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personalenglishvocab (English vocabulary)

English vocabulary word definitions


Found below are definitions of unique and seldom-used English words.                                          Click here to return to the Personal menu

A – A  – A – A – A – A – A – A                                                                                                   

  • abash – make ashamed or dispirited, embarrass
  • abdicate – renounce or relinquish an office, power, or right
  • aberrant – straying from the right course, wandering
  • aberration – unsoundness, that which departs significantly from the standard
  • abet – encourage, aid by approval (especially in bad conduct)
  • abeyance – temporary suspension or inactivity
  • abject – low in condition, hopeless, servile, despicable
  • abjure – renounce solemnly, repudiate, forswear
  • ablution – washing, cleansing (especially ceremonial)
  • abnegate – renounce or deny oneself of rights or powers
  • abrogate – repeal or annul by authoritative act
  • abscond – hide or depart suddenly (especially to avoid legal process)
  • absolve – pardon, free, or release from obligation
  • absorption – the process by which one substance takes up or assimilates another substance through tiny pores or spaces between molecules
  • abstemious – moderate, temperate (especially regarding food and drink)
  • abstruse – difficult to comprehend, profound
  • abysmal – like an abyss, immeasurably deep or low
  • acclivity – an upward slope
  • accord – diplomatic agreement without the binding force of a treaty
  • accost – approach and speak to, address
  • accrue – happen in due course, result from natural growth
  • acerbity – sourness of taste, harshness of temper or expression
  • acolyte – a novice (especially in a religious order), an attendant or assistant
  • acquiesce – consent or agree
  • acrid – sharp or biting to the tongue, pungent, severe
  • acrimony – bitterness of temper or expression
  • acumen – mental acuteness, keenness of perception or insight
  • addled – confused, bewildered
  • adjudicate – to determine or judge
  • adroit – dexterous, skilled, ingenious
  • affable – easy to approach, courteous, gracious
  • affidavit – written statement given under oath  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘affidavid’)
  • agita – anxiety or agitation, heartburn or indigestion
  • agoraphobia – extreme fear of public places or crowds
  • aioli – mayonnaise seasoned with garlic
  • alacrity – cheerful willingness, eager promptitude, cheerful readiness
  • allege – asset without proof
  • allure – appeal, charm, attraction
  • ambience – atmosphere, mood, or character of a place
  • amenities – useful or desirable features of a place or location
  • anachronism – an error in respect to dates or the order of historical events
  • anathema – a denunciation, accompanied by excommunication, by an ecclesiastical authority
  • animus – animosity, a grudge
  • annuity – an investment instrument that makes predetermined payments over a specific time period
  • antebellum – existing before a war, usually referring to the U.S. Civil War
  • antipathy – dislike, hatred * aplomb – self-confidence, assurance of manner
  • antipodean – directly opposite, especially in reference to sides of the earth
  • appellant – a person who makes a plea or appeal for judgment from a higher authority
  • apocalypse – a revelation
  • apocryphal – of doubtful authorship or authenticity, spurious
  • apogee – the point of greatest distance from the earth in an orbit
  • apotheosis – glorified personification of a principle or idea
  • appeasement – yielding to sometimes unreasonable demands, pacification
  • approbation – approval, commendation
  • apt – likely, prone, suitable for the purpose
  • aquiline – of relating to, or resembling an eagle; curving like an eagle’s beak
  • arable – fit for plowing and tillage
  • arbitrage – simultaneous sale and purchase of a security or commodity to profit from a price differential, often on different exchanges
  • Arcadian – idyllically pastoral, innocent, or simple
  • archetype – an original model or type, after which similar things are patterned
  • arraign – to bring before a court to hear and answer charges
  • asperity – harshness of temper, severity
  • aspic – a clear savory jelly
  • assiduous – diligent, attentive, unremitting
  • asterisk – small star-like symbol used in writing and printing as a reference mark  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘asterick’ or ‘asterik’)
  • atoll – coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon
  • augur – predict from omens, presage, foretell
  • augury – prophecy, divination
  • auspicious – well-omened, betokening success
  • austere – severely simple, unadorned, serious, morally strict, stern, harsh, rigorous
  • avarice – cupidity, stinginess, greed
  • aver – to declare or asset in a positive manner
  • automaton – a person who acts in a monotonous routine manner
  • axiom – a universal proposition, amply proved and easily verified

B – B – B – B – B – B – B – B

  • backlog – an accumulation of cases that the legal system is incapable of dealing with in a timely manner
  • bailiff – an officer, similar to a sheriff, who keeps order in the courtroom
  • bailiwick – area of jurisdiction, activity, or influence
  • baksheesh – in Egypt, a form of tip or bribe
  • bamboozle – to deceive by trickery, to mystify
  • banal  – commonplace, trite
  • banshee – a wailing spirit that heralds death
  • barbiturate – a sedative or hypnotic drug  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘barbituate’)
  • bard – an accomplished poet
  • barometer – an instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure.  Low pressure usually means clouds and rain.  High pressure prevents clouds
  • batten – board or strip of wood used on sailboats and in construction to span joints or reinforce
  • bayou – a sluggish, marshy stream linked to a river, lake, or gulf
  • beguile – to charm or divert
  • bellicose – pugnacious, warlike, combative
  • bellwether – a sheep wearing a bell that leads the flock, or a leading indicator of trends in the business world
  • bench warrant – an order issued by a judge or court for an arrest
  • benignant – kindly, benign
  • berm – a narrow, man-made shelf or ledge, typically at the top or bottom of a slope; a man-made mound or wall of earth
  • bevy – a large group
  • biennial – something occurring every two years
  • bilious – offensive, having an excess of bile
  • bilk – defraud, swindle
  • bivouac – an encampment without shelter
  • blackball – to exclude socially
  • blanch – to exclude light by covering
  • blandishment – flattery, words or actions that coax or persuade
  • blather – to talk foolishly, to babble
  • blench – draw back, flinch, quail
  • blithe – merry, joyous, glad
  • blue-blood – an aristocrat
  • bombastic – high-sounding, extravagant, stilted
  • boondoggle – useless, unproductive work
  • boor – a rude or unmannerly person
  • bork – to attack someone, especially in the media (due to Judge Robert Bork’s denunciation by the liberal press)
  • bourgeois – a person of the middle class, a tradesman
  • brackish – of salty water, stale
  • braggadocio – vanity, bragging
  • braise – to cook slowly in fat and little moisture in a closed pot
  • brasserie – an informal restaurant, usually with a selection of alcoholic drinks
  • bromide – a trite remark
  • brood – to think deeply, to dwell on, to worry about  (derived from a mother chicken’s care for her eggs and chicks)
  • brook – to countenance, to bear, to put up with
  • brogue – a sturdy,heavy shoe; a strong Irish accent
  • bumpkin – an awkward fellow
  • bumptious – ebullient, brash
  • buxom – plump, healthy
  • bucolic – rustic, pastoral, rural
  • buffalo – to baffle, to overawe, to intimidate by show of power
  • bumpkin – an awkward, unsophisticated person
  • burgeon – to sprout buds
  • buttress – to strengthen, support, or fortify

C – C – C – C – C – C – C – C

  • cabal – a secret scheme or intrigue, a group of plotters
  • caboodle – the whole crowd or collection
  • cacophony – discordant sounds, dissonance, harsh sounds
  • cairn – a pile of stones set up as a monument or landmark
  • calcified – hardened, inured
  • calumny – a false accusation of crime or misconduct, slander
  • canard – false story, hoax
  • candidate – a seeker of office, someone vying for a position or honor  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘cannidate’)
  • capacious – capable of holding much, roomy
  • caprice – an impulsive notion or act
  • captious – prone to find fault, hyper-critical
  • cardsharp – a professional cheater at cards  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘cardshark‘)
  • carp – to find fault
  • carrion – dead or decaying flesh
  • castigate – to criticize sharply, punish, correct
  • casus belli – an event that triggers or justifies a declaration of war
  • cay – a reef or low bank of coral or sand
  • censorious – faultfinding, carping
  • catholic – universal in extent or nature
  • caveat – a warning or an axiom
  • celerity – rapidity of motion, swiftness
  • certitude – certainty, complete freedom from doubt
  • channel – to get across or convey the spirit and style of someone else
  • chaparral – a habitat composed of shrubby plants adapted to dry summers and moist winters
  • charlatan – a fraud, a quack, someone who pretends to have skills or knowledge
  • chattel – a movable piece of personal property
  • chauvinism – excessive devotion to a cause
  • chirrup – a chirp, a sound of a bird
  • choler – anger, ill-temper, irascibility
  • chortle – to laugh or chuckle, especially in satisfaction
  • churlish – rude, surly, coarse
  • cirrus – relating to clouds that are high, delicate, and wispy (16,000 feet or more)
  • citadel – a fortress that commands a city, a stronghold
  • civitas – a body of people constituting a politically organized community
  • clandestine – secret, covert, furtive
  • cloistered – secluded
  • cloud nine – a state of exultation and euphoria  (a weather term referring to cumulonimbus clouds, which stretch to great heights)
  • clutch – a nest of eggs, a bunch or group
  • cocooning – spending large amounts of time at home, especially watching television or using a VCR
  • cogent – convincing, forcible
  • comeuppance – a humiliating or humbling experience
  • commute – substitute another thing for, esp. reduce the severity of a punishment
  • complicity – the state of being an accomplice
  • compunction – a slight regret or prick of conscience
  • concave – curved inward, like the inside of a circle or sphere
  • concierge – hotel service representative who assists guests with arrangements
  • concord – harmony, agreement
  • concupiscence – a sensual appetite or desire
  • codependent – regarding a relationship based on addiction, or an unhealthy dependence
  • congenial – compatible in character or nature, pleasant and agreeable
  • congruous – well adapted, appropriate, consistent
  • conjugal – pertaining to marriage, connubial
  • connubial – pertaining to marriage, conjugal
  • consanguinity – relationship by blood
  • consensus – collective opinion or judgment
  • consummate – bring to completion or perfection, complete, perfect
  • contraband – goods that have been imported or exported illegally
  • contrarian – an investment style that goes against market trends and popular opinion
  • contumely – contemptuous abuse
  • conundrum – a riddle or hard question, enigma
  • convection – transport of heat and moisture, especially by updrafts and downdrafts in an unstable atmosphere.  Thunderstorms are one form of convection.
  • convivial – fond of feasting, gay, jovial, festive
  • copious – abundant, plentiful
  • coquette – a flirt
  • corolla – flower petals, or an inner whorl of floral leaves
  • corpulence – fatness, obesity
  • corporeal – bodily, material, not spiritual
  • coy – modest, affectedly shy or reserved
  • credulity – willingness to believe, gullibility
  • crux – main point, the heart of the matter
  • cryptic – having or seeming to have a hidden meaning, mysterious
  • crystalline – sparkling, strikingly clear, resembling crystal
  • cumulus – relating to clouds with sharp outlines, usually shaped like domes or towers with flat tops
  • cupidity – immoderate greed, avarice
  • curmudgeon – a churlish person, grouch
  • cursory – hasty and superficial, as in a glance
  • cut and run – depart quickly, leave hastily  (Anchor lines used to be made of hemp, and a sailor could cut the line and leave in haste.)
  • cutpurse – pick-pocket

D – D – D – D – D – D – D – D

  • dalliance – amorous, flirtatious playing or acting
  • dally – to act or talk playfully
  • dank – unpleasantly damp, humid, moist
  • dark horse – a long shot, an unknown contestant with little chance of winning  (a horse-racing term)
  • deadhead – a verb that means to remove faded or dead flowers from vibrant plants
  • debauched – corrupted by intemperance or sensuality, debased
  • deciduous – a word to describe trees which shed leaves at the end of a growing season and regrow them at the beginning of the next season
  • declivity – a downward slope
  • decorous – well-behaved, proper, seemly
  • decrepit – weakened by old age, infirm
  • deduce – to infer from a general principle
  • default – to fail to pay interest or principal on a debt when it is due
  • demagogue – an unprincipled popular orator or leader, a rabble rouser
  • demur – take exception, object
  • denigrate – blacken in reputation, defame
  • denizen – dweller, inhabitant, citizen
  • depose – to affirm or testify under oath, often in writing
  • deprecate – plead against, express disapproval of
  • dervish – a member of a Muslim order known to move as though entering a trance; someone who dances with abandon
  • despotic – tyrannical, oppressive
  • dew point – the temperature at which air must be cooled to be saturated, or how much water is in the air compared with what it can hold
  • diabolical – devilish, infernal
  • diadem – a crown, a jeweled headband
  • diametrical – absolute, complete
  • diatribe – a bitter and abusive denunciation
  • didactic – instructive, expository
  • digerati – those with knowledge about computers and computer programs
  • dirge – song or hymn of grief and mourning
  • discernment – good judgement and understanding
  • disingenuous – deceitful, dishonest
  • disparate – essentially different, unequal
  • disparage – speak unkindly of, discredit
  • diurnal – active primarily in the daytime hours; recurring daily
  • dogged – stubbornly tenacious, persistent in effort
  • doleful – showing sorrow, sad
  • donnybrook – brawl, free-for-all
  • dour – hard, inflexible, sour in mien, gloomy
  • doyen – a dean, a senior member
  • doxology – a hymn or psalm praising God
  • draconian – rigorous, harshly oppressive
  • dram – a very small amount or portion
  • drivel – to talk foolishly, foolish talk
  • duck soup – easy task or assignment  (the origins of this phrase are unclear)
  • dudgeon – resentment, sullen anger
  • due process – the course of legal proceedings that protect an individual’s rights and liberties
  • dulcinea – sweetheart, lady-love
  • dun – a dull, grayish brown
  • dupe – deceive, trick, mislead
  • duplicity – bad faith, hypocrisy, double dealing
  • duress – restraint of personal liberty, imprisonment

E – E – E – E – E – E – E – E

  • eat crow – to admit a mistake, to accept humiliating defeat  (thought to be based on a crow-eating incident in the War of 1812)
  • ebb – decrease, diminish
  • ebullient – greatly excited, demonstrative, boiling
  • eclectic – consisting of collections from various sources
  • ecotourism – traveling to natural, unspoiled areas
  • effervescent – fizzy, giving off bubbles
  • effete – worn out by age, staled by usage, exhausted
  • efficacious – having power adequate to an intended purpose 
  • effusive – gushing
  • egregious – extraordinarily flagrant, glaring
  • eminently – very, to a high degree
  • emolument – salary or fees for services
  • empathize – to experience vicariously or identify with the feelings of another person
  • enamored – filled with love
  • enfranchise – to grant or admit to citizenship, to set free
  • enigma – a riddle, anything puzzling
  • enmity – hostility, hatred, ill will, antagonism
  • ennui – weariness or discontent arising from lack of interest, boredom
  • ephemeral – lasting a very short time, transitory
  • equipoise – a state of equilibrium
  • erratic – characterized by lack of consistency, regularity or order
  • eschew – shun
  • esoteric – understood by only a select few, secret, mysterious
  • estivate – to pass or spend the summer in a certain activity, especially in a dormant state
  • estuary – a water passage where the tide meets a river current
  • ergo – therefore
  • ethereal – airy, light, intangible
  • ethos – distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature or guiding belief
  • euphemism – the use of a mild word in place of a plainer but more offensive one
  • euphoric – elated, ecstatic
  • exculpatory – relating to vindication, or tending to clear from guilt
  • execrate – utterly detest, abhor
  • execration – a curse, a denunciation
  • expedite – to complete quickly or in a timely fashion
  • expeditiously – in an efficient way, speedily
  • expunge – blot or wipe out, erase
  • extirpate – pull up by the roots, eradicate

F – F – F – F – F – F – F – F

  • factious – opposing, contentious
  • fallible – imperfect
  • fashionista – someone who is savvy about fashion trends, or who is stylish, or who works in the fashion industry
  • fastidious – hard to please, overnice
  • faux – artificial, fake
  • faux pas – a false step, social error, mistake
  • fawn – to show affection, as a dog, by hand-licking, hence to cringe and flatter
  • feckless – ineffective, incompetent
  • fecund – prolific, fertile
  • feral – wild, untamed
  • ferret – to search, to rummage through  (derived from the ferret’s ability to hunt rabbits)
  • fervent – passionate, having great warmth and intensity
  • fatuous – complacently silly, inane
  • felicity – the state of feeling happy and joy
  • felonious – criminal
  • ferret (out) – to drive out of a hiding place, search out (as a criminal)
  • fetid – having an offensive odor, stench
  • fiddle-faddle – nonsense, trivialities, balderdash
  • fiddlehead – an edible fern
  • fidelity – constancy, loyalty
  • fiduciary – a person or institution legally authorized to hold assets in trust for another person or entity and to mange them for the other’s benefit
  • filch – to steal, to pilfer
  • filial – pertaining to a son or daughter
  • filibuster – to delay so as to prevent action, especially in a legislative body
  • finagle – to obtain by trickery or by indirect means
  • firebrand – one who creates unrest or strife, an agitator
  • fissure – a narrow crack in a rock’s face
  • flaunt – to display ostentatiously
  • fledgling – young bird, immature, inexperienced person
  • flippant – disrespectful, treating serious things lightly
  • floe – floating ice formed in a large sheet on the surface of a body of water
  • florentine – served with spinach
  • flotsam – floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo
  • flotsam and jetsam – useless items, odds and ends  (Literally, cargo thrown overboard from a ship.)
  • flummery – nonsense, an empty compliment, it can also mean plain, soft foods
  • foible – a weakness, a whimsy
  • fop – a vain man, a silly person
  • forage – to wander in search of food
  • forestall – to exclude or hinder, to obstruct
  • founder – to stumble, to fail utterly, to fill with water and sink  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘flounder’)
  • four-flusher – a pretender
  • founder – fill and sink (ship), go lame (horse), fail utterly
  • fractious – cross, peevish, unruly
  • frenetic – frenzied, chaotic
  • frond – a large leaf, usually on a palm or fern plant
  • frugivorous – feeding on fruit
  • fulsome – offensively excessive, insincere
  • fustian – high-flown speech, bombast

G – G – G – G – G – G – G – G

  • gaffe – social blunder
  • gainsay – contradict, dispute
  • Gallic – of French influence
  • garrulous – talkative, verbose
  • gaudy – flashy, marked by extravagance, loud and showy
  • gaunt – thin and angular, barren, desolate
  • gawk – stare stupidly, gape
  • germane – closely allied, relevant
  • gestate – carry in the uterus during pregnancy
  • gherkin – a small cucumber used for pickling
  • glean – to gather, learn, find out
  • glib – readily fluent, often insincerely so, quick with a response
  • glom – to catch or grab, to steal
  • goldbrick – swindle, cheat, shirk, loaf
  • gormandize – eat voraciously
  • granivorous – feeding on grains or seeds
  • greenhorn – an inexperienced person, a raw recruit, a novice
  • gregarious – fond of company, sociable
  • grovel – to behave obsequiously in seeking favor or forgiveness

H – H – H – H – H – H – H – H

  • hackneyed – stale or trite by overuse
  • halcyon – calm, quiet, undisturbed, idyllically happy, peaceful
  • halyard – a rope used to hoist a sail
  • hammer and tongs – vigorously, aggressively, energetically  (reflects the use of a blacksmith’s main tools)
  • harangue – a long and vehement speech, a tirade
  • harbinger – a forerunner, something that gives notice of an upcoming event
  • haymaker – a decisive blow, a knockout punch
  • hearten – to encourage or cheer up
  • hector – bully, tease, harass, browbeat
  • hedge – to invest with the goal of reducing the risk of adverse changes in the price of an asset
  • hedonism – the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good
  • hegemony – leadership or predominance
  • heinous – abominable, reprehensible, detestable
  • hellacious – agonizing, miserable
  • hem and haw – to hesitate while speaking  (In earlier times, this term echoed the sound of someone clearing his throat and stammering to find an answer.)
  • hermetic – airtight, impervious
  • heirloom – regarding vegetables, this refers to a vegetable variety from the 19th century, preserved by the passing of seeds from one generation to the next
  • herbaceous – referring to plant life that is green and leaf-like, with soft, non-woody tissues
  • herculean – having or requiring prodigious strength, endurance
  • hexagon – a polygon with six sides
  • hiatus – a space where something is missing, a gap or break
  • hinterland – a remote region
  • hobnob – to associate familiarly, to drink together
  • hodgepodge – a jumbled mixture
  • hooligan – a young thug or street hoodlum
  • horrific – arousing horror
  • hubris – arrogance
  • hue and cry – public clamor or outcry  (Historically, those in pursuit of felons would shout and yell if they spotted the culprit.)
  • humus – organic residue in soil
  • hybrid – the composite of two different species or varieties
  • hyperbole – obvious exaggeration

I – I – I – I – I – I – I – I

  • icon – a sacred image
  • iconoclast – one who challenges cherished beliefs
  • ignominious – deserving or causing public disgrace or shame
  • ilk – sort or kind
  • immolate – kill as a sacrificial victim
  • impeccable – without fault or blemish, irreproachable
  • impertinent – rude, forward, insolent
  • impudent – offensively forward in behavior, insolent, saucy
  • inane – silly, unintelligent
  • inchoate – rudimentary, just started
  • incorrigible – resistant to correction or reform, beyond reform
  • indefatigable – not easily fatigued, not yielding to fatigue
  • indelible – permanent, unremovable
  • indigenous – native to a particular region or environment
  • indolent – lazy, sluggish
  • indomitable – cannot be subdued or repressed
  • indubitably – without question or doubt
  • inexorable – not to be persuaded or removed, unrelenting
  • ineffable – inexpressible, too sacred to speak of
  • ingenuous – free from guile, candid, naive
  • ingratiate – to seek favor by getting into someone’s good graces
  • inimical – harmful, like an enemy, hostile
  • insider – a person who has privileged, nonpublic information about a company
  • imam – a Muslim prayer leader
  • immutable – unchangeable, unalterable
  • imperious – domineering
  • impetuous – marked by impulsive passion or force
  • inoculate – to introduce a vaccine or other agent into a body to create or hike immunity to a disease
  • insidious – operating stealthily with evil intent, treacherous
  • inscrutable – not to be read by investigation, unfathomable, incomprehensible, mysterious
  • insipid – lacking flavor or savor, uninteresting, dull
  • insolent – contemptuous, rude, disrespectful, insulting
  • insouciant – carefree, unconcerned
  • insular – detached, hemmed in, provincial, narrow-minded
  • interlope – intrude without right
  • internecine – mutually destructive, murderous
  • invective – vehement denunciation or vituperation, censorious, abusive
  • inveigh – make a verbal attack
  • inveigle – lead astray artfully, entice
  • inveterate – firmly established or addicted by habit or custom
  • invidious – prompted by envy or ill will, unfair, odious
  • irascible – easily provoked to anger, hot-tempered

J – J – J – J – J – J – J – J

  • jabberwocky – gibberish, nonsensical speech
  • jackal – a flunky, or an accomplice in disreputable acts
  • jackanapes – an impertinent or obstreperous fellow
  • jauntily – in a lively manner, lightly
  • jetsam – goods thrown overboard to lighten a ship
  • jibe – be in harmony with, to agree with
  • jocund – cheerful, merry
  • juggernaut – an irresistible force
  • julienne – to cut into thin strips

K – K – K – K – K – K – K – K 

  • kalimba – a thumb piano
  • kangaroo court – a self-appointed mock tribunal that disregards normal legal procedure
  • karaoke – the act of singing along to music videos from which the vocals have been removed
  • keen – to wail in lament for the dead
  • kelp – large brown seaweed plants found in cold waters
  • ken – range of sight or knowledge
  • keratin – a fibrous protein that serves as the outer layer of a bird’s bill
  • kibosh – nonsense; to ‘put the kibosh on’ means to put an end to
  • kiosk – a small structure with one or more open sides, used for selling goods
  • knave – rascal

L – L – L – L – L – L – L – L

  • laconic – expressing much in few words, pithy
  • lambaste – berate, scold, or beat or whip  (often misspelled as ‘lambast’)
  • languid – sluggish from weakness, fatigue, or lack of energy, spiritless, listless
  • largess – a liberal gift, generous bestowal of gifts
  • lascivious – inciting to lust, wanton, lewd
  • latke – potato pancake
  • laudatory – praising
  • legerdemain – sleight of hand, conjuring, artful trickery
  • leggy – long and thin, scraggly
  • lexicon – dictionary
  • liable – responsible for, legally obligated, likely to suffer from  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘libel’)
  • libation – ceremonial pouring of wine, a drink, a tippling
  • libertine – dissolute, licentious
  • libidinous – lewd, lustful
  • licentious – lewd, dissolute, immoral
  • limpid – transparent, clear, lucid
  • lionize – treat as a celebrity or object of interest
  • lion’s share – the biggest and best part, or the entire thing  (From the Aesop fable in which the lion takes all of the spoils of a hunt)
  • lissome – supple
  • litany – a ceremonial prayer with responses
  • lithe – easily bent, pliant, flexible, supple
  • littoral – relating to or growing near a shoreline, especially the shoreline of a sea
  • loaded for bear – fully prepared, especially for a confrontation
  • loggerhead – a stupid person
  • loquacious – talkative, chatty
  • lothario – seducer or rake, a deceiver
  • lout – a boorish, insensitive person
  • lucre – money, profit, gain
  • lugubrious – mournful, very sad, sad to the point of being ridiculous
  • lupine – savage, vicious, wolf-like

M – M – M – M – M – M – M – M

  • macerate – to soften or separate by steeping in fluid
  • Machiavellian – ruthless, unscrupulous
  • machinations – plans or schemes with evil intents
  • magnanimous – generous, high-minded, noble
  • malfeasance – performance of a wrongful act
  • malingerer – one who feigns illness, a faker
  • malleable – pliable, flexible, easy to be influenced
  • mandate – authorization to act given to a representative by the electorate
  • manifestly – plainly, in an easily understood way
  • margin – use of borrowed money to purchase securities
  • melancholy – a gloomy state of mind, depression
  • mellifluous – smoothly and sweetly flowing
  • meretricious – apparently attractive but having, in reality, no value or integrity
  • mesquite – wood of spiny trees or shrubs native to the southwestern United States, often used in grilling food
  • mete – distribute, apportion by measure
  • milquetoast – a timid person
  • mien – a person’s bearing, manner, or appearance
  • minion – an obsequious favorite, or a subordinate
  • Mirandize – to advise someone being arrested of his or her rights
  • mollycoddle – to pamper, to spoil
  • molt – to shed, as with feathers, hair, shell, or horns; to cast off
  • molten – liquefied by heat
  • morass – a bog or swamp
  • mordant – biting, sarcastic
  • mores – customs of behavior
  • mote – small speck or particle, especially of dust
  • mumbo jumbo – babble, nonsensical or confusing language  (derives from a West African word for a masked figure)
  • mutate – to change from one form to another
  • myrtle – a symbol of love

N – N – N – N – N – N – N – N

  • narcissism – an abnormal tendency to admire one’s own perfections
  • nationalism – patriotism, loyalty to one’s own nation
  • nefarious – unspeakably wicked
  • nemesis – an agent of vengeance
  • nepotism – undue favoritism to relatives
  • netizen – a person who frequents the internet
  • neutraceutical – a food or other substance that has been supplemented with ingredients believed to have health benefits
  • nip and tuck – closely contested, equally likely to win or to lose
  • noisome – ill-smelling, disgusting, injurious
  • noir – bleakly pessimistic, dark (grim films are called cinema noir, from the French word for ‘black’)
  • noxious – injurious
  • numinous – spiritually elevated

O – O – O – O – O – O – O – O

  • obdurate – resisting entreaty, hardhearted
  • obfuscate – darken, obscure, bewilder
  • obsequious – fawning, servile, deferential
  • obstreperous – noisy, unruly
  • odious – deserving of hate, repugnant
  • oenophile – a lover or connoisseur of wine
  • omnibus – comprising or providing for many objects or items
  • onomatopoeic – related to the use of words that suggest their meaning or sense, such as buzz or hiss
  • onus – obligation or task, especially a difficult one
  • opprobrious – abusive, vile, insulting
  • opprobrium – infamy, reproach
  • opus – an artistic composition, usually numbered in music, a literary work
  • oscular – pertaining to kissing
  • osculate – to kiss
  • osmosis – movement of water molecules, via a membrane, from an area of low salt concentration to an area of high salt concentration
  • ostentation – a pretentious display

P – P – P – P – P – P – P – P

  • palindrome – word or sentence that reads the same frontward or backward
  • pall – become tiresome, to make dull or distasteful
  • palliate – to relieve without curing, to alleviate
  • panache – flamboyance, grand manner
  • pander – to cater to others’ weaknesses
  • panoply – a splendid array
  • paper tiger – a country or person appearing powerful but weak in actuality  (probably Oriental in origin)
  • paradigm – model, pattern, example
  • paragon – a model of perfection
  • parallax – the apparent shifting of an object when the observer’s position changes
  • pariah – an outcast, a persona non grata
  • parlance – way of speaking, language
  • parsimonious – excessively frugal, stingy
  • pathograpy – a biography focusing on the negative elements of a subject, or the study of the effects of illness on a historical person’s life
  • patronize – treat with condescension, adopt an air of superiority
  • paucity – smallness of quantity or number
  • pecking order – hierarchy of authority or status
  • pecuniary – referring to money
  • pelagic – relating to or living in the open sea
  • penchant – a strong inclination or predilection
  • penultimate – next to last
  • penurious – stingy, miserly
  • peremptory – final, leaving no opportunity for debate or denial  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘preemptory’)
  • perennial – a plant that grows back year after year for three seasons or more
  • perfidy – breach of faith, treachery
  • perigee – the point of the orbit of a satellite of the earth which is nearest the earth
  • perihelion – the point of the orbit of a planet or comet which is nearest the sun
  • pernicious – highly injurious, ruinous
  • perpetrator – a person who commits a crime
  • perquisite – extra payment received because of one’s regular work, as a tip
  • perspicacious – mentally acute, bright
  • pince-nez – eyeglasses clipped to the nose by a spring
  • pine – to yearn, to long for
  • piscatory – relating to fish or fishing
  • platitude – a trite, obvious remark
  • platonic – solely spiritual, not sensual
  • plebeian – pertaining to the common people, vulgar
  • pertinacious – stubbornly holding to an opinion or purpose, pertinacity
  • philander – make trifling love to a woman, flirt
  • phlegmatic – apathetic, unexcitable
  • phoenix – a survivor, a remarkable person
  • piker – one who bets or spends in a small way
  • plenary – full, unqualified, fully attended or constituted
  • plenitude – abundance, fullness
  • plethora – over-fullness, superabundance
  • ploy – a maneuver or strategy used to gain an advantage
  • plumage – feathers
  • poignant – biting, painfully acute, affecting
  • portico – a covered structure, usually supported by columns
  • prattle – to talk idly or meaninglessly, to babble
  • predation – the act of plundering or preying upon
  • predilection – preference, leaning
  • preempt – to claim or forestall by acting first
  • preen – primp, dress smartly, also birds trimming and cleaning their feathers
  • preposterous – absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical
  • prerogative – privilege or right by virtue of rank or position  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘perogative’)
  • presage – to make a prediction, to foretell
  • prioritize – to organize according to importance
  • proboscis – a long snout or trunk, or a large nose
  • profusely – without limitation, extravagantly
  • propitious – favorable, boding well
  • prosaic – dull, unimaginative, everyday, ordinary, mundane
  • prospectus – a formal business document with legal standing, laying out a company’s capitalization, sales projections, and the like
  • puckish – full of mischief, impish
  • pugilistic – combative, prone to fight
  • pulchritudinous – beautiful, dazzling
  • pusillanimous – timid, faint-hearted, lacking determination

Q – Q – Q – Q – Q – Q – Q – Q

  • quaff – drink deeply
  • quail – to lose heart of courage in the face of difficulties or danger
  • quandary – a dilemma, a state of uncertainty
  • quasar – a celestial object that emits powerful light and radio waves from beyond our galaxy
  • quantam – significant or sudden
  • quell – to suppress or to silence
  • query – to question or ask about
  • querulous – full of complaints, given to finding fault
  • queue – a waiting line
  • quibble – to bicker or complain about trivial matters
  • quiddity – a fine point or subtle distinction in an argument
  • quidnunc – a busybody, or a person eager to know the latest news or gossip
  • quiescent – inactive, at rest
  • quintessence – the concentrated and purest essence of anything, the perfect form
  • quisling – a traitor, someone who double-crosses his country by aiding an invading enemy
  • quixotic – absurdly romantic or chivalrous, impractical
  • quizzical – comical or puzzled
  • quotidian – everyday, recurring daily

R – R – R – R – R – R – R – R

  • rambunctious – boisterous
  • ramekin – a small baking dish used for preparing individual portions
  • rapacious – greedy, grasping, predatory
  • recalcitrant – refusing to submit, refractory
  • recidivism – relapse into a former behavior, especially criminal activities
  • recognizance – a legal obligation or bond binding a person to appear for trial
  • recondite – hard to understand, deep in meaning
  • rectitude – moral virtue, rightness of principle, uprightness
  • red-eye – an overnight flight
  • red herring – misleading clue, a diversion  (Derived from the early practice of dragging a fish across a trail to mislead fox hunting dogs.)
  • redoubtable – causing dread or respect, formidable
  • reel – to sway from a blow or shock, often as in dizziness
  • relevant – relating to the matter at hand, pertinent  (often mispronounced or misspelled as ‘revelant’)
  • remand – to send a prisoner or accused person back into custody to await trial or further investigation
  • renounce – to give up, to refuse or resign, to repudiate
  • repast – a meal
  • reprehensible – highly blameworthy
  • reprobate – one who is profligate or unprincipled, wicked, degenerate
  • requite – repay, recompense
  • repudiate – refuse to acknowledge or pay, cast away, renounce
  • repugnant – highly distasteful, offensive
  • respite – an interval of rest or relief, postponement
  • reticent – disposed to be silent, reserved
  • reverie – a state of fanciful meditation, daydream
  • rhizome – an underground, horizontal stem that produces shoots and roots
  • ribald – coarsely humorous
  • rotund – round or rounded out, bulbous, obese
  • rout – to defeat soundly or overwhelmingly
  • roux – cooked mixture of flour and fat used to thicken a soup or sauce
  • rue – repent of, feel regret for, feel sorrow for

S – S – S – S – S – S – S – S

  • sacrosanct – exceedingly sacred
  • sagacious – wise
  • salacious – impure, obscene, lewd, ribald
  • salubrious – favorable to health
  • sanctimonious – hypocritically devout
  • sanctions – punitive measures usually taken by several nations together, designed to put pressure on another county
  • sanguine – hopeful, cheerful, confident
  • sanitorium – an institution for resting, and recuperating
  • sapient – wise
  • sardonic – sneering, sarcastic
  • saturnine – morose, phlegmatic
  • savanna – a mixture of grasslands and scattered trees
  • scuttle – to sink or wreck a boat or ship, especially by making holes
  • secrete – to produce and discharge a substance
  • sententious – given to the use of maxims
  • sentient – having the power of feeling or perception, aware
  • serendipity – an assumed talent for making discoveries by accident
  • shelter – in the investment world, it is to reduce taxes by choosing investments offering favorable tax treatment
  • shirr – to bake until set
  • simian – resembling or characteristic of apes or monkeys
  • simony – the selling of ecclesiastical offices or indulgences
  • skell – a vagrant, a hobo, a police term for someone who looks like a drug user or someone down-and-out
  • slew – a large number or quantity
  • slough – to shed, as with an outer layer of skin
  • sluice – an artificial passage for water fitted with a valve or gate to regulate flow
  • smidgen – a small amount
  • smithereens – small pieces
  • smitten – strongly and suddenly infatuated or in love
  • spartan – marked by simplicity, avoidance of luxury
  • specious – apparently, but not actually, sound; deceptive
  • squalid – dirty, filthy, degraded
  • spoliate – despoil, plunder
  • stateless – lacking a nationality
  • sticky wicket – an awkward situation  (In cricket, the wicket is the set of sticks at which the bowler aims the ball.  This area becomes ‘sticky’ and difficult to play in during damp or stormy weather
  • stilted – stiffly formal
  • stolid – impassive
  • stollen – a sweet yeast bread of German origin containing fruit and nuts
  • strident – creaking, harsh, grating
  • sucker – in gardening, a sucker is an unwanted shoot from the stem or root that draws nutrients away from the flower or fruit
  • sugarplum – small candy in the shape of a ball or disc, a sweet-meat
  • sullen – morose, gloomy
  • sully – stain, defile
  • sultry – sweltering, hot and humid
  • supercilious – haughty, contemptuous
  • superfluous – more than is needed
  • supernal – lofty, celestial
  • supplication – an earnest, humble request
  • surcease – cessation, end
  • surly – ill-humored, ill-tempered
  • surreptitious – done by stealth, clandestine
  • sybaritic – self-indulgent, desirous of luxury
  • sycophant – a servile flatterer
  • sybarite – a self-indulgent, luxury-loving person
  • sylph – an imaginary being or slender woman
  • symbiosis – the living together of different species of organisms
  • syllogism – two premises and a conclusion
  • syndicate – a consortium of bankers, insurers, and others who temporarily work together on a business proposition

T – T – T – T – T – T – T – T

  • taciturn – saying little, reserved in speech
  • tack – to alter direction when sailing
  • talk turkey – to speak candidly and frankly  (Possibly derived from talks between Native Americans and early settlers about the wild turkey supply.)
  • tantamount – equivalent in value, force, or effect
  • tarn – a mountain lake
  • tauten – to tighten or pull close together
  • tautological – redundant, needlessly repetitious
  • tautology – needless repetition of the same idea in other words
  • tawdry – showy but tasteless, gaudy, cheap
  • taxonomy – classification, especially an orderly classification of plants and animals according to their natural relationships
  • teenie – in the stock market, a measure of value representing 1/16 (0.0625) of a point
  • telepathy – communication between minds by means other than the ordinary and normal
  • temerity – boldness, rashness
  • tenacious – persistent in adhering to something valued or habitual, highly retentive
  • tendentious – biased, favoring or promoting a point of view
  • tender – to make an official offer, to present formally for acceptance
  • tenderfoot – novice, a raw or inexperienced person
  • tendril – threadlike, often a spiral part of a climbing plant
  • tenet – any opinion, principle, or doctrine held to be true
  • tenor – purport, drift or general meaning
  • tensile – capable of being stretched or drawn out
  • tenterhooks – hooks or bent nails on a framework that hold cloth taut for setting or drying  (often mispronounced or misspelled ‘tenderhooks’)
  • tenuous – flimsy, lacking a sound basis
  • termagant – a quarrelsome or shrewish woman
  • thrum – to sound with a monotonous hum
  • tic – sudden spasm or muscular contraction
  • tinhorn – a professional gambler who bets small amounts, a piker
  • tipple – to drink alcohol habitually
  • traipse – to walk aimlessly or wearily, to wander
  • transcendent – beyond ordinary limits, surpassing
  • transmogrify – transform, as if by magic
  • travesty – a debased likeness, a grotesque imitation
  • tree hugger – an environmentalist, a campaigner for the preservation of trees and forests
  • tremulous – characterized by or affected with trembling, shaking, or tremors, often caused by nervousness or shakiness
  • trepidation – nervous agitation
  • trite – stale, hackneyed
  • trope – a figure of speech, a metaphor
  • tripe – anything worthless
  • truculent – overbearing, cruel
  • truncate – reduce in size by cutting off a part
  • tryst – an appointed meeting between lovers
  • tundra – cold, treeless, usually lowland areas of far northern regions
  • turista – gastrointestinal illness afflicting travelers
  • turpitude – wickedness, depravity
  • twaddle – talk in a trivial and tedious manner, idle talk
  • twee – dainty, quaint, affectedly clever

U – U – U – U – U – U – U – U

  • unctuous – oily, suave
  • unction – the act of anointing with oil, anything soothing
  • unequivocally – conclusively, without conditions
  • unilateralist – someone who acts alone or on behalf of only one side, party, or nation
  • UV index – an indicator of radiation, or exposure to ultraviolet rays
  • uxorious – overly fond of one’s wife

V – V – V – V – V – V – V – V 

  • vacuous – showing no intelligence, blank, empty, unfilled
  • vagary – a capricious or extravagant thought or action
  • vapid – lacking animation or flavor
  • variegated – having streaks or spots of different colors
  • veracity – truthfulness or accuracy
  • verbatim – word for word, being in or following the exact words
  • verbose – wordy, loquacious
  • vernacular – language or dialect native to a group
  • vexillology – the study of flags
  • vicarious – as a substitute, to experience through the feelings or actions of another
  • vicissitude – change of condition, good or bad fortune, ups and downs
  • vilify – treat with contempt, defame
  • virago – a loud, overbearing woman, a woman of strength
  • viscous – resistant to flowing in a fluid or semi-fluid, thick, sticky
  • vitiate – make faulty or imperfect, contaminate, spoil
  • vixen – female fox, ill-tempered woman
  • voguism – a fashionable, hip word or phrase that is picked up by politicians, intellectuals, and talking heads and repeated endlessly
  • voracious – ravenous
  • voluptuous – suggestive of pleasure
  • voyeur – a person who enjoys observing sexual acts
  • vulpine – fox-like, crafty

W – W – W – W – W – W – W – W

  • waif – a homeless child, vagabond
  • wannabe – one who aspires, often vainly, to emulate or attain the success and prominence of another person
  • wanton – unrestrained, wild, reckless, dissolute
  • white elephant – possession that is a burden or hard to get rid of
  • winsome – charming, pleasing, pleasant
  • woo – to court, to seek the favor or love of
  • wry – twisted or lopsided, bitingly ironic or amusing

X – X – X – X – X – X – X – X

  • xenophobia – dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

Y – Y – Y – Y – Y – Y – Y – Y

  • yen – yearning
  • yin and yang – principles of harmony and balance  (In Chinese philosophy, yin represents the negative and dark, and yang represents positive and bright.)

Z – Z – Z – Z – Z – Z – Z – Z

  • zany – unconventional, bizarre
  • zealot – a fanatical person
  • zenith – highest point
  • zephyr – soft, gentle breeze
  • zest – enthusiasm
  • zilch – nothing, zero
  • zinger – striking or amusing remark
  • zither – stringed musical instrument
  • zombie – in the business world, an insolvent company that is till doing business

Recent additions to the English vocabulary

  • crib – house, apartment, or residence
  • dis – to insult, dishonor, or disrespect
  • down – in agreement with, willing (I’m down for a quick drive-through meal at Burger King.)
  • homie – best friend, close friend
  • hooptie – an old car that is in bad shape
  • jet – leave in a hurry
  • phat – well put-together, excellent  (That band has played some really phat songs.)
  • tight – cool, fantastic  (That new ad is tight!)
  • wack – weird, strange, unfair, unacceptable  (You paid how much for that dress?  That is wack!)

 


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