AP English Language & composition exam

PART IV

AP English Language

8

The Hit Parade — Words, Words, Words

A great way to improve your reading and essay-writing skills is to improve your vocabulary. The more words you know on the day of the test, the easier it will be. It’s as simple as that. For this reason, it’s important that you get to work on your vocabulary immediately. We suggest that you mark any words you don’t know in the chapter and make flashcards for yourself.

THE HIT PARADE

The Hit Parade list consists of the words that show up most often on the AP English Language and Composition Exam. Each word on the list is accompanied by its definition, a pronunciation guide, and a sentence that uses the word. Your vocabulary-building program should start with these words.

LEARN THE WORDS IN GROUPS

This Hit Parade has been arranged into groups of related words. Learning groups of related words can help you better remember each word’s meaning. After all, even if you don’t remember the exact meaning of a word, you may remember what group it’s from. This will give you an idea of the word’s meaning, which can help you use POE to get to an answer.

Make each group of words a part of your life. Rip out one of the group lists, carry it around with you, and use the words throughout your day. For example, on Monday you may feel like using words of disdain (see the “If you can’t say anything nice” list), but on Friday you may wish to be more affable (see the “Friendly” list).

DON’T MEMORIZE THE DICTIONARY

Only a tiny percentage of all the words in the English language are ever used on the exam. Generally speaking, it tests the kinds of words that an educated adult—your English teacher, for example—would know without having to look up. It tests the sorts of words that you encounter in your daily reading, from a novel in English class to the newspaper.

HOW TO MEMORIZE NEW WORDS

Here are three effective methods for learning new words.

·        Flashcards: You can make your own flashcards out of 3 × 5 index cards. Write the word on one side and its definition on the other. It is also quite useful to write a memorable sentence under the definition. Then quiz yourself on the words, or practice with a friend. You can carry a few cards around with you every day and work on them in spare moments, like when you’re riding on the bus.

·        The Image Approach: The image approach involves letting each new word suggest a wild image to you, then using that image to help you remember the word. For example, the word enfranchise means, “to give the right to vote.” Women did not become enfranchised in the United States until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed them the right to vote in state and federal elections. The word franchise may suggest to you a McDonald’s franchise. You could remember the new word by imagining people lined up to vote at a McDonald’s. The weirder the image, the better you’ll remember the word.

·        Mnemonics: Speaking of “the weirder, the better,” another way to learn words is to use mnemonics. A mnemonic is a device or trick, such as a rhyme or song, that helps you remember something. “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a mnemonic that helps you remember a date in history. The funnier or stranger you make your mnemonic, the more likely you are to remember it. Write down your mnemonics (your flashcards are a great place for these).

Although you may not be able to think of a mnemonic for every Hit Parade term, sometimes you’ll end up learning the word just by thinking about the definition and a suitable mnemonic long enough.

LOOK IT UP

Well-written general publications—such as The New Yorker and The Economist—are good sources of vocabulary. You should read them on a regular basis. When you come across a new word, write it down, look it up, and remember it. You can make flashcards for these words as well.

Before you can memorize the definition of a word you come across in your reading, you have to find out what it means. You’ll need a real dictionary for that. ETS uses two dictionaries in writing the AP English Language and Composition Exam: the American Heritage Dictionary and theWebster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. You should own a copy of one or the other. (You’ll use it in college too—it’s a good investment.)

Keep in mind that most words have more than one definition. The dictionary will list these in order from the most to least common meanings of the word. ETS will also often trip you up by testing the second, third, or even fourth definition of a familiar-sounding word. For example, the word pedestrian shows up repeatedly on the exam. When ETS uses it, however, it never means a person on foot—the definition of pedestrian you’re probably most familiar with. ETS uses it to mean common, ordinary, banal—a secondary definition.

Very often, when you see easy words on hard AP English Language and Composition Exam questions, ETS is testing a second, third, or fourth definition that you may not be familiar with.

Here we go!

ARE YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?

assertion

uh SUR shun

a declaration or statement

We could not believe John’s assertion that he had never seen Star Wars.

cogent

KO jent

convincing; reasonable

Christina’s argument was so cogent that even her opponents had to agree with her.

coherent

ko HEER ent

logically connected

The old prospector’s story was not coherent; he rambled on about different things that had nothing to do with one another.

cohesive

ko HEE siv

condition of sticking together

Eric’s essay was cohesive because each point flowed nicely into the next point.

didactic

dy DAK tik

intended to instruct

The tapes were entertaining and didactic because they amused and instructed the children.

discourse

DIS kors

verbal expression or exchange; conversation

Their discourse varied widely; they discussed everything from Chaucer to ice fishing.

eloquence

EH lo kwens

the ability to speak vividly or persuasively

Cicero’s eloquence is legendary; his speeches were well-crafted and convincing.

fluid

FLOO id

easily flowing

The two old friends’ conversation was fluid; each of them was able to respond quickly and easily to what the other had to say.

implication

im pli KAY shun

the act of suggesting or hinting

When your mother asks, “Were you raised in a barn?” the implication is that you should close the door.

lucid

LOO sid

easily understood; clear

Our teacher does a good job because he provides lucid explanations of difficult concepts.

rhetoric

RET uh rik

the art of using language effectively and persuasively

Because they are expected to make speeches, most politicians and lawyers are well versed in the art of rhetoric.

I’LL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT

arbiter

AHR bih ter

a judge who decides a disputed issue

An arbiter was hired to settle the Major League Baseball strike because the owners and players could not come to an agreement.

biased

BYE ist

prejudiced

Judges should not be biased but should rather weigh the evidence fairly before making up their minds.

exculpate

EKS kul payt

to free from guilt or blame

When the gold coins discovered in his closet were found to be fake, Dr. Rideau was exculpated and the search for the real thief continued.

impartial

im PAR shul

not in favor of one side or the other, unbiased

The umpire had a hard time remaining impartial; his son was pitching for the home team, and this made it difficult to call the game fairly.

incontrovertible

in kon truh VERT uh bul

not able to be denied or disputed

The videotape of the robbery provided incontrovertible evidence against the suspect—he was obviously guilty.

integrity

in TEG rit ee

trustworthiness; completeness

The integrity of the witness was called into question when her dislike for the defendant was revealed—some jurors suspected that she was not being entirely truthful.

objectivity

ahb jek TIV ih tee

treating facts without influence from personal feelings or prejudices

It is important that judges hear all cases with objectivity, so that their personal feelings do not affect their decision.

plausible

PLAWZ ih bul

seemingly valid or acceptable; credible

Keith’s excuse that he missed school yesterday because he was captured by space aliens was not very plausible.

substantiated

sub STAN shee ay tid

supported with proof or evidence; verified

The fingerprint evidence substantiated the detective’s claim that the suspect had been at the scene of the crime.

vindicated

VIN duh kayt id

freed from blame

Mrs. Layton was finally vindicated after her husband admitted to the crime.

YOU’RE SO VAIN

condescending

kon de SEND ing

treating people as weak or inferior

Robert always looked down on his sister and treated her in a condescending manner.

contemptuous

kun TEMP choo us

feeling hatred; scornful

She was so contemptuous of people who wore fur that she sprayed red paint on them.

despotic

des PAHT ik

exercising absolute power; tyrannical

He was a despotic ruler whose every law was enforced with threats of violence or death.

dictatorial

dik tuh TOR ee ul

domineering; oppressively overbearing

The coach had a dictatorial manner and expected people to do whatever he demanded.

disdain

dis DAYN

(n.) contempt, scorn, (v.) to regard or treat with contempt; to look down on

(n.) I felt nothing but disdain for the person who stole my lunch—what a jerk!

(v.) A self-proclaimed gourmand, he disdains to eat any meal that comes in a box.

haughty

HAW tee

arrogant; vainly proud

His haughty manner made it clear that he thought he was better than everyone else.

imperious

im PEER ee us

arrogantly domineering or overbearing

She had a very imperious way about her; she was bossy and treated everyone as if they were beneath her.

patronizing

PAY truh ny zing

treating in a condescending manner

Patrick had such a patronizing attitude that he treated everyone around him like a bunch of little kids.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

convoluted

kon vuh LOO tid

intricate; complex

The directions were so convoluted that we drove all around the city and got lost.

cryptic

KRIP tik

difficult to comprehend

The writing on the walls of the crypt was cryptic; none of the scientists understood it.

futile

FEW tul

having no useful purpose; pointless

It is futile to try to explain the difference between right and wrong to your pet.

impede

im PEED

to slow the progress of

The retreating army constructed barbed-wire fences and destroyed bridges to impede the advance of the enemy.

obscure

ub SKYUR

(adj.) relatively unknown(v.) to conceal or make indistinct

Scott constantly makes references to obscure cult films, and no one ever gets his jokes.

The man in front of me was so tall that his head obscured my view of the movie.

quandary

KWAHN dree

a state of uncertainty or perplexity

Ann was in a quandary because she had no soap with which to do her laundry.

I’M A LOSERBABY

indolent

IN duh lunt

lazy

Mr. Lan said his students were indolent because they had not done their homework.

insipid

in SIP id

uninteresting; unchallenging

That insipid movie was so boring and predictable.

lament

luh MENT

express grief for; mourn

After Beowulf was killed by the dragon, the Geats wept and lamented his fate.

listless

LIST luss

lacking energy

Because he is accustomed to an active lifestyle, Mark feels listless when he has nothing to do.

melancholy

MEL un kaw lee

sadness; depression

Joy fell into a state of melancholy when her Arcade Fire CD got scratched.

torpor

TOR per

laziness; inactivity; dullness

The hot and humid day filled everyone with an activity-halting torpor.

REVOLUTION

alliance

uh LY uhns

a union of two or more groups

The two countries formed an alliance to stand against their common enemy.

disparity

dis PAR uh tee

inequality in age, rank, or degree; difference

There is a great disparity between rich and poor in many nations.

impinge

im PINJ

hinder; interfere with

By not allowing the students to publish a newspaper, the school was impinging upon their right to free speech.

sanction

SANK shun

an economic or military measure put in place to punish another country

In 1962, the United States imposed economic sanctions on Cuba to protest Fidel Castro’s dictatorship; travel and trade between the countries are severely restricted to this day.

servile

SER vile

submissive; like a servant

Cameron’s servile behavior finally ended when he decided to stand up to his older brother.

suppressed

suh PREST

subdued; kept from being circulated

The author’s book was suppressed because the dictator thought it was too critical of his regime.

YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL

embellish

em BELL ish

to make beautiful by ornamenting; to decorate

We embellished the account of our vacation by including descriptions of the many colorful people and places we visited.

florid

FLOR id

describing flowery or elaborate speech

The candidate’s speech was so florid that although no one could understand what he was talking about, they all agreed that he sounded good saying it.

opulent

AHP yuh lunt

exhibiting a display of great wealth

Dances at the king’s palace are always very opulent affairs because no expense is spared.

ornate

or NAYT

elaborately decorated

The carved wood was so ornate that you could examine it several times and still notice things you had not seen before.

ostentatious

ah sten TAY shus

describing a showy or pretentious display

Whenever the millionaire gave a party, the elaborate decorations and enormous amounts of food were always part of his ostentatious display of wealth.

poignant

POYN yunt

profoundly moving; touching

The most poignant part of the movie was when the father finally made peace with his son.

OVERKILL

ebullience

ih BOOL yuns

intense enthusiasm

A sense of ebullience swept over the crowd when the matador defeated the bull.

effusive

eh FYOO siv

emotionally unrestrained; gushy

Halle Berry was effusive in her thanks after winning the Oscar; she even burst into tears.

egregious

uh GREE jus

conspicuously bad or offensive

Forgetting to sterilize surgical tools before an operation would be an egregious error.

flagrant

FLAY grunt

extremely or deliberately shocking or noticeable

His throwing the pie at his teacher was a flagrant sign of disrespect.

frenetic

freh NEH tik

wildly excited or active

The pace at the busy office was frenetic; Megan never had a moment to catch her breath.

gratuitous

gruh TOO ih tus

given freely; unearned; unwarranted

The film was full of gratuitous sex and violence that was not essential to the story.

superfluous

soo PER floo us

extra; unnecessary

If there is sugar in your tea, adding honey would be superfluous.

IT’S GETTING BETTER

alleviate

uh LEEV ee ayt

to ease a pain or burden

John took aspirin to alleviate the pain from the headache he got after taking the SAT.

asylum

uh SY lum

a place of retreat or security

The soldiers sought asylum from the bombs in the underground shelter.

auspicious

aw SPISH us

favorable; promising

Our trip to the beach had an auspicious start; the rain stopped just as we started the car.

benevolent

buh NEH vuh lunt

well-meaning; generous

She was a kind and benevolent queen who was concerned about her subjects’ well-being.

benign

buh NINE

kind and gentle

Uncle Charlie is a benign and friendly man who is always willing to help.

mollify

MAHL uh fy

to calm or soothe

Anna’s apology for scaring her brother did not mollify him; he was mad at her all day.

reclamation

rek luh MAY shun

the act of making something useful again

Thanks to the reclamation project, the once unusable land became a productive farm.

sanction

SANK shun

to give official authorization or approval

The students were happy when the principal agreed to sanction the use of calculators in math classes.

LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE

dubious

DOO bee us

doubtful; of unlikely authenticity

Jerry’s claim that he could fly like Superman seemed dubious—we didn’t believe it.

fabricated

FAB ruh kay tid

made; concocted to deceive

Fabio fabricated the story that he used to play drums for Metallica; he had never actually held drumsticks in his life.

hypocrisy

hih POK ruh see

the practice of pretending to be something one is not; insincerity

People who claim to be vegetarian but eat chicken and fish are guilty of hypocrisy.

slander

SLAN der

false charges and malicious oral statements about someone

After the radio host stated that Monica was a space alien, she sued him for slander.

spurious

SPUR ee us

not genuine

The sportscaster made a spurious claim when he said that the San Antonio Spurs were ­undefeated.

SHE’S CRAFTY

astute

uh STOOT

shrewd; clever

Kevin is financially astute; he never falls for the tricks that credit card companies play.

clandestine

klan DES tin

secretive

The spies planned a clandestine maneuver that depended on its secrecy to work.

coup

KOO

a brilliantly executed plan

It was quite a coup when I talked the salesperson into selling me this valuable cuckoo clock for five dollars.

disingenuous

dis in JEN yoo us

not straightforward; crafty

Mr. Gelman was rather disingenuous; although he seemed to be simply asking about your health, he was really trying to figure out why you’d been absent.

ruse

ROOZ

a crafty tick

The offer of a free cruise was merely a ruse to get people to listen to their sales pitch.

stratagem

STRAT uh jem

a clever trick used to deceive or outwit

Planting microphones in the gangster’s home was a clever, but illegal, stratagem.

surreptitiously

sur ep TISH us lee

done by secretive means

Matt drank the cough syrup surreptitiously because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was sick.

wary

WAIR ee

on guard

My father becomes wary whenever a salesman calls him on the phone; he knows that many crooks use the phone so that they can’t be charged with mail fraud.

wily

WY lee

cunning

Each year, a new batch of wily campers devised ways to torture the cabin leader.

SITTIN’ ON THE FENCE

ambiguous

am BIG yoo us

open to more than one interpretation

His eyes were an ambiguous color: Some thought they were brown, and some thought they were green.

ambivalent

am BIH vuh lunt

simultaneously having opposing feelings; uncertain

She had ambivalent feelings about her dance class: On one hand, she enjoyed the exercise, but on the other hand, she thought the choice of dances could be more interesting.

apathetic

a puh THEH tik

feeling or showing little emotion

When the defendant was found guilty on all charges, her face remained expressionless and she appeared to be entirely apathetic.

arbitrary

AR bih trayr ee

determined by impulse rather than reason

The principal made the arbitrary decision that students could not wear hats in school without offering any logical reason for the rule.

capricious

kuh PREE shus

impulsive and unpredictable

The referee’s capricious behavior angered the players because he was inconsistent with his calls; he would call foul for minor contact, but ignore elbowing and kicking.

equivocate

eh KWI vuh kayt

to avoid making a definite statement

On critical reading questions, I choose answers that equivocate; they use words such as could or may that make them difficult to disprove.

indifferent

in DIF rent

not caring one way or the other

The old fisherman was completely indifferent to the pain and hunger he felt; his only concern was catching the enormous marlin he had hooked.

spontaneous

spon TAY nee us

unplanned; naturally occurring

Dave is such a good musician that he can create a song spontaneously, without having to stop and think about it.

whimsical

WIM zuh kul

subject to erratic behavior; unpredictable

Egbert rarely behaved as expected; indeed, he was a whimsical soul whose every decision was anybody’s guess.

JUST A LITTLE BIT

inconsequential

in kahn suh KWEN shul

unimportant

The cost of the meal was inconsequential to Quentin because he wasn’t paying for it.

superficial

soo per FISH ul

concerned only with what is on the surface or obvious; shallow

The wound on his leg was only superficial, even though it looked like a deep cut.

tenuous

TEN yoo us

having little substance or strength; shaky; unsure, weak

Her grasp on reality is tenuous at best; she’s not even sure what year it is.

trivial

TRIH vee ul

of little importance or significance

Alex says he doesn’t like trivia games because the knowledge they test is trivial; he prefers to spend his time learning more important things.

I WILL SURVIVE

assiduous

uh SID yoo us

hard-working

Spending hours in the hot sun digging out every tiny weed, Sidney tended her garden with assiduous attention.

compelling

kom PEL ing

forceful; urgently demanding attention

By ignoring the problems in the city, the mayor gave people a very compelling reason to vote him out of office.

diligent

DIL uh jent

marked by painstaking effort; hard-working

With a lot of diligent effort, they were able to finish the model airplane in record time.

dogged

DOG id

stubbornly persevering

Her first attempts resulted in failure, but her dogged efforts ultimately ended in success.

endure

en DUR

to put up with; to survive a hardship

It was difficult to endure the incredibly boring lecture given in class the other day.

intrepid

in TREH pid

courageous; fearless

The intrepid young soldier scaled the wall and attacked the enemy forces despite being outnumbered 50 to 1.

maverick

MAV uh rik

one who is independent and resists adherence to a group

In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise was a maverick; he often broke the rules and did things his own way.

obdurate

AHB dur ut

stubborn; inflexible

Leanna was so obdurate that she was unable to change her way of thinking on even the most minor issues.

obstinate

AHB stin ut

stubbornly adhering to an opinion or a course of action

Even though he begged them constantly, Jeremy’s parents were obstinate in their refusal to buy him a Wii.

proliferate

pro LIF er ayt

to grow or increase rapidly

Because the number of cell phones has proliferated in recent years, many new area codes have been created to handle the demand for phone numbers.

tenacity

ten ASS uh tee

persistence

With his overwhelming tenacity, Clark was finally able to interview Zac Efron for the school newspaper.

vitality

vy TA lih tee

energy; power to survive

After a few days of rest, the exhausted mountain climber regained his usual vitality.

GO WITH THE FLOW

assimilation

uh sim il AY shun

to absorb; to make similar

The unique blend of Mexican culture was formed by the assimilation of the cultures of the Native Americans and the Spanish.

consensus

kun SEN sus

general agreement

After much debate, the committee came to a consensus, although they differed on minor points.

context

KAHN tekst

circumstances of a situation; environment

The senator complained that his statements had been taken out of context and were therefore misleading; he said that if the newspaper had printed the rest of his speech, it would have explained the statements in question.

derived

de RYVD

copied or adapted from a source

Many AP English Language and Composition questions are derived from older questions—the details may have been changed, but the same basic concept is being tested.

incumbent

in KUM bunt

imposed as a duty; obligatory

Since you are the host, it is incumbent upon you to see that everyone is having fun.

inevitable

in EV ih tuh bul

certain to happen, unavoidable

Gaining a little extra weight during the wintertime is inevitable, especially after the holidays.

malleable

MAL ee uh bul

easily shaped or formed; easily influenced

Gold is malleable; it is easy to work with and can be hammered into very thin sheets.

subdue

sub DOO

to restrain; to hold back

It took four officers to subdue the fugitive because he fought like a madman.

WAYS OF KNOWING

acquired

uh KWY erd

developed or learned; not naturally occurring

A love of opera is an acquired taste; almost nobody likes it the first time he or she hears it.

conception

kun SEP shun

the ability to form or understand an idea

Most people have no conception of the enormous amount of genetic information present in a single living cell.

conviction

kun VIK shun

a fixed or strong belief

Although he privately held onto his convictions, threats by the church caused Galileo to publicly denounce his theory that the Earth orbited the sun.

dogmatic

dog MAT ik

stubbornly adhering to unproved beliefs

Doug was dogmatic in his belief that exercising frequently boosts one’s immune system.

enlightening

en LYT uh ning

informative; contributing to one’s awareness

The Rosetta Stone was enlightening because it allowed linguists to begin to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs, which had previously been a mystery.

impression

im PREH shun

a feeling or understanding resulting from an experience

It was my impression that I was supposed to throw a curve ball, but I must have been wrong because the catcher didn’t expect it.

intuition

in too ISH un

the power of knowing things without thinking; sharp insight

It is said that some people have intuition about future events that allows them to predict the future.

misconception

mis kun SEP shun

an incorrect understanding or interpretation

His belief that storks bring babies was just one of his many misconceptions.

perception

per SEP shun

awareness; insight

The detective’s perception of people’s hidden feelings makes it easy for him to catch liars.

perspective

per SPEK tiv

point of view

People from the North and South viewed the Civil War from different perspectives—each side’s circumstances made it difficult for them to understand the other side.

profound

pro FOWND

having great depth or seriousness

There was a profound silence during the ceremony in honor of those who died during World War II.

FEELING AT HOME

inherent

in HER ent

inborn; built-in

One of the inherent weaknesses of the AP English Language and Composition Exam is that a multiple-choice test, by definition, cannot allow students to be creative in their answers.

innate

in AYT

possessed from birth; inborn

Cats have an innate ability to see well in the dark; they are born with this skill and do not need to develop it.

inveterate

in VET uh rit

long established; deep-rooted; habitual

Stan has always had trouble telling the truth; in fact, he’s an inveterate liar.

omnipotent

om NIP uh tent

all-powerful

He liked to think that he was an omnipotent manager, but he really had very little control over anything.

proximity

prahk SIM ih tee

closeness

I try to sit far away from Roxy—I don’t like sitting in proximity to her because she wears too much perfume.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

elusive

il OO siv

difficult to capture, as in something actually fleeting

The girl’s expression was elusive; the painter had a hard time recreating it on the canvas.

emigrate

EM ih grayt

to leave one country or region and settle in another

Many Jews left Russia and emigrated to Israel after it was founded in 1948.

transient

TRAN zhunt

passing away with time; passing from one place to another

Jack Dawson enjoyed his transient lifestyle; with nothing but the clothes on his back and the air in his lungs, he was free to travel wherever he wanted.

transitory

TRAN zih tor ee

short-lived or temporary

The sadness she felt was only transitory; the next day her mood improved.

FRIENDLY

affable

AF uh bul

easy-going; friendly

We enjoyed spending time with Mr. Lee because he was such a pleasant, affable man.

amenable

uh MEN uh bul

responsive; agreeable

Because we had been working hard all day, the group seemed amenable to my suggestion that we all go home early.

camaraderie

kahm RAH duh ree

good will between friends

There was great camaraderie among the members of the team; they were friends both on and off the field.

cordial

KOR jul

friendly; sincere

Upon my arrival at camp, I received a warm and cordial greeting from the counselors.

facetious

fuh SEE shus

playfully humorous

Although the teacher pretended to be insulting his favorite student, he was just being facetious.


I WRITE THE SONGS

aesthetic

es THET ik

having to do with the appreciation of beauty

The arrangement of paintings in the museum was due to aesthetic considerations; as long as the paintings looked good together, it didn’t matter who painted them or when they were painted.

anthology

an THAH luh jee

a collection of literary pieces

This anthology contains all of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, but none of his plays.

contemporary

kun TEM po rer ee

current, modern; from the same time

Contemporary music is very different from the music of the 1920s.

Pocahontas and William Shakespeare were contemporaries; they lived during the same time, though not in the same place.

dilettante

dih luh TAHNT

one with an amateurish or superficial understanding of a field of knowledge

You can’t trust Betsy’s opinion because she’s just a dilettante who doesn’t understand the subtleties of the painting.

eclectic

uh KLEK tik

made up of a variety of sources or styles

Lou’s taste in music is eclectic; he listens to everything from rap to polka.

excerpt

EK serpt

a selected part of a passage or scene

We read an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet says, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

genre

ZHAHN ruh

describing a category or artistic endeavor

Gene enjoyed only science-fiction movies; in fact, he never went to see anything that was not in that genre.

medley

MED lee

an assortment or a mixture, especially of musical pieces

At the concert, the band played a medley of songs from its first album, cutting an hour’s worth of music down to five minutes.

mural

MYUR ul

a large painting applied directly to a wall or ceiling surface

The mural on the wall of the library showed the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

narrative

NAR uh tiv

(adj.) characterized by the telling of a story, (n.) a story

Tony gave us a running narrative of the game, since he was the only one who could see over the fence.

parody

PAR uh dee

an artistic work that imitates the style of another work for comic effect

The Onion is a satirical publication that is a parody of other, nonsatirical newspapers that give real, true news.

realism

REE uh liz um

artistic representation that aims for visual accuracy

His photographs have a stark realism that conveys the true horror of the war.

virtuoso

ver choo OH so

a tremendously skilled artist

Some people say that Jason Loewenstein is a guitar virtuoso because of his amazing work in Sebadoh—others say that his music is just noise.

COOL IT NOW

decorous

DEK er us

proper; marked by good taste

The class was well-behaved and the substitute was grateful for their decorous conduct.

equanimity

ek wuh NIM uh tee

the quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure

She showed great equanimity; she did not panic even in the face of catastrophe.

modest

MAH dist

quiet or humble in manner or appearance

Although Mr. Phillips is well-off financially, he lives in a modest, simple home.

propriety

pruh PRY uh tee

appropriateness of behavior

Anyone who blows his nose on the tablecloth has no sense of propriety.

prudent

PROO dunt

exercising good judgment or common sense

It wouldn’t be prudent to act until you’ve considered every possible outcome.

serene

suh REEN

calm

The quiet seaside resort provided a much-needed vacation in a serene locale.

staid

STAYD

unemotional; serious

Mr. Carver had such a staid demeanor that he remained calm while everyone else celebrated the team’s amazing victory.

stoic

STOW ik

indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive

Not one to complain, Jason was stoic in accepting his punishment.

IF YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING NICE

condemn

kun DEM

to express strong disapproval of; denounce

Homer Simpson condemned Mayor Quimby for allowing the schoolchildren to drink spoiled milk; he was outraged and let the mayor know it.

discredit

dis CRED it

to cause to be doubted

The claim that pi is exactly equal to 3 can be discredited simply by careful measurement.

disparage

dis PAR uj

to speak of in a slighting way or negatively; to belittle

Glen disparaged Wanda’s work as being careless and unoriginal.

pejorative

puh JOR uh tiv

describing words or phrases that belittle or speak negatively of someone

Teachers should refrain from using such pejorative terms as numbskull when dealing with students who need encouragement.

plagiarism

PLAY juh riz um

the act of passing off the ideas or writing of another as one’s own

The author was accused of plagiarism when an older manuscript was discovered that contained passages that she had used, word for word, in her own book.

vilify

VIL uh fye

to make vicious statements about

Chad issued a series of pamphlets that did nothing but vilify his opponent, but his cruel accusations were not enough to win him the election.

NASTY BOYS

brusque

BRUSK

rudely abrupt

Mr. Weird was a brusque teacher who didn’t take time to talk to or listen to his students.

caustic

KAW stik

bitingly sarcastic or witty

He had a very caustic wit, and he seldom told a joke without offending someone.

fractious

FRAK shus

quarrelsome; unruly

Leonard was a fractious child who disagreed with everything and refused to listen.

incorrigible

in KOR ij uh bul

unable to be reformed

She is absolutely incorrigible; no matter how many times you punish her, she goes right ahead and misbehaves.

ingrate

IN grayt

an ungrateful person

It is a true ingrate who can accept favor after favor and never offer any thanks.

insolent

IN suh lunt

insulting in manner or speech

It was extremely insolent of him to stick his tongue out at the principal.

notorious

no TOR ee us

known widely and usually unfavorably; infamous

Al Capone was a notorious gangster in the 1930s; he was feared throughout America.

pugnacious

pug NAY shus

combative; belligerent

Lorenzo was a pugnacious child who settled his differences by fighting with people.

reprehensible

rep ree HEN si bul

worthy of blame

It was reprehensible of the girls to spit their gum in their teacher’s water bottle; they had detention for a week.

PURE EVIL

deleterious

del uh TEER ee us

having a harmful effect; injurious

Although it may seem unlikely, taking too many vitamins can actually have a deleterious effect on your health.

enmity

EN muh tee

mutual hatred or ill-will

There was a great enmity between the opposing generals, and each wanted to destroy the other.

heinous

HAY nus

hatefully evil; abominable

To murder someone in cold blood is a heinous crime.

malfeasance

mal FEEZ uns

wrongdoing, misconduct

The senator was accused of malfeasance after he was caught sneaking out of a local brothel.

malice

MAL is

extreme ill-will or spite

It was clear that he was acting with malice when he disconnected the brakes in his business partner’s car.

putrid

PYOO trid

rotten

He threw his lunch in the bottom of his locker every day and it was a putrid mess by the end of the year—rotten bananas, moldy sandwiches, and curdled milk were some of the more disgusting ingredients.

rancorous

RANK er us

hateful; marked by deep-seated ill-will

They had such a rancorous relationship that no one could believe that they had ever gotten along.

toxic

TAKH sik

poisonous

Since many chemicals are toxic, drinking from random flasks in the chemistry lab could be hazardous to your health.

OLD SCHOOL

archaic

ar KAY ik

characteristic of an earlier period; old-fashioned

“How dost thou?” is an archaic way of saying, “How are you?”

hackneyed

HACK need

worn out through overuse; trite

All my mom could offer in the way of advice were these hackneyed old phrases that I’d heard a hundred times before.

medieval

med EE vul

referring to the Middle Ages; old-fashioned

His ideas about fashion were positively medieval; he thought that a man should always wear a coat and tie and a woman should always wear a dress.

obsolete

ahb suh LEET

no longer in use; old-fashioned

Eight-track tape players are obsolete because music isn’t recorded in that format anymore.

BO-O-O-RING

austere

aw STEER

without decoration; strict

The gray walls and bare floors provided a very austere setting.

mediocrity

mee dee AH krit ee

the state or quality of being average; of moderate to low quality

Salieri said that he was the patron saint of mediocrity because his work could never measure up to Mozart’s.

mundane

mun DAYN

commonplace; ordinary

We hated going to class every day because it was so mundane; we never did anything interesting.

ponderous

PAHN duh rus

extremely dull

The 700-page book on the anatomy of the flea was so ponderous that I could not read more than one paragraph.

prosaic

pro ZAY ik

unimaginative; dull

Rebecca made a prosaic mosaic—it consisted of only one tile.

sedentary

SEH dun tair ee

not migratory; settled

Galatea led a sedentary existence; she never even left her home unless she had to.

WHO CAN IT BE NOW?

apprehension

ap reh HEN shun

anxiety or fear about the future

My grandmother felt apprehension about nuclear war in the 1960s, so my grandfather built a bomb shelter in the backyard to calm her fears.

harbinger

HAR bin jer

something that indicates what is to come; a forerunner

When it is going to rain, insects fly lower, so cows lie down to get away from the insects; therefore, the sight of cows lying down is a harbinger of rain.

ominous

AH min us

menacing; threatening

The rattling under the hood sounded ominous because we were miles from the nearest town and would have been stranded if the car had broken down.

premonition

prem uh NISH un

a feeling about the future

Luckily, my premonition that I would break my neck skiing was unfounded; unluckily, I broke my leg.

timorous

TIM uh rus

timid; fearful about the future

Tiny Tim was timorous; he was afraid that one day he would be crushed by a giant.

trepidation

trep uh DAY shun

uncertainty; apprehension

We approached Mrs. Fielding with trepidation because we didn’t know how she would react to our request for a field trip.

NEW SENSATION

innovative

IN no vay tiv

introducing something new

The shop on the corner has become known for its innovative use of fruit on its pizzas.

naive

nah YEEV

lacking sophistication

It was naive of him to think that he could write a novel in one afternoon.

nascent

NAY sunt

coming into existence; emerging

If you study Coldplay’s first album, you can see their nascent abilities that were brought to maturity by their second album.

novel

NAH vul

strikingly new or unusual

Sharon’s novel approach to the problem stunned the scientific community; no one had ever thought to apply game theory to genetics.

novice

NAH vis

a beginner

Having only played chess a couple of times, Barry was a novice compared with the contestants who had been playing all their lives.

STRAIGHT UP

candor

KAN der

sincerity; openness

It’s refreshing to hear Lora’s honesty and candor—when asked about her English teacher, she says, “I can’t stand her!”

frank

FRANK

open and sincere in expression; straightforward

When Jim lost my calculator, he was frank with me; he admitted to losing it without trying to make up some excuse.

EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE

arid

AYR id

describing a dry, rainless climate

Since they receive little rain, deserts are known for their arid climates.

conflagration

kahn fluh GRAY shun

a widespread fire

The protesters burned flags, accidentally starting a fire that developed into a conflagration that raged out of control.

nocturnal

nok TER nul

of or occurring in the night

Owls are nocturnal animals because they sleep during the day and hunt at night.

sonorous

SAH nuh rus

producing a deep or full sound

My father’s sonorous snoring keeps me up all night unless I close my door and wear earplugs.

FULL ON

ample

AM pul

describing a large amount of something

Because no one else wanted to try the new soda, Andy was able to have an ample sample.

comprehensive

kahm pre HEN siv

large in scope or content

The final exam was comprehensive, covering everything that we had learned that year.

copious

KO pee us

plentiful; having a large quantity

She had taken copious notes during class, using up five large notebooks.

permeated

PER mee ay tid

spread or flowing throughout

After Kathryn had her hair professionally curled, the scent of chemicals permeated the air.

pervasive

per VAY siv

dispersed throughout

In this part of town, graffiti is pervasive—it’s everywhere.

prodigious

pruh DIJ us

enormous

The shattered vase required a prodigious amount of glue to repair.

replete

ruh PLEET

abundantly supplied; filled to capacity

After a successful night of trick-or-treating, Dee’s bag was replete with Halloween candy.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

exemplary

eg ZEM pluh ree

commendable; worthy of imitation

Jay’s behavior was exemplary; his parents wished that his brother, Al, were more like him.

idealize

eye DEE uh lyze

to consider perfect

The fans had idealized the new star pitcher; they had such unrealistically high expectations that they were bound to be disappointed.

laudatory

LAW duh tor ee

giving praise

The principal’s speech was laudatory, congratulating the students on their AP exam scores.

paramount

PAR uh mount

of chief concern or importance

The workers had many minor complaints, but the paramount reason for their unhappiness was the low pay.

venerated

VEN er ay tid

highly respected

Princess Diana was venerated for her dedication to banning land mines around the world; people today still sing her praises.

catalog

KAT uh log

(v.) to make an itemized list of

He decided to catalog his expenses for the week, hoping that this list would show him where he could cut back his spending.

facile

FAS ul

done or achieved with little effort; easy

Last night’s math homework was such a facile task that I was done in ten minutes.

fastidious

fas TID ee us

possessing careful attention to detail; difficult to please

Because Kelly was so fastidious, we tried to keep her out of our group.

hierarchy

HY er ar kee

a group organized by rank

With each promotion raising him higher, Archie moved up in his company’s hierarchy.

meticulous

muh TIK yuh lus

extremely careful and precise

The plastic surgeon was meticulous; he didn’t want to leave any scars.

pragmatic

prag MAT ik

practical

Never one for wild and unrealistic schemes, Amy took a pragmatic approach to research.

solvent

SAHL vunt

able to pay one’s debts

After five years of losing money, the business has finally solved its financial problems and become solvent.

A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

alienated

AY lee en ay tid

removed or disassociated from (friends, family, or homeland)

Rudolph felt alienated from the other reindeer because they never let him join in their reindeer games.

abstract

ab STRAKT

not applied to actual objects

“Justice” is an abstract concept because it is merely an idea.

anachronism

an A krun ism

something out of place in time or sequence

Jill was something of an anachronism; she insisted on carrying a parasol when going out in the sun and believed that a woman’s place was at home in the kitchen and with the children.

anthropomorphism

an thrah puh MOR fizm

the attribution of humanlike characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or forces of nature

Beatrix Potter is known for her children’s books filled with anthropomorphism; Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, and Samuel Whiskers were all animal characters with very human qualities.

apology

uh PAWL uh gee

defense of an idea

Du Bellay wrote an apology in which he justified the use of French in place of Latin.

apparatus

ap uh RAT us

equipment; a group of machines

The storeroom behind the physics lab was filled with a cumbersome apparatus that has since been replaced by a much smaller and more accurate piece of equipment.

apposition

app uh ZIH shun

a grammar construction in which a noun (or noun phrase) is placed with another as an explanation

My grandmother, a fine woman of 83, enjoys riding her motorcycle at high speeds in heavy traffic on Highway 280.

archetype

AR keh type

a perfect example; an original pattern or model

Steve enjoyed stealing candy from babies, tripping elderly women in crosswalks, and pilfering money from the Save the Children charity jar; he was the archetype of pure evil.

brittle

BRIT ul

easily broken when subjected to pressure

That antique vase is so brittle that it may break at any moment.

chiasmus

ky AZ muss

an inversion in the second of two parallel phrases

John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” is an example of chiasmus.

gesticulating

jes TIK yeh lay ting

making gestures while speaking

The commencement speaker’s gesticulating hands were quite distracting; the students had stopped listening to her words and were now counting the number of times she made awkward gestures.

hypothetical

hye puh THET ih kul

existing only as an assumption or speculation

Heather wondered why her class had to study hypothetical cases when they had actual case histories they could look at.

lexicon

LEKS uh kahn

a word book describing language with definitions; a dictionary

When his teacher wrote that his essay was “abysmal,” Eddie decided to look it up in his lexicon and found that this was quite insulting.

metonymy

meh TAHN uh mee

a type of figurative language in which one term is substituted for another term with which it is closely associated

“Today, Capitol Hill (U.S. Congress) voted on the Internet Privacy bill” is an example of metonymy.

oxymoron

ahk see MORE on

an apparent contradiction of terms

Angela spent her lazy summer afternoon contemplating oxymorons: “freezer burn,” “plastic glasses,” and “deafening silence” were among her favorites.

panegyric

pan eh JIR ik

statement of high praise

For his senior essay, Boris wrote an eloquent panegyric to his high school; he had truly enjoyed the last four years, and he wanted his teachers to know how much he appreciated them.

paradigm

PAR a dym

an example or model

The current educational paradigm has students engaged in discovery-based learning, whereas the older model had teachers lecturing and students merely taking notes.

parallelism

PARE uh lell izm

a grammar construction in which two identical syntactic constructions are used

On Mondays, Ms. Smith spends her time baking cakes for local charities and knitting socks for the homeless.

penitent

PEN ih tunt

expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds

His desire to make amends to the people he had wronged indicated that he was truly penitent, so the parole board let him out of the penitentiary.

period (periodic sentence)

PEER ee uhd

long, complex, grammatically correct sentence

While writing his essay, Sam thought he was being very articulate with his long, complex sentences. However, his English teacher disagreed; those lengthy sentences weren’t periods; they were simply rambling run-ons.

pernicious

per NIH shus

causing great harm

In Mean Girls, the Plastics loved to spread pernicious rumors about their classmates; they effectively ruined the social lives of several students with their nasty gossip.

phenomenon

feh NAH meh nahn

an unusual, observable event

The phenomenon of lightning remained unexplained until scientists discovered electricity.

propitious

pruh PIH shus

presenting favorable circumstances; auspicious

In Chinese culture, the color red is seen as sort of propitious omen; red is thought to bring luck.

rational

RASH un ul

logical; motivated by reason rather than feeling

While Joe is more impulsive, Frank is more rational because he thinks things through rather than acting on his feelings.

sardonic

sar DAH nik

disdainfully or ironically humorous; harsh, bitter, or caustic

In Rachel’s group of friends, Estelle was known as the sardonic one; sometimes her sarcastic comments really hurt the other girls.

syllogism (syllogistic reasoning)

SIH luh jih zum

a form of deductive reasoning: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion

Humans are mortal (major premise); Seth is human (minor premise); Seth is mortal (conclusion).

synecdoche

sin ECK duh kee

a form of metonymy that’s restricted to cases where a part is used to signify the whole

“A thousand swords came charging toward us from the nearby mountain range; we could hear the angry army as it marched closer and closer” is an example of synecdoche.

theoretical

thee oh RET ih kul

lacking application or practical application

Theoretical physics is concerned with ideas, whereas applied physics is concerned with using ideas.

truncated

TRUN kay tid

shortened; cut off

The file Chris downloaded from the Internet was truncated; the end of it was missing.