mean to destroy completely or get rid of completely. You can try to extirpate all the bedbugs that came home with you from your vacation, but you will probably be afraid that some resisted the exterminator to munch on you later.
verb-transitive - To pull up by the roots.
verb-transitive - To destroy totally; exterminate. See Synonyms at abolish.
verb-transitive - To remove by surgery.
hyponym - stub
form - extirpated, extirpating
synonym - exterminate, excise, weed, deracinate, weed out, uproot, root out
Sanction has two nearly opposite meanings: to sanction can be to approve of something, but it can also mean to punish, or speak harshly to. Likewise, a sanction can be a punishment or approval. Very confusingthe person who invented this word should be publicly sanctioned!See if you can guess the meaning of sanction in the following contexts. Before invading Iraq, the US and its allies first imposed sanctions on the country, refusing to supply the country with much-needed trade items. Did you guess sanction=punishment? You were right! But by trading with China at the same time, the US quietly sanctioned that nation's known instances of human rights abuses. Did you guess sanction=approval? You're right again!
noun - Authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid. See Synonyms at permission.
noun - Support or encouragement, as from public opinion or established custom.
noun - A consideration, influence, or principle that dictates an ethical choice.
noun - A law or decree.
noun - The penalty for noncompliance specified in a law or decree.
noun - A penalty, specified or in the form of moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance or conformity.
noun - A coercive measure adopted usually by several nations acting together against a nation violating international law.
verb-transitive - To give official authorization or approval to: "The president, we are told, has sanctioned greed at the cost of compassion ( David Rankin).
verb-transitive - To encourage or tolerate by indicating approval. See Synonyms at approve.
verb-transitive - To penalize, especially for violating a moral principle or international law.
hyponym - support, back, endorse, plunk for, OK, plump for, okay, name, nihil obstat, visa
Use the adjective aberrant to describe unusual conduct. Sitting in a bathtub and singing show tunes all day long might be considered aberrant behavior. Choose Your Words:abhorrent / aberrantIf you find something thoroughly disgusting, absolutely terrible, do you find it abhorrent or aberrant?
Continue reading...For conduct that departs from the norm, aberrant is at hand to describe it if you want to set a formal, or even scientific tone to the discussion. You can put the accent on either the first syllable (AB-er-ent) or the second (uh-BER-ent); both pronunciations are acceptable. The Latin root aberrare means "to go astray," from the prefix ab- "off, away" plus errare "to wander." Other descendants of errare in English, like error and errant, have that double -r- and also refer to something that's either not wanted or not expected.
adjective - Deviating from the proper or expected course.
adjective - Deviating from what is normal; untrue to type.
noun - One that is aberrant.
equivalent - unnatural, abnormal
form - aberrancy, aberration, aberrance, aberrantly, aberrational
synonym - abnormal, wandering, unusual
Plasticity means "changeability" or "moldability" clay has a lot of plasticity, but a rock has almost none. It helps to think of plastic when learning what plasticity means. See how plastic can be molded into all sorts of things, and even when it's in a totally solid form, it's not hard like stone? Plasticity refers to things that can still change their shape or function. The brain is something with high plasticity: if you have a brain injury, other parts of the brain can change to pick up the slack. Anything that is capable of evolving or being reshaped has plasticity.
noun - The quality or state of being plastic.
noun - the property of a solid body whereby it undergoes a permanent change in shape or size when subjected to a stress exceeding a particular value (the yield value)
hyponym - ductility, flexibleness, ductileness, flexibility
etymologically-related-term - elasticity
cross-reference - latent plasticity
hypernym - physical property
same-context - elasticity, connectivity, stimulators
Disagreeable sounds can be called dissonance. You know it's dissonance if you have the strong desire to cover your ears with your hands. Racket, noise, dissonance all can describe sounds that are not pleasant. While some musicians purposely add a little dissonance into their melodies to create an unexpected sound, others, like someone who just started drum lessons, creates dissonance by accident. Dissonance can also be a conflict between people or opinions, like the dissonance you feel when you want to do something but your parents say "no."
noun - A harsh, disagreeable combination of sounds; discord.
noun - Lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict: "In Vietnam, reality fell away and dissonance between claim and fact filled the void ( Michael Janeway).
noun - Music A combination of tones contextually considered to suggest unrelieved tension and require resolution.
hyponym - cacophony, disharmony, disunity, discordance, divide, inharmoniousness, discord
form - dissonant, cognitive dissonance
synonym - incongruity
When you concoct something, you mix up different ingredients. If you want to become a mad scientist or a wizard, you'll have to learn how to concoct strange potions. If the word concoction makes you think of steaming caldrons or liquids bubbling in test tubes, youll be amused to know that it comes from a Latin word for digestion. Yum! On summer days, children sometimes concoct imaginative stews from grass, leaves and dirt. They may also concoct lies to explain why they tried feeding such concoctions to their little sister.
verb-transitive - To prepare by mixing ingredients, as in cooking.
verb-transitive - To devise, using skill and intelligence; contrive: concoct a mystery story.
hyponym - idealize, idealise, invent, manufacture, makeup, cook up, fabricate
form - concocter, concoctive, concocted
To codify is to arrange information in a logical order that others can follow. Legislators may try to codify, or gather and organize, all laws related to a particular issue to make it easier to understand. When you look at the word codify you can probably guess that it's related to the word code. Warriors live by a code. Building inspectors check that a building and its systems are up to code. Hockey players use "the code" to determine when and why to fight on the ice. All of these codes are clear to the people who use them because someone in the past made an effort to codify the various rules into an organized system.
verb-transitive - To reduce to a code: codify laws.
verb-transitive - To arrange or systematize.
form - codifiability, codifier, codified, codification, codifying
synonym - systematize, digest
etymologically-related-term - codex, code
verb-form - codifies
French roots for the word exhort mean "thoroughly encourage," so to exhort is to fill up with encouragement! "When he heard the crowd exhort him with stomping and cheers, he knew that he could finish the marathon."Some synonyms for exhort include stimulate, excite, and urge on. Words and shouts can exhort, and this is especially true when the recipient of those chants fears coming up short with an effort. Exhortations may make the difference between winning or losing and marching on or giving up. A sergeant might exhort his troops after a defeat just as a dad can exhort his daughter after a missed note during a piano recital.
verb-transitive - To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal: exhorted the troops to hold the line.
verb-intransitive - To make urgent appeal.
hyponym - bear on, rush, hurry, preach, advocate, cheerlead, push
form - exhortation, exhorted, exhorting
If only the world were populated entirely with complaisant people! Complaisant means willing to do something to please others, and complaisant people or animals are wonderful to be around. Don't confuse complaisant with its near-homonym complacent. Both derive from the Latin complacere "to please," but while complaisant means willing to do something to please another, complacent means smug and self-satisfied, something that you want to avoid when you're on the winning team.
adjective - Exhibiting a desire or willingness to please; cheerfully obliging.
equivalent - accommodative, accommodating
form - complaisantly
synonym - polite, smooth, agreeable, subservient, courtly, easy, condescending
Waiting for a plan to come together? You're waiting for it to coalesce. Coalesce is when different elements of something join together and become one. In coalesce, you see co-, which should tell you the word means "together." The other half of the word, alesce, appears in expressions having to do with growth. So if you are trying to start up a photography club at school, once you have an advisor, some interested students and support from the administration, things will be coalescing or growing together. Another way to remember that? An adolescent is one who is growing. A lot!
verb-intransitive - To grow together; fuse.
verb-intransitive - To come together so as to form one whole; unite: The rebel units coalesced into one army to fight the invaders. See Synonyms at mix.
hyponym - blend in, admix, mix in, clot, alloy, clog, meld, conjugate, syncretise, syncretize
We are sorry to inform you that the adjective contrite means to feel regret, remorse, or even guilt. Someone who feels remorse or guilt is contrite and in addition to feeling sorry, part of the definition includes wanting to atone for a having done something wrong. The word comes from the Latin roots com- meaning "together" and terere which means "to rub." It's also related to the Latin word conterere and is defined as "to bruise." In the field of theology being contrite is "being remorseful for past sin and resolved to avoid future sin."
adjective - Feeling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent.
adjective - Arising from or expressing contrition: contrite words.
equivalent - repentant, penitent
form - contritely, contriteness
synonym - remorseful, humble, regretful, repentant, penitent, sorrowful
Circuitous means indirect or roundabout. If you're in a hurry to get to the hospital where your wife is having a baby, you want to take the straightest, fastest way, not a circuitous one!Circuitous comes from the Latin word circuitus meaning basically "a going around." If you're being circuitous it's like you're going around and around in circles. It can also refer to someone's manner or speech, if they are not being direct. For example, if you want someone to get you another piece of cake but just you sit there looking longingly at your empty plate, saying "More cake sure would be nice," then you're being circuitous. And annoying.
adjective - Being or taking a roundabout, lengthy course: took a circuitous route to avoid the accident site.
equivalent - indirect
synonym - roundabout, indirect, serpentine, devious, winding, circumlocutory, sinuous, tortuous
same-context - roundabout
Being attacked by a hungry shark or being chased by an unruly mob on the streets can be described as harrowing, which means "provoking feelings of fear or horror."The adjective harrowing is often used to describe a firsthand experience that is terrifying, such as a harrowing drive home in icy weather, but it can also refer to a secondhand experience, such as reading or watching something that is very frightening or disturbing. If you read someones account of being shipwrecked in Antarctica, you might describe that as a harrowing story. A harrowing experience typically unfolds over a period of time. For example, if you bump into a shark while swimming, thats merely scary. If the shark attacks you, then it becomes a harrowing ordeal.
adjective - Extremely distressing; agonizing: a harrowing experience.
equivalent - painful
verb-stem - harrow
same-context - horrific, piteous, sensational, traumatic, Embarrass, melodramatic, poignant, engrossing
Inchoate means just beginning to form. You can have an inchoate idea, like the earliest flickers of images for your masterpiece, or it can be a feeling, like the inchoate sense of anger toward your new neighbors talking parrot. Inchoate comes from a Latin word for beginning. When something is inchoate, although you dont yet understand what it is fully, you have a strong sense that it is indeed coming. Its stronger than the wisp of an idea that never turns into anything. But its hard to really find the language to describe an inchoate idea. Thats the whole point: you dont have the words for it yet!
adjective - In an initial or early stage; incipient.
adjective - Imperfectly formed or developed: a vague, inchoate idea.
equivalent - early
synonym - beginning, rudimentary, initial, nascent, embryonic, immature, elementary, incipient, begin
To be bombastic is to be full of hot air like a politician who makes grand promises and doesn't deliver. What does cotton padding have to do with the word bombastic? Bombast was cotton padding or stuffing in the 1500s. Bombastic evolved as an adjective to describe something (or someone!) that is overly wordy, pompous, or pretentious, but the adjective is most often used to describe language (speech or writing). Still not seeing the connection to cotton padding? Think of writing or speech that is overly padded and you'll understand how the meaning came about.
adjective - Pompous or overly wordy.
adjective - High-sounding but with little meaning.
adjective - Inflated, overfilled.
equivalent - bombastical, rhetorical
form - bombastique, bombstico
synonym - florid, extravagant, hyperbolical, pyrotechnic, grandiose, puffed
Engender is a fancy way of saying "to make happen," like when you engender the spirit of teamwork and cooperation by encouraging others and doing your share of the group's work. The verb engender has nothing to do with being male or female, though originally, it did mean "beget, procreate." Today, engender means "to produce or bring about." When students come to class prepared, meaning they've read their assignment, this engenders better class discussions, just as mutual trust and the desire to help each other engenders a meaningful friendship.
verb-transitive - To bring into existence; give rise to: "Every cloud engenders not a storm ( Shakespeare).
verb-transitive - To procreate; propagate.
verb-intransitive - To come into existence; originate.
form - engendered, engendering
synonym - breed, cause, generate, propagate, occasion, call forth, excite, develop
Describe yourself as wary if you don't quite trust someone or something and want to proceed with caution. Be wary of risky things like wild mushrooms and Internet deals!You can trace wary through Old English back to Old High German giwar "aware, attentive." If you keep a wary eye on something, you are attentive for signs that it is becoming dangerous. Likewise, if you give someone a wary glance, your face conveys the suspicion and caution you feel. When you are wary of driving alone at night or making promises, you fear something bad might happen if you do these things.
adjective - On guard; watchful: taught to be wary of strangers.
adjective - Characterized by caution: a wary glance at the black clouds.
equivalent - on guard, distrustful, upon one's guard, shy, on your guard, on one's guard
form - wariness, unwary, warily
synonym - cautious
You meet someone and you cant take your eyes off them, like you are connected by an invisible cord and cant break free. Those kinds of people have the power to mesmerize, holding your attention like youre under hypnosis. The word mesmerize comes from the last name of 18th century German physician Franz Mesmer, who believed that all people and objects are pulled together by a strong magnetic force, later called mesmerism. If you ever start to feel mesmerized, maybe its because you find someone fascinating, or maybe youve been hypnotized by a magician. Hard to tell from here.
verb-transitive - To spellbind; enthrall: "He could mesmerize an audience by the sheer force of his presence ( Justin Kaplan).
verb-transitive - To hypnotize.
hyponym - spellbind, entrance
form - mesmerized, mesmerizing
synonym - spellbind, hypnotize, enthrall
verb-form - mesmerizes, mesmerized, mesmerizing
Reprise means "repeat an earlier role." If youre asked to reprise your role as "kid entertainer" at the annual family reunion, that means people want you to do it again this year. Early on, reprise was a part in a song or other musical composition that is repeated. The word still carries that meaning, but now it's more likely to be used as a verb to describe an action or part that is repeated, often a performance. For example, if you played a role in a wildly successful film that is going to have a sequel, you would reprise your role. The word comes from the French word repris, meaning "take back."
noun - Music A repetition of a phrase or verse.
noun - Music A return to an original theme.
noun - A recurrence or resumption of an action.
verb-transitive - To repeat or resume an action; make a reprise of.
synonym - recompense, retake, pay
verb-form - reprising, reprised, reprises
cross-reference - reprisal
hypernym - play, spiel
same-context - retentiveness
Stopping for a snack may help when your energy or attention begin to flag, meaning you are getting tired or losing your focus. Flag describes a persons waning energy level after a sustained effort. For example, you may begin to flag after a long afternoon sightseeing in a strange city. It can also be used to describe diminishing success, such as a movie career that seems to flag after the actor stops landing big roles, flag can also refer to something that seems to drop off, like gym attendance that flags along with those New Year's resolutions.
noun - A piece of cloth, usually rectangular, of distinctive color and design, used as a symbol, standard, signal, or emblem.
noun - National or other allegiance, as symbolized by a flag: ships of the same flag.
noun - A ship carrying the flag of an admiral; a flagship.
noun - A marking device, such as a gummed strip of paper, attached to an object to attract attention or ease identification; a tab.
noun - The masthead of a newspaper.
noun - Music A cross stroke that halves the value of a note to which it is added.
noun - A distinctively shaped or marked tail, as of a dog or deer.
noun - Computer Science A variable or memory location that stores true-or-false, yes-or-no information.
verb-transitive - To mark with a flag or flags for identification or ornamentation: flag a parade route; flagging parts of a manuscript for later review.
verb-transitive - To signal with or as if with a flag.
verb-transitive - To signal to stop: flag down a passing car.
noun - A plant, such as an iris or cattail, that has long sword-shaped leaves.
verb-intransitive - To hang limply; droop.
verb-intransitive - To decline in vigor or strength: The conversation flagged.
noun - A flagstone.
verb-transitive - To pave with slabs of flagstone.
hyponym - pennant, confederate flag, blackjack, slouch, iris foetidissima, persian iris, Stars and Stripes, yellow iris, pirate flag, iris pseudacorus
Use the adjective transient to describe something that always changes or moves around, like how a teenage girl can have a temporary crush on one boy one week and another boy the next week. Transient is most often used to modify nouns like nature, threat, source and cause, which suggests that the word often shows up in formal contexts, such as analysis of finance or global terrorism. But it can also be used for anything that moves quickly from one thing to another, like a transient feeling or facial expression. Transient is also a noun meaning "a person who moves from place to place; a homeless person." The word comes from Latin transire, "to pass over," so you can think of it as describing things that are quickly passed over.
adjective - Passing with time; transitory: "the transient beauty of youth ( Lydia M. Child).
adjective - Remaining in a place only a brief time: transient laborers.
adjective - Physics Decaying with time, especially as a simple exponential function of time.
noun - One that is transient, especially a hotel guest or boarder who stays for only a brief time.
noun - Physics A transient phenomenon or property, especially a transient electric current.
equivalent - impermanent, temporary
form - transiently, transience, transientness
synonym - evanescent, ephemeron, impermanent, hasty, deciduous
A discrepancy is a lack of agreement or balance. If there is a discrepancy between the money you earned and the number on your paycheck, you should complain to your boss. There is a discrepancy when there is a difference between two things that should be alike. For example, there can be a wide discrepancy or a slight discrepancy between two objects, stories, or facts. The noun discrepancy is from Latin discrepare "to sound differently," from the prefix dis- "from" plus crepare "to rattle, creak."
noun - Divergence or disagreement, as between facts or claims; difference.
noun - An instance of divergence or disagreement. See Synonyms at difference.
hyponym - allowance, leeway, tolerance, margin
synonym - divergence, dissimilarity, deviation, variation, inconsistency, disparity
A qualm is a feeling of uneasiness, or a sense that something you're doing is wrong, and it sounds almost like how it makes your stomach feel. If you had qualms about taking candy from the bulk bins at the store, your conscience probably told you to go back to the cashier and pay. Qualm entered English in the 16th century, with meanings like "doubt" and "uneasiness." Usually a qualm comes from doubt about an action and a feeling that you are doing, or are about to do, something wrong. It isnt a bad feeling about another person's behavior but about your own. If you have qualms about lying to get into the over-18 dance club, you might decide to follow your gut-check and meet your friends for coffee instead.
noun - A sudden feeling of sickness, faintness, or nausea.
noun - A sudden disturbing feeling: qualms of homesickness.
noun - An uneasy feeling about the propriety or rightness of a course of action.
form - qualmish, qualmishness, qualmy, qualmishly
synonym - agony, fit, compunction, nausea, death, sickness
If you stubbornly refuse to change your mind about something, you are adamant about it. This word's story begins in ancient Greece, where philosophers spoke about a legendary unbreakable stone or metal they called adamos (literally, "invincible"). In English, people began to use the word to refer to something that cannot be altered, and then in the twentieth century after adamant had been in English for about a thousand years it came to be used as an adjective to mean "unyielding as stone." If you're adamant about something, no amount of persuasion is going to convince you otherwise.
adjective - Impervious to pleas, appeals, or reason; stubbornly unyielding. See Synonyms at inflexible.
noun - A stone once believed to be impenetrable in its hardness.
noun - An extremely hard substance.
hyponym - black diamond, carbonado
equivalent - inflexible
form - adamantly, adamantine, adamantane, adamance, adamantean
synonym - obstinate, magnet
A spendthrift person is reckless and wasteful with his money. Spendthrifts who like to take you out to nice lunches are good people to be friends with, but it's generally a bad way to handle your own bank account. Spendthrift was created by sticking two opposite words together: spend and thrift, which means savings, wealth. So a spendthrift spends all of his savings. Spendthrift people are the worst nightmare of retirement planners and Scrooges all over the globe. So unless you want to be called a spendthrift, think twice about your next purchase.
noun - One who spends money recklessly or wastefully.
adjective - Wasteful or extravagant: spendthrift bureaucrats.
hyponym - high roller, big spender
equivalent - wasteful
form - spendthrift trust
synonym - scattergood, scapethrift, extravagant, prodigal, wasteful, unthrifty
An ordinary, unexciting thing can be called mundane: "Superman hid his heroic feats by posing as his mundane alter ego, Clark Kent."Mundane, from the Latin word mundus, "world," originally referred to things on earth. Such things were supposed to be uninteresting when compared to the delights of Heaven; hence the word's present meaning. Writing about reality TV shows, a Newsweek writer opined, "In reality bizarro-world, the mundane is presented as the spectacular" in other words, people's everyday routines are now televised as entertainment.
adjective - Of, relating to, or typical of this world; secular.
adjective - Relating to, characteristic of, or concerned with commonplaces; ordinary.
equivalent - ordinary, earthly, temporal, worldly, secular
synonym - ordinary, earthly, workaday, terrestrial, boring
Use lascivious to describe a person's behavior that is driven by thoughts of sex. If someone gives you a lascivious smile, they've got only one thing in mind. Latin-based lascivious and the Old English word lust both share the same Indo-European root las- "to be eager, wanton." The much older word lust originally meant "desire, pleasure" and over time developed to mean sexual desire. Lascivious, on the other hand, entered the English language in the early 15th century complete with the meaning "lewd, driven by sexual desire."
adjective - Given to or expressing lust; lecherous.
adjective - Exciting sexual desires; salacious.
equivalent - sexy
synonym - lubricious, fleshly, libidinous, liquorish, lecherous, concupiscent, prurient, sensual, venereous
The flora of a particular area consists of its plant species, considered as a whole. The word also refers to the plant life of a particular era for example, fossilized plants can help us determine the flora at the time of dinosaurs. The use of the word flora as referring to a particular area's vegetation has been used by botanists since the 1640s, but it became common with Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who in 1745 wrote "Flora Suecica," a study of the plant life of Sweden. The word was a natural fit, as Flra was the name of the Roman goddess of flowers. When scientists study a region's flora, they classify their findings and create a descriptive list, which is also called a flora.
noun - Plants considered as a group, especially the plants of a particular country, region, or time.
noun - A treatise describing the plants of a region or time.
noun - The bacteria and other microorganisms that normally inhabit a bodily organ or part: intestinal flora.
hyponym - wood, shrubbery, monocarp, thicket, hygrophyte, brier, epiphyte, crop, scrub, browse
Use the adjective disingenuous to describe behavior that's not totally honest or sincere. It's disingenuous when people pretend to know less about something than they really do. Disingenuous combines dis-, meaning not, with ingenuous (from the Latin gen-, meaning born) which was originally used to distinguish free-born Romans from slaves, and later came to mean honest or straightforward. So disingenuous means dishonest. Ingenuous is less common now than disingenuous, but we still use it for someone who is sincere to the point of naivet. A good synonym is insincere.
adjective - Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating: "an ambitious, disingenuous, philistine, and hypocritical operator, who ... exemplified ... the most disagreeable traits of his time ( David Cannadine).
adjective - Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naf.
adjective - Usage Problem Unaware or uninformed; naive.
equivalent - twisted, perverted, misrepresented, distorted
form - disingenuously, disingenuousness
synonym - deceitful, uncandid, artful, mean
The physics principle whereby objects are forced to move out from the center is called centrifugal force. This apparent force is activated by something moving in a curved direction; the heavier the object the stronger the force. The word centrifugal is from the Latin centrum, "center," and fugere, "to flee," so the word means "center-fleeing." Centrifugal force was studied by physicists as far back as 1629, and the term itself was used by Sir Isaac Newton, in its Latin guise vis centrifuga, in 1687.
adjective - Moving or directed away from a center or axis.
adjective - Operated by means of centrifugal force.
adjective - Physiology Transmitting nerve impulses away from the central nervous system; efferent.
adjective - Botany Developing or progressing outward from a center or axis, as in a flower cluster in which the oldest flowers are in the center and the youngest flowers are near the edge.
adjective - Tending or directed away from centralization, as of authority: "The division of Europe into two warring blocs, each ultimately dependent on a superpower patron, is subject to ever-increasing centrifugal stress ( Scott Sullivan).
equivalent - outward-developing, outward-moving, decentralising, motorial, decentralizing, efferent
form - centrifugal force
cross-reference - centrifugal inflorescence, centrifugal concentrator, centrifugal sugar
If you're an inveterate doodler, all your notebooks are covered with drawings. If you're an inveterate golf player, you probably get twitchy if you haven't been out on a course in a week. In Middle English inveterate was associated with chronic disease. Now it simply refers to something that is a signature habit with a person. Unless you're an inveterate gambler, drinker or smokerin which case you're addicted and we're back to talking about being sick.
adjective - Firmly and long established; deep-rooted: inveterate preferences.
adjective - Persisting in an ingrained habit; habitual: an inveterate liar. See Synonyms at chronic.
equivalent - usual
form - inveteration
synonym - habitual, old, confirmed, deep-rooted, obstinate, spiteful, virulent, chronic
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. Forbearance also has a more technical, legal meaning if you are owed money and you give someone extra time to get it to you, you're showing them forbearance. The word has nothing to do with actual bears, but if you think of one slumbering through its winter hibernation, that might help remember its meaning.
noun - The act of forbearing.
noun - Tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation; patience. See Synonyms at patience.
noun - The quality of being forbearing.
noun - Law The act of a creditor who refrains from enforcing a debt when it falls due.
synonym - mildness, refraining, abstention, lenity, abstinence, desistance, long-suffering
etymologically-related-term - forbear
hypernym - holdup, delay
Guise, a noun, is the art of pretending to be something you aren't, like when, in the guise of an invited guest, you fake your way into the party of the century. No doubt youve noticed the similarity between guise and disguise. Both involve the art of deception: its the methods that differ. Guise is about trying on new attitudes and mannerisms, such as speaking and acting in the guise of a native in a place where you are actually a tourist. Disguise involves hiding your real identity, disappearing in the new role.
noun - Outward appearance or aspect; semblance.
noun - False appearance; pretense: spoke to me under the guise of friendship.
noun - Mode of dress; garb: huddled on the street in the guise of beggars.
noun - Obsolete Custom; habit.
synonym - fashion, appearance, behavior, cloak, garb, shape, pretense, mode, cover, mien
Prepare yourself, because internecine is a gloomy word. Its an adjective youd use to describe a bloody battle where both sides are badly hurt. On a lighter note, it can also mean a conflict that tears an organization apart. A combination of the Latin inter- (among) and necare (to kill), internecine conflicts are full of blood and death, and they end up destroying everyone involved, which sounds fair but also awful. Many wars are internecine, as are most Shakespearean tragedies and Hollywood action films. An internecine meeting would be one where everyone gets mad, says really horrible things, and then suddenly leaves, plotting revenge. Its probably the last meeting for that group, which might be a good thing.
adjective - Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.
adjective - Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.
adjective - Characterized by bloodshed or carnage.
equivalent - bloody, internal
synonym - destructive, intramural
same-context - generational, hand-to-hand, bicoastal, age-old, arab-israeli, long-running
When you go on a nature walk in a school setting, you teacher might tell you to observe the flora and fauna in the woods. Flora is plant life; fauna refers to animals. Fauna derives from the name of a Roman goddess, but the handiest way to remember flora and fauna is that "flora" sounds like flowers, which are part of the plant world, and fauna sounds like "fawn," and fawns are part of the animal kingdom.
noun - Animals, especially the animals of a particular region or period, considered as a group.
noun - A catalog of the animals of a specific region or period.
hyponym - marine animal, invertebrate, survivor, pureblood, captive, stunt, domestic animal, moulter, predator, work animal
"Strike a pose," sang Madonna in her most famous song, "Vogue." But if the pose you're striking is fake, pretentious, or arrogant, you're a poseur. Be yourself: it's cooler. It's one thing to be smart, funny, or cool. It's another thing to pretend to be that way: that's the life of a poseur. (Say it in the French way: poh-ZUHR.) It's all too easy to spot a poseur from their ridiculous posing. Why poseurs think that they come across as anything other than fake is beyond me. They must be really insecure to think they need to pretend to be something they're not. Every once in a while, though, a poseur can fake it till they make it. Then they're no longer a poseur.
noun - One who affects a particular attribute, attitude, or identity to impress or influence others.
hyponym - poseuse
equivalent - poseuse
cross-reference - pretentious
hypernym - exhibitionist, show-off
same-context - weak-mindedness, merry-andrew, grafter, housebreaker, brummagem
If you are a window washer, but you refer to yourself as a "vista enhancement specialist," then you are aggrandizing your job title that is, making it sound greater than it is. The verb aggrandize not only means "to make appear greater"; it can also be used to mean simply "to make greater." If you buy an estate and sink millions of dollars into its improvement, then you are actually aggrandizing the estate. If you are making yourself seem greater, then people may say you are "self-aggrandizing."
verb-transitive - To increase the scope of; extend.
verb-transitive - To make greater in power, influence, stature, or reputation.
verb-transitive - To make appear greater; exaggerate: aggrandize one argument while belittling another.
hyponym - glorify
form - aggrandizing, aggrandized
synonym - elevate, enlarge, promote, increase, augment, exalt, advance
Want to live an ascetic lifestyle? Then you better ditch the flat panel TV and fuzzy slippers. To be ascetic, you learn to live without; it's all about self-denial. Ascetic is derived from the Greek asketes, meaning monk, or hermit. Later that became asketikos, meaning rigorously self-disciplined, which gives us the Modern English ascetic. Ascetic can be a noun: a person with incredible self-discipline and the ability to deprive herself, or an adjective that describes such a people or their lifestyle.
noun - A person who renounces material comforts and leads a life of austere self-discipline, especially as an act of religious devotion.
adjective - Leading a life of self-discipline and self-denial, especially for spiritual improvement. See Synonyms at severe.
adjective - Pertaining to or characteristic of an ascetic; self-denying and austere: an ascetic existence.
hyponym - Puritan, stylite
equivalent - abstemious
synonym - mortified, abstemious, yogi, austere, stylite, fakir, severe
A mnemonic is a memory aid for something, often taking the form of a rhyme or an acronym. I before E except after C, is a mnemonic to help you remember how to spell words like "piece" and "receive."As an adjective, mnemonic describes something related to memory. "Spring forward, Fall back" is a mnemonic device to help you remember which way to set your clocks for daylight savings time. Set the clock forward an hour in the spring when daylight savings time begins, and set the clock back an hour in the fall when it ends. Well-known mnemonics exist to help you remember things like the planets, the digits of Pi, and the color spectrum.
adjective - Relating to, assisting, or intended to assist the memory.
noun - A device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering.
equivalent - mnemonical
synonym - aide-memoire
etymologically-related-term - mnemotechnical, mnemonics, mnemotechnic, mnemotechny, mnemonize
cross-reference - of, mother, Greek
Visage is a literary term for referring to someone's face or facial features. You may notice that some face creams use the word visage to try to sound fancier than they are. A famous use of visage is in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Brutus says: "O conspiracy/Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night,/When evils are most free? O, then by day/Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough/To mask thy monstrous visage?" Now there's a quote that will help you remember the meaning of visage, and even give you nightmares.
noun - The face or facial expression of a person; countenance.
noun - Appearance; aspect: the bleak visage of winter.
hyponym - look, expression, face, aspect, poker face, pudding-face, facial expression, pudding face
synonym - face, countenance
You can buttress an argument with solid facts or your financial portfolio with safe investments. You may find that giving compliments to everyone you meet buttresses your popularity. To buttress is to sustain or reinforce. A buttress is a structure that adds stability to a wall or building, and this innovation played a significant role in the evolution of architecture. Think of a medieval cathedral. It's an incredibly tall, open building filled with light from vast windows. Without buttresses supporting the walls and carrying the weight of the ceiling away from the building and down to the ground, this cathedral would be impossible. Picture this when you use buttress figuratively as a verb meaning to strengthen and support.
noun - A structure, usually brick or stone, built against a wall for support or reinforcement.
noun - Something resembling a buttress, as:
noun - The flared base of certain tree trunks.
noun - A horny growth on the heel of a horse's hoof.
noun - Something that serves to support, prop, or reinforce: "The law is by its very nature a buttress of the status quo ( J. William Fulbright).
verb-transitive - To support or reinforce with a buttress.
verb-transitive - To sustain, prop, or bolster: "The author buttresses her analysis with lengthy dissections of several of Moore's poems ( Warren Woessner).
hyponym - flying buttress, arc-boutant
form - buttressed, flying buttress, buttressing
synonym - counterpart, support, brace, prop, flying buttress
If you happen to be at the nexus of something, this noun means that you are right in the middle. A nexus is a noun that stands for something at the center or that which others are gathered around. The word entered English during the seventeenth century from the Latin word nectere and means "to bind, tie." In the field of cell biology, a nexus refers to "a specialized area of the cell membrane involved in intercellular communication and adhesion," and implies that the nexus of a cell facilitates communication among the various parts and allows it to work properly.
noun - A means of connection; a link or tie: "this nexus between New York's . . . real-estate investors and its . . . politicians ( Wall Street Journal).
noun - A connected series or group.
noun - The core or center: "The real nexus of the money culture [was] Wall Street ( Bill Barol).
synonym - bond, Bon, connection, tie, link
hypernym - series, linkage
Yes, phlegmatic has roots in that colorless, mucous stuff called phlegm, but people who are phlegmatic aren't called that because they have lots of mucous. They are just a little dull in expressing feelings or showing emotion. 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 wont 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.
adjective - Of or relating to phlegm; phlegmy.
adjective - Having or suggesting a calm, sluggish temperament; unemotional.
equivalent - unemotional
synonym - calm, stoic, cold-blooded, cold, dull, unflappable, apathetic, watery, heavy
If someone tells you that you have refulgent eyes, they mean that your eyes shine brightly, like the stars. This suggests that your special someone is the poetic type, since refulgent is a literary way of saying "bright."The adjective refulgent comes from the Latin fulgere, meaning "to shine." Refulgent is used both literally and figuratively. On a bright day, the sun can be described as refulgent, and the beautiful, sunny weather might cause you to break into a refulgent smile. Refulgent shines brightly among its synonyms: radiant, dazzling, and luminous. You'll typically encounter refulgent in literature and poetry, but using this word is a great way to show off your refulgent mind.
adjective - Shining radiantly; resplendent.
equivalent - bright
synonym - radiant, splendid, shining, brilliant, resplendent, luminous
etymologically-related-term - refulgence
same-context - jewel-like, noontide
If you break a mirror, the thin sharp pieces you want to avoid are shards. A shard is simply a broken piece of metal, glass, stone, or pottery with sharp edges. Don't confuse shard with shred, meaning to cut into strips, or chard, a leafy green vegetable. You could use a shard of metal to shred chard into salad, but be careful that you don't cut your hands to shreds!
noun - A piece of broken pottery, especially one found in an archaeological dig; a potsherd.
noun - A fragment of a brittle substance, as of glass or metal.
noun - A small piece or part: "shards of intense emotional relationships that once existed ( Maggie Scarf).
noun - Zoology A tough sheath or covering, such as a shell, scale, or plate.
noun - Zoology The elytron or outer wing covering of a beetle.
hyponym - potsherd
form - potsherd
synonym - plant, division, chard, potsherd, boundary
hypernym - piece
same-context - chip, hunk
An avocation is an activity that you pursue when you're not at work a hobby. Pretty much anything can be an avocation: tennis, soduko, writing poetry. If you're the journalist Clark Kent, your avocation is changing into a skin-tight red-and-blue jumpsuit and fighting crime. A vocation is the work you do because you have to; an avocation is what you do for pleasure, not pay. The ancient Latin root is a vocare a calling away from one's work, or a distraction. Today we use the word more to refer to a serious hobby. If you like knitting beautiful sweaters, then you, my friend, have an avocation as long as you're not making your living from it.
noun - An activity taken up in addition to one's regular work or profession, usually for enjoyment; a hobby.
noun - One's regular work or profession.
noun - Archaic A distraction or diversion.
hyponym - speleology, spelaeology
synonym - vocation, diversion, pursuits, duties, business
cross-reference - volunteerism
hypernym - interest, pastime
If you make bad decisions in the morning after drinking coffee, you might conclude that caffeine tends to impair your judgment. When you impair something, you damage it or make it work poorly. The root of the verb impair traces back to the Latin word pejorare, meaning to make worse, and thats still what happens if you impair something. Whether its communication, visibility, or your marriage prospects, if you impair it, you make it worse. The word can be used for situations that describe something that has deteriorated, such as Snow continued to impair driving conditions.
verb-transitive - To cause to diminish, as in strength, value, or quality: an injury that impaired my hearing; a severe storm impairing communications.
hyponym - taint, sully, disfigure, cloud, blemish, defile, deface, corrupt
form - impaired, impairing
If you malign someone, you badmouth them just like the jilted girlfriend who tells the whole school her ex has bad breath and head lice. It's no surprise that malign comes from a Middle English word that means "to attack." Because when you malign someone you're attacking their character or reputation with a lot of trash talk. That would actually make it appropriate to then describe you as "a malign influence" in other words, evil and full of malignant purpose.
verb-transitive - To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about; speak evil of.
adjective - Evil in disposition, nature, or intent.
adjective - Evil in influence; injurious.
adjective - Having or showing malice or ill will; malevolent.
equivalent - cancerous, maleficent
form - maligning, maligned
synonym - vilify, unfavorable, malicious, spiteful, pernicious, injure
In Kafka's novel entitled Metamorphosis, a man wakes up to find he has turned into a cockroach. That kind of complete and startling change pretty much sums up the word. When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it goes through a metamorphosis. An idea can undergo metamorphosis, or metamorphosize, too as can feelings. After you spend a full summer with your grandmother, your feelings about the woman may undergo a complete metamorphosis. While you were once afraid of the old woman, you now love her dearly.
noun - A transformation, as by magic or sorcery.
noun - A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function.
noun - Biology A change in the form and often habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage. Metamorphosis includes, in insects, the transformation of a maggot into an adult fly and a caterpillar into a butterfly and, in amphibians, the changing of a tadpole into a frog.
noun - Pathology A usually degenerative change in the structure of a particular body tissue.
hyponym - hemimetabolism, heterometabolism, holometabolism, heterometaboly, hemimetamorphosis, hemimetaboly, holometaboly
synonym - metabolism, transformation
etymologically-related-term - metamorphose
If you have a waterproof raincoat, you could say that your coat is impermeable to the rain. Something that is impermeable does not allow water or liquid to pass through it. Made up of the prefix im-, meaning not, and the adjective permeable, meaning allowing to pass through, impermeable is used in much the same way as impervious or impenetrable. However, more so than these words, impermeable is especially associated with liquids and is often used in a scientific or technical context. Some gadgets, like waterproof watches and underwater cameras, are designed to be impermeable.
adjective - Impossible to permeate: an impermeable membrane; an impermeable border.
equivalent - water-resistant, retentive, water-repellent
synonym - impassable, impervious, impenetrable
cross-reference - nonpermeable, permeability
same-context - water-tight, waterproof
As a noun, a simian is a monkey or ape. Something monkey- or ape-like can be described using the adjective simian. So: something can be simian without being a simian. Got it?The first syllable in simian rhymes with dim and gets the accent: "SIM-ee-an." This is a case in which the adjective form came before the noun. How? Simian comes from the Greek word simos, meaning "snub-nosed, bent upward." It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that this description became the label for those animals whose noses simian describes.
adjective - Relating to, characteristic of, or resembling an ape or a monkey.
noun - An ape or a monkey.
synonym - catarrhine, baboon, apish, ape, baboonish, gorilla, jackanapes, primate, apelike, simial
Vivisection means literally "to cut up something that's alive," and it's the term used for operating on live animals for scientific research. The word is usually used by people who oppose the practice. You can see how the word would be an inflammatory way of describing experimentation on animals, as the root vivi-, meaning "alive," makes the practice sound all the more gruesome. Surgery on a (living) person would not be called vivisection. You can also use the word vivisection metaphorically, as you might write a review of a rap concert and perform a ruthless vivisection of the artist's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
noun - The act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research.
cross-reference - painless vivisection
hypernym - operation, surgical procedure, surgical process, surgery, surgical operation
same-context - rediscovery, variola, reconversion, entangling
The tiny details of anything can be called minutiae. Minutia which you'll usually see as minutiae, the plural version is a little like trivia. Notice how minutia almost has the word mini in it? That's a good clue to the meaning, which is "small things or details." People who are sports fans tend to love minutiae like what a player's batting average is, right down to the third decimal point. Anytime you're dealing with itty-bitty details, you're looking at minutiae.
noun - A small or trivial detail: "the minutiae of experimental and mathematical procedure ( Frederick Turner).
synonym - detail
hypernym - point, detail, item
same-context - dustbin, representment, theogony, evangelization, fraternisation, back-story
Not straying far from its Latin root "terra" meaning "earth," terrestrial means "of the earth." If it's terrestrial, you'll find it on earth. If it's extraterrestrial, you'll find it emerging from a UFO. The adjective terrestrial can also be used to describe something that lives on land (as opposed to living in water, for example). "On their trip to the rain forest, the scientists were charged with cataloging terrestrial animals. Another group was going to be in charge of cataloging the aquatic animals." The adjective can also be used to describe something that is mundane in character. The teenager cried, "My life is boring and full of terrestrial events like going to band practice and to class!"
adjective - Of or relating to the earth or its inhabitants.
adjective - Having a worldly, mundane character or quality.
adjective - Of, relating to, or composed of land.
adjective - Biology Living or growing on land; not aquatic: a terrestrial plant or animal.
noun - An inhabitant of the earth.
equivalent - earthly, erecting eyepiece, eyepiece, temporal, overland, onshore, worldly, secular, huyghenian
synonym - sublunary
Someone who doesn't seem to react who is always "taking a pass" in the conversation of life can be described as impassive. Impassive is tricky, as it sounds it should be the opposite of passive. It's not, though. The fact is you can be passive and impassive at the same time. When a passive person gets passed over for a promotion at work, their face might remain impassive upon hearing the news.
adjective - Devoid of or not subject to emotion.
adjective - Revealing no emotion; expressionless.
adjective - Archaic Incapable of physical sensation.
adjective - Motionless; still.
equivalent - unemotional, incommunicative, uncommunicative
synonym - calm, immobile, impassible, stolid, phlegmatic, undemonstrative, unmoved
Someone who shows ambivalence about a person or thing has conflicting feelings. If you love your mom but find her totally embarrassing you might feel ambivalent about having her give a presentation at your school. Originally a psychological term, ambivalence was borrowed from the German word Ambivalenz, coined in 1910 by the Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler. The German word was formed from the Latin prefix ambi- "in two ways" plus Latin valentia "vigor, strength."
noun - The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
noun - Uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow.
hyponym - conflict
equivalent - ambivalency
etymologically-related-term - ambivalent
hypernym - feeling
same-context - fallibility, trepidation, inexactitude, unpredictability, tonalness, oxymoron
If something is copious, there a lot of it. If you take copious notes you'll do well when it comes time for review sessions unless you can't read your handwriting. Copious comes from the Latin copia, or abundance. It is generally used for things we think are good, like a copious harvest, or a copious rainfall. You can use copious for something numeric, like your copious admirers, or for something qualitative, like your their copious admiration. Some synonyms are plentiful, abundant, bountiful, generous, ample.
adjective - Yielding or containing plenty; affording ample supply: a copious harvest. See Synonyms at plentiful.
adjective - Large in quantity; abundant: copious rainfall.
adjective - Abounding in matter, thoughts, or words; wordy: "I found our speech copious without order, and energetic without rules ( Samuel Johnson).
equivalent - abundant
synonym - exuberant, prolix, abundant, full, adequate, ample, rich, overflowing, diffuse
Debauchery is a noun meaning crazy partying and wild nights, usually accompanied by a lot of alcohol. So you probably don't want to engage in any kind of debauchery the night before an exam. Debauchery is all about indulging in some of life's pleasures overindulging, in fact. It stems from the Middle French word debaucher, which means to entice from work or duty. So imagine workers being tempted from another day at the office by the promise of a wild bender in Vegas. Or college kids putting down the books and heeding the siren call of the frat party downstairs.
noun - Extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures; dissipation.
noun - Orgies.
noun - Archaic Seduction from morality, allegiance, or duty.
synonym - intemperance, corruption, sensuality, dissipation
etymologically-related-term - debauchee, debauched, debaucherous, debauch, debaucher
hypernym - revelry
Redoubtable means honorable, maybe even intimidatingly so. If your grandmother worked tirelessly to raise four kids on her own and start her own taxi cab business and to this day, keeps all of her cabbies in line, she is without a doubt redoubtable. The adjective redoubtable traces back to the French word redute, meaning to dread, a combination of the prefix re-, which adds emphasis, and duter, which mean to doubt. But it isn't the redoubtable person that you doubt it's yourself or your ability to compete against or be compared to him or her. That's where the dread comes in. But you can learn a lot from and be inspired by redoubtable people, if you can just get over being afraid of them.
adjective - Arousing fear or awe; formidable.
adjective - Worthy of respect or honor.
equivalent - alarming, reputable
synonym - formidable, dread
same-context - stalwart, formidable, illustrious, intrepid, astute, dauntless
In Catholicism, a cardinal is a high-ranking bishop. In math, you use cardinal numbers to count. A cardinal rule is one that is central and should not be broken. Okay, that's a lot of definitions. How exactly are they related? In all cases, cardinal means central or essential. It's a cardinal principle that you use it to describe words of behavior like rule or sin. In the Church, cardinals form the central governing body, and in math the cardinal numbers (one, two, three) are the numbers you learn and use first.
adjective - Of foremost importance; paramount: a cardinal rule; cardinal sins.
adjective - Dark to deep or vivid red.
noun - Roman Catholic Church A high church official, ranking just below the pope, who has been appointed by a pope to membership in the College of Cardinals.
noun - A dark to deep or vivid red.
noun - A North American finch (Cardinalis cardinalis) having a crested head, a short thick bill, and bright red plumage in the male.
noun - A short hooded cloak, originally of scarlet cloth, worn by women in the 18th century.
noun - A cardinal number.
hyponym - cardinal bellarmine, googolplex, dean, cesare borgia, absolute frequency, bellarmino, roberto francesco romolo bellarmine, frequency, bellarmine, Borgia
An emollient is a cream or ointment with a thick, gooey texture. When your hands are dry and cracked in the winter, you probably apply an emollient to make them softer. Emollient comes from a Latin word with the same spelling, which means to make soft. The noun form of emollient refers to a substance that makes something soft. However, emollient can also be an adjective used to describe something with a softening or soothing effect. For example, the annoying child on the airplane might be soothed by the emollient sound of the pilots voice over the intercom.
adjective - Softening and soothing, especially to the skin.
adjective - Making less harsh or abrasive; mollifying: the emollient approach of a diplomatic mediator.
noun - An agent that softens or soothes the skin.
noun - An agent that assuages or mollifies.
hyponym - nard, sun blocker, lanolin, spikenard, face cream, vanishing cream, coldcream, cold cream, sunscreen, hand cream
Bawdy describes humor that is off-color: about sex, going to the bathroom, or other naughty, vulgar topics. Things that are bawdy are a little inappropriate, intended to be funny, and definitely not the kind of things you want to say in school. Still, they're not the worst sort of things you could say. This is a playful word for things that are vulgar and funny, but not nearly as bad as an x-rated movie. Bawdy jokes are inappropriate, because they discuss things that are sexual or gross, but they're not totally explicit. Being bawdy is a little like being slangy and jokey at the same time. Whether such bawdiness is appropriate all depends on who you're talking to.
adjective - Humorously coarse; risqu.
adjective - Vulgar; lewd.
equivalent - dirty
synonym - filthy, obscene, dirty, foul, unchaste
etymologically-related-term - bawdy house, bawdiness, bawdily
hypernym - dirty word
If you're irascible, you get angry easily perhaps blowing up in rage when someone brushes into you. Irascible comes from the Latin root ira, which means "anger" or "rage," the same root that gives us the word ire, "anger." The -sc in the middle of irascible, means "becoming," so irascible doesn't just mean you're angry it's got action built into it. If you're looking for a fight most of the time, then you're irascible ready for the spark that's going to set you on fire.
adjective - Prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered.
adjective - Characterized by or resulting from anger.
equivalent - angry, ill-natured
synonym - snappish, peppery, passionate, hasty, splenitive, brainish, quick, passionful
Occlude means to obstruct, as with an opening. You hear this a lot in a medical context. Heart surgeons are looking for occlusions in blood vesselsthings that occlude the flow of blood. Occlude does not exist only in a medical context. If you close the bathroom door so your little brother won't come in while you're trying out makeup with your friends, you're occluding the bathroom. Meanwhile, your makeup occludes your pores.
verb-transitive - To cause to become closed; obstruct: occlude an artery.
verb-transitive - To prevent the passage of: occlude light; occlude the flow of blood.
verb-transitive - Chemistry To absorb or adsorb and retain (a substance).
verb-transitive - Meteorology To force (air) upward from the earth's surface, as when a cold front overtakes and undercuts a warm front.
verb-transitive - Dentistry To bring together (the upper and lower teeth) in proper alignment for chewing.
verb-intransitive - Dentistry To close so that the cusps fit together. Used of the teeth of the upper and lower jaws.
hyponym - stop, suffocate, block up, block, clog, barricado, back up, land up, barricade, clog up
Sometimes someone in power might decide to give up that power and step down from his or her position. When they do that, they abdicate their authority, giving up all duties and perks of the job. The original meaning of the verb abdicate came from the combination of the Latin ab- "away" and dicare "proclaim." (Note that in the charming relationships between languages with common roots, the Spanish word for "he says" is dice, which comes directly from dicare.) The word came to refer to disowning one's children, and it wasn't until the 17th century that the first use of the word relating to giving up power or public office was recorded.
verb-transitive - To relinquish (power or responsibility) formally.
verb-intransitive - To relinquish formally a high office or responsibility.
form - abdicator, abdicating, abdicable, abdicated, abdicant
synonym - relent, reject, desert, disinherit, surrender
If something is extraordinary, remarkable, or one of a kind, you can say it is singular. A singular opportunity to sing onstage with a rock star is a remarkable opportunity. Seeing the single inside singular can help you understand its meaning in the sense of one. In grammar, singular means one, as opposed to plural, which means more than one. But singulars not alwaysor singularlyabout being unique. Walking through a foggy cemetery might give you a singular feelingor a feeling thats odd and peculiarthat ghosts could possibly be real.
adjective - Being only one; individual.
adjective - Being the only one of a kind; unique.
adjective - Being beyond what is ordinary or usual; remarkable.
adjective - Deviating from the usual or expected; odd. See Synonyms at strange.
adjective - Grammar Of, relating to, or being a noun, pronoun, or adjective denoting a single person or thing or several entities considered as a single unit.
adjective - Grammar Of, relating to, or being a verb expressing the action or state of a single subject.
adjective - Logic Of or relating to the specific as distinguished from the general; individual.
noun - Grammar The singular number or a form designating it.
noun - Grammar A word having a singular number.
equivalent - strange, single, individual, unusual, extraordinary
form - singularity
synonym - peculiar, single, unique, individual
When you emulate someone, you imitate them, especially with the idea of matching their success. When someone is impressive because of their great skills, brains, strength, or accomplishments, other will emulate. To emulate is to imitate and model yourself after someone. People emulate role models people they want to be like. After Michael Jordan retired from the NBA, player after player tried to emulate Jordan's game and success. It's hard to be as good as someone like that, but having a hero to emulate can be helpful in many areas of life.
verb-transitive - To strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation: an older pupil whose accomplishments and style I emulated.
verb-transitive - To compete with successfully; approach or attain equality with.
verb-transitive - Computer Science To imitate the function of (another system), as by modifications to hardware or software that allow the imitating system to accept the same data, execute the same programs, and achieve the same results as the imitated system.
adjective - Obsolete Ambitious; emulous.
form - emulating, emulated
synonym - rival, emulous, ambitious
etymologically-related-term - emulator, emulous, emulation
verb-form - emulating, emulated
With brazen disregard for the sign that said "no cellphones please" the woman took a long call in the doctor's office waiting room. Brazen refers to something shocking, done shamelessly. The Middle English word was brasen "made of brass," from Old English brsen, from brs "brass." In fact a near synonym of brazen is our English word brassy, which has the additional meaning of being loud and showy.
adjective - Marked by flagrant and insolent audacity. See Synonyms at shameless.
adjective - Having a loud, usually harsh, resonant sound: "sudden brazen clashes of the soldiers' band ( James Joyce).
adjective - Made of brass.
adjective - Resembling brass, as in color or strength.
verb-transitive - To face or undergo with bold self-assurance: brazened out the crisis.
equivalent - unashamed
form - brazened, brazening, brazen age, brazen sea, brazen it out
synonym - brassy, face, impudent, immodest
Only one letter separates the two words, but "wishful" is having hope for something, and wistful is having sadness or melancholy about something. "Wist" isn't even a word that's used anymore, but you can still be wistful. People who appear wistful often show a longing for something or a look of serious reflection. One way to describe the adjective wistful is as the sad appearance of someone looking back and thinking "if only..." A thoughtful or pensive mood centered on something good in the past that is missed or something not so good in the present that could have been better "if only" something had gone differently these things make for a wistful outlook.
adjective - Full of wishful yearning.
adjective - Pensively sad; melancholy.
equivalent - sad
synonym - melancholy, wishful, contemplative, pensive, musing, en, l, desirous, meditative
If your marching band gets into a fight with another school's pep squad, your principal might say the fracas was uncalled for and undignified. A fracas is a noisy quarrel. Fracas comes from an Italian word meaning uproar or crash. Two people in a quiet little spat is not a fracas, but a schoolyard rumble definitely qualifies as one! Sometimes fracas means the large amount of outraged discussion that an event causes. Imagine the fracas if your school decided to ban sneakers!
noun - A noisy, disorderly fight or quarrel; a brawl. See Synonyms at brawl.
hyponym - batrachomyomachia
synonym - uproar, disturbance, brawl
hypernym - words, run-in, wrangle, row, dustup, quarrel
When liquid starts to thicken and become solid, it coagulates. When you get a cut, the blood flowing from the wound will coagulate: it will start to clot and form a solid scab so you will stop bleeding. Many liquids have the potential to coagulate. If the cream you just poured into your coffee is spoiled, you'll see the cream coagulate as it curdles into little floating chunks. If someone has a heart condition that may result in a heart attack, he or she might take medication that keep the blood in the arteries from coagulating, or dangerously thickening.
verb-transitive - To cause transformation of (a liquid or sol, for example) into or as if into a soft, semisolid, or solid mass.
verb-intransitive - To become coagulated.
hyponym - curdle
equivalent - thick
form - coagulated, coagulating, coagulant, coagulation
synonym - thicken, coagulated, clot, clod
Raiment is an old-fashioned word for clothing, particularly fancy clothing, like ladies who always wore their best raiment when calling on friends. Raiment is formal clothing. It comes from the Old French word areer or "to array," which describes dressing in decorative clothing, or adorning yourself in the very best. The word raiment has mostly gone out of use, much like the rare practice of getting very dressed up.
noun - Clothing; garments.
hyponym - jacket, frock, underdress, dress up, vesture, robe, cover, prim, habit, war paint
A flourish is an extra touch a trumpet's "ta-ta-da!" announcing a king's entrance, a fancy carving atop an otherwise utilitarian pillar, a wave of a flag or a cheerleader's pompom. Flourish can also mean "growth": "With the right teacher, a child will flourish." To understand how the two meanings of flourish connect, remember that the word "flower" (spelled flour-) is hiding inside it. Flowers are used for decoration and ornamentation, but they also grow. Get it? Good for you! Imagine a cheerleader shouting out your name, flourishing her pom-poms.
verb-intransitive - To grow well or luxuriantly; thrive: The crops flourished in the rich soil.
verb-intransitive - To do or fare well; prosper: "No village on the railroad failed to flourish ( John Kenneth Galbraith).
verb-intransitive - To be in a period of highest productivity, excellence, or influence: a poet who flourished in the tenth century.
verb-intransitive - To make bold, sweeping movements: The banner flourished in the wind.
verb-transitive - To wield, wave, or exhibit dramatically.
noun - A dramatic or stylish movement, as of waving or brandishing: "A few ... musicians embellish their performance with a flourish of the fingers ( Frederick D. Bennett).
noun - An embellishment or ornamentation: a signature with a distinctive flourish.
noun - An ostentatious act or gesture: a flourish of generosity.
noun - Music A showy or ceremonious passage, such as a fanfare.
hyponym - paraph, luxuriate, wigwag, revive
form - flourishing, flourished
synonym - brandish, boast, blast, show
Stand outside the school cafeteria passing out flyers with nutritional details on school food, and you may foment a revolutionfoment means stirring up something undesirable, such as trouble. You would never say, "Hooray, we fomented a revolution." Instead you'd say, "Those good for nothing scalawags fomented the rebellion." Don't confuse foment and ferment. Ferment can mean "to stir up" in a good waya football game can ferment excitement in a town, or foment trouble through traffic tie-ups and litter.
verb-transitive - To promote the growth of; incite.
verb-transitive - To treat (the skin, for example) by fomentation.
hyponym - rumpus
form - fomentation, fomented, fomenting
synonym - fomentation, embrocate, bathe, abet, encourage, instigate
Someone who is complacent has become overly content the junk-food-eating couch potato might be feeling complacent about his health. The literal meaning of this word's Latin root is "very pleased," but even though complacent people may seem pleased with themselves, we are rarely pleased with them. They are unconcerned by things that should concern them, and they may neglect their duties. A complacent person might be heard saying, "Ehh, don't worry about it!" when there really is something to worry about.
adjective - Contented to a fault; self-satisfied and unconcerned: He had become complacent after years of success.
adjective - Eager to please; complaisant.
equivalent - content, contented
form - self-complacent
synonym - kindly, self-satisfied, contented, smug
etymologically-related-term - complacence, complacency
same-context - self-satisfied
Look to the adjective ambiguous when you need to describe something that's open to more than one interpretation, like the headline "Squad helps dog bite victim."Choose Your Words:ambiguous / ambivalentIf you're ambivalent about something, you don't hate it, but you don't love it either. Something that is ambiguous is unclear or vague.
Continue reading...Newspaper headlines can be unintentionally funny when they're ambiguous. In "Squad helps dog bite victim," is the squad helping a victim of a dog bite or helping a dog bite a victim? The ambi- prefix means "both ways," while the guous part is from the Latin verb agere, "to lead or drive." Thus an ambiguous sentence or situation drives us in two different directions at once. The accent is on the second syllable, "big," which you can remember since something that's ambiguous can lead to big misunderstandings.
adjective - Open to more than one interpretation: an ambiguous reply.
adjective - Doubtful or uncertain: "The theatrical status of her frequently derided but constantly revived plays remained ambiguous ( Frank Rich).
equivalent - oracular, multi-valued, uncertain, forked, double-edged, left-handed, evasive, unstructured, double-barreled, double
If your friends want to try sky diving and you're amenable to the idea, sounds like you're going to be jumping out of a plane. If a person or thing is amenable to something, they are ready, willing, or responsive. Note that amenable is often followed by the preposition to, which makes amenable mean "able to be controlled or affected by something," as in "They are usually amenable to our wishes;" or "Her heart condition is not amenable to treatment." An amenable personality is open to influence or control and is willing to agree or yield.
adjective - Responsive to advice, authority, or suggestion; willing.
adjective - Responsible to higher authority; accountable: amenable to the law. See Synonyms at responsible.
adjective - Susceptible or open, as to testing or criticism: "The phenomenon of mind . . . is much more complex, though also more amenable to scientific investigation, than anyone suspected ( Michael D. Lemonick).
equivalent - responsible, compliant, susceptible
synonym - acountable, responsible, answerable, responsive, tractable, accountable
same-context - attentive
The adjective austere is used to describe something or someone stern or without any decoration. You wouldn't want someone to describe you or your home as austere. Austere is not usually a positive word because it means that a person or a thing isn't pleasurable. For example, if you go on an austere diet, it's likely you wouldn't ever get to have candy. The adjective comes into English by way of French, Latin, and Greek, meaning "harsh" and "dry." It's pronounced as "o-stir," with an emphasis on the second syllable.
adjective - Severe or stern in disposition or appearance; somber and grave: the austere figure of a Puritan minister.
adjective - Strict or severe in discipline; ascetic: a desert nomad's austere life. See Synonyms at severe.
adjective - Having no adornment or ornamentation; bare: an austere style.
equivalent - abstemious, nonindulgent, strict, plain
form - austerity, austerely
synonym - forbidding, sour, unembellished, unadorned
People who are meticulous can be pretty annoying, what with their extreme attention to detail. But if that person is, say, your surgeon or your accountant, you'll want them to be meticulous. The Latin root of meticulous is metus, which means "fear," so it's easy to see how eventually meticulous got its meaning. Someone who's meticulous is afraid of what will happen if they're not careful enough to get every detail right. "Detail oriented" and "perfectionist" are other ways of describing someone who cares deeply about the small things and about getting things exactly right, every time. Concert pianists must be meticulous, because audiences are always listening for wrong notes.
adjective - Extremely careful and precise.
adjective - Extremely or excessively concerned with details.
equivalent - fastidious, precise
form - meticulousness, meticulosity
synonym - scrupulous, careful, rigorous, fearful, painstaking, precise
Use the adjective, arduous, to describe an activity that takes a lot of effort. Writing all those college essays and filling out the applications is an arduous process!Arduous was first used in English to mean "steep" or "difficult to climb." If you're an outdoorsman, hiking up a mountain is a lot of fun, but if you're a couch potato, it's an arduous trek. Today, the word can be used figuratively for something that is difficult or takes a lot of work. If you spend an arduous week studying for your final exams, you'll do well because you've worked really hard!
adjective - Demanding great effort or labor; difficult: "the arduous work of preparing a Dictionary of the English Language ( Thomas Macaulay).
adjective - Testing severely the powers of endurance; strenuous: a long, arduous, and exhausting war.
adjective - Hard to traverse, climb, or surmount. See Synonyms at burdensome, hard.
equivalent - difficult, hard, effortful
synonym - laborious, demanding, painful, difficulty, difficult, burdensome, trying
Cosmology is the study of the cosmos, which is the entire universe. Someone who studies cosmology is interested in the structure, origins, and development of the universe. In cosmology, the major theory of the origin of the universe is the Big Bang Theory, the idea that 12 to 14 billion years ago, a small amount of hot, dense matter began expanding, eventually cooling and forming the stars and galaxies we know today. Cosmos comes from the Greek word kosmos, which means world or universe, and cosmology comes from cosmos. Don't confuse cosmology with cosmetology, which is the study of beauty treatments.
noun - The study of the physical universe considered as a totality of phenomena in time and space.
noun - The astrophysical study of the history, structure, and constituent dynamics of the universe.
noun - A specific theory or model of this structure and these dynamics.
etymologically-related-term - cosmological, cosmologist, cosmogony
cross-reference - big bang theory, eschatology, rational cosmology, steady state theory
hypernym - astrophysics, metaphysics
same-context - astrophysics
Propriety is following what is socially acceptable in speech and behavior. If you are someone who cares about always doing the right and proper thing, your friends might accuse you of being obsessed with propriety and beg you to loosen up. In the Victorian Age, both sexes had well-defined roles and were expected to exercise self-restraint. Except for the men. Everyone looked the other way when they went out on benders. Their wives at home however, were so confined by the era's standards of propriety that if a woman so much as referred to the fact that she was pregnant, everyone would cover their mouths and gasp. She'd committed an impropriety.
noun - The quality of being proper; appropriateness.
noun - Conformity to prevailing customs and usages.
noun - The usages and customs of polite society.
hyponym - appropriateness, seemliness, rightness, grace, decorum, decorousness, decency, reserve, primness, good form
An extrapolation is kind of like an educated guess or a hypothesis. When you make an extrapolation, you take facts and observations about a present or known situation and use them to make a prediction about what might eventually happen. Extrapolation comes from the word extra, meaning outside, and a shortened form of the word interpolation. Interpolation might sound like a made-up word, but its not. An interpolation is an insertion between two points. So an extrapolation is an insertion outside any existing points. If you know something about Monday and Tuesday, you might be able to make an extrapolation about Wednesday.
noun - A calculation of an estimate of the value of some function outside the range of known values.
noun - An inference about some hypothetical situation based on known facts.
etymologically-related-term - interpolation
hypernym - calculation, figuring, inference, computation, reckoning, illation
same-context - grouping, generalization, approximation
You may have heard of aluminum alloy on a car. What that means is that there is another metal mixed in with the aluminum, to save money and/or to strengthen the wheels. The wheels are an alloy (a mix), rather than pure. In addition to indicating a dilution of one metal with another, alloy can refer to the dilution of a feeling or a quality. Knowing that you look awesome in your Halloween costume would be an alloy to the embarrassment of showing up to a party where you are the only one in a costume.
noun - A homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals, the atoms of one replacing or occupying interstitial positions between the atoms of the other: Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper.
noun - A mixture; an amalgam: "Television news has . . . always been an alloy of journalism and show business ( Bill Moyers).
noun - The relative degree of mixture with a base metal; fineness.
noun - Something added that lowers value or purity.
verb-transitive - To combine (metals) to form an alloy.
verb-transitive - To combine; mix: idealism that was alloyed with political skill.
verb-transitive - To debase by the addition of an inferior element.
hyponym - amalgam, heavy metal, fusible metal, pinchbeck, carboloy, pyrophoric alloy, Inconel, stellite, Britannia metal, type metal
Remonstrate means to call someone on something that's wrong. If your mother yells at you in public, you might call this getting chewed out. She might call it remonstrating. Either way, it's embarrassing. Remonstrate has its roots in a Latin verb meaning "to show," and it used to mean "to make plain." Which is why remonstrate is a word that puts the glow of respectability on the action of yelling at someone or telling them that they're wrong. The sense is that the person remonstrating is the victim they're just making the injustice plain.
verb-transitive - To say or plead in protest, objection, or reproof.
verb-intransitive - To reason or plead in protest; present an objection. See Synonyms at object.
hyponym - objurgate, tell off, correct, brush down, chastise, chasten, castigate, represent
form - remonstrated, remonstrating
When you think of microcosm, picture your home town inside a snow globe. The teeny tiny city is a microcosm of the one you live in. It is that place in miniature. Microcosm can be used to describe anything that is a miniature representation of something else. Think of a specific event that symbolizes the way things always seems to go, like the way a kind act by your mom can represent the caring relationship you have with her. That weekend with your partner that started with laughter but ended in tears? That's a microcosm of the whole lousy relationship. The dance where you regretted your outfit, giggled with friends, annoyed a teacher, and missed your chance at dancing with your crush? A microcosm of high school.
noun - A small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution, configuration, or development: "He sees the auto industry as a microcosm of the U.S. itself ( William J. Hampton).
hypernym - model, example
same-context - gold-toothed, well-being, rezoning, self-organization, steeple-chase, self-parody, compend
antonym - macrocosm
If you want to reassure someone that something isn't harmful or likely to cause injury, call it innocuous. Even an innocuous letter from your boyfriend is embarrassing if your parents find it!The adjective, innocuous, does not really say what something is, but rather what it is not. Some chemicals, viruses, snakes or websites may be harmful, some remarks or questions may be offensive, but if one of these is innocuous, it is not. The word comes from the Latin roots in- "not" and nocere "to injure, harm."
adjective - Having no adverse effect; harmless.
adjective - Not likely to offend or provoke to strong emotion; insipid.
equivalent - harmless, innoxious, inoffensive
form - innocuously, innocuity, innocuousness
synonym - harmless, innoxious
etymologically-related-term - innocent
same-context - inaccessible
Whether its a feeling of joy or a piece of pecan pie when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest. When you savor something, you enjoy it so much that you want to make it last forever. With that in mind, savor carries a connotation of doing something slowly. If you savor that flourless chocolate tart, then you eat it slowly, bit by bit, deliberately picking every last crumb off the plate. The word is often applied to eating, but you can savor any pleasurable experience, whether its the winning touchdown or your moment in the spotlight.
noun - The taste or smell of something.
noun - A specific taste or smell. See Synonyms at taste.
noun - A distinctive quality or sensation: enjoying the savor of victory.
verb-intransitive - To have a particular taste or smell: a dish that savors of curry.
verb-intransitive - To exhibit a specified quality or characteristic; smack: postures that savored of vanity.
verb-transitive - To impart flavor or scent to; season: savored the bland soup with salt.
verb-transitive - To taste or smell, especially with pleasure: savored each morsel of the feast.
verb-transitive - To appreciate fully; enjoy or relish: I want to savor this great moment of accomplishment.
hyponym - smack, feast one's eyes, taste, devour, vanilla, lemon
form - savoring, savored
synonym - smell, odor
A fetter is a shackle or chain that is attached to someones ankles. To fetter someone is to restrict their movement, either literally or metaphorically. You might feel fettered by your parents' rules, even without the chains. A fetter is anything that secures and limits the movement of the feet and legs of a prisoner. To fetter, the verb, could be used literally: the prison wardens would fetter the chain gangs who built many of the railroads in the US., but it usually means something has been done to restrain someones behavior: "we finally managed to fetter our sons computer use with bribery."
noun - A chain or shackle for the ankles or feet.
noun - Something that serves to restrict; a restraint.
verb-transitive - To put fetters on; shackle.
verb-transitive - To restrict the freedom of. See Synonyms at hamper1.
hyponym - handcuff, cuff, manacle, shackle
synonym - bond, restraint, enchain, bind, shackle, confine
Taxonomy is all about organizing and classifying. To make it sound more scientific, you could refer to your project of reorganizing your spice rack according to smell as a taxonomy of spices. Taxonomy is a word used mainly in biology to talk about classifying living organisms, organizing them according to their similarities. If you've ever seen a chart with animals divided into species, genus, and family, you know what scientific taxonomy is. The word comes very straightforwardly from Greek words for "arrangement" taxis and "method" nomia. So any special method for arranging or organizing things can be called taxonomy.
noun - The classification of organisms in an ordered system that indicates natural relationships.
noun - The science, laws, or principles of classification; systematics.
noun - Division into ordered groups or categories: "Scholars have been laboring to develop a taxonomy of young killers ( Aric Press).
hyponym - cladistics, cladistic analysis
form - folk taxonomy, scientific taxonomy
synonym - systematics, alpha taxonomy
cross-reference - phylum, subkingdom, rank, kingdom
Something nugatory has no real value; its worthless. All your excuses for why you didnt turn the bath tap off when you left the apartment are nugatory; they dont change the fact that the tub overflowed and leaked into the apartment below. An adjective meaning trifling, of no value, nugatory comes from the Latin nugatorius worthless, futile, which in turn came from the also Latin nugatory jester, trifle. Its a word you probably dont hear too often, but its a fun and descriptive one to use. Describe something with no force or importance as nugatory. "Whether this rug is red or green is nugatory to someone who is colorblind."
adjective - Of little or no importance; trifling.
adjective - Having no force; invalid. See Synonyms at vain.
equivalent - worthless
synonym - futile, invalid, ineffectual, trivial, vain, trifling, inoperative, insignificant
same-context - palatine
A sedulous person is someone who works hard and doesn't give up easily. If you make repeated and sedulous attempts to fix a leaky pipe and it only makes things worse, it might be time to go online and find the number of a plumber. There are a couple of words that basically mean the same thing as sedulous but are a little more common, namely assiduous, painstaking, and diligent. Like sedulous, all of these adjectives can be turned in adverbs by adding the suffix ly: "He assiduously tried to fix the pipe, but to no avail."
adjective - Persevering and constant in effort or application; assiduous. See Synonyms at busy.
equivalent - diligent
synonym - laborious, unwearied, constant, assiduous, industrious, persistent, persevering, active, untiring
A goad is a pointy stick or other instrument used to prod something along. To goad is to poke something with that pointy stick. Either way, the pointyness is really essential for making things leap into action. Originally spelled gad, meaning spearhead, goad first came into use as a verb in the 1570s. But say you left your pointy goading stick at home. Have no fear! You can goad people with words, too. Literally or figuratively, a goad prods and pokes and provokes people into doing something. A sheep herder might hustle his flock along with a goad, just as your mom's constant nagging and goading might finally get you sit up straight at the dinner table.
noun - A long stick with a pointed end used for prodding animals.
noun - An agent or means of prodding or urging; a stimulus.
verb-transitive - To prod or urge with or as if with a long pointed stick.
hyponym - gad, ankus, spur
form - goading, goaded
synonym - incite, instigate, urge, prick, arouse
Someone with alacrity shows cheerful willingness and eager behavior, like a kid whose mother has told him he can buy anything in a candy store. While the noun alacrity normally refers to someone's peppy behavior, it can also describe a certain mood or tempo of a musical composition, indicating how the music should be played. Alacrity comes from the Latin alacritas, and the Italian musical term allegro is a near relation.
noun - Cheerful willingness; eagerness.
noun - Speed or quickness; celerity.
synonym - haste, enthusiasm, celerity, avidity, willingness, sprightliness, swiftness, promptness, quickness, briskness
If everyone at the lunch meeting is vying for the last roast beef sandwich, but you grab it first, you preempt your colleagues from getting it. Let them eat liverwurst. Preempt means to displace or take something before others can. Preempt combines the Latin prefix prae- "before" with emere "to buy." Think old-fashioned land grabs, midnight madness sales, and seating at concerts. It can also mean to replace one thing with another thats more important. For instance, if the president is speaking or the football game is running long, brace yourself; the network just might preempt your favorite show.
verb-transitive - To appropriate, seize, or take for oneself before others. See Synonyms at appropriate.
verb-transitive - To take the place of; displace: A special news program preempted the scheduled shows.
verb-transitive - To have precedence or predominance over: Discussion of the water shortage will preempt the other topics on this week's agenda.
verb-transitive - To gain possession of by prior right or opportunity, especially to settle on (public land) so as to obtain the right to buy before others.
verb-intransitive - Games To make a preemptive bid in bridge.
form - preemptory, prempting, preemptor, preemptive, prempted
synonym - bu
verb-form - preempting, preempts, preempted
cross-reference - premption right
During a political campaign, you will often hear on TV commercials some canard about the opponent. This is a false, deluding statement designed to confuse the voters, as it presents the other candidate in a bad light by spreading an untruth. The Old French word quanart, "duck," morphed into canard, as in "vendre un canard moiti," which refers to "half-selling" a duck, or cheating someone, and the word came to mean something meant to fool someone deliberately. Poet James Whitcomb Riley said, "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck." Not always the case with canard.
noun - An unfounded or false, deliberately misleading story.
noun - A short winglike control surface projecting from the fuselage of an aircraft, such as a space shuttle, mounted forward of the main wing and serving as a horizontal stabilizer.
noun - An aircraft whose horizontal stabilizing surfaces are forward of the main wing.
synonym - report
hypernym - fabrication, fiction, fable
same-context - transporte, chameaux, voil, plus, flamme, contribuer
noun - A ballet position in which the dancer bends forward while standing on one straight leg with the arm extended forward and the other arm and leg extended backward.
noun - A complex, ornate design of intertwined floral, foliate, and geometric figures.
noun - Music An ornate, whimsical composition especially for piano.
noun - An intricate or elaborate pattern or design: "the fluctuating shapes of a cloudscape, the complex arabesque of a camera movement, the blink of a character's eye ( Nigel Andrews).
adjective - In the fashion of or formed as an arabesque.
synonym - Arabian
hypernym - decoration, ornament, ballet position, ornamentation
same-context - acanthus, involutions, lace-like, varnished, heraldic
You can call the kid who is always really nice to the teacher in hopes of getting a good grade a brown-noser or, if you want to sound clever, a toady. The word toady has a gross, yet engaging history. Back when medicine was more trickery than science, traveling medicine men would come to a town. Their assistant would eat a toad (you read that right) that was assumed poisonous so that the medicine man could "heal" him. Who would want that job, right? So toad-eater, later shortened to toady, came to mean a person who would do anything to please his boss.
noun - A person who flatters or defers to others for self-serving reasons; a sycophant.
verb-transitive - To be a toady to or behave like a toady. See Synonyms at fawn1.
hyponym - groveller, bootlicker, goody-goody, apple polisher, groveler, court favour, curry favor, truckler, court favor, fawner
Carnal is an adjective meaning "of the flesh." This makes carnal relations a subject that kids want to know more about, but one that both kids and parents may be embarrassed to talk about with each other. Another use for carnal is to describe something that is worldly (as opposed to spiritual) "He didn't have much use for religion, preferring the more carnal pursuits of gambling, drinking, and partying." The phrase "carnal knowledge" is often used euphemistically to refer to sexual relations, but the phrase has also been used in the legal sense to describe a specific sex crime.
adjective - Relating to the physical and especially sexual appetites: carnal desire.
adjective - Worldly or earthly; temporal: the carnal world.
adjective - Of or relating to the body or flesh; bodily: carnal remains.
equivalent - physical
form - carnal knowledge
synonym - ravenous, fleshly, bodily, lustful, bloody, flesh-devouring, worldly, cruel
Fidelity is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Dogs are famous for their fidelity. Fidelity comes from the Latin root fides, which means faith, so fidelity is the state of being faithful. Marital fidelity is faithfulness to your spouse. If you're a journalist, your reports should have fidelity to the facts. Someone without fidelity to a religion or group belief is called an infidel.
noun - Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances.
noun - Exact correspondence with fact or with a given quality, condition, or event; accuracy.
noun - The degree to which an electronic system accurately reproduces the sound or image of its input signal.
hyponym - dedication, trueness, loyalty, constancy
form - fidelitous, high fidelity, fidelity bond
synonym - honesty, fealty, faith
A quagmire is a dangerous place, like the muddy shoreline of a pond. The more you try to climb out of a quagmire, the more you seem to slip. That's because as you step on the mud, it oozes everywhere. Long ago, quag was a synonym for "bog" or "marsh," a swampy area where water seems to sit instead of drain out. Mire is another word to describe such a place. As a verb mire means "stuck," like someone who is mired in quicksand or mired in work both prevent you from going anywhere. In a quagmire, you get stuck physically or, using its other meaning, in a situation that is hard to escape because there is no easy solution.
noun - Land with a soft muddy surface.
noun - A difficult or precarious situation; a predicament.
synonym - land, morass, fen, slough, marsh, Mars, bog, swamp, mire, quag
When you prevaricate, you lie or mislead. Now, go ahead and tell me whether you already knew that meaning, and dont prevaricate about it give me the story straight!While prevaricate basically means to lie, it also has the sense of making it hard to know exactly what the lie was. You talk in a confusing way, go back and forth, and as deliberately as possible mislead someone. Government officials, bureaucrats, and sneaky types prevaricate in the hopes that it will be too difficult to figure out whether they've been doing something wrong. Don't prevaricate with your parents it will definitely make you look guilty, but they just won't be sure of what!
verb-intransitive - To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate. See Synonyms at lie2.
form - prevaricator, prevaricated, prevaricating, prevarication
synonym - ergotize, tergiversate, dodge, pettifog, quibble, sophisticate
Irresolute describes someone who feels stuck. A decision must be made, a plan acted on, but the irresolute person just doesn't know what to do. Resolute describes certainty. When someone is resolute, things get done: plans are made and carried out. But add the prefix ir to resolute and you get its opposite. An irresolute person isn't necessarily a slacker he or she just doesn't know what to do. Maybe it's confusion. Maybe it's a matter of waiting for better information to come along. Either way, if someone is irresolute, you'll need to be patient or willing to nudge him or her into action.
adjective - Unsure of how to act or proceed; undecided.
adjective - Lacking in resolution; indecisive.
equivalent - discouraged, unstable, vacillant, wavering, vacillating, weak-kneed, infirm
form - irresoluteness
synonym - unsteadfast, unstable
You might want to call someone subversive if they are sneakily trying to undermine something, from the social structure of your high school to an entire system of government. You can use subversive as a noun or an adjective without changing it one whit. Note the prefix sub meaning "underneath" with the remainder coming from the Latin vertere "to turn." Think about a subversive as a sneaky kind of revolutionary who tries to turn the system from underneath. Art or literature is considered subversive if it attempts to undermine the morals and traditions of a society.
adjective - Intended or serving to subvert, especially intended to overthrow or undermine an established government: "Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities ( Erica Jong).
noun - One who advocates or is regarded as advocating subversion.
hyponym - lev davidovich bronstein, Robespierre, Marx, counterrevolutionary, charlotte corday, counterrevolutionist, Zapata, freedom fighter, maxmillien marie isidore de robespierre, insurrectionist
Relegate means assign to a lower position. If the quarterback of the football team stops making decent throws he might be relegated to the position of benchwarmer, while another kid is given the chance to play. Relegate rhymes with delegateboth words derive from the Latin legare "send." Relegate means to send someone down in rank. Delegate means to send someone in your place to complete a task. In the workplace, managers who can't figure out how to delegate may get relegated to a lesser rank.
verb-transitive - To assign to an obscure place, position, or condition.
verb-transitive - To assign to a particular class or category; classify. See Synonyms at commit.
verb-transitive - To refer or assign (a matter or task, for example) for decision or action.
verb-transitive - To send to a place of exile; banish.
hyponym - spike, sideline, reduce
form - relegated, en, l, relegating
synonym - transfer, refer, expel
Someone who is dangerously skinny and skeletal-looking can be described as emaciated. It's probably how you'd start to look after a few weeks in the wilderness with only berries and bugs for dinner. The adjective emaciated evolved from the Latin emaciatus, meaning to make lean, waste away. An emaciated person or animal isn't just thin. They're bony, gaunt, and most likely undernourished, often from illness. So if an emaciated stray cat shows up on your doorstep, give it a bowl of milk and maybe pay a visit to the vet.
verb - simple past tense and past participle of emaciate.
adjective - Thin or haggard, especially from hunger or disease.
equivalent - lean, thin
synonym - cadaverous, haggard, gaunt, wasted, scrawny, pinched, bony, thing
An apothegm is a short instructive saying that's easy to remember and sometimes even slightly witty, like "haste makes waste." An apothegm often expresses a fundamental truth or general rule. To correctly pronounce apothegm, put the accent on the first syllable and give it the short a sound, as in apple: "A-puh-them." It comes from the Greek word apophthegma, meaning "terse, pointed saying," derived from apo-, meaning "from," and phthengesthai, meaning "to utter."
noun - A terse, witty, instructive saying; a maxim.
equivalent - apophthegm
synonym - saying
hypernym - maxim, axiom
same-context - frostiness, saying, aphorism, wood sorrel, amica, roundelay
When there's no mountain left to climb and nothing but blue sky above, you know you've reached the highest peak the apex. Apex can mean the highest point in a literal sense, like climbing to the apex of the Eiffel Tower for a fabulous view of Paris. It also can be used to mean the highest point in a figurative sense. An actor who wins an Oscar can say she's reached the apex of her career. If you're describing more than one high point, you could add an -es to form the plural apexes, but apices would also be correct. And if you're a botanist, you'd probably use apex to describe the tip of a flower or leaf.
noun - The highest point; the vertex: the apex of a triangle; the apex of a hill.
noun - The point of culmination. See Synonyms at summit.
noun - The usually pointed end of an object; the tip: the apex of a leaf.
hyponym - crown, roof peak
synonym - cusp, height, peak, acme, pinnacle, culmination, summit, end
noun - One who supplicates; a suppliant.
adjective - Supplicating.
hyponym - solicitor, bedesman, canvasser, besieger, postulant, beadsman
equivalent - pleading, imploring, beseeching
synonym - asking
Decorum is proper and polite behavior. If you let out a big belch at a fancy dinner party, you're not showing much decorum. This noun is from Latin decrus "proper, becoming, handsome," from dcor "beauty, grace," which is also the source of English dcor. The corresponding adjective is decorous, meaning "well-behaved in a particular situation." Both decorum and decorous are often used to describe behavior in a classroom or courtroom.
noun - Appropriateness of behavior or conduct; propriety: "In the Ireland of the 1940's ... the stolidity of a long, empty, grave face was thought to be the height of decorum and profundity ( John McGahern).
noun - The conventions or requirements of polite behavior: the formalities and decorums of a military funeral.
noun - The appropriateness of an element of an artistic or literary work, such as style or tone, to its particular circumstance or to the composition as a whole.
hyponym - becomingness
synonym - seemliness, dignity, modesty, propriety
etymologically-related-term - decorous
hypernym - properness, correctitude, propriety
same-context - self-respect
Use purport when you want to convince people about something that might not be true, like when you purport that the dog ate your homework. The verb purport can mean "to claim" whether you mean it or not or "to intend," like when you purport to study all night. So it makes sense that as a noun, purport means the intention or purpose, like the purport of political candidate's speech was to get your vote. If the speech was long and hard to follow, you might be lucky just to get the purport, which here means "the main point or meaning."
verb-transitive - To have or present the often false appearance of being or intending; profess: selfish behavior that purports to be altruistic.
verb-transitive - To have the intention of doing; purpose.
noun - Meaning presented, intended, or implied; import. See Synonyms at substance.
noun - Intention; purpose.
form - purported, purporting
synonym - tenor, covering, mean, import, meaning, intend, signify, disguise
Think of the noun, nostalgia, when you long for the good old days of the past. The noun nostalgia was invented by a Swiss doctor in the late 1600s. He put together the Greek nostos "homecoming" and algos "pain, distress" as a literal translation of the German Heimweh "homesickness." Originally, it was a medical diagnosis for mercenary soldiers. Today, it describes a bittersweet longing for the past. Think of the dreamy way your grandpa tells stories of his childhood he's got nostalgia.
noun - A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
noun - The condition of being homesick; homesickness.
hyponym - homesickness
form - nostalgically, nostalgic
synonym - homesickness
cross-reference - reminiscence, hark back, memory lane, halcyon days
hypernym - yearning, hungriness
In classical mythology, satyrs were companions to Pan, a fertility god, and Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. As you might guess, satyrs were not known for their mild-mannered ways: Like their patrons, they were excessively fond of women, drink, and song. In Greek art, the satyr was depicted as a man with the ears and tale of a horse. Roman artists emphasized this creature's relationship to the goat-god Pan by giving the satyr a goat's ears, horns, and haunches. In both cases, the satyr's animal aspect symbolized his immoderate appetites. This noun can also be used metaphorically for a man whose sexual desire is stronger than his sense of decency.
noun - Greek Mythology A woodland creature depicted as having the pointed ears, legs, and short horns of a goat and a fondness for unrestrained revelry.
noun - A licentious man; a lecher.
noun - A man who is affected by satyriasis.
noun - Any of various butterflies of the family Satyridae, having brown wings marked with eyelike spots.
hyponym - silenus
synonym - libertine
cross-reference - carolinian satyr, georgian satyr
hypernym - deviate, degenerate, greek deity, pervert, deviant
same-context - griffin
Things that are a total loss really worthless or damaging are dross. You could call that gunk between your teeth that comes out when you floss, dross. No one wants it, and it's harmful if it stays. While dross is a noun for stuff that's physically left over or useless, like the nonmetallic stuff left when metal gets refined, it's also used for people and forms of art. A really bad movie can be called dross, and a low or despicable person can be dross. Debris, or trash, is another form of dross. "Searching the backyard for unexploded fireworks the dross of Chinese New Year celebrations was a tradition for the kids and a safeguard for the dogs."
noun - Waste or impure matter: discarded the dross after recycling the wood pulp.
noun - The scum that forms on the surface of molten metal as a result of oxidation.
noun - Worthless, commonplace, or trivial matter: "He was wide-awake and his mind worked clearly, purged of all dross ( Vladimir Nabokov).
hyponym - basic slag
form - drossy
synonym - refuse, leavings, sullage, slag, scoria, dregs, scum, cinder
What do Santa Claus, Bigfoot, and unicorns have in common? Aside from the fact that theyre completely real, theyre also hirsute: very, very hairy creatures. All mammals have hair, but the ones that have way more than others, you might call them hirsute. There are hirsute people, like lumberjacks with a jungle of chest hair, bearded ladies at a circus, or just someone with a scraggly hairdo. The word is pronounced HER-suit, so if you see a woman wearing a furry jacket with matching pants, you could say, Her suit is hirsute. Just make sure its actually a suit and not her real hair.
adjective - Covered with hair; hairy.
adjective - Botany Covered with stiff or coarse hairs.
equivalent - sericeous, pilary, furry, pilous, long-haired, silky-haired, woolly-haired, floccose, furlike, shock-headed
A garrulous person just wont stop talking (and talking, and talking, and talking...).Garrulous comes from the Latin word garrire for "chattering or prattling." If someone is garrulous, he doesn't just like to talk; he indulges in talking for talkings sake whether or not theres a real conversation going on. If you discover that you have a garrulous neighbor sitting next to you on the plane, you might just want to feign sleep, unless you really want to hear everything going through his mind for the entire trip.
adjective - Given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk; tiresomely talkative.
adjective - Wordy and rambling: a garrulous speech.
equivalent - voluble
form - garrulousness, garrulously
synonym - wordy, verbose, rambling, bombastic, noisy, talkative, loquacious
An antipathy is a deep-seated dislike of something or someone. Usually it's a condition that is long-term, innate, and pretty unlikely to change like your antipathy for the Red Sox. If you look at the Greek roots of this word anti- (meaning "against") and pathos (meaning "feeling"), you can see that antipathy is a feeling against someone or something. In general, antipathies are considered feelings that are kept at least somewhat under wraps and are not out on the surface.
noun - A strong feeling of aversion or repugnance. See Synonyms at enmity.
noun - An object of aversion.
synonym - disgust, repugnance, ill will, opposition, distaste, enmity, abhorrence, dislike, incompatibility, contrariety
Alert: shifting parts of speech! As a noun, a derivative is kind of financial agreement or deal. As an adjective, though, derivative describes something that borrows heavily from something else that came before it. The economic meltdown of the last decade is due largely to the mismanagement of derivatives, which are deals based on the outcome of other deal. A movie plot might be described as derivative if it steals from another film say, if it lifts the tornado, the witch, and the dancing scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.
adjective - Resulting from or employing derivation: a derivative word; a derivative process.
adjective - Copied or adapted from others: a highly derivative prose style.
noun - Something derived.
noun - Linguistics A word formed from another by derivation, such as electricity from electric.
noun - Mathematics The limiting value of the ratio of the change in a function to the corresponding change in its independent variable.
noun - Mathematics The instantaneous rate of change of a function with respect to its variable.
noun - Mathematics The slope of the tangent line to the graph of a function at a given point. Also called differential coefficient, fluxion.
noun - Chemistry A compound derived or obtained from another and containing essential elements of the parent substance.
noun - Business An investment that derives its value from another more fundamental investment, as a commitment to buy a bond for a certain sum on a certain date.
hyponym - warrant, convertible bond, financial future, total return swap, partial, convertible, financial futures contract, partial derivative, convertible security, futures contract
To clamor is to make a demand LOUDLY. It's usually a group that clamors like Americans might clamor for comprehensive health care coverage. The noun clamor is often used specifically to describe a noisy outcry from a group of people, but more generally, the word means any loud, harsh sound. You could describe the clamor of sirens in the night or the clamor of the approaching subway in the tunnel.
noun - A loud outcry; a hubbub.
noun - A vehement expression of discontent or protest: a clamor in the press for pollution control.
noun - A loud sustained noise. See Synonyms at noise.
verb-intransitive - To make a loud sustained noise or outcry.
verb-intransitive - To make insistent demands or complaints: clamored for tax reforms.
verb-transitive - To exclaim insistently and noisily: The representatives clamored their disapproval.
verb-transitive - To influence or force by clamoring: clamored the mayor into resigning.
form - clamoring, clamorous, clamorousness, clamorously, clamored
synonym - uproar, vociferate, brawl, roar, cry
When a James Bond villain comes up with a plan to destroy the world, he doesnt use a simple plan. No, he uses a machination a complex plot that relies on numerous elements coming together to work. Not surprisingly, machination derives from the Medieval French machina, meaning "machine." And, like many a machine, a machination is subject to going wrong, often comically (see James Bond movies). Politicians love a good machination, and their machinations are frequently exposed in the press as scandals.
noun - Plural form of machination
same-context - doings, malice, conspiracy, machination, artifice, trickery, stratagem, ploy, perfidy, insinuations
For an object in orbit around the earth, the apogee is the point that is highest or furthest from the earth. Early satellites had low apogees, so it wasnt long before they burnt up in the atmosphere. Apogee comes from two Greek words meaning away and earth, so its specific to things orbiting the earth. If youre talking about something orbiting the sun, the equivalent word is aphelion (away + sun). Because apogee denotes the highest point something reaches in an orbit before falling back, it can also figuratively refer to other highs. For example, "Child stars sometimes reach their apogee by 20, and there's nowhere to go but down from there."
noun - The point in the orbit of the moon or of an artificial satellite most distant from the center of the earth.
noun - The point in an orbit most distant from the body being orbited.
noun - The farthest or highest point; the apex: "The golden age of American sail, which began with the fast clipper ships in 1848, reached its apogee in the Gold Rush years ( Los Angeles Times).
synonym - zenith, apex, apoapsis, acme, pinnacle, culmination, climax, apocenter
etymologically-related-term - apastron, aphelion
If you're imperturbable you are not easily upset. If your goal is to be imperturbable, then you can't let things bother you or get you stressed, confused, or angry. The adjective imperturbable is the flip side of perturbable, which comes from perturb, which in turn traces back to the Latin word perturbare, meaning to confuse or to disturb. If something really annoying is going on, like one neighbor is jack-hammering his driveway and another has a dog that's barking while you're trying to sleep because you were up all night studying and you really really need a nap, but you stay calm and dont get upset, you are imperturbable.
adjective - Unshakably calm and collected. See Synonyms at cool.
equivalent - composed
synonym - calm
same-context - unshakable, stoic, indomitable, unconcerned, austere, inscrutable, impassive, inflexible
Choose the adjective, petulant, to describe a person or behavior that is irritable in a childish way. The adjective, petulant, is a disapproving term used to describe a bad-tempered child, an adult behaving like an angry child or behavior or this type. Angry or annoyed mean the same thing, but if you choose the word, petulant, you are indicating that it is unreasonable or unjustified. Petulant came to English in the late 16th century from the Latin petulantem "forward, insolent" but was not recorded to mean childishly irritable until the late 1700s.
adjective - Unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish.
adjective - Contemptuous in speech or behavior.
equivalent - ill-natured
synonym - snappish, bad-tempered, fretful, grouchy, huffy, pert, ill-humored, irritable, irascible
If a company is hit by job cuts, its employees will probably wonder whether they'll be affected meaning they'll experience a change to their employment status. One of the most common vocabulary mix-ups is effect and affect: effect is usually a noun, and affect is usually a verb that means "to influence" of "act upon." Affected is the adjective form of the verb. After a flood, affected homeowners might try to get insurance. A sad movie might leave you deeply affected. The word can also refer to behavior that's done only to impress someone: if you're acting affected, you might use big, fake melodramatic gestures.
adjective - Acted upon, influenced, or changed.
adjective - Emotionally stirred or moved.
adjective - Infected or attacked, as by disease.
adjective - Assumed or simulated to impress others: an affected accent.
adjective - Speaking or behaving in an artificial way to make an impression.
adjective - Disposed or inclined.
equivalent - impressed, stilted, stage-struck, agonistic, subject, mannered, strained, constrained, hokey, smitten
An impervious surface is one that can't be penetrated. The word is often followed by "to," as in "His steely personality made him impervious to jokes about his awful haircut."Most of the sentences you'll run across using impervious will be followed by the word "to" and a noun. Things are often described as being impervious to physical assaults like heat, water, bullets, weather, and attack, but just as frequently to less tangible things, like reason, criticism, pain, and pressure. The word comes from Latin: in- + pervius, meaning "not letting things through." A common synonym is impermeable.
adjective - Incapable of being penetrated: a material impervious to water.
adjective - Incapable of being affected: impervious to fear.
equivalent - run-resistant, resistant, moth-resistant, colorfast, proof, runproof, acid-fast, corrosion-resistant, greaseproof, ladder-proof
The trunk of some people's cars may contain items as disparate as old clothes, rotting food, and possibly a missing relative. Disparate things are very different from each other. Near synonyms are unequal and dissimilar. The adjective disparate is from Latin dispartus, from disparre "to separate, divide," from the prefix dis- "apart" plus parre "to prepare." Disparate in the sense of "very different" probably developed by association with the Latin adjective dispar "unequal, different."
adjective - Fundamentally distinct or different in kind; entirely dissimilar: "This mixture of apparently disparate materialsscandal and spiritualism, current events and eternal recurrencesis not promising on the face of it ( Gary Wills).
adjective - Containing or composed of dissimilar or opposing elements: a disparate group of people who represented a cross section of the city.
equivalent - different, heterogenous, heterogeneous
synonym - different, separate, dissimilar, unequal
etymologically-related-term - dispair, disparity, disparateness
If you've encountered the word motley, it's most likely in the phrase "motley crew," which means a diverse and poorly organized group. Think of a band of pirates, or the assorted characters who became The Fellowship of the Ring. In contemporary usage, motley can be used in virtually any context as a synonym for mismatched, heterogeneous, or ragtag. But the word was first used to describe multicolored fabric, especially the type of material used in a jester's costume. This distinctive apparel was a sign of the fool's place outside the class system and, in the Elizabethan era, it signified that the jester was beyond the sumptuary laws that determined who could wear what. Thus, the fool had the exceptional ability to speak freely, even to royalty.
adjective - Having elements of great variety or incongruity; heterogeneous: "Most Ivy League freshman classes are chosen from a motley collection of constituencies . . . and a bare majority of entering students can honestly be called scholars ( New York Times).
adjective - Having many colors; variegated; parti-colored: a motley tunic.
noun - The parti-colored attire of a court jester.
noun - A heterogeneous, often incongruous mixture of elements.
hyponym - oddments, mlange, ragbag, range, gallimaufry, chequer, mingle-mangle, grab bag, farrago, checker
Entomology is the study of insects, and should not be confused with etymology, which is the study of the origin of words (words like entomology, for example). Words can be confusing, so its good that youre here. Choose Your Words:entomology / etymologySounding somewhat similar, there's a world of difference between entomology (the study of insects) and etymology (the study of word origins).
Continue reading...From the Greek word for knowledge, the suffix -logy literally means the study of, and you see it often. Theology is the study of divine beings, anthropology is the study of human cultures, psychology is the study of the mind. Charles Darwin was a famous entomologist, and a farmer who knows about crickets in order to protect the crops he knows his entomology as well. Eating insects wont make you an entomologist, but it will help you win a bet.
noun - The scientific study of insects.
hyponym - lepidoptery, lepidopterology
synonym - insectology
etymologically-related-term - insectologer, insectologist, entomologist
hypernym - zology, zoological science
same-context - astrophysics, anthropology
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. The verb denigrate comes from the Latin word denigrare, which means to blacken. To sully or defame someones reputation, or to spread negative or hurtful information about a company or a situation, is to denigrate it. Your neighbors may denigrate your proposal for mandatory recycling in an attempt to stop your plan. Denigrate can also mean that you're making something seem less important, like when your brother tries to denigrate your athletic achievements.
verb-transitive - To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame.
verb-transitive - To disparage; belittle: The critics have denigrated our efforts.
hyponym - libel, drag through the mud, malign, assassinate, badmouth, talk down, traduce
form - denigration, denigratory
synonym - defame
To flout is to scorn or show contempt for. "I flout the law and the concept of civilian safety by making a concerted effort to jaywalk every time I cross a street."Choose Your Words:flaunt / floutFlaunt means to show off, usually in a pretentious manner. Flout, on the other hand, means to show a blatant disregard or contempt for.
Continue reading...Oddly enough, when flout came into existence in the 1550s, it had a much different sense to it than it does now; it's believed that it evolved from the Middle English flowten to play the flute." As a verb, it means to scorn, as in, for example, to scorn a law, person, or social norm by defying it. As a noun, it is a contemptuous remark or insult. Wrote William Shakespeare, Flout 'em, and scout 'em; and scout 'em and flout 'em; Thought is free.
verb-transitive - To show contempt for; scorn: flout a law; behavior that flouted convention. See Usage Note at flaunt.
verb-intransitive - To be scornful.
noun - A contemptuous action or remark; an insult.
form - flouted, flouting
synonym - fleer, mock, sneer, insult
verb-form - flouted, flouting, flouts
cross-reference - the broad flout
If you rub your pendant while praying to your gods, it sounds like you have an amulet, a necklace or similar item attributed with magical powers. An amulet is something that wards off evil spells and all manner of bad luck. Often found in undeveloped societies or Brady Bunch episodes an amulet acts as a charm to protect its wearer from evil. Often worn close to the heart as a necklace, the word amulet can refer to any a piece of jewelry or other trinket that is kept close to the body and believed to keep evil and danger at bay.
noun - An object worn, especially around the neck, as a charm against evil or injury.
hyponym - gri-gri, greegree, gres-gris
synonym - charm, phylactery, talisman, periapt
hypernym - charm, good luck charm
same-context - vase
Sure you wear ripped jeans to school every day, but you don't wear them to your grandmother's house out of deference to her. When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means "to yield to someone's opinions or wishes out of respect for that person." If you and your dad disagree about the best route to the grocery store, you might defer to him, and take his route. You're taking his route out of deference to his opinion and greater experience.
noun - Submission or courteous yielding to the opinion, wishes, or judgment of another.
noun - Courteous respect. See Synonyms at honor.
hyponym - court, homage, last respects, props
synonym - obeisance, regardfulness, honor, reverence, regard, complaisance
Qualified means something depends on another action occurring. If your friend receives a qualified offer on her house, that means something else has to happen like a bank approving the loan before it's sold. Qualified is an adjective with multiple meanings. Employers seek the most qualified applicants, meaning those who have the most experience and relevant training. Being qualified might also mean you have paperwork that shows you had certain training or meet certain standards. Or qualified can mean "partial" or "incomplete." If you approve of something but others need to agree before it's final, you would give your qualified approval.
adjective - Having the appropriate qualifications for an office, position, or task.
adjective - Limited, restricted, or modified: a qualified plan for expansion.
equivalent - limited, hedged, registered, conditional, weasel-worded, well-qualified, modified
synonym - fit, limited, adapted
Call a body of water placid if it has a smooth surface and no waves. Call a person placid if they don't tend to make waves by causing a fuss. Coming from the Latin placidus "pleasing or gentle," placid is most commonly used to describe a person who is not easily irritated or a body of water such as a lake that does not have waves to disturb the surface. Synonyms of placid in both meanings include calm, serene and tranquil. In other uses, placid describes something with little disruption like "a placid neighborhood."
adjective - Undisturbed by tumult or disorder; calm or quiet. See Synonyms at calm.
adjective - Satisfied; complacent.
equivalent - calm, good-natured
form - placidity, placidness
synonym - unruffied, calm, tranquil, contented, peaceful, gentle
More than chipper, more than happy, more than delighted is ebullient meaning bubbling over with joy and delight. There are two senses of the word of ebullient. One describes an immediate, and ultimately short-lived, reaction to a particular event for example if you've just won the lottery, you are ebullient. The other describes someone who is perpetually upbeat and cheerful, for example, as in "an ebullient personality." Watch out for ebullient personalities: they can often be "over the top" as well.
adjective - Zestfully enthusiastic.
adjective - Boiling or seeming to boil; bubbling.
equivalent - spirited
synonym - effervescing, zestful
same-context - vivacious, copper-bottomed, effusive, easygoing, light-hearted, mirthless, charismatic
Dark and mysterious, the occult is a kind of supernatural power or magic. If you see your neighbor chanting over a giant vat of bubbling brew in the middle of the night, there's a chance he's dabbling in the occult. The word occult has its roots in the Latin occultus, meaning hidden, secret. That's why it can also be used as both a noun referring to black magic and an adjective meaning "difficult to see." Quipped the famous physicist Heinz Pagels, I like to browse in occult bookshops if for no other reason than to refresh my commitment to science.
adjective - Of, relating to, or dealing with supernatural influences, agencies, or phenomena.
adjective - Beyond the realm of human comprehension; inscrutable.
adjective - Available only to the initiate; secret: occult lore. See Synonyms at mysterious.
adjective - Hidden from view; concealed.
adjective - Medicine Detectable only by microscopic examination or chemical analysis, as a minute blood sample.
adjective - Not accompanied by readily detectable signs or symptoms: occult carcinoma.
noun - Occult practices or techniques: a student of the occult.
verb-transitive - To conceal or cause to disappear from view.
verb-transitive - Astronomy To conceal by occultation: The moon occulted Mars.
verb-intransitive - To become concealed or extinguished at regular intervals: a lighthouse beacon that occults every 45 seconds.
equivalent - invisible, unseeable, esoteric
synonym - hide, concealed, invisible, secret, unknown, eclipse
etymologically-related-term - occultation
Minatory means threatening. When you petition the school for higher academic standardsi. e. harder grading from teachersyou may receive some minatory looks, or even hate note, from the kids in your school. Minatory derives from the Latin menatorius, "menace," and has nothing at all to do with the Greek legends of the Minotaur. But think of the Minotaur anywayit was half-man, half-bull, lived inside a labyrinth, and could only be appeased if it was being sent young women to devour. If that's not threatening, or minatory, behavior, nothing is.
adjective - Of a menacing or threatening nature; minacious.
equivalent - alarming
synonym - sinister, ominous, minacious, threatening, menacing
same-context - dreadfulness, war-cloud, sinuousness, cautionary
If you went backpacking through Europe last summer, you could call your travels a peregrination. A peregrination is a long journey or period of wandering. Peregrination comes from the Latin peregrinari, which means to travel abroad. A peregrination is a journey or pilgrimage, especially one that's made on foot. This word typically applies to traveling for an extended period of time or over a great distance. So, you wouldnt call a trip to the grocery store a peregrination. However, if you traveled the globe looking for the worlds best grocery store, you could call that a peregrination.
noun - A travel or journey, especially by foot, notably by a pilgrim.
synonym - wandering, pilgrimage
etymologically-related-term - peregrine, peregrinate
hypernym - traveling, travelling, travel
same-context - bloodletting, hypoxemia, hajj
When a husband shows up with flowers after he's fought with his wife, he's trying to placate her. If you placate someone, you stop them from being angry by giving them something or doing something that pleases them. If your little sister is mad that the dog ate her favorite teddy bear, you could placate her by buying her an ice cream cone. A near synonym for placate is appease. The origin of placate is Latin placare "to calm or soothe." The related Latin verb placere is the source of English please.
verb-transitive - To allay the anger of, especially by making concessions; appease. See Synonyms at pacify.
form - placated, placating
synonym - pacify, appease, satisfy, concilate, mollify
verb-form - placates, placated, placating
When you need a word that's deeper than "deep," consider profound. Profundus meant literally "deep" in Latin, and profound had the same meaning when it entered English in the 14th century. But even then, it also meant "figuratively deep" that is, very great or intense: "The new laws have had a profound impact." Of people, it means "very knowledgeable or insightful," but sometimes if a person tries to sound profound they're really just giving you superficial knowledge dressed up with big words.
adjective - Situated at, extending to, or coming from a great depth; deep.
adjective - Coming as if from the depths of one's being: profound contempt.
adjective - Thoroughgoing; far-reaching: profound social changes.
adjective - Penetrating beyond what is superficial or obvious: a profound insight.
adjective - Unqualified; absolute: a profound silence.
equivalent - significant, important, intense, thoughtful, deep
synonym - thorough, far-reaching, submissive, penetrate, abstruse
Laconic is an adjective that describes a style of speaking or writing that uses only a few words, often to express complex thoughts and ideas. A more laconic way to write that last sentence might be this: laconic means brief. Theres a friend of yours who doesnt talk very much, and when he does, he says maybe three words and then becomes quiet again. You could describe that friend as laconic. The word comes from Laconia, a region in ancient Greece where the local Spartan rulers gave very short speeches. Being laconic can be bad when it sounds rude to be so brief, but it can be good if youre in a rush to get somewhere.
adjective - Using or marked by the use of few words; terse or concise. See Synonyms at silent.
equivalent - laconical, concise
synonym - Brie, concise, sententious, pointed, cruel, terse, short, laconism
Concave describes an inward curve; its opposite, convex, describes a curve that bulges outward. They are used to describe gentle, subtle curves, like the kinds found in mirrors or lenses. A valley is a concave curve, a mountain is a convex curveyou can remember this by thinking that things that vex you tend to stick out, and that caves tend to be holes that go in, like valleys or innie belly buttons. If you want to describe a bowl, you might say there is a large blue spot on the center of the concave side.
adjective - Curved like the inner surface of a sphere.
noun - A concave surface, structure, or line.
verb-transitive - To make concave.
equivalent - bowl-shaped, recessed, umbilicate, cuplike, acetabular, boat-shaped, pouch-shaped, concavo-convex, saucer-shaped, dished
In Greek mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods. At a picnic, ambrosia is a dessert made with oranges and shredded coconut. While the former bestowed immortality on all who ate it, the latter tastes very refreshing after fried chicken and potato salad. In the Odyssey and the Iliad, Homer uses the word ambrosia for three things: the food of the Olympians, a salve used to treat corpses, and as a perfume to cover up the smell of uncured seal skins. Some scholars have identified ambrosia as honey while others feel that a type of hallucinogenic mushroom was meant in the myths. Regardless of all this confusion, the word is now used metaphorically to mean anything so fragrant, so delicious that it seems divine including a popular orange-and-coconut confection.
noun - Greek & Roman Mythology The food of the gods, thought to confer immortality.
noun - Something with an especially delicious flavor or fragrance.
noun - A dessert containing primarily oranges and flaked coconut.
hyponym - common ragweed, ambrosia trifida, western ragweed, ambrosia artemisiifolia, perennial ragweed, great ragweed, ambrosia psilostachya
form - ambrosia beetle
hypernym - goody, sweet
Someone who is dogmatic has arrogant attitudes based on unproved theories. If you dogmatically assert that the moon is made of green cheese, you'll just get laughed at. The most basic definition of the adjective dogmatic is that it is related to dogma doctrines relating to morals and faith but what it has come to mean is attitudes that are not only based on unproved theories but are also arrogant in nature. The root of dogmatic is the Greek word dogmatikos. A synonym of dogmatic is "dictatorial" and because there are religious associations to the root word dogma, someone who is dogmatic tends to "pontificate."
adjective - Relating to, characteristic of, or resulting from dogma.
adjective - Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles. See Synonyms at dictatorial.
equivalent - narrow, narrow-minded, dogmatical
synonym - opinionated, overbearing, categorical, magisterial, arrogant, thelical, dictatorial
Use the adjective inherent for qualities that are considered permanent or cannot be separated from an essential character. We use the adjective inherent to describe attributes that are part of the essential nature of something. It's different from you being tall, rather than being a description, it has to be a quality and this quality is unchangeable. So, for example, if you have never been able to eat spinach, you have an inherent dislike of it.
adjective - Existing as an essential constituent or characteristic; intrinsic.
equivalent - intrinsical, implicit, intrinsic, inexplicit
synonym - inalienable, inwrought, essential, inborn, indispensable, proper to
Vexation is both something that causes annoyance and the state of mind that results from being annoyed. The test-taker next to you tapping her pencil is a vexation. You breaking her pencil in half makes her feel vexation. Vexation can also refer to something that causes anxiety and worry more than annoyance. When the parents of the kid you're babysitting are two hours late to return and arent answering their phones, that could be a vexation. You are less annoyed than worried. (Though, to be honest, you're still a little annoyed).
noun - The act of annoying, irritating, or vexing.
noun - The quality or condition of being vexed; annoyance.
noun - A source of irritation or annoyance.
hyponym - incumbrance, snit, onus, bugaboo, encumbrance, business, impatience, temper, huff, irritation
Someone who is veracious speaks the truth like your brutally honest friend who always lets you know what she thinks about your outfits, your hairstyle, your lasagna recipe, and your taste in movies. Think of a veracious person as someone who is like a witness under oath in a court of law, someone who speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Dont ask a question of a veracious friend unless you really want to know the answer. The adjective veracious can be applied not just to people but also to things that are true or accurate, such as "a veracious story" or "a veracious statement."
adjective - Honest; truthful.
adjective - Accurate; precise.
equivalent - accurate, true, truthful
synonym - true, truthful
cross-reference - voracious
same-context - well-informed, first-hand, highly-coloured, authentic
If something is the latest vogue, it is the latest fashion. When your new hairstyle catches on, it's in vogue or if it becomes unpopular, its not. Anything trendy or popular an activity, fashionable clothing, a home decorating style, board games can be called in vogue. If you notice everyone scrambling to collect, say, robotic hummingbirds, you'll know that they are the vogue item. You might think that tall boots are no longer in vogue, and you notice a lot of short skirts showing up in Vogue magazine. Vogue the magazine often decides what fashion is in vogue.
noun - The prevailing fashion, practice, or style: Hoop skirts were once the vogue.
noun - Popular acceptance or favor; popularity: a party game no longer in vogue. See Synonyms at fashion.
verb-intransitive - To dance by striking a series of rigid, stylized poses, evocative of fashion models during photograph shoots.
hyponym - fashion, New Look, bandwagon
synonym - sway, style, power, influence
hypernym - perceptiveness, appreciation, discernment
If a group of things are homogeneous, they're all the same or similar, like a room full of identically dressed Elvis impersonators. The adjective homogeneous comes from the Greek homogenes, meaning of the same kind. You can break down the root of the word further into two parts: homos, meaning same, and genos, meaning kind, gender, race, stock. It sounds very scientific, but if you look around the table at home and everyone is eating a bowl of oatmeal, you could safely describe your familys breakfast tastes as homogeneous.
adjective - Of the same or similar nature or kind: "a tight-knit, homogeneous society ( James Fallows).
adjective - Uniform in structure or composition throughout.
adjective - Mathematics Consisting of terms of the same degree or elements of the same dimension.
equivalent - solid, homogenized, homogenised, uniform, self-coloured, self-colored, consistent
form - homogeneous function, homogeneous broadening, homogeneous mixture
A menagerie (pronounced muh-NA-juh-ree, with NA as in "national") is a collection of live animals that people visit, study, or keep as pets. If you really want a backyard menagerie of farm animals after visiting the petting zoo, take a long sniff and remember what comes with them. Pet lovers can have a menagerie of cats, dogs, and birds or exotic animals such as snakes, ferrets, and piranhas. Zoos have animal collections like the menagerie of sea creatures in the aquarium and the swinging apes in the jungle menagerie. And a science or medical center may have a menagerie of rats for studying behavior. If you want a menagerie, an ant farm is a good one: lots of animals in a container, always working, and never stinking up the place.
noun - A collection of live wild animals on exhibition.
noun - An enclosure in which wild animals are kept.
noun - A diverse or miscellaneous group.
synonym - zoo-
hypernym - installation, aggregation, facility, collection, assemblage, accumulation
same-context - zoo-, amphitheatre
Have you ever tried to draw a map of your neighborhood? If youre drawing your map to scale, taking into account every little hill and valley, you can appreciate the challenge of cartography, the science of making maps. You may think cartography has gone the way of the dodo bird, now that weve got Google maps and GPS devices. You dont have to draw maps by hand anymore, but you still need cartography skills to turn digital representations into something people can use with ease. While the word cartography dates only from the mid-19th century, maps were around for a long, long time before that. Cartography comes from the French carte, map, and -graphie, writing.
noun - The art or technique of making maps or charts.
synonym - cartology
hypernym - devising, fashioning, making
same-context - astrophysics, microanalysis, exobiology, nucleosynthesis, mineralogy, soulfulness
A grouse is a small game bird. But the verb to grouse is different. It means to gripe about how unhappy you are. It's not recommended for most people, because grousing is unattractive. People's excitement about the rise of the Internet has been largely replaced by disappointment that it's turned out to be essentially a forum for people to grouse. No disappointment is too small to grouse about on the Internet. Did you stub your toe? Grouse about it in your blog! Did your sister tattletale? Get online and start grousing. "I grouse, therefore I am," might be the motto of the Internet. Oh well: now I'm grousing too.
noun - Any of various plump, chickenlike game birds of the family Tetraonidae, chiefly of the Northern Hemisphere and having mottled brown or grayish plumage.
verb-intransitive - To complain; grumble.
noun - A cause for complaint; a grievance.
hyponym - pedioecetes phasianellus, black grouse, centrocercus urophasianus, bonasa umbellus, prairie chicken, ptarmigan, capercailzie, ruffed grouse, sage hen, horse of the wood
A dichotomy is an idea or classification split in two. When you point out a dichotomy, you draw a clear distinction between two things. A dichotomy is a contrast between two things. When there are two ideas, especially two opposed ideas like war and peace, or love and hate you have a dichotomy. You often hear about a "false dichotomy," which occurs when a situation is unfairly represented as an "either/or" scenario. For example, the statement "All cars are either small and efficient or large and polluting" creates a false dichotomy because there are some cars that don't fit into either category.
noun - Division into two usually contradictory parts or opinions: "the dichotomy of the one and the many ( Louis Auchincloss).
noun - Astronomy The phase of the moon, Mercury, or Venus when half of the disk is illuminated.
noun - Botany Branching characterized by successive forking into two approximately equal divisions.
form - dichotomic, dichotomically, dichotomise, false dichotomy
synonym - division
etymologically-related-term - partition, trichotomy
cross-reference - law of dichotomy, argument from dichotomy, bostrychoid dichotomy
If it's the day before a big event and you have no idea what to wear and nothing in your closet is going to cut it, you are facing a sartorial dilemma one that pertains to clothing, fashion or dressing. Sartorial comes from the Modern Latin word sartor which means "tailor," literally "one who patches and mends." In English the adjectives sartorial and sartorially are used to refer to any matter pertaining to the consideration of clothing or fashion. The root word sartor has also made its way into the field of biology. The sartorius a muscle in the leg and the longest muscle in the human body gets its name because it is used when crossing the legs, also known as the tailor's position."
adjective - Of or relating to a tailor, tailoring, or tailored clothing: sartorial elegance.
synonym - vestiary, en, l
etymologically-related-term - sartor
cross-reference - sartorialist, sartorialism
same-context - baroque, stylistic, riders', incomparable
Use the adjective contiguous when you want to describe one thing touching another thing, or next to it but not actually touching. Things that are contiguous are near or next to but not actually touching and yet they are also defined as "touching, sharing a border." You can use this adjective to describe people or things related to and nearby others. It comes from the Latin word contiguus, which means pretty much the same thing, "bordering upon." Because the word has two meanings that are very similar but not always the same it can be a bit confusing. This is an example of what's called "semantic ambiguity," when something can mean more than one thing or a word or phrase is not precise.
adjective - Sharing an edge or boundary; touching.
adjective - Neighboring; adjacent.
adjective - Connecting without a break: the 48 contiguous states.
adjective - Connected in time; uninterrupted: served two contiguous terms in office.
equivalent - connected, close
form - contiguousness
synonym - near, neighboring, touching, adjoining, adjacent
etymologically-related-term - contiguity
cross-reference - conterminous
Beneficent is the type of act that helps others. If you're a beneficent person, you probably spend a lot of your time volunteering at soup kitchens or homeless shelters, helping people who are less fortunate than you are. Beneficent shares the same root and sentiment with its fellow adjective, benevolent, which also means something that is good. The two words are so closely related that they also share the same Latin origin. Another related word, benefactor, is someone who gives support to an organization or institution or someone who takes care of another person. Kind, generous, and giving are all synonyms of beneficent.
adjective - Characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity.
adjective - Producing benefit; beneficial.
equivalent - charitable, benefic
synonym - benefic, beneficial, benevolent, generous
cross-reference - kindly, beneficial, kind
same-context - tutelary
There's nothing wrong with focusing on the details, but someone who is pedantic makes a big display of knowing obscure facts and details. Pedantic means "like a pedant," someone who's too concerned with literal accuracy or formality. It's a negative term that implies someone is showing off book learning or trivia, especially in a tiresome way. You don't want to go antique-shopping with a pedantic friend, who will use the opportunity to bore you with his in-depth knowledge of Chinese porcelain kitty-litter boxes.
adjective - Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules: a pedantic attention to details.
equivalent - scholarly, pedantical
synonym - pedagogical, bluestocking, budget, pedantical, fussy, anal-retentive, bookish, blue
If something is bovine, it has to do with cows or cattle, or it reminds you of the slow and seemingly unintelligent ways of cows and cattle. Someone's glacial pace and dull comments might contribute to his thoroughly bovine impression. The adjective bovine is used for anything that has to do with animals from the genus Bos, which classifies wild and domestic cattle. Mad Cow Disease is technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and it can be said to have bovine origins. What are known as cow pies are, in fact, bovine droppings. People can be described as bovine if they are intellectually dull, slow-moving, or somewhat cow-like in their appearance.
adjective - Of, relating to, or resembling a ruminant mammal of the genus Bos, such as an ox, cow, or buffalo.
adjective - Sluggish, dull, and stolid.
noun - An animal of the genus Bos.
hyponym - wild ox, Brahma, Brahmin, bos indicus, Brahman, bos taurus, oxen, ox, cattle, cows
You can't touch this word it is intangible. You can grasp the meaning of the word in your head, but you can't close your hands around it; you'll just put fingerprints on your monitor. The Latin verb tangere means "to touch," and the 16th-century English word tangible comes from it. Something intangible can't be touched physically, but most of the time it is understandable or even felt in the heart. Sadness can't be picked up and thrown in the garbage can because it is intangible, but you can throw away the tissues wet with tears. Laughing is intangible too, but you can hold onto movies, pets, and friends that make you laugh.
adjective - Incapable of being perceived by the senses.
adjective - Incapable of being realized or defined.
adjective - Incorporeal.
noun - Something intangible, especially an asset that cannot be perceived by the senses. Often used in the plural: intangibles such as goodwill and dedication.
noun - Law Incorporeal property such as bank deposits, stocks, bonds, and promissory notes. Often used in the plural: a state tax on intangibles.
hyponym - goodwill, good will
equivalent - nonmaterial, unidentifiable, immaterial
synonym - imperceptible, impalpable, airy, intactile, untouchable
Even though Joan Jett sang about not minding her bad reputation, most of us don't want others to defame us. To defame is to gossip, even if the story is made-up, with the goal of hurting someone's image. We usually think of fame as a positive thing. Love, admiration, and people wanting to be like you it all comes with the territory. The de- in defame means "remove." So if someone tries to defame a person, fame or a good reputation is taken away. Celebrities protect themselves from those who want to defame them, arming themselves with lawyers.
verb-transitive - To damage the reputation, character, or good name of by slander or libel. See Synonyms at malign.
verb-transitive - Archaic To disgrace.
hyponym - libel, drag through the mud, malign, assassinate, badmouth, traduce
form - defamed, defaming
synonym - libel, accuse
Use the adjective caustic to describe any chemical that is able to burn living tissue or other substances, or, figuratively, a statement that has a similarly burning effect. Caustic in this sense means harshly critical. In the chemical sense, a near synonym is corrosive. In the figurative sense, near synonyms are biting, scathing, and sarcastic. The source of the word caustic is Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaiein "to burn."
adjective - Capable of burning, corroding, dissolving, or eating away by chemical action.
adjective - Corrosive and bitingly trenchant; cutting. See Synonyms at sarcastic.
adjective - Causing a burning or stinging sensation, as from intense emotion: "Most of all, there is caustic shame for my own stupidity ( Scott Turow).
noun - A caustic material or substance.
noun - A hydroxide of a light metal.
noun - The enveloping surface formed by light rays reflecting or refracting from a curved surface, especially one with spherical aberration.
hyponym - silver nitrate, lye
equivalent - caustical, unpleasant, destructive, caustic soda
form - caustic curve, caustic surface, caustic potash, caustic soda
To ameliorate is to step in and make a bad situation better. You could try introducing a second lollipop to ameliorate a battle between two four-year-olds over a single lollipop. The verb ameliorate comes from the Latin word meliorare, meaning improve. Food drives can ameliorate hunger. Aspirin can ameliorate a headache. A sympathy card can ameliorate grief. Family therapy can ameliorate severe sibling rivalry. Anything that can lift a burden can ameliorate.
verb-transitive - To make or become better; improve. See Synonyms at improve.
hyponym - bounce back, doctor, help, heal, regenerate, reform, get well, recuperate, alleviate, repair
The verb allay is used when you want to make something better or eliminate fears and concerns. When you allay something, you are calming it or reducing difficulties. It is used commonly in the context of to allay concerns and to comfort and some of its many synonyms are alleviate, decrease, mitigate, assuage and mollify. Allay comes from the Old English word alecgan, which means "to put down," as in literally "to lighten." So, if you can allay someone's fears, you are lightening their mood!
verb-transitive - To reduce the intensity of; relieve: allay back pains. See Synonyms at relieve.
verb-transitive - To calm or pacify; set to rest: allayed the fears of the worried citizens.
hyponym - abreact
form - allayed, allaying
synonym - calm, abatement, repress, mitigate, deteriorate, quell, check
Use the noun anarchy to describe a complete lack of government or the chaotic state of affairs created by such an absence. A substitute teacher might worry that an unruly classroom will descend into anarchy. From the Greek for "without a ruler" we get this word for the political philosophy that the best government is no government at all a movement that enjoyed surprising success worldwide in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century. Today, the word is more commonly used to describe not a political ideal but a state of total disorder, chaos and even violence: "A type of bloody anarchy is beginning to reign." A good synonym would be "lawlessness."
noun - Absence of any form of political authority.
noun - Political disorder and confusion.
noun - Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.
hyponym - nihilism
form - anarchically, anarchic, anarchist, anarchism, anarchical, anarcho-
synonym - lawlessness, dynamitism, nihilism
To defend a belief or keep affirming that it's true is to contend. A lot of supporters would contend that the earth was flat, but eventually, when no one dropped off the edge no matter how far they traveled, the "round" theory won. One of the meanings of contend is from the French "to strive with," and it is a literal fighting, as in "to contend with fists." Most contemporary uses of the verb contend illustrate competitions of proof or defense, where a person will contend that something is true, or better, or wrong. It is still a striving but more of a verbal kind, where what you contend is what you hope to convince others is correct.
verb-intransitive - To strive in opposition or against difficulties; struggle: armies contending for control of strategic territory; had to contend with long lines at the airport.
verb-intransitive - To compete, as in a race; vie.
verb-intransitive - To strive in controversy or debate; dispute. See Synonyms at discuss.
verb-transitive - To maintain or assert: The defense contended that the evidence was inadmissible.
hyponym - niggle, fight, emulate, improvise, join battle, pettifog, get back, try for, race, tussle
When you have great awe and respect for someone or something, and you show it by respectfully worshiping that person, thing, deity, or musical group, you are being reverent. Originally, the word reverent was used only in religious contexts, but now it works when people are just acting like theyre in a religious setting (even if the object of their worship is a sports star or political pundit). People are occasionally reverent in regard to antique cars, supermodels, spelling bee champions and giant TV screens. Reverent is related to the verb revere, which is also about having or showing respect for someone or something.
adjective - Marked by, feeling, or expressing reverence.
equivalent - respectful, pious, awed, reverential, venerating, worshipful, awful, adoring
synonym - submissive, respectful
A loquacious person talks a lot, often about stuff that only they think is interesting. You can also call them chatty or gabby, but either way, they're loquacious. Whenever you see the Latin loqu-, you can be sure that the word has something to do with "talking." So a loquacious person is a person who talks a lot, and often too much. I'm always wary of whom I'm seated next to at dinner because a loquacious person can make dinner a real drag. Of course, if I've got nothing to say, a loquacious person might make a good dinner companion, because they'll do all the talking. Then all I have to do is smile and eat.
adjective - Very talkative; garrulous.
equivalent - voluble
form - loquaciously, loquaciousness
synonym - garrulous, expressive, talkative, speaking, chatty
etymologically-related-term - locution, loquacity
Effete is a disapproving term meaning decadent and self-indulgent, even useless. The stereotype of the rugged Westerner is just as false as the one of the effete East Coast liberal. The origin of the word effete is a little unexpected. Coming from the Latin effetus "out of, past childbearing," effete meant "exhausted, spent" long before it acquired the sense of morally exhausted and overly refined. This is the main use of the word today. Do you ever wonder why some effete party girls are considered celebrities? Star athletes run the risk of losing their edge and becoming effete posterboys for their sports.
adjective - Depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness; exhausted: the final, effete period of the baroque style.
adjective - Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence: an effete group of self-professed intellectuals.
adjective - Overrefined; effeminate.
adjective - No longer productive; infertile.
equivalent - indulgent
form - effetely, effeteness
synonym - barren, exhausted, sterile
same-context - faint-hearted, decadent, nascent, repressive
When someone takes liberties, doing things too boldly, you can describe them with the adjective presumptuous. Presumptuous comes from the Latin verb praesumere which means to take for granted. It means taking for granted your access to someone or power to do something. It's a very satisfying word and effective word because it belittles someone at the same time as criticizing him. In Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Northumberland calls Warwick "presumptuous and proud" for trying to get rid of the king. It's usually pronounced with all four syllables, pre-ZUMP-choo-us, although pre-ZUMP-chus is acceptable as well.
adjective - Going beyond what is right or proper; excessively forward.
equivalent - forward
synonym - foolhardy, impudent, forward, rash, arrogant, audacious, presuming, willful, insolent
Gossamer is something super fine and delicate like a spider web or the material of a wedding veil. The original gossamer, from which these meanings come from, is the fine, filmy substance spiders excrete to weave their webs. A dress can be gossamer-like, if its fabric is so sheer as to be see-through, or almost. Your chances of going to a good college are "gossamer thin" if you've never cracked a book in high school.
noun - A soft sheer gauzy fabric.
noun - Something delicate, light, or flimsy.
noun - A fine film of cobwebs often seen floating in the air or caught on bushes or grass.
adjective - Sheer, light, delicate, or tenuous. See Synonyms at airy.
equivalent - delicate, thin
form - gossamery
synonym - gossamery
hypernym - netting, veiling, strand, fibril, gauze, filament
If you're reading this, then you probably have some interest in etymology, because it's the study of the sources, history, and derivations of words. Choose Your Words:entomology / etymologySounding somewhat similar, there's a world of difference between entomology (the study of insects) and etymology (the study of word origins).
Continue reading...What "genealogy" is to a family or people, etymology is to words. A genealogist studies the history of a family: where they came from, how they got there, and what their history is. An "etymologist," or a person who studies etymology does the same thing with words. Etymology looks at the roots of words for example, whether they started out as Latin, Greek or as some other language and how they took on their current meaning. When I tell you that the -logy part of etymology almost always means "the study of," that is, in itself, etymology.
noun - The origin and historical development of a linguistic form as shown by determining its basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning, tracing its transmission from one language to another, identifying its cognates in other languages, and reconstructing its ancestral form where possible.
noun - The branch of linguistics that deals with etymologies.
hyponym - lexicostatistics, onomastics, folk etymology
form - fake etymology, etymological, false etymology, folk etymology, popular etymology
synonym - pedigree, derivation
As some sneaky five-year-olds know, crossing ones fingers while making a promise is an effective way to vitiate, or destroy the validity of, an agreement. Vitiate is often used when a legal agreement is made invalid, but it can also refer to the debasement or corruption of something or someone. If a malicious five-year-old on the playground teaches the other children to lie with their fingers crossed, she would be responsible for vitiating the playground community. The first syllable of this word is pronounced "vish," like the first syllable in vicious.
verb-transitive - To reduce the value or impair the quality of.
verb-transitive - To corrupt morally; debase.
verb-transitive - To make ineffective; invalidate. See Synonyms at corrupt.
hyponym - taint, sully, lead off, blemish, defile, poison, corrupt, bastardise, suborn, sensualise
A congenial person is easy to get along with. If you're trying to decide which of your friends to take on a road trip, choose the most congenial one. Congenial means sharing the same temperament, or agreeing with your temperament. You can talk about a congenial person, place, or environment. Maybe you enjoy the congenial atmosphere of the library. Or perhaps for you the disco is more congenial. As you might expect for such a vaguely approving word, there are many synonyms: agreeable, pleasant, delectable, delightful, enjoyable, and so on.
adjective - Having the same tastes, habits, or temperament; sympathetic.
adjective - Of a pleasant disposition; friendly and sociable: a congenial host.
adjective - Suited to one's needs or nature; agreeable: congenial surroundings.
equivalent - compatible, sociable
synonym - agreeable, kindred, sympathetic
same-context - uncongenial, healthful, agreeable, beneficial, enjoyable
Use the adjective vituperative to describe criticism that's so sharp it hurts. A vituperative review of a movie would make the director bitter for months. To correctly pronounce vituperative, remember that the first vowel sound is the long i sound, and the second syllable is accented: "vie-TOO-per-uh-tive." Being vituperative takes criticism to the next level. Vituperative criticism is harsh, scathing, even abusive. If a review or assessment is vituperative, it doesn't say "try harder next time." Instead it gives the sense of "go away and never come back."
adjective - Using, containing, or marked by harshly abusive censure.
equivalent - critical
synonym - abusive, censorious, invective, scolding, ranting
etymologically-related-term - vituperant, vituperable, vituperate, vituperatively
To proscribe something is to forbid or prohibit it, as a school principal might proscribe the use of cell phones in class. Proscribe sounds similar to the word prescribe, but be careful: these words are essentially opposite in meaning. While proscribe means forbid, prescribe is used when a doctor recommends a medicine or remedy. Of course, if you want an excuse for not following your doctors orders, you could say you were confused about the meaning of these two words but that would be lying, which is proscribed by most peoples value systems. And it would also be bad for your health.
verb-transitive - To denounce or condemn.
verb-transitive - To prohibit; forbid. See Synonyms at forbid.
verb-transitive - To banish or outlaw (a person).
verb-transitive - To publish the name of (a person) as outlawed.
hyponym - illegalize, criminalise, ban, illegalise, exclude, debar, outlaw, bar, enjoin, criminalize
Solvents meaning changes pretty drastically depending on its part of speech. As a noun, solvent is either a certain kind of chemical or an idea that solves a problem. As an adjective, solvent describes someone who's got cash on hand. A solvent dissolves other chemicals, which is why it's also easy to remember: solvent is a chemical used to dissolve other chemicals. The adjective solvent, on the other hand, comes from a French verb that means "loosen." In these tough economic times, only those banks that are solvent are in a position to loosen the cash flow and start lending money. No cash? You're not solvent.
adjective - Capable of meeting financial obligations.
adjective - Chemistry Capable of dissolving another substance.
noun - Chemistry A substance in which another substance is dissolved, forming a solution.
noun - Chemistry A substance, usually a liquid, capable of dissolving another substance.
noun - Something that solves or explains.
hyponym - carbolic acid, chlorobenzene, acetone, universal solvent, phenol, toluene, alcahest, methylbenzene, hydroxybenzene, perchloromethane
Something that's unable to move or moving without much energy can be described as inert. Wind up in a body cast and youll find yourself not only itchy, but totally inert. When motion is restricted or sluggish, or when something or someone appears lifeless, the adjective to use is inert. A dog who's playing dead is inert, as is a really boring movie. Or for those of you paying attention in chemistry class, you may have heard of inert gases those elements that won't react with other elements or form chemical compounds.
adjective - Unable to move or act.
adjective - Sluggish in action or motion; lethargic. See Synonyms at inactive.
adjective - Chemistry Not readily reactive with other elements; forming few or no chemical compounds.
adjective - Having no pharmacologic or therapeutic action.
equivalent - inactive, unreactive, unmoving, nonmoving
synonym - dull, indolent, stupid, irresolute, sluggish, insensible
If an executive gives a speech that begins, "This business is all about survival of the fittest. You need to burn the midnight oil and take one for the team," his employees might get sick of listening to these meaningless clichs and tell him to cut the platitudes. The English language contains many old, worn-out clichs, or platitudes. Phrases like "ants in your pants" and "as American as apple pie" are so overused that they've almost lost their meaning. People rely on these tired old remarks when they can't think of anything original to say. Be warned: if you throw too many platitudes into your conversations, people are eventually going to get tired of listening to you.
noun - A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant. See Synonyms at clich.
noun - Lack of originality; triteness.
synonym - saying, truism, clich, triteness, commonplace
hypernym - input, truism, remark, comment
same-context - saying
A virtuoso is an incredibly talented musician. You can also be a virtuoso in non-musical fields. A politician who helps pass a lot of bills might be called a legislative virtuoso. A baseball player who hits a lot of home runs is a slugging virtuoso. Usually, this word applies to music. It's very common for a talented pianist or guitar play to be called a virtuoso. Whatever your talent, it's a huge compliment to be called a virtuoso.
noun - A musician with masterly ability, technique, or personal style.
noun - A person with masterly skill or technique in the arts.
noun - A person with a strong interest in the fine arts, especially in antiquities.
noun - Archaic A very learned person.
adjective - Exhibiting the ability, technique, or personal style of a virtuoso: a virtuoso performance.
hyponym - track star
equivalent - skilled
synonym - connoisseur, mastery, adept
etymologically-related-term - virtuosa, virtuosic, virtuosically, virtuosity
hypernym - expert
The word paucity means not enough of something. If you've got a paucity of good cheer, for example, you'd better cheer up!One good way to remember the meaning of paucity is that it like "pauper," as in The Prince and the Pauper. The prince had too much money, and the pauper had a paucity. There are a lot of words that mean "little" or "small," but paucity is used when you mean specifically "not enough" or "too little." People in LA don't understand how New Yorkers can live with such a paucity of space. For what New Yorkers pay for a tiny apartment, Angelenos get a house and a yard.
noun - Smallness of number; fewness.
noun - Scarcity; dearth: a paucity of natural resources.
synonym - scantiness, fewness, rarity, insufficiency, scarcity, dearth, exiguity
hypernym - scarcity, scarceness
same-context - worthlessness
If you are provident, that means you plan carefully for the future. You have your Christmas lights up in early December, you have a well-stocked pantry, and you have some savings tucked away just in case. The word provident traces back to the Latin word providere, meaning "foresee, provide." The word can be used to describe someone who looks into the future foresees the future, in a sense and makes decisions based on future needs. Its often used to describe a thrifty individual who denies himself something today in order to save up for tomorrow, but it can describe actions as well such as a provident decision that ends up preventing ruin down the road.
adjective - Providing for future needs or events.
adjective - Frugal; economical.
equivalent - farsighted, careful, foresightful, long-sighted, prudent, foresighted, farseeing, forehanded, thrifty, long
An abeyance is a temporary halt to something, with the emphasis on "temporary." It is usually used with the word "in" or "into"; "in abeyance" suggests a state of waiting or holding. The word abeyance has a legal ring to it, and for a good reason appearing in English in the 16th century, it comes from the Anglo-French word abeiance, a legal term for waiting or hoping to receive property. Nowadays, the word is used in a similar way. Different legal rights, like property rights, can be held in abeyance until matters are resolved.
noun - The condition of being temporarily set aside; suspension: held the plan in abeyance.
noun - Law A condition of undetermined ownership, as of an estate that has not yet been assigned.
hyponym - standdown, deferral, cold storage, moratorium, recess, stand-down
synonym - suspension, expectancy
hypernym - inactiveness, inactivity
Many people use the expression "enhance your chance" to point out ways to increase your chances of winning or earning a contest or prize. When you enhance something, you heighten it or make it better."Hance" is not a word, but the addition of "en-" does something to enhance it and improve its sound. You can enhance the size of something, too, by altering it or raising it, which is what the word original meant (the "hance" part came via French from Latin altus, meaning "high"). When you enhance something you take it to a higher level, like adding salt to French fries to enhance flavor or adding words to enhance your vocabulary.
verb-transitive - To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment.
verb-transitive - To provide with improved, advanced, or sophisticated features: computer software enhanced with cutting-edge functionalities.
hyponym - touch up, follow-up, retouch, potentiate
form - enhancing, enhanced
synonym - exaggerate, advanced, increase, heighten
The verb desiccate means to dry out, dry up and dehydrate. It's helpful to desiccate weeds but certainly not crops. As anyone who's been stuck in the desert will tell you, being desiccated by the burning sun isn't much fun. Stemming from the Latin word desiccare, which means to "dry up," desiccate also means to preserve something by drying it out. Without desiccation, raisins or beef jerky would not be possible!
verb-transitive - To dry out thoroughly.
verb-transitive - To preserve (foods) by removing the moisture. See Synonyms at dry.
verb-transitive - To make dry, dull, or lifeless.
verb-intransitive - To become dry; dry out.
adjective - Lacking spirit or animation; arid: "There was only the sun-bruised and desiccate feeling in his mind ( J.R. Salamanca).
equivalent - dull
form - desiccated, desiccating
synonym - dry, dehydrate, parch
etymologically-related-term - desiccant, desiccative, desiccator, desiccation
Reproach means to mildly criticize. If you show poor manners at your grandmother's dinner table, she will reproach you. The verb reproach means to express disapproval or criticism of; as a noun it means blame or criticism. If you are beyond reproach that means no one could find anything to criticize about you. Synonyms for reproach are the verbs admonish, reprove, rebuke, reprimand. As a noun, reproach can also be shame. If you are caught lying, it is a reproach that might bother you for a while.
verb-transitive - To express disapproval of, criticism of, or disappointment in (someone). See Synonyms at admonish.
verb-transitive - To bring shame upon; disgrace.
noun - Blame; rebuke.
noun - One that causes rebuke or blame.
noun - Disgrace; shame.
idiom - beyond reproach So good as to preclude any possibility of criticism.
hyponym - self-reproach, rap, self-reproof, blame
form - reproaching, beyond reproach, reproached, reproachful
synonym - discredit, shame
You might think a fiat is just an Italian car, but it actually means a legal, authoritative decision that has absolute sanction. From the Latin for "let it be done," the word fiat is a binding edict issued by a person in command. It can gain an almost Biblical aura of authority, like a movie Pharaoh saying, "So let it be written, so let it be done." So let it be a fiat.
noun - An arbitrary order or decree.
noun - Authorization or sanction: government fiat.
form - fiat money, fiat currency
A homily is a sermon or religious speech offering encouragement or moral correction. Isnt it strange how sometimes, when you're struggling with something, a preacher comes on TV giving a homily on that same problem?! Too bad it happens when you do bad stuff, too. In many churches and lecture halls, a homily is just a short message on a religious topic or moral issue that's meant to encourage those who hear it. Another type of homily, though, is one that's judgmental or condemning. If you hear a homily and feel better afterward, even if it delivers hard truths about right and wrong, you've heard an uplifting homily. One that leaves you mad and frustrated, however, might make you need another homily on forgiveness and self-control.
noun - A sermon, especially one intended to edify a congregation on a practical matter and not intended to be a theological discourse.
noun - A tedious moralizing lecture or admonition.
noun - An inspirational saying or platitude.
cross-reference - book of homilies
hypernym - sermon, preaching, discourse
same-context - euphony, exegesis, exhortations, paraphrase, disquisition, rendering
You've doubtless met someone doctrinaire at some point. You know them by their complete unwillingness to accept any belief other than their own. If you're familiar with the noun "doctrine" a formal idea or system of belief you'll have no problem with the adjective doctrinaire. It's a just a way of describing a person or group of people who are set in their ways. The Pope and his cardinals are unfailingly doctrinaire: they won't allow any ideas beyond those they've already approved. Parents can start out doctrinaire, but children soon force them to be flexible in how they bring them up.
noun - A person inflexibly attached to a practice or theory without regard to its practicality.
adjective - Of, relating to, or characteristic of a person inflexibly attached to a practice or theory. See Synonyms at dictatorial.
equivalent - instructive, informative
etymologically-related-term - document, doctorate, docent, indoctrinate, doctrinal, doctrine, docile, doctor
To substantiate is to give support to a claim. Wed really like to believe in the Tooth Fairy; however, more evidence is needed to substantiate her existence (besides that quarter in your pocket).Substantiate is related to the word substantial, which means "solid." So, to substantiate a claim is to make it solid or believable. If the evidence given in support of an argument is weak and unconvincing, that evidence can be described as insubstantial. Of course, in special cases like the Tooth Fairy, having substantial evidence doesnt seem to matter; fans just keep on believing.
verb-transitive - To support with proof or evidence; verify: substantiate an accusation. See Synonyms at confirm.
verb-transitive - To give material form to; embody.
verb-transitive - To make firm or solid.
verb-transitive - To give substance to; make real or actual.
hyponym - vouch, prove, demonstrate, shew, verify, establish, back, show, express, back up
When you strut, you walk with a proud swagger that has a little arrogance thrown in, like the prance of a running back who has just flown past the 250-pound linebackers and planted the ball in the end zone. You can't strut and be shy about it when you strut, you know people are watching you. The big boss in a gangster film, a model on the runway, and the rap artist whose album has just gone platinum all know how to strut. The noun form of strut has a little less flash and refers to a vertical or horizontal support that holds something up, like the long steel bars holding up a building.
verb-intransitive - To walk with pompous bearing; swagger.
verb-transitive - To display in order to impress others. Sometimes used with out: Don't strut out your resume until you have more accomplishments to list.
verb-transitive - To provide (a structure) with a strut or struts.
verb-transitive - To brace or separate with or as if with a strut.
noun - A pompous, self-important gait.
noun - A structural element used to brace or strengthen a framework by resisting longitudinal compression.
idiom - strut (one's) stuff Slang To behave or perform in an ostentatious manner; show off.
form - strut one's stuff, strutting, strutted
synonym - brank, cock, perk, bestrut, protuberant, swell, prance
When you malinger, you pretend to be sick. If you ever claimed to have a stomach ache in order to stay home from school, you know what it means to malinger. The word malinger comes from the French malingre, which can mean "ailing or sickly," but the word part mal, means "wrongly," which suggests the sick person is just faking. Lying about a stomach ache, holding the thermometer near a light bulb, refusing to get out of bed, moaning all of these are classic tactics of those who malinger, or pretend to be too sick to do anything but lie around the house.
verb-intransitive - To feign illness or other incapacity in order to avoid duty or work.
form - malingered, malingering
etymologically-related-term - malingerer, malingering, malingery
verb-form - malingered, malingers, malingering
hypernym - shrink from, shirk
Overweening is a negative term meaning arrogant or excessive. People can be described as having overweening pride or overweening ambition. It's too much and not good. Confidence and pride are okay in moderation. Overweening means having too much of it though so that it overtakes the rest of your personality, and not in a good way. If your football team has won every game of the season, they need to watch that they don't become overweening and start playing games as if they have already won.
adjective - Presumptuously arrogant; overbearing: had a witty but overweening manner about him.
adjective - Excessive; immoderate: overweening ambition.
equivalent - immodest, unrestrained
synonym - arrogant, presumptuous, conceited, arrogance, conceit
same-context - undue, unshakable, unquenchable
In the Bible, the Prodigal Son leaves home and wastes all his money, but when he returns, he feels sorry. Use the adjective prodigal to describe someone who spends too much money, or something very wasteful. Prodigal usually applies to the spending of money. In the Bible, the Prodigal Son leaves home and wastes all his money, but when he returns, he feels sorry. You could also use this word to describe something that is very abundant or generous in quantity, such as prodigal praise. Prodigal comes from Latin prodigere "to drive away, waste," from the prefix prod- "forth" plus agere "to drive."
adjective - Rashly or wastefully extravagant: prodigal expenditures on unneeded weaponry; a prodigal life.
adjective - Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse: prodigal praise. See Synonyms at profuse.
noun - One who is given to wasteful luxury or extravagance.
hyponym - scattergood, Spender, waster, spendthrift, spend-all, wastrel
equivalent - wasteful
form - prodigal son
synonym - squandering, abundant
A quibble is a small argument or fight. As a verb, it means to pick a mini-fight over something that doesn't really matter. "Let's not quibble over price," people will say, usually when they plan to gouge you. It's better to watch figure skating with the sound off, rather than listening to the announcers quibble over a not-fully-rotated knee or the slightly diminished altitude of a jump. Sometimes a quibble between neighbors over two feet of property can escalate into a major feud.
verb-intransitive - To evade the truth or importance of an issue by raising trivial distinctions and objections.
verb-intransitive - To find fault or criticize for petty reasons; cavil.
noun - A petty distinction or an irrelevant objection.
noun - Archaic A pun.
form - quibbled, quibbling
synonym - prevaricate, pun, shuffle, evasion, trifle, equivocate, cavil, prevarication
If you lack a definite plan or purpose and flit from one thing to another, your actions are desultory. Some people call such desultory wanderings spontaneous. Others call it "being lost."The adjective desultory comes from the word desultor, which was a circus rider who would leap from the back of one galloping horse onto another. From this literal sense of jumping from one thing to another, we get the modern meaning of desultory as jumping between things without a logical purpose.
adjective - Having no set plan; haphazard or random. See Synonyms at chance.
adjective - Moving or jumping from one thing to another; disconnected: a desultory speech.
equivalent - purposeless
form - desultorily
synonym - unsettled, disconnected, inconstant, slight, hasty, immethodical, rambling, cursory
To explicate is to explain or interpret something, maybe putting it in plain terms to make it more comprehensible for others. It might help to remember that it begins with "ex-," like the word explain, which is similar in meaning. The verb explicate comes from the Latin explicre, which means "to unfold or unravel." This is a good description of a word that means to explain something to make it clearer and more easily understandable. Think of a puzzle or mystery: when you solve it, you sometimes have to explicate how you arrived at the solution, telling how you used the clues given to find the answer.
verb-transitive - To make clear the meaning of; explain. See Synonyms at explain.
hyponym - account for, mature, naturalize, clarify, interpret, reformulate, redevelop, clear up, comment, rede
If something is existential, it has to do with human existence. If you wrestle with big questions involving the meaning of life, you may be having an existential crisis. Existential can also relate to existence in a more concrete way. For instance, the objections of your mother-in-law may pose an existential threat to the continuation of your Friday night card game. Often the word carries at least a nodding reference to the philosophy of existentialism associated with Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others, which emphasizes the individual as a free agent responsible for his actions.
adjective - Of, relating to, or dealing with existence.
adjective - Based on experience; empirical.
adjective - Of or as conceived by existentialism or existentialists: an existential moment of choice.
adjective - Linguistics Of or relating to a construction or part of a construction that indicates existence, as the words there is in the sentence There is a cat on the mat.
noun - Linguistics An existential word or construction.
equivalent - empiric, empirical
form - existentialist, existential crisis, existential quantifier, existentialism
etymologically-related-term - existent, aseity, existant, exist
To facilitate means to make something easier. If your best friend is very shy, you could facilitate her efforts to meet new people. Facilitate comes from the Latin facilis, for easy. It means to make something easier or more likely to happen. You facilitate growth or a process, as opposed to, say, dinner. Often in business meetings someone will be assigned to facilitate a discussion so people don't just sit in awkward silence. Synonyms are ease, simplify, expedite, and assist.
verb-transitive - To make easy or easier: political agreements that facilitated troop withdrawals.
form - facilitated, facilitating
synonym - ease, aid
etymologically-related-term - facilitator, facilitative, facilitatory, facilitation, facile
verb-form - facilitated
Penury means extreme poverty to the point of homelessness and begging in the streets. Economic downturns, job loss, shopping sprees, and weekends at the high rollers' table in Vegas can lead to penury. Penury comes from the Latin word penuria, which, though it sounds like something contagious, actually means scarcity. It's not a word that turns up often in casual conversation or even on nightly newscasts. You're more apt to spot it in a college textbook or maybe an editorial in The New York Times.
noun - Extreme want or poverty; destitution.
noun - Extreme dearth; barrenness or insufficiency.
hyponym - beggary, mendicancy, mendicity
synonym - deficiency, indigence, poverty, destitution, miserliness, privation, penuriousness
Pardon me, but when a polite term is substituted for a blunt, offensive one, you should call it a euphemism. Euphemism is from Greek euphemismos, meaning "good speech," and it's a way that we paper over uncomfortable things with more pleasant-sounding words. These days we tend to use euphemisms when talking about anything having to do with elimination of bodily waste: toilet, bathroom, and water closet were all originally euphemisms. The military is also notorious for using euphemisms, like saying "neutralizing the target" instead of "killing someone."
noun - The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive: "Euphemisms such as 'slumber room' . . . abound in the funeral business ( Jessica Mitford).
etymologically-related-term - euphemistic
cross-reference - Euphemisms
hypernym - expression, saying, locution
same-context - curtsey, ploy, periphrasis, allusion
antonym - expletive
Incarnate means having a bodily form. If you encounter someone who pulls off butterflies wings for fun, you might describe that person as evil incarnate.The meaning of incarnate is precisely what its Latin roots suggest. The prefix in- means in and caro means flesh, so incarnate means in the flesh. The word can be used in positive or negative situations, but it always describes an unusual, possibly miraculous instance in which something that cant normally be seen or touched assumes a bodily form. For example, the Christian religion was founded on the belief that Jesus was God incarnate.
adjective - Invested with bodily nature and form: an incarnate spirit.
adjective - Embodied in human form; personified: a villain who is evil incarnate.
adjective - Incarnadine.
verb-transitive - To give bodily, especially human, form to.
verb-transitive - To personify.
verb-transitive - To realize in action or fact; actualize: a community that incarnates its founders' ideals.
equivalent - corporeal, bodied, material
form - incarnated, incarnating
synonym - red, spiritual, embody, flesh-colored, rosy
Platonic describes a relationship that is purely spiritual and not physical. If a guy and a girl hang out all the time but aren't boyfriend and girlfriend, they'd describe their friendship as platonic. This word platonic refers to the writings of Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher who wrote on the interesting subject of love. Platonic love and platonic friendships are marked by the absence of physical or sexual desire. Plato did acknowledge physical desire, but thought that if two people truly inspired each other, their spiritual or ideal love would bring them closer to God.
adjective - Of or relating to the philosophical views of Plato and his successors.
adjective - Not sexual in nature (sense derived through a popular interpretation of the above views)
form - platonic love, platonic relationship
antonym - non-platonic, romantic, sexual
Though officious sounds like official, it means being annoyingly eager to do more than is required. "The officious lunch lady made everyone's food choices her business, and made nasty comments when students chose cookies over carrots."Officious is a tricky word as it seems like it might mean something like office or official. Instead, it is a word to describe someone that acts more official than they actually are. People who are officious are busybodies. They want to make their opinions known and followed, despite not having any kind of real power.
adjective - Marked by excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services or advice to others: an officious host; officious attention.
adjective - Informal; unofficial.
adjective - Archaic Eager to render services or help others.
equivalent - intrusive
form - officious intermeddler
synonym - obliging, impertinent, meddling, kind, meddlesome
cross-reference - officious will
same-context - obsequious, intrusive
To perturb is to bug or bother someone by confusing them or throwing them off balance. You can try, but it's almost impossible to perturb the guards outside Buckingham Palace. If you're having trouble getting used to the word perturb, you're in luck! It's similar in meaning to the verb "disturb." That's right, to perturb is to disturb, but in a way that suggests you're throwing it off its usual path or routine. The movie Born Free truly perturbed widespread views about animalspeople suddenly started seeing them as individuals. If you stare at a person you don't know, it won't be long before you perturb them.
verb-transitive - To disturb greatly; make uneasy or anxious.
verb-transitive - To throw into great confusion.
verb-transitive - Physics & Astronomy To cause perturbation, as of a celestial orbit.
hyponym - vex, worry
form - perturbation, perturbative
synonym - disquiet, trouble, vex, disorder, confuse, agitate
Indeterminate means not known or decided. When someone contracts a rare stomach parasite but has not been traveling internationally, you might say it had indeterminate origins. Choose Your Words:indeterminate / indeterminableUnderstanding the nuances of this word pair, indeterminate and indeterminable, hinges on understanding the words' parts. The root word, determine, means to establish something.
Continue reading...It's important to distinguish indeterminate from undetermined, which means not yet decided. When you buy an antique vase and don't know when it dates from, you might describe it as of an indeterminate era. If you are traveling and don't know when you plan to return home, you could say that your return is as yet undetermined.
adjective - Not precisely determined, determinable, or established: a person of indeterminate age.
adjective - Not precisely fixed, as to extent, size, nature, or number: an indeterminate number of plant species in the jungle.
adjective - Lacking clarity or precision, as in meaning; vague: an indeterminate turn of phrase.
adjective - Not fixed or known in advance: an indeterminate future.
adjective - Not leading up to a definite result or ending: an indeterminate campaign.
adjective - Botany Not terminating in a flower and continuing to grow at the apex: an indeterminate inflorescence.
equivalent - cost-plus, open-ended, indeterminable, inconclusive, undeterminable, equivocal, racemose, ambiguous
synonym - uncertain, indeterminant
Feign means to fake, or pretend, so unfeigned means sincere. If you greet a friend with unfeigned joy, she'll know you are happy to see her. Unfeigned is a delightful word, pertaining as it often does to young, innocent, and trusting peoplethe ones who cannot hide their feelings. Who wants fake laughs when you can have unfeigned laughter? Or fake tears when unfeigned sorrow is so much more affecting? When spelling unfeigned, remember the poem: "'i' before 'e,' except after 'c,' or when sounding like 'a,' as in 'neighbor' or 'weigh'." Or unfeigned.
adjective - Not feigned; genuine.
equivalent - sincere
form - unfeigning, unfeignedly, unfeignedness
synonym - real, genuine, sincere
same-context - undying, sincerest, sincere
A long fine crack in the surface of something is called a fissure. If you see a fissure in the ice on a frozen lake, you'll want to take off your skates and head back to the car. Fissure has its roots in the Latin word fissura, meaning a cleft or crack. If something breaks into fine cracks, you can describe the action with the verb form of fissure. For example, "She watched in horror as the earth fissured beneath her feet, recognizing the signs of an earthquake but powerless to do anything to save herself except throw herself to the ground and hang on."
noun - A long narrow opening; a crack or cleft.
noun - The process of splitting or separating; division.
noun - A separation into subgroups or factions; a schism.
noun - Anatomy A normal groove or furrow, as in the liver or brain, that divides an organ into lobes or parts.
noun - Medicine A break in the skin, usually where it joins a mucous membrane, producing a cracklike sore or ulcer.
verb-transitive - To form a crack or cleft or cause a crack or cleft in.
hyponym - hilum, rift, chap, vent, sulcus, chink, hilus, fracture, geological fault, fault
Felicitous describes something that's really pleasant. If someone behaves in a felicitous manner, she's being agreeable and appropriate. You know, the way you should behave when your great aunt offers you those stale candies. Felicitous also describes something that's happy or lucky. When you plan a trip to the amusement park and it turns out that the sun is shining, thats felicitous. If you need to mail a package by a certain date and you make it to the post office just in time, thats also felicitous. Felicitous can also describe something that's well chosen. Planning an outdoor wedding for the dead of winter would not be felicitous.
adjective - Admirably suited; apt: a felicitous comparison.
adjective - Exhibiting an agreeably appropriate manner or style: a felicitous writer.
adjective - Marked by happiness or good fortune: a felicitous life.
equivalent - well-wishing, congratulatory, happy, gratulatory, well-chosen, well-turned, fortunate
form - felicitously, felicitousness, unfelicitous
Someone who is introspective spends considerable time examining his own thoughts and feelings. If you take to your diary after an unhappy break-up, you are being introspective. The Latin word introspicere means to look inside, and that's what an introspective person does, metaphorically speaking. It's different from meditative and pensive in that they can refer to contemplating anything, whereas introspection involves specifically contemplating yourself.
adjective - Examining one's own perceptions and sensory experiences; contemplative or thoughtful about oneself.
synonym - self-examining, subjective, self-conscious
etymologically-related-term - introspectively, introspect, introspectional, introspectiveness, introspection
cross-reference - introspective method
same-context - studious
Consecrate means to make holy or to dedicate to a higher purpose. You need to consecrate a building to turn it into a church, but you can also consecrate a week in New York City to the pursuit of the perfect bagel. The secr part of consecrate comes from the Latin sacer "sacred." Remember that something consecrated is dedicated to God and thus sacred. And then remember that the meanings of words tend to stretch; over time this one moved from "dedicated to God" to "dedicated to whatever": jelly donuts, the perfect tan, finding a solution to Rubik's Cube.
verb-transitive - To declare or set apart as sacred: consecrate a church.
verb-transitive - Christianity To produce the ritual transformation of (the elements of the Eucharist) into the body and blood of Jesus.
verb-transitive - Christianity To sanctify (bread and wine) for use in Communion.
verb-transitive - Christianity To initiate (a priest) into the order of bishops.
verb-transitive - To dedicate solemnly to a service or goal. See Synonyms at devote.
verb-transitive - To make venerable; hallow: a tradition consecrated by time.
adjective - Dedicated to a sacred purpose; sanctified.
hyponym - apply, reconsecrate, rededicate, vow
equivalent - votive, ordained
form - consecrating, consecrated
synonym - taboo, dignify
If you want to underscore just how commonly found and present something is within a particular place, try the word endemic. Tight pants are endemic in my lunch room!Choose Your Words:endemic / epidemicEndemic and epidemic can both be used to discuss the transfer of diseases, among other things, but their differences make it vital to choose the right word.
Continue reading...Although endemic meaning "prevalent" often describes a plant or disease, it can also refer to something less tangible and more unwanted such as violence or poverty. Many complain of endemic corruption in the local government. Despite its -ic ending, endemic can also be used a noun to signify a plant or animal that is prevalent in a certain region. If an endemic is brought to another area which it takes over, destroying the local population, it's classified as an invasive species. And researchers have cataloged several new African endemics.
adjective - Prevalent in or peculiar to a particular locality, region, or people: diseases endemic to the tropics. See Synonyms at native.
adjective - Ecology Native to or confined to a certain region.
noun - Ecology An endemic plant or animal.
equivalent - endemical, native, enzootic
synonym - native, indigenous, local
etymologically-related-term - endemically, endemism
cross-reference - endemic disease
hypernym - plant
If you can't decide whether to purchase the shirt with orange polka dots or the purple paisley-patterned one, you might seek input from a disinterested, or unbiased, party (who will probably tell you not to buy either one).Choose Your Words:disinterested / uninterestedThe battle may be over for keeping disinterested and uninterested in their separate corners. Featherweight uninterested has taken a beating in the ring from heavyweight disinterested.
Continue reading...Depending on whom you ask, disinterested is either one of the most commonly misused words in the English language, or a perfect example of usage experts and English teachers being way too uptight. While everyone agrees that disinterested can mean unbiased, the debate rages on as to whether it can also mean uninterested or indifferent. Sticklers are vehemently opposed to this secondary meaning. (Of course, youll also find the disinterested or uninterested? folks who couldnt care less.)
adjective - Free of bias and self-interest; impartial: "disinterested scientific opinion on fluorides in the water supply ( Ellen R. Shell).
adjective - Not interested; indifferent: "supremely disinterested in all efforts to find a peaceful solution ( C.L. Sulzberger).
adjective - Having lost interest.
equivalent - impartial
synonym - impartial, uninterested, indifferent, unbiased
verb-stem - disinterest
same-context - conscientious, impartial, zealous, chivalrous
The adjective hallowed is used to describe something that is sacred and revered, usually something old and steeped in tradition. The word hallowed often has a religious connotation, but it can also be used playfully to convey a sense of reverence about something that isnt religious in nature but that nonetheless inspires worship. A football fan, for example, may talk about the hallowed tradition of tailgating on a game day Saturday, or an avid shopper may describe the hallowed grounds of the Macys shoe department. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln used the word with its more traditional sense to ponder man's inability to show the proper reverence to those men who died in battle: "But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicatewe cannot consecratewe cannot hallowthis ground."
adjective - Sanctified; consecrated: a hallowed cemetery.
adjective - Highly venerated; sacrosanct: our hallowed war heroes.
equivalent - holy
synonym - blessed, hold, holy, consecrated
verb-stem - hallow
same-context - heavenly, sacrificial, shadowy, dewy
Use salutary to describe something that's good for your health, like the salutary benefits of exercise, laughter, and getting enough sleep every night. When you look at the word salutary, you might expect it to have something to do with showing respect to military personnel, perhaps by saluting. In fact, salutary and salute do share a Latin root: salus, which means "good health." When you salute someone, or say "Salud!" before clinking glasses and taking a first sip, you're essentially giving your salutary wish in other words, hoping a person enjoys good health.
adjective - Effecting or designed to effect an improvement; remedial: salutary advice.
adjective - Favorable to health; wholesome: a salutary climate.
equivalent - healthful
form - salutariness, salutarily
synonym - wholesome, curative, salubrious, healthful, profitable, useful, beneficial
If someone accuses you of stealing their lunch and you give a categorical denial, it means that you absolutely deny having anything to do with the theft. Categorical means absolute, unqualified, unconditional. If you ask a girl to marry you and she says maybe, you might be able to persuade her. If it's no, you might still have a chance. But if she gives you a categorical no, she will never change her mind. Less often, categorical is used to describe something that is part of a certain category or group. A Doberman at the Westminster Dog Show might be the categorical winner, meaning it is the best Doberman but the winner of the show.
adjective - Being without exception or qualification; absolute. See Synonyms at explicit.
adjective - Of or relating to a category or categories.
adjective - According to or using categories: a categorical arrangement of specimens.
equivalent - unqualified
form - categoricalness
synonym - absolute, declarative, categoric, unconditional, dogmatic, express, positive
etymologically-related-term - categoricity
Though probity sounds like what you might do with a sharp stick, it actually means being morally and ethically above reproach, having integrity. If you show fiscal probity, it means you are responsible and ethical with your money. The story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and refusing to lie about it is a story of probity. The story was first told by a pastor, who may have made the whole thing up according today's scholars, possibly to sell books no act of probity.
noun - Complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness: "He was a gentlemanly Georgian, a person of early American probity ( Mary McGrory).
synonym - honesty, goodness, uprightness, honor, saintliness, integrity, rectitude, decency, godliness, virtue
If you are hard up, broke, penniless, or strapped for cash, you could describe yourself as impecunious. Then maybe you could make some money teaching vocabulary words. Impecunious comes from the old Latin word for money, pecunia, combined with the prefix im, meaning not or without. But impecunious doesnt just mean having no money. It means that you almost never have any money. If you go into the arts, you are most likely facing an impecunious future. If you gamble away your cash instead of saving it for rent, your landlord might throw you out for being impecunious.
adjective - Lacking money; penniless. See Synonyms at poor.
equivalent - poor
synonym - impoverished, penniless, poor
etymologically-related-term - impecuniary, impecuniousness, impecuniosity, impecuniously
same-context - tiptop, bereave
Extrinsic means not connected to the essential nature of something. New cleats are extrinsic to making the soccer team. How you play is what gets you on the team, whether your cleats are old or new. If the ex in extrinsic makes you think of external or extra youre on the right trackall these ex words are talking about something that is outside, or above and beyond. You often hear extrinsic paired with its opposite, intrinsic, which means part of something or someone's essential nature. If being sweet-tempered is intrinsic to your personality, you might not even know how to get mad.
adjective - Not forming an essential or inherent part of a thing; extraneous.
adjective - Originating from the outside; external.
equivalent - adventitious, adscititious, extraneous, external, alien, foreign, outside
form - extrinsic reward
synonym - outward, external
A callous person is insensitive or emotionally hardened. If you laugh at your little sister while she's trying to show you her poetry, you're being callous. Callous comes from the Latin root callum for hard skin. If you walk barefoot a lot, your feet will become calloused. We usually use callous in the metaphorical sense for emotionally hardened. If someone is unmoved by other people's problems, you might say he shows a callous indifference to human suffering.
adjective - Having calluses; toughened: callous skin on the elbow.
adjective - Emotionally hardened; unfeeling: a callous indifference to the suffering of others.
verb-transitive - To make or become callous.
equivalent - toughened, tough, insensitive
synonym - harden, indurated, astorgous, obdurate, heartless, indurate, unsusceptible
If you've got a whole slew of complaints to get off your chest or requests to make, you've got yourself a litany a long, drawn-out list. From Greek origins meaning "entreaty" or "supplication," litany often refers to certain long responsive petitions offered to God, particularly by practitioners of the Christian faith. For some reason, litany is usually used in reference to negative things such as a litany of complaints or a litany of injuries.
noun - A liturgical prayer consisting of a series of petitions recited by a leader alternating with fixed responses by the congregation.
noun - A repetitive or incantatory recital: "the litany of layoffs in recent months by corporate giants ( Sylvia Nasar).
cross-reference - greater litany, lesser litany, deacon's litany
hypernym - prayer, speech, address
same-context - recitation, drudgery, catalogue, hymn
Use euphoria to describe a feeling of great happiness and well-being, but know that euphoria often more than thatit's unusually, crazy happy, over the top. Euphoria can even be classified as a mental illness. The earliest use of euphoria was to describe the relief provided by a medical procedure. The word was borrowed from New Latin, from the Greek word meaning "ability to bear easily, fertility," from euphoros "healthy," from the prefix eu- "good, well" plus pherein "to bear."
noun - A feeling of great happiness or well-being.
form - euphorically, euphoric, euphoriant, euphorigenic
synonym - high, elation
hypernym - lightness, high spirits, elation
same-context - claustrophobia
Centripetal is an adjective describing a force that brings things toward the center, not unlike the force of a black hole. Centripetal is often confused with the word centrifugal. They may begin the same way, but they mean the exact opposite. Centrifugal is the force that moves things outward. You might remember that centripetal means to move things in, because the petals on a flower all begin in the middle.
adjective - Moving or directed toward a center or axis.
adjective - Operated by means of centripetal force.
adjective - Physiology Transmitting nerve impulses toward the central nervous system; afferent.
adjective - Botany Developing or progressing inward toward the center or axis, as in the head of a sunflower, in which the oldest flowers are near the edge and the youngest flowers are in the center.
adjective - Tending or directed toward centralization: the centripetal effects of a homogeneous population.
equivalent - afferent, centralising, centralizing, inward-moving, inward-developing
form - centripetal force
cross-reference - centripetal force, centripetal press, centripetal pump, centripetal inflorescence
The process of increasing can be called accretion. Although you may say that stalactites "grow" from the ceilings of caves, they actually form from an accretion of limestone and other minerals. So what's the difference between an addition and an accretion? Addition implies adding to something that already exists, such as an addition to the cast (when a new actor joins an existing show). The noun accretion, on the other hand, implies an accumulation that causes increase, such as "an accretion of frost on the windows" or "an accretion of plaque on your teeth." The latter, of course, is why the dentist always begs you to floss and brush.
noun - Growth or increase in size by gradual external addition, fusion, or inclusion.
noun - Something contributing to such growth or increase: "the accretions of paint that had buried the door's details like snow ( Christopher Andreae).
noun - Biology The growing together or adherence of parts that are normally separate.
noun - Geology Slow addition to land by deposition of water-borne sediment.
noun - Geology An increase of land along the shores of a body of water, as by alluvial deposit.
noun - Astronomy An increase in the mass of a celestial object by the collection of surrounding interstellar gases and objects by gravity.
hyponym - deposition, deposit, buildup, backup
synonym - concretion, adhesion, growth
etymologically-related-term - accrete, accretion disk
cross-reference - accretion thinning
verb-transitive - Informal To give a thrashing to; beat. See Synonyms at beat.
verb-transitive - Informal To scold sharply; berate.
hyponym - objurgate, tell off, correct, brush down, chastise, chasten, castigate
synonym - beat, reproof, tell off
A convention is a meeting, usually of a particular group. Political parties, teachers, plumbers, gardeners, toymakers and computer designers all hold conventions. In fact, lots of cities have built Convention Centers in hopes of attracting convention-goers. The best-known conventions happen every four years when the Democrats and Republicans meet to nominate presidential candidates. A convention can also be used to describe the normal or accepted way of doing things. It's the convention, for example, for your employer to give you a three-day weekend around the Fourth of July, even if it falls on a weekend.
noun - A formal meeting of members, representatives, or delegates, as of a political party, fraternal society, profession, or industry.
noun - The body of persons attending such an assembly: called the convention to order.
noun - An agreement between states, sides, or military forces, especially an international agreement dealing with a specific subject, such as the treatment of prisoners of war.
noun - General agreement on or acceptance of certain practices or attitudes: By convention, north is at the top of most maps.
noun - A practice or procedure widely observed in a group, especially to facilitate social interaction; a custom: the convention of shaking hands.
noun - A widely used and accepted device or technique, as in drama, literature, or painting: the theatrical convention of the aside.
hyponym - ossification, code of conduct, chemical weapons convention, constitutional convention, code of behavior, universal, conformity, mores, geneva convention
form - pictorial convention
To aver is to declare something is true or to state. This verb has a serious tone, so you might aver something on a witness stand or you might aver that you won't back down to a challenge. The verb aver comes to English via the Latin root words ad, meaning "to," and verus, meaning "true." The word can have the sense of formally declaring something is true, but it can also mean to report positively: "The grandmother averred that her granddaughter would make a fine veterinarian because of her love and caring for animals."
verb-transitive - To affirm positively; declare.
verb-transitive - Law To assert formally as a fact.
verb-transitive - Law To justify or prove.
hyponym - plead, attest, take, hold, protest, tell, claim, assure, declare
form - averring
The Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz appeared at first to be easily daunted, but, in fact, he showed unusual courage. Still, his efforts to daunt Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man were less than successful. When bringing a new kitten home you don't want to daunt it by forcing it out of its carrier too soonopen the door and let it come out when it's ready. Daunt means to frighten or scare off and, conveniently, it rhymes with haunt, another word which means to frighten, thought in a creepier sense. Daunt often shows up as part of the adjective undaunted, which describes someone who remains unafraid or perseveres in the face of scary circumstances.
verb-transitive - To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
form - dauntless, dauntingly, daunted, undaunted, daunter, daunting
synonym - appall, dismay, dishearten, conquer
Someone who is egotistical is full of himself; completely self-absorbed. Like the egotistical actor who blocks the audience's view of every other actor in the play during the curtain call so that he can hog the applause. The prefix ego refers to a person's sense of self, or self-importance. To be egotistical is to have an inflated view of your self-importance basically to think you're better than everyone else. You might express this egotism by constantly reminding your friends that you have a fantastic figure or a magnificent mind.
adjective - Tending to talk excessively about oneself.
adjective - Believing oneself to be better and more important than others.
adjective - Egoistical.
equivalent - selfish, proud
form - egotistically
synonym - egotistic, arrogant
etymologically-related-term - egotist, egotism
same-context - pompous, arrogant, self-important
Yes, artless could mean lacking in art, but more often it means lacking in superficiality or deceit. An artless person could never make a living as a con artist. Originally meaning "unskillful" or "uncultured," artless evolved into meaning not skilled or cultured in the art of deceit. If you are artless, you are natural and uncontrived. Young people, animals, the socially inept these can all be artless in the way they express themselves. They seem to mean exactly what they say.
adjective - Having or displaying no guile, cunning, or deceit. See Synonyms at naive.
adjective - Free of artificiality; natural: artless charm.
adjective - Lacking art, knowledge, or skill; uncultured and ignorant.
adjective - Poorly made or done; crude.
equivalent - open, heart-to-heart, careless, undistorted, candid, unskilled, unrefined
synonym - frank, innocent, simple
When something is pervasive, it's everywhere. Common things are pervasive like greed and cheap perfume. Ever notice how certain trends seem to spread all over the place? When something like a hairstyle is super-common, it's pervasive. Pervasive things can't be escaped. Playing video games is pervasive among kids. Talking about the weather is pervasive among adults. Ideas, diseases, habits, and all sorts of things can be pervasive. If you're sick of seeing something because you're seeing it again and again, it must be pervasive.
adjective - Having the quality or tendency to pervade or permeate: the pervasive odor of garlic.
equivalent - distributive
synonym - permeating, pervading, penetrating
etymologically-related-term - pervade
cross-reference - diffusive
same-context - unmistakable, penetrate, prevalent, compel
If you guessed that reparation is related to the word repair, you were right. Both come from the Latin word meaning "to restore." While reparation has a range of meanings, they all convey the sense of fixing or making up for a past wrong. In contemporary usage, the plural form is more common than the singular. Victims of a crime, for example, may receive reparations from the perpetrators. A defeated nation may be forced to pay reparations to its victorious enemies. Many have suggested that the United States government should provide reparations to the descendants of slaves. The word almost always has legal or political connotations, and it conveys the sense of restitution often expressed in money for wrongdoing.
noun - The act or process of repairing or the condition of being repaired.
noun - The act or process of making amends; expiation.
noun - Something done or paid to compensate or make amends.
noun - Compensation or remuneration required from a defeated nation as indemnity for damage or injury during a war.
hyponym - upkeep, quick fix, darning, restoration, quicky, Band-Aid, maintenance, care, reconstruction, patching
When you feel compunction you feel very, very sorry, usually for something you did to hurt someone or mess something up. When you feel no compunction, you're not at all sorry. The noun compunction comes from the Latin verb compungere, meaning prick sharply. When you feel compunction, you feel a sharp prick of your conscience. The word compunction is often used in the negative in phrases like without compunction or "no compunction." You might say that the burglar acted without compunction when he stole your baseball card collection.
noun - A strong uneasiness caused by a sense of guilt. See Synonyms at penitence.
noun - A sting of conscience or a pang of doubt aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing. See Synonyms at qualm.
hyponym - guilt trip, penance, guilt feelings, guilty conscience, penitence, guilt, repentance
synonym - stimulation, contrition, qualm
There's no way around it, a reprobate is a bad egg. The black sheep of the family, missing a moral compass a reprobate's been called everything from a deviant to an evildoer to a scoundrel. Selfish, depraved, disreputable, a reprobate is not known for his inner goodness. In fact, reprobates were once considered "rejected by God," the meaning of the noun in the 1500s. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, a reprobate was a popular literary character, sometimes amusing, as noted in Henry James' Daisy Miller, "What a clever little reprobate she was, and how smartly she played an injured innocence!"
noun - A morally unprincipled person.
noun - One who is predestined to damnation.
adjective - Morally unprincipled; shameless.
adjective - Rejected by God and without hope of salvation.
verb-transitive - To disapprove of; condemn.
verb-transitive - To abandon to eternal damnation. Used of God.
hyponym - deviate, degenerate, wretch, pervert, black sheep, scapegrace, deviant
equivalent - corrupt
form - reprobated, reprobating
If youve had to bust your behind, burn the midnight oil, and shed blood, sweat, and tears to get where you are today, you could say youve endured significant travail. In other words, back-breakingly hard mental exertion or physical labor. Travail comes to us from a sinister Latin word: trepalium, meaning instrument of torture. The closest English word is probably toil, though travail means youre not just exerting monumental effort but suffering as you do so. If your life has been hard-knock enough to be the stuff of old blues songs or Shakespearean tragedies, youve had your share of travails. In French, incidentally, travail simply means work. The Spanish trabajo (work) is closely related.
noun - Work, especially when arduous or involving painful effort; toil. See Synonyms at work.
noun - Tribulation or agony; anguish.
noun - The labor of childbirth.
verb-intransitive - To work strenuously; toil.
verb-intransitive - To be in the labor of childbirth.
hyponym - least resistance, overexertion, application, exercising, strain, pull, exercise, friction, difficulty, physical exercise
Argot is language particular to a specific group. It can mean a kind of slang, a technical language or a code. In high school, only those who spend their time studying computer manuals could understand the argot of the computer lab kids. The word argot was originally used to describe the slang of thieves and rogues, who spoke in sneaky ways that the upright citizen couldnt understand. We can also use argot to describe less criminal kinds of vocabularies. Any specialized practice can create an argot: boxers talk of bodyshots and jabs, just as grammar teachers complain of split infinitives and dangling participles.
noun - A specialized vocabulary or set of idioms used by a particular group: thieves' argot. See Synonyms at dialect.
hyponym - rhyming slang, street name
synonym - flash, cant, slang, dialect, jargon
hypernym - non-standard speech
same-context - indirection, lingo
Pssst... do you know the secret handshake? If you haven't been brought into the inner circle of those with special knowledge, esoteric things will remain a mystery to you. In the olden days, achieving esoteric knowledge meant getting initiated into the mystical arts, learning secrets unknown to regular folks. Now when a subject is called esoteric it's usually something not so mystical but still hard to penetrate: financial accounting might seem esoteric for people who get easily stumped filling out their tax forms. Americans might find the sport of cricket to be esoteric, but the rules of baseball can be just as impenetrable to outsiders. The infield fly rule? Totally esoteric.
adjective - Intended for or understood by only a particular group: an esoteric cult. See Synonyms at mysterious.
adjective - Of or relating to that which is known by a restricted number of people.
adjective - Confined to a small group: esoteric interests.
adjective - Not publicly disclosed; confidential.
equivalent - recondite, abstruse, qabalistic, Orphic, sibylline, mysterious, mystic, cryptical, mystical, occult
If something's execrable it's really and truly, unbelievably, absolutely the worst. Execrable is often used as a harshly critical term in the arts, when a reviewer really wants to throw the book at something. Not surprisingly, the word comes from a Latin word meaning "to utter a curse; to hate or abhor." Tough words for bad art. Perhaps part of the power and nastiness of execrable lies in the word's similarity to excrement but that's a vocabulary word we're not touching in this entry!
adjective - Deserving of execration; hateful.
adjective - Extremely inferior; very bad: an execrable meal.
equivalent - cursed, inferior, curst, hateful
synonym - abhorrent, abominable, despicable, deplorable, detestable, atrocious
An artifact is a man-made object that has some kind of cultural significance. If you find a 12th century vase, it's an artifact of that time. Don't drop it!Artifact is a combination of two Latin words, arte, meaning "by skill" and factum which means "to make." Usually when you use the word artifact, you are describing something crafted that was used for a particular purpose during a much earlier time.
noun - An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest.
noun - Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element: "The very act of looking at a naked model was an artifact of male supremacy ( Philip Weiss).
noun - A structure or feature not normally present but visible as a result of an external agent or action, such as one seen in a microscopic specimen after fixation, or in an image produced by radiology or electrocardiography.
noun - An inaccurate observation, effect, or result, especially one resulting from the technology used in scientific investigation or from experimental error: The apparent pattern in the data was an artifact of the collection method.
hyponym - antiquity, surface, covering, good, padding, float, installation, instrumentality, button, pavement
An analgesic is a medicine that takes away physical pain. If you ask for pain relief, and the nurse says "Here's an analgesic," she's not trying to worsen your headache with a difficult word; she's just giving you a painkiller. Breaking apart the word analgesic helps with pronunciation, ann-ull-JEE-zick. This isn't a proper root-word study, but the last three letters of the word look like "sick." If you're sick and have some pain and discomfort, you might get relief from an analgesic. As a noun, analgesic is the actual medicine, and as an adjective, it describes the effect of the medicine a pill will have an analgesic effect, relieving the pain unless it's really bad pain, in which case you'll need two.
noun - A medication that reduces or eliminates pain.
adjective - Of or causing analgesia.
hyponym - phenylacetamide, hydromorphone, colchicine, panadol, phenaphen, datril, acetanilid, dilaudid, talwin, acetanilide
Disabuse means to free someone of a belief that is not true. Many teachers of health find that when they teach, they spend as much energy disabusing kids of false beliefs as they doing giving them the facts. Disabuse is often connected to the word notion or idea. In singing lessons, you must disabuse young singers of the idea that they can sing better by singing louder. In the first year of college, many people are disabused of the idea that they way they are is "normal," by meeting so many people who represent other ways to be.
verb-transitive - To free from a falsehood or misconception: I must disabuse you of your feelings of grandeur.
form - disabusing, disabused
synonym - undeceive
verb-form - disabusing, disabuses, disabused
hypernym - inform
Interdict means to forbid, to nix, to veto. If your parents find out you're planning a party for a time when they're away , they will interdict it. If your principal has interdicted gum-chewing at school, he might set up a few random check points, interdicting gum-chewing students with detentions and a command to instantly spit out their offensive, long-lasting candy. To interdict, pope-style, is to in essence excommunicate, or prohibit a person or especially a place from the functions and privileges of the church.
verb-transitive - To prohibit or place under an ecclesiastical or legal sanction.
verb-transitive - To forbid or debar, especially authoritatively. See Synonyms at forbid.
verb-transitive - To cut or destroy (a line of communication) by firepower so as to halt an enemy's advance.
verb-transitive - To confront and halt the activities, advance, or entry of: "the role of the FBI in interdicting spies attempting to pass US secrets to the Soviet Union ( Christian Science Monitor).
noun - Law A prohibition by court order.
noun - Roman Catholic Church An ecclesiastical censure that excludes a person or district from participation in most sacraments and from Christian burial.
hyponym - illegalize, criminalise, ban, illegalise, exclude, debar, outlaw, bar, enjoin, criminalize
To dissemble is to hide under a false appearance, to deceive. "When confronted about their human rights record, the Chinese government typically dissembles."Choose Your Words:disassemble / dissembleYou might see dissemble used for disassemble, even in published works, but the two should not be confused, despite similar spellings.
Continue reading...Dissemble is a little more complicated than a straight lie or denial. 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. "My boyfriend was dissembling the whole time. He was a married father of two."
verb-transitive - To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance. See Synonyms at disguise.
verb-transitive - To make a false show of; feign.
verb-intransitive - To disguise or conceal one's real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance.
hyponym - take a dive, simulate, feign, mouth, bullshit, sham, fake, assume, play possum, bull
Megalomania is a crazy hunger for power and wealth, and a passion for grand schemes. Comic book villains often suffer from megalomania. Their plans are thwarted only by superheroes. Megalomania comes from the Greek megas ("great") and mania ("madness"). It is a madness of greatness, but not a great kind of madness! Megalomaniacs in history: Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Josef Stalin, and maybe even the tycoon Donald Trump.
noun - A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
noun - An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.
form - megalomaniacal
cross-reference - delusion of grandeur
hypernym - mental disease, mental illness, psychopathy
same-context - overcompensation, revitalization, claustrophobia, figment, schizophrenia
To mollify is to calm someone down, talk them off the ledge, make amends, maybe even apologize. Mollify comes from the Latin mollificare to "make soft," and that's still at the heart the word. When you mollify someone, you smooth things over, even if you're maybe still a little mad: "I was angry that the guy took my seat, but I was mollified when he offered me one closer to the band." Unlike the sharp sounds of antagonize, there are only soft sounds in this word that means to make someone feel soft and cuddly. Although dryer sheets might soften your clothes, they don't mollify them (unless your clothes were really mad at you before).
verb-transitive - To calm in temper or feeling; soothe. See Synonyms at pacify.
verb-transitive - To lessen in intensity; temper.
verb-transitive - To reduce the rigidity of; soften.
form - mollified, mollifying
synonym - soften, pacify, calm, satisfy, comfort, soothe, qualify
etymologically-related-term - mollified
A sextant is a tool for measuring the angles between heavenly bodies the kind found in outer space. Used as a navigational tool out at sea, it helps determine a ship's longitude and latitude. There is nothing sexy about a sextant, unless you're a sailor. Even then, in today's world of sophisticated instrumentation, it's considered quaint and old-fashioned. The noun sextant dates back to the late 16th century, from the Latin word sextans, meaning "sixth part." The sextant uses a graduated arc of 60 (there's the six reference) for measuring the altitude of the planets and stars.
noun - A navigational instrument containing a graduated 60-degree arc, used for measuring the altitudes of celestial bodies to determine latitude and longitude.
noun - See Sextans.
hyponym - astrolabe
cross-reference - octant, Wikipedia article on Sextant, box-sextant, quadrant, prismatic sextant
hypernym - angular unit, measuring instrument, measuring device, measuring system
On a hot day, youll be happy to have a fan that can oscillate, meaning it moves back and forth in a steady motion. The verb oscillate can be traced back to the Latin word oscillum, meaning "swing," so it makes sense that oscillate is used to describe an object like a fan or a pendulum that swings from side to side. The word also can be used to describe a different kind of motion the wavering of someone who is going back and forth between conflicting beliefs or actions. If youve ever had trouble making up your mind about something, you probably know what it feels like to oscillate back and forth from one decision and to another and then back again. And again. And again.
verb-intransitive - To swing back and forth with a steady, uninterrupted rhythm.
verb-intransitive - To waver, as between conflicting opinions or courses of action; vacillate: "The court has oscillated over the decades from more liberal to less, more conservative to less, depending upon who was president at the time of vacancies ( Gordon J. Humphrey). See Synonyms at swing.
verb-intransitive - Physics To vary between alternate extremes, usually within a definable period of time.
hyponym - librate, shilly-shally, hunt
form - oscillated, oscillating, oscillator, oscillation
synonym - sway, vibrate, swing
A neologism is a made-up or new word. Neologisms can be fun-ti-ful, but the problem is making sure others understand what you mean. The word neologism was one a neologism itself. It was created by gluing the French prefix neo- onto the Greek logos or "word." People coin neologisms all the time, linguists track which ones stick, and eventually, we all feel they're old friends. Or maybe not: random samples from words coined in 2003 include: adultolescence, pastability, pre-zactly, and neomaxizoomdweebie.
noun - A new word, expression, or usage.
noun - The creation or use of new words or senses.
noun - Psychology The invention of new words regarded as a symptom of certain psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
noun - Psychology A word so invented.
noun - Theology A new doctrine or a new interpretation of scripture.
hyponym - portmanteau, blend, portmanteau word
form - diffused neologism, stable neologism
synonym - coinage, innovation
etymologically-related-term - neologize, neologizer, neology
Libido is a person's sexual desire. Once a year? Once a week? Once a day? There is no correct answer, because everyone's libido is different. However, you hope your partner's is similar to yours!Libido has only been a word for about 100 years, though the urge to have sex has been around, well, as long as we have. It is Latin for desire, lust. You may have heard that the libido changes over the course of a person's life, and that you can even "lose" it if you are, for example, depressed or taking certain medications.
People often think famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud coined the term. It isn't true, though he did popularize it in his writings on sexual urges.
noun - The psychic and emotional energy associated with instinctual biological drives.
noun - Sexual desire.
noun - Manifestation of the sexual drive.
hypernym - physical attraction, sexual desire, Eros, concupiscence
same-context - filiis, victum, fratre, causae, illaec, cuivis
Rococo describes a very ornate style originating in Europe. It you love tons of decoration and fancy details, then you'll love the rococo style of architecture and music. Modern design is all simplicity: clean lines and no clutter. Rococo design which came and went in Europe in the 1700s is the opposite: it explodes with detail, ornament, patterns, and decoration. If something other than an actual work of design or music is described as rococo, it means wildly detailed, to the point of excess. They sat me next to Diana, who told me the whole rococo story of her divorce. Hours had passed before she even got to the part about the affair.
noun - A style of art, especially architecture and decorative art, that originated in France in the early 18th century and is marked by elaborate ornamentation, as with a profusion of scrolls, foliage, and animal forms.
noun - A very ornate style of speech or writing.
noun - Music A style of composition arising in 18th-century France, often viewed as an extension of the baroque, and characterized by a high degree of ornamentation and lightness of expression.
adjective - Of or relating to the rococo.
adjective - Immoderately elaborate or complicated.
equivalent - fancy
synonym - florid, extravagant, fantastic
cross-reference - rococo embroidery
hypernym - idiom, artistic style
same-context - fifteenth-century, florid, Romanesque
Our principal published her fifty-page "Treatise on Gum Chewing" days before she was carted away by men in white coats. Treatises are formal papers that treat a specific subject. Gum chewing shouldn't merit one. Treatise is related to the verb treat, which means "deal with." A doctor treats a patient. A teacher treats the senator's child with kid gloves. Treatise means a written paper or exposition that deals with or treats a specific subject.
noun - A systematic, usually extensive written discourse on a subject.
noun - Obsolete A tale or narrative.
hyponym - tract, dissertation, monograph, pamphlet, thesis
synonym - story, commentary, tractate, tract, tractlet
A churlish person is one whose middle name might as well be Rude. Hes the one who was never taught to mind his manners and avoid telling vulgar jokes at the dinner table. Churlish has its origins in late Old English, but its modern-day meaning of deliberately rude developed in the 14th century. Its a fitting adjective to describe boorish or surly behavior. It can also describe a material that is difficult to work with, such as hard wood thats resistant to quick whittling. Our prolific pal Shakespeare coined the phrase, as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear.
adjective - Of, like, or befitting a churl; boorish or vulgar.
adjective - Having a bad disposition; surly: "as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear ( Shakespeare).
adjective - Difficult to work with, such as soil; intractable.
equivalent - ungracious, ill-natured
synonym - boorish, rude, illiberal, ungracious, stingy, cross-grained, unyielding, surly
When you distill something, you are boiling it down to its essence its most important part. Whether it's alcohol or ideas, the distilled part is the most powerful. The original meaning of distill comes from the process of making alcohol, known as distilling, in which all the impurities of a substance are vaporized and its pure, high-alcohol condensation collected. Distill eventually came to mean any process in which the essence of something is revealed. If you take notes at a lecture and then turn them into an essay for your professor, you're distilling your notes into something more pure and exact. At least, that's what you hope you're doing.
verb-transitive - To subject (a substance) to distillation.
verb-transitive - To separate (a distillate) by distillation.
verb-transitive - To increase the concentration of, separate, or purify by or as if by distillation.
verb-transitive - To separate or extract the essential elements of: distill the crucial points of the book.
verb-transitive - To exude or give off (matter) in drops or small quantities.
verb-intransitive - To undergo or be produced by distillation.
verb-intransitive - To fall or exude in drops or small quantities.
hyponym - moonshine, rectify, refine, purge
form - distilling, distillment, distill out, distillable, distilled, distiller
An old man watching his grandchildren play might look back fondly on his halcyon days, remembering the peaceful, happy time of his youth. The word halcyon comes from a story in Greek mythology about the halcyon bird, which had the power to calm the rough ocean waves every December so she could nest. Like those calm waters, halcyon has come to mean a sense of peace or tranquility. People often use the phrase halcyon days to refer idyllically to a calmer, more peaceful time in their past.
noun - A kingfisher, especially one of the genus Halcyon.
noun - A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice.
adjective - Calm and peaceful; tranquil.
adjective - Prosperous; golden: halcyon years.
equivalent - peaceful, happy, peaceable
form - halcyon days
synonym - calm, peaceful, undisturbed, happy, relaxed, serene
Use the adjective stratified to describe something with many layers, either physically (like the layers of your skin) or socially (a kingdom with the king at the top and peasants at the bottom).If youve ever studied geology, youve heard about strata: layers of sand, clay, and rock spread out one on top of the other. A lot of things can be described like that. The Amazon jungle is stratified with massive trees up high and shrubbery below. The division between rich and poor people is an example of a stratified society. And when you spread peanut butter onto bread, and then add jelly on top of that, well, sure, thats a stratified sandwich.
adjective - arranged in a sequence of layers or strata
adjective - having a class structure
equivalent - hierarchical, layered, foliate, foliated, sheetlike, superimposed, foliaceous, hierarchic, laminal, laminar
When you hear a blandishment come your way, you may feel flattered, as that's what a blandisher intends to do. However, beware because that flattery may come with the underlying intention of persuading you to do something!The noun blandishment is related to the old-fashioned verb blandish meaning "to coax with flattery, or kind words." A blandishment is often teasing in tone, and the intention to persuade is usually thinly veiled. Your brother may use a blandishment or two to get you to do his chores, and you're going to know exactly what he's after. But the saying "You get more flies with honey" just might hold true if you find yourself taking out the trash when it's not your turn.
noun - Flattering speech or actions designed to persuade or influence.
hyponym - ingratiation, insinuation
synonym - cajolery, allurement, flattery
etymologically-related-term - blandisher
hypernym - temptation, enticement, flattery
same-context - well-wishing
To exorcise is to cast out a devil or evil spirit, using prayer and other religious tools. You're probably familiar with the name of the person who does this: an exorcist. Don't try to exorcise a demon yourself. Call an exorcist. One way to remember the word exorcise is that it sounds like "exercise," which means to work out or train your body or mind. Casting out devils it hard work, so be sure to exercise before you exorcise. A boxer doesn't box without exercising first. And an exorcist doesn't exorcise without getting ready first either. The devil is a tough opponent, so you'd better get warmed up before you try to exorcise him from that little girl.
verb-transitive - To expel (an evil spirit) by or as if by incantation, command, or prayer.
verb-transitive - To free from evil spirits or malign influences.
form - exorcism, exorcising, exorcised, exorcist
synonym - lay, down, exsufflate
verb-form - exorcising, exorcises, exorcised
As a verb, filibuster means "to obstruct legislation by talking at great length." As a noun, it can refer to that oppositional speech. "The Senator prevented a vote on the bill by reading the dictionary from aardvark to zyzzyva."As a parliamentary tactic, the filibuster dates back to at least the first century B. C. E. The rules of the Roman Senate required that all business must be completed by nightfall, and, on more than one occasion, the senator Cato the Younger spoke until dark to delay a vote. In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, a minister may "talk out" a bill, but his speech must pertain to the bill. In the United States, by contrast, a Senator may forestall action on a bill by speaking on any topic.
noun - The use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speechmaking, for the purpose of delaying legislative action.
noun - An instance of the use of this delaying tactic.
noun - An adventurer who engages in a private military action in a foreign country.
verb-intransitive - To use obstructionist tactics in a legislative body.
verb-intransitive - To take part in a private military action in a foreign country.
verb-transitive - To use a filibuster against (a legislative measure, for example).
form - filibustering, fillibustered
synonym - obstructionist, freebooter, delay
verb-form - filibustering, filibustered, filibusterism, filibusters
hypernym - Embarrass
Something that's lilliputian is extremely small, like the lilliputian tables and chairs that might surprise you when you visit your kindergarten classroom years later. The word lilliputian comes from Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel, Gulliver's Travels. Lilliput is the name of a fictional island whose people, the Lilliputians, stand only about six inches high. In addition to acting as an adjective to describe something that is very small like the lilliputian cups and plates in a child's doll house lilliputian can also be a noun that refers to extremely small people.
adjective - Very small, diminutive
adjective - Trivial, petty
noun - A very small person or being
synonym - tiny
cross-reference - tiddler, munchkin
To gambol is to run around playing excitedly. There are some really fun-sounding synonyms for gambol, such as "frolic," "romp," and "cavort," and though it sounds like "gamble," when you gambol with an "ol" you never lose you just have a great time!If you've ever sprinted around, jumping up and down, yelling "woo-hoo!," you already know how to gambol. Being really excited or even just slap-happy makes people gambol, and it's so energizing that animals do it too. Dogs gambol when they rise on two legs to greet each other, and squirrels gambol when they chase each other up and down trees. And when springtime comes after a long winter, it seems to make every living thing gambol with extra life.
verb-intransitive - To leap about playfully; frolic.
noun - A playful skipping or frolicking about.
hyponym - foolery, horseplay, folly, teasing, indulgence, game, toying, flirtation, lunacy, dalliance
In the fairy tale, the baker must expiate his fathers sins by bringing the witch three ingredients for a magic potion: a cow, a cape and a slipper. Expiate means to make amends or atone for a wrong you or someone else has committed. After the incident on the hill, a mortified Jill expiated her guilt by buying Jack a brand new crown. The shiny new crown served as compensation, or expiation, for the broken one. That it cost her so dearly made the expiatory gesture especially meaningful to poor Jack.
verb-transitive - To make amends or reparation for; atone: expiate one's sins by acts of penance.
verb-intransitive - To make amends; atone.
form - expiated, expiating
synonym - assoil, redeem, mend, terminated, ransom, purge
etymologically-related-term - expiatory, expiation
A contentious issue is one that people are likely to argue about, and a contentious person is someone who likes to argue or fight. Some issues like abortion, the death penalty, and gun control are very controversial. They're also contentious, because people tend to argue about them, and the arguments will probably go on forever. Contentious issues get people angry and in a fighting mood. On the other hand, some people always seem to be in a fighting mood, no matter what the issue is. People like that are contentious too.
adjective - Given to contention; quarrelsome. See Synonyms at argumentative, belligerent.
adjective - Involving or likely to cause contention; controversial: "a central and contentious element of the book ( Tim W. Ferguson).
equivalent - controversial, argumentative
form - contentiousness, contentiously
synonym - litigated, dissentious, pugnacious, wrangling, litigious, gladiatorial
If someone is so pig-headed that he won't budge on an issue, call him recalcitrant. Not that it will make a difference...Recalcitrant is from Latin calcitrare, meaning "to kick," so someone who is recalcitrant is kicking back against what's wanted of them. Synonyms are unruly, intractable, and refractory, all referring to what is difficult to manage or control. Writers are frequently referring to recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans, since many people are stubbornly loyal to their political parties and unwilling to change.
adjective - Marked by stubborn resistance to and defiance of authority or guidance. See Synonyms at unruly.
noun - A recalcitrant person.
equivalent - defiant, disobedient, noncompliant
form - recalcitrance, recalcitrancy
synonym - refractory, recalcitrating, stubborn, disobedient, unruly
An aspersion is a disparaging remark. It almost invariably appears as a plural, following the word "cast" when you cast aspersions on someone, you are questioning their abilities or doubting them. Finding out that a field-hockey coach had never played the sports might cast aspersions on her ability to coach it. Wendy's ads don't come out and say that McDonald's hamburgers are made out of cardboard, but through shot after shot of their own thick and juicy and oddly square offering, they cast aspersions on the quarter-pounder.
noun - An unfavorable or damaging remark; slander: Don't cast aspersions on my honesty.
noun - The act of defaming or slandering.
noun - A sprinkling, especially with holy water.
hyponym - ethnic slur
form - cast aspersions
synonym - sprinkling, calumny, disparagement, slander
hypernym - baptism, derogation, depreciation, disparagement
A talisman is a charm that is supposed to ward off evil or illness. Your rabbit's foot key chain may be your lucky talisman, but it wasn't so lucky for that rabbit, of course. The word talisman has been around in English since the 1630s and it has roots in both Arabic and Greek words. A talisman is usually worn around the neck but could exist in other forms, like a ring or inscribed stone. You can think of a talisman as a good luck charm, but people tend to take talismans more seriously as if they are empowered with magic to ward off evil spirits.
noun - An object marked with magic signs and believed to confer on its bearer supernatural powers or protection.
noun - Something that apparently has magic power.
hyponym - gri-gri, greegree, gres-gris
synonym - charm, amulet, chary
hypernym - charm, good luck charm
same-context - phylactery, artifact
Use the noun desuetude to say that something is not active or not being used, like the desuetude of a neglected park, with its overgrown ballfields and broken playground equipment. There are two ways to correctly pronounce desuetude: "DES-wuh-tude" or "de-SUE-uh-tude." It comes from Latin: de- means "away, from" and suescere means "become accustomed." So if people or things are not used out of custom desuetude is the result, carrying with it a sense of neglect, disrepair, and inaction.
noun - A state of disuse or inactivity.
synonym - disuse
hypernym - inactiveness, inactivity, inaction
same-context - stratigraphy, philologer, valuelessness, trifler, fewness, rareness
If you have ever tightened a bolt with a wrench, or tried to get the lid off a jar of strawberry jam, then you have dealt with the concept of torque a twisting action or a turning force. The word torque, which rhymes with fork, is used in the field of physics as a measure of rotational force. For example, how much strength does it take to move an object, such as a screwdriver, around an axis, such as a screw? In ancient times, a torque was a necklace made of twisted metal. Now, torque is commonly used to describe the power of sports cars and their ability to accelerate, since car engines operate with rotating parts.
noun - The moment of a force; the measure of a force's tendency to produce torsion and rotation about an axis, equal to the vector product of the radius vector from the axis of rotation to the point of application of the force and the force vector.
noun - A turning or twisting force.
verb-transitive - To impart torque to.
noun - A collar, a necklace, or an armband made of a strip of twisted metal, worn by the ancient Gauls, Germans, and Britons.
hyponym - moment of a magnet, magnetic moment
form - torque wrench, torque steer
synonym - twist
etymologically-related-term - torsion
verb-form - torques, torqued
cross-reference - ounces, Moment
A spectrum is a broad range of similar things or qualities. Like the wide spectrum of political beliefs in this country, ranging anywhere from super conservative to uber-liberal and everything in between. Our modern definition of spectrum started out in the 1600s, when scientists used it to refer to the band of colors formed by a beam of light, like a rainbow. In physics, its a word that describes the distribution of something, like energy or atomic particles. We still use those scientific meanings today, but spectrum can also apply to non-science related groupings or ranges of related things.
noun - Physics The distribution of a characteristic of a physical system or phenomenon, especially:
noun - Physics The distribution of energy emitted by a radiant source, as by an incandescent body, arranged in order of wavelengths.
noun - Physics The distribution of atomic or subatomic particles in a system, as in a magnetically resolved molecular beam, arranged in order of masses.
noun - A graphic or photographic representation of such a distribution.
noun - A range of values of a quantity or set of related quantities.
noun - A broad sequence or range of related qualities, ideas, or activities: the whole spectrum of 20th-century thought.
hyponym - absorption spectrum, action spectrum, visible spectrum, color spectrum, microwave spectrum, electromagnetic spectrum, mass spectrum, radio spectrum, sound spectrum, line spectrum
If someone is being scornful and mocking in a humorous way, call her sardonic. If you want to write comic sketches for late-night talk shows, work on being sardonic. Sardonic comes from the Greek adjective Sardonios, which actually describes a plant from a place called Sardinia that supposedly made your face contort into a horrible grin...right before you died from its poison. The Greeks used sardonic for laughter, but we only use it when someone's humor is also mocking or ironic.
adjective - Scornfully or cynically mocking. See Synonyms at sarcastic.
equivalent - sardonic laugh, sarcastic
synonym - unnatural, insincere, ridiculing, forced
etymologically-related-term - sardonian
cross-reference - laugh
same-context - sinister, playful
If you are cognizant of what's going on at the table behind you in the lunchroom, that means you know they're plotting to throw peas at your head. If you are cognizant of something, you are aware of or informed about it. This 19th century adjective derives from Latin cognscere "to learn." For the English adjective and noun, an older pronunciation with a silent g was in use in legal contexts up until the early 20th century. In law, these terms refer to jurisdiction, or the right of a court to hear a case.
adjective - Fully informed; conscious. See Synonyms at aware.
equivalent - sensible, alert, conscious, awake, alive
synonym - conscious, aware
cross-reference - cognize
same-context - justified, discernable
If something has a negative association attached to it, call this a stigma. Bed-wetting can lead to a social stigma for a six year old, while chewing tobacco might have the same effect for a sixty year old. Stigma, from the Greek word of the same spelling meaning "mark, puncture," came into English through Latin to mean a mark burned into the skin to signify disgrace. It did not take long for stigma to be used figuratively, as it is commonly used today, for the negative stereotype or reputation attached to something such as "the stigma of divorce."
noun - A mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach: "Party affiliation has never been more casual . . . The stigmata of decay are everywhere ( Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.) See Synonyms at stain.
noun - A small mark; a scar or birthmark.
noun - Medicine A mark or characteristic indicative of a history of a disease or abnormality.
noun - Psychology A mark or spot on the skin that bleeds as a symptom of hysteria.
noun - Bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain corresponding in location to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, usually occurring during states of religious ecstasy or hysteria.
noun - Biology A small mark, spot, or pore, such as the respiratory spiracle of an insect or an eyespot in certain algae.
noun - Botany The receptive apex of the pistil of a flower, on which pollen is deposited at pollination.
noun - Archaic A mark burned into the skin of a criminal or slave; a brand.
hyponym - bar sinister, cloven hoof, cloven foot, bend sinister, demerit
form - stigmatize
synonym - sully, spiracle, brand, blotch
verb-transitive - To beg or get by begging.
hyponym - freeload
form - cadging, cadged, cadger, codger
synonym - scrounge, beg, bum
verb-form - cadging, cadged
If something is tenuous it's thin, either literally or metaphorically. If you try to learn a complicated mathematical concept by cramming for 45 minutes, you will have a tenuous grasp of that concept, at best. Tenuous comes from the Latin word tenuis, for thin, and is related to our word tender. Something can be physically tenuous, like a spiderweb or ice on a pond. We more often use it in a metaphorical sense, to talk about weak ideas. Tenuous arguments won't win any debate tournaments. Synonyms for tenuous, also used physically or metaphorically, are flimsy and shaky.
adjective - Long and thin; slender: tenuous strands.
adjective - Having a thin consistency; dilute.
adjective - Having little substance; flimsy: a tenuous argument.
equivalent - thin, unimportant, insignificant
synonym - minute, rare, slender, thin, subtile, small, thing
Metaphysics is the philosophical study of being and knowing. If you have ever contemplated your own existence in the universe, you were dabbling in metaphysics. Metaphysics comes from the Greek meta ta physika ("the works after the Physics"), which refers those of Aristotle's writings that followed the natural sciences. This field of inquiry was later understood as "the science of things transcending what is physical and natural," like the existence of god or the origin of human knowledge. Metaphysics must therefore rely on philosophical logic, rather than scientific experiments, in exploring these questions.
noun - Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
noun - The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.
noun - A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
noun - Excessively subtle or recondite reasoning.
hyponym - cosmology, ontology
form - metaphysicist, metaphysical, metaphysician
synonym - psychology, ontology, epistemology
etymologically-related-term - physics
cross-reference - ontology
Sensual means pleasing to the five senses. It often is used in a sexual context, but is not exclusively sexual in meaning. Choose Your Words:sensual / sensuousThe words sensual and sensuous are often used interchangeably, but careful writers would do well to think before using one or the other.
Continue reading...The touch of silk, a whiff of a beautiful perfume or the first bite of a perfect croissant can be a sensual pleasure as well. And dont confuse sensual with sensuous. Sensuous also means relating to the senses, but without any indication of pleasure.
adjective - Relating to or affecting any of the senses or a sense organ; sensory.
adjective - Of, relating to, given to, or providing gratification of the physical and especially the sexual appetites. See Synonyms at sensuous.
adjective - Suggesting sexuality; voluptuous.
adjective - Physical rather than spiritual or intellectual.
adjective - Lacking in moral or spiritual interests; worldly.
equivalent - physical, hot
synonym - brutal, luxurious, gross, earthy, fleshly, libidinous, epicurean, epicurish
If you cousin tells revolting jokes, belches, and smells like he spent the winter in a cave, he could be described as boorish an adjective used for people with bad manners and a sloppy appearance. We almost always use the word boorish for men. This may be because it can be traced back to a 13th century word for herdsman. Herdsmen spent a lot of time alone with their sheep, sleeping in tents and cooking over open fires, so it was no wonder that they didn't have the same refined manners as city folk. If someone offends you by acting boorishly say, by cutting you off in traffic you could exclaim, What a boor! Just don't confuse boor with bore: bad manners may be offensive, but they're rarely boring.
adjective - Resembling or characteristic of a boor; rude and clumsy in behavior.
equivalent - unrefined
synonym - uplandish, rude, illiberal, clownish, ill-bred, clodhopping, unmannerly, inurban, cloddish
Prehensile means "able to grasp" and often refers to such body parts as claws, feet, and tails. Elephants curl their prehensile noses around objects in order to pick them up. Prehensile is an adjective that comes from a French word for grasped. Humans and other primates (like monkeys, lemurs, and gorillas) have prehensile hands with curling fingers for grasping a definite advantage over dogs, for instance, who cant use a pencil when poetic inspiration strikes them. Prehensile can also mean "greedy" or "grasping for riches."
adjective - Adapted for seizing, grasping, or holding, especially by wrapping around an object: a monkey's prehensile tail.
adjective - Having keen intellect; insightful.
adjective - Greedy; grasping.
equivalent - intelligent, acquisitive
form - prehensility
synonym - grasping, prehensive, prehensory, seizing
etymologically-related-term - prehensive
same-context - Lions, turned-up
When people are red-cheeked with good health they are florid. Spending most of the year in the college library can give you a colorless, weary face, but after a mountain vacation, you'll be florid with the reddish color that comes from exercise and living well. Florid is an adjective that entered English in the 17th century, via the French floride, from the Latin flridus, "blooming." You can probably guess how Florida and flourish are related! Something overly decorated, such as a really ornate living room, is florid in the flowery sense, while people with rosy cheeks and a look of healthiness are florid because they are flourishing with a fullness of life. Your florid complexion matched your florid red drapes as you came in from the cold and plunked down on the couch near the window.
adjective - Flushed with rosy color; ruddy.
adjective - Very ornate; flowery: a florid prose style.
adjective - Archaic Healthy.
adjective - Obsolete Abounding in or covered with flowers.
equivalent - fancy, healthy
synonym - ornamental, figurative, figured, ornate, rococo, luxuriant, embellished, flowery
Something that is fleeting or short-lived is ephemeral, like a fly that lives for one day or text messages flitting from cellphone to cellphone. Ephemeral (-FEM-r-l) was originally a medical term with the specific meaning "lasting only one day," as a fever or sickness (Hemera means "day" in Greek.) The word became more general, coming to mean "lasting a short time," covering the life spans of plants or insects and then eventually anything that is fleeting or transitory. A related word is the plural noun ephemera, meaning "things that are meant to last for only a short time." Posters for a rock concert are often ephemera, unless the band is so famous that they get saved and sold on eBay.
adjective - Lasting for a markedly brief time: "There remain some truths too ephemeral to be captured in the cold pages of a court transcript ( Irving R. Kaufman).
adjective - Living or lasting only for a day, as certain plants or insects do.
noun - A markedly short-lived thing.
equivalent - impermanent, temporary
form - ephemerally
synonym - volatile, evanescent, mushroom, fleeting, temporary, fugitive, diurnal
If you've been sneaking around with your best friend's boyfriend, that's probably one secret you don't want to divulge, because revealing that tidbit of information will probably cut your friendship short. Divulge often precedes the word secret, because it means to reveal something, and that something is often of a personal or private nature. A gossip columnist's job is to divulge which celebrities are secretly dating and which ones have been caught in embarrassing situations. Although the word comes from the Latin word for making something public to the masses, it can also be used to describe information passed from one person to another. For example, a mother could divulge to her daughter that she was adopted.
verb-transitive - To make known (something private or secret).
verb-transitive - Archaic To proclaim publicly.
hyponym - confide, tattle, reveal, muckrake, babble, blab, peach, bewray, spring, blackwash
Adjunct means something added on, but not part of the whole. An adjunct professor is someone who is hired by a college to teach but isn't a full member of the faculty. This is a word you can figure out by taking it apart. From ad- "to" and -junct "join" (think "junction"), you can see that this is about joining something to another. "During lunch, Tim always sat the girls' lacrosse-team lunch table, and they joked that he was an adjunct member of the team."
noun - Something attached to another in a dependent or subordinate position. See Synonyms at appendage.
noun - A person associated with another in a subordinate or auxiliary capacity.
noun - Grammar A clause or phrase added to a sentence that, while not essential to the sentence's structure, amplifies its meaning, such as for several hours in We waited for several hours.
noun - Logic A nonessential attribute of a thing.
adjective - Added or connected in a subordinate or auxiliary capacity: an adjunct clause.
adjective - Attached to a faculty or staff in a temporary or auxiliary capacity: an adjunct professor of history.
hyponym - complement, accompaniment, parenthetical expression, parenthetical
equivalent - low-level, supportive, subordinate
form - adjuncthood, adjunctive
synonym - consequent
People who live off begging can be called mendicants. However, you probably wouldn't call your kids mendicants, even though they beg you for stuff, because the word mendicant also implies extreme poverty. The noun mendicant can also refer to a man belonging to a religious order, such as the Franciscan Friars who do not own personal property but live together in a monastery and survive off alms donated by others. As an adjective, mendicant describes someone who lives such an existence.
adjective - Depending on alms for a living; practicing begging.
noun - A beggar.
noun - A member of an order of friars forbidden to own property in common, who work or beg for their living.
hyponym - Carmelite, Augustinian, sannyasi, grey friar, panhandler, White Friar, beggarman, moocher, mooch, cadger
Invective is harsh, abusive language, like, "you dirty rotten scoundrel." I'm sure you can think of harsher and more obscene examples, but we won't get into them here. Invective comes from the Latin for "abusive." It kind of sounds like a harsh word, actually, with those sharp, dagger-like V's. People usually put a colorful verb or phrase before it. Some examples: "She spewed invective," "She hurled invective," "She burst forth into invective." You can follow it with a phrase like, "picking up her plate and throwing it across the room."
noun - Denunciatory or abusive language; vituperation.
noun - Denunciatory or abusive expression or discourse.
adjective - Of, relating to, or characterized by denunciatory or abusive language.
synonym - railing, sarcasm, satirical, abusive, vitriolic, denunciatory, censure, diatribe, reproach, critical
To cozen is to mislead, defraud, or fool someone through lies. Cozen rhymes with dozen, and if you say you had two wrong answers on your math test, but you really had a dozen, you might be trying to cozen your parents. While not related in roots, the first part of cozen sounds like the slang word "cuz." If someone asks why you lied, you might say "Cuz I didn't want you to know the truth." And to cozen is to keep the truth hidden and deceive or cheat. Using a trick to get something is one way to cozen, and if you tell a partial truth, there's still a part lie or an attempt to cozen and mislead.
verb-transitive - To mislead by means of a petty trick or fraud; deceive.
verb-transitive - To persuade or induce to do something by cajoling or wheedling.
verb-transitive - To obtain by deceit or persuasion.
verb-intransitive - To act deceitfully.
hyponym - wander, play a trick on, fox, entrap, chisel, play tricks, fool, shill, gull, play a joke on
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. Suppliant is not a word you hear often these days-it was tailor-made to be used in the days when common people spent much of their lives on their knees in big stone buildings begging for things from monarchs or from Godthink hair shirts, prayer, suppliants begging the lord of the manor not to kill them for missing a payment on the rent.
adjective - Asking humbly and earnestly; beseeching.
noun - A supplicant.
hyponym - solicitor, canvasser, besieger, postulant
equivalent - pleading, imploring, beseeching
synonym - asking, beseecher, petitioner
If you have gotten so many mosquito bites in your life that they no longer bother you, you have become inured to them. This means you have become accustomed to tolerating them. This adjective is derived from the 16th-century phrase in ure, meaning in use or in practice. When you are inured to something, you have probably had a lot of persistent exposure to it, and its usually something negative. People can become inured to pain, inured to violence, and even inured to the sound of a little yappy dog that wont stop barking.
verb - simple past tense and past participle of inure.
equivalent - toughened, tough
verb-stem - inure
Appellation means the name or title by which someone is known. Mark Twain is the famous appellation by which everyone remembers author and humorist Samuel Clemens. An appellation is what people call a person or thing essentially, its name or title. George Herman Ruth's parents may have known him as George, but the rest of the world knew this famous slugger by his appellation, Babe. If you use the word appellation in a discussion of wine, you'd mean the name of the region or vineyard where the wine originated. Champagne is an appellation for the bubbly white wine that comes from the Champagne region of France.
noun - A name, title, or designation.
noun - A protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district.
noun - The act of naming.
hyponym - form of address, title, sobriquet, soubriquet, byname, nickname, title of respect, street name, cognomen, moniker
Salubrious is a fancy way to describe something thats good for you or is generally favorable to mind or body, but it need not be limited to describing healthy foods or liquids. We salute each other with the cheer, "To your health!" as we chug down something that probably isnt that good for us. But if it were salubrious, it would be. The two words, salute and salubrious stem from the same salus, meaning "welfare, health. Maybe next time, raise a glass of wheatgrass instead of vino!
adjective - Conducive or favorable to health or well-being.
equivalent - wholesome
synonym - wholesome, healthful, salutary, healthy
etymologically-related-term - salubriously, salubriousness
same-context - sand, healthful, nutritious
An axiom is a self-evident truth. The authors of the Declaration of Independence could have written, We hold these truths to be axiomatic, but it wouldn't have the same ring. The root word of axiomatic, axiom, derives from the Greek axioma, meaning "authority," or "that which is thought worthy or fit." We use it to describe statements that have the authority of truth about them, or that seem worthy of the truth, or fit to be described as such. That is, an axiom is a proposition that we dont generally question because it seems plain enough that its true. And axiomatic means evident without proof or argument.
adjective - Of, relating to, or resembling an axiom; self-evident: "It's axiomatic in politics that voters won't throw out a presidential incumbent unless they think his challenger will clean house ( Peter Grier).
equivalent - obvious, axiomatical
form - axiomatically
synonym - gnomical, necessary, gnomic, apodeictic, self-evident, axiomatical
etymologically-related-term - axiomatization
A stolid person cant be moved to smile or show much sign of life, in much the same way as something solid, like a giant boulder, is immovable. Both are expressionless. It's hard to get excited about the word stolid. It refers to emotionless people or things, and it even sounds pretty dull. Your face may be stolid, as you plod through the unemotional history of the word born in the 17th century of little more than Latin words for "foolish." In some definitions, stolid does have more complimentary synonyms, such as "dependable" or "calm," but these can be overshadowed by other words for stolid "empty," "blank," and "vacant," to name a few.
adjective - Having or revealing little emotion or sensibility; impassive: "the incredibly massive and stolid bureaucracy of the Soviet system ( John Kenneth Galbraith).
equivalent - unemotional
synonym - dull, stupid, impassive, foolish
same-context - stoic, impassive, sedate, phlegmatic, unmoved
Discerning people pick up on subtle traits and are good judges of quality they're the ones that can tell if your cupcakes are homemade from the finest ingredients or totally from a box mix. Discerning is an adjective that comes from the Old French discerner, meaning to distinguish (between), separate (by sifting). Which makes sense, because someone with discerning tastes or a discerning eye is good at distinguishing the good from the bad and sifting out the gems from the junk. If you're an ace at picking out fabulous fabrics, accessories, and shoes when you get dressed each morning, you probably have discerning fashion sense.
adjective - Exhibiting keen insight and good judgment; perceptive.
equivalent - clear, percipient, perspicacious, discriminating, prescient, clear-eyed, perceptive, tactful, clear-sighted
synonym - longheaded
Whether you've studied art history or not, you're probably familiar with the world's most famous fresco: Michelangelo's paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. To paint a fresco, you must apply paint to still wet plaster, and you better get it right the first time. Too slow and the plaster hardens, and then you've got a lot of chipping away to do. Fresco comes from the Italian fresco, meaning "cool" or "fresh," which describes exactly the fast, unlabored technique required of fresco painting.
noun - The art of painting on fresh, moist plaster with pigments dissolved in water.
noun - A painting executed in this way.
verb-transitive - To paint in fresco.
form - frescoed, frescoing
synonym - coolness, duskiness, shade
cross-reference - in fresco, fresco colors, Wikipedia article on frescoes, florentine fresco, al fresco
If something's so expensive you can't touch it, it's prohibitive. That Ferrari in the showroom? You may want it, but its price is prohibitive. Prohibitive originally referred to something (often a law) that prohibits or forbids something, but came to mean conditions (often prices or taxes) so high or great they restrict or prevent something: "To some, the cost of child care is prohibitive." The stress is on the second syllable, just like the verb: pro-HIB-itive. If it's a matter of expense, a synonym is exorbitant.
adjective - Prohibiting; forbidding: took prohibitive measures.
adjective - So high or burdensome as to discourage purchase or use: prohibitive prices.
adjective - So likely to win as to discourage competition: the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination.
equivalent - preventative, preventive
synonym - prohibitory
same-context - protectionist, undetectable, unobtainable, onerous, prohibitory, impassable, valorem
An encomium is a fancy word for a formal speech or piece of writing that warmly praises someone or something. Encomium comes from the Greek word enkomion which, in a nutshell, is to honor someone or something at a party in a poetic speech. It used to refer to the song for the winner of the Olympic Games, sung at a victory celebration. You might hear an encomium at a retirement party, after you publish a fabulous book, or even at a funeral (a eulogy, or speech at a funeral about the person who died, is a kind of encomium). It's pronounced with a long O, en-CO-mium.
noun - Warm, glowing praise.
noun - A formal expression of praise; a tribute.
synonym - eulogy, panegyric
hypernym - extolment, praise, congratulations, kudos
same-context - congratulation, gen'l'man, Philippic, waltz-music
Use the adjective rarefied to describe things that are so stylish, smart, or moral that they seem elevated above the ordinary, like the rarefied conversation of brilliant scholars. To correctly pronounce rarefied, accent the first syllable: "RARE-uh-fied." In addition to high-minded conversation, the word rarefied can also describe the air in high elevations that has less oxygen, like the rarefied air that can be challenging to mountain climbers. Sometimes the quality of airlessness shades the other meaning of the word, implying that the rarefied world of elegant people isn't comfortable to everyone.
adjective - Belonging to or reserved for a small select group; esoteric.
adjective - Elevated in character or style; lofty.
equivalent - noble, thin
verb-stem - rarefy
Disjointed isnt when you can bend your thumb all the way backwards thats double-jointed. Disjointed means "unorganized" or "disconnected."Disjointed is an adjective that describes something as disconnected, illogical, or just messed up. A disjointed argument is an argument that doesnt make a lot of sense. The same can be said for a disjointed sentence or a disjointed speech. In a medical sense, disjointed means "dislocated," or separated at the joint. When someone gets injured, they may end up with a disjointed shoulder or a disjointed hip.
adjective - Separated at the joints.
adjective - Out of joint; dislocated.
adjective - Lacking order or coherence: disjointed sentences.
equivalent - injured, divided, incoherent
synonym - disconnected, incoherent
verb-stem - disjoint
same-context - half-whispered, draconic, half-uttered, big-worded
Though you try many medicines that claim to cure your cold, none of them work. They turn out to be nostrums, or ineffective drugs. Nostrum refers to a cure-all, a drug, or a medicine that is ineffectual. Before drugs were regulated by the government, there were many nostrums sold to the public. Snake oil is one of the most well-known. Said to cure any ailment from achy joints to hair loss, snake oil concoctions could contain a number of ingredients including camphor, red pepper, and turpentine.
noun - A medicine whose effectiveness is unproved and whose ingredients are usually secret; a quack remedy.
noun - A favorite but usually ineffective remedy for problems or evils.
hyponym - elixir
synonym - remedy
hypernym - curative, remedy, therapeutic, patent medicine, cure
same-context - periplus, clausum, cure-all
The word "bell" shows up in the middle of embellish, and bells are something that decorate, or embellish something, making it more attractive. If you embellish speech, though, it can get ugly if you add a lot of details that aren't true. Embellish often has the positive meaning of adding something to make it more handsome or beautifully decorated. But, while adding bells to something looks great at first, after a couple of hours of bells ringing in the ears, what was meant to embellish and beautify can get annoying. That's what can happen when you embellish by adding too many false or exaggerated details to a story. Embellishing with true, colorful details and vivid descriptions is what can really enhance the beauty of a story.
verb-transitive - To make beautiful, as by ornamentation; decorate.
verb-transitive - To add ornamental or fictitious details to: a fanciful account that embellishes the true story.
hyponym - bespangle, foliate, fret, fledge, Barde, spiff up, tinsel, appliqu, braid, become
The rationale for something is the basic or underlying reason or explanation for it. This noun (pronounced "rash-uh-NAL") is usually used in the singular: What was the rationale behind his decision to quit?The related adjective rational means "based on facts or reason" or "having the ability to think clearly." An example of a rational rationale? You add extra baking soda to pancake batter under the rationale that if you want them to be fluffier, you need more rising agent. Rationale is from Latin, from rationalis "relating to reason," from ratio "calculation, reason," from rr "to consider, think."
noun - Fundamental reasons; the basis.
noun - An exposition of principles or reasons.
hyponym - dialectics
synonym - rationalization, reasoning
hypernym - explanation
same-context - inference, paradigm, ramification, motivation, viewpoint, presupposition
If you know someone who's outgoing, sociable, and fond of the company of others, you might want to call her gregarious. The word was originally used to describe animals that live in flocks it's from the Latin word grex, meaning "herd." Not surprisingly, people began using it to describe humans who liked being in groups. Today biologists still speak of gregarious species, but you're more likely to hear it in reference to people. Despite what you might suspect, it has no historical connection to the name Gregory but if you know an outgoing fellow with that name, you could call him Greg-arious.
adjective - Seeking and enjoying the company of others; sociable. See Synonyms at social.
adjective - Tending to move in or form a group with others of the same kind: gregarious bird species.
adjective - Botany Growing in groups that are close together but not densely clustered or matted.
equivalent - clustered, social
synonym - social, sociable, outgoing
same-context - vivacious, quick-witted, approachable, imitative, free-and-easy
Mettle is the courage to carry on. If someone wants to "test your mettle," they want to see if you have the heart to follow through when the going gets tough. Choose Your Words:medal / meddle / mettleHere we have a trio of words that sound the same (at least in American English) but mean very different things: medal, meddle, and mettle.
Continue reading...Having the mettle to do something means you have guts. In short, you're a pretty impressive person. If you have the intellectual mettle to enter a political debate, not only do you know a lot about politics, but you have the spunk to show it off. Metal and mettle were used interchangeably meaning a solid material like gold, and the "stuff a person is made of" until everyone got confused and the words went their separate ways.
noun - Courage and fortitude; spirit: troops who showed their mettle in combat.
noun - Inherent quality of character and temperament.
idiom - on (one's) mettle Prepared to accept a challenge and do one's best.
synonym - heart, courage, spirit, disposition, energy
etymologically-related-term - mettlesome
cross-reference - to his mettle
hypernym - courage, bravery, courageousness
Choose the verb, mitigate, when something lessens the unpleasantness of a situation. You can mitigate your parents' anger by telling them you were late to dinner because you were helping your elderly neighbor. The somewhat formal verb, mitigate, comes from the Latin roots mtis "soft" and agere "to do/act," which add up to "to soften." It is often used with words that indicate an outcome or something harmful. When you buy car insurance, you are trying to mitigate the risks involved with driving. Sunscreen is used to mitigate the effects of the sun on your skin.
verb-transitive - To moderate (a quality or condition) in force or intensity; alleviate. See Synonyms at relieve.
verb-intransitive - To become milder.
hyponym - relieve, lighten
form - mitigating, mitigated
synonym - ameliorate, check, quieten, subdue, ease, lessen
Something apposite is fitting or relevant. It is apposite that radio stations play Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, and that your tax accountant takes vacation after April 15th. It all makes sense. The adjective apposite is derived from the Latin terms appositus and apponere. Ponere means to place, and thus apponere is "well-placed or well-put." Don't confuse apposite with opposite; they have almost opposite meanings!
adjective - Strikingly appropriate and relevant. See Synonyms at relevant.
equivalent - apropos
form - apposition
synonym - pat, appropriate, relevant, relative
cross-reference - opposite
same-context - felicitous, diary, prefatory
One can be described as supine when lying face up ("his favorite yoga poses were always the supine ones"); or, if one is very passive or lethargic ("supine in the face of their threats and insults").The adjective supine comes from a Latin word, supinus, which means thrown backwards or inactive. Whenever a person or animal is lying on its back, belly-up, it is supine. When your hand is open, palm-up, it is also supine. Supine can even describe a person who gives insufficient resistance, or who is lazy and ineffectual. "When Jack refused to object to the landlords repeated and gouging rent increases, he was supine."
adjective - Lying on the back or having the face upward.
adjective - Having the palm upward. Used of the hand.
adjective - Marked by or showing lethargy, passivity, or blameworthy indifference. See Synonyms at inactive.
adjective - Inclined; sloping.
noun - Grammar A defective Latin verbal noun of the fourth declension, having very limited syntax and only two cases, an accusative in -tum or -sum and an ablative in -t or -s. The accusative form is sometimes considered to be the fourth principal part of the Latin verb.
equivalent - inactive, passive, unerect
form - supination
synonym - reclined, peaceful, sloping, lethargic, inattentive, negligent
The verb saturate means to cause something to be fully soaked to the point where it can't take on anything else. A heavy rainstorm can saturate the ground, leaving puddles on the lawn because no more water can be absorbed. The word saturate comes from the Latin word saturatus, meaning "to fill full, sate, drench." Saturate is often used to describe the aftermath of a big rainstorm, but other things can be saturated as well. If you're a workaholic, you might saturate all your free time with work, leaving no time to spend with your family. In chemistry, saturate describes causing one substance, like a solution, to take on the greatest amount of another substance.
verb-transitive - To imbue or impregnate thoroughly: "The recollection was saturated with sunshine ( Vladimir Nabokov). See Synonyms at charge.
verb-transitive - To soak, fill, or load to capacity.
verb-transitive - Chemistry To cause (a substance) to unite with the greatest possible amount of another substance.
adjective - Saturated.
hyponym - charge, stuff, soak, alcoholise, thoriate, ammonify, imbrue, imbue, medicate, drench
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. It stands to reason that the original use of the word panegyris, from which panegyric derives, was to describe a public gathering in honor of a Greek god. The Latin, L. panegyricus, altered slightly to mean "public eulogy," which around the 16th Century shifted to the French pangyrique, which meant "laudation." In any case, the word today stands for high praise given in a speech or tribute as highfalutin as the word itself sounds.
noun - A formal eulogistic composition intended as a public compliment.
noun - Elaborate praise or laudation; an encomium.
equivalent - complimentary, panegyrical
form - panegyrically, panegyrical
synonym - eulogy, encomiastic, laudatory
hypernym - extolment, praise, congratulations
Succor is relief or help. If you've just woken up in the midst of a lion's den, wearing nothing but raw meat pajamas sounds like you could use some succor!In archaic times, succor meant a reinforcement of troops during a hard battle. These days though, those reinforcements are a bit more figurative. Succor is a helping hand in a time of need, relief when the going gets tough. Succor can also be used as a verb, as in, "After Bob fell overboard, he was saved succored by a life preserver."
noun - Assistance in time of distress; relief.
noun - One that affords assistance or relief.
verb-transitive - To give assistance to in time of want, difficulty, or distress. See Synonyms at help.
hyponym - consolation, comfort, solace, mercy
form - succorer, succoring, succored
synonym - relieve, help, support
If something is prejudicial towards a particular point of view, you can call it partisan. You'll often hear of the partisan politics in the US since politicians seem to be so devoted to either the Republican or Democratic parties. Partisan can be used to describe rabid supporters of any person or activity. In American English, however, it is most often used to refer to politics and the American two-party system of Democrats and Republicans. A bill introduced may have partisan support from the party that introduced the bill, or more rarely it seems to American voters the bill may even have bipartisan support. The prefix bi is added to show the support from both parties.
noun - A fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.
noun - A member of an organized body of fighters who attack or harass an enemy, especially within occupied territory; a guerrilla.
adjective - Of, relating to, or characteristic of a partisan or partisans.
adjective - Devoted to or biased in support of a party, group, or cause: partisan politics.
noun - A weapon having a blade with lateral projections mounted on the end of a long shaft, used chiefly in the 16th and 17th centuries.
hyponym - bigot, shutterbug, freak, junky, doctrinaire, gadgeteer, fiend, fan, junkie, fanatic
Carping is petty and unjustified criticism that just wont stop. People who find fault with you at every turn, who appreciate nothing and complain, complain, complain, are carping. Enough already!Your annoying aunt Mildred who constantly picks on you, listing all the things she thinks are wrong about the way you dress, the style of your hair, who youre dating, and where youre working? Shes carping. Carping can also be used as an adjective, to describe someone who is overly critical and impossible to please like that carping food critic who ruined the debut of your new restaurant.
adjective - Naggingly critical or complaining.
synonym - fault-finding
hypernym - unfavorable judgment, criticism
verb-stem - carp
variant - captious
To incorporate is to include or integrate a part into the whole. Incorporate is a more active version of the word "include"; if you incorporate, you are adding something to the mix. In the business world, to incorporate is a legal process. In other usages, the word incorporate really just means to include something or work something into whatever was already existing. You could incorporate your new roommate's furniture into the decor of your apartment, but you may not find a way to incorporate her cat's litter box.
verb-transitive - To unite (one thing) with something else already in existence: incorporated the letter into her diary.
verb-transitive - To admit as a member to a corporation or similar organization.
verb-transitive - To cause to merge or combine together into a united whole.
verb-transitive - To cause to form into a legal corporation: incorporate a business.
verb-transitive - To give substance or material form to; embody.
verb-transitive - Linguistics To cause (a word, for example) to undergo noun incorporation.
verb-intransitive - To become united or combined into an organized body.
verb-intransitive - To become or form a legal corporation: San Antonio incorporated as a city in 1837.
verb-intransitive - Linguistics To be formed by or allow formation by noun incorporation.
adjective - Combined into one united body; merged.
adjective - Formed into a legal corporation.
hyponym - reintegrate, fold, build in, reincorporate
equivalent - united
form - incorporating, incorporated
synonym - corporate, spiritual, associated
Something that is permeable can be passed through, especially by liquids or gases. "I wish I hadn't worn my permeable sweater to the picnic when the weatherman called for thunderstorms. The rain seeped right through the fabric, soaking me to the skin."A permeable surface allows materials like liquids to pass through either in or out. Inside the body, the walls of cells are permeable membranes that allow fluids and nutrients to get in and nourish the cells. A permeable shirt is good to wear in the summer, because it helps release the sweat sticking to the skin.
adjective - That can be permeated or penetrated, especially by liquids or gases: permeable membranes; rock that is permeable by water.
equivalent - porous, semipermeable
synonym - water-permeable, penetrable, passable, pervious
cross-reference - nonpermeable, permeability
same-context - sponge-like, impermeable
The Greek god Bacchus was no teetotaler he slung them back, big time. A bacchanalian party is a wild, wine-soaked, rowdy affair. Bacchanalian is used to describe any event that Bacchus would have enjoyed. The Romans celebrated Bacchus with wine, songs, dances and more wine not the kind of behavior you would expect from self-respecting adults (and probably not the kind of thing they would tell their kids about). Bacchanalian sounds like back-and-nail yen so you might want to think of it as a description of party where everyone has one drink too many and wants to give each other a back rub.
noun - Alternative capitalization of Bacchanalian.
equivalent - intoxicated, inebriated, drunk
synonym - bacchanal
same-context - berserker, debauchee, dithyrambic, squanderer, singalong, phallic
A woman emptying out her purse after many years might find an old stick of gum, a pair of broken sunglasses, a few movie tickets, and sundry items, meaning that that her purse was filled with a random collection of unrelated things. Most people associate the word sundry with the old-fashioned drugstore in their neighborhood that used to sell all sorts of odds and ends, from magazines to hairbrushes. The word is typically used as an adjective to describe a collection of various different items found in one place, as in "I discovered records, perfume bottles, and sundry items at my neighbor's yard sale." The phrase "all and sundry" refers collectively to a group of people, as in, "I invited all and sundry of my relatives to my tea party."
adjective - Various; miscellaneous: a purse containing keys, wallet, and sundry items.
equivalent - heterogenous, heterogeneous
synonym - separate, diverse, divers, several, various
etymologically-related-term - all and sundry
cross-reference - all and sundry, sundry civil appropriation bill
Use the word sage for someone or something wise and judicious. Thanks to the sage advice of your friend, you didn't write your teacher an angry e-mail!Although you might think of a wizard when you hear the word sage, really it means a wise man. Today you see it used to refer to someone who has insight in a particular field. If someone is a policy sage, he knows just what advice to give politicians to make them understand the issue and respond successfully to it. In a totally unrelated use, there is also a plant called sage that is useful in home remedies and cooking.
noun - One venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.
adjective - Having or exhibiting wisdom and calm judgment.
adjective - Proceeding from or marked by wisdom and calm judgment: sage advice.
adjective - Archaic Serious; solemn.
noun - Any of various plants of the genus Salvia, especially S. officinalis, having aromatic grayish-green, opposite leaves. Also called ramona.
noun - The leaves of this plant used as a seasoning.
noun - Any of various similar or related plants in the mint family.
noun - Sagebrush.
hyponym - Ramona, wild sage, salvia azurea, clary sage, salvia reflexa, mexican mint, mahatma, salvia divinorum, salvia pratensis, salvia leucophylla
Grab for the adjective precarious when something is unstable, dangerous or difficult and likely to get worse. Are you totally broke and the people you owe money to keep calling? You're in a precarious financial situation!The Latin root of precarious means "obtained by asking or praying." This fits well as precarious always signals that help is needed desperately. If your life is precarious or you are in a precarious situation, things could become difficult, maybe even dangerous, for you. If your footing or hold on something is precarious, it is unstable or not firmly placed, so that you are likely to slip or lose your grip.
adjective - Dangerously lacking in security or stability: a precarious posture; precarious footing on the ladder.
adjective - Subject to chance or unknown conditions: "His kingdom was still precarious; the Danes far from subdued ( Christopher Brooke).
adjective - Based on uncertain, unwarranted, or unproved premises: a precarious solution to a difficult problem.
adjective - Archaic Dependent on the will or favor of another.
equivalent - uneasy, dangerous, unsafe, insecure
form - precariat, precariously, precarisation, precarization, precariousness
synonym - unsettled
A supposition is a guess or a hypothesis. Your supposition that your kids will automatically wash their hands before dinner is probably false. You'd best remind them to do it or risk dirty hands at dinner. What's the difference between an assumption and a supposition both nouns that are often taken as synonyms for each other? An assumption is an idea or theory that is usually made without proof. A supposition, on the other hand, has the connotation that the idea or theory is testable and provable. If you are to meet someone named Hunter, you may make the assumption that you are meeting a man. But if you know that Hunter lives in an all-female dorm, you may have the supposition that Hunter is a woman.
noun - The act of supposing.
noun - Something supposed; an assumption.
hyponym - divination, basis, self-evident truth, fundament, groundwork, presupposition, basic assumption, constatation, cornerstone, precondition
Use the verb converge to describe something that comes together at a common point: Thousands of Elvis fans plan to converge on the small Arkansas town where unconfirmed sightings of the deceased superstar eating at a local barbeque restaurant had been widely reported.Two roads, a roomful of politicians, or a group of rabid fans when things come together from different points they converge. Converge traces back to the Latin word vergere, meaning to bend or to turn." The prefix con- means "with," a good way to remember that things that converge come together. Don't confuse it with diverge, which means the opposite: "move away," because the prefix dis- means apart.
verb-intransitive - To tend toward or approach an intersecting point: lines that converge.
verb-intransitive - To come together from different directions; meet: The avenues converge at a central square.
verb-intransitive - To tend toward or achieve union or a common conclusion or result: In time, our views and our efforts converged.
verb-intransitive - Mathematics To approach a limit.
verb-transitive - To cause to converge.
hyponym - breast, concentrate
form - converging, convergence, converged
synonym - center
etymologically-related-term - divergence
verb-form - converging, converges, converged
A dirge is a song of mourning, performed as a memorial to someone whos died. As you might imagine, a dirge is usually quite sad. Another word with a similar meaning that you might know is requiem.The noun dirge comes from the Latin dirige, which means direct, and is the beginning of a prayer that translates as Direct my way in your sight, O Lord my God. Dirge can still have a religious meaning, but it can also be any sad and mournful song, poem, or hymn composed or performed in memory of someone who has died. You can also say that something mournful sounds like a dirge, using the word in a more poetic sense.
noun - Music A funeral hymn or lament.
noun - Music A slow, mournful musical composition.
noun - A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.
noun - Roman Catholic Church The Office of the Dead.
hyponym - keen
synonym - office, monody, elegy, myriologue, threnody, lament, requiem, coronach
hypernym - song
A malleable personality is capable of being changed or trained, and a malleable metal is able to be pounded or pressed into various shapes. It's easier to learn when you're young and malleable. Similarly, there are ductile metals that can be hammered out into wire or thread; gold, silver, and platinum are examples. The adjective malleable dates back to Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin mallebilis, from mallere "to hammer," from Latin malleus "a hammer."
adjective - Capable of being shaped or formed, as by hammering or pressure: a malleable metal.
adjective - Easily controlled or influenced; tractable.
adjective - Able to adjust to changing circumstances; adaptable: the malleable mind of the pragmatist.
equivalent - manipulable, formed, tractable
synonym - ductil, tractable
etymologically-related-term - malleableness, malleate, malleably, malleability
cross-reference - malleable iron castings
Someone with venal motives is corrupt and maybe a little evil. Nobody wants to be thought of as venal. Choose Your Words:venal / venialCatholics everywhere are confused: do they commit venal sins or venial sins? And what is a venal/venial sin anyway?
Continue reading...Venal actions include taking bribes, giving jobs to your friends, and cheating. Venal means about the same thing as "corrupt" or "corruptible." Venal people are considered sleazy and untrustworthy. They're often criminals. No one is perfect, and most of us have venal motives at some point.
adjective - Open to bribery; mercenary: a venal police officer.
adjective - Capable of betraying honor, duty, or scruples for a price; corruptible.
adjective - Marked by corrupt dealings, especially bribery: a venal administration.
adjective - Obtainable for a price.
equivalent - corrupt
synonym - mercenary, venous, purchasable, crooked, mercernary, vendible, hireling, salable
etymologically-related-term - venally
Any mom taking care of the kids day in and day out is probably more than ready to seek asylum, or refuge, at a local spa. You may have heard asylum used to describe an institution where insane people are housed, but did you know that an asylum can also be somewhere youd happily and willingly go? An asylum offers shelter and protection, like the awning of a building in a downpour. Or a country that takes in refugees in danger of persecution otherwise known as "political asylum."
noun - An institution for the care of people, especially those with physical or mental impairments, who require organized supervision or assistance.
noun - A place offering protection and safety; a shelter.
noun - A place, such as a church, formerly constituting an inviolable refuge for criminals or debtors.
noun - The protection afforded by a sanctuary. See Synonyms at shelter.
noun - Protection and immunity from extradition granted by a government to a political refugee from another country.
hyponym - safe house, harbor, snake pit, booby hatch, harbour, funny house, crazy house, sanatorium, nuthouse, bedlam
Anything that is pleasing or delightful to the senses can be called sensuous. The feel of a luxurious cashmere sweater on your skin, the taste of a well-prepared meal, even the scent worn by your favorite person all of these can be sensuous experiences. Choose Your Words:sensual / sensuousThe words sensual and sensuous are often used interchangeably, but careful writers would do well to think before using one or the other.
Continue reading...The words sensuous and sensual are related and have very similar meanings: they both describe things that affect the senses in a positive way. Anything that feels, tastes, smells, looks or sounds good is sensuous. Things that satisfy the mind more than the body are not sensuous. Eating delicious food or relaxing in a warm bath are sensuous activities, but something intellectually satisfying, like doing a crossword puzzle is not sensuous, even if you really like doing it.
adjective - Of, relating to, or derived from the senses.
adjective - Appealing to or gratifying the senses.
adjective - Readily affected through the senses.
adjective - Highly appreciative of the pleasures of sensation.
equivalent - esthetical, aesthetic, esthetic, aesthetical
synonym - epicureal, delicious, luscious, material, sensitive
etymologically-related-term - sensuousness
It is no fun hanging out with vindictive people, who are forever out to get back at people they think have hurt them. If you forget to say hello to them one day in the hall, they will carry a grudge against you into next week. Vindictive is often paired with mean, as in "the atmosphere of the cheerleading squad at my new school was vindictive and mean and I wanted nothing to do with it." Vindictive rumors show a spirit full of revenge. Vindictive is from Latin vindicta "revenge." The related Latin verb vindicare has the very different meaning "to defend or clear someone from guilt," and this is the source of the English verb vindicate.
adjective - Disposed to seek revenge; revengeful.
adjective - Marked by or resulting from a desire to hurt; spiteful.
equivalent - unforgiving, malicious
form - vindictiveness, vindictively
synonym - grudgeful, unforgiving, vengeful, punitive, spiteful, nasty
Litigation is what goes on in court; it is the name for the process of suing someone or trying them for a crime. When families fight over their inheritance, the assets they want may end up being tied up for decades in litigation. If you paid a man to repair your roof and he never finished the job, and he ignores your calls, the best option is to bring litigation against him: take him to court! We can use litigation to talk about one court case, or about cases in general. When the Congress debates health care, they try to find ways to reduce for medical malpractice litigation, which is one of the most expensive aspects of medicine.
noun - The conduct of a lawsuit
hyponym - vexatious litigation, custody battle
synonym - law, vitilitigation, contention, lawing
hypernym - proceeding, proceedings, legal proceeding
same-context - bloodshed
Latent is an adjective that you use to describe something that is capable of becoming active or at hand, though it is not currently so. The adjective latent is a tricky word to define because it refers to something there but not there. That is, latent means something that is capable of becoming active or at hand but has not yet achieved that state. The word arrived in Middle English from the Latin word latre which means "to lie hidden." It can have somewhat negative connotations because it is often used in a medical context, as in a latent illness or infection, but it can also mean good things, such as someone discovering they have latent talents or capabilities.
adjective - Present or potential but not evident or active: latent talent.
adjective - Pathology In a dormant or hidden stage: a latent infection.
adjective - Biology Undeveloped but capable of normal growth under the proper conditions: a latent bud.
adjective - Psychology Present and accessible in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.
noun - A fingerprint that is not apparent to the eye but can be made sufficiently visible, as by dusting or fuming, for use in identification.
equivalent - inactive, possible, potential
synonym - concealed, hidden, secret, dormant
etymologically-related-term - latency
cross-reference - latent function, latent ambiguity
An itinerant is a person who moves from place to place, typically for work, like the itinerant preacher who moves to a new community every few years. Itinerant is pronounced "eye-TIN-er-ant." It might remind you of itinerary, the traveler's schedule that lists flights, hotel check-in times, and other plans. It's no surprise that both words come from the Latin word itinerare, meaning "to travel." Itinerant was first used in the 16th century to describe circuit judges who traveled to faraway courtrooms. Today, almost anyone can be an itinerant.
adjective - Traveling from place to place, especially to perform work or a duty: an itinerant judge; itinerant labor.
noun - One who travels from place to place.
hyponym - tinker, swagger, swagman, swaggie
equivalent - unsettled
form - itinerant worker
synonym - peripatetic, traveling, peripatetical, wandering
Compliments usually make you feel pretty good, but fulsome compliments, which are exaggerated and usually insincere, may have the opposite effect. Hundreds of years ago fulsome used to mean "abundant," but now it's more often used to describe an ingratiating manner or an excess of flattery that might provoke an onlooker to mime gagging. If you find fulsome to be a rather clunky word, there are several fun (if vaguely stomach-churning) synonyms, including buttery, oily, oleaginous, and smarmy.
adjective - Offensively flattering or insincere. See Synonyms at unctuous.
adjective - Offensive to the taste or sensibilities.
adjective - Usage Problem Copious or abundant.
equivalent - insincere
synonym - effusive, gross, profuse, excessive, cloying, plenteous, abundant, nauseous, obscene
Abjure means to swear off, and it applies to something you once believed. You can abjure a religious faith, you can abjure your love of another person, and you can abjure the practice of using excessive force in interrogation. Abjure is a more dramatic way to declare your rejection of something you once felt or believed. When you see its Latin roots, it makes sense: from ab- (meaning "away") and jurare ("to swear"). When you abjure something, you swear it away and dissociate yourself with it. You might abjure the field of astrology after receiving a bad fortune, or you might abjure marriage after a bitter divorce.
verb-transitive - To recant solemnly; renounce or repudiate: "For nearly 21 years after his resignation as Prime Minister in 1963, he abjured all titles, preferring to remain just plain 'Mr.' ( Time).
verb-transitive - To renounce under oath; forswear.
form - abjuring, abjured
synonym - repudiate, forswear, reject, recant, unswear, recall, renounce
verb-form - abjuring
A buffalo, a goose, a grasshopper, and a stegosaurus sit down to eat dinner. This isnt a joke, its an example of herbivorous creatures who exist on a diet of plant life only. Herbivorous comes from the Latin word herba, which means green plants, and thats what herbivorous animals eat all the time: grass, leaves, and other plants. Some massive and strong animals actually have peaceful herbivorous eating habits, like gorillas and hippopotamuses. The opposite of herbivorous is carnivorous, which describes meat-eating beasts like lions, sharks, crocodiles, and your uncle Marvin who eats nothing but steak all day long.
adjective - Feeding on plants; plant-eating.
equivalent - anthophagous, anthophilous, grass-eating, baccivorous, phytophilous, saprozoic, phytophagic, phytophagous, plant-eating, carpophagous
Feminists are often characterized by people who don't like them as strident. Strident describes their voices, raised in anger, as loud and harsh. Being a strident feminist isn't very ladylike. But making less money than a man when you do the same work is worse. Strident is related to the Latin word strix "screech owl." This is a kind of owl that doesn't hoot. It screeches in a strident way. Don't confuse strident with striding, which means walking quickly, with a wide step. If you're angry at your brother, you might come striding into his room and begin making a strident case for why he has done you wrong.
adjective - Loud, harsh, grating, or shrill; discordant. See Synonyms at loud, vociferous.
equivalent - imperative, cacophonous, cacophonic, noisy, soft
form - stridently, stridency
synonym - shrill, grating, creaking
Preternatural describes something that seems oddly abnormal and out of sync with everything else. If you hear a preternatural dog's barking, maybe it sounds like a police siren instead of a howl. Note that preternatural contains the word natural. Preter comes from the Latin word praeter which means "beyond"; so something preternatural is beyond nature. It is less commonly used than unnatural or supernatural but means the same thing. If you lift a truck off the ground and hold it above your head, people will marvel at you and say you have preternatural strength.
adjective - Out of or being beyond the normal course of nature; differing from the natural.
adjective - Surpassing the normal or usual; extraordinary: "Below his preternatural affability there is some acid and steel ( George F. Will).
adjective - Transcending the natural or material order; supernatural.
equivalent - supernatural, extraordinary
form - preternaturally
synonym - strange, supernatural, abnormal, uncommon, nonnatural, inexplicable, uncanny
Grandiloquent is a fancy term for, well, being fancy or pretentious. In fact, you might say grandiloquent is itself a pretty grandiloquent word. The word grandiloquent generally refers to the way a person behaves or speaks. Politicians and schoolteachers are the usual suspects of this manner of behavior, known as grandiloquence, but it can refer to anything that's overbearing or pompous in style or manner. Architecture, especially, is highly guilty of being grandiloquent if you check out just about anything built in the Baroque style, you could describe it as grandiloquent.
adjective - overly wordy, pompous, flowery, or elaborate.
equivalent - pretentious, rhetorical
synonym - extravagant, pompous, bombastic, flowery, pretentious, sesquipedalian, ostentatious
etymologically-related-term - grandiloquoy
If something is convoluted, it's intricate and hard to understand. You'll need to read over your brother's convoluted investment scheme a few times before deciding whether or not to go in on it. Convoluted comes from the Latin convolutus for rolled up together. Its original meaning in English was exactly that, first for eaves coiled up on themselves, then for anything rolled or knotted together. Over time convoluted took on its metaphorical sense of complicated and intricate, which is how it's generally used today. People complain about convoluted legal language and the convoluted tax code.
adjective - Having numerous overlapping coils or folds: a convoluted seashell.
adjective - Intricate; complicated: convoluted legal language; convoluted reasoning.
equivalent - complex, coiled
etymologically-related-term - convolute, convolution, convolve
cross-reference - convoluted bone, convoluted wings, convoluted antenn
verb-stem - convolute
same-context - Embarrass
A travesty is a cheap mockery, usually of something or someone serious, such as a travesty of justice. A travesty is a silly imitation, like a tall young man dressed up like a little old lady. Travesty and transvestite both come from French travesti meaning "dressed in disguise," so it helps to remember the definition of travesty by thinking of that football player in drag. A travesty can be more than that, though. A travesty of justice, for example, is a court case that makes a mockery of the system, or so you might think if the verdict isn't in your favor. There are lots of examples in literature: the book Don Quixote is a travesty of Medieval Romance.
noun - An exaggerated or grotesque imitation, such as a parody of a literary work.
noun - A debased or grotesque likeness: a travesty of justice. See Synonyms at caricature.
verb-transitive - To make a travesty of; parody or ridicule.
form - travesting, travestied
synonym - caricature, burlesque, travestied
verb-form - travesties, travestying, travestied
hypernym - parody, spoof
Usury means lending money at exorbitant interest rates. Credit-card companies charging annual interest rates of 29% are guilty of usury, as far as I'm concerned. A good way to remember the meaning of usury is that you can hear the word use in there. Think of charging too much interest as a way of "using" someone. The sad thing about high interest is that it's always the people who can least afford it who are charged rates so high that it amounts to usury. In the old days, if someone was found guilty of usury, they'd be flogged in the town square. Too bad the credit-card companies can't be dragged out of their holes, because they'd surely get a similar beating.
noun - The practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate.
noun - An excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money.
noun - Archaic Interest charged or paid on a loan.
synonym - interest, gombeen
etymologically-related-term - usuress, usurial, usurer, usurious
hypernym - rate of interest, loaning, lending, interest rate
adjective - Stubbornly contrary and disobedient; obstinate.
equivalent - disobedient
synonym - untoward, petulant, ungovernable: refractory, obstinate, wayward, unyielding, peevish, disobedient, cross
Can't manage your stubborn little brother who won't do what anyone says? You could call him intractable, or you could call your mother. Problems are intractable when they can't be solved. Intractable means not tractable. Helpful, right? No? Let's break it down. In both words you see the word tract. A contract is a written document that explains how a legal situation is to be managed together. When someone is tractable they are able to be managed or handled. When they are intractable, they are as unmanageable as a hungry two-year old.
adjective - Difficult to manage or govern; stubborn. See Synonyms at unruly.
adjective - Difficult to mold or manipulate: intractable materials.
adjective - Difficult to alleviate, remedy, or cure: intractable pain.
equivalent - unmanageable, uncontrollable, refractory, balking, stubborn, balky, unmalleable
form - intractableness, intractability, intractably
The perigee is the point in the orbit of an object circling the Earth when that object is closest to the Earth. The best time to observe the moon is when the moon reaches its perigee. The Greek ancestor of the word perigee was originally used by Ptolemy, a Roman scientist and astrologer who lived almost 2,000 years ago. The opposite of perigee is apogee. A perigee is measured from the center of the earth to the center of the orbiting object. When the moon is at its perigee, it can appear up to 14 percent larger than when it is at its apogee, but you probably can't tell the difference with the naked eye.
noun - The point nearest the earth's center in the orbit of the moon or a satellite.
noun - The point in any orbit nearest to the body being orbited.
equivalent - perigeum
etymologically-related-term - perihelion, periastron
hypernym - periapsis, point of periapsis
same-context - versa, copter, ever-rising, refluent, apogee
If someone is cantankerous he has a difficult disposition. Take care not to throw your ball into the yard of the cantankerous old man down the street he'll cuss you out and keep your ball. The origin of cantankerous is unclear (it may be at least partly from Middle English contek 'dissension'), but ever since it first appeared in plays from the 1770s, it's been a popular way to describe someone who is quarrelsome and disagreeable. It is usually applied to people, but stubborn animals like mules are also described as cantankerous. Events can be cantankerous too, like a cantankerous debate. Some synonyms are cranky, bad-tempered, irritable, irascible.
adjective - Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable: disliked her cantankerous landlord.
adjective - Difficult to handle: "had to use liquid helium, which is supercold, costly and cantankerous ( Boston Globe).
equivalent - obstinate, unregenerate, stubborn, ill-natured
synonym - ugly, contentious, malicious, ill-tempered, perverse
same-context - bad-tempered
Are you inspired to write love poems to your crush? Sprinkle rose petals in her path? Then you're feeling ardor an intense kind of warmth and fervor most often associated with love. The Brits spell ardor with an extra vowel, so you'll often see this word written as ardour. But on either side of the pond it's a noun that brings to mind Pepe Le Pew and his fervent pursuit of the female species. But ardor isn't always about love. It's perfectly platonic to be "an ardent supporter" of a certain cause, or show eagerness and ardor in your approach to anything.
noun - Fiery intensity of feeling. See Synonyms at passion.
noun - Strong enthusiasm or devotion; zeal: "The dazzling conquest of Mexico gave a new impulse to the ardor of discovery ( William Hickling Prescott).
noun - Intense heat or glow, as of fire.
hyponym - zeal
synonym - fervor, feverishness, verve, intensity, glow, fever, heat, eagerness, flame
To accrue is to accumulate or to keep growing in value or size. If you can accrue enough extra credit to build up your grade, you won't have to take the final exam. Early forms of the word accrue were used as early as the 15th century with the meaning "to increase" or "to grow." Many modern uses for accrue involve money or finances, as when you accrue, or earn, interest on a bank account. You can accrue debt too, as interest grows on top of money owed until you pay it back. It's possible to accrue benefits over the time you work somewhere, or you can accrue demerits while you're misbehaving somewhere.
verb-intransitive - To come to one as a gain, addition, or increment: interest accruing in my savings account.
verb-intransitive - To increase, accumulate, or come about as a result of growth: common sense that accrues with experience.
verb-intransitive - To come into existence as a claim that is legally enforceable.
verb-transitive - To accumulate over time: I have accrued 15 days of sick leave.
hyponym - redound
form - accruing, accrued
synonym - arise, come, augment, enure, mature, attach, grow
Avarice is a fancy word for good old-fashioned greed. It's one of what some call "the seven deadly sins."Do you want more and more money? Or cookies? Or video games? Or anything? Then your heart is full of avarice, which you probably know better as greed. When people talk about greed, it's clearly not a good thing, but avarice has an even worse flavor to it. Avarice is often looked upon as a sin, and it's always considered despicable and evil.
noun - Immoderate desire for wealth; cupidity.
synonym - greed, cupidity, covetousness, avariciousness
etymologically-related-term - avaricious, avariciously
hypernym - greed, deadly sin, mortal sin
same-context - greed
If you're running late and still need to iron your clothes and make breakfast, but can't find your shoes, you may wish you had a factotum, or a servant who does a variety of odd jobs for their employer. Factotum sounds like the two words fact and totem spliced together, but this curious noun originally comes from the Latin words that mean "do" and "everything." In current times, since servants arent typical anymore, we might call someone who has a paid job like this a jack-of-all-trades or possibly a personal assistant.
noun - An employee or assistant who serves in a wide range of capacities.
synonym - jack of all trades, sciolist, handyman
hypernym - retainer, servant
same-context - henchman, chambermaid, understudy, pantler, laquais
When you tell your boyfriend hes not just the best boyfriend ever but also the world's best driver, and this makes him offer to drive the whole way on your upcoming road trip, then congratulations. You know how to inveigle, or use charm to coax someone into doing something. If you successfully inveigle your sister to doing something for you, she must be so caught up in your flattering that she is blind to your true intention. In fact, inveigle comes from the Middle French word aveugler, meaning delude, make blind, which can be traced back to the Medieval Latin word ab oculis, or lacking eyes. The people you inveigle don't see what you are really up to.
verb-transitive - To win over by coaxing, flattery, or artful talk. See Synonyms at lure.
verb-transitive - To obtain by cajolery: inveigled a free pass to museum.
hyponym - bully, browbeat, soft soap, swagger
form - inveigling, inveigled
synonym - entice, insnare, cajole, wheedle
A syllogism is a type of logical reasoning where the conclusion is gotten from two linked premises. Heres an example: An apple is a fruit. All fruit is good. Therefore apples are good. Used properly, syllogism can be a good way of reasoning, but its very easy to make sloppy syllogisms by messing up the middle term that links the premises together, as in: "President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an Aquarius. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was great. Therefore all Aquariuses are great." Because so many are made poorly, the syllogism has a bad reputation. Poor, misleading, or tricky reasoning is often called mere syllogism.
noun - Logic A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example, All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion.
noun - Reasoning from the general to the specific; deduction.
noun - A subtle or specious piece of reasoning.
synonym - elench, prosyllogism, enthymeme, epicheirema, sorites, elenchus, trilemma
etymologically-related-term - syllogismus
cross-reference - spurious syllogism, affirmative syllogism
To resolve is to settle or make a decision about something often formal. A college's board of directors might resolve to recruit more minority students. As a noun, resolve refers to a strong determination to do something. If you make a New Year's resolution to exercise every day, you'll need plenty of resolve to stick with your program. The verb descends from Middle English resolven "to dissolve," from Latin resolvere "to untie." In English, the obsolete sense of "to dissolve" can be seen in this line from Shakespeare: "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew."
verb-transitive - To make a firm decision about.
verb-transitive - To cause (a person) to reach a decision. See Synonyms at decide.
verb-transitive - To decide or express by formal vote.
verb-transitive - To change or convert: My resentment resolved itself into resignation.
verb-transitive - To find a solution to; solve. See Synonyms at solve.
verb-transitive - To remove or dispel (doubts).
verb-transitive - To bring to a usually successful conclusion: resolve a conflict.
verb-transitive - Medicine To cause reduction of (an inflammation, for example).
verb-transitive - Music To cause (a tone or chord) to progress from dissonance to consonance.
verb-transitive - Chemistry To separate (an optically inactive compound or mixture) into its optically active constituents.
verb-transitive - To render parts of (an image) visible and distinct.
verb-transitive - Mathematics To separate (a vector, for example) into coordinate components.
verb-transitive - To melt or dissolve (something).
verb-transitive - Archaic To separate (something) into constituent parts.
verb-intransitive - To reach a decision or make a determination: resolve on a course of action.
verb-intransitive - To become separated or reduced to constituents.
verb-intransitive - Music To undergo resolution.
noun - Firmness of purpose; resolution.
noun - A determination or decision; a fixed purpose.
noun - A formal resolution made by a deliberative body.
hyponym - square off, determine, stiffness, determination, purpose, stubbornness, adamance, run, decision, obstinacy
To chasten someone is to correct him or her, often with the use of some pretty steep punishment. Chasten can also mean "to restrain." Either of these actions may be necessary when someone isn't behaving like they're supposed to. The verb chasten is often used with the verb "to be" as in "be chastened." If students are caught writing graffiti on the bathroom wall, you can expect them to "be chastened" by both the school and their parents. Chasten is related to the word chastise, meaning "to punish severely." Both words can be traced back to the Latin root castus, meaning "morally pure." So keep yourself on the straight and narrow when it comes to morality and you can avoid being chastened.
verb-transitive - To correct by punishment or reproof; take to task.
verb-transitive - To restrain; subdue: chasten a proud spirit.
verb-transitive - To rid of excess; refine or purify: chasten a careless writing style.
hyponym - flame
form - chastening, chastened
synonym - correct, chastise, subdue, purify, restrain, punish, castigate
You might remember this one from earth science class. An igneous rock is one that forms through intense, fiery heatusually in a volcano. It starts out molten (so hot it melts into liquid), then solidifies as it cools. So, its rock that has ignited.Igneous comes from the Latin ignis "fire." Granite and basalt are good examples of igneous rock that started out as blazing hot lava and morphed into harder stuff as their temperature dropped. FYI, the other main types of rocks are sedimentary and metamorphic and, technically, you could use igneous to describe other things that are rare or fiery, but it would sound pretty stilted and most people wouldnt know what you meant.
adjective - Of, relating to, or characteristic of fire.
adjective - Geology Formed by solidification from a molten state. Used of rocks.
adjective - Geology Of or relating to rock so formed; pyrogenic.
equivalent - hot
cross-reference - igneous fusion
same-context - abstract, granitic, basaltic, eruptive, stratified, thermonuclear, syenitic, plutonic
Suffrage is the right to vote in public elections. Universal suffrage means everyone gets to vote, as opposed to only men, or property holders. Suffrage has nothing to do with "suffering," unless the wrong person is elected. Female supporters of women's suffrage in 1906 were called suffragettes, because the French suffix ette was trendy back then. But nowadays words with -ette are shunned because they imply the inferiority of women. So it seems that female supporters of a woman's right to vote were referred to by a sexist term.
noun - The right or privilege of voting; franchise.
noun - The exercise of such a right.
noun - A vote cast in deciding a disputed question or in electing a person to office.
noun - A short intercessory prayer.
hyponym - universal suffrage
synonym - elect, franchise, assistance, vote, testimony, approval, aid, witness, attestation
When two roads diverge, they split and go in different directions. If your opinion diverges from mine, we do not agree. To diverge means to move apart or be separate. The poet, Robert Frost, wrote: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -/ I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference." The word diverge in the poem carries both the meaning of separating and of being apart from the main. As a poet, it was Frost's job to use words properly. Here he does not diverge from this role.
verb-intransitive - To go or extend in different directions from a common point; branch out.
verb-intransitive - To differ, as in opinion or manner.
verb-intransitive - To depart from a set course or norm; deviate. See Synonyms at swerve.
verb-intransitive - Mathematics To fail to approach a limit.
verb-transitive - To cause (light rays, for example) to diverge; deflect.
hyponym - aberrate, fork, separate, negate, bifurcate, ramify, divaricate, belie, branch, contradict
Someone who is full of himself and doesn't give a darn about other people has a healthy supply of egoism. Egoism means "me me me me me-ism."Egoism has a lot to do with selfishness, which sounds like a bad thing, right? Not necessarily. Some people think that being selfish is the best thing to do for the world as a whole. In other words, if everyone is selfish, everyone will be better off. So egoism can be considered positive or negative it all depends how someone uses the word. This makes egoism different from egotism an always yucky type of selfishness.
noun - The ethical doctrine that morality has its foundations in self-interest.
noun - The ethical belief that self-interest is the just and proper motive for all human conduct.
noun - Excessive preoccupation with one's own well-being and interests, usually accompanied by an inflated sense of self-importance.
noun - Egotism; conceit. See Synonyms at conceit.
synonym - individualism, selfishness, weism, solipsism, suicism, self-opinionatedness, self-feeling, self-seeking
etymologically-related-term - egoistic, egoistical
You know that part of every movie after the big action scene, where thing get explained, and the characters tie up loose ends? That called the denouement, or the showing of how the plot eventually turns out. Denouement is a French word that literally means the action of untying, from a verb meaning to untie. The English word is pronounced like the French: day-noo-MON. The last syllable has a nasalized vowel instead of the n sound. You can use it outside the context of plays or novels, too: You might describe the denouement of an argument between two friends.
noun - The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot.
noun - The events following the climax of a drama or novel in which such a resolution or clarification takes place.
noun - The outcome of a sequence of events; the end result.
Labile is an adjective used to describe something that is easily or frequently changed. Radioactive elements, such as uranium or plutonium, are labile. It is this lability that makes them unstable and dangerous. From the Latin verb lb, "to slide or slip," labile is often found in a technical context, especially in science, to refer to some sort of instability. For example, in chemistry, a compound that can be easily broken down by heat is called labile. The term can also be used in psychology to describe someone who is emotionally unstable.
adjective - Open to change; adaptable: an emotionally labile person.
adjective - Chemistry Constantly undergoing or likely to undergo change; unstable: a labile compound.
equivalent - reactive, imbalanced, unbalanced
form - labile verb
synonym - unstable
etymologically-related-term - lability, lapse
cross-reference - labile equilibrium
same-context - bereft, lipid-soluble
When you feel lethargic, you're sluggish or lacking energy. Being sleepy or hungry can make anyone lethargic. Being lethargic makes it hard to get anything done: you feel weak and sleepy. Whatever the reason, a lethargic person needs to snap out of it and get some energy, maybe by eating something or by taking a nap. Being lethargic also goes well with watching TV, since that takes almost no energy at all. When you feel lethargic, you don't have any energy to spare.
adjective - Of, causing, or characterized by lethargy.
equivalent - lackadaisical, foggy, dreamy, lethargical, languorous, stuporous, languid, groggy, logy, dazed
When you hear the word solicitous, think of your mom attentive, caring and concerned. It's nice when your waiter gives you good service, but if he or she is solicitous, the hovering might annoy you. Solicitous comes from the Latin roots sollus "entire" and citus "set in motion." If someone is solicitous, they are entirely set in motion caring for you. Your neighbors are solicitous if they try to help your family out all the time. Use this word too if you're eager to do something. A good student will be solicitous to appear interested in what the teacher says even when it's not that interesting.
adjective - Anxious or concerned: a solicitous parent.
adjective - Expressing care or concern: made solicitous inquiries about our family. See Synonyms at thoughtful.
adjective - Full of desire; eager.
adjective - Marked by or given to anxious care and often hovering attentiveness.
adjective - Extremely careful; meticulous: solicitous in matters of behavior.
equivalent - attentive, concerned
synonym - anxious, concerned, careful
same-context - submissive, attentive, appreciative, apprehensive, helpful
If you haven't got anything nice to say, then it's time to disparage someone. It means to belittle or degrade a person or idea. Disparage is a specific way to describe a certain kind of insult, the kind that secures the insulter's place as superior. It often refers to an opinion or criticism lobbed in print or via word of mouth, not necessarily an act done to someone's face. If someone or something is being disparaged, you will often find a competing interest in the wings.
verb-transitive - To speak of in a slighting or disrespectful way; belittle. See Synonyms at decry.
verb-transitive - To reduce in esteem or rank.
hyponym - discredit, derogate, depreciate, belittle, disgrace, deprecate, tear apart, trash, vilipend, denigrate
The adjective insensible is used to describe someone who is unconscious. If you keep your bowling ball on the top shelf of the closet and it rolls out and conks you on the head, you will be probably rendered insensible. The adjective insensible describes a lack of emotional response or being indifferent. If your friend says that the roller coaster was so scary it nearly made him vomit and you shrug and say, "Eh, it was okay," he may think you are insensible to fear. A lack of physical sensation can also be described as insensible. If your nerve endings are not acute and you don't feel much pain, you are insensible to pain. This can be dangerous, though, because you might not notice if you get hurt skateboarding.
adjective - Imperceptible; inappreciable: an insensible change in temperature.
adjective - Very small or gradual: insensible movement.
adjective - Having lost consciousness, especially temporarily; unconscious: lay insensible where he had fallen.
adjective - Not invested with sensation; inanimate: insensible clay.
adjective - Devoid of physical sensation or the power to react, as to pain or cold; numb.
adjective - Unaware; unmindful: I am not insensible of your concern.
adjective - Not emotionally responsive; indifferent: insensible to criticism.
adjective - Lacking meaning; unintelligible.
equivalent - asleep, imperceptible, numb, unconscious, anesthetic, unperceivable, ansthetic, benumbed, insensitive
form - insensibly
If you just can't get enough popcorn, even the jumbo tub at the movie theater may not be enough to satiate, or satisfy, your desire. Satiate is often used in situations in which a thirst, craving, or need is satisfied. However, when satiate is used to describe eating, it can take on a more negative, or even disgusted, tone. If you comment that the diners at the world's largest all-you-can eat buffet were satiated, you might not mean that they were merely satisfied. You could be implying that they've been gluttons, and that they are now overstuffed with fried chicken wings and mac and cheese.
verb-transitive - To satisfy (an appetite or desire) fully.
verb-transitive - To satisfy to excess.
adjective - Filled to satisfaction.
hyponym - pall, cloy
equivalent - jaded, satisfiable, satiable
form - satiating, satiated
synonym - sated, sate, glutted
A morose person is sullen, gloomy, sad, glum, and depressed not a happy camper. When someone is morose, they seem to have a cloud of sadness hanging over them. This word is a stronger than just sad morose implies being extremely gloomy and depressed. We all can be morose at times, like after the death of a friend or family member. Some people tend to be morose more often: being morose is just part of some personalities. Whenever you see the word morose, think "really, really sad and gloomy."
adjective - Sullenly melancholy; gloomy.
equivalent - ill-natured
synonym - melancholy, glum, austere, lascivious, grouchy, crabby, churlish, sulky, surly
See the word "pose" in juxtapose? When you juxtapose, you are "posing" or positioning things side by side. The verb juxtapose requires contrasting things placed next to one other: "The collage juxtaposed pictures of Jane while she was growing up and as an adult." Juxtapose is used often when referring to contrasting elements in the arts. "The music juxtaposed the instrumentation of jazz with the harmonies of soul."
verb-transitive - To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
etymologically-related-term - juxtaposition
verb-form - juxtaposes, juxtaposing, juxtaposed
hypernym - position, pose, put, lay, set, place
Approbation is an official, important-sounding, and somewhat old-fashioned word for approval or praise. A princess, for example, might only consider marrying a prince that is met with her father's, the King's, approbation. How is it possible that approbation means approval when probation is a form of being in trouble in school? Remember that probation is a testing period, to see if you can be good. Approbation means it's all good. Or you can remember this rhyme: "Filled with approbation, the audience gave a standing ovation."
noun - An expression of warm approval; praise.
noun - Official approval.
synonym - admiration, approve, consent, approval, proof, praise, concurrence, liking, commendation, sanction
To venerate is to worship, adore, be in awe of. You probably don't venerate your teacher or boss; however, you may act like you do!The word hasn't come far from its Latin roots in venerari, "to worship." Although you can certainly venerate a deity, a person can deserve it, too. Find part of the word Venus in there, meaning "love, desire" and dang, if someone venerates you, you're doing okay. We don't usually venerate our sweethearts; we often save it for those higher powers, or for remarkable people we're in awe of. Mother Teresa was venerated for her work with the poor, and Gandhi was venerated for his efforts for peace, but most people aren't venerated for normal stuff, like being someone's sweetie.
verb-transitive - To regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference. See Synonyms at revere1.
hyponym - enshrine, worship, saint
form - venerated, venerating
synonym - revere, reverence, esteem, adore, respect
If you find yourself making eyes at that stranger across the coffee shop, chances are there is an allure about him or her something mysteriously, powerfully attractive and tempting. You've probably noticed that allure contains lure, from the German word luder meaning "bait." A well-made lure is so alluring to a fish that it won't notice the hook. First used in the 15th century, this word has even landed its own fashion magazine "Allure," which tries to tempt people to buy it by putting powerfully attractive people on the cover and hoping you'll believe that if you buy it, you'll have some allure as well.
verb-transitive - To attract with something desirable; entice: Promises of quick profits allure the unwary investor.
verb-intransitive - To be highly, often subtly attractive: charms that still allure.
noun - The power to attract; enticement.
hyponym - invitation
form - alluded, alluring
synonym - tempt, entice, allurement, decoy, bearing, gait, attract
If youve heard the word bard, it was probably in English class. William Shakespeare has been known as "The Bard" since the nineteenth century, but the word has a much older history, and, when it's not capitalized, it simply means "lyric poet."In civilizations without written histories, poets and singers were the ones to spread the word from place to place and across generations. In ancient and medieval Gaelic societies, the professional storytellers were called bards (or bardds, in Wales). Irish bards were part of a chieftain's household, and their job was to record and proclaim the exploits of their lord although a bard might also compose blistering satires if he was displeased with his employer.
noun - One of an ancient Celtic order of minstrel poets who composed and recited verses celebrating the legendary exploits of chieftains and heroes.
noun - A poet, especially a lyric poet.
noun - A piece of armor used to protect or ornament a horse.
verb-transitive - To equip (a horse) with bards.
verb-transitive - To cover (meat) in thin pieces of bacon or fat to preserve moisture during cooking.
equivalent - barde
form - bardic
synonym - armour, poet, singer
verb-form - bards, barding, barded
hypernym - grace, decorate
A sentence that teaches a new vocabulary word should always be pellucid, that is, its style and meaning should be easily understandable so that you can derive the definition from the sentence. You may have heard the word lucid, which means clear. Both lucid and pellucid derive from a Latin word that means "to shine through." Pellucid water is clear, a pellucid sky is a particularly intense shade of blue, pellucid prose is writing that's easy to understand, and pellucid singing is clear and light in tone.
adjective - Admitting the passage of light; transparent or translucent. See Synonyms at clear.
adjective - Transparently clear in style or meaning: pellucid prose.
equivalent - clear
synonym - clear, translucent, limpid, intelligible, transparent
etymologically-related-term - lucid, elucidate
cross-reference - pellucid zone
same-context - unlined
Some politicians change the boundaries of their voting districts in order to benefit themselves or their political party. This manipulation often viewed as unfair is called gerrymandering. The verb gerrymander first appeared in 1812 when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry redrew district boundaries, hoping it would help his party in an upcoming senate election. Then somebody noticed that the new district looked like a salamander, so they combined Gerry and -mander to create the new word gerrymander. And then a newspaper printed a cartoon with a giant salamander making fun of Gerry, which is what happens to politicians who dont behave themselves.
verb-transitive - To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections.
noun - The act, process, or an instance of gerrymandering.
noun - A district or configuration of districts differing widely in size or population because of gerrymandering.
form - gerrymandered, gerrymandering
verb-form - gerrymandered, gerrymanders, gerrymandering
hypernym - cheat, separate, divide, cheating, part
Sporadic is an adjective that you can use to refer to something that happens or appears often, but not constantly or regularly. The mailman comes every day but the plumber visits are sporadiche comes as needed. A specialized use of sporadic is to describe a disease that appears only occasionally in random cases, and is therefore not an epidemic. English borrowed the word sporadic from Greek sporadiks "scattered." A very near synonym is intermittent.
adjective - Occurring at irregular intervals; having no pattern or order in time. See Synonyms at periodic.
adjective - Appearing singly or at widely scattered localities, as a plant or disease.
adjective - Isolated; unique: a sporadic example.
equivalent - isolated, intermittent, unpredictable, irregular, stray, fitful, occasional, spasmodic, periodic
form - sporadic E layer
Luminous means full of or giving off light. During the winter holidays, with all their emphasis on light, you can see luminous displays of candles everywhere. This word has several figurative meanings that are related to the basic sense of something shining. For example, luminous prose is clear and easily understood. And a luminous career is bright and inspiring. The Middle English adjective is from Latin luminosus, from lumen "light."
adjective - Emitting light, especially emitting self-generated light.
adjective - Full of light; illuminated. See Synonyms at bright.
adjective - Easily comprehended; clear: luminous prose.
adjective - Enlightened and intelligent; inspiring: luminous ideas.
equivalent - bright
form - luminous paint, luminosity
synonym - intelligent, illuminated, luculent, enlightened, bright, lucid, shining
Asperity is the harsh tone or behavior people exhibit when theyre angry, impatient, or just miserable. When your supervisors Late again! greeting causes your entire future to pass before your eyes, he is speaking with asperity. The harshness that asperity implies can also apply to conditions, like "the asperities of life in a bomb shelter." Or even more literally to surfaces, like "the asperity of an unfinished edge." But, most often, you will see asperity used in reference to grumpy human beings.
noun - Roughness or harshness, as of surface, sound, or climate: the asperity of northern winters.
noun - Severity; rigor.
noun - A slight projection from a surface; a point or bump.
noun - Harshness of manner; ill temper or irritability.
hyponym - sternness
synonym - disagreeableness, tartness, roughness, severity, difficulty, harshness, raucity, sharpness, moroseness
The noun diffidence refers to a lack of self-confidence. Your diffidence might be the reason why you never say "hi" to the cute guy or gal in the elevator or why you never ask for a raise. The noun diffidence comes from the Latin word diffidere meaning "to mistrust" or "to lack confidence." Diffidence is often mistaken for snootiness because people don't understand that the diffident person is shy and lacking in confidence. "They asked him to be the team leader, but he expressed diffidence, saying that he didn't think he had enough time to do the job justice, nor did he think he had enough experience."
noun - The quality or state of being diffident; timidity or shyness.
hyponym - unassertiveness, hesitancy, hesitance
synonym - hesitation, timidity, bashfulness, suspicion, humility, doubt, apprehension
When you're walking through the woods, you sometimes see the path bifurcate, or split in two directions, and have to choose which way to continue. Bifurcate means to "divide into two branches."If you want to impress your friend (or annoy them) with your knowledge of big words, you can point out the place where "the river bifurcates", or the way tree branches "bifurcate again and again". Really what you're describing is anything that splits into forks or branches. The Latin root of bifurcate adds the prefix bi, or "two", to the word "furca", or fork.
verb-transitive - To divide into two parts or branches.
verb-intransitive - To separate into two parts or branches; fork.
adjective - Forked or divided into two parts or branches, as the Y-shaped styles of certain flowers.
equivalent - divided, bifurcated
synonym - forked, two-pronged, chesty
verb-form - bifurcates, bifurcating, bifurcated
hypernym - diverge, fork
Heterodox is from the Greek root words heteros, meaning "the other," and doxa, meaning "opinion." The adjective heterodox was first applied to people who held a different religious opinion from the standard beliefs and teachings. Today, although the religious meaning remains, the adjective heterodox can describe someone who adheres to any atypical beliefs, such as scientists who buck the current thinking or politicians who do not toe the party line. The word can be a synonym of heretical, which describes someone with contrary beliefs. If you are a teacher with a heterodox teaching style, you may win over students but alarm your more traditional colleagues.
adjective - Not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma.
adjective - Holding unorthodox opinions.
equivalent - unorthodox
synonym - heretical
etymologically-related-term - heterodoxy, hetero-
cross-reference - orthodoxy, heretical, orthodox
same-context - far-spread, andmore, expansionist
noun-plural - The literary intelligentsia.
etymologically-related-term - twitterati, glitterati, intelligentsia
hypernym - intelligentsia, clerisy
same-context - jurist, virtuoso, antiquary, philanthropist, astronomer
Your friend Robert who always makes funny observations and light-hearted quips? Hes jocose, meaning he's good humored and jokes around a lot. Latin may not seem like a lot of laughs sometimes, but it is responsible for injecting a little humor into English words that have their origins in jocus, the Latin word meaning "joke" or "jest." Jocose, jocular, joke they all come from jocus. Jocose first came into English in the seventeenth century as a way to describe something thats characterized by a playful, merry humor.
adjective - Given to joking; merry.
adjective - Characterized by joking; humorous.
equivalent - humourous, humorous
synonym - merry, jesting, jocular, witty, funny, comical, pleasant, humorous
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. A key part of equivocate is the root vocate which come from the Latin vocare or "voice." When you give your voice to two opposing views in order to mislead or keep your options open, you're equivocating. Think of the expression, to talk out of both sides of your mouth. If you want to go to a party and your parents keep saying "maybe, it depends," tell them to stop equivocating and give you a straight answer.
verb-intransitive - To use equivocal language intentionally.
verb-intransitive - To avoid making an explicit statement. See Synonyms at lie2.
form - equivocated, equivocating
synonym - adumbrate, evade, prevaricate, shuffle, dodge, quibble
verb-form - equivocated, equivocating
If you really don't like someone you can shout out an imprecation at them. More than simply the use of bad language (although that can be involved, too), an imprecation is a damning curse wishing them nothing but ill. Originally from a Latin word meaning to "invoke evil" or "bring down bad spirits upon." Not to be confused with implication, a similar-sounding word with the completely unrelated meaning of implying something indirectly. These are two very commonly confused words, so be careful. You don't want an imprecation blasted down upon you from someone who really cares about language.
noun - The act of imprecating.
noun - A curse.
synonym - execration, anathema, curse, malediction
etymologically-related-term - precation, deprecation, imprecate
cross-reference - 2008, com, Wordmall
A denizen is an inhabitant or frequenter of a particular place: a citizen of a country, a resident in a neighborhood, a maven of a museum, a regular at a bar, or, even, a plant that is naturalized in a region. The noun denizen comes from words that mean from and within and is related to citizen. Denizen can be used when talking about any person or group of people that have a specific relationship with a place. It was historically used to refer to foreigners who were either naturalized or becoming citizens but now it is used much more generally, as in: "The denizens of my aunts neighborhood all have contracts with the same gardener."
noun - An inhabitant; a resident: denizens of Monte Carlo.
noun - One that frequents a particular place: a bar and its denizens.
noun - Ecology An animal or a plant naturalized in a region.
noun - Chiefly British A foreigner who is granted rights of residence and sometimes of citizenship.
verb-transitive - Chiefly British To make a denizen of; grant rights of residence to.
hyponym - Galilean, northerner, Asiatic, easterner, Trinidadian, Nazarene, landsman, cottage dweller, villager, European
As a verb, broach means to bring up or introduce a sensitive issue. As a noun, a broach is one of those dowdy pins your Great Aunt Edna wears. Telling her not to wear it is a subject you should probably not broach. Let's say you want to go on vacation with a friend and you ask your dad because he is more likely to say yes. He will probably tell you that he will broach the subject with your mom and let you know. In a less common (and older) usage of broach, if you put a hole in something in order to get out what's inside you broach it. The piercing tool you use is also called a broach. Think of piercing someone with your idea the next time you broach a touchy issue.
verb-transitive - To bring up (a subject) for discussion or debate.
verb-transitive - To announce: We broached our plans for the new year.
verb-transitive - To pierce in order to draw off liquid: broach a keg of beer.
verb-transitive - To draw off (a liquid) by piercing a hole in a cask or other container.
verb-transitive - To shape or enlarge (a hole) with a tapered, serrated tool.
noun - A tapered, serrated tool used to shape or enlarge a hole.
noun - The hole made by such a tool.
noun - A spit for roasting meat.
noun - A mason's narrow chisel.
noun - A gimlet for tapping or broaching casks.
noun - Variant of brooch.
verb-transitive - Nautical To veer or cause to veer broadside to the wind and waves: tried to keep the boat from broaching to.
hyponym - sunburst, cover, handle, deal, address, plow, treat
form - broaching, broached
synonym - roam
Everyone likes an avuncular guy, that is someone who is kind and patient and generally indulgent with people younger than he is. The Dalai Lama is an avuncular fellow. So is Santa Claus. Unless you haven't been good. The word avuncular originally comes from the Latin avunculus, meaning "maternal uncle," and strictly speaking the term describes the relationship between an uncle and his nephew. Uncles, by their very definition, are supposed to be avuncular to their nephews. For many uncles though, Santa Claus is pretty hard to compete with.
adjective - Of or having to do with an uncle.
adjective - Regarded as characteristic of an uncle, especially in benevolence or tolerance.
same-context - self-deprecating, motherly, no-nonsense, open-hearted, ever-ready, offhand, conspiratorial, materteral, straight-from-the-shoulder, Ms.
A transgression is something that is against a command or law. Whether you are cheating on a test, or cheating on a spouse, you are committing transgressions that are not easily forgiven. A transgression can be a failure to do your duty. A sin is a transgression against God. The noun transgression is from Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin "act of crossing, passing over," from transgredi "to step or pass over."
noun - A violation of a law, command, or duty: "The same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman ( Elizabeth Cady Stanton). See Synonyms at breach.
noun - The exceeding of due bounds or limits.
noun - A relative rise in sea level resulting in deposition of marine strata over terrestrial strata.
hyponym - turpitude, abomination, vice, criminal offence, offence, sinning, law-breaking, villainy, wickedness, iniquity
So you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror. To your surprise, and horror, instead of your usual rosy complexion, your skin is yellow and the whites of your eyes are yellow, too! You, my friend, are jaundiced. Jaundice is from the Greek, ikteros, which referred to both the disease and a rare, yellow bird. It was thought that someone with jaundice could stare at this yellow bird, and the jaundice would be magically transferred to the bird. Jaundiced can also refer to ideas or feelings being distorted by negative views or qualities, since yellow has been associated with bitterness and envy. Too bad there is no bird to get rid of that!
adjective - Affected with jaundice.
adjective - Yellow or yellowish.
adjective - Affected by or exhibiting envy, prejudice, or hostility.
equivalent - unhealthy, prejudiced, discriminatory
synonym - envious, prejudiced
verb-stem - jaundice
Homeostasis is a word you learn in biology. It refers to a cell's home statethe way it wants to be, and should be if everything that regulates the cell is working. Although seeing stasis inside the word homeostasis might make you think there's something static or still about it, there's not; homeostasis is only achieved through the running of complicated systems in the body that regulate metabolic activity. "Once all the poison had been flushed from the body, the patient's cells began again to maintain homeostasis. The patient's color returned and she was able to get out of bed."
noun - The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes.
form - metal homeostasis, homeostatic
etymologically-related-term - stasis
hypernym - equilibrium
same-context - abnormality, proliferation, uptake, apoptosis, pathology, chromate
When your back is killing you from helping your friend move furniture into his new apartment, you need to take an anodyne, a painkiller. An anodyne doesnt have to be actual medicine. If the pure joy of helping your friend is soothing enough to make you forget your aching back, that counts as an anodyne too (though perhaps an unlikely one). Anodyne can also be used as an adjective to describe something that relieves pain, or is at least inoffensive. When youre stressed out or unhappy, try looking at anodyne pictures of kittens. Er, unless you had a bad experience with a cat once.
adjective - Capable of soothing or eliminating pain.
adjective - Relaxing: anodyne novels about country life.
noun - A medicine, such as aspirin, that relieves pain.
noun - A source of soothing comfort.
hyponym - phenylacetamide, hydromorphone, colchicine, panadol, phenaphen, datril, acetanilid, dilaudid, talwin, acetanilide
A presage is a sign that something bad is about to happen, like when you get that queasy feeling in your stomach because your mom found out you skipped band practice to go to the movies. Presage, pronounced "PREH-sige," can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, presage is a warning or omen of bad things to come, like a strange quiet and stillness in the air, presage to the coming tornado. As a verb, presage means "making a prediction or giving a warning of what's to come," like a terrible end-of-season football game's outcome game that presaged the struggles the team faced the next season.
noun - An indication or warning of a future occurrence; an omen.
noun - A feeling or intuition of what is going to occur; a presentiment.
noun - Prophetic significance or meaning.
noun - Archaic A prediction.
verb-transitive - To indicate or warn of in advance; portend.
verb-transitive - To have a presentiment of.
verb-transitive - To foretell or predict.
verb-intransitive - To make or utter a prediction.
hyponym - death knell, foreshow, auspice, foreboding, threaten
form - presaging, presaged
synonym - foreshadow, foreknowledge, foreshow
verb-transitive - To make blessedly happy.
verb-transitive - Roman Catholic Church To proclaim (a deceased person) to be one of the blessed and thus worthy of public religious veneration in a particular region or religious congregation.
verb-transitive - To exalt above all others.
form - beatified, beatifying
synonym - macarize, heaven, bless, felicitate, imparadise
etymologically-related-term - beatification
verb-form - beatified, beatifies
The noun caucus is a closed meeting of members from the same political party. The Iowa caucuses get a lot of attention during the presidential primary season. Who knows how we got the noun caucus? One theory is that it comes from an Algonquin word that means an elder or leader of the tribe. Another theory is that the word comes from a social and political club in Boston in the 1700s that was perhaps named for the Greek word for drinking cup. However the word slipped into American English, today it refers to a closed political meeting, often used to choose party leaders.
noun - A meeting of the local members of a political party especially to select delegates to a convention or register preferences for candidates running for office.
noun - A closed meeting of party members within a legislative body to decide on questions of policy or leadership.
noun - A group within a legislative or decision-making body seeking to represent a specific interest or influence a particular area of policy: a minority caucus.
noun - Chiefly British A committee within a political party charged with determining policy.
verb-intransitive - To assemble in or hold a caucus.
verb-transitive - To assemble or canvass (members of a caucus).
form - caucusing, caucused
verb-form - caucusing, caucussing, caucussed, caucuses, caucused
hypernym - assemble, group meeting, gather
If something is uncanny, it is so mysterious, strange, or unfamiliar that it seems supernatural. If you hear strange music echoing through your attic, you might refer to it as positively uncanny. You can also use uncanny to refer to something that is so remarkable that it is beyond what is natural: as in "uncanny abilities." This adjective was formed in English from the prefix un- "not" and canny "fortunate, safe." The current meaning of English canny is "careful and clever, especially in handling money."
adjective - Peculiarly unsettling, as if of supernatural origin or nature; eerie. See Synonyms at weird.
adjective - So keen and perceptive as to seem preternatural.
equivalent - supernatural, extraordinary
form - uncannily, uncanny valley
synonym - strange, unnatural, weird, ghostly, unsafe
etymologically-related-term - canny
If you try to avoid waste by reusing and repurposing items that most people would throw away, your frugality will save you money. Some people use this word interchangeably with cheapness, but cheapness is an unwillingness to spend, while frugality is an unwillingness to waste. People who show frugality often find ways of making things useful that others do not. Even after the Depression ended, those who lived through it maintained their frugality, using old t-shirts for rags and washed-out cottage cheese containers instead of Tupperware.
noun - The quality of being frugal; prudent economy; thrift.
noun - A sparing use; sparingness.
hyponym - parsimony, thriftiness, parsimoniousness, economy, thrift, penny-pinching
synonym - parsimony, sparingness, thriftiness, cheapness
Credo is Latin for, literally, "I believe," and originally meant a particular religious belief. Now it has the far broader meaning of any system of principles that guide a person or group. There's often a faintly jokey air to the word as used today, perhaps in recognition that it once popularly held such a high-minded meaning. A hedonist's credo might be simply "party on," or "enjoy the ride;" an actor's "the show must go on." Politicians have credos, and so too, presumably, do rappers and weather forecasters.
noun - A creed.
noun - The Apostles' Creed.
noun - The Nicene Creed, especially as the third item of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass.
noun - The musical setting of the Nicene Creed.
hyponym - testament, Athanasian Creed
etymologically-related-term - credibility, creditable, credence, credit, creditor, credential, creed, credible
A tirade is a speech, usually consisting of a long string of violent, emotionally charged words. Borrow and lose your roommates clothes one too many times, and you can bet youll be treated to a heated tirade. The noun tirade is related to the Italian word tirata, which means "volley." So imagine a very angry person lobbing harsh words and strings of profanity in your direction when you want to remember what tirade means. Although, tirades don't necessarily have to include bad words any long, drawn out speech or epic declaration can be called a tirade.
noun - A long angry or violent speech, usually of a censorious or denunciatory nature; a diatribe.
synonym - harangue, rant, declamation, laisse, diatribe, discourse, declaim, screed
cross-reference - j'accuse, tantrum
A complement is something that makes up a satisfying whole with something else. Those shiny shoes you just bought form a perfect complement to your shiny hat. Choose Your Words:complement / complimentWould you rather someone complemented you or complimented you? If youre not sure of the difference, read on.
Continue reading...Complement is a good word with the bad luck to sound exactly like the more common compliment. While both words come from the Latin complementum, "something that fills up or completes," complement keeps both the -e- and the meaning. It's also a verb; if you and your partner complement each other, you make a perfect pair. This is very different from complimenting each other by praising each other's outfits.
noun - Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
noun - The quantity or number needed to make up a whole: shelves with a full complement of books.
noun - Either of two parts that complete the whole or mutually complete each other.
noun - An angle related to another so that the sum of their measures is 90.
noun - Grammar A word or words used to complete a predicate construction, especially the object or indirect object of a verb; for example, the phrase to eat ice cream in We like to eat ice cream.
noun - Music An interval that completes an octave when added to a given interval.
noun - The full crew of officers and enlisted personnel required to run a ship.
noun - Immunology A complex system of proteins found in normal blood plasma that combines with antibodies to destroy pathogenic bacteria and other foreign cells. Also called alexin.
noun - Mathematics & Logic For a universal set, the set of all elements in the set that are not in a specified subset.
noun - A complementary color.
verb-transitive - To serve as a complement to: Roses in a silver bowl complement the handsome cherry table.
hyponym - company, ship's company
equivalent - complement of an angle
synonym - total, completeness, accessory, tale, complete, cadre, compliment
The adjective aesthetic (also spelled esthetic) comes in handy when subject is beauty or the arts. A velvet painting of dogs playing poker might have minimal aesthetic appeal. Aesthetic, from a Greek word meaning "perception," comes to us from German philosophers who used it for a theory of the beautiful. From this technical sense, it soon came to refer to good taste and to artistry in general; if something has "aesthetic value," it has value as a work of art (even if nobody will pay much for it). It does not, however, refer to the objects themselves; do not talk about an "aesthetic painting."
adjective - Relating to the philosophy or theories of aesthetics.
adjective - Of or concerning the appreciation of beauty or good taste: the aesthetic faculties.
adjective - Characterized by a heightened sensitivity to beauty.
adjective - Artistic: The play was an aesthetic success.
adjective - Informal Conforming to accepted notions of good taste.
noun - A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility: "a generous Age of Aquarius aesthetic that said that everything was art ( William Wilson).
noun - An underlying principle, a set of principles, or a view often manifested by outward appearances or style of behavior: "What troubled him was the squalor of [the colonel's] aesthetic ( Lewis H. Lapham).
equivalent - enhancive, tasteful, painterly, artistic, sensuous, cosmetic, sthetical
form - aesthetisation, aesthete, aesthetically
In math, to interpolate means to estimate the value of something given certain data. If you are looking at a chart that gives the level of pollutants in a lake on Jan. 1 and Feb. 1, you must interpolate the level for Jan. 15. At a bake sale, if you check the cash box and look at how many cookies are left over, you can interpolate the results of your fundraiser. When you interpolate words into a text, you alter the text by adding words in. Scholars can identify the original text from material interpolated at a later date. If you are describing an author's work, you might want to interpolate a few examples of his writing into your description.
verb-transitive - To insert or introduce between other elements or parts.
verb-transitive - To insert (material) into a text.
verb-transitive - To insert into a conversation. See Synonyms at introduce.
verb-transitive - To change or falsify (a text) by introducing new or incorrect material.
verb-transitive - Mathematics To estimate a value of (a function or series) between two known values.
verb-intransitive - To make insertions or additions.
form - interpolated, interpolating
synonym - interline, interpose, falsify, interjaculate, renew, transclude, insert, add
Whether you have a habit of standing too close when talking to others or bringing luggage on a crowded rush-hour subway car, you'll find people don't like it when you impinge on their personal space. When you impinge, you intrude on something, whether its someone elses space, time, or rights. Think of it as moving in on someones territory. The word also can be used in the sense of affecting something, usually negatively, often by restricting it. For example, constantly inviting your friend to go shopping and meet you in nice restaurants might impinge on her desire to save money.
verb-intransitive - To collide or strike: Sound waves impinge on the eardrum.
verb-intransitive - To encroach; trespass: Do not impinge on my privacy.
verb-transitive - To encroach upon: "One of a democratic government's continuing challenges is finding a way to protect . . . secrets without impinging the liberties that democracy exists to protect ( Christian Science Monitor).
form - impinging, impinged
synonym - strike, hit, collide
etymologically-related-term - impact
verb-form - impinges, impinging, impinged
hypernym - take advantage
Something tacit is implied or understood without question. Holding hands might be a tacit acknowledgment that a boy and girl are dating. The adjective tacit refers to information that is understood without needing to acknowledge it. For example, since we know that the sky is blue, that kind of assumption is tacit. Lawyers talk about "tacit agreements," where parties give their silent consent and raise no objections.
adjective - Not spoken: indicated tacit approval by smiling and winking.
adjective - Implied by or inferred from actions or statements: Management has given its tacit approval to the plan.
adjective - Law Arising by operation of the law rather than through direct expression.
adjective - Archaic Not speaking; silent.
equivalent - implicit, inexplicit
form - tacitness, tacitly
synonym - silent, implied
etymologically-related-term - taciturn, taciturnly, taciturnity
cross-reference - tacit mortgage
If you watch cop shows, you know that a warrant is something police need to get into your house a permission slip from a judge. It's a noun! It's a verb! It's a word that warrants our attention! As a noun, it's the piece of paper they show you through the keyhole during an investigation. It's also a reason for doing something, or a promise (think of the warranty on your new car, the promise that it'll work for a certain amount of time). As a verb, it means to make something seem reasonable or necessary, such when the ticking suitcase warrants bringing in the bomb squad, or when the teenager's sneaking in late again warrants a stricter curfew.
verb - simple past tense and past participle of warrant.
adjective - Authorized with a warrant.
adjective - Deserved, necessary.
verb-stem - warrant
Distrait means "preoccupied with worry." If you can't concentrate on the hot gossip your friend is sharing with you because you can't stop thinking about what your mom is going to say about the window you accidentally broke, you're distrait. The adjective distrait comes from the Latin word distrahere, meaning pull apart, which describes what happens to your thoughts when you are distrait. It looks and sounds like distract, another word that has to do with the ability to pay attention. But while anything can make you feel distracted a noise outside your window, a phone call that comes when you are supposed to be studying distrait always has to do with worry and anxiety.
adjective - Inattentive or preoccupied, especially because of anxiety: "When she did not occupy her accustomed chair at the seminar, Freud felt uneasy and distrait ( Times Literary Supplement).
equivalent - inattentive
synonym - abstracted, absent-minded
same-context - face, negligee, feverishness, shagging, bolero, septet, insomniac
If a field is plowed into furrows, it's striatedor, technically, it's marked with striae, which are stripes or grooves. When you see striate, think of stripes. When you draw a row of stripes in clay with the tines of a fork, you're striating it. A striated rock surface might show evidence of the movement of glaciers thousands of years ago. Striated muscle has a striped appearance.
adjective - Having parallel lines or grooves on the surface.
verb-stem - striate
same-context - symbian-based, postganglionic, superstrong, durachrome, glac, graded-index, collagenous, white-flowered, cassimere
Geniality is a fancy word for friendliness. We show geniality when we are pleasant, kind, and nice to be around. People usually like other people who show geniality. Having the synonyms "amiability" and "affability," this word has to do with bring friendly and approachable. Mean, scary people show no geniality at all. Smiling, giving compliments, laughing, listening to others, and helping out are all signs of geniality. If you think about the people you like, part of what you like is probably their geniality they're congenial.
noun - The quality of being genial
hyponym - sweetness and light, mellowness, condescension, condescendingness
hypernym - friendliness
same-context - mildness, loving-kindness, thoughtfulness, spontaneity, graciousness
Defunct describes something that used to exist, but is now gone. A magazine that no longer publishes, like Sassy, the girl-power mag from the '90s, is defunct, for example. Although defunct comes from the Latin word defunctus meaning "dead," it's not usually used to describe a person who's no longer with us, but rather institutions, projects, companies and political parties you know, the boring stuff. Keep digging and you'll find that defunctus comes from defungi, meaning, "to finish," which is closer to how it's used today. Defunct can also refer to a rule or law that's no longer used or has become inactive, like prohibition.
adjective - Having ceased to exist or live: a defunct political organization.
equivalent - dead, inoperative
synonym - deceased, dead
etymologically-related-term - bankrupt, function
same-context - extinct, undetectable, unavailable, prehistoric
To inundate means to quickly fill up or overwhelm, just like a flood. Your bathroom could be inundated with water if the pipes burst, and hopefully your inbox is inundated with nice emails on your birthday. Commonly used to refer to a deluge of water, inundate can also refer to an overflow of something less tangible, like information. Right before the holidays, toy stores are often inundated with eager parents scrambling to get the latest action figures and video games. Attempt to read the entire dictionary in one sitting and you'll inundate your mind with vocabulary. But you probably won't remember any of it tomorrow.
verb-transitive - To cover with water, especially floodwaters.
verb-transitive - To overwhelm as if with a flood; swamp: The theater was inundated with requests for tickets.
form - inundation, inundated, inundating
synonym - flood, overflow, submerge, deluge, overwhelm, drown
verb-form - inundates
If you take the news of your brother's death with equanimity, it means you take it calmly without breaking down. Equanimity refers to emotional calmness and balance in times of stress. If equanimity reminds you of equal, that's because the words have a lot in common. The noun equanimity was borrowed from Latin aequanimits, from aequanimus "even-tempered, fair," formed from aequus "even, level, equal" plus animus "mind." The archaic phrase to bear with equal mind means "to bear with a calm mind," and is a translation from the Latin. The phrase a level mind also refers to calmness. A near synonym is composure.
noun - The quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure.
hyponym - cool, poise, placidity, tranquillity, assuredness, serenity, sang-froid, tranquility, quiet, aplomb
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. Specious is pronounced "SPEE-shuhs." Something that is specious is attractive in a deceptive way, and if you follow the word's etymology, you'll see why. In Middle English, this adjective meant "attractive," from Latin specisus "showy, beautiful," from specis "appearance, kind, sort." Latin specis is also the source of English species.
adjective - Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument.
adjective - Deceptively attractive.
equivalent - insincere, false
form - speciosity, speciously, speciousness
synonym - ostensible, flimsy, fallacious, showy, insincere
If someone accuses you of being perfidious, you should probably be offended it means underhanded, treacherous, deceitful even evil. If you betray people often, you're perfidious: traitors are extremely perfidious. Besides betrayal, this word implies lying and maybe other kinds of awful behavior, like stealing and taking bribes. Everyone tries to avoid perfidious people. Perfidious is kind of an old-fashioned word, but being perfidious will never go out of style, unfortunately.
adjective - Of, relating to, or marked by perfidy; treacherous. See Synonyms at faithless.
equivalent - unfaithful
form - perfidiously, perfidiousness
synonym - traitorous, treacherous, faithless, teacherous, unfaithful
same-context - traitorous, treacherous
Something fallacious is a mistake that comes from too little information or unsound sources. Predictions that the whole state of California will snap off from the rest of North America and float away have proven to be fallacious for now, anyway. Fallacious comes ultimately from the Latin fallax, "deceptive." The word fallacious might describe an intentional deception or a false conclusion coming from bad science or incomplete understanding. "Her assumption that anyone that old over 20 could understand her tween dilemma was fallacious; her sister had been young once too."
adjective - Containing or based on a fallacy: a fallacious assumption.
adjective - Tending to mislead; deceptive: fallacious testimony.
equivalent - invalid, wrong, dishonorable, incorrect, dishonest
synonym - delusive, deceptive, erroneous, misleading, absurd
adjective - Possible to estimate: estimable assets; an estimable distance.
adjective - Deserving of esteem; admirable: an estimable young professor.
equivalent - calculable, reputable, admirable
synonym - valuable, creditable, precious, worshipful, admirable, adorable, respectable
Watch a bomb fulminate or explode and hope you're under safe cover. Have your parents fulminate or blow up at you for coming home past curfew and hope you're not grounded for too long. The word fulminate is made up of the Latin root fulmen meaning "lightning flash." Look up at the sky during a violent thunderstorm and chances are you'll catch thunder and lightning fulminate or explode loudly and violently overhead. But you needn't look to the sky alone for this kind of intensity. If you find yourself in a room with passionate Republicans and Democrats debating, you might see them fulminate or severely rail against each other's beliefs.
verb-intransitive - To issue a thunderous verbal attack or denunciation: fulminated against political chicanery.
verb-intransitive - To explode or detonate.
verb-transitive - To issue (a denunciation, for example) thunderously.
verb-transitive - To cause to explode.
noun - An explosive salt of fulminic acid, especially fulminate of mercury.
hyponym - fulminating mercury, fulminate of mercury, mercury fulminate
form - fulminating, fulminated
synonym - explode, thunder, denunciate, flash, criticize
Someone who's ethnocentric judges other cultures by comparing them to his own, familiar culture. An ethnocentric American might compare all the cities of the world to New York City, overlooking their unique charms. If you use the standards of your own culture to judge another culture, you're being ethnocentric. One example of this is the mentality that all places should be like one's own country. The word ethnocentric takes the Greek prefix ethno-, "people or nation," and combines it with kentrikos, "center." It was originally a social science term, but it gained popularity in the second half of the 20th century.
adjective - Of or pertaining to ethnocentrism.
form - ethnocentric fallacy
same-context - sociocentric, participants', recency, forty-five-degree, ideal, law-defying, sell-side, hero-worshipping, party-political
Your mother asks you to pick up your room. You refuse: you demur. Your friend wants to go to the Death Metal Forever concert, but you hesitate: you demur. Whether you strongly object, politely disagree, or hesitate to agree, you demur. Choose Your Words:demur / demureDemure is an adjective meaning modest, reserved, or shy. Demur is a verb meaning "to show reluctance or to hesitate; to object."
Continue reading...If Aunt Tilly offers to knit you a sweater, you might politely demur, being reluctant to accept. When she describes the bunnies she plans for the sweater, you would want to strongly demur, explaining that you plan to move to Texas next week and will no longer need sweaters. And if you find yourself the defendant in a civil suit, you might file a demurrer to object to the plaintiffs complaint. When you file that demurrer, you demur.
verb-intransitive - To voice opposition; object: demurred at the suggestion. See Synonyms at object.
verb-intransitive - Law To enter a demurrer.
verb-intransitive - To delay.
noun - The act of demurring.
noun - An objection.
noun - A delay.
form - demurring, demureness, demurred
synonym - pause, scruple, stop, hesitate, stay, objection, linger
To tout means to praise, boast, or brag about. If you like to tout your skill as a skier, you tell people you can go down expert-level hills. Sometimes parents will get into bragging wars about their children, each touting the accomplishments of his or her child. Sometimes the word means more of "to claim." The company touted the lotion as a solution to wrinkles. Broccoli has been touted as the cancer-fighting vegetable. In England, a tout is a person who gives advice about gambling. If you're looking to play some money on the ponies, go see the tout who hangs out at Jackies bar for a tip.
verb-intransitive - To solicit customers, votes, or patronage, especially in a brazen way.
verb-intransitive - To obtain and deal in information on racehorses.
verb-transitive - To solicit or importune: street vendors who were touting pedestrians.
verb-transitive - Chiefly British To obtain or sell information on (a racehorse or stable) for the guidance of bettors.
verb-transitive - To promote or praise energetically; publicize: "For every study touting the benefits of hormone therapy, another warns of the risks ( Yanick Rice Lamb).
noun - Chiefly British One who obtains information on racehorses and their prospects and sells it to bettors.
noun - One who solicits customers brazenly or persistently: "The administration of the nation's literary affairs falls naturally into the hands of touts and thieves ( Lewis H. Lapham).
noun - Chiefly Scots and Irish Slang One who informs against others; an informer.
hyponym - crow, racetrack tout, puff, gloat, triumph
form - ticket tout, touted, touting
synonym - solicitor, spruik
Only people with no real troubles can afford to be insouciant during times like these. Runway models are great at looking insouciant, strolling the catwalk apparently without a care in the world. Some prefer their musical idols to be insouciant, seeming not to care what their fans think or want. Others like them more eager to please, happy to take requests and engage. The two obvious examples are Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. Armstrong would smile and encourage the audience to participate, while Davis was the insouciant master who showed no concern for or interest in what his listeners might prefer: some people found his insouciant manner irresistible.
adjective - Marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant.
equivalent - unconcerned
synonym - careless, unconcerned, indifferent, heedless
same-context - self-deprecating, Whiteman, cocksure, little-boy, schlocky
adjective - Gloomy and dark.
adjective - Infernal; hellish.
adjective - Of or relating to the river Styx.
equivalent - dark, infernal
same-context - circumambient, unfathomed, pestilential, abysmal, fast-gathering, inky, marshy, unfathomable
One meaning of stricture is a nasty criticism, while the other is a sharp contraction of a tube or canal in the body. Either meaning can mean great pain to the person experiencing the stricture. The noun stricture finds its roots in the Late Latin word strictra, which came from the stem stringere, "to draw tightly." You might remember that meaning by its relationship with the word constrict, meaning "to tighten or draw in." The additional meaning, that of a critical remark, is often used in the plural form like "the critical strictures against cheating."
noun - A restraint, limit, or restriction.
noun - An adverse remark or criticism; censure.
noun - Pathology An abnormal narrowing of a duct or passage.
hyponym - pulmonary stenosis, mitral stenosis, pyloric stenosis, mitral valve stenosis, laryngostenosis, enterostenosis, aortic stenosis, rhinostenosis, ureterostenosis
synonym - stroke
Secrete is all about secrets. It means both "to hide" and "to release." When you squeeze a lemon, it secretes juice. When you stuff your money in a mattress, you secrete it there. It's easy to remember that secrete's all about secrets when you see the word secret inside secrete. Imagine the first person who squeezed a lemon and secreted the juice. Probably felt like he'd discovered a secret stash of citrus goodness. If he was greedy, maybe he gathered all the lemons he could find and secreted them away in a box so no one else would learn the secret of the juice-secretion.
verb-transitive - To generate and separate (a substance) from cells or bodily fluids: secrete digestive juices.
verb-transitive - To conceal in a hiding place; cache. See Synonyms at hide1.
verb-transitive - To steal secretly; filch.
hyponym - water
form - secreted, secreting
synonym - separate, secern, hide, producer, conceal
verb-form - secretes, secreted
In shampoo commercials, the hair you see swinging is lustrous. It is brilliant, in the shiny sense. Lustrous has its root in the Latin lustrare which means "to illuminate or shine light over." When something is lustrous, it reflects light in a glossy and shiny way. A bright smile and a glowing reputation are both lustrous. If someone has a long and successful work history, you might say their career is illustrious, meaning it has been lustrous for a long time.
adjective - Having a sheen or glow.
adjective - Gleaming with or as if with brilliant light; radiant. See Synonyms at bright.
equivalent - bright, glorious, polished
synonym - glossy, bright, vivid, pearly, satiny, shining, chatoyant
If something is untenable, you can't defend it or justify it. If your disagreement with your teacher puts you in an untenable position, you better just admit you made a mistake and get on with it. When untenable entered English in the 17th century it meant "unable to be held against attack." That sense still holds true: you can use the adjective untenable to describe any situation, position, or theory that simply can't be defended. Untenable is a great word to use when you want to criticize something, whether it's a flawed system or a referee's bad call.
adjective - Being such that defense or maintenance is impossible: an untenable position.
adjective - Being such that occupation or habitation is impossible: untenable quarters.
equivalent - unreasonable
synonym - indefensible
etymologically-related-term - tenant
same-context - unsound, unanswerable, untrue, unsupported, unacceptable, inaccurate, unfounded
A riposte is a clever comeback, one of those witty responses that you usually think after the fact when it's too late to say them. Winston Churchill was famous for his skill with a riposte, like when his friend Lady Astor said that if he were her husband, she'd poison his tea, and he responded, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it!" This kind of quick, funny retort is a classic riposte. Originally, the word riposte came from a French word for a certain kind of lunge in fencing, and it still has this same meaning today.
noun - Sports A quick thrust given after parrying an opponent's lunge in fencing.
noun - A retaliatory action, maneuver, or retort.
verb-intransitive - To make a return thrust.
verb-intransitive - To retort quickly.
hyponym - sassing, sass, lip, mouth, backtalk, back talk
verb-form - riposting, riposted, ripostes
hypernym - response
When something implodes, it explodes inward instead of outward. With extremely large buildings, it helps to implode them rather than explode them, because by falling inward they take up less space. Why bother to have a word like implode when you already have explode? Well, imagine there is something deep beneath the sea, being subjected to the intense pressure there. If the pressure is high enough that the object bursts, it would collapse in rather than out. It would, in fact, implode. People also sometimes use implode to describe a person subjected to intense pressures who, emotionally at least, bursts inward: "All that stress just made Jess implode."
verb-intransitive - To collapse inward violently.
verb-transitive - To cause to collapse inward violently.
verb-transitive - To demolish (a building) by causing to collapse inward.
verb-form - imploded, imploding, implodes
hypernym - break, give, cave in, collapse, founder, give way, fall in
The adjective sylvan refers to a shady, wooded area. The word suggests a peaceful, pleasant feeling, as though you were far away from the noise of modern life. As a noun, sylvan means a being that inhabits the woods. The Roman god of woods and fields was known as Silvanus, sometimes also known as the half-man, half-goat sylvan called Pan. Shakespeares character Puck, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," seems based on a sylvan, and other authors used the image as well. The adjectival use of the Middle French word sylvain evolved in the mid-16th century. The word is most often used today to describe an idyllic wooded area.
adjective - Relating to or characteristic of woods or forest regions.
adjective - Located in or inhabiting a wood or forest.
adjective - Abounding in trees; wooded.
noun - One that lives in or frequents the woods.
equivalent - wooded
synonym - satyr, woody, faun, rustic, forestlike
etymologically-related-term - sylvatic, silviculture, Transylvania, sylva
What is the difference between a celestial being and a celestial body? The first is something living such as an alien or an angel, whereas the latter is an inanimate object such as a star or a planet. Both, however, are from the sky. The word celestial is primarily used to describe things that have to do with the heavens such as angels, spirits, stars and planets. It does not come from words meaning God or soul though, but from the Latin word for sky caelestis, which also gave rise to the word ceiling. So really, all you have to do is look up and you'll remember what celestial means whether you're inside or outside.
adjective - Of or relating to the sky or the heavens: Planets are celestial bodies.
adjective - Of or relating to heaven; divine: celestial beings.
adjective - Supremely good; sublime: celestial happiness.
adjective - Of or relating to the Chinese people or to the former Chinese Empire.
noun - A heavenly being; a god or angel.
equivalent - heavenly
form - celestial latitude, celestial peace, celestial body, celestial globe, celestial longitude, celestial horizon, celestial equator, celestial navigation, celestial pole
When you cheer up a friend who's feeling down, you bolster them. To bolster is to offer support or strengthen. A bolster is also the name of a long pillow you might use to make your back feel better. And the two uses are not dissimilar. When you bolster your friends, you support them and prop them up, just like the pillow does for your back. When you're trying to bolster your credibility, you find people and/or documents that support you or your view. Bolster efforts to learn this word!
noun - A long narrow pillow or cushion.
verb-transitive - To support or prop up with or as if with a long narrow pillow or cushion.
verb-transitive - To buoy up or hearten: Visitors bolstered the patient's morale.
form - bolstered, bolstering
synonym - compress, support, cushion, dutch wife
verb-form - bolstered, bolstering, bolsters
cross-reference - compound bolster
Epistemology is the study of knowledge: what we know, how we know it, how we know we know it, and how to keep track of it without driving ourselves crazy. You might be wondering if epistemology is just a hobby for people who know too much for their own good, but epistemology has a lot of uses. The study of knowledge leads to the study of learning, which leads to better methods of teaching. The study of knowledge helps us understand our cultural differences, which helps us all get along. Probably the coolest use of epistemology, though, is artificial intelligence: teaching computers how to learn.
noun - The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.
hyponym - methodological analysis, methodology
etymologically-related-term - epistemological, epistemological turn, epistemologist, epistemic
hypernym - philosophy
same-context - theosophy, phonemic, paradigm
A meeting is when people get together for any reason. But when they are sneaking to meet, notably as secret lovers, it's called a tryst. The origin of the word tryst comes from Middle English, and originally referred to a designated hunting station. Today it has come to refer to mainly romantic meetings, often with a secretive feel to it. (That's appropriate arent we all hunting for love?) The word tryst might also suggest a hint of danger or intrigue. Perhaps the most romantic tryst in literature was the meeting between Romeo and Juliet and just look where they ended up!
noun - An agreement, as between lovers, to meet at a certain time and place.
noun - A meeting or meeting place that has been agreed on. See Synonyms at engagement.
verb-intransitive - To keep a tryst.
synonym - rendezvous, trust, appointment
verb-form - trysting, trysted, trysts
cross-reference - to bide tryst
hypernym - rendezvous, date, appointment
The verb repine describes expressing gloom or discontent. Brooding, fretful, and sad these are the traits of people who repine at their circumstances in life. Early American poet Anne Bradstreet used repine in her well-known poem, "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th 1666," describing how the speaker got over the loss: "And when I could no longer look, / I blest His grace that gave and took, / That laid my goods now in the dust. / Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just. / It was his own; it was not mine. / Far be it that I should repine."
verb-intransitive - To be discontented or low in spirits; complain or fret.
verb-intransitive - To yearn after something: Immigrants who repined for their homeland.
synonym - fail, fret, vexation, mortification, complain, murmur, long, wane
verb-form - repining, repines
To subside is to die down or become less violent, like rough ocean waves after a storm has passed (or your seasickness, if you happened to be sailing on that ocean).Subside comes from the Latin prefix sub- (meaning "down") and the Latin verb sidere (meaning "to settle"). Subside is often used when a negative situation has improved significantly. For example, violence, disease, and unemployment can all subside. Here's hoping that they do.
verb-intransitive - To sink to a lower or normal level.
verb-intransitive - To sink or settle down, as into a sofa.
verb-intransitive - To sink to the bottom, as a sediment.
verb-intransitive - To become less agitated or active; abate. See Synonyms at decrease.
form - subsiding, subsided
synonym - lower, lapse, abate, drop, fall, sink, descend, settle
Use the adjective implicit when you mean that something is understood but not clearly stated. You might think you and your boyfriend might have an implicit understanding that you are going to get married, but it's probably better to talk it through. A very near synonym of implicit in this particular meaning is the word implied. But the adjective implicit also means "complete without any doubt," so we can say that we have implicit trust or confidence in someone. The Latin root implicre means "to involve or entangle." Another English word with a more obvious connection to the Latin is the verb implicate.
adjective - Implied or understood though not directly expressed: an implicit agreement not to raise the touchy subject.
adjective - Contained in the nature of something though not readily apparent: "Frustration is implicit in any attempt to express the deepest self ( Patricia Hampl).
adjective - Having no doubts or reservations; unquestioning: implicit trust.
equivalent - unverbalized, silent, inherent, tacit, unsaid, unverbalised, unspoken, absolute, understood, implicit in
Primordial, an adjective, describes something that has been around forever, like cockroaches. Primordial comes the Latin words primus, meaning "first" and ordiri, "to begin." So it is easy to see that this adjective means "first of all, original. When something is primordial, it has existed since the earliest time, like the primordial mud some scientists believe was the source of all life on Earth. Remember that is it a scientific term don't call your teacher "primordial" just because she's been teaching at your school since it opened.
adjective - Being or happening first in sequence of time; original.
adjective - Primary or fundamental: play a primordial role.
adjective - Biology Belonging to or characteristic of the earliest stage of development of an organism or a part: primordial cells.
noun - A basic principle.
equivalent - early
form - primordial fluctuations, primordial black hole, primordial element, primordial cell, primordial soup
synonym - primary, original, elementary
cross-reference - primordial cell
If you're standing still but the room is inexplicably spinning, you might want to let someone know you're suffering from vertigo the sensation of dizziness or whirling. Contrary to popular belief, vertigo is not exactly the same thing as acrophobia, the fear of heights. However, acrophobia can result in the symptoms associated with vertigo. Interestingly, when legendary director Alfred Hitchcock created a film about a detective with an intense fear of heights, he named the film Vertigo, not Acrophobia; perhaps he thought Vertigo was catchier.
noun - The sensation of dizziness.
noun - An instance of such a sensation.
noun - A confused, disoriented state of mind.
form - vertiginous
synonym - giddiness, dizziness
cross-reference - paralyzing vertigo, laryngeal vertigo, ophthalmic vertigo, ocular vertigo, aural vertigo, essential vertigo
hypernym - symptom
The adjective stentorian describes a booming voice. If you're teaching a group of unruly kids, you'll need to practice a stentorian voice to be heard above the din. The adjective stentorian comes from Greek mythology. Stentor was a herald in the Trojan War, mentioned in Homer's "Iliad." Homer wrote of brazen-voiced Stentor, whose cry was as loud as that of fifty men together. So anyone with a stentorian voice has a voice like the mythic Stentor. You can also use stentorian to describe a style of speaking that emphasizes boom and power.
adjective - Extremely loud: a stentorian voice. See Synonyms at loud.
equivalent - full
synonym - Lou, powerful
same-context - thunderous, ear-splitting, deep-throated, gravelly, sepulchral, strident, stertorous
Use the adjective linguistic to describe anything related to language, like the linguistic difficulties you might have if you visit a place where you do not speak the same language as everyone else. The word linguistic combines the noun linguist, meaning "a master of language, one who uses his tongue freely," with the adjective suffix -ic. It describes something thats related to language, such as a linguistic theory about why some people drop the g sound in saying words ending in -ing. Or, if you want to brag about how good your vocabulary is, then rave about your linguistic skills.
adjective - Of or relating to language or linguistics.
equivalent - linguistical
form - linguistic atlas
synonym - philological, glottic, glossological, glottological
same-context - organizational, cognitive, biological, visual
It's totally overwhelming when you ask someone a seemingly innocuous question, like "Do you like hot dogs?" and they unleash a diatribe about the evils of eating meat. A diatribe is an angry speech that strongly criticizes a person or thing. This noun is from Latin diatriba "learned discourse," from Greek diatrib "pastime, lecture," from diatrbein "to waste time, wear away," from the prefix dia- "thoroughly" plus trbein "to rub." So the origin of the word diatribe is connected to both serious study and the spending or wasting of time. In English, the original meaning of diatribe was a long and formal debate or discussion.
noun - A bitter, abusive denunciation.
form - diatribal
synonym - Philippic
hypernym - denunciation, denouncement
same-context - harangue, drivel, denunciation, vociferation, digressions, tirade
To exculpate means to find someone not guilty of criminal charges. If you've been wrongly convicted of robbery, you better hope a judge will exculpate you, unless you want to go to jail because you've heard prison food is amazing. Exculpate comes from two Latin words: ex-, meaning "from," and culpa, meaning "blame." Exculpate is similar in meaning to exonerate. When you exonerate someone, you clear a person of an accusation and any suspicion that goes along with it. Exculpate usually refers more directly to clearing the charges against someone. So if that judge exculpates you from the robbery charge, everyone in town might still think you did it. Get him to exculpate and exonerate you.
verb-transitive - To clear of guilt or blame.
hyponym - vindicate, whitewash, purge
form - exculpated, exculpating
synonym - pardon, clear, disculpate, excuse, justify
A champion is a winner, or someone who's really good at something. If you are a champion chess player, you are a superstar! When crowds sing Queen's "We Are the Champions" at football games, they are celebrating the fact that their team won. Champion comes from the Latin word campionem for "gladiator, fighter." Rarr! No need to grab your sword, but a champion is also a person who fights for a cause. If you are the champion of fundraising, you keep pushing to raise money. As a verb, to champion means to protect or fight for something. You champion your little brother by defending him against meanies no matter what, you are always on his side.
noun - One that wins first place or first prize in a competition.
noun - One that is clearly superior or has the attributes of a winner: a champion at teaching.
noun - An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person: a champion of the homeless.
noun - One who fights; a warrior.
verb-transitive - To fight for, defend, or support as a champion: championed the cause of civil rights. See Synonyms at support.
verb-transitive - Obsolete To defy or challenge.
adjective - Holding first place or prize: a champion show dog.
adjective - Superior to all others: "the champion playboy of the Western World ( John Millington Synge).
hyponym - sympathiser, stalwart, anglophil, upholder, record-holder, free trader, sustainer, track star, indorser, corporatist
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. Efficacy is a more formal way to say effectiveness, both of which stem from the Latin verb efficere "to work out, accomplish." The effectiveness, or efficacy, of something is how well it works or brings the results you hoped for. A scientist does research to determine the efficacy of a vaccine or medicine under development. If it is efficacious, it will cure or prevent a disease.
noun - Power or capacity to produce a desired effect; effectiveness.
synonym - effectiveness, potency, efficacity, force, efficiency, virtue, energy
etymologically-related-term - effectual, efficacious, effect
At the end of a lesson period, your teacher says, "class dismissed." This means that you and the rest of the students are free to go. Dismiss means to let go. If a judge dismisses a case, it means he's saying it has no merit, and is throwing it out of court. If you are dismissed from your job, it means you've been fired. And if you've been ignoring your friends' warnings that your boyfriend is cheating, you've been dismissing their concerns. "Don't dismiss me!" is something you say when the person you're talking to is not taking you and your comments seriously.
verb-transitive - To end the employment or service of; discharge.
verb-transitive - To direct or allow to leave: dismissed troops after the inspection; dismissed the student after reprimanding him.
verb-transitive - To stop considering; rid one's mind of; dispel: dismissed all thoughts of running for office.
verb-transitive - To refuse to accept or recognize; reject: dismissed the claim as highly improbable.
verb-transitive - Law To put (a claim or action) out of court without further hearing.
verb-transitive - Sports To eject (a player or coach) for the remainder of a game.
verb-transitive - Sports To put out (a batter) in cricket.
hyponym - discredit, send packing, clean out, laugh off, cold-shoulder, laugh away, drop, pension off, retire, shrug off
If you're really good at judo, you will get kudos, or praise and congratulations, for your speed and strength. You get kudos for doing something well, whether a class presentation, a chore, or a performance in a game or recital. Getting kudos for doing something that makes you famous or well-known is possible too, though it's easier to get kudos just for doing a good job. Kudos looks like a plural noun, but the s is just the ending of the original Greek word.
noun - Acclaim or praise for exceptional achievement.
hyponym - eulogy, panegyric, eulogium, compliment, testimonial, encomium, recommendation, pean, superlative, pan
A demotic saying or expression is casual, colloquial, and used by the masses. Some forms of the Greek and Egyptian languages are also called demotic, which will be relevant to you when you get your PhD in Classics. Demotic comes from the Greek word demotikos, meaning of or for the common people or in common use. Members of the aristocracy dont typically use demotic idioms, but it is often the elite who will point out that something is demotic. Of course, in a classless society, everything ought to be demotic, therefore making it obsolete to designate sayings as demotic. So far, however, demotic is still a relevant term.
adjective - Of or relating to the common people; popular: demotic speech; demotic entertainments.
adjective - Of, relating to, or written in the simplified form of ancient Egyptian hieratic writing.
adjective - Of or relating to a form of modern Greek based on colloquial use.
noun - Demotic Greek.
equivalent - common, demotic character
synonym - enchorial, common, popular
cross-reference - demotic society, demotic composition
hypernym - Modern Greek, hieratic script, New Greek
An imbroglio is a complicated or confusing personal situation. To rephrase the J. Geils band song, "Love Stinks," if you love her and she loves him and he loves somebody else, you've got quite an imbroglio. Although an imbroglio is a tangled situation or a messy complicated misunderstanding, its history is just the opposite, clear as a bell. Imbroglio is just a borrowed word from Italian meaning "entanglement." If something embarrassing happens at a public event, such as a mishap during the musical performances at the Super Bowl, it is sometimes called an imbroglio.
noun - A difficult or intricate situation; an entanglement.
noun - A confused or complicated disagreement.
noun - A confused heap; a tangle.
synonym - snarl
hypernym - misinterpretation, mistaking, situation, misunderstanding
same-context - worriment, epiphany, tranquillizer, war-cloud, dolefulness
Precipitate usually means "bringing something on" or "making it happen" and not always in a good way. An unpopular verdict might "precipitate violence" or one false step at the Grand Canyon could precipitate you down into the gorge. Precipitate, as a verb, can also mean specifically, "to fall from clouds," such as rain, snow, or other forms of precipitation. When used as an adjective, precipitate means "hasty" or "acting suddenly." If you decide to throw your class project in a trash masher just because someone in your class had a similar idea, then your actions might be described as precipitate. Or if you do that sort of thing regularly, you may be a precipitate person.
verb-transitive - To throw from or as if from a great height; hurl downward: "The finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below ( Thornton Wilder).
verb-transitive - To cause to happen, especially suddenly or prematurely. See Synonyms at speed.
verb-transitive - Meteorology To cause (water vapor) to condense and fall from the air as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
verb-transitive - Chemistry To cause (a solid substance) to be separated from a solution.
verb-intransitive - Meteorology To condense and fall from the air as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
verb-intransitive - Chemistry To be separated from a solution as a solid.
verb-intransitive - To fall or be thrown headlong: an ailing economy that precipitated into ruin despite foreign intervention.
adjective - Moving rapidly and heedlessly; speeding headlong.
adjective - Acting with or marked by excessive haste and lack of due deliberation. See Synonyms at impetuous, reckless.
adjective - Occurring suddenly or unexpectedly.
noun - Chemistry A solid or solid phase separated from a solution.
noun - A product resulting from a process, event, or course of action.
hyponym - sleet, hail, spat, sludge, snow, rain down, rain
equivalent - hurried
form - precipitated, precipitating