Words Your Should Use
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.



ab ovo

from the beginning (literally "from the egg)

Example sentence: The documentary presented the history of the President's life ab ovo, started with his privileged upbringing, his wasted college years, his nepotistic business career, and brought the viewer right up to his ekking out a Presidential election by a lionistic legal team and making sure the actual votes were not counted, although that part was presented triumphantly.

abecedarian \ay-bee-see-DEHR-ee-uhn\ (adjective)

1 a : of or relating to the alphabet b : alphabetically arranged 2 : rudimentary

Example sentence: In the far right's version of what education "should be," a classic school scene is endlessly replicated, with students sitting in rows of desks before a bespectacled teacher dutifully reciting an abecedarian chant: "A is for apple, B is for boy, C is for conservative. . . ."

abjure \ab-JURE\ (verb)

1 a : to renounce upon oath b : to reject solemnly *2 : to abstain from : avoid

Example sentence: Martin Luther King, Jr. called upon black Americans to abjure violence in favor of civil disobedience and to meet hatred with love.

abrogate \AB-ruh-gate\ (verb)

1 : to abolish by authoritative action : annul 2 : to treat as nonexistent

Example sentence: When the new regime tried to abrogate freedom of the press, the nation's writers moved underground, starting secret newspapers to share their stories with the public awaiting the return of a more progressive administration.

abstruse \ub-STROOSE or ab-STROOSE\ (adjective)

: difficult to comprehend : recondite

Example sentence: George W. Bush has admitted that he finds trendy mystery novels more enjoyable than the abstruse disquisitions of modern scholars who delve into issues with real intelligence and insight.

abulia \ay-BOO-lee-uh\ (noun)

abnormal lack of ability to act or to make decisions

Example sentence: "Since his college graduation, and up to his election as President, my son seemed to be suffering from abulia; he just couldn't decide what he wanted to do next." He sighed and looked out the window. "But, that's all over now, thank God, now that he's been elected."

ad hominem \ad-HAH-muh-num\ adjective

1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
*2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

Example sentence: "Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated in this debate," the moderator stated. The participating politicians laughed uproariously.

adumbrate \AD-um-brayt\ verb

1 : to foreshadow vaguely : intimate
*2 : to suggest, disclose, or outline partially
3 : overshadow, obscure

Example sentence:
The moderator stated, "We will not tolerate manipulative adumbration in this debate." The politicians looked at each other and wondered if they had just been insulted.

ahimsa \uh-HIM-sah\ noun

: the Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of refraining from harming any living being

Example sentence:
Mahatma Gandhi directed his followers to adhere to the principles of ahimsa, insisting that even people fighting for their rights need to honor life and do no harm.

amative \AM-uh-tiv\ adjective

1 : strongly moved by love and especially sexual love
*2 a : indicative of love b : of or relating to love

Example sentence: The conservative politician was transfixed in an amative gaze as the convention wound down with balloons and anthems and the anticipation of sweeping victories to come.

anabasis \uh-NAB-uh-sis\ (noun)

1 : a going or marching up : advance; especially : a military advance 2 : a difficult and dangerous military retreat

Example sentence: In U.S. history class, we learned about General Sherman's famous anabasis through the South. One of the students compared it to the Bush Administration's march through the existing environmental legislation. Everyone laughed.

animadversion \an-uh-mad-VER-zhun\ (noun)

1 : a critical and usually censorious remark often used with on 2 : adverse criticism

Example sentence: The overweight politician delivered his standard animadversion on the duplicity of all other politicians, hoping to hide behind his own hypocrisy, while in truth he was suddenly standing out there like a sore thumb.

aphelion \af-EEL-yun\ noun

: the point in the path of a celestial body (as a planet) that is farthest from the sun

Example sentence: If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might expect the earth to be closest to the sun in July, but in fact it is at aphelion in January.

apodictic \ap-uh-DIK-tik\ (adjective)

expressing or of the nature of necessary truth or absolute certainty

Example sentence: The politician's demagoguery was apodictic in tone, reflecting his complete confidence in the correctness of his own statements, but the audience was quietly sagacious in its tepid applause.

apophasis (a-poph-a-sis) n.

1 : a rhetorical device of alluding to something by denying that it will be mentioned, as in : "I will not stoop to mentioning my opponent's recent arrest for public indecency, nor will I mention his constant and embarrassing financial troubles."

a posteriori

1 : of or relating to the kind of reasoning that derives propositions from observation of facts or that arrives at principles by generalization from facts 2 : of or relating to that which can only be known by experience : proved by induction from facts obtained by observation or experiment

Example sentence:
The effectiveness of the 2000 Republican platform policy that "no child will be left behind," resulting in controversal national educational policy, can only be evaluated a posteriori, which they are avoiding and arguing against coast to coast.

apotheosis n. pl.

1. Exaltation to divine rank or stature; deification. 2. Elevation to a preeminent or transcendent position; glorification. 3. An exalted or glorified example

Example sentence: "Many observers have tried to attribute Warhol's current apotheosis to the subversive power of artistic vision." (Michiko Kakutani).

argy-bargy \ahr-jee-BAHR-jee\ (noun)

a lively discussion : argument, dispute

Example sentence: In the corner of the pub, Ted and Donnie were caught up in a beauty of an argy-bargy over the election, each man arguing his point with gusto. Suddenly, Ted, a Republican, stormed out. Donnie, sat down and thought, "I must have hit a nerve when I started talking about the 2000 election."

artless \ART-luss\ adjective

1 : lacking art, knowledge, or skill : uncultured 2 a : made without skill : crude *b : free from artificiality : natural 3 : free from guile or craft : sincerely simple

Example sentence: Staring in disbelief at his colleague, the local official said, "As the senior member of this elected board, that sort of artless, misinformed comment can only be labeled as the most extravagant variety of manipulative pandering."


Barmecidal \bar-muh-SYE-dul\ (adjective)

providing only the illusion of abundance

Example sentence: The cast of the administration is replete with puffed-up Texans and newcomers, but the talent "feast" proves to be a Barmecidal one because the performances are so uninspired and the accumulating record is, shall we say, of limited value.

bathetic \buh-THEH-tik\ adjective
1 : extremely commonplace or trite
*2 : characterized by insincere or overdone pathos : excessively sentimental

Example sentence: The apolgetic politician's performance was a bathetic weeper, one that all but the most maudlin and sentimental watchers will find overly dramatic and unbelievable.

bloviate \BLOH-vee-ayt\ verb : to speak or write verbosely and windily

Example sentence: He could bloviate on a par with the windiest of politicians, but he was also capable of being concise and getting right to the point, which infuriated them.

bludge \BLUHJ\ verb, chiefly Australian & New Zealand

1 : to avoid work or responsibility
*2 : sponge

Example sentence: "I'm okay because I come home and bludge off Mum and Dad," said the 30-year-old as she watched reruns of reality shows.


cachinnate \KAK-uh-nayt\ verb

: to laugh loudly or immoderately

Example sentence: "He looked in at the door and snickered, then in at the window, then peeked down from between the rafters and cachinnated till his sides must have ached." (John Burroughs, "A Bed of Boughs")

cacography \kak-AH-gruh-fee\ noun

*1 : bad spelling 2 : bad handwriting

Example sentence: "I always wanted to be a contestant in the National Spelling Bee," said Pat, "but an unfortunate tendency to cacography prevented me from qualifying."

callithump \KAL-uh-thump\ noun

a noisy boisterous band or parade Example sentence: We were eager to get to the annual callithump on New Year's Day, so we bundled up the kids, filled thermoses with hot chocolate, and set off for the parade route.

cock-a-hoop \kah-kuh-HOOP\ adjective

*1 : triumphantly boastful : exulting
2 : awry

Example sentence: Team members, still cock-a-hoop over last week's victory, need to regain their focus and win one more game for the championship.

cockalorum \kah-kuh-LOR-um\ noun 1: a boastful and self-important person *2 : boastful talk

Example sentence: Old Colonel Popin's stories usually centered on exaggerated accounts of his heroism, and his incessant cockalorum annoyed many of his listeners.

commensal \kuh-MEN-sul\ adjective

1 : of or relating to those who habitually eat together
*2 : living in a relationship in which one organism obtains food or other benefits from another without damaging or benefiting it

Example sentence: The commensal pearlfish can be found inside the sea cucumber, nibbling on the internal organs of the host (which, fortunately, has a unique capacity to regrow its internal anatomy).

complaisant \kuhm-PLAY-suhnt; -zuhnt\, adjective

Exhibiting a desire to please; obliging; compliant.

Example sentence: The politicians, sitting around the appointment table, predictably evicted the the qualified and informed, but opinionated, candidates, and always accepted the sycophantic and complaisant ones, while the people in the audience watched in amazement longing for election day.

con amore \kahn-uh-MOR-ee\ adverb *1 : with love, devotion, or zest 2 : in a tender manner used as a direction in music

Example sentence: For Claire, who so loves caring for children, volunteering at the children's hospital is a task performed con amore.

contumacious \kahn-too-MAY-shuss\ adjective

: stubbornly disobedient : rebellious

Example sentence: His constituients voted the politician out of office, not for his contumacious conduct, which polling revealed was a strong suit for him in the election, but rather because his opponent's beautiful, and innocuous oratory captivated them.

crapulous \KRAP-yuh-luss\ (adjective)

1 : marked by intemperance especially in eating or drinking *2 : sick from excessive indulgence in liquor

Example sentence: If you're feeling crapulous the morning after the big celebration, drinking lots of water and taking some aspirin will help.


  de minimis \dee-MIH-nih-miss\ adjective

lacking significance or importance : so minor as to merit disregard

Example sentence: "The likelihood that I'm going to win the lottery is de minimis," said the struggling young law student, "so I don't expect to be buying that luxury yacht I've got my eye on anytime soon."

diaphanous \dye-AF-uh-nus\ adjective

1 : characterized by such fineness of texture as to permit seeing through *2 : characterized by extreme delicacy of form : ethereal 3 : insubstantial, vague

Example sentence:
"The very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds." (Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)

doppelganger \DAH-pul-gang-ur\ (noun)

1 : a ghostly counterpart of a living person 2 a : alter ego b : a living person who has the same name as or who closely resembles another living person

Example sentence: The two Bushes, 41 and 43, play dopplegangers to one another, but at times it's hard to know which is which.

duende \doo-EN-day\ noun

: the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm

Example sentence: Rick possessed not only the talents of a fine quarterback but also the duende to lure fans to the games.


edulcorate \ih-DUL-kuh-rayt\ (verb)

to free from harshness (as of attitude) : soften

Example sentence: Desperately in need of sympathy, Martha, searched the Republican headquarters all day but found no one who understood the edulcorating influence of a kind word and a receptive ear.

eleemosynary \eh-lih-MAH-sun-air-ee\ adjective : of, relating to, or supported by charity

Example sentence: Rob is charitable with his money and always donates generously to his favorite eleemosynary organizations.

ennead \EH-nee-ad\ noun : a group of nine

Example sentence: "An ennead of gorillas — four bachelors on one side of a waterfall, a family of five safely on the other — scuff their knuckles as they proudly prowl." (Richard Corliss, Time, April 20, 1998)

evanescent \eh-vuh-NEH-sunt\ adjective

: tending to vanish like vapor

Example sentence
: For Marcy, the enchantment of the elegant ballroom was as evanescent as Cinderella's gilded coach — it vanished the instant Dudley appeared.

enervate \EH-ner-vayt\ verb

1 : to reduce the mental or moral vigor of * 2 : to lessen the vitality or strength of

Example sentence: Prolonged exposure to the sun and dehydration enervated the shipwrecked crew, leaving them almost too weak to hail the passing vessel.

excoriate \ek-SKOR-ee-ayt\ verb

*1 : to wear off the skin of : abrade
2 : to censure scathingly

Example sentence:
The just-elected official was listening to the blather of the other members of the Board: he felt their pomposity and self-justification was quickly excoriating the thin veneer of collegiality.

execrable \Eks-kr-bl\ (adj.)

1. Deserving of execration; hateful. 2. Extremely inferior; very bad: an execrable meal

Example sentence: (from The New York Times): Mr. Thurmond, who was born in 1902, is still with us and, in some execrable corners of the Republican Party, so are his racist midcentury attitudes.

exigent \EK-suh-junt\ adjective

1 : requiring immediate aid or action
*2 : requiring or calling for much : demanding

Example sentence: The demands of even the most exigent of bosses can be tolerated if he or she has real influence with upper management when it comes to recommending raises.


factotum \fak-TOH-tuhm\ (noun)

1 : a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities 2 : a general servant

Example sentence: Sander's job title is "General Manager," which basically means he is a factotum who does whichever jobs need to be done around the office.

fanfaronade \fan-fair-uh-NAYD\ noun

: empty boasting : bluster

Example sentence: Damon's accounts of impressive exploits abroad were nothing but fanfaronade — we found out later that he really spent that time as a drifter and vagabond.

farraginous \fuh-RAJ-uh-nuss\ adjective

: consisting of a confused mixture : formed of various materials in no fixed order or arrangement

Example sentence: Staying home for the evening, the elected official watched the television broadcast of the meeting he was missing. In disbelief, he saw the farraginous display of opinions, panderings, and obfuscations of his colleagues, thinking, "Is this what the people see every week?"
farrago \fuh-RAH-goh\ noun : a confused mixture : hodgepodge

Example sentence: The Board seemed to be a democracy with equality and respect in public, but behind the scenes, sadly, it was a true farrago of insecurity and turf battles.
fata morgana \fah-tuh-mor-GAH-nuh\ (noun)

: mirage

Example sentence: Then, suddenly -- like a fata morgana rising out of the desert clouds -- the new adminstration took office before a stunned nation.

florilegium \flor-uh-LEE-jee-um\ noun, plural florilegia

: a volume of writings : anthology

Example sentence: One prominent critic hailed Tara's third poetry collection as "an elegant florilegium of old favorites and sophisticated new works."

futurity \fyoo-TOOR-uh-tee\ (noun)

1 : time to come: future 2 : the quality or state of being future 3 plural : future events or prospects

Example sentence: The motivational speaker exhorted us to change the way we live today, rather than looking always toward some vague distant futurity.


gormandize \GOR-mun-dyze\ (verb)

to eat greedily

Example sentence: The correspondent watched in horror as the fat cat conservatives gormandized their plush dinner plates; she was thinking of the poor who were getting poorer under their brand of leadership.

gravamen \gruh-VAY-mun\ (noun)

the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint

Example sentence: The gravamen of Walter's letter to the editor was that the newspaper frequently reported on the school system's failures but rarely covered its successes and improvements.


hebetude \HEB-uh-tood ("oo" as in "food")\ noun

: lethargy, dullness

Example sentence: As the professor droned on and on in the overheated lecture hall, Kim was overcome with such hebetude that she had to fight to keep her eyes open.

Hobson's choice \HAHB-suhnz-choyss\ (noun) : an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative

Example sentence: "You can either eat the dinner I have served you or go hungry," said Mother, presenting the grumbling children with a classic Hobson's choice.

SPECIAL NOTE: In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Thomas Hobson worked as a licensed carrier of passengers, letters, and parcels between Cambridge and London, England. He kept horses for this purpose and rented them to university students when he wasn't using them. Of course, the students always wanted their favorite mounts, and consequently a few of Hobson's horses became overworked. To correct the situation, Hobson began a strict rotation system, giving each customer the choice of taking the horse nearest the stable door or none at all. This rule became known as "Hobson's choice," and soon people were using that term to mean "no choice at all" in all kinds of situations.

hypermnesia \hye-perm-NEE-zhee-uh\ noun

: abnormally vivid or complete memory or recall of the past

Example sentence: Julie's hypermnesia enabled her to perfectly recall any page in her textbook for the test.

hypnagogic \hip-nuh-GAH-jik\ adjective

: of, relating to, or occurring in the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep

Example sentence: In her hypnagogic state, Edith wondered why the politician couldn't find his way to make the point.


ideate \EYE-dee-ayt\ verb

transitive sense : to form an idea or conception of *intransitive sense : to form an idea

Example sentence:
The politician looked across the table at his colleagues. "To them ideating is a complete waste of time: who needs anything new?"

immure \ih-MYOOR\ verb

1 a : to enclose within or as if within walls *b : imprison
2 : to build into a wall; especially : to entomb in a wall

Example sentence: The environmentalist was worried: if the only way to save precious habitats from rapacious developers is to immure them in artificial isolation, then is the 'solution' even worse than the 'problem?' She wondered, "Is all government kakistocracy?"

importunate \im-POR-tyoo-nit\ adjective 1 : troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand *2 : troublesome

Example sentence: "I am ashamed to trouble you -- a man should surely manage so as not to give trouble -- and yet I believe you will not consider me importunate." (John Galsworthy, "A Knight")

inanition \in-uh-NISH-uhn\, (noun)

1. The condition or quality of being empty. 2. Exhaustion, as from lack of nourishment. 3. Lack of vitality or spirit.

Example sentence: The problem that faces American public schools today is not that they have become fat and lazy, inefficient and ineffective, no, far, far from that: the problem is that they have been fiscally starved beyond the search for lean efficiency into inanition. --John Sutherland

ineluctable \ih-nih-LUK-tuh-bul\ adjective

: not to be avoided, changed, or resisted : inevitable

Example sentence: In classical Greek tragedy, the hero's flaw leads him to a disastrous and ineluctable fate.

infrangible \in-FRAN-juh-bul\ (adjective)

1 : not capable of being broken or separated into parts *2 : not to be infringed or violated

Example sentence: "Family is sacred to me," wrote George Bush I, "for I believe that few things in life are more infrangible than the bonds of kinship, especially in business and politics."

irenic \i-REH-nik (with a long "i" in the first syllable)\ adjective

: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation

Example sentence: Sasha had always been one of the more irenic students on campus, so we weren't surprised to learn that she had helped negotiate a truce between feuding student factions.


jackleg \JAK-leg\ (adjective)

1 a : lacking skill or training : amateur *b : characterized by unscrupulousness, dishonesty, or lack of professional standards 2 : makeshift

Example sentence: There we were, stuck in Nowheresville with a jackleg President who told us he'd fix the world but first we'd have to wait while he chases terrorists and blows up Iraq.

jeremiad \jeh-ruh-MY-ud\ noun

: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue

Example sentence:

Mrs. Whinge waggled a finger at us and launched into a doleful jeremiad about how we would come to no good end.

jeunesse doree \zh[oe]-nes-do-rA\ (noun)

young people of wealth and fashion

Example sentence: The sight of the homeless family watching the jeuness doree discuss whether a BMW or a Merecedes Benz has better tires was, if not disheartening, at least a moment to ponder life's contradictions and what happens when conservatives run the world.

jocose \joh-KOHSS\ (adjective)

1 : given to joking : merry 2 : characterized by joking : humorous

Example sentence: In front of the camera, the politician's jocose nature was legend, but behind the scenes with his staff a different style was darkly rumored.


kakistocracy \kak-uh-STAH-kruh-see\ (noun)

: government by the worst people

Example sentence: The last election resulted in a kakistocracy, in the few of many.


lachrymose \LAK-ruh-mohss\ (adjective)

1 : given to tears or weeping : tearful *2 : tending to cause tears : mournful

Example sentence: The pronouncements of the candidate portrayed his election as a boon for the country, but tin the end it turned out to be a surprisingly lachrymose period in the country's history.

lapidary \LAP-uh-dair-ee\ (noun) *1 : a cutter, polisher, or engraver of precious stones usually other than diamonds 2 : the art of cutting gems

Example sentence: The "compassionate Conservative," like, an accomplished lapidary, seemed to be polishing the stones of caring and charity, while in reality he was just trying to avoid the scrutiny of honest political dialog with the use of anesthetizing platitudes.

Lucullan \loo-KULL-un\ (adjective)

lavish, luxurious

Example sentence: Today's CEOs enjoy a Lucullan retirment full of extravagant benefits and armies of servants and assistants, while their erstwhile employees struggle to find healthcare and bleakly anticipate meager raises and declining job security.

Special Note: "Lucullan" echoes the name of Roman general Lucius Licinius Lucullus. The general had a distinguished military career (including the defeat of Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, 72-71 B.C.), but he's best remembered for the splendor of his opulent retirement. Living in Rome from 66 B.C. until his death ten years later, Lucullus established a reputation for magnificent banquets, at which he wined and dined the leading poets, artists, and philosophers of his time. His feasts were sufficiently extravagant to establish a lasting place for his name as a synonym of "lavish" in the English lexicon.

lacuna \lu-KOO-nuh or luh-KYOO-nuh\ (noun)

1 : a blank space or a missing part : gap 2 : a small cavity, pit, or discontinuity in an anatomical structure

Example sentence: The newly disclosed tapes of the first Bush Administration are beginning to fill in many a lacuna in the official version of those confusing years.

lagniappe \LAN-yap\ (noun)

a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

Example sentence
: The Garcia family's store always has the best holiday- themed lagniappes; this year with a $10 purchase you receive a snowman figurine.

Laodicean \lay-ah-duh-SEE-uhn\ (adjective) : lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics

Example sentence: In Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy describes Farmer Oak, a yawning, distracted churchgoer, as a man "who felt himself to occupy morally that vast middle space of Laodicean neutrality which lay between the Communion people of the parish and the drunken section."

louche \LOOSH ("OO" as in "food")\ (adjective)

: not reputable or decent

Example sentence:
Her novels are populated by louche characters wasting their days in seedy bars and brothels.

lucubration \loo-kyuh-BRAY-shun\ noun

: laborious or intensive study; also : the product of such study — usually used in plural

Example sentence: Harper's doctoral dissertation is a collection of lucubrations that contemplate the role of linguistics in media and politics.

lugubrious \la-GOO-bree-us\ (adjective)

Mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree.

Example sentence: During his thoughtful, if lugubrious television appearances, he maintained a serious intellectual standing, despite his earlier fall from grace.


mahatma \muh-HAHT-muh\ (noun)

1 : a person to be revered for high-mindedness, wisdom, and selflessness 2 : a person of great prestige in a field of endeavor

Example sentence: After the rotund and self-congratulatory local politician had again proclaimed his self-satisfying "integrity" and self-referential application of his little Town's "historic character," a small voice in the back of the audience was heard to say, "Oh, yeah, you're a regular mahatma!"

magniloquent \mag-NIL-uh-kwunt\ adjective

: speaking in or characterized by a high-flown often bombastic style or manner

Example sentence: Poet Edward Weismiller told The Baltimore Sun (April 10, 2004) that his former tendency to be magniloquent "was stamped out" of him by his mentor
-- John Berryman.

mantic \MAN-tik\ adjective

: of or relating to the faculty of divination : prophetic

Example sentence: "You may be skeptical now of my mantic skills," said the fortune-teller, "but you'll soon learn that my prophecies are true."

manumit \man-yuh-MIT\ verb

: to release from slavery

Example sentence: On February 1, 1865, Abraham Lincoln approved the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, when ratified by the states, would manumit millions of Americans.

métier \MET-yay\ noun

1 : vocation, trade
*2 : an area of activity in which one excels : forte

Example sentence: Penelope dabbled in poetry for a while, but she eventually returned to writing novels, which was her true métier.

meshuggener \muh-SHOO-guh-ner (''OO'' as in ''foot,'' not as in ''boot'')\ noun : a foolish or crazy person.

Example sentence:
"Don't be a meshuggener, David," said Ilene. "Even an idiot would realize that salesman is just trying to take advantage of you with a bogus offer."

munificent \myoo-NIH-fuh-sunt\ (adjective)

1 : very liberal in giving or bestowing : lavish
*2 : characterized by great liberality or generosity

Example sentence: When the demonstrator yelled out to the President's entourage, "Have you even HEARD of the word 'munificence?'" one camera caught him looking quizzically at his aide, as though saying, "What does that word mean?"


neophilia \nee-uh-FILL-ee-uh\ noun

: love of or enthusiasm for what is new or novel

Example sentence: The home entertainment industry indulges the neophilia of its customers with a steady line of new products, each with more flashy automated features than the one before.

nepenthe \nuh-PEN-thee\ noun

1 : a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow
*2 : something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering

Example sentence:
Ed threw himself into his art and used painting as a nepenthe to numb the pain of his broken heart.


oligopsony \ah-luh-GAHP-suh-nee\ noun

a market situation in which each of a few buyers exerts a disproportionate influence on the market

Example sentence: Fewer than 10 automakers worldwide dominate the industry, forcing suppliers into an oligopsony where the buyers can dictate prices.

omphaloskepsis \ahm-fuh-loh-SKEP-sis\ (noun)

contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation; also : indisposition to motion, exertion, or change

Example sentence: One can imagine them all, sitting around the White House, in a deep state of omphaloskepsis, waiting for the inspiration of what to do next.

opusculum \oh-PUSS-kyuh-lum\ noun : a minor work (as of literature)

Example sentence: Between the publication of his two most famous novels, the author released a slim opusculum documenting his experiences teaching English in Italy.

osculate \AHSS-kyuh-layt\ verb : kiss

Example sentence: "I've been osculated to death," Kevin complained, wiping his cheeks to remove the vestiges of kisses planted there by adoring aunts and cousins on his wedding day.


palimpsest \PAL-imp-sest\ (noun)

1 : writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased 2 : something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

Example sentence: The Republicans' agenda was obviously a palimpsest, rewritten to cover up hidden text, and having layers upon layers of obfuscated sub themes.

peloton \peh-luh-TAHN\ noun

the main body of riders in a bicycle race

Example sentence: Thousands of cycling fans lined the race route, relaxing in lawn chairs as they waited for the peloton to speed by.

perfidious \per-FIH-dee-us\ adjective

: of, relating to, or characterized by faithlessness or disloyalty : treacherous

Example sentence: "Perfidious Traitor! ... the rustling serpent / Lurks in the thicket of the Tyrant's greatness, / Ever prepared to sting who shelters him." (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Fall of Robespierre)

philodox n.

dogmatic person; person fond of opinions, especially their own.

Example sentence: The audience listened to the philodox, bored and casting their eyes around the room.

poetaster \POH-uh-tass-ter\ noun

: an inferior poet

Example sentence: "Germaine Greer, Chair Of Judges For The National Poetry Competition 2000, Invites Entries From Readers, But Be Warned: Poetasters Need Not Apply" (Headline, The [London] Independent, May 7, 2000)

polyglot \PAH-lee-glaht\ adjective

1 : speaking or writing several languages *2 : containing or made up of several languages 3 : being widely diverse (as in ethnic or cultural origins)

Example sentence: "I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many nationalities in the crowd, so I quietly got my polyglot dictionary from my bag...." (Bram Stoker, Dracula)

preprandial \pree-PRAN-dee-ul\ adjective

: of, relating to, or suitable for the time just before dinner

Example sentence:
Our celebration last night began with a preprandial cocktail followed by a lavish buffet dinner, and it ended with a champagne toast at the stroke of midnight.

prevenient \prih-VEEN-yunt\ adjective : antecedent, anticipatory

Example sentence: "What aroused my hackles when I saw the news reports on the Academy's findings was the prevenient sense that here again was another propaganda statement." (R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., The Washington Times, July 7, 2000.)

profligate \PRAH-flih-gut\ adjective

1 : completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness
*2 : wildly extravagant : prodigal

Example sentence: Each political party tried to paint the other side as profligate wasters of the taxpayers' money.

prosaic \proh-ZAY-ik\ adjective

1 : characteristic of prose as distinguished from poetry : factual
2 : dull, unimaginative
*3 : everyday, ordinary

Example sentence:
Sometimes Mary tired of her prosaic life and wished she could travel the world.

punctilio \punk-TIH-lee-oh\ (noun)

1 : a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code
*2 : careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)

Example sentence: Because of his poise and punctilio, Sam was the employee most often chosen to show important guests around the office.


quidnunc \KWID-nunk\ (noun)

a person who seeks to know all the latest news or gossip : busybody

Example sentence: I lowered my voice when I noticed that Nancy, the office quidnunc, was standing right next to my cubicle hoping to overhear what I was saying.

realia \ree-AL-ee-uh\ noun

objects or activities used to relate classroom teaching to the real life especially of peoples studied

Example sentence: The teacher asked the exchange student from Brazil to bring in photos, food items, and other realia to share with the class.

recrudesce \(ree-kroo-dess) intr.v.

To break out anew or come into renewed activity, as after a period of quiescence.

Example sentence: While the relationship seemed to have cooled to their circle of friends, the couple knew that an emotional and affectionate recrudescence of a startling magnitude was occurring in private, much to their delight.

repine \rih-PYNE\ verb

*1 : to feel or express dejection or discontent : complain
2 : to long for something

Example sentence: "They saw less of each other, and Robyn was aware that this did not cause her to repine as much as perhaps it should have done." (David Lodge, Nice Work)

retrodict \reh-truh-DIKT\ verb

: to utilize present information or ideas to infer or explain (a past event or state of affairs)

Example sentence: Politicians often have attempted to retrodict their past positions based on the revised history they are currently espousing, hoping to hide from the truth.

risible \RIH-zuh-bull\ adjective

1 a : capable of laughing b : disposed to laugh
*2 : arousing or provoking laughter; especially : laughable

Example sentence: During the rain delay, the crowd was entertained by the risible antics of the baseball teams' mascots.

roorback \ROOR-back\ (noun)

a defamatory falsehood published for political effect

Example sentence: "The attacks on my character are nothing but roorbacks drummed up by my opponent," insisted the candidate.

sansculotte \sanz-koo-LAHT\ noun

1 : an extreme radical republican in France at the time of the Revolution *2 : a radical or violent extremist in politics

Example sentence: Foreign diplomats and their families fled the city just before the sansculottes launched their bloody assault on the government.

schadenfreude \sh-den-froida\ noun

enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Example sentence: What began as a friendly competitive event, had evolved into an intemperate rout of the mismatched visiting team; in fact it was now becoming an unbecoming schadendreuda for the boistrous and aggressive home team and their supporters.

sciolism \SYE-uh-lih-zum\ (noun)

a superficial show of learning

Example sentence: The grad students in the corner of the cafe were engaged in a display of sciolism, tossing around trendy academic terms and evoking obscure writers.

sententious \sen-TEN-shuss\ adjective

1 : given to or abounding in aphoristic expression or excessive moralizing
*2 : terse, aphoristic, or moralistic in expression

Example sentence: When her date launched into a sententious monologue on "the deplorable decline of Western culture," Meg wrote him off as an insufferable bore.

shibboleth \SHIH-buh-luth\ noun

1 *a : a catchword or slogan used by members of a group but regarded by others as empty of real meaning b : a commonly held belief
2 : a behavior or use of language that identifies a person as belonging to a group

Example sentence: Bill urged voters to ignore the political shibboleths put forth by his opponents.

solipsism \SOH-lip-sih-zum\ noun
: a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing

Example sentence:
After learning about solipsism in Philosophy 101, Dan wondered if the things around him might just be products of his own mind.

sternutation \ster-nyuh-TAY-shun\ (noun)

the act, fact, or noise of sneezing

Example sentence: During cold and flu season, a chorus of sternutation could be heard around the office as employees gave in to fits of sneezing.

stormy petrel \STOR-mee-PET-ruhl\, (noun)

1. Any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae, having dark plumage with paler underparts; also called storm petrel. 2. One who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble.

Example sentence: But far from a 'pet' of the Communist regime, Gorky, the "stormy petrel of the revolution," also condemned the revolution early on as a "cruel experiment" with the Russian people "doomed to failure." --Valentina Kolesnikova

stultify \STUL-tuh-fye\ verb *1 : to cause to appear stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical 2 : to impair, invalidate, or make ineffective : negate 3 : to have a dulling effect on

Example sentence: The sitcom's creators often stultify the main character as a buffoon, but they also find ways to redeem him as an everyday Joe who is just trying to get it right.

supercilious \soo-per-SIH-lee-uss\ (adjective) : coolly and patronizingly haughty

Example sentence: Brooke's snooty remarks and consistently supercilious attitude alienated virtually all of her colleagues.

syncretism \sin-kreti-zm, 'sin \noun

1 : the combination of different forms of belief or practice 2 : the fusion of two or more original different inflectional forms

Example sentence: His religious syncretism left many confused and others offended.

superficies \soo-per-FIH-sheez\ noun

1 : a surface of a body or a region of space *2 : the external aspects or appearance of a thing

Example sentence: Although there have been changes in the superficies of our lives, many of the human dilemmas faced by our ancestors are still quite recognizable.


tetragrammaton - tet-ra-GRAM-ma-ton / (noun)

1: four Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh) or JHVH (Jehovah) signifying the Hebrew name for God which the Jews regarded as too holy to pronounce

Example sentence: The boy was staring at the candy counter with wide eyes as though it was he own personal tetragrammaton.

tetralogy \teh-TRAH-luh-jee or teh-TRAL-uh-jee\ (noun)

1 : a group of four dramatic pieces presented consecutively on the Attic stage at the Dionysiac festival 2 : a series of four connected works (as operas or novels)

Example sentence: "The Raj Quartet", Paul Scott's long and complex tetralogy of India, was made into a highly praised television series.

taradiddle \tair-uh-DIH-dul\ noun 1 : fib *2 : pretentious nonsense

Example sentence: Business writer Don Larson didn't mince words when he criticized a story as "the worst collection of falsehoods, fabrications, misrepresentations, deceptions and just plain old-fashioned taradiddle that I have ever read."

torpor \TOR-per\ noun

1 : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility
*2 : apathy, dullness

Example sentence: As the play progressed from dull to duller, the audience sank into a state of torpor, their eyes glazed over with boredom.

traduce \truh-DOOS\ verb

* 1: to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation
2: violate, betray

Example sentence: The scandalous half-truths in the unauthorized biography angered the star, and she was hurt that so many of her former friends had traduced her.

trichotillomania \trih-kuh-tih-luh-MAY-nee-uh\ noun : an abnormal desire to pull out one's hair

Example sentence: Randolph's affliction with trichotillomania left him with an unfortunate array of bald spots along the crown of his head.


uxorial \uk-SOR-ee-ul\ adjective

: of, relating to, or characteristic of a wife

Example sentence: Joe's idea of uxorial duties — cooking, cleaning, planning parties, and balancing his checkbook — didn't sit well with his coworkers.


vaticination \vuh-tih-suh-NAY-shun\ noun

*1 : prediction
2 : the act of prophesying

Example sentence: The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court could make his vaticination — "I will blot out the sun" — because he knew the exact day and hour of a solar eclipse that occurred in the year 528.

vitiate \VIH-shee-ayt\ verb
1 : to make faulty or defective : impair
2 : to debase in moral or aesthetic status
*3 : to make ineffective

Example sentence: Critics asserted that studies claiming to prove the product safe were vitiated by lack of objectivity on the part of company-hired scientists.

voluble \VAHL-yuh-bul\ (adjective)

1 : easily rolling or turning : rotating
2 : characterized by ready or rapid speech : glib, fluent

Example sentence: The young man proved to be a voluble informer who would tell stories of bookies, smugglers, and hit men to the detectives for hours.

vulpine \VUL-pyne\ adjective

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a fox
*2 : foxy, crafty

Example sentence: The stranger's vulpine smile revealed his cunning mind and greedy heart, and Hazel knew instantly that she shouldn't trust him.


weltanschauung \VELT-ahn-show-ung ("ow" as in "cow")\ (noun, often capitalized) : a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint

Example sentence: The petitioning group found itself defeated by the ineluctable weltanschauung of the petty politician: everything they said was immediately translated into a self-referential and jaundiced interpretation that had nothing to do with them even as it condemned their point of view.

williwaw \WIH-lih-waw\ (noun)

1 a : a sudden violent gust of cold land air common along mountainous coasts of high latitudes
b : a sudden violent wind

2 : a violent commotion

Example sentence: The williwaw screamed down the mountains like an avalanche of air and slammed into the fishing vessel with enough force to nearly capsize her.

xenophobia \zeh-nuh-FOH-bee-uh or zee-nuh-FOH-bee-uh\ (noun)

fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

Example sentence: It was one of life's ironies that Gene, whose xenophobia precluded travel beyond the state border, chose to become a travel agent.

zeugma \ZOOG-muh\ noun

: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in "opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy").

Example sentence: " She left in a huff and a Chevy," said Jack, employing vivid zeugma to report of Marissa's departure.

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