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628 Cards in this Set

  • Front
  • Back
wend (v)
to go, proceed, walk

We wended our way through the market, buying vegetables for dinner.
As Fritz wended his long way home from work, he thought again about moving closer to town.
welter (v.)
to writhe, to toss about, to be in turmoil

The lake weltered in the storm, tossing the boat up on huge waves.
welter (n.)
a state of turmoil or chaotic jumble

He'd searched through the welter of papers on his desk for the contract but couldn't find it.
waft (n.)
a light breeze, a puff

I must not have been holding on to the kite string very tightly, because just a single, gentle waft of air was enough to send it floating away over the rooftops.
waft (v.)
to send floating through the air or over water.

The ant wafted down the creek on a leaf raft.
volatile (adj.)
readily changing to a vapor; changeable, fickle, explosive

It was a volatile situation, with both parties to the negotiations changing their positions frequently, and each threatening to walk out if the other side didn't agree to the terms.
vituperate (v.)
to use harsh condemnatory language; abuse or censure severely

Don't you vituperate me, missy, when you know you're every bit as much to blame.
After they had spent most of the day vituperating each other in the harshest terms possible, it was a little strange to see them settle their differences so easily and walk off in arm to get lunch.
vitiate (v.)
to reduce the value of, debase, spoil, make ineffective

His failure to live up to his end of the deal vitiated the entire agreement as far as I was concerned.
The usefulness of the experimental results was vitiated by the lack of a control group against which to measure them.
viscous (adj.)
thick, sticky

The viscous cold medicine was designed to coat the throat, but its stickiness made it very unpleasant to swallow.

Pitcher plants, among other carnivorous plants, catch their prey in viscous fluids in which the insects get stuck.
virulent (adj.)
extremely harmful or poisonous, bitterly hostile or antagonistic

The strain of flue virus that year was particularly virulent and caused a national health crisis.
vilify (v.)
to defame, characterize harshly

The animal rights activist vilified the manufacturers of fur coats for cruelty to animals.
Although the politicians were vilified in the press for their role in the scandal, they received no official sanction.
vigilant (adj.)
alertly watchful

Dr. Becker is vigilant about my interaction with boys in the program.
veritable (adj.)
authentic, real, genuine

The most fierce experiences come when I let go of some last fearful reserve and permit a VERITABLE turbine of energy to unleash itself up my spine.
verisimilitude (n.)
appearing true or real

The verisimilitude of the wax figures was uncanny; they looked as if they would start to move and speak at any minute.
veracity (n.)
truthfulness, honesty

I would never have doubted your veracity if you hadn't had your fingers crossed.
venerate (v.)
to revere (respect deeply)

The members of the boy band were venerated by their young fans, whose parents failed to understand the appeal at all.
venal (adj.)
capable of being bought or bribed, mercenary

The presence of the venal juror who accepted a bribe resulted in an acquittal.
the use of position for personal gain
Rampant venality in city politics eroded everyone's trust in the system.
vaunt (v.)
to brag or boast

Fred has a tendency to vaunt his own achievements, even though his friends remind him that it is often more effective to wait for other people to point out when one has done a good job.
variegated (adj.)
multicolored, characterized by a variety of patches of different color.

The variegated fields of wildflowers in the springtime seemed like they contained every oclor we'd ever seen.
usury (n.)
charging an exorbitant or illegal rate of interest

Hannah, whenever she got her credit card statements, railed against what she claimed was usury on the part of the banks to anyone who would listen.
Making dinner every night this week in exchange for just one bite of your ice cream seems a little like usury to me.
urbane (adj.)
sophisticated, refined, elegant

He was particularly proud of his urbane manners, since it was important to him that no one guesses he grew up in a trailer.
upbraid (v.)
to scold, censure, rebuke, chastise

Nathan was thoroughly upbraided for having gone over his boss' head with a proposal.
unfeigned (adj.)
genuine, not false or hypocritical

Constance's surprise when everyone jumped out and said "happy birthday" seemed completely unfeigned, which was amazing since I thought at least three people had inadvertently told her about the surprise party.
undulate (v.)
to move in a wavelike fashion, fluctuate
The small snake undulated over the twigs in the yard, seeming to flow over them in a way that was unlike the movement of any other animal.
umbrage (n.)
offense, resentment

I decided not to take umbrage at his insults because I know he was just trying to get a response, and ignoring him would be the most satisfying revenge.
ubiquitous (adj.)
existing everywhere at the same time, constantly encountered, widespread
Those motorola razor phones are ubiquitous these days.
untenable (adj.)
indefensible, not viable, inhabitable
The president realized he was in an untenable position when even his own cabinet disagreed with him.
Barry was unsure why his girlfriend was arguing that their long distance relationship was untenable when they'd been making it work for two years already.
untoward (adj)
troublesome, unruly, unseemly, adverse
I was always impressed that Shelly managed to remain upbeat under even the most untoward situations.
There was a rumor going around that something untoward had occurred in the principal's office the night before.
truculent (adj.)
fierce, scathing, eager to fight
Yun Cee's truculent personality makes it hard to have even a simple conversation with her.
tumid (adj.)
The river, tumid from the spring rains, overflowed its banks and flooded the surrounding fields.
After getting drunk the night before, I woke up with a tumid face.
turbid (adj.)
muddy, having sediment stirred up, clouded to the point of being opaque, in a state of turmoil
The coffee was so turbid from the grounds that seeped through the filter that it looked like mud.
Grace's mind was so turbid with anxieties over how she was going to handle the next day that she couldn't sleep all night.
turgid (adj.)
swollen, bloated, pompous, excessively ornate
Her turgid prose would have been difficult to take in any context, but it was particularly ill suited to a computer how-to book.
turpitude (n.)
depravity, baseness
BEcause he had been caught stealing from the orphanage's fund, he was immediately dismissed on the grounds of moral turpitude.
Claiming that shopping malls were marketplaces of turpitude, Ms. Snow declared that the morally correct thing to do was to shop exclusively by mail.
tyro (n.)
novice, beginner in learning
I constantly feel like I am a tyro in Economics...and life.
trenchant (adj.)
sharply perceptive, keen, penetrating, biting, clear cut

His trenchant criticism of the report revealed the fundamentally flawed premise on which it was based.
Eric could always be counted on to perform the trenchant analysis that would unearth what had gone wrong in the project thus far.
torrid (adj.)
scorching, ardent, passionate, hurried

Chris was so engrossed in the torrid love affair unfolding in the novel that he didn't even notice that he had missed his bus stop.
tortuous (adj.)
winding, twisting, excessively complicated.

It was unsafe to drive faster than ten miles an hour on the tortuous road down the mountain because the turns were so sharp, so most people chose to walk or bicycle down instead.
tout (v.)
to publicly praise or promote

When the beautiful model went on television touting the health benefits of pickle juice, pickle sales quadrupled overnight.
travesty (n.)
mockery, caricature, parody

The defendant argued that the proceedings were a travesty of a trial since he did not have a lawyer representing him.
travesty (v.)
to imitate in such a way as to ridicule

I travestied Rubin's accent by saying he came from a town called "boe-toe-ga."
tractable (adj.)
docile, obedient, easily led

The magician was looking for a tractable young assistant who would be willing to follow directions such as "get in the box so I can saw you in half."
transient (adj.)
fleeting, passing quickly, brief

The last four years of college were so transient...I hope graduate school is the same.
tenuous (adj.)
having little substance or strength, flimsy, weak

Tyler's grasp on mathematics has always been somewhat tenuous; he understands addition fairly well, but subtraction poses some challenges.
timorous (adj.)
timid, fearful, diffident

Mice are supposed to be timorous, but the one living behind the fridge seems very bold and completely unafraid of me.

My Korean personality is a little timorous in comparison to my American one.
torpid (adj.)
lethargic, sluggish, dormant

We were torpid with exhaustion and could barely move after walking fifteen miles back to camp.
The spring semester left me in a torpid state--not a good way to start off AEASP.
torque (n.)
a force that causes rotation

Gary was having a difficult time generating enough torque to get the wheel to spin on its own.
tendentious (adj.)
biased, showing marked tendencies

It was difficult to determine what was objective fact and what was tendentious opinion, because all the research published thus far had been paid for by one side of the other.
tender (v.)
to offer formally

We refused the terms of the truce the other side tendered, because they wanted us to surrender our water balloons first.
toady (n.)
sycophant, flatterer, yes-man

Lewis could always rely on his trusty toady to tell him what he wanted to hear, even if it didn't match up to reality in any way.
Adrian is a bit of a toady when it comes to women.
tenacity (n.)
the quality of adherence or persistence to something valued

His tenacity in seeking public office was remarkable; he sought election fifteen different times and even though he never won, he never gave up.

I think I used to have tenacity when it came to studying mathematics in high school.
tawdry (adj.)
cheap, gaudy, showy, tacky, indecent

The Korean street markets have a tawdry feel to them.
tautology (n.)
a repetition, a redundancy, a circular argument

"There can be no such thing as obscenity in art because art is not obscene" is a tautology.
His argument was tautological because he never introduced any support for his claim, he just kept repeating it over and over.
tamp (v.)
to plug, to drive in or down by a series of blows

The old man had a very specific ritual for tamping the tobacco into his pipe, and he repeated it all day long even though he never actually lit the pipe.
After placing the saplings in the holes and filling them in with soil, we tamped down the ground around each tree.
taciturn (adj.)
not talkative, silent

I seem to get extremely taciturn when I'm regularly working out.
tacit (adj.)
implied, not explicitly stated.

There is a tacit understanding amongst the team members that Felix will be allowed to play, because everyone likes him, even though he can't hit the ball.
table (v.)
to remove (as a parliamentary motion) from consideration

Unsurprisingly, the council tabled the students' motion to reduce the school day by half for the fifth year in a row.
Because the meeting had already gone two hours longer than scheduled, the remaining agenda items had to be tabled until the next month.
supine (adj.)
inactive, lying on one's back, apathetic, mentally or morally slack

We spent hours supine on the floor looking up at the glow-in-the-dark stars we had pasted on the ceiling.
supplant (v.)
to take the place of, supersede

I was quickly supplanted in my girlfriend's affections by her new beau, and a month later she didn't even remember my name.
suppliant (adj.)
asking humbly, beseeching

The suppliant expression on the boy's face would have melted anyone's will to refuse him what he wanted.
supplicant (n.)
a beggar, one who prays or begs for something

A long line of supplicants awaited the magistrate each Thursday, which is when he heard petitions for assistance from the very poor.
surfeit (v)
to feed or supply in excess

Crystal and I always surfeit ourselves whenever we see each other.
sycophant (n.)
someone who tries to flatter or please for personal gain, parasite

The young basketball player has an entourage of sycophants, all hoping to gain his favor and receive expensive gifts when he became rich.
subpoena (n.)
a court order requiring appearance and/or testimony

You could have knocked me over with a feather when my next-door neighbor, the sweet little old grandmother, was subpoenaed to appear in a federal racketeering case.
succor (n.)
assistance, relief in time of distress

The town's inhabitants sought succor in the emergency shelters during and after the hurricane.
sundry (adj.)
various, miscellaneous, separate

Of the sundry items for sale, the young boy was most interested in the elaborate water pistol.
supercilious (adj.)
disdainful, arrogant, haughty, characterized by haughty scorn

I was extremely surprised when he told me he had initially taken my shyness for superciliousness; luckily he later changed his mind and realized I wasn't stuck-up after all.
superfluous (adj.)
exceeding what is sufficient or necessary

The admonition only to eat one of the cupcakes was superfluous; no one would have wanted a second.
stoic (adj.)
indifferent to or unaffected by pleasure or pain, steadfast

Lorelei's stoic indifference to the pain of her dislocated shoulder was disconcerting; it was impossible to tell anything was wrong from the expression on ther frace.
striated (adj.)
striped, grooved, or banded

It was initially a bit strange to drive over the grooves on the roads where the asphalt had been striated to provide better traction when it rained.
strut (n.)
structural support used to brace a framework

When one of the struts supporting the wing of the old seaplane broke, we thought we were going to be swimming home.
stymie (v.)
to block, thwart

His plans to become a professional race car driver were stymied when he failed his driving test for the third time.
stint (v.)
to restrain, be sparing or frugal

I hate to stint on dessert, so I always save room for at least two portions.`
stupefy (v)
to stun, baffle, or amaze

Stupefied by the blow to his head, Scott just kept bumping into more and more things, getting more and more dazed.
stygian (adj.)
gloomy, dark

The stygian murk of the cave wasn't all that inviting, especially when bats started flying out of it.
squander (v.)
to waste by spending or using irresponsibly

I would hate to see you squander your talents by making vacuum cleaner bags for the rest of your life instead of the art you really want to create.
stanch (v.)
to stop the flow of a fluid

The flow of blood from the cut was so slight that half a tissue was all that was needed to stanch it.
steep (v.)
to saturate or completely soak

Her plan was to spend three months in Paris and come back steeped in French culture, but all she ended up with was a fuchsia beret from the souvenir shop.
spurious (adj.)
lacking authenticity or validity, false, counterfeit

His spurious claim that he had found the fountain of youth was soon proven to be the fraud everyone had suspected.
squalid (adj.)
The squalid living conditions the migrant laborers were forced to endure were simply inhuman; no one should have to live like that.
static (adj.)
not moving, active or in motion; at rest

She couldn't stay static for more than five minutes at a time before she started bouncing off the walls again.
soporific (adj.)
causing drowsiness, tending to induce sleep

The economics professor's lectures were an amazing soporific; five minutes listening to him would cure any case of insomnia.
sordid (adj.)
characterized by filth, grime, or squalor, foul

The sordid tale of deceit and betrayal in the criminal underworld became an immediate bestseller.
sparse (adj.)
thin, not dense, arranged at widely spaced intervals

Her approval, though sparsely given, made me feel I had accomplished something important.
specious (adj.)
seeming true, but actually false, misleadingly attractive

The specious "get rich quick" promises of pyramid schemes have suckered countless people over the years.
spendthrift (n.)
one who spends money wastefully

Olivia was an incorrigible spendthrift; she bought things she would never use and didn't even particularly like.
splenetic (adj.)
bad-tempered, irritable

Her boss became splenetic whenever anyone asked him about a raise; nothing seemed to irritate him more.
sporadic (adj.)
occurring only occasionally, or in scattered instances

We said grace only before Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner and went to church SPORADICALLY.
sodden (adj.)
soaked or drenched, unimaginative, dull

The soil is too sodden to plant anything in it yet.
Sodden with drink and sleep, he could barely form a sentence.
solvent (adj.)
able to meet financial obligations

I was solvent for the first time in years, and to celebrate my solvency I went gambling and lost all my money, at which point I had once again become insolvent and had to borrow rent money from my parents again.
sophistry (n.)
fallacious reasoning; plausible but faulty logic.

I'm such a sucker for sophistry; I can never see through the convincing surface to the false logic underneath.
sophomoric (adj.)
exhibiting immaturity, lack of judgment, pretentious

You may call my humor sophomoric, but you laughed at all my jokes, so either I'm funny or you're as immature as I am.
seine (n.)
a large net hung out and dragged in to catch fish

The fisherman were extremely surprised when they caught a mermaid in their seine.
sere (adj.)
withered, arid

Even the sere vegetation at the edge of the desert sent forth new shoots when the brief rains came.
seminal (adj.)
like a seed, constituting a source originative

He wrote the seminal text on robotics; people still study it sixty years later.
shard (n.)
a piece of broken pottery or glass, any small piece or part

He tried to collect the shards of his dignity after his pants fell down in the middle of his speech.
simper (v.)
to smirk, to say something with a silly, coy smile

He simpered some feeble attempt at an apology that no one believed.
sinecure (n.)
position requiring little or no work and usually providing an income

The job was hardly a sinecure; not only was there a ton of work, but there was also no job security.
singular (adj.)
exceptional, unusual, odd

He was singularly ill suited to ballet since he had two left feet.
sinuous (adj.)
winding, curving, moving lithely, devious

We were mesmerized by the sinuous weaving of the cobra as the snake charmer sang to it.
sanguine (adj.)
cheerful, confident, optimistic

she was so sanguine of success that she booked the honeymoon suite before she had even proposed.
sap (v.)
to enervate or weaken the vitality of

Her energy was sapped by the wasting fever; every day she felt a little weaker.
saturnine (adj.)
gloomy, dark, sullen, morose

The saturnine principal scared the students with his dark glares, but really he was a pretty nice guy underneath the brooding exterior.
scurvy (adj.)
contemptible, despicable

He felt a little guilty about the scurvy trick he had pulled on his friend to get her to loan him a hundred dollars by saying he needed it to visit his dying mother.
sedulous (adj.)
diligent, persistent, hard-working

His sedulous efforts to organize the conference were rewarded when the entire event went off perfectly.
sagacious (adj.)
having sound judgment, perceptive, wise

His sagacious remarks gave me new insight into the problem I had been struggling with for days.
salacious (adj.)
appealing to or causing sexual desire, bawdy

Magazines containing salacious material are kept behind the counter in the bookstore, so you'll have to ask the clerk if you want to see them.
salient (adj.)
prominent, protruding, conspicuous, highly relevant

The salient fact that I had failed to notice at first was that my ride had left me stranded at the club with no way to get home.
salubrious (adj.)
promoting health or well-being

His was not the most salubrious of lifestyles, since he lived on donuts and two hours of sleep a night.
salutary (adj.)
remedial, wholesome, causing improvement

The physical therapy she had undergone was having a salutary effect on her knees; she could almost walk without discomfort now.
sanctimony (n.)
self-righteousness, pretended piety

His sanctimony was laughable, since he was the most self-absorbed, ruthless jerk I'd ever met.
sanction (n.)
authoritative permission or approval; a penalty intended to enforce compliance

(two meanings: approval and penalty)
1. Without the sanction of the planning commission, we cannot proceed with the renovation.
2. Sanctions were one of the tools used by the international community to pressure South Africa into ending its practice of apartheid.
rescind (v.)
to invalidate, repeal, retract

The headmaster rescinded his recent dress code decree when he realized he just couldn't take looking at that many penny loafers every day.
resolute (adj.)
adamant, steadfast, determined

Dave was pretty resolute about not going to grad school and going to law school instead.
reticent (adj.)
quiet, reserved, reluctant to express thoughts and feelings

She was reticent about the party, but we suspected she had had more fun than she was letting on.
reverent (adj.)
marked by, feeling, or expressing a feeling of profound awe and respect.

As much as she appreciated the compliment, the teacher was a little freaked out by her students' reverent attitude toward her, especially when they started wearing robes and calling her high priestess.
rubric (n.)
authoritative rule, heading, title, or category

The rubric used to score the writing samples emphasizes structure over content.
rue (v.)
regret, feel remorse

I rued not staying that extra weekend at Cambridge and going to the TFA conference instead.
relegate (v.)
to forcibly assign, especially to a lower place or position

As the youngest member of the troupe, I was relegated to the back end of the dancing donkey costume.
remonstrate (v.)
to protest, object

Dr. Cook would not allow me to remonstrate against applying for a UK scholarship.
renege (v.)
to fail to honor a commitment, go back on a promise

I feel like I have a bad habit of reneging often.
rent (v.)
torn, split apart, pierced as by a sound

The doll was rent limb from limb as the boys fought over it; each combatant was left holding an arm or a leg.
repine (v.)
to feel or express dejection or discontent, long for

I got sick of all her repining for her former beau; she was the one who dumped him, after all.
repudiate (v.)
to refuse to have anything to do with, disown

David threatened to repudiate his daughter if she got any more tattoos or had any more body parts pierced, but she knew he was just bluffing.
recondite (adj.)
hidden, concealed, difficult to understand, obscure

While it makes perfect sense to physicists, quantum mechanics has always been recondite knowledge to me.
reconnoiter (v.)
to engage in reconnaissance, make a preliminary inspection of

We sent Bob to reconnoiter the party when we first arrived, in order to see who was in the other rooms.
recumbent (adj.)
leaning, resting, prone

I was so comfortable recumbent on the picnic blanket that I didn't even stand up when it started raining.
redolent (adj.)
fragrant, suggestive or evocative

The dorm rooms were redolent with a fragrance of stale beer and cold pizza that brought me back to my college days.
redoubtable (adj.)
awe-inspiring; worthy of honor

There are many folk songs and stories about the legend of the redoubtable John Henry, who beat the steam drill in a tunneling contest in 1872.
refulgent (adj.)
radiant, shiny; brilliant

The refulgent gleam of the motorcycle's chrome was his pride and joy.
regale (v.)
to delight or entertain, feast

The visiting dignitaries were regaled with a lavish meal and an elaborate dance and musical performance.
rail (v.)
to complain about bitterly

He railed against the injustice of having not won the lottery yet again.
ramify (v.)
to be divided or subdivided, branch out

Instead of being resolved, the dispute merely ramified as more and more people got involved.
rancorous (adj.)
characterized by bitter, long-lasting resentment

The rancorous feud between the two sides of the family had been going on for years and had grown completely out of proportion to the missing casserole dish that had started the feud.
rapacious (adj.)
voracious, greedy, plundering, subsisting on prey

The rapacious moths ate huge holes in every single one of my socks.
rebus (n.)
riddle, a representation of words by pictures or symbols that sound like the words

Pictures of bees, eyes, and ewes are commonly used in a rebus to symbolize the words "be," "I," and "you" respectively.
recalcitrant (adj.)
obstinately defiant of authority or guidance, difficult to manage.
In an episode of “The Simpsons” about the animated family’s trip to Toronto shortly after the Canadian currency’s collapse in 2002, Homer Simpson won over a recalcitrant security guard by waving a single American dollar bill in his face.
recant (v.)
to retract, especially a previously held belief.

After swallowing the first two, Trina recanted her earlier boast that she could swallow twenty dead worms.
querulous (adj.)
prone to complaining or grumbling, quarrelsome

Her querulous demand to know every five minutes whether we were there yet started to get on my nerves
quiescence (n.)
stillness, motionlessness, quality of being at rest

The volcano's quiescence was only temporary; it could erupt at any time.
quixotic (adj.)
foolishly impractical, marked by lofty romantic ideals

His quixotic plan to build a house out of twinkies came to a predictable end when he act most of his building materials.
quotidian (adj.)
occurring or recurring daily, commonplace

Whenever possible, Anita tried to sleep through her quotidian train commute home.
puerile (adj.)
childish, immature

His puerile humor prominently featured fart jokes.
pugnacious (adj.)
contentious, quarrelsome, given to fighting, belligerent

That pug is extremely pugnacious, biting people's ankles for no reason at all.
punctilious (adj.)
precise, paying attention to trivialities, especially in regard to etiquette

Although his punctilious obsession with etiquette is usually very annoying, it is always handy when royalty comes to dine.
pundit (n.)
an authority on a subject, one who gives opinions

The pundits disagreed about what the recently released statistics meant for the prospect of economic recovery.
pungent (adj.)
characterized by a strong, sharp smell or taste, penetrating, to the point.

The pungent aroma of cinnamon and cloves filled the little tea shop.
pusillanimous (adj.)
cowardly, craven

His pusillanimous refusal to agree to the duel turned out to be wise, if cowardly; his challenger was later revealed to be an Olympic biathlete, and therefore a very good shot.
putrefy (v.)
to rot, decay and give off a foul odor, become gangrenous

The doctors were forced to amputate the leg in order to prevent putrefaction.
quaff (v.)
to drink deeply

The medicine tasted so foul that I had to hold my nose and quaff it all in one gulp.
quail (v.)
to shrink back in fear, lose courage

I quailed at the thought of jumping out of a plane as soon as I looked down, which was probably a little late to be having second thoughts.
qualify (v.)
to limit

Although she was careful to qualify any claims she made about the implications of her discovery, it was clear her research signaled a major breakthrough in the search for a cure.
prolix (adj.)
long-winded, verbose

Dr. Knabb is known for his prolixity--I'm glad Wilko warned me about it beforehand.
propinquity (adj.)
nearness in time or place, affinity of nature, kinship

His propinquity to the object of his affections made him blush.
propitiate (v.)
to appease, conciliate

The prime minister sent the emperor a propitiatory gift in order to appease his anger over the diplomatic blunder.
propitious (adj.)
auspicious, favorable

They took the clearing of the sky as a propitious omen that the storm was passing.
prosaic (adj.)
dull, unimaginative

I was surprised that he should offer so prosaic an account of his travels in Spain; it was out of character given his usually poetic descriptions.
proscribe (v.)
to outlaw or prohibit

Attempts to proscribe swimming in the old quarry were unsuccessful; people continued to do it despite the new rules.
provident (adj.)
frugal, looking to the future

His provident financial planning allowed him to buy a small tropical island when he retired.
prize (v.)
to pry, press or force with a lever

Although I tried to prize the information out of him, Arthur refused to reveal his biscuit recipe.
probity (adj.)
adherence to highest principles, uprightness

Because the chieftain was known for his probity and the soundness of his judgment, people came from miles around to ask him to hear their disputes.
proclivity (n.)
a natural predisposition or inclination

His proclivity for napping through movies made his desire to be a movie reviewer a little strange.
prodigal (adj.)
recklessly wasteful, extravagant, profuse, lavish

Linda was prodigal with her singing abilities, performing only in karaoke bars.
prodigious (adj.)
abundant in size, force, or extent; extraordinary

The prodigious weight of my backpack made me fall over backwards.
profligate (adj.)
excessively wasteful; recklessly extravagant

The profligate ruler emptied the country's treasury to build his many mansions.
profuse (adj.)
given or coming forth abundantly, extravagant

Her profuse gratitude for my having saved her cat became a little excessive with the fourth sweater she knitted for me.
proliferate (v.)
to grow or increase swiftly and abundantly

The proliferation of weeds in the yard suggested it might be time to consider some gardening.
prolific (adj.)
producing large volumes or amounts, productive

She was a prolific writer, churning out 100 pages a week.
predilection (n.)
a disposition in favor of something, preference

Harold's predilection for dating older women meant he didn't need to worry as much about getting his driver's license.
preempt (v.)
to replace, to supersede, to appropriate

My friends preempted my birthday plans by throwing me a surprise party.
preen (v.)
to dress up, primp, groom oneself with elaborate care; in animals, to clean fur or feathers

She was so busy preening and posing for the cameras that she didn't pay enough attention to where the edge of the pool was.
prescience (n.)
knowing of events prior to their occurring

I wish I had had the prescience to know it was going to rain today, I would have brought a raincoat.
presumptuous (adj.)
overstepping bounds, as of propriety or courtesy; taking liberties

I thought it was a little presumptous of Lewis to bring his pajamas and toothbrush with him on our first date.
pristine (adj.)
pure, uncorrupted, clean

Adrian likes to keep his books in pristine condition.
polemical (adj.)
controversial, argumentative

His polemical attack on the president's foreign policy was carefully designed to force him into a public debate on the subject.
prate (v.)
chatter, bubble

The toddler prated on happily to himself though no one else had any idea what he was saying.
prattle (v.)
to babble meaninglessly; to talk in an empty and idle manner

I can prattle away to God about all my feelings and my problems all the livelong day, but when it comes time to descend into silence and listen...well, that's a different story.
precarious (adj.)
uncertain, risky, dangerous

The house was perched precariously on the edge of the cliff, vulnerable to any mudslide.
precept (n.)
rule establishing standards of conduct, a doctrine that is taught

One of the precepts of our criminal justice system is that one is assumed innocent until proven guilty.
precipitate (adj.)
acting with excessive haste or impulse

The captain was forced to take precipitate action when the storm arrived earlier than he had expected.
plastic (adj.)
moldable, pliable, not rigid

The supervillain's secret brain control ray rendered its victim's mind plastic and easily bendable to his evil plans.
platitude (n.)
a superficial or trite remark, especially one offered as meaningful

Since Laura loved to say things that seemed profound initially but turned out to be banal once considered, she was a perfect candidate for writing the platitudes that o in greeting cards.
pluck (n.)
courage, spunk, fortitude

The audience was impressed by the gymnast's pluck in continuing her routine even after she fell of the balance beam.
plumb (v.)
to measure the depth (as with a plumb line), to examine critically

It was the exploratory ship's task to plumb the depth of a section of the Pacific Ocean.
plummet (v.)
to plunge or drop straight down

One by one the ostriches plummeted to the ground when they remembered that they couldn't fly.
poignant (adj.)
distressing, pertinent, touching, stimulating, emotional

The poignant final scene between the main character and his pet penguin that was mortally wounded trying to save his owner moved the audience to tears.
piquant (adj.)
agreeably pungent, spicy, stimulating

The piquant gumbo was a welcome change after days of bland hospital food.
pique (n.)
resentment, feeling of irritation due to hurt pride

In a fit of pique, Chelsea threw her boyfriend's bowling ball out of the fourth-story window onto his car.
pirate (v.)
to use or reproduce illegally

Dad always has pirated Chinese DVDs in the house.
pith (n.)
the essential or central part.

The pith of his argument seemed to be that he should get a bigger allowance, though it took him an hour to get to the point.
precise and brief

The pithy synopsis of the novel distilled all 1,500 pages into two very concise paragraphs
placate (v.)
to appease, calm by making concessions

Although my boyfriend seemed somewhat placated after I sent him flowers every day for a week, I suspected he was still a little cranky that I had forgotten our anniversary.
plaintive (adj.)
mournful, melancholy, sorrowful

The plaintive strains of the bagpipe made everyone feel as mournful as it sounded.
plangent (adj.)
pounding, thundering, resounding

The plangent bells could be heard all over town as they chimed the hour.
petulant (adj.)
impatient, irritable

I don't want to seem like a petulant little child.
philistine (n.)
a crass individual guided by material rather than intellectual or artistic values

The author claimed that his many critics were just philistines, who obviously lacked any taste since they didn't appreciate his writing.
phlegmatic (adj.)
calm, sluggish, unemotional, stoic

His phlegmatic response to the question revealed nothing of what he was feeling, if he was feeling anything at all.
picaresque (adj.)
involving clever rogues or adventurers

Huck Finn is sometimes described as a picaresque hero, since the novel follows his roguish adventures.
pied (adj.)
multi-colored, usually in blotches

The jester wore a pied coat of many bright colors.
pillory (v.)
to punish, hold up to public scorn

The politician was pilloried in the press for his inability to spell potato.
pine (v.)
to yearn intensely, to languish, to lose vigor

I pined for sunshine all winter until I couldn't stand it any more and had to go buy a sun lamp.
pious (adj.)
extremely reverent or devout

Cleo was so pious that she went to church at least one a day.
peripatetic (adj.)
itinerant, traveling, nomadic

As a peripatetic salesman, Frank spent most of his time in his car.
pernicious (adj.)
extremely harmful, potentially causing death

The effect of her pernicious sarcasm could be felt at ten paces.
personable (adj.)
pleasing in appearance, attractive

She was quite personable until she revealed that she was a vampire in need of a nightly feeding.
perspicacious (adj.)
acutely perceptive, having keen discernment

It was quite surprising that his teachers described Kyle as a perspicacious student, since he slept through most of their classes; he must have demonstrated great insight in the papers he wrote.
peruse (v.)
to examine with great care

She perused the shelves for the book, checking each title one by one.
pervade (v.)
to permeate throughout

I was pervaded with fear when the stairs creaked in the middle of the night; even the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
petrous (adj.)
like a rock, hard, stony

I wasn't surprised that my petrous cake wasn't a big hit, but it did make an excellent doorstop, if I do say so myself.
to make hard or rocklike, to paralyze with fear
1. The pores of the wood had been replaced by minerals from the bog in which it was buried, leaving the wood petrified.
2. We were petrified by the dark shape moving toward us; we couldn't even run away because we were frozen with fear.
pedestrian (adj.)
commonplace, trite, unremarkable

The movie's plot was pedestrian, despite the director's brave decision to cast a badger in the role of the hero.
penchant (n.)
strong inclination, a liking

My penchant for fine wines and expensive cars rather exceeds my ability to pay for them.
penurious (adj.)
penny-pinching; excessively thrifty; ungenerous

My penurious boss makes us bring toilet paper from home in order to save the company money.
extreme poverty, destitution or lack of resources

Albert's state of penury was sufficiently far advanced that he was forced to recycle his coffee grounds each morning.
peremptory (adj.)
admitting of no contradiction, putting an end to further debate, haughty, imperious

Her peremptory tone made it clear that there would be no further discussion of the matter.
perennial (adj.)
recurrent through the year or many years, happening repeatedly

The students' perennial complaint was that they had too much homework; the faculty's perennial response was that they should be happy they didn't have more.
perfidy (n.)
intentional breach of faith, treachery

I couldn't believe my campaign manager's perfidy in voting for my opponent.
perfunctory (adj.)
cursory, done without care or interest

Hilda's perfunctory approach to cleaning left dust bunnies the size of small horses in the corners and under the bed.
parry (v.)
to block, evade or ward off, as a blow

Press secretaries are skilled at parrying reporters' questions; they can make it seem as if they are answering the question without actually providing any information.
parsimonious (adj.)
cheap, miserly

He was so parsimonious that he wouldn't even share the free coupons that came in the mail.
paucity (adj.)
scarcity, a lacking of

Carl was very self-conscious about the paucity of hair on his head, so he always wore a hat to cover his large bald spot.
peccadillo (n.)
a slight offense, literally, a minor sin

Using the wrong fork was merely a peccadillo, but dumping the tureen of soup over the host's head was a major gaffe.
pedagogy (n.)
the art or profession of training, teaching, or instructing.

All his training in pedagogy in school hadn't completely prepared Carlos for dealing with thirty manic third graders
pedantic (adj.)
ostentatious display of learning, excessive attention to minutiae and formal rules, unimaginative

The bureaucrat's pedantic obsession with rules and regulations ensured that nothing was ever accomplished.
paean (n.)
a song or expression of praise and thanksgiving

The celebratory bonfire was a paean to victory.
palliate (v.)
to make something appear less serious, gloss over, mitigate

His attempts to palliate the significance of his plagiarism only made it worse; he would have been better off just owning up to it rather than trying to diminish its importance.
panegyric (n.)
formal expression of praise

Thomas spent months preparing a panegyric to his grandfather for his ninetieth birthday.
paradigm (n.)
something that serves as a model, example, or pattern; the framework of assumptions and understandings shared by a group or discipline that shares its worldview.

She is a paradigm of studiousness; she spends all of her time studying in the library.
pariah (n.)
an outcast, a rejected and despised person

Eating a pound of garlic before bed is likely to make one a pariah the next day.
officious (adj.)
meddlesome, pushy in offering one's services where they are unwanted

Our well-intended but officious host kept refilling our plates and glasses before we had a chance to take more than a bite or two.
onerous (adj.)
troubling, burdensome

Every spring I dread the onerous task of filing my income tax return.
opprobrium (n.)
disgrace, contempt, scorn

Louis Armstrong smoked marijuana because it made his body feel good, and I don't think he ever quite understood the opprobrium that was attached to it.
ossified (adj.)
changed into bone; made rigidly conventional and unreceptive to change

The department had so ossified over time that no new ideas were ever introduced; its ossification was so advanced that it had become nothing more than a rigid bureaucracy.
ostensible (adj.)
seeming, appearing as such, professed

Even when they are ostensibly written for children, many cartoons are actually more entertaining for adults.
ostentatious (adj.)
characterized by or given to pretentiousness

His house was a shrine to ostentation; it had fourteen bathrooms with gold bathtubs.
overweening (adj.)
presumptuously arrogant, overbearing, immoderate

His overweening arrogance made everyone want to smack him, which was the only way he got to be the center of attention that he imagined he should be.
obsequious (adj.)
exhibiting a fawning attentiveness; subservient

His obsequious fawning over Brandy made him seem more like her pet than her peer.
obstinate (adj.)
stubborn; hardheaded; uncompromising

He couldn't get the obstinate oxen to move, no matter how much he coaxed.
obstreperous (adj.)
noisy, loudly stubborn, boisterous

Their obstreperous clamor to see their idol didn't quiet down even after he came on stage.
obtain (v.)
to be established, accepted, or customary, prevail

The proper conditions for the summit will only obtain if all parties agree to certain terms.
obtuse (adj.)
lacking sharpness of intellect, not clear or precise in thought or expression.

Her approach was so obtuse that it took me twenty minutes to figure out she was asking me out.
obviate (v.)
to anticipate and make unnecessary

The successful outcome of the most recent experiments obviated the need for any additional testing.
occlude (v.)
to obstruct or block

The path had become occluded by years of underbrush growing over the trail.
occult (adj.)
hidden, concealed, beyond comprehension

The occult mysteries of humankind's purpose on earth have yet to be fully solved despite the best efforts of scientists, philosophers and theologians.
occult (v.)
to hide

The beam of light from the ranger's station was occulted every time we walked behind a tree
noisome (adj.)
offensive, especially to one's sense of smell, fetid

The noisome miasma rising from the swamp was the result of a chemical spill.
nonplussed (adj.)
baffled, in a quandary, at a loss for what to say, do, or think

Ernest was a little nonplussed when Gertrude told him that she loved him but she wasn't in love with him, which is admittedly pretty confusing.
nostrum (n.)
cure-all, placebo, questionable remedy

Any nostrum that claims to cure both a hangover and bunions is either a miracle or a fraud.
noxious (adj.)
harmful; injurious

The school had to be evacuated when the noxious gas leak was discovered.
obdurate (adj.)
unyielding, hardhearted, inflexible

Completely unwilling to acknowledge that we might be lost, Anthony was obdurate in his insistence that we were going the right way.
obfuscate (v.)
to deliberately obscure, to make confusing

Magic tricks are based on the art of obfuscation; making an audience believe that it sees something other than what is actually occurring.
nadir (n.)
low point, perigee

Being presented with the "Nice Try" award for finishing in last place was definitely the nadir of my professional pinochle career.
nascent (adj.)
coming into being; in early developmental stages

I could alway tell when Richard had a nascent plan developing, because he got this faraway devious look in his eyes.
natty (adj.)
trimly neat and tidy, dapper

My grandmother is always complaining that there are no more natty dressers; she just doesn't think that baggy jeans and sneakers can compete with the zoot suit of her adolescence.
nebulous (adj.)
vague, cloudy, lacking clearly defined form

Unfortunately, we were so excited about the prospect of discovering buried treasure that we hadn't noticed how nebulous Hannah's plan was for finding it.
neologism (n.)
a new word, expression, or usage; the creation or use of new words or senses

My least favorite neologisms are nouns that have been made into verbs, as in "our team has been tasked with..."
neophyte (n.)
a recent convert; a beginner; novice

As a neophyte at archery, I was just happy I didn't put out anyone's eye my first few times.
nexus (n.)
a connection, tie, or link; center or focus

Although many people have studied the nexus between rehabilitation programs for prisoners and rates of recidivism, no one has been able to draw any universally accepted conclusions about the relationship.
nice (adj.)
exacting, extremely or even excessively precise; done with delicacy or skill

The distinction he drew between the two findings was so nice that most of his listeners weren't even sure it was there.
mitigate (v.)
to make or become less severe or intense, moderate

Turning on the heater mitigated the extreme cold in the living room; why didn't we think of that earlier?
mollify (v.)
to calm or soothe, reduce in emotional intensity

After stepping on her tail, I tried to mollify the cat by scratching her head and giving her some milk.
morose (adj.)
sad, sullen, melancholy

I knew from the morose expression on his face that it would be a bad idea to ask Kent how he did in the competition.
multifarious (adj.)
varied, motley, greatly diversified

There was no way she could keep up with all her multifarious business interests, so she hired hundreds of personal assistants to keep track of everything for her.
mundane (adj.)
of the world, typical of or concerned with the ordinary

Todd was always complaining that he shouldn't have to deal with all the mundane details of life, from eating and sleeping to cooking and cleaning, because he was going to be a famous rock star very soon.
mettlesome (adj.)
courageous, high spirited

The mettlesome doctor risked his own life to try to save the wounded soldiers on both sides.
militate (v.)
to have weight or bearing on, to argue (against)

The president's advisors warned him that the volatility of the situation militated against any rash action.
milk (v.)
to exploit, to squeeze every last ounce of

I milked my sprained ankle for as much sympathy as I could; pretty soon I had people cooking me dinner and cleaning my house.
minatory (adj.)
menacing, threatening

His minatory attitude is just a front; he's really a big softie inside.
mince (v.)
pronounce or speak affectedly or too carefully, euphemize, take tiny steps, tiptoe

Don't mince words with me; just come right out and tell me exactly what you think.
misanthrope (n.)
one who hates humankind

I am a misanthrope on Monday mornings, but the rest of the week I like people well enough.
misogynist (n.)
one who hates women

The professor had a reputation for being a misogynist, which explained why none of the women wanted to work with him.
martial (adj.)
associated with war and the armed forces

When civil war broke out, the military imposed martial law for the duration of the conflict.
maunder (v.)
to talk or move aimlessly, mutter

After we maundered about for over three hours I started to suspect that our guide didn't have the slightest idea where he was going.
maverick (n.)
an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.

Always the maverick, Lola insisted on going right whenever everyone else went left.
mellifluous (adj.)
sweetly flowing, usually used to describe words or sounds

The mellifluous sound of her voice lulled me to sleep, though this wasn't what she had in mind since she was trying to chastise me.
mendacity (n.)
the condition of being untruthful, dishonesty

Pinocchio was never able to hide his mendacity; whenever he lied his nose grew longer.
mendicant (n.)
a beggar, supplicant

Mendicant orders are religious organizations, such as the Franciscans, that have been renounced all material wealth and survive by begging.
mercurial (adj.)
characterized by rapid and unpredictable change in mood

Lucia's mercurial personality kept things interesting; one minute she was all sunshine and joy and the next minute she thought everything was miserable.
meretricious (adj.)
tawdry, pretentious, attractive but false, showy, having to do with prostitution.

His meretricious argument had all the false allure of a low-rent Vegas nightclub: showy on the outside, but seedy and desperate on the inside.
lucid (adj.)
intelligible, sound, clear

The lucid water in the tidepool allowed us to see the bottom clearly.
lumber (v.)
to move heavily and clumsily or with a rumbling sound

The truck lumbered about like a drunken dinosaur.
luminous (adj.)
characterized by brightness and the emission of light, enlightened, clear

The luminous stars and full moon made it as bright as if it were the middle of the day.
magnanimity (n.)
the quality of being generously noble in mind and heart, especially in forgiving

He was magnanimous to a fault; he would give his last penny to anyone who asked for it.
malevolent (adj.)
having or showing often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred

The malevolent villain was so mean that she didn't even like puppies or flowers; now that's mean!
malinger (v.)
to feign illness so as to avoid work

Her boss suspected her of malingering until she brought a note from her doctor.
malleable (adj.)
capable of being shaped or formed, easily influenced

I wouldn't put too much importance on his agreement with your argument; he's so malleable that he's likely to agree with the next person he meets as well.
laud (v.)
to praise highly

His first novel was so universally lauded that it seemed almost impossible that his second book could live up to the expectations.
libertine (n.)
someone unrestrained by morality or convention or leading a dissolute life

We discovered that she was quite the libertine when it was revealed that she was having affairs on three different continents at the same time.
limn (v.)
to draw, outline in detail

The painter limned the old man's face in such exquisite and expressive lines that it almost looked as if he might open his mouth and speak.
limpid (adj.)
transparent, serene, clear and simple in style, untroubled

The article's limpid style was such a welcome break from the dense and convoluted theoretical stuff I'd been reading for days; in other words, its limpidity was a relief.
list (v.)
to tilt or lean to one side

The ship listed to one side after running aground on a rock and filling partially with water.
loquacious (adj.)
extremely talkative

It seems like, even when I'm feeling antisocial, I tend to be quite loquacious in social settings.
itinerate (v.)
to travel from place to place

After years of itinerating, never staying in one place for more than a couple months, he finally settled down and bought a house.
jejune (adj.)
vapid, uninteresting; childish, immature; lacking nutrition
The jejune lecture on various ways to wash clothes had us half-asleep after ten minutes.

After surviving on a jejune diet of saltines and ginger ale during my illness, I was ready for a more nutritious meal.
His jejune response to our questions revealed how young he was despite his apparent age.
jibe (v.)
to agree, to be in accord

Since the accounts of the evening's events didn't jibe, we knew that at least one of them wasn't telling the full truth.
jocose (adj.)
given to joking; humorous

The jocose man could always be counted on for some levity, but it was almost impossible to get him to stop joking even for a minute.
kinetic (adj.)
having to do with motion; lively; active

A kinetic personality is a lively, active, moving personality.
Our new public relations hire has a kinetic personality.
labile (adj.)
readily open to change, unstable

He was so emotionally labile that he could be crying one minute and laughing the next.
lachrymose (adj.)
causing tears, tearful, showing sorrow

His lachrymose apology didn't move me; he was going to have to do a lot more than shed a few tears before I was ready to forgive him.
laconic (adj.)
using few words; terse

We took her "good" as high praise indeed, since that was more than our laconic band teacher usually said in a whole week.
lassitude (n.)
listlessness, languor, weariness

Those two push-ups I attempted filled me with lassitude for the rest of the day.
intractable (adj.)
not easily managed or directed, stubborn, obstinate

He was the most intractable child I have ever met; nothing I tried would get him to brush his teeth or go to bed.
intransigent (adj.)
refusing to compromise

He was an intransigent supporter of the tax cut, refusing to compromise even the slightest bit.
inveterate (adj.)
deep rooted, ingrained, habitual

Tim was such an inveterate liar that he lied even when he thought he was telling the truth.
irascible (adj.)
easily angered; prone to temperamental outbursts

For some reason, whenever I'm with my family I turn into an irascible person.
insensible (adj.)
unconscious, unresponsive, unaware, unaffected, numb

He lay insensible on the field after being hit in the head by the baseball.
insipid (adj.)
without taste or flavor, lacking in spirit, dull

That insipid stew is in desperate need of some hot sauce.
insouciant (adj.)
unconcerned, carefree, nonchalant

Her insouciant attitude toward her schoolwork meant that she rarely turned in her papers or bothered to study for a test.
insular (adj.)
parochial, narrow-minded, like an island

The insularity of his upbringing was reflected in the narrow-mindedness of his views.
interdict (v.)
prohibit, forbid, ban, halt

Although Prohibition attempted to interdict the sale of alcohol, it was never entirely successful.
intimate (v.)
to imply, suggest or insinuate

I can't believe Adrian intimated that I wanted to have a long-distance relationship with him.
intimation (n.)
a hint

Her intimations that I might get the job only made me more nervous.
inherent (adj.)
ingrained within one's nature, intrinsic, firmly established, essential

His inherent skill at spatial relations reasoning was revealed when he solved the Rubik's cube puzzle at the age of two.
inimical (adj.)
damaging, harmful, injurious, hostile, unfriendly

He seemed inimical to my overtures of friendship, refusing even to talk to me.
inimitable (adj.)
one of a kind, peerless

His inimitable feats of daring on the trapeze were so audacious that no one else even tried to imitate them.
iniquity (n.)
wickedness, gross injustice

The iniquity of the judgment was so blatant that there was immediate worldwide protest of its unfairness.
innervate (v.)
to supply with nerves, energize

Innervate is usually used to describe a physiological process, as in the fibers that innervate the facial muscles, but it can also be used metaphorically.
innocuous (adj.)
harmless, causing no damage

At least her practical jokes are innocuous, even if they are annoying.
inscrutable (adj.)
incapable of being discovered or understood, mysterious

Her expression was inscrutable; I couldn't tell whether she liked the present or not.
indefatigable (adj.)
not easily exhaustible, tireless, dogged

Although I tried to convince myself I was indefatigable, I started to suspect I would have to be carried the last few miles of the hike.
indifferent (adj.)
having no interest or concern, apathetic; showing no bias or prejudice

Her reputation as an indifferent judge made all sides trust her; it was her indifference that made the two parties agree to accept her judgment as final.
indolent (adj.)
lazy, listless, torpid

Alex was so indolent that he hired other people to wash his hands for him.
ineluctable (adj.)
certain, inevitable

George refused to accept the ineluctable reality of death, so he planned to have himself frozen.
inert (adj.)
unmoving, lethargic, sluggish, not reactive chemically

Helium and argon are two of the inert gases, which do not react with much of anything.

Swamjii demanded enthusiasm, commitment, self-control. He was always scolding people for being jad, the Hindi word for "INERT."
infelicitous (adj.)
unfortunate; inappropriate

In Thai culture it is considered infelicitous to touch someone's head, and it is also inappropriate to use your foot to point at a person.
ingenuous (adj.)
artless, frank and candid, lacking in sophistication

His ingenuous question revealed how naive he was, but his ingenuousness was actually refreshing in this group of cynical, scheming old men.
disingenuous (adj.)
lacking in candor, calculating, duplicitous

I suspected that his sudden interest in my research was disingenuous; he really just wanted an invitation to the party I was hosting.
impugn (v.)
attack or assail verbally, censure, execrate, deny

Although the paper impugned his motives for resigning, claiming that he did it to hide his misdeeds, most people still believed he did it for virtuous reasons.
impunity (n.)
immunity from punishment, penalty or harm

Barry the bully was able to terrorize the schoolyard with impunity because he was always able to look completely innocent whenever any authority figures were around
impute (v.)
to attribute to a cause or source, ascribe, assign as a characteristic

The mechanic imputed my car's failure to start to the absence of any gasoline in the tank.
inchoate (adj.)
in an initial stage, not fully formed

Drat, our plan for world domination is still inchoate; how will we finalize it before the deadline tomorrow?
incipient (adj.)
beginning to come into being or to become apparent

I could sense the dull throbbing in my head that was the sign of an incipient headache; I knew it was only a matter of times before it had developed into a full-fledged migraine.
impassive (adj.)
revealing no emotion or sensibility

The guards at Buckingham Palace are required to be completely impassive; they can't show any emotion whatsoever.
impecunious (adj.)
lacking funds; without money

The impecunious actor was so desperate for money that he had to sacrifice his artistic principles and work as a mime for a few months.
imperious (adj.)
commanding, masterful, arrogant, domineering, haughty

Her imperious manner was extremely annoying to her employees, who thought her arrogance was unfounded since she wasn't even that bright.
imperturbable (adj.)
marked by extreme calm, impassivity and steadiness

We were in awe of the teacher's ability to remain imperturbable while chaos erupted in the classroom; even with twenty kindergartners running amuck, she managed to stay calm.
impetuous (adj.)
hastily or rashly energetic, impulsive and vehement

We regretted our impetuous decision to spend our vacation in Greenland when we realized we hadn't packed any warm clothing.

I felt Christian's impetuous actions were such a turnoff.
implacable (adj.)
not capable of being appeased or significantly changed.

Her anger over her partner's betrayal was implacable; nothing anyone said or did would appease her.
importune (v.)
to ask incessantly, beg, nag

Jerry's constant importuning for time off worked in a way; he had plenty of time off once he was fired for nagging his boss about a vacation.
iconoclast (n.)
one who attacks or undermines traditional conventions or institutions.

Becker might think Greg Price is an iconoclast, but I think he is just a fool.
idolatrous (adj.)
given to intense or excessive devotion to something

Jim's family realized his love of football was truly idolatrous when they discovered the Raiders shrine in his closet.
idyll (n.)
a carefree, light-hearted pastoral or romantic episode or experience; a literary or musical piece describing such

The smell of the ocean always made me nostalgic for our summer idyll on the coast two years ago.
idyllic (adj.)
simple or carefree

Our once-idyllic house became a nightmare when the family of kazoo players moved in next door.
ignominious (adj.)
shameful, dishonorable, ignoble, undignified, disgraceful

It was an ignominious, though deserved, end to tall his boasting when the wheels fell off his car halfway through the race.
imbroglio (n.)
difficult or embarrassing situation

We could see a public relations imbroglio developing before our eyes when the food fight started in the senior citizens' home right as the mayor began his speech.
imminent (adj.)
about to happen; impending

Alfred had a hunch that his luck was going to improve shortly and that good fortune was imminent; little did he know, though, that it would show up in the form of a pink poodle.
immutable (adj.)
not capable of change

Her position on the matter was immutable; no reasoning could convince her that Elvis was not alive and well and working at the car wash down the street.
hermetic (adj.)
airtight, impervious to outside influence

The tomb's hermetic seal allowed its content to be perfectly preserved for thousands of years.
heterodox (adj.)
unorthodox, heretical, iconoclastic

Einstein's heterodox theories changed our fundamental understanding of time and space forever.
hirsute (adj.)
hairy, shaggy

If he hadn't been so hirsute, the werewolf might have escaped detection forever and settled down into a nice, quiet life in the suburbs.
homily (n.)
a sermon or morally instructive lecture, a platitude

The subject of the minister's homilies ranged from the importance of compassion to the virtues of brushing one's teeth three times a day.
hubris (n.)
arrogant presumption or pride

Icarus was destroyed by the sun god, who melted the wax in Icarus' wings as punishment for his hubris in daring to fly so close to the sun.
hyperbole (n.)
an exaggerated statement, often used as a figure of speech

I should have realized she was using hyperbole when she promised me the moon and stars; that way I wouldn't have been disappointed when I only got the moon.
hackneyed (adj.)
rendered trite or commonplace by frequent usage

Every hackneyed phrase began as something other than a cliche; it only ended up on the greeting card circuit because enough people repeated it over and over.
halcyon (adj.)
calm and peaceful, prosperous

I always hated it when the halcyon days of summer were interrupted by the start of school in the fall.
hallow (v.)
to set apart as holy

The site for the new church was set aside and hallowed in a special ceremony.
harangue (v.)
to deliver a loud, pompous speech or tirade

After having been harangued for hours about the superiority of his methods, we should be forgiven for laughing when his demonstration failed.
harrow (v.)
to distress, create stress or torment

The sadistic professor loved to harrow his students with harrowing tales of the upcoming final exam that no student in the school's history had ever passed.
hedonism (n.)
devotion to pleasurable pursuits, especially to the pleasures of the senses

He had to give up his hedonistic lifestyle once he had a full-time job; it was just too hard to get up in the morning after a long night of partying.
hegemony (n.)
the consistent dominance or influence of one group, state, or ideology over others

It has been argued that the United States has achieved global hegemony in the post-Cold War era.
heretical (adj.)
violating accepted dogma or convention, unorthodox

The once heretical notion that computers would become more than calculating machines or toys is now so obvious that it's hard to remember when we ever thought differently.
gossamer (adj.)
delicate, insubstantial or tenuous; insincere

The kite was made out of a gossamer substance that seemed hardly substantial enough to let it survive even the lightest of breezes.
grandiloquence (n.)
pompous speech or expression

His grandiloquence made him an easy target for ridicule once we all figured out he didn't even know most of the big words he used.
grouse (v.)
to complain or grumble

Although I always grouse about my roommates and their tendency to eat all the food and leave dirty dishes and laundry lying around, I still wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.
guile (n.)
trickery, duplicity, cunning

The wily con man used guile to part us from our money, but at least we ended up with this lovely snake oil.
guileless (adj.)
free from guile, naive

His guileless answers convinced everyone of his complete innocence and he was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
beguile (v.)
to deceive by guile, or to charm

She beguiled us all by batting her lashes, right before she picked our pockets.
guy (n.)
a rope or cord attached to something as a brace or guide

We were all nervous that the guy for the pulley would give way, but the platform stayed intact, so it must have been fine.
furtive (adj.)
marked by stealth; covert; surreptitious

The dog's furtive attempts to steal food from the table while no one was looking were thwarted when a whole turkey came crashing to the floor.
gainsay (v.)
to deny, dispute, contradict, oppose

It is difficult to gainsay the critics when every new movie the director makes is a flop.
gambol (v.)
to skip about playfully, frolic

Gamboling in the meadow, the lambs were the very embodiment of playful innocence.
garner (v.)
to gather and save, store up, acquire

Lester was the class clown, always playing practical jokes in an obvious attempt to garner attention.
garrulous (adj.)
pointlessly talkative, talking too much

My garrulous neighbor is very sweet, so I try not to act too impatient when she tells me yet another long meandering story.
gauche (adj.)
crude, awkward, tasteless

His gauche comment about their host made everyone around him uncomfortable.
germane (adj.)
relevant to the subject at hand; appropriate in subject matter

Although his stories were seldom germane to the topic at hand, it was impossible not to enjoy his entertaining tangents.
glib (adj.)
marked by ease or informality; nonchalant; lacking in depth; superficial

Laurence glibly dismissed his critics' attacks, refusing to take them all seriously.

Although everyone had thought he was virtually guaranteed the position, his glib attitude during the interview made the director think he didn't care and cost him the job.
forestall (v.)
to act in a way to hinder, exclude or prevent an action; to circumvent or thwart

The famous actress was trying to forestall aging by undergoing ever more bizarre therapies and cosmetic surgeries.
forswear (v.)
to renounce, disallow, repudiate

Even though she forswore all other vices, Gina knew she wouldn't be able to give up smoking cigars.
fortuitous (adj.)
happening by fortunate accident or chance

The movie's reliance on the heroine's fortuitous meeting with her long lost brother in order to provide a happy ending displeased many critics.
fracas (n.)
noisy fight or quarrel, brawl.

The fracas that started between the two cab drivers gradually grew until it included most of the bystanders as well and turned into a small riot.
fractious (adj.)
quarrelsome, rebellious, unruly, cranky

The party's fractious internal politics made it difficult for it to gain influence, since all its members' time was spent quarreling.
froward (adj.)
intractable, not willing to yield or comply, stubbornly disobedient

No matter how much I pleaded and prodded, my froward mule refused to take a single step.
fulminate (v.)
to attack loudly or denounce

Since he had been fulminating against corporate misconduct for years, his enemies were gleeful to uncover evidence of the million-dollar payoff he received from the state's largest company.
filigree (n.)
an ornamental work, especially of delicate lacelike patterns resembling such a pattern.

The decorative filigree of its design disguised the wrought iron fence's practical purpose.
filigree (v.)
to adorn

The brooch was filigreed with a delicate pattern of vines and grapes
flag (v.)
to sag or droop, to become spiritless, to decline

The fans' spirits flagged when the opposing team intercepted the ball in the last few minutes of the game and scored.
flip (adj.)
sarcastic, impertinent

His flip remarks were intended to keep anyone from realizing how much he actually cared.
florid (adj.)
flushed with color, ruddy, ornate

Glen always became a little florid when he drank; his face became bright red.
flout (v.)
to demonstrate contempt for

Gertrude's reputation for flouting the rules was so well known that she was no longer able to get away with anything at all.
foment (v.)
to stir up, incite, rouse

Although they accused Kayla of fomenting the protest, she had actually been the one trying to calm everyone down.
forbearance (n.)
patience, willingness to wait

Lacy hoped that her professor's reputation for forbearance was well founded and that she would get an extension on her paper.
ford (v.)
to wade across the shallow part of a river or stream

I may have lost my shirt and my pants while trying to ford the river, but at least I still had my hat when I got to the other side.
fell (n.)
a barren or stony hill; an animal's hide

The cabin stood isolated on the wind-swept fell.
fervent (adj.)
greatly emotional or zealous

The most difficult challenge was to not stir up the intellect during meditation, for any thoughts of the mind--even the most FERVENT prayers--will extinguish the fire of God.
fetid (adj.)
stinking, having a heavy bad smell

We were never able to determine exactly what the fetid green substance we found in the refrigerator was; no one was willing to get close enough to that horrible smell to investigate.
fetter (v.)
to shackle, put in chains, restrain

Fran was fettered in her attempts to find the hotel by her inability to speak French.
fallacy (n.)
an invalid or incorrect notion; a mistaken belief

Unfortunately, the fallacies of diet programs promising effortless weight loss continue to find plenty of people willing to be fooled.
fallow (adj.)
untilled, inactive, dormant

The farmer hoped that leaving the field fallow for a season would mean that next year he could grow a bumper crop of Brussel sprouts.
fatuous (adj.)
silly, inanely foolish

We suspected that the fatuous grin on Amy's face was evidence of a chocolate chip cookie overdose; she had eaten so many that she had become completely goofy.
(connotation of smugness)
The politician's fatuous remarks revealed that he was not only pompous, but also not very bright.
fawn (v.)
to flatter or praise excessively

Hector used to think it would be great to be a rock start and have groupies fawning all over him; he changed his mind the first time the fans tore all his clothes off.
feckless (adj.)
ineffectual; irresponsible

My feckless brother managed to get himself grounded again, proving one more time that I am the more responsible sibling.
felicitous (adj.)
apt; suitably expressed, well chosen, apropos; delightful

She can always be counted on for the most felicitous remark; she has something appropriate for every occasion.
exigent (adj.)
urgent; pressing; requiring immediate action or attention.

It seems like all of Dr. Cook's work is exigent...except for the fact that she does not respond to me immediately.
exonerate (v.)
to remove blame

Kim was exonerated of having taken her sister's shoes when the missing boots were discovered under a pile of dirty laundry.
expatiate (v.)
discuss or write about at length; to range freely

His ability to expatiate on such a variety of subjects without notes made watching him speak something like taking a trip without a map; the journey set its own course.
expiate (v.)
to atone or make amends for

He feared that nothing could expiate the insensitivity of his comments.
expurgate (v.)
to remove obscenity, purify, censor

The expurgated version of the novel was incredibly boring; it turned out that the parts the censors removed had been the only interesting ones.
extant (adj.)
existing, not destroyed or lost

There are forty-eight copies of the Gutenberg Bible extant today.
extemporaneous (adj.)
improvised; done without preparation

Her extemporaneous remarks at the reception demonstrated that her speechwriter must largely be responsible for her reputation for eloquence.
extirpate (v.)
to destroy, exterminate, cut out, pull out by the roots

The dodo bird was extirpated by a combination of hunting by humans and predation by non-native animals.
exacerbate (v.)
to make worse or more severe

My mother insisted that going outside with wet hair would only exacerbate my cold, and she was probably right since now I have pneumonia.
exact (v.)
to demand, call for, require, take

Celebrities often complain that fame exacts a heavy price in loss of privacy, but their fans don't seem to care much, perhaps thinking that this is a reasonable exchange for the money and glory.
excoriate (v.)
to censure scathingly, to upbraid

The editorial excoriated those artists who attended the event instead of observing the boycott called for by human rights groups.
exculpate (v.)
to exonerate; to clear from blame

Far from exculpating him as he had hoped, the new evidence only served to convince the jury of his guilt.
exemplar (n.)
typical or standard specimen; paradigm; model

We were excited to find the perfect exemplar of the species of beetle we had studied in school; it conformed to the description in the guidebook in every way.
exhort (v.)
to incite, to make urgent appeals

At the last second I realized that he was waving his arms frantically to exhort me to look down before I fell off the cliff.
eschew (v.)
to shun or avoid

Daniel was unwilling to eschew her company even though I reminded him of how many times she had stood him up in the past.
esoteric (adj.)
intended for or understood by a small, specific group

Even though most of the sect's practices were well-documented by anthropologists, some of its most esoteric rites had never been witnessed by outsiders.

To understand what that experience was, what happened in there, brings up a topic rather esoteric and wild--namely, the subject of kundalini shakti.
essay (v.)
to test or try; attempt, experiment

It was incredible to watch Valerie essay her first steps after her long convalescence; we were so proud of how hard she had worked at her rehabilitation.
estimable (adj.)
worthy, formidable

Despite his estimable efforts, Alvin was unable to finish his spinach; it really was an impressive attempt though.
eulogy (n.)
a speech honoring the dead.

It was impossible for Sonya to conceal her grief at the funeral; she started weeping during the delivery of the eulogy.
evanescent (adj.)
tending to disappear like vapor; vanishing

All trace of the evanescent first snow vanished as soon as the midday sun appeared.
evince (v.)
to show clearly, to indicate

The expression on Jane's face evinced what she thought of the proposal; it's amazing how clearly "you must be kidding" can be communicated without speaking a word.
episodic (adj.)
loosely connected, not flowing logically, occurring at intervals

The episodic structure of the novel mirrored the main character's fragmented experience of events during the war.
epithet (n.)
disparaging word or phrase

The epithets he flung in drunken anger came back to haunt him the next morning when everyone refused to talk to him.
epitome (n.)
embodiment, quintessence

Pete may not necessarily be the epitome of the man I want.
equanimity (n.)
composure, self-possession

Liam strove unsuccessfully for equanimity in the face of the massive and unprovoked tickle attack.
equivocate (v.)
to use ambiguous language with a deceptive intent

She argued that the company was guilty of equivocating when it claimed it could "teach you to type in one hour or less" because it was unclear whether they meant they guaranteed you would be able to hit a single key or type fifty words a minute at the end of the hour.
errant (adj.)
traveling, itinerant, peripatetic

Travels with Charley is Steinbeck's account of his errant journey across America with his French poodle, Charley.
erudite (adj.)
very learned; scholarly

I wonder if one of the English translations of my name is erudite--my mom did say I was very studious and a philosopher.
enigmatic (adj.)
mysterious; obscure; difficult to understand

Some archaeologists speculate that the enigmatic markings on the cave wall may be the earliest known human representations of religious worship.
ennui (n.)
dissatisfaction and restlessness resulting from boredom or apathy.

Serena's claim that a rousing game of Go Fish would cure us of our ennui left us somewhat skeptical.
enormity (n.)
excessive wickedness; evilness

The enormity of the terrorist act stunned and outraged the world.
ephemeral (adj.)
brief; fleeting, short-lived

My ephemeral first romance lasted precisely as long as summer camp did.
epicure (n.)
one devoted to sensual pleasure, particularly in food and drink; gourmand, sybarite

After watching too many cooking shows, Larry became such an epicure that he lost his ability to appreciate the gustatory pleasures of a frozen pizza.
emollient (adj.)
soothing, especially to the skin; making less harsh; mollifying

Oatmeal's emollient qualities when added to bath water make it an effective aid in soothing the discomfort of poison oak.
encomium (n.)
growing and enthusiastic praise; panegyric, tribute, eulogy

The recently released tribute album was created as an encomium to the singer many considered the grandfather of soul music.
endemic (adj.)
characterized of or often found in particular locality, region, or people; restricted to or peculiar to that region; indigenous

Some pundits argues that the corruption endemic to politics today is responsible for the public apathy evident in record low voter turnouts.
enervate (v.)
to weaken, to reduce in vitality

I was so enervated by last Spring's courseload that it impacted my performance at AEASP.
engender (v.)
to cause, produce, give rise to

Technical manuals, ostensibly designed to make things easier, can sometimes engender even more confusion than they prevent.
ostensibly (adv)
seeming or stated to be real or true, when this is perhaps not the case

Troops were sent in, ostensibly to protect the civilian population.
eclectic (adj.)
composed of elements drawn from various sources

It was easy to get a sense of Alison's eclectic taste from looking at her music collection, which contained everything from Mahler to Metallica.
edifying (adj.)
enlightening, informative

The lecture we attended on the consequences of globalization was highly edifying, but what I learned only made me want to know more.
effrontery (n.)
extreme boldness; presumptuousness

The effrontery of her demand astonished everyone; no one had ever dared ask the head of the department to explain his reasoning before.
effusive (adj.)
gushing; excessively demonstrative

Her effusive good wishes seemed a bit forced; it was hard to believe she was no longer bitter about having had her own grant proposal turned down.
egress (n.)

Egress can either be a noun, meaning an exit or going out, or a verb, meaning to exit or emerge. Ingress is the opposite of Egress.

The dancer's egress from the stage brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation.
Although the egress was clearly marked with a big green sign saying, "EXIT," I still had trouble locating it because I had lost my glasses by the time I was ready to leave.
elegy (n.)
a mournful poem, especially one lamenting the dead; any mournful writing or piece of music

His elegy for the long-lost carefree days of his youth was moving, if somewhat cliched.
dross (n.)
slag, waste or foreign matter, impurity, surface scum

We discarded the dross that had formed at the top of the cider during the fermentation process.
dulcet (adj.)
melodious, harmonious, mellifluous

The fact that I thought her voice a dulcet wonder shows you how infatuated I was; most people thought she sounded like a sick moose.
dynamo (n.)
generator; forceful, energetic person

Courtney was truly the dynamo of the group; without her we'd probably still be sitting on the couch instead of being three days into our road trip.
ebullience (adj.)
the quality of lively or enthusiastic expression of thoughts and feelings

Allen's love of birds was clear from the ebullience with which he described them.
disparage (v.)
to slight or belittle

I don't think you have any right to disparage his attempts until you have tried riding the mechanical bull yourself.

disparate (adj.)
fundamentally distinct or dissimilar

I found it amazing that two people with such disparate tastes could decorate a house together.
dissemble (v.)
to disguise or conceal; to mislead

Dissembling on your grad school application is an absolute no-no.

Pete dissembled me into thinking he wanted to maintain a long-distance relationship.
dissolution (n.)
disintegration, looseness in morals

The dissolution of the warlord's power left a power vacuum in its wake that many minor chieftains competed to fill.
dissolute (adj.)
licentious, libertine

His dissolute indulgence in every form of hedonism horrified his morally consertative colleagues.
distrait (v.)
distracted; absent-minded, especially due to anxiety

When he kept forgetting what he was talking about during dinner, it became clear that he was distrait, and was no doubt preoccupied with the meeting planned for the next day.
divulge (v.)
to disclose something secret

People at Olive Garden tend to divulge information like it's their hobby.
doggerel (n.)
trivial, poorly constructed verse

For some reason, I could always remember the bit of doggerel I read on the bathroom wall, though I had long since forgotten all the exquisite poetry I read in my classes in college.
dogmatic (adj.)
authoritatively and or arrogantly assertive of principles, which often cannot be proved; stubbornly opinionated

One of the things that bugs me about KJ so much is his dogmatic views on everything--including the dynamics between men and women.
din (n.)
loud sustained noise

The din of the faulty muffler drowned out all the other noises that would have confirmed the very poor odds of my car making it another five miles.
disabuse (v.)
to undeceive; to set right

I'm glad Adrian and I talked on the phone to disabuse any notion of me having stronger feelings for him.
discomfit (v.)
to defeat, put down

The enemy's superior planning and resources discomfited us. They defeated us easily, despite our hopes of discomfiting their attack.
discordant (adj.)
conflicting; dissonant or harsh in sound

Because the group had been fractured by discord for so long, it was surprising, to say the least, to watch them put aside their discordant views and begin to get along as if they had never disagreed.
discretion (n.)
cautious reserve in speech; ability to make responsible decisions

The matchmaker's discretion was the key to her remarkable success; her clients knew she would not reveal their identities inappropriately.
disinterested (adj.)
free from self-interest; unbiased

We need a disinterested party to arbitrate the property dispute, since each of the participants had too much at stake to remain unbiased.
diatribe (n.)
a harsh denunciation

What started out as seemingly normal discussion about what to have for lunch, rapidly and somewhat bizarrely turned into a diatribe about the difficulty of finding a decent pickle.
didactic (adj.)
intended to teach or instruct

Rachel's attempt to hide the activity's didactic intent by wrapping it in the guise of a fun game didn't fool the third graders for a minute; they could always smell something educational a mile off.
die (n.)
a tool used for shaping

When coins are made by hand, a die is usually used to press the design on each coin.
diffident (adj.)
reserved, shy, unassuming; lacking in self-confidence

He was a diffident reader of his own poetry, and which sometimes kept his audience from recognizing the real power of his writing.
digress (v.)
to stray from the point; to go off on a tangent

My aunt's tendency to digress is legendary; she can get so far off topic that no one can remember the starting point, but the journey is always fascinating.
dilatory (adj.)
causing delay, procrastinating

His dilatory habits were a source of exasperation for his boss, who never knew whether something would be finished on time or not.
dilettante (n.)
one with an amateurish or superficial interest in the arts or a branch of knowledge

I hope that I am not simply a dilettante when it comes to pilates or martial arts, and that I will continue to pursue higher learning in the future.
derision (n.)
scorn, ridicule, contemptuous treatment

Her derision was all the more painful because I suspected that her review of my performance was accurate.
derivative (adj.)
unoriginal, obtained from another source

Some people claim that there is nothing new under the sun, and that all contemporary art is therefore derivate of work that came before it.
desiccate (v.)
to dry out or dehydrate; to make dry or dull

His skin was so desiccated by sun exposure that it looked like parchment.
desuetude (n.)

After sitting abandoned for years, the house's desuetude came to an end when the county bought it and turned it into a teen center.
desultory (adj.)
random; thoughtless; marked by a lack of plan or purpose.

His desultory efforts in studying for the test were immediately obvious to his teacher as soon as she began to score his exam.
detraction (n.)
slandering, verbal attack, aspersion

Apparently, the mayor's campaign of detraction backfired, since a record number of people voted for his opponent, many of them citing the vitriol of the mayor's attacks as the reason they voted against him.
diaphanous (adj.)
transparent, gauzy

Her diaphanous gown left little to the imagination.
demur (v.)
to question or oppose

I hesitated to demur with the professor, until he said something factually inaccurate, at which point I felt I had to speak up.
denigrate (v.)
blacken, belittle, sully, defame, disparage

Though some might have denigrated our efforts at cooking breakfast, which consisted of cold eggs, bitter coffee and burnt toast, our mother was very appreciative of our attempt and bravely ate all of it.
denouement (n.)
an outcome or solution; the unraveling of a plot

The denouement seemed completely contrived; the happy ending didn't fit with the tone of the entire rest of the movie.
deprecate (v.)
to disparage or belittle

You can deprecate his work all you want but it won't affect my opinion; I don't care if his writing is sometimes amateurish, I still like it.
to belittle yourself or your accomplishments

If I could only stop being self-deprecating maybe I will be more successful and happy.
depredate (v.)
to plunder, pillage, ravage or destroy; to exploit in a predatory manner

The pirates depredated every ship that came through the straits for two years, until no captain was willing to risk that route and the port town became deserted.
depredations (n.)
attacks, ravages

Ten years of the dictator's depredations had left the country a wasteland.
damp (v.)
to diminish the intensity or check something, such as a sound or feeling.

Her hopes were damped when she checked the mailbox and there was still no letter for the fourth day in a row.
daunt (v.)
to intimidate or dismay

At first, the protagonist of the fairy tale was daunted by the task given to him; he didn't know how he would ever sort the grains of wheat and barley until the ants arrived to help him.
dearth (n.)
smallness of quantity or number; scarcity; lack

The dearth of snow this winter increases the likelihood of a drought next summer.
debacle (n.)
rout, fiasco, complete failure

Trying to avoid a debacle, the candidate decided to withdraw from the race shortly before election day.
decorum (n.)
politeness or appropriateness of conduct or behavior

For some reason, the British seem to be able to maintain the utmost decorum in any situation.
corrigible (adj.)
capable of being set right, correctable, reparable

My poor performance over the summer at Duke is corrigible if I do well in my econ courses this fall.
countenance (v.)
to approve of or tolerate

I was willing to countenance any level of bickering and dispute as long as everyone agreed with me in the end.
cozen (v.)
to deceive, beguile, hoodwink

The corrupt televangelist cozened millions of dollars out of his viewers by convincing them that he would perform miracles to make them all win the lottery.
craven (adj.)
contemptibly fainthearted, pusillanimous, lacking any courage

His craven cowardice in refusing to admit his mistake meant that a completely innocent person was punished.
credulous (adj.)
tending to believe too readily; gullible

That scultpure in the lobby was so obviously a fake that it would convince only the most credulous person; after all, the "gold" left something that looked suspiciously like paint on our fingers when we touched the sculpture.
culpable (adj.)
deserving blame

I am somewhat culpable for my own lack of time--I spend too much time trying to waste time with friends as opposed to using time efficiently.
consequential (adj.)
pompous, self-important

Although he thought himself a respected and well-liked man, his consequential air was intensely annoying to hose around him. He seemed to think he was the best thing since sliced bread.
contemn (v.)
to scorn or despise

I contemn their attempts to curry favor; nothing is more contemptible than a sycophant.
contentious (adj.)
argumentative; quarrelsome; causing controversy or disagreement

The judges' contentious decision of the title bout led some to claim that undue influence had been exerted in deciding the outcome of the fight.
contiguous (adj.)
sharing a border; touching; adjacent

The contiguous United States include all the states except Hawaii and Alaska, since they are the only ones that don't share at least one border with another state.
contrite (adj.)
regretful; penitent; seeking forgiveness

David's contrite words were long overdue; if he had made his apologies last week, his sister would have been a lot more willing to accept them.
convention (n.)
a generally agreed-upon practice or attitude

The convention of wearing a bridal veil was apparently begun by the Romans, who thought the veil would protect the bride from evil spirits.
coalesce (v.)
to come together; to fuse or unite

It took a major internal crisis for the rival factions to coalesce around a single goal.
coda (n.)
concluding section to a musical or literary piece, something that concludes or completes.

The presentation of the lifetime achievement award was a fitting coda both to the evening and to his years of work with the organization.
cogent (adj.)
appealing forcibly to the mind or reason; convincing

I'll only let you borrow the Ferrari if you can give me a cogent reason for why you need to drive more than one hundred miles per hour.
color (v.)
to change as if by dyeing, influence, distort or gloss over

Knowing that he had lied about his previous experience colored our evaluation of his application.
commensurate (adj.)
matching, corresponding, or proportionate in degree, size, amount or other property

Only if the team won the national championship would the fans feel the team's performance was commensurate with its potential.
complaisance (n.)
the willingness to comply with the wishes of others

When I'm sitting in front of Dr. Cook I act so complaisant, but when I go back home the complaisance slowly vanishes.
connoisseur (n.)
an informed and astute judge in matters of taste; expert

Did you know that some people call themselves connoisseurs of water?
chary (adj.)
wary; cautious; sparing

Claudette was chary with her praise lest it go to Fredrick's head.
chasten (v.)
to chastise or correct; subdue

The "time out" seems to have become a common parental means of chastening younger children somewhat similar to being forced to sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap, but without the element of public humiliation.
chastened (adj.)
corrected, punished, or humbled

Rita was chastened by the effect her thoughtlessness had on those around her, and she resolved to consider her actions more carefully in the future.
chauvinist (n.)
one blindly devoted to a group of which one is a member

She was such a party chauvinist; her blind devotion made her refuse to acknoweldge the changes underway that would lead to the party's downfall.
chicanery (n.)
trickery or subterfuge

Bernard's reputation for legal chicanery made judges and prosecutors distrust him, but his clients had a hard time seeing past his successes.
chimera (n.)
an illusion; originally, an imaginary fire-breathing she-monster

Walter Mitty's life was a series of chimeras; the fantastic daydreams in which he starred were completely real to him.
chimerical (adj.)
illusory or improbable

The fantastic successes of some internet start-ups turned out to be chimerical once the tech boom ended.
churlish (adj.)
boorish, vulgar, loutish; difficult and intractable

Underneath Mr. Oleander's churlish exterior, there's a nice guy hiding somewhere; it's just hard to tell because he is so rude most of the time.
capricious (adj.)
inclined to change one's mind impulsively, erratic, unpredictable

Lee's capricious behavior this weekend shouldn't have come as much of a shock; it's not as if he's usually all that stable and predictable.
cardinal (adj.)
of basic importance or consequence; primary

His cardinal error was in failing to bribe his sister; otherwise his parents might never have found out about the party and grounded him.
caret (n.)
an insertion mark (^) used by editors and proofreaders

The manuscript was littered with carets indicating all the missing letters the proofreaders had found.
castigation (n.)
severe criticism or punishment

Harriet's expression as she slunk out of the room indicated that the castigation she had received was even worse than expected, and that we were probably in for a similar tongue-lashing.
catalyst (n.)
a substance that accelerates the rate of a chemical reaction without itself changing; a person or thing that causes change

Enzymes are common biological catalysts which regulate the speed of many critical processes in the human body.
caustic (adj.)
burning or stinging; causing corrosion

Even washing her hands repeatedly couldn't stop the stinging of the caustic bleach she had used on her clothes.

The next morning in meditation, all my CAUSTIC old hateful thoughts come up again.
censure (v.)
to criticize severely; to officially rebuke (v.)
a judgment involving condemnation; the act of blaming or condemning (n.)

1. The committee's censure not only failed to stop the gallery from holding the exhibition, but its outspoken disapproval helped to draw even more people than might otherwise have come to the opening.
2.) The chairman's misdeeds were only made public and held up to censure once it became certain that the board members could not be implicated.
canon (n.)
an established set of principles or code of laws, often religious in nature

She was forever violating the canons of polite conversation by asking questions that were far too personal for the circumstances.
byzantine (adj.)
labrynthine, complex

I can't stand playing cards with Max because he makes up such byzantine rules that even he can't keep track of them.
cacophony (n.)
harsh, jarring, discordant sound; dissonance

The cacophony coming from the construction site next door made it impossible to concentrate on the test.
cadge (v.)
to sponge, beg, or mooch

He was always cadging change from me, which added up to a lot of money over time, so eventually I presented him with a loan statement and started charging interest.
cajole (v.)
to inveigle, coax, wheedle, sweet-talk

Even though I resolve not to give in, my dog is always able to cajole an extra dog biscuit out of my just by looking at me with his big brown eyes.
calumniate (v.)
to slander, make a false accusation

Tom calumniated his rival by accusing him of having been unfaithful, but it backfired because when the truth came out, Tom ended up looking petty and deceitful.
canon (n.)
an established set of principles or code of laws, often religious in nature

She was forever violating the canons of polite conversation by asking questions that were far too personal for the circumstances.
bolster (v.)
to provide support or reinforcement

He hoped his frequent references to legal theory would bolster his argument, but all they did was make him seem pompous.
bombastic (adj.)
pompous, grandiloquent

The self-important leader's speech was so bombastic that even his most loyal followers were rolling their eyes,k and no one else could even figure out what he was talking about.
boor (n.)
a rude or insensitive person; lout; yokel

Although she was usually very sweet and considerate, she became downright boorish when she was drunk.
broach (v.)
to bring up, announce, begin to talk about

To broach the subject of her truly hideous brooch would have been impolitic. There's no way I could have managed to say anything nice about it.
brook (v.)
to tolerate, endure, countenance

Our drill sergeant made it very clear she would brook no insubordination; even any quiet grumbling would be grounds for endless pushups.
bucolic (adj.)
rustic and pastoral; characteristic of rural areas and their inhabitants

Their plans for a life of bucolic tranquility were rudely shattered when they discovered the rolling fields pictured in the brochure for their new house were really part of a busy golf course.
burgeon (v.)
to grow rapidly or flourish

When the wildflowers burgeon in April and May we know that spring has truly arrived.
burnish (v.)
to polish, rub to a shine

Be careful about burnishing certain old lamps; you never know which one is going to have a genie in it, and history shows that those three wishes lead to no good.
bedizen (v.)
to adorn, especially in a cheap, showy manner; festoon, caparison

The speakeasy was bedizened with every manner of tawdry decoration.
belie (v.)
to give a false impression of, to misrepresent

Carlos' disapproving countenance was belied by the twinkle in his eye, making it hard to believe that he was angry at all.
bellicose (adj.)
belligerent, pugnacious, warlike

The bully's bellicose demeanor hid a tender side, but he was too busy getting into fights to reveal it.
bent (n.)
leaning, inclination, proclivity, tendency

Puck was notorious for his mischievous bent; wherever there was trouble to be stirred up, he was certain to be found.
blandish (v.)
to coax with flattery, toady or fawn

The minister was famous for his ability to blandish his way from obscurity to vicarious power; it seemed as if every ruler was receptive to bootlicking.
blithe (adj.)
carefree, merry

Stephanie's blithe disregard for what her peers might think made her the perfect hero for a clever yet moving coming-of-age teen movie.
boisterous (adj.)
loud, noisy, rough, lacking restraint

After a while, our neighbors became reconciled to our boisterous weekend gatherings, even joining us on occassion; the rest of the time they were probably wearing earplugs.
avarice (n.)
greed, especially for wealth

Her avarice for power was matched only by her lust for money; even when she had more money than she could ever spend in a lifetime, she schemed to still get more.
aver (v.)
to state as a fact; to confirm or support

Although Michelle averred that she would never be late again, her friends remained understandably skeptical.
axiom (n.)
a universally recognized principle; a generally accepted or common saying

It is an axiom of the American legal system that one is innocent until proven guilty
axiomatic (adj.)
taken as a given; possessing self-evident truth

In this society, we take it as axiomatic that individual merit rather than family name should be the basis for success in life.
baleful (adj.)
sinister, pernicious, ominous (look, glare, glance, and others)

The basilisk is a notoriously cranky, albeit mythical, creature whose baleful glare is fatal.
bane (adj.)
cause of injury, source of harm; source of persistent frustration

Even for those who recognize that smoking is far more of a bane than a benefit, quitting can be a struggle.
beatify (v.)
to bless, make happy, or ascribe a virtue to; to regard as saintly

My only interaction with others will be to smile beatifically at them from within my self-contained world of stillness and piety.
august (adj.)
majestic, venerable

The august presence of the pharaohs endures through the millennia, embodied in their massive tombs.
auspice (n.)
1. protection or support, patronage
2. a sign or portent

1. As long as we were working under the auspices of the local authorities, the villagers were extremely cooperative; once we headed out on our own, however, we found that no one wanted to talk to us.
2. Since the auspices seemed good, we decided to go ahead and buy thirty lottery tickets.
auspicious (adj.)
favorable, propitious, successful, prosperous

The sold-out opening night and standing ovation from the audience provided an auspicious beginning for the play's run on Broadway.
austere (adj.)
without adornment; bare; severely simple; ascetic

Whereas, if you just go to one of her Ashrams and discipline yourself to keep to the AUSTERE schedule of practices, you will sometimes find that it is easier to communicate with your teacher from within these private meditations than to push your way through crowds of eager students and get a word in edgewise in person.
aspersion (n.)
an act of defamation or maligning

Pete resented the aspersions cast by his opponent, who called Pete a low-down, no good snake who didn't eat his vegetables.
assiduous (adj.)
diligent, hard-working

Pedro's assiduous preservation of every fragment of the document that had survived eventually allowed him to reconstruct whole stanzas of the poem.
assuage (v.)
to ease or lessen; to appease or pacify

Convincing her that it was all the rage in Paris helped assuage Christine's fears about painting her walls chartreuse.
astringent (adj.)
having a tightening effect on living tissue; harsh; severe

Although she hadn't intended to be quite so harsh, Kayla's astringent remarks apparently made the board drop the proposal altogether.
attenuate (v.)
to rarefy, weaken or make thinner, lessen

I could feel all this old pain of lost love and past mistakes attenuating before my eyes, diminishing at last through the famous healing powers of time, patience and the grace of God.
audacious (adj.)
daring and fearless; recklessly bold

Liz is an audacious mountain climber who goes where few of her competitors dare to follow.
augury (n.)
omen, portrait, the reading of omens.

Augury in ancient Rome and other societies was performed largely by interpreting the flight of birds.
outdated; associated with an earlier, perhaps more primitive time

The archaic instruments used in the village clinic shocked the visiting physicians.
arduous (adj.)
strenuous, taxing, requiring significant effort.

This is what the Gurugita does. It burns away the ego, turns you into pure ash. It's supposed to be ARDUOUS, Liz.
arrant (adj.)
impudent; in every way, being completely such, barefaced, utter

Don Juan's arrant philandering made him a legend. He seemed to have had the ability to turn many of his admirers into arrant fools.
arrest (v.)
to suspend; to engage

Sometime I think my brother's emotional development was arrested at a young age; he often acts like a five year old.
artless (adj.)
completely without guile; natural; without artificiality

Her artless portrayal of the young ingenue charmed the critics, who all commented on her fresh, unaffected performance.
ascetic (n.)
one who practices rigid self-denial, especially as an act of religious devotion.

A true ascetic would be able to resist eating those chocolate eclairs, which is why I know I'm not an ascetic.
ascetic (adj.)
austere or stark

His ascetic lifestyle was indistinguishable from that of a monk.
asperity (n.)
severity, rigor; roughness, harshness, acrimony, irritability

The asperity of her response to his pleas for leniency suggested that there was no chance she would be ending his detention any time in the next three months.
apposite (adj.)
appropriate, pertinent, relevant, apropos

His choice of songs for the opening ceremony was entirely apposite; everyone agreed that it was perfectly suited to the event.
apprise (v.)
to give notice to, inform

The officer apprised Chris of his rights before questioning him.
approbation (n.)
an expression of approval or praise

The judges expressed their approbation of Stephen's performance by awarding him the gold medal.
appropriate (v.)
to take for one's own use, confiscate

Even though he appropriated each of the elements of his design from others, the way in which he combined them was uniquely his own.
arabesque (n.)
complex, ornate design

A beautiful arabesque of fruits and flowers surrounded the central pattern of the print.
arcane (adj.)
mysterious, abstruse, esoteric, knowable only to initiates

Elizabeth was a font of arcane knowledge; she could tell you not only the names of the pets of every cabinet member of every administration, but also how many gumballs are produced annually.
antithetical (adj.)
diametrically opposed, as in antithesis

I couldn't help but feel that he always deliberately expressed a position antithetical to mine, as if he enjoyed playing devil's advocate even more than he cared about expressing what he really thought.
apocryphal (adj.)
of dubious authenticity or origin; spurious

Most people believe that stories of alien abduction are apocryphal, but what if there really is a big government conspiracy and all those stories are true?
apogee (n.)
farthest or highest point, culmination; zenith

No one could have foreseen that receiving the Pulitzer Prize at the age of eighteen would be the apogee of his career, and that nothing he produced afterward would achieve any kind of critical success.
the lowest or closest point, the nadir

The moon is at apogee when it is at its farthest point away from the earth in its orbit; it is at perigee when it is closest to earth.
apostate (n.)
one who abandons long-held religious or political convictions, a betrayer of a cause

Jordan was an apostate of modern culture; he renounced all the trappings of modern life that he used to love, and went to live in a cave.
apotheosis (n.)
deification, glorification to godliness, the perfect example

She is the apotheosis of nurturing motherhood; she makes soup for sick friends, nurses wounded birds, and listens to everyone's problems.
ameliorate (v.)
to make better or more tolerable

Jonas was sure that nothing could ameliorate the taste of beets; brussel sprouts, on the other hand, could be made quite palatable with the introduction of plenty of butter.
amenable (adj.)
agreeable; responsive to suggestion

If you're amenable, let's go for a walk before lunch.
anachronism (n.)
something or someone out of place in terms of historical or chronological context.

The wristwatch worn by one of the characters in the period movie set in Rome in 25 B.C. was just one of the many anachronisms that spoiled the movie's credibility.
anathema (n.)
a solemn or ecclesiastical (religious) curse; accursed or thoroughly loathed person or thing

He was an anathema to his entire town once it was revealed that he had been a secret police informant.
anodyne (adj.)

Don't you agree that nothing is quite so anodyne as a long soak in a bubble bath?
anomaly (n.)
deviation from the normal order, form, or rule; abnormality

Pickles for sale in a tire store would be an anomaly; tires for sale in a pickle store would be equally weird.
antipathy (n.)
aversion, dislike

Sam very clearly expresses his antipathy toward certain breakfast foods in the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham.
aesthetic (adj.)
dealing with, appreciative of, or responsive to art or the beautiful

Many people say they see no aesthetic value in some modern artwork, claiming the pieces look like a kindergartner's finger painting.
aggrandize (v.)
to increase in intensity, power, or prestige; to make appear greater

Michael's attempts to aggrandize his achievements produced the exact opposite effect; everyone ended up thinking he had accomplished less than he really had. In other words, he would have been better off without the self-aggrandizing.
alacrity (n.)
eager and enthusiastic willingness

Amy responded to the invitation to join the planning committee with alacrity, and even volunteered to take on additional responsibilities.
alchemy (n.)
a medieval science aimed at the transmutation of metals, especially base metals into gold; any magical or wonderful transformation

Although alchemy's goal of turning lead into gold may seem crazy now, the alchemical sciences were the precursors to our modern chemistry.
alloy (v.)
to commingle; to debase by mixing with something inferior

Alloying the punch with prune juice turned out not to be such a good idea after all.
amalgamate (v.)
to combine several elements into a whole

In order to write a good personal statement, you must amalgamate your past successes with your future goals.
acumen (n.)
quick, keen, or accurate knowledge or insight

Her acumen in anticipating her opponent's strategy is legendary; it's what makes her so hard to beat.
admonish (v.)
to reprove; to express warning or disapproval

How many times has your roommate admonished you to put the toilet seat down?
adroit (adj.)
adept, dexterous

Although her adroit handling of the situation minimized the damage, nothing could really save the conference after the room flooded.
maladroit (adj.)
clumsy or bungling

Jerry Lewis was able to make a career out of playing maladroit characters.
adulation (n.)
excessive praise; intense adoration

Leif Garrett was the object of much adolescent adulation.
adulterate (v.)
to reduce purity by combining with inferior ingredients

In an effort to determine why he house's foundation was crumbling, the inspectors tested the concrete to see if it had been improperly adulterated when it was mixed.
adumbrate (v.)
to foreshadow vaguely, intimate, suggest or outline sketchily.

The possibilities for further cooperation between the two parties were adumbrated at the first, private meeting, but nothing was finalized until much later.
abate (v.)
to lessen in intensity or degree

We realized with great relief that the storm had abated before breaking through the sea wall.
aberrant (adj.)
deviating from the norm

Jim's aberrant behavior at the dance raised some eyebrows; he was certainly the only one who spent the night walking (and dancing)on his hands
abjure (v.)
to promise publicly that you will give up or reject a belief or a way of behaving; renounce
Barack Obama abjured that he will give up smoking for the sake of the presidential candidacy.
abrogate (v.)
to abolish or annul by authority; put down.

The court ruling abrogated the defendant's rights to any profit from the sale of the house.
abscission (n.)
the act of cutting off or removing

Dr. Carter recommended an immediate abscission of the abscess in order to minimize any further infection.
abscond (v.)
to depart clandestinely; to steal off and hide

Doug was left penniless when the two con men absconded with his life savings.
accolade (n.)
an expression of praise; an award

The diva received her accolades graciously, blowing kisses to her adoring fans.
accretion (n.)
growth, increase by successive addition, building up

The accretion of dirt has changed the color of the kitchen floor from white to brown, which is pretty disgusting.
acerbic (adj.)
having a sour or bitter taste or character

Dorothy Parker was famous for her wit, which could be quite acerbic; Parker could be devastating when she wanted to be.
(v.) burn without flame; be liable to break out at any moment.
Regan and Stockman, who were permitted to attend the meetings but were not allowed to take seats at the conference table or to vote, would sit along the wall and smolder.
gambit (n.)
opening in chess in which a piece is sacrificed.
Reagan's opening gambit, in his first budget, was to propose a $2.3 billion reduction in Social Security outlays.
virtuoso (adj.)
highly skilled artist
The comission he built was a virtuoso demonstration of how to get things done in Washington.
quell (v.)
to extinguish, put down, quiet
The financial world, as we'd hoped, noted that the Fed had begun acting to quell inflation.
resuscitate (v.)
to revive
The resuscitation process can take many days, and the risk is that in the meantime the entire financial system will stall, and the economy will suffer a crippling shock.
harrowing (adj.)
agonizing; distressing; traumatic
My most harrowing conversations were with financiers and bankers I'd known for years, major players from very large companies around the country, whose voices were tightened by fear.
lambaste (v.)
to beat; thrash verbally or physically
Then he cut loose and lambasted me and the Fed for not being responsive to the real needs of the country, and expressed whatever other angry thoughts came into his head.
insidious (adj.)
treacherous, stealthy; sly
Big deficits have an insidious effect. When the government overspends, it must borrow to balance its books. It borrows by selling treasury securities, which siphons away capital that could otherwise be invested in the private economy.
anemia (n.)
condition in which blood lacks red corpuscles.
Worse still, the recovery, which began in early 1991, was unusually slow and anemic.
impasse (n)
predicament from which there is no escape
The impasse on monetary policy made it hard for Nick and me to remain friends; though we continued to cooperate professionally, he canceled our weekly breakfasts, and our socializing came to an end.
palliate (v.)
to ease pain; make less severe or offensive
I volunteered my strongly held view that indexing is only a palliative that, in the longer run, is likely to cause even more serious problems.
impetus (n)
moving force; incentive; stimulus embodied a key difference between a centrally planned society and a capitalist one: here there was no creative destruction, no impetus to build better tools.
impetuous (adj.)
violent; hasty; rash
Though he was subordinate to Gorbachev, his popularity coupled with his impetuousness made him a magnet for attention--like Krushchev in an earlier era, he seemed to personify his country's unnerving contradictions.