Study your flashcards anywhere!

Download the official Cram app for free >

  • Shuffle
    Toggle On
    Toggle Off
  • Alphabetize
    Toggle On
    Toggle Off
  • Front First
    Toggle On
    Toggle Off
  • Both Sides
    Toggle On
    Toggle Off
  • Read
    Toggle On
    Toggle Off
Reading...
Front

How to study your flashcards.

Right/Left arrow keys: Navigate between flashcards.right arrow keyleft arrow key

Up/Down arrow keys: Flip the card between the front and back.down keyup key

H key: Show hint (3rd side).h key

A key: Read text to speech.a key

image

Play button

image

Play button

image

Progress

1/1752

Click to flip

1752 Cards in this Set

  • Front
  • Back
  • 3rd side (hint)
macabre
adj. gruesome; grisly. The city morgue is a macabre spot for the uninitiated.
mace
n. ceremonial staff; clublike medieval weapon. The Grand Marshal of the parade raised his mace to signal that it was time for the procession to begin.
macerate
v. soften by soaking in liquid; waste away. The strawberries had been soaking in the champagne for so long that they had begun to macerate: they literally fell apart at the touch of a spoon.
Machiavellian
adj. crafty; double-dealing. I do not think he will be a good ambassador because he is not accustomed to the Machiavellian maneuverings of foreign diplomats.
machinations
n. evil schemes or plots. Fortunately, Batman saw through the wily machinations of the Riddler and saved Gotham City from destruction by the forces of evil.
maculated
adj. spotted; stained. Instead of writing that Gorbachev had a birthmark on his forehead, the pompous young poet sang of the former premier's maculated brow.
madrigal
n. pastoral song. Her program of folk songs included several madrigals that she sang to the accompaniment of a lute.
maelstrom
n. whirlpool. The canoe was tossed about in the maelstrom.
magisterial
adj. authoritative; imperious. The learned doctor laid down the law to his patient in a magisterial tone of voice.
■magnanimity
n. generosity. Noted for his magnanimity, philanthropist Eugene Lang donated millions to charity. magnanimous, ADJ.
magnate
n. person of prominence or influence. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Annie Dillard was surrounded by the mansions of the great steel and coal magnates who set their mark on that city.
magniloquent
adj. boastful, pompous. In their stories of the trial, the reporters ridiculed the magniloquent speeches of the defense attorney.
magnitude
n. greatness; extent. It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of his crime.
maim
v. mutilate; injure. The hospital could not take care of all who had been mangled or maimed in the railroad accident.
maladroit
adj. clumsy; bungling. "Oh! My stupid tongue!" exclaimed Jane, embarrassed at having said anything so maladroit.
malady
n. illness. A mysterious malady swept the country, filling doctors' offices with feverish, purple-spotted patients.
malaise
n. uneasiness; vague feeling of ill health. Feeling slightly queasy before going onstage, Carol realized that this touch of malaise was merely stage fright.
malapropism
n. comic misuse of a word. When Mrs. Malaprop criticizes Lydia for being "as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile," she confuses "allegory" and "alligator" in a typical malapropism.
malcontent
n. person dissatisfied with- existing state of affairs. He was one of the few malcontents in Congress; he constantly voiced his objections to the presidential program. also ADJ.
malediction
n. curse. When the magic mirror revealed that Snow White was still alive, the wicked queen cried out in rage and uttered dreadful maledictions.
malefactor
n. evildoer; criminal. Mighty Mouse will save the day, hunting down malefactors and rescuing innocent mice from peril.
malevolent
adj. wishing evil. lago is a malevolent villain who takes pleasure in ruining Othello. malevolence, N.
malfeasance
n. wrongdoing. The authorities did not discover the campaign manager's malfeasance until after he had spent most of the money he had embezzled.
malicious
adj. hateful; spiteful. Jealous of Cinderella's beauty, her malicious stepsisters expressed their spite by forcing her to do menial tasks. malice, N.
malign
v. speak evil of; bad-mouth; defame. Putting her hands over her ears, Rose refused to listen to Betty malign her friend Susan.
malignant
adj. injurious; tending to cause death; aggressively malevolent. Though many tumors are benign, some are malignant, growing out of control and endangering the life of the patient. malignancy, N.
■malingerer
n. one who feigns illness to escape duty. The captain ordered the sergeant to punish all malingerers and force them to work. malinger, v.
■malleable
adj. capable of being shaped by pounding; impressionable. Gold is a malleable metal, easily shaped into bracelets and rings. Fagin hoped Oliver was a malleable lad, easily shaped into a thief.
malodorous
adj. foul-smelling. The compost heap was most malodorous in summer.
mammal
n. vertebrate animal whose female suckles its young. Many people regard the whale as a fish and do not realize that it is a mammal.
mammoth
adj. gigantic; enormous. To try to memorize every word on this vocabulary list would be a mammoth undertaking; take on projects that are more manageable in size.
manacle
v. restrain; handcuff. The police immediately manacled the prisoner so he could not escape. also N.
mandate
n. order; charge. In his inaugural address, the president stated that he had a mandate from the people to seek an end to social evils such as poverty and poor housing. also v.
mandatory
adj. obligatory. These instructions are mandatory; any violation will be severely punished.
mangy
adj. shabby; wretched. We finally threw out the mangy rug that the dog had destroyed.
maniacal
adj. raging mad; insane. Though Mr. Rochester had locked his mad wife in the attic, he could still hear her maniacal laughter echoing throughout the house. maniac, N.
manifest
adj. evident; visible; obvious. Digby's embarrassment when he met Madonna was manifest: his ears turned bright pink, he kept scuffing one shoe in the dirt, and he couldn't look her in the eye.
manifestation
n. outward demonstration; indication. Mozart's early attraction to the harpsichord was the first manifestation of his pronounced musical bent.
manifesto
n. declaration; statement of policy. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels proclaimed the principles of modern communism.
manifold
adj. numerous; varied. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your manifold kindnesses.
manipulate
v. operate with one's hands; control or play upon (people, forces, etc.) artfully. Jim Henson understood how to manipulate the Muppets. Madonna understands how to manipulate publicity (and men).
mannered
adj. affected; not natural. Attempting to copy the style of his wealthy neighbors, Gatsby adopted a mannered, artificial way of speech.
manumit
v. emancipate; free from bondage. Enlightened slave owners were willing to manumit their slaves and thus put an end to the evil of slavery in the country.
marital
adj. pertaining to marriage. After the publication of his book on marital affairs, he was often consulted by married people on the verge of divorce.
maritime
adj. bordering on the sea; nautical. The Maritime Provinces depend on the sea for their wealth.
marked
adj. noticeable; targeted for vengeance. He walked with a marked limp, a souvenir of an old IRA attack. As British ambassador, he knew he was a marked man.
marred
adj. damaged; disfigured. She had to refinish the marred surface of the table. mar, v.
marshal
v. put in order. At a debate tournament, extemporaneous speakers have only a minute or two to marshal their thoughts before addressing their audience.
marsupial
n. one of a family of mammals that nurse their offspring in a pouch. The most common marsupial in North America is the opossum.
martial
adj. warlike. The sound of martial music inspired the young cadet with dreams of military glory.
martinet
n. No talking at meals! No mingling with the servants! Miss Minchin was a martinet who insisted that the schoolgirls in her charge observe each regulation to the letter.
martyr
n. one who voluntarily suffers death for his or her religion or cause; great sufferer. By burning her at the stake, the English made Joan of Arc a martyr for her faith. Mother played the martyr by staying home to clean the house while the rest of the family went off to the beach.
masochist
n. person who enjoys his own pain. The masochist begs, "Hit me." The sadist smiles and says, "I won't."
masticate
v. chew. We must masticate our food carefully and slowly in order to avoid digestive disorders.
materialism
n. preoccupation with physical comforts and things. By its nature, materialism is opposed to idealism, for where the materialist emphasizes the needs of the body, the idealist emphasizes the needs of the soul.
maternal
adj. motherly. Many animals display maternal instincts only while their offspring are young and helpless. maternity, N.
matriarch
n. woman who rules a family or larger social group. The matriarch ruled her gypsy tribe with a firm hand.
matriculate
v. enroll (in college or graduate school). Incoming students formally matriculate at our college in a special ceremony during which they sign the official register of students.
matrix
n. point of origin; array of numbers or algebraic symbols; mold or die. Some historians claim the Nile Valley was the matrix of Western civilization.
maudlin
adj. effusively sentimental. Whenever a particularly maudlin tearjerker was playing at the movies, Marvin would embarrass himself by weeping copiously.
maul
v. handle roughly. The rock star was mauled by his overexcited fans.
mausoleum
n. monumental tomb. His body was placed in the family mausoleum.
mauve
adj. pale purple. The mauve tint in the lilac bush was another indication that spring had finally arrived.
■maverick
n. rebel; nonconformist. To the masculine literary establishment, George Sand with her insistence on wearing trousers and smoking cigars was clearly a maverick who fought her proper womanly role.
mawkish
adj. mushy and gushy; icky-sticky sentimental; maudlin. Whenever Gigi and her boyfriend would sigh and get all lovey-dovey, her little brother would shout, "Yuck!" protesting their mawkish behavior.
maxim
n. proverb; a truth pithily stated. Aesop's fables illustrate moral maxims.
mayhem
n. injury to body. The riot was marked not only by mayhem, with its attendant loss of life and limb, but also by arson and pillage.
meager
adj. scanty; inadequate. Still hungry after his meager serving of porridge, Oliver Twist asked for a second helping.
mealymouthed
adj. indirect in speech; hypocritical; evasive. Rather than tell Jill directly what he disliked, Jack made a few mealymouthed comments and tried to change the subject.
meander
v. wind or turn in its course. Needing to stay close to a source of water, he followed every twist and turn of the stream as it meandered through the countryside.
meddlesome
adj. interfering. He felt his marriage was suffering because of his meddlesome mother-in-law.
mediate
v. settle a dispute through the services of an outsider. King Solomon was asked to mediate a dispute between two women, each of whom claimed to be the mother of the same child.
mediocre
adj. ordinary; commonplace. We were disappointed because he gave a rather mediocre performance in this role.
meditation
n. reflection; thought. She reached her decision only after much meditation.
medium
n. element that is a creature's natural environment; nutrient setting in which microorganisms are cultivated. We watched the dolphins sporting in the sea and marveled at their grace in their proper medium. The bacteriologist carefully observed the microorganisms' rapid growth in the culture medium.
medium
n. appropriate occupation or means of expression; channel of communication; compromise. Film was Anna's medium: she expressed herself through her cinematography. However, she never watched television, claiming she despised the medium. For Anna, it was all or nothing: she could never strike a happy medium.
medley
n. mixture. To avoid boring dancers by playing any one tune for too long, bands may combine three or four tunes into a medley.
meek
adj. submissive; patient and long-suffering. Mr. Barrett never expected his meek daughter would dare to defy him by eloping with her suitor.
megalomania
n. mania for doing grandiose things. Developers who spend millions trying to build the world's tallest skyscraper suffer from megalomania.
melancholy
adj. gloomy; morose; blue. To Eugene, stuck in his small town, a train whistle was a melancholy sound, for it made him think of all the places he would never get to see.
melee
n. fight. The captain tried to ascertain the cause of the melee that had broken out among the crew members.
mellifluous
adj. sweetly or smoothly flowing; melodious. Italian is a mellifluous language, especially suited to being sung.
memento
n. token; reminder. Take this book as a memento of your visit.
memorialize
v. commemorate. Let us memorialize his great contribution by dedicating this library in his honor.
menagerie
n. collection of wild animals. Whenever the children run wild around the house, Mom shouts, "Calm down! I'm not running a menagerie!"
■mendacious
adj. lying; habitually dishonest. Distrusting Huck from the start, Miss Watson assumed he was mendacious and refused to believe a word he said. mendacity, N.
mendicant
n. beggar. "0 noble sir, give alms to the poor," cried Aladdin, playing the mendicant. mendicancy, N.
menial
adj. suitable for servants; lowly; mean. Her wicked stepmother forced Cinderella to do menial tasks around the house while her ugly stepsisters lolled around painting their toenails. also N.
mentor
n. counselor; teacher. During this very trying period, she could not have had a better mentor, for the teacher was sympathetic and understanding.
mercantile
adj. concerning trade. I am more interested in the opportunities available in the mercantile field than I am in those in the legal profession.
mercenary
adj. motivated solely by money or gain. "I'm not in this war because I get my kicks waving flags," said the mercenary soldier. "I'm in it for the dough." also N.
mercurial
adj. capricious; changing; fickle. Quick as quicksilver to change, he was mercurial in nature and therefore unreliable.
meretricious
adj. flashy; tawdry. Her jewels were inexpensive but not meretricious.
merger
n. combination (of two business corporations). When the firm's president married the director of financial planning, the office joke was that it wasn't a marriage, it was a merger.
mesmerize
v. hypnotize. The incessant drone seemed to mesmerize him and place him in a trance.
metallurgical
adj. pertaining to the art of removing metals from ores. During the course of his metallurgical research, the scientist developed a steel alloy of tremendous strength.
■metamorphosis
n. change of form. The metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly is typical of many such changes in animal life. metamorphose, v.
metaphor
n. implied comparison. "He soared like an eagle" is an example of a simile; "He is an eagle in flight," a metaphor.
metaphysical
adj. pertaining to speculative philosophy. The modern poets have gone back to the fanciful poems of the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century for many of their images. metaphysics, N.
mete
v. measure; distribute. He tried to be impartial in his efforts to mete out justice.
meteoric
adj. swift; momentarily brilliant. We all wondered at his meteoric rise to fame.
methodical
adj. systematic. An accountant must be methodical and maintain order among his financial records.
■meticulous
adj. excessively careful; painstaking; scrupulous. Martha Stewart was a meticulous housekeeper, fussing about each and every detail that went into making up her perfect home.
metropolis
n. large city. Every evening this terminal is filled with the thousands of commuters who are going from this metropolis to their homes in the suburbs.
mettle
n. courage; spirit. When challenged by the other horses in the race, the thoroughbred proved its mettle by its determination to hold the lead. mettlesome, ADJ.
miasma
n. swamp gas; heavy, vaporous atmosphere, often emanating from decaying matter; pervasive corrupting influence. The smog hung over Victorian London like a dark cloud; noisome, reeking of decay, it was a visible miasma.
microcosm
n. small world; the world in miniature. The village community that Jane Austen depicts serves as a microcosm of English society in her time, for in this small world we see all the social classes meeting and mingling.
migrant
adj. changing its habitat; wandering. These migrant birds return every spring. also N.
migratory
adj. wandering. The return of the migratory birds to the northern sections of this country is a harbinger of spring.
milieu
n. environment; means of expression. Surrounded by smooth preppies and arty bohemians, the country boy from Smalltown, USA, felt out of his milieu. Although he has produced excellent oil paintings and lithographs, his proper milieu is watercolor.
militant
adj. combative; bellicose. Although at this time he was advocating a policy of neutrality, one could usually find him adopting a more militant attitude. also N.
militate
v. work against. Your record of lateness and absence will militate against your chances of promotion.
millennium
n. thousand-year period; period of happiness and prosperity. I do not expect the millennium to come during my lifetime.
mimicry
n. imitation. Her gift for mimicry was so great that her friends said that she should be in the theater.
minatory
adj. menacing; threatening. Jabbing a minatory forefinger at Dorothy, the Wicked Witch cried, "I'll get you, and your little dog, too!"
mincing
adj. affectedly dainty. Yum-Yum walked across the stage with mincing steps.
minion
n. a servile dependent. He was always accompanied by several of his minions because he enjoyed their subservience and flattery.
minuscule
adj. extremely small. Why should I involve myself with a project with so minuscule a chance for success?
minute
adj. extremely small. The twins resembled one another closely; only minute differences set them apart.
minutiae
n. petty details. She would have liked to ignore the minutiae of daily living.
mirage
n. unreal reflection; optical illusion. The lost prospector was fooled by a mirage in the desert.
mire
v. entangle; stick in swampy ground. Their rear wheels became mired in mud. also N.
mirth
n. merriment; laughter. Sober Malvolio found Sir Toby's mirth improper.
misadventure
n. mischance; ill luck. The young explorer met death by misadventure.
■misanthrope
n. one who hates mankind. In Gulliver's Travels, Swift portrays human beings as vile, degraded beasts; for this reason, various critics consider him a misanthrope. misanthropic, ADJ.
misapprehension
n. error; misunderstanding. To avoid misapprehension, I am going to ask all of you to repeat the instructions I have given.
miscellany
n. mixture of writings on various subjects. This is an interesting miscellany of nineteenth-century prose and poetry.
mischance
n. ill luck. By mischance, he lost his week's salary.
misconstrue
v. interpret incorrectly; misjudge. She took the passage seriously rather than humorously because she misconstrued the author's ironic tone.
miscreant
n. wretch; villain. His kindness to the miscreant amazed all of us who had expected to hear severe punishment pronounced.
misdemeanor
n. minor crime. The culprit pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor rather than face trial for a felony.
miserly
adj. stingy; mean. Transformed by his vision on Christmas Eve, mean old Scrooge ceased being miserly and became a generous, kind old man. miser, N.
misgivings
n. doubts. Hamlet described his misgivings to Horatio but decided to fence with Laertes despite his foreboding of evil.
mishap
n. accident. With a little care you could have avoided this mishap.
misnomer
n. wrong name; incorrect designation. His tyrannical conduct proved to all that his nickname, King Eric the Just, was a misnomer.
misogamy
n. hatred of marriage. He remained a bachelor not because of misogamy but because of ill fate: his fiancée died before the wedding.
misogynist
n. hater of women. She accused him of being a misogynist because he had been a bachelor all his life.
missile
n. object to be thrown or projected. After carefully folding his book report into a paper airplane, Beavis threw the missile across the classroom at Butthead. Rocket scientists are building guided missiles; Beavis and Butthead can barely make unguided ones.
missive
n. letter. The ambassador received a missive from the Secretary of State.
mite
n. very small object or creature; small coin. Gnats are annoying mites that sting.
■mitigate
v. appease; moderate. Nothing Jason did could mitigate Medea's anger; she refused to forgive him for betraying her.
mnemonic
adj. pertaining to memory. She used mnemonic tricks to master new words.
mobile
adj. movable; not fixed. The mobile blood bank operated by the Red Cross visited our neighborhood today. mobility, N.
mock
v. ridicule; imitate, often in derision. It is unkind to mock anyone; it is stupid to mock anyone significantly bigger than you. mockery, N.
mode
n. prevailing style; manner; way of doing something. The rock star had to have her hair done in the latest mode: frizzed, with occasional moussed spikes for variety. Henry plans to adopt a simpler mode of life: he is going to become a mushroom hunter and live off the land.
modicum
n. limited quantity. Although his story is based on a modicum of truth, most of the events he describes are fictitious.
modish
adj. fashionable. She always discarded all garments that were no longer modish.
modulate
v. tone down in intensity; regulate; change from one key to another. Always singing at the top of her lungs, the budding Brunhilde never learned to modulate her voice. modulation, N.
mogul
n. powerful person. The oil moguls made great profits when the price of gasoline rose.
molecule
n. the smallest particle (one or more atoms) of a substance that has all the properties of that substance. In chemistry, we study how atoms and molecules react to form new substances.
■mollify
v. soothe. The airline customer service representative tried to mollify the angry passenger by offering her a seat in first class.
mollycoddle
v. pamper; indulge excessively. Don't mollycoddle the boy, Maud! You'll spoil him.
molt
v. shed or cast off hair or feathers. When Molly's canary molted, he shed feathers all over the house.
molten
adj. melted. The city of Pompeii was destroyed by volcanic ash rather than by molten lava flowing from Mount Vesuvius.
momentous
adj. very important. When Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium, they had no idea of the momentous impact their discovery would have upon society.
momentum
n. quantity of motion of a moving body; impetus. The car lost momentum as it tried to ascend the steep hill.
monarchy
n. government under a single ruler. Though England today is a monarchy, there is some question whether it will be one in 20 years, given the present discontent at the prospect of Prince Charles as king.
monastic
adj. related to, monks or monasteries; removed from worldly concerns. Withdrawing from the world, Thomas Merton joined a contemplative religious order and adopted the monastic life.
monetary
adj. pertaining to money. Jane held the family purse strings: she made all monetary decisions affecting the household.
monochromatic
adj. having only one color. Most people who are color blind actually can distinguish several colors; some, however, have a truly monochromatic view of a world all in shades of gray.
monolithic
adj. solidly uniform; unyielding. Knowing the importance of appearing resolute, the patriots sought to present a monolithic front.
monotheism
n. belief in one God. Abraham was the first to proclaim his belief in monotheism.
monotony
n. sameness leading to boredom. What could be more deadly dull than the monotony of punching numbers into a computer hour after hour? monotonous, ADJ.
monumental
adj. massive. Writing a dictionary is a monumental task.
moodiness
n. fits of depression or gloom. We could not discover the cause of her recurrent moodiness.
moratorium
n. legal delay of payment. If we declare a moratorium and delay collection of debts for six months, I am sure the farmers will be able to meet their bills.
morbid
adj. given to unwholesome thought; moody; characteristic of disease. People who come to disaster sites just to peer at the grisly wreckage are indulging their morbid curiosity. morbidity, N.
mordant
adj. biting; sarcastic; stinging. Actors feared the critic's mordant pen.
mores
n. conventions; moral standards; customs. In America, Benazir Bhutto dressed as Western women did; in Pakistan, however, she followed the mores of her people, dressing in traditional veil and robes.
moribund
adj. dying. Hearst took a moribund, failing weekly newspaper and transformed it into one of the liveliest, most profitable daily papers around.
■morose
adj. ill-humored; sullen; melancholy. Forced to take early retirement, Bill acted morose for months; then, all of a sudden, he shook off his gloom and was his usual cheerful self.
mortician
n. undertaker. The mortician prepared the corpse for burial.
mortify
v. humiliate; punish the flesh. She was so mortified by her blunder that she ran to her room in tears.
mosaic
n. picture made of small, colorful inlaid tiles. The mayor compared the city to a beautiful mosaic made up of people of every race and religion on earth. also ADJ.
mote
n. small speck. The tiniest mote in the eye is very painful.
motif
n. theme. This simple motif runs throughout the score.
motility
n. ability to move spontaneously. Certain organisms exhibit remarkable motility; motile spores, for example, may travel for miles before coming to rest. motile, ADJ.
motley
adj. multicolored; mixed. The jester wore a motley tunic, red and green and blue and gold all patched together haphazardly. Captain Ahab had gathered a motley crew to sail the vessel: old sea dogs and runaway boys, pillars of the church and drunkards, even a tattooed islander who terrified the rest of the crew.
mottled
adj. blotched in coloring; spotted. When old Falstaff blushed, his face became mottled, all pink and purple and red.
mountebank
n. charlatan; boastful pretender. The patent medicine man was a mountebank.
muddle
v. confuse; mix up. Her thoughts were muddled and chaotic. also N.
muggy
adj. warm and damp. August in New York City is often muggy.
mulct
v. defraud a person of something. The lawyer was accused of trying to mulct the boy of his legacy.
multifarious
adj. varied; greatly diversified. A career woman and mother, she was constantly busy with the multifarious activities of her daily life.
multiform
adj. having many forms. Snowflakes are multiform but always hexagonal.
multilingual
adj. having many languages. Because they are bordered by so many countries, the Swiss people are multilingual.
multiplicity
n. state of being numerous. She was appalled by the multiplicity of details she had to complete before setting out on her mission.
■mundane
adj. worldly as opposed to spiritual; everyday. Uninterested in philosophical or spiritual discussions, Tom talked only of mundane matters such as the daily weather forecast or the latest basketball results.
munificent
adj. very generous. Shamelessly fawning over a particularly generous donor, the dean kept referring to her as "our munificent benefactor." munificence, N.
mural
n. wall painting. The walls of the Chicano Community Center are covered with murals painted in the style of Diego Rivera, the great Mexican artist.
murky
adj. dark and gloomy; thick with fog; vague. The murky depths of the swamp were so dark that you couldn't tell the vines and branches from the snakes. murkiness, N.
muse
v. ponder. For a moment he mused about the beauty of the scene, but his thoughts soon changed as he recalled his own personal problems. also N.
musky
adj. having the odor of musk. She left a trace of musky perfume behind her.
muster
v. gather; assemble. Washington mustered his forces at Trenton.
musty
adj. stale; spoiled by age. The attic was dark and musty.
mutability
n. ability to change in form; fickleness. Going from rags to riches, and then back to rags again, the bankrupt financier was a victim of the mutability of fortune. mutable, ADJ.
muted
adj. silent; muffled; toned down. Thanks to the thick, sound-absorbing walls of the cathedral, only muted traffic noise reached the worshippers within. mute, v., N.
mutilate
v. maim. The torturer threatened to mutilate his victim.
mutinous
adj. unruly; rebellious. The captain had to use force to quiet his mutinous crew. mutiny, N.
myopic
adj. nearsighted; lacking foresight. Stumbling into doors despite the coke-bottle lenses on his glasses, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo is markedly myopic. In playing all summer long and failing to store up food for winter, the grasshopper in Aesop's fable was myopic as well. myopia, N.
myriad
n. very large number. Myriads of mosquitoes from the swamps invaded our village every twilight. also ADJ.
nadir
n. lowest point. Although few people realized it, the Dow-Jones averages had reached their nadir and would soon begin an upward surge.
naiveté
n. quality of being unsophisticated; simplicity; artlessness; gullibility. Touched by the naiveté of sweet, convent-trained Cosette, Marius pledges himself to protect her innocence. naive, ADJ.
narcissist
n. conceited person. A narcissist is his own best friend.
narrative
adj. related to telling a story. A born teller of tales, Olsen used her impressive narrative skills to advantage in her story "I Stand Here Ironing." also
nascent
adj. incipient; coming into being. If we could identify these revolutionary movements in their nascent state, we would be able to eliminate serious trouble in later years.
natation
n. swimming. The Red Cross emphasizes the need for courses in natation.
natty
adj. neatly or smartly dressed. Priding himself on being a natty dresser, the gangster Bugsy Siegel collected a wardrobe of imported suits and ties.
nauseate
v. cause to become sick; fill with disgust. The foul smells began to nauseate her.
nautical
adj. pertaining to ships or navigation. The Maritime Museum contains models of clipper ships, logbooks, anchors, and many other items of a nautical nature.
navigable
adj. wide and deep enough to allow ships to pass through; able to be steered. So much sand had built up at the bottom of the canal that the waterway was barely navigable.
nebulous
adj. vague; hazy; cloudy. Phil and Dave tried to come up with a clear, intelligible business plan, not some hazy, nebulous proposal.
necromancy
n. black magic; dealings with the dead. The evil sorcerer performed feats of necromancy, calling on the spirits of the dead to tell the future. necromancer, N.
nefarious
adj. very wicked. The villain's crimes, though various, were one and all nefarious.
■negate
v. cancel out; nullify; deny. A sudden surge of adrenalin can negate the effects of fatigue: there's nothing like a good shock to wake you up. negation, N.
negligence
n. neglect; failure to take reasonable care. Tommy failed to put back the cover on the well after he fetched his pail of water; because of his negligence, Kitty fell in. negligent, ADJ.
negligible
adj. so small, trifling, or unimportant as to be easily disregarded. Because the damage to his car had been negligible, Michael decided he wouldn't bother to report the matter to his insurance company.
nemesis
n. someone seeking revenge. Abandoned at sea in a small boat, the vengeful Captain Bligh vowed to be the nemesis of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers.
neologism
n. new or newly coined word or phrase. As we invent new techniques and professions, we must also invent neologisms such as "microcomputer" and "astronaut" to describe them.
■neophyte
n. recent convert; beginner. This mountain slope contains slides that will challenge experts as well as neophytes.
nepotism
n. favoritism (to a relative). John left his position with the company because he felt that advancement was based on nepotism rather than ability.
nether
adj. lower. Tradition locates hell in the nether regions.
nettle
v. annoy; vex. Do not let her nettle you with her sarcastic remarks.
nexus
n. connection. I fail to see the nexus that binds these two widely separated events.
nib
n. beak; pen point. The nibs of fountain pens often become clotted and corroded.
nicety
n. precision; minute distinction. I cannot distinguish between such niceties of reasoning. nice,
niggardly
adj. meanly stingy; parsimonious. The niggardly pittance the widow receives from the government cannot keep her from poverty.
niggle
v. spend too much time on minor points; carp. Let's not niggle over details. niggling, ADJ.
nihilist
n. one who considers traditional beliefs to be groundless and existence meaningless; absolute skeptic; revolutionary terrorist. In his final days, Hitler revealed himself a power-mad nihilist, ready to annihilate all of Western Europe, even to destroy Germany itself, in order that his will might prevail. The root of the word nihilist is nihil, Latin for "nothing." nihilism, N.
nip
v. stop something's growth or development; snip off; bite; make numb with cold. The twins were plotting mischief, but Mother intervened and nipped their plan in the bud, The gardener nipped off a lovely rose and gave it to me. Last week a guard dog nipped the postman in the leg; this week the extreme chill nipped his fingers till he could barely hold the mail.
nirvana
n. in Buddhist teachings, the ideal state in which the individual loses himself in the attainment of an impersonal beatitude. Despite his desire to achieve nirvana, the young Buddhist found that even the buzzing of a fly could distract him from his meditation.
nocturnal
adj. done at night. Mr. Jones obtained a watchdog to prevent the nocturnal raids on his chicken coops.
noisome
adj. foul-smelling; unwholesome. The noisome atmosphere downwind of the oil refinery not only stank but also damaged the lungs of everyone living in the area.
nomadic
adj. wandering. Several nomadic tribes of Indians would hunt in this area each year. nomad, N.
nomenclature
n. terminology; system of names. Sharon found Latin word parts useful in translating medical nomenclature: when her son had to have a bilateral myringotomy, she figured out that he needed a hole in each of his eardrums to end his earaches.
nominal
adj. in name only; trifling. He offered to drive her to the airport for only a nominal fee.
nonchalance
n. indifference; lack of concern; composure. Cool, calm, and collected under fire, James Bond shows remarkable nonchalance in the face of danger. nonchalant, ADJ.
noncommittal
adj. neutral; unpledged; undecided. We were annoyed by his noncommittal reply for we had been led to expect definite assurances of his approval.
nondescript
adj. undistinctive; ordinary. The private detective was a short, nondescript fellow with no outstanding features, the sort of person one would never notice in a crowd.
nonentity
n. person of no importance; nonexistence. Because the two older princes dismissed their youngest brother as a nonentity, they did not realize that he was quietly plotting to seize the throne.
nonplus
v. bring to a halt by confusion; perplex. Jack's uncharacteristic rudeness nonplussed Jill, leaving her uncertain how to react.
nostalgia
n. homesickness; longing for the past. My grandfather seldom spoke of life in the old country; he had little patience with nostalgia. nostalgic, ADJ.
nostrum
n. questionable medicine. No quack selling nostrums is going to cheat me.
notable
adj. conspicuous; important; distinguished. Normally notable for his calm in the kitchen, today the head cook was shaking, for the notable chef Julia Child was coming to dinner. also N.
notoriety
n. disrepute; ill fame. To the starlet, any publicity was good publicity: if she couldn't have a good reputation, she'd settle for notoriety. notorious, ADJ.
novelty
n. something new; newness. The computer is no longer a novelty around the office. novel, ADJ.
novice
n. beginner. Even a novice at working with computers can install Barron's Computer Study Program for the GRE by following the easy steps outlined in the user's manual.
noxious
adj. harmful. We must trace the source of these noxious gases before they asphyxiate us.
nuance
n. shade of difference in meaning or color; subtle distinction. Jody gazed at the Monet landscape for an hour, appreciating every subtle nuance of color in the painting.
nubile
adj. marriageable. Mrs. Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, was worried about finding suitable husbands for her five nubile daughters.
nugatory
adj. futile; worthless. This agreement is nugatory for no court will enforce it.
nullify
v. to make invalid. Once the contract was nullified, it no longer had any legal force.
numismatist
n. person who collects coins. The numismatist had a splendid collection of antique coins.
nuptial
adj. related to marriage. Reluctant to be married in a traditional setting, they decided to hold their nuptial ceremony at the carousel in Golden Gate Park. nuptials,
nurture
v. nourish; educate; foster. The Head Start program attempts to nurture prekindergarten children so that they will do well when they enter public school. also N.
nutrient
n. nourishing substance. As a budding nutritionist, Kim has learned to design diets that contain foods rich in important basic nutrients. also ADJ.
oaf
n. stupid, awkward person. "Watch what you're doing, you clumsy oaf!" Bill shouted at the waiter who had drenched him with iced coffee.
■obdurate
adj. stubborn. He was obdurate in his refusal to listen to our complaints.
obeisance
n. bow. She made an obeisance as the king and queen entered the room.
obelisk
n. tall column tapering and ending in a pyramid. Cleopatra's Needle is an obelisk in New York City's Central Park.
obese
adj. excessively fat. It is advisable that obese people try to lose weight. obesity, N.
obfuscate
v. confuse; muddle; cause confusion; make needlessly complex. Was the president's spokesman trying to clarify the Whitewater mystery, or was he trying to obfuscate the issue so the voters would never figure out what went on?
obituary
n. death notice. I first learned of her death when I read the obituary in the newspaper. also ADJ.
objective
adj. not influenced by emotions; fair. Even though he was her son, she tried to be objective about his behavior.
objective
n. goal; aim. A degree in medicine was her ultimate objective.
obligatory
adj. binding; required. It is obligatory that books borrowed from the library be returned within two weeks.
oblique
adj. indirect; slanting (deviating from the perpendicular or from a straight line). Casting a quick, oblique glance at the reviewing stand, the sergeant ordered the company to march "Oblique Right."
obliterate
v. destroy completely. The tidal wave obliterated several island villages.
oblivion
n. obscurity; forgetfulness. After a decade of popularity, Hurston's works had fallen into oblivion; no one bothered to read them any more.
oblivious
adj. inattentive or unmindful; wholly absorbed. Deep in her book, Nancy was oblivious to the noisy squabbles of her brother and his friends.
obloquy
n. slander; disgrace; infamy. I resent the obloquy that you are casting upon my reputation.
obnoxious
adj. offensive. I find your behavior obnoxious; please mend your ways.
obscure
adj. dark; vague; unclear. Even after I read the poem a fourth time, its meaning was still obscure. obscurity, N.
obscure
v. darken; make unclear. At times he seemed purposely to obscure his meaning, preferring mystery to clarity.
■obsequious
adj. slavishly attentive; servile; sycophantic. Helen valued people who behaved as if they respected themselves; nothing irritated her more than an excessively obsequious waiter or a fawning salesclerk.
obsequy
n. funeral ceremony. Hundreds paid their last respects at his obsequies.
obsessive
adj. related to thinking about something constantly; preoccupying. Ballet, which had been a hobby, began to dominate his life: his love of dancing became obsessive. obsession, N.
obsidian
n. black volcanic rock. The deposits of obsidian on the mountain slopes were an indication that the volcano had erupted in ancient times.
obsolete
adj. outmoded. "Hip" is an obsolete expression; it went out with love beads and tie-dye shirts.
obstetrician
n. physician specializing in delivery of babies. Unlike midwives, who care for women giving birth at home, obstetricians generally work in a hospital setting.
obstinate
adj. stubborn; hard to control or treat. We tried to persuade him to give up smoking, but he was obstinate and refused to change. Blackberry stickers are the most obstinate weeds I know: once established in a yard, they're extremely hard to root out. obstinacy, N.
obstreperous
adj. boisterous; noisy. What do you do when an obstreperous horde of drunken policemen carouses through your hotel, crashing into potted plants and singing vulgar songs?
obtrude
v. push (oneself or one's ideas) forward or intrude; butt in; stick out or extrude. Because Fanny was reluctant to obtrude her opinions about child-raising upon her daughter-in-law, she kept a close watch on her tongue. obtrusive,
obtuse
adj. blunt; stupid. What can you do with somebody who's so obtuse that he can't even tell that you're insulting him?
■obviate
v. make unnecessary; get rid of. I hope this contribution will obviate any need for further collections of funds.
Occident
n. the West. It will take time for the Occident to understand the ways and customs of the Orient.
■occlude
v. shut; close. A blood clot occluded an artery to the heart. occlusion, N.
Occult
adj. mysterious; secret; supernatural. The occult rites of the organization were revealed only to members. also N.
Oculist
n. physician who specializes in treatment of the eyes. In many states, an oculist is the only one who may apply medicinal drops to the eyes for the purpose of examining them.
odious
adj. hateful; vile. Cinderella's ugly stepsisters had the odious habit of popping their zits in public.
odium
n. detestation; hatefulness; disrepute. Prince Charming could not express the odium he felt toward Cinderella's stepsisters because of their mistreatment of poor Cinderella.
odoriferous
adj. giving off an odor. The odoriferous spices stimulated her jaded appetite.
odorous
adj. having an odor. This variety of hybrid tea rose is more odorous than the one you have in your garden.
odyssey
n. long, eventful journey. The refugee's journey from Cambodia was a terrifying odyssey.
offensive
adj. attacking; insulting; distasteful. Getting into street brawls is no minor offense for professional boxers, who are required by law to restrict their offensive impulses to the ring.
offhand
adj. casual; done without prior thought. Expecting to be treated with due propriety by her hosts, Great-Aunt Maud was offended by their offhand manner.
■officious
adj. meddlesome; excessively pushy in offering one's services. After her long flight, Jill just wanted to nap, but the officious bellboy was intent on showing her all the special features of the deluxe suite.
ogle
v. look at amorously; make eyes at. At the coffee house, Walter was too shy to ogle the pretty girls openly; instead, he peeked out at them from behind a rubber plant.
olfactory
adj. concerning the sense of smell. A wine taster must have a discriminating palate and a keen olfactory sense, for a good wine appeals both to the taste buds and to the nose.
oligarchy
n. government by a privileged few. One small clique ran the student council: what had been intended as a democratic governing body had turned into an oligarchy.
ominous
adj. threatening. Those clouds are ominous; they suggest that a severe storm is on the way.
omnipotent
adj. all-powerful. The monarch regarded himself as omnipotent and responsible to no one for his acts.
omnipresent
adj. universally present; ubiquitous. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus is omnipresent.
omniscient
adj. all-knowing. I do not pretend to be omniscient, but I am positive about this fact.
omnivorous
adj. eating both plant and animal food; devouring everything. Some animals, including humans, are omnivorous and eat both meat and vegetables; others are either carnivorous or herbivorous.
■onerous
adj. burdensome. She asked for an assistant because her work load was too onerous.
onomatopoeia
n. words formed in imitation of natural sounds. Words like "rustle" and "gargle" are illustrations of onomatopoeia.
onslaught
n. vicious assault. We suffered many casualties during the unexpected onslaught of the enemy troops.
onus
n. burden; responsibility. The emperor was spared the onus of signing the surrender papers; instead, he relegated the assignment to his generals.
opalescent
adj. iridescent; lustrous. The oil slick on the water had an opalescent, rainbowlike sheen. opalescence, N.
opaque
adj. dark; not transparent. The opaque window shade kept the sunlight out of the room. opacity, N.
opiate
n. medicine to induce sleep or deaden pain; something that relieves emotions or causes inaction. To say that religion is the opiate of the people is to condemn religion as a drug that keeps the people quiet and submissive to those in power.
opportune
adj. timely; well-chosen. Cher looked at her father struggling to balance his checkbook; clearly this would not be an opportune moment to ask him for an increase in her allowance.
opportunist
n. individual who sacrifices principles for expediency by taking advantage of circumstances. Forget about ethics! He's such an opportunist that he'll vote in favor of any deal that will give him a break.
■opprobrium
n. infamy; vilification. He refused to defend himself against the slander and opprobrium hurled against him by the newspapers; he preferred to rely on his record.
optician
n. maker and seller of eyeglasses. The patient took the prescription given him by his oculist to the optician.
optimist
n. person who looks on the bright side. The pessimist says the glass is half-empty; the optimist says it is half-full.
optimum
adj. most favorable. If you wait for the optimum moment to act, you may never begin your project. also N.
optional
adj. not compulsory; left to one's choice. I was impressed by the range of optional accessories for my microcomputer that were available. option, N.
optometrist
n. one who fits glasses to remedy visual defects. Although an optometrist is qualified to treat many eye disorders, she may not use medicines or surgery in her examinations.
opulence
n. extreme wealth; luxuriousness; abundance. The glitter and opulence of the ballroom took Cinderella's breath away. opulent, ADJ.
opus
n. work. Although many critics hailed his Fifth Symphony, he did not regard it as his major opus.
oracular
adj. prophetic; uttered as if with divine authority; mysterious or ambiguous. Like many others who sought divine guidance from the oracle at Delphi, Oedipus could not understand the enigmatic oracular warning he received. oracle, N.
orator
n. public speaker. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass was a brilliant orator whose speeches brought home to his audience the evils of slavery.
oratorio
n. dramatic poem set to music. The Glee Club decided to present an oratorio during their recital.
ordain
v. decree or command; grant holy orders; predestine. The king ordained that no foreigner should be allowed to enter the city.' The Bishop of Michigan ordained David a deacon in the Episcopal Church. The young lovers felt that fate had ordained their meeting.
ordeal
n. severe trial or affliction. June was so painfully shy that it was an ordeal for her to speak up when the teacher called on her in class.
ordinance
n. decree. Passing a red light is a violation of a city ordinance.
ordination
n. ceremony conferring holy orders. The candidate for ordination had to meet with the bishop and the diocesan officers before being judged ready to be ordained a deacon. ordain, v.
orgy
n. wild, drunken revelry; unrestrained indulgence. The Roman emperor's orgies were far wilder than the toga party in the movie Animal House. When her income tax refund check finally arrived, Sally indulged in an orgy of shopping.
orient
v. get one's bearings; adjust. Philip spent his first day in Denver orienting himself to the city.
orientation
n. act of finding oneself in society. Freshman orientation provides the incoming students with an opportunity to learn about their new environment and their place in it.
orifice
n. mouthlike opening; small opening. The Howe Caverns were discovered when someone observed that a cold wind was issuing from an orifice in the hillside.
ornate
adj. excessively or elaborately decorated. With its elaborately carved, convoluted lines, furniture of the Baroque period was highly ornate.
ornithologist
n. scientific student of birds. Audubon's drawings of American bird life have been of interest not only to ornithologists but also to the general public.
orthodox
adj. traditional; conservative in belief. Faced with a problem, she preferred to take an orthodox approach rather than shock anyone. orthodoxy, N.
orthography
n. correct spelling. Many of us find English orthography difficult to master because so many of our words are not written phonetically.
■oscillate
v. vibrate pendulumlike; waver. It is interesting to note how public opinion oscillates between the extremes of optimism and pessimism.
osseous
adj. made of bone; bony. The hollow "soft spot" found at the top of the infant's skull gradually closes as new osseous tissue fills in the gap.
ossify
v. change or harden into bone. When he called his opponent a "bonehead," he implied that his adversary's brain had ossified and that he was not capable of clear thinking.
ostensible
adj. apparent; professed; pretended. Although the ostensible purpose of this expedition is to discover new lands, we are really interested in finding new markets for our products.
■ostentatious
adj. showy; pretentious; trying to attract attention. Trump's latest casino in Atlantic City is the most ostentatious gambling palace in the East: it easily out-glitters its competitors. ostentation, N.
ostracize
v. exclude from public favor; ban. As soon as the newspapers carried the story of his connection with the criminals, his friends began to ostracize him. ostracism, N.
oust
v. expel; drive out. The world wondered if Aquino would be able to oust Marcos from office.
outlandish
adj. bizarre; peculiar; unconventional. The eccentric professor who engages in markedly outlandish behavior is a stock figure in novels with an academic setting.
outmoded
adj. no longer stylish; old-fashioned. Unconcerned about keeping in style, Lenore was perfectly happy to wear outmoded clothes as long as they were clean and unfrayed.
outskirts
n. fringes; outer borders. Living on the outskirts of Boston, Sarah sometimes felt as if she were cut off from the cultural heart of the city.
outspoken
adj. candid; blunt. The candidate was too outspoken to be a successful politician; he had not yet learned to weigh his words carefully.
outstrip
v. surpass; outdo. Jesse Owens easily outstripped his competitors to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games.
outwit
v. outsmart; trick. By disguising himself as an old woman, Holmes was able to outwit his pursuers and escape capture.
ovation
n. enthusiastic applause. When Placido Domingo came on stage in the first act of La Bohéme, he was greeted by a tremendous ovation.
overbearing
adj. bossy; arrogant; decisively important. Certain of her own importance and of the unimportance of everyone else, Lady Bracknell was intolerably overbearing in manner. "In choosing a husband," she said, "good birth is of overbearing importance; compared to that, neither wealth nor talent signifies."
overt
adj. open to view. According to the United States Constitution, a person must commit an overt act before he may be tried for treason.
overweening
adj. presumptuous; arrogant. His overweening pride in his accomplishments was not justified.
overwrought
adj. extremely agitated; hysterical. When Kate heard the news of the sudden tragedy, she became too overwrought to work and had to leave the office early.
ovoid
adj. egg-shaped. At Easter she had to cut out hundreds of brightly colored ovoid shapes.
pachyderm
n. thick-skinned animal. The elephant is probably the best-known pachyderm.
pacifist
n. one opposed to force; antimilitarist. During the war, pacifists, though they refused to bear arms, served in the front lines as ambulance drivers and medical corpsmen. also
pacify
v. soothe; make calm or quiet; subdue. Dentists criticize the practice of giving fussy children sweets to pacify them.
paean
n. song of praise or joy. Paeans celebrating the victory filled the air.
painstaking
adj. showing hard work; taking great care. The new high-frequency word list is the result of painstaking efforts on the part of our research staff.
palatable
adj. agreeable; pleasing to the taste. Neither Jack's underbaked opinions nor his overcooked casseroles were palatable to me.
palate
n. roof of the mouth; sense of taste. When you sound out the letter "d," your tongue curves up to touch the edge of your palate. When Alice was sick, her mother made special meals to tempt her palate.
palatial
adj. magnificent. He proudly showed us through his palatial home.
paleontology
n. study of prehistoric life. The professor of paleontology had a superb collection of fossils.
palette
n. board on which a painter mixes pigments. At the present time, art supply stores are selling a paper palette that may be discarded after use.
palimpsest
n. parchment used for second time after original writing has been erased. Using chemical reagents, scientists have been able to restore the original writings on many palimpsests.
pall
v. grow tiresome. The study of word lists can eventually pall and put one to sleep.
pallet
n. small, poor bed. The weary traveler went to sleep on his straw pallet.
palliate
v. ease pain; make less severe or offensive. If we cannot cure this disease at present, we can, at least, try to palliate the symptoms. palliation, N.
pallid
adj. pale; wan. Because his occupation required that he work at night and sleep during the day, he had an exceptionally pallid complexion.
palpable
adj. tangible; easily, perceptible. I cannot understand how you could overlook such a palpable blunder.
palpitate
v. throb; flutter. As she became excited, her heart began to palpitate more and more erratically.
paltry
adj. insignificant; petty; trifling. "One hundred dollars for a genuine imitation Rolex watch! Lady, this is a paltry sum to pay for such a high-class piece of jewelry."
pan
v. criticize harshly. Hoping for a rave review of his new show, the playwright was miserable when the critics panned it unanimously.
panacea
n. cure-all; remedy for all diseases. There is no easy panacea that will solve our complicated international situation.
panache
n. flair; flamboyance. Many performers imitate Noel Coward, but few have his panache and sense of style.
pandemic
adj. widespread; affecting the majority of people. They feared the AIDS epidemic would soon reach pandemic proportions.
pandemonium
n. wild tumult. When the ships collided in the harbor, pandemonium broke out among the passengers.
pander
v. cater to the low desires of others. The reviewer accused the makers of Lethal Weapon of pandering to the masses' taste for violence.
panegyric
n. formal praise. Blushing at all the praise heaped upon him by the speakers, the modest hero said, "I don't deserve such panegyrics."
panoramic
adj. denoting an unobstructed and comprehensive view. On a clear day, from the top of the Empire State Building you can get a panoramic view of New York City and neighboring stretches of New Jersey and Long Island. panorama, N.
pantomime
n. acting without dialogue. Because he worked in pantomime, the clown could be understood wherever he appeared. also v.
papyrus
n. ancient paper made from stem of papyrus plant. The ancient Egyptians were among the first to write on papyrus.
parable
n. short, simple story teaching a moral. Let us apply to our own conduct the lesson that this parable teaches.
paradigm
n. model; example; pattern. Pavlov's experiment in which he trains a dog to salivate on hearing a bell is a paradigm of the conditioned-response experiment in behavioral psychology. paradigmatic, ADJ.
paradox
n. something apparently contradictory in nature; statement that looks false but is actually correct. Richard presents a bit of a paradox, for he is a card-carrying member of both the National Rifle Association and the relatively pacifist American Civil Liberties Union. paradoxical, ADJ.
■paragon
n. model of perfection. Her fellow students disliked Lavinia because Miss Minchin always pointed her out as a paragon of virtue.
parallelism
n. state of being parallel; similarity. Although the twins were separated at birth and grew up in different adoptive families, a striking parallelism exists between their lives.
parameter
n. limit; independent variable. We need to define the parameters of the problem.
paramount
adj. foremost in importance; supreme. Proper nutrition and hygiene are of paramount importance in adolescent development and growth.
paramour
n. illicit lover. She sought a divorce on the grounds that her husband had a paramour in another town.
paranoia
n. psychosis marked by delusions of grandeur or persecution. Suffering from paranoia, he claimed everyone was out to get him. Ironically, his claim was accurate; even paranoids have enemies. paranoid, paranoiac,
paraphernalia
n. equipment; odds and ends. Her desk was cluttered with paper, pen, ink, dictionary and other paraphernalia of the writing craft.
paraphrase
v. restate a passage in one's own words while retaining thought of author. In 250 words or less, paraphrase this article. also N.
parasite
n. animal or plant living on another; toady; sycophant. The tapeworm is an example of the kind of parasite that may infest the human body.
parched
adj. extremely dry; very thirsty. The parched desert landscape seemed hostile to life.
pariah
n. social outcast. If everyone ostracized singer Mariah Carey, would she then be Mariah the pariah?
parity
n. equality; close resemblance. I find your analogy inaccurate because I do not see the parity between the two illustrations.
parlance
n. language; idiom. All this legal parlance confuses me; I need an interpreter.
parley
n. conference. The peace parley has not produced the anticipated truce. also v.
parochial
adj. narrow in outlook; provincial; related to parishes. Although Jane Austen writes novels set in small rural communities, her concerns are universal, not parochial.
parody
n. humorous imitation; spoof; takeoff; travesty. The show Forbidden Broadway presents parodies spoofing the year's new productions playing on Broadway. also v.
paroxysm
n. fit or attack of pain, laughter, rage. When he heard of his son's misdeeds, he was seized by a paroxysm of rage.
parquet
n. floor made of wood strips inlaid in a mosaic-like pattern. In laying the floor, the carpenters combined redwood and oak in an elegant parquet.
parry
v. ward off a blow; deflect. Unwilling to injure his opponent in such a pointless clash, Dartagnan simply tried to parry his rival's thrusts. What fun it was to watch Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy parry each other's verbal thrusts in their classic screwball comedies! also N.
parsimony
n. stinginess; excessive frugality. Silas Marner's parsimony did not allow him to indulge in any luxuries. parsimonious, ADJ.
partial
adj. incomplete; having a liking for something. In this issue we have published only a partial list of contributors because we lack space to acknowledge everyone. I am extremely partial to chocolate eclairs. partiality, N.
partiality
n. inclination; bias. As a judge, not only must I be unbiased, but I must also avoid any evidence of partiality when I award the prize.
■partisan
adj. one-sided; prejudiced; committed to a party. Rather than joining forces to solve our nation's problems, the Democrats and Republicans spend their time on partisan struggles. also N.
partition
v. divide into parts. Before their second daughter was born, Jason and Lizzie decided each child needed a room of her own, and so they partitioned a large bedroom into two small but separate rooms. also N.
passé
adj. old-fashioned; past the prime. Her style is passé and reminiscent of the Victorian era.
passive
adj. not active; acted upon. Mahatma Gandhi urged his followers to pursue a program of passive resistance as he felt that it was more effective than violence and acts of terrorism.
pastiche
n. imitation of another's style in musical composition or in writing. We cannot even say that her music is a pastiche of this or that composer; it is, rather, reminiscent of many musicians.
pastoral
adj. rural. In these stories of pastoral life, we find an understanding of the daily tasks of country folk.
patent
adj. open for the public to read; obvious. It was patent to everyone that the witness spoke the truth.
pathetic
adj. causing sadness, compassion, pity; touching. Everyone in the auditorium was weeping by the time she finished her pathetic tale about the orphaned boy.
■pathological
adj. pertaining to disease. As we study the pathological aspects of this disease, we must not overlook the psychological elements.
pathos
n. tender sorrow; pity; quality in art or literature that produces these feelings. The quiet tone of pathos that ran through the novel never degenerated into the maudlin or the overly sentimental.
patina
n. green crust on old bronze works; tone slowly taken by varnished painting. Judging by the patina on this bronze statue, we can conclude that this is the work of a medieval artist.
patois
n. local or provincial dialect. His years of study of the language at the university did not enable him to understand the patois of the natives.
patriarch
n. father and ruler of a family or tribe. In many primitive tribes, the leader and lawmaker was the patriarch.
patrician
adj. noble; aristocratic. We greatly admired her well-bred, patrician elegance. also N.
patronize
v. support; act superior toward; be a customer of. Penniless artists hope to find some wealthy art lover who will patronize them. If some condescending wine steward patronized me because he saw I knew nothing about fine wine, I'd refuse to patronize his restaurant.
■paucity
n. scarcity. They closed the restaurant because the paucity of customers made it uneconomical to operate.
pauper
n. very poor person. Though Widow Brown was living on a reduced income, she was by no means a pauper.
peccadillo
n. slight offense. Whenever Huck swiped a cookie from the jar, Miss Watson reacted as if he were guilty of armed robbery, not of some mere peccadillo.
pecuniary
adj. pertaining to money. Seldom earning enough to cover their expenses, folk-dance teachers work because they love dancing, not because they expect any pecuniary reward.
pedagogue
n. teacher. He could never be a stuffy pedagogue,: his classes were always lively and filled with humor.
pedagogy
n. teaching; art of education. Though Maria Montessori gained fame for her innovations in pedagogy, it took years before her teaching techniques became common practice in American schools.
pedant
n. scholar who overemphasizes book learning or technicalities. Her insistence that the book be memorized marked the teacher as a pedant rather than a scholar.
■pedantic
adj. showing off learning; bookish. Leavening her decisions with humorous, down-to-earth anecdotes, Judge Judy was not at all the pedantic legal scholar. pedantry, N.
pedestrian
adj. ordinary; unimaginative. Unintentionally boring, he wrote page after page of pedestrian prose.
pediatrician
n. physician specializing in children's diseases. The family doctor advised the parents to consult a pediatrician about their child's ailment.
peerless
adj. having no equal; incomparable. The reigning operatic tenor of his generation, to his admirers Luciano Pavarotti was peerless: no one could compare with him.
pejorative
adj. negative in connotation; having a belittling effect. Instead of criticizing Clinton's policies, the Republicans made pejorative remarks about his character.
pell-mell
adv. in confusion; disorderly. The excited students dashed pell-mell into the stadium to celebrate the victory.
pellucid
adj. transparent; limpid; easy to understand. After reading these stogy philosophers, I find his pellucid style very enjoyable.
penance
n. self-imposed punishment for sin, The Ancient Mariner said, "I have penance done and penance more will do," to atone for the sin of killing the albatross.
■penchant
n. strong inclination; liking. Dave has a penchant for taking risks: one semester he went steady with three girls, two of whom were stars on the school karate team.
pendant
adj. hanging down from something. Her pendant earrings glistened in the light.
pendant
n. ornament (hanging from a necklace, etc.). The grateful team presented the coach with a silver chain and pendant engraved with the school's motto.
pendulous
adj. hanging, suspended. The pendulous chandeliers swayed in the breeze as if they were about to fall from the ceiling.
penitent
adj. repentant. When he realized the enormity of his crime, he became remorseful and penitent. also N.
pensive
adj. dreamily thoughtful; thoughtful with a hint of sadness; contemplative. The pensive lover gazed at the portrait of his beloved and sighed deeply.
penumbra
n. partial shadow (in an eclipse). During an eclipse, we can see an area of total darkness and a lighter area, which is the penumbra.
■penury
n. severe poverty; stinginess. When his pension fund failed, George feared he would end his days in penury. He became such a penny-pincher that he turned into a closefisted, penurious miser.
peon
n. landless agricultural worker; bond servant. The land reformers sought to liberate the peons and establish them as independent farmers. peonage, N.
perceptive
adj. insightful; aware; wise. Although Maud was a generally perceptive critic, she had her blind spots: she could never see flaws in the work of her friends.
percussion
adj. striking one object against another sharply. The drum is a percussion instrument. also N.
perdition
n. damnation; complete ruin. Praying for salvation, young Daedalus feared he was damned to eternal perdition.
peregrination
n. journey. Auntie Mame was a world traveler whose peregrinations took her from Tijuana to Timbuktu.
peremptory
adj. demanding and leaving no choice. From Jack's peremptory knock on the door, Jill could tell he would not give up until she let him in.
■perennial
n. something long-lasting. These plants are hardy perennials and will bloom for many years. also ADJ.
■perfidious
adj. treacherous; disloyal. When Caesar realized that Brutus had betrayed him, he reproached his perfidious friend. perfidy, N.
perforate
v. pierce; put a hole through. Before you can open the aspirin bottle, you must first perforate the plastic safety seal that covers the cap.
■perfunctory
adj. superficial; not thorough; lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm. The auditor's perfunctory inspection of the books overlooked many errors.
perigee
n. point of moon's orbit when it is nearest the earth. The rocket which was designed to take photographs of the moon was launched as the moon approached its perigee.
perimeter
n. outer boundary. To find the perimeter of any quadrilateral, we add the lengths of the four sides.
peripatetic
adj. walking about; moving. The peripatetic school of philosophy derives its name from the fact that Aristotle walked with his pupils while discussing philosophy with them.
peripheral
adj. marginal; outer. We lived, not in central London, but in one of those peripheral suburbs that spring up on the outskirts of a great city.
periphery
n. edge, especially of a round surface. He sensed that there was something just beyond the periphery of his vision.
perjury
n. false testimony while under oath. Rather than lie under oath and perhaps be indicted for perjury, the witness chose to take the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer any questions on the grounds that he might incriminate himself.
■permeable
adj. penetrable; porous; allowing liquids or gas to pass through. If your jogging clothes weren't made out of permeable fabric, you'd drown in your own sweat (figuratively speaking). permeate, v.
pernicious
adj. very destructive. The Athenians argued that Socrates's teachings had a pernicious effect on young and susceptible minds; therefore, they condemned him to death.
peroration
n. conclusion of an oration. The peroration was largely hortatory and brought the audience to its feet clamoring for action at its close.
perpetrate
v. commit an offense. Oniy an insane person could perpetrate such a horrible crime.
perpetual
adj. everlasting. Ponce de Leon hoped to find the legendary fountain of perpetual youth.
perpetuate
v. make something last; preserve from extinction. Some critics attack The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because they believe Twain's book perpetuates a false image of blacks in this country. perpetuity, N.
perquisite
n. any gain above stipulated salary. The perquisites attached to this job make it even more attractive than the salary indicates.
personable
adj. attractive. The individual I am seeking to fill this position must be personable since he or she will be representing us before the public.
perspicacious
adj. having insight; penetrating; astute. The brilliant lawyer was known for his perspicacious deductions.
perspicuity
n. clearness of expression; freedom from ambiguity. One of the outstanding features of this book is the perspicuity of its author; her meaning is always clear.
perspicuous
adj. plainly expressed. Her perspicuous comments eliminated all possibility of misinterpretation.
pert
adj. impertinent; forward. I think your pert and impudent remarks call for an apology.
pertinacious
adj. stubborn; persistent. She is bound to succeed because her pertinacious nature will not permit her to quit.
pertinent
adj. suitable; to the point. The lawyer wanted to know all the pertinent details.
perturb
v. disturb greatly. The thought that electricity might be leaking out of the empty light-bulb sockets perturbed my aunt so much that at night she crept about the house screwing fresh bulbs in the vacant spots. perturbation, N.
peruse
v. read with care. After the conflagration that burned down her house, Joan closely perused her home insurance policy to discover exactly what benefits her coverage provided. perusal, N.
■pervasive
adj. spread throughout. Despite airing them for several hours, she could not rid her clothes of the pervasive odor of mothballs that clung to them. pervade, v.
perverse
adj. stubbornly wrongheaded; wicked and unacceptable. When Jack was in a perverse mood, he would do the opposite of whatever Jill asked him. When Hannibal Lecter was in a perverse mood, he ate the flesh of his victims. perversity, N.
perversion
n. corruption; turning from right to wrong. Inasmuch as he had no motive for his crimes, we could not understand his perversion.
pessimism
n. belief that life is basically bad or evil; gloominess. Considering how well you have done in the course so far, you have no real reason for such pessimism about your final grade. pessimistic, ADJ.
pestilential
adj. causing plague; baneful. People were afraid to explore the pestilential swamp. pestilence, N.
pestle
n. tool for mashing or grinding substances in a hard bowl. From the way in which the elderly pharmacist pounded the drug with his pestle, young George could tell that his employer was agitated about something.
petrify
v. turn to stone. His sudden and unexpected appearance seemed to petrify her.
petty
adj. trivial; unimportant; very small. She had no major complaints to make about his work, only a few petty quibbles that were almost too minor to state.
petulant
adj. touchy; peevish. If you'd had hardly any sleep for three nights and people kept on phoning and waking you up, you'd sound petulant, too. petulance, N.
pharisaical
adj. pertaining to the Pharisees, who paid scrupulous attention to tradition; self-righteous; hypocritical. Walter Lippmann has pointed out that moralists who do not attempt to explain the moral code they advocate are often regarded as pharisaical and ignored.
philanderer
n. faithless lover; flirt. Swearing he had never so much as looked at another woman, Jack assured Jill he was no philanderer.
philanthropist
n. lover of mankind; doer of good. In his role as philanthropist and public benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., donated millions to charity; as an individual, however, he was a tight-fisted old man.
philatelist
n. stamp-collector. When she heard the value of the Penny Black stamp, Phyllis was inspired to become a philatelist.
philistine
n. narrow-minded person, uncultured and exclusively interested in material gain. We need more men and women of culture and enlightenment; we have too many philistines among us.
philology
n. study of language. The professor of philology advocated the use of Esperanto as an international language.
■phlegmatic
adj. calm; not easily disturbed. The nurse was a cheerful but phlegmatic person, unexcited in the face of sudden emergencies.
phobia
n. morbid fear. Her fear of flying was more than mere nervousness; it was a real phobia.
phoenix
n. symbol of immortality or rebirth. Like the legendary phoenix rising from its ashes, the city of San Francisco rose again after its destruction during the 1906 earthquake.
phylum
n. major classification, second to kingdom, of plants and animals; division. In sorting out her hundreds of packets of seeds, Katya decided to file them by phylum.
physiognomy
n. face. He prided himself on his ability to analyze a person's character by studying his physiognomy.
physiological
adj. pertaining to the science of the function of living organisms. To understand this disease fully, we must examine not only its physiological aspects but also its psychological elements.
piebald
adj. of different colors; mottled; spotted. You should be able to identify Polka Dot in this race; he is the only piebald horse running.
piecemeal
adv. one part at a time; gradually. Tolstoy's War and Peace is too huge to finish in one sitting; I'll have to read it piecemeal.
pied
adj. variegated; multicolored. The Pied Piper of Hamelin got his name from the multicolored clothing he wore.
■piety
n. devoutness; reverence for God. Living her life in prayer and good works, Mother Teresa exemplified the true spirit of piety. pious, ADJ.
pigment
n. coloring matter. Van Gogh mixed various pigments with linseed oil to create his paints.
pillage
v. plunder. The enemy pillaged the quiet village and left it in ruins. also N.
pillory
v. punish by placing in a wooden frame; subject to criticism and ridicule. Even though he was mocked and pilloried, he maintained that he was correct in his beliefs. also N.
pine
v. languish, decline; long for; yearn. Though she tried to be happy living with Clara in the city, Heidi pined for the mountains and for her gruff but loving grandfather.
pinion
v. restrain. They pinioned his arms against his body but left his legs free so that he could move about. also N.
pinnacle
n. peak. We could see the morning sunlight illuminate the pinnacle while the rest of the mountain lay in shadow.
pious
adj. devout; religious. The challenge for church people today is how to be pious in the best sense, that is, to be devout without becoming hypocritical or sanctimonious. piety, N.
piquant
adj. pleasantly tart-tasting; stimulating. The piquant sauce added to our enjoyment of the meal. piquancy, N.
pique
n. irritation; resentment. She showed her pique at her loss by refusing to appear with the other contestants at the end of the competition.
pique
v. provoke or arouse; annoy. "I know something you don't know," said Lucy, trying to pique Ethel's interest.
piscatorial
adj. pertaining to fishing. He spent many happy hours at the lake in his piscatorial activities.
pitfall
n. hidden danger; concealed trap. The preacher warned his flock to beware the pitfall of excessive pride, for pride brought on the angels' fall.
pith
n. core or marrow; essence; substance. In preparing a pineapple for the table, first slice it in half and remove the woody central pith.
pithy
adj. concise; meaningful; substantial; meaty. While other girls might have gone on and on about how uncool Elton was, Cher summed it up in one pithy remark: "He's bogus!"
pittance
n. a small allowance or wage. He could not live on the pittance he received as a pension and had to look for an additional source of revenue.
pivotal
adj. central; critical. De Klerk's decision to set Nelson Mandela free was pivotal; without Mandela's release, there was no possibility that the African National Congress would entertain talks with the South African government.
■placate
v. pacify; conciliate. The store manager tried to placate the angry customer, offering to replace the damaged merchandise or to give back her money.
placebo
n. harmless substance prescribed as a dummy pill. In a controlled experiment, fifty volunteers were given erythromycin tablets; the control group received only placebos.
placid
adj. peaceful; calm. After his vacation in this placid section, he felt soothed and rested.
plagiarize
v. steal another's ideas and pass them off as one's own. The teacher could tell that the student had plagiarized parts of his essay; she recognized whole paragraphs straight from Barron's Book Notes. plagiarism, N.
plaintive
adj. mournful. The dove has a plaintive and melancholy call.
plait
v. braid; intertwine. The maypole dancers plaited bright green ribbons in their hair. also N.
■plasticity
n. ability to be molded. When clay dries out, it loses its plasticity and becomes less malleable.
■platitude
n. trite remark; commonplace statement. In giving advice to his son, old Polonius expressed himself only in platitudes; every word out of his mouth was a truism.
platonic
adj. purely spiritual; theoretical; without sensual desire. Accused of impropriety in his dealings with female students, the professor maintained he had only a platonic interest in the women involved.
plaudit
n. enthusiastic approval; round of applause. The theatrical company reprinted the plaudits of the critics in its advertisements. plauditory, ADJ.
plausible
adj. having a show of truth but open to doubt; specious. Your mother made you stay home from school because she needed you to program the VCR? I'm sorry, you'll have to come up with a more plausible excuse than that.
plebeian
adj. common; pertaining to the common people. His speeches were aimed at the plebeian minds and emotions; they disgusted the more refined.
plenary
adj. complete; full. The union leader was given plenary power to negotiate a new contract with the employers.
plenitude
n. abundance; completeness. Looking in the pantry, we admired the plenitude of fruits and pickles we had preserved during the summer.
■plethora
n. excess; overabundance. She offered a plethora of excuses for her shortcomings.
pliable
adj. flexible; yielding; adaptable. In remodeling the bathroom, we replaced all the old, rigid lead pipes with new, pliable copper tubing.
pliant
adj. flexible; easily influenced. Pinocchio's disposition was pliant; he was like putty in his tempters' hands.
plight
n. condition, state (especially a bad state or condition); predicament. Loggers, unmoved by the plight of the spotted owl, plan to keep on felling trees whether or not they ruin the bird's habitat.
pluck
n. courage. Even the adversaries of young Indiana Jones were impressed by the boy's pluck in trying to rescue the archeological treasure they had stolen.
plumage
n. feathers of a bird. Bird watchers identify different species of birds by their characteristic songs and distinctive plumage.
plumb
v. examine critically in order to understand; measure depth (by sounding). Try as he would, Watson could never fully plumb the depths of Holmes's thought processes.
plumb
adj. vertical. Before hanging wallpaper it is advisable to drop a plumb line from the ceiling as a guide. also N.
■plummet
v. fall sharply. Stock prices plummeted as Wall Street reacted to the rise in interest rates.
plutocracy
n. society ruled by the wealthy. From the way the government caters to the rich, you might think our society is a plutocracy rather than a democracy.
podiatrist
n. doctor who treats ailments of the feet. He consulted a podiatrist about his fallen arches.
podium
n. pedestal; raised platform. The audience applauded as the conductor made her way to the podium.
poignancy
n. quality of being deeply moving; keenness of emotion. Watching the tearful reunion of the long-separated mother and child, the social worker was touched by the poignancy of the scene. poignant, ADJ.
polarize
v. split into opposite extremes or camps. The abortion issue has polarized the country into pro-choice and anti-abortion camps.
polemic
n. controversy; argument in support of point of view. Her essays were, for the main part, polemics for the party's policy.
polemical
adj. aggressive in verbal attack; disputatious. Lexy was a master of polemical rhetoric; she should have worn a T-shirt with the slogan "Born to Debate."
politic
adj. expedient; prudent; well devised. Even though he was disappointed, he did not think it politic to refuse this offer.
polity
n. form of government of nation or state. Our polity should be devoted to the concept that the government should strive for the good of all citizens.
polygamist
n. one who has more than one spouse at a time. He was arrested as a polygamist when his two wives filed complaints about him.
polyglot
adj. speaking several languages. New York City is a polyglot community because of the thousands of immigrants who settle there.
pomposity
n. self-important behavior; acting like a stuffed shirt. Although the commencement speaker had some good things to say, we had to laugh at his pomposity and general air of parading his own dignity. pompous, ADJ.
ponderous
adj. weighty; unwieldy. His humor lacked the light touch; his jokes were always ponderous.
pontifical
adj. pertaining to a bishop or pope; pompous or pretentious. From the very beginning of his ministry it was clear from his pontifical pronouncements that John was destined for a high pontifical office.
pore
v. study industriously; ponder; scrutinize. Determined to become a physician, Beth spends hours poring over her anatomy text.
■porous
adj. full of pores; like a sieve. Dancers like to wear porous clothing because it allows the ready passage of water and air.
portend
v. foretell; presage. The king did not know what these omens might portend and asked his soothsayers to interpret them.
portent
n. sign; omen; forewarning. He regarded the black cloud as a portent of evil.
portly
adj. stout; corpulent. The salesclerk tactfully referred to the overweight customer as portly rather than fat.
poseur
n. person who pretends to be sophisticated, elegant, etc., to impress others. Some thought Dali was a brilliant painter; others dismissed him as a poseur.
posterity
n. descendants; future generations. We hope to leave a better world to posterity.
posthumous
adj. after death (as of child born after father's death or book published after author's death). The critics ignored his works during his lifetime; it was only after the posthumous publication of his last novel that they recognized his great talent.
postulate
n. self-evident truth. We must accept these statements as postulates before pursuing our discussions any further. also v.
posture
v. assume an affected pose; act artificially. No matter how much Arnold boasted or postured, I could not believe he was as important as he pretended to be.
potable
adj. suitable for drinking. The recent drought in the Middle Atlantic States has emphasized the need for extensive research in ways of making sea water potable. also N.
potent
adj. powerful; persuasive; greatly influential. Looking at the expiration date on the cough syrup bottle, we wondered whether the medication would still be potent. potency, N.
potentate
n. monarch; sovereign. The potentate spent more time at Monte Carlo than he did at home on his throne.
potential
adj. expressing possibility; latent. This juvenile delinquent is a potential murderer. also N.
potion
n. dose (of liquid). Tristan and Isolde drink a love potion in the first act of the opera.
potpourri
n. heterogeneous mixture; medley. The folk singer offered a potpourri of songs from many lands.
poultice
n. soothing application applied to sore and inflamed portions of the body. She was advised to apply a flaxseed poultice to the inflammation.
practicable
adj. feasible. The board of directors decided that the plan was practicable and agreed to undertake the project.
practical
adj. based on experience; useful. He was a practical man, opposed to theory.
■pragmatic
adj. practical (as opposed to idealistic); concerned with the practical worth or impact of something. This coming trip to France should provide me with a pragmatic test of the value of my conversational French class.
pragmatist
n. practical person. No pragmatist enjoys becoming involved in a game that he can never win.
prate
v. speak foolishly; boast idly. Let us not prate about our qualities; rather, let our virtues speak for themselves.
prattle
v. babble. Baby John prattled on and on about the cats and his ball and the Cookie Monster. also N.
■preamble
n. introductory statement. In the Preamble to the Constitution, the purpose of the document is set forth.
■precarious
adj. uncertain; risky. Saying the stock was currently overpriced and would be a precarious investment, the broker advised her client against purchasing it.
precedent
n. something preceding in time that may be used as an authority or guide for future action; an earlier occurrence. The law professor asked Jill to state which famous case served as a precedent for the court's decision in Brown II. precede, v.
precedent
adj. preceding in time, rank, etc. Our discussions, precedent to this event, certainly did not give you any reason to believe that we would adopt your proposal.
precept
n. practical rule guiding conduct. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is a worthwhile precept.
precipice
n. cliff; dangerous position. Suddenly Indiana Jones found himself dangling from the edge of a precipice.
precipitant
n. something that causes a substance in a chemical solution to separate out in solid form. Solvents by definition dissolve; precipitants, however, cause solids to precipitate or form. precipitate, v.
■precipitate
adj. rash; premature; hasty; sudden. Though I was angry enough to resign on the spot, I had enough sense to keep myself from quitting a job in such a precipitate fashion.
precipitate
v. throw headlong; hasten. The removal of American political support appeared to have precipitated the downfall of the Marcos regime.
precipitous
adj. steep; overhasty. This hill is difficult to climb because it is so precipitous; one slip, and our descent will be precipitous as well.
précis
n. concise summing up of main points. Before making her presentation at the conference, Ellen wrote a neat précis of the major elements she would cover.
precise
adj. exact. If you don't give me precise directions and a map, I'll never find your place.
preclude
v. make impossible; eliminate. The fact that the band was already booked to play in Hollywood on New Year's Eve precluded their accepting the offer of a New Year's Eve gig in London.
precocious
adj. advanced in development. Listening to the grown-up way the child discussed serious topics, we couldn't help remarking how precocious she was. precocity, N.
■precursor
n. forerunner. Though Gray and Burns share many traits with the Romantic poets who followed them, most critics consider them precursors of the Romantic Movement, not true Romantics.
predator
n. creature that seizes and devours another animal; person who robs or exploits others. Not just cats, but a wide variety of predators—owls, hawks, weasels, foxes—catch mice for dinner. A carnivore is by definition predatory, for he preys on weaker creatures. predation, N.
predecessor
n. former occupant of a post. I hope I can live up to the fine example set by my late predecessor in this office.
predetermine
v. predestine; settle or decide beforehand; influence markedly. Romeo and Juliet believed that Fate had predetermined their meeting. Bea gathered estimates from caterers, florists, and stationers so that she could predetermine the costs of holding a catered buffet. Philip's love of athletics predetermined his choice of a career in sports marketing.
predicament
n. tricky or dangerous situation; dilemma. Tied to the railroad tracks by the villain, Pauline strained against her bonds. How would she escape from this terrible predicament?
predilection
n. partiality; preference. Although the artist used various media from time to time, she had a predilection for watercolors.
predispose
v. give an inclination toward; make susceptible to. Oleg's love of dressing up his big sister's Barbie doll may have predisposed him to become a fashion designer. Genetic influences apparently predispose people to certain forms of cancer. predisposition, N.
preeminent
adj. outstanding; superior. The king traveled to Boston because he wanted the preeminent surgeon in the field to perform the operation.
preempt
v. head off; forestall by acting first; appropriate for oneself; supplant. Hoping to preempt any attempts by the opposition to make educational reform a hot political issue, the candidate set out her own plan to revitalize the public schools. preemptive, ADJ.
preen
v. make oneself tidy in appearance; feel self-satisfaction. As Kitty preened before the mirror, carefully smoothing her shining hair, she couldn't help preening herself on her good looks.
prefatory
adj. introductory. The chairman made a few prefatory remarks before he called on the first speaker.
prehensile
adj. capable of grasping or holding. Monkeys use not only their arms and legs but also their prehensile tails in traveling through the trees.
prelate
n. church dignitary. The archbishop of Moscow and other high-ranking prelates visited the Russian Orthodox seminary.
prelude
n. introduction; forerunner. I am afraid that this border raid is the prelude to more serious attacks.
premeditate
v. plan in advance. She had premeditated the murder for months, reading about common poisons and buying weed killer that contained arsenic.
premise
n. assumption; postulate. On the premise that there's no fool like an old fool, P. T. Barnum hired a 90year-old clown for his circus.
premonition
n. forewarning. We ignored these premonitions of disaster because they appeared to be based on childish fears.
premonitory
adj. serving to warn. You should have visited a doctor as soon as you felt these premonitory chest pains.
preponderance
n. superiority of power, quantity, etc. The rebels sought to overcome the preponderance of strength of the government forces by engaging in guerrilla tactics. preponderate,
preposterous
adj. absurd; ridiculous. When the candidate tried to downplay his youthful experiments with marijuana by saying he hadn't inhaled, we all thought, "What a preposterous excuse!"
prerogative
n. privilege; unquestionable right. The President cannot levy taxes; that is the prerogative of the legislative branch of government.
presage
v. foretell. The vultures flying overhead presaged the discovery of the corpse in the desert.
prescience
n. ability to foretell the future. Given the current wave of Japan-bashing, it does not take prescience for me to foresee problems in our future trade relations with Japan.
presentiment
n. feeling something will happen; anticipatory fear; premonition. Saying goodbye at the airport, Jack had a sudden presentiment that this was the last time he would see Jill.
prestige
n. impression produced by achievements or reputation. Many students want to go to Harvard University, not for the education offered, but for the prestige of Harvard's name. prestigious, ADJ.
■presumptuous
adj. arrogant; taking liberties. It seems presumptuous for one so relatively new to the field to challenge the conclusions of its leading experts. presumption, N.
pretentious
adj. ostentatious; pompous; making unjustified claims; overambitious. The other prize winner isn't wearing her medal; isn't it a bit pretentious of you to wear yours?
preternatural
adj. beyond that which is normal in nature. John's mother's total ability to tell when he was lying struck him as almost preternatural.
pretext
n. excuse. She looked for a good pretext to get out of paying a visit to her aunt.
prevail
v. induce; triumph over. He tried to prevail on her to type his essay for him.
prevalent
adj. widespread; generally accepted. A radical committed to social change, Reed had no patience with the conservative views prevalent in the America of his day.
■prevaricate
v. lie. Some people believe that to prevaricate in a good cause is justifiable and regard the statement as a "white lie."
prey
n. target of a hunt; victim. In Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons has as his prey not wild beasts but wild plants. also v.
prim
adj. very precise and formal; exceedingly proper. Many people commented on the contrast between the prim attire of the young lady and the inappropriate clothing worn by her escort.
primogeniture
n. seniority by birth. By virtue of primogeniture, in some cultures the first-born child has many privileges denied his brothers and sisters.
primordial
adj. existing at the beginning (of time); rudimentary. The Neanderthal Man is one of our primordial ancestors.
primp
v. groom oneself with care; adorn oneself. The groom stood by idly while his nervous bride-to-be primped one last time before the mirror.
■pristine
adj. characteristic of earlier times; primitive, unspoiled. This area has been preserved in all its pristine wildness.
privation
n. hardship; want. In his youth, he knew hunger and privation.
privy
adj. secret; hidden; not public. We do not care for privy chamber government.
probe
v. explore with tools. The surgeon probed the wound for foreign matter before suturing it. also N.
■probity
n. uprightness; incorruptibility. Everyone took his probity for granted; his defalcations, therefore, shocked us all.
■problematic
adj. doubtful; unsettled; questionable; perplexing. Given the way building costs have exceeded estimates for the job, whether the arena will ever be completed is problematic.
proclivity
n. inclination; natural tendency. Watching the two-year-old voluntarily put away his toys, I was amazed by his proclivity for neatness.