THE LANGUAGE OF IDEAS: VOCABULARY FOR SAT EVIDENCE-BASED READING
6 THE LANGUAGE OF JUDGMENT
ambivalent (adj) ambi- both + valere to be strong
having mixed feelings about something : She was surprisingly ambivalent about attending her own birthday party.
Form: ambivalence = lack of conviction on an issue
Root family: [ambi-] ambiguous (vague), ambidextrous (able to use both hands skillfully)
Root family: [val] prevalent (widespread and abundant), valor (bravery)
Don’t confuse with: ambiguous (vague; having multiple meanings)
arbitrary (adj) arbiter judge
based on personal whim, rather than reason : His coworkers resented his imperious and arbitrary decision-making style.
Root family: [arbit] arbitration (the process of submitting a dispute to a judge), arbiter (a judge with absolute power)
Usage: The word arbitrary is sometimes misused as a synonym for random, as in The shells were scattered on the beach in an arbitrary pattern. This is a misuse of the term, because arbitrary derives from arbiter, meaning “judge,” so it should only be used to describe a decision or the result of a decision.
arbitrate (v) arbiter judge
to serve as a neutral third-party judge in a dispute : My mother arbitrated a resolution to the fight between my sister and me.
Forms: arbitration = the process of resolving a dispute via a neutral third party, arbiter = one who serves as a judge in a dispute
Synonyms: adjudicate, mediate
Don’t confuse with: arbitrary (based on whim rather than reason)
Mnemonic: Picture a judge arbitrating on an Arby’s tray.
constantly finding fault, particularly about trivial matters : April’s constant carping about the movie forced me to walk out of the theater.
Synonyms: caviling, grousing, griping
Don’t confuse with: carp (n) (a freshwater fish)
Mnemonic: Imagine an annoying patron at a restaurant carping about the carp she’s been served: It’s too dry! It smells fishy!
censor (v) censere to assess
to edit out or repress objectionable material : The prisoners’ outgoing letters were being censored by the prison officials.
Form: censorious = severely critical of others
Synonyms: expurgate, bowdlerize
Root family: [cens] census (the official tally of a population), censure (to express formal disapproval)
Don’t confuse with: censure (to express formal disapproval)
censure (v) censere to assess
to express formal disapproval of someone’s behavior : The senator was censured for her misconduct, but was permitted to stay in office.
Synonyms: chastise, rebuke, upbraid, reprove, reproach
Don’t confuse with: censor (to edit out objectionable material)
Usage: See usage note at rebuke in section 3.
clemency (n) clemens mildness
leniency, particularly in judicial sentencing : The judge showed clemency because the convict showed great remorse for his actions.
Synonyms: mercy, compassion
Root family: [clemen] inclement (stormy)
conformist (n) con- together + form
one who conscientiously complies with the standards of a group : I’d rather be an individualist than a conformist.
Forms: conformity = compliance with the standards of a group, nonconformist = an individualist
Root family: [con-, co-, com-, col-] conventional (according to common practice), conjecture (guess), convoluted (complicated), consensus (general agreement), conspire (to plot together), coalesce (to come together), coherent (forming a united whole), compliant (willing to obey),confluence (a place at which two things merge)
Root family: [form] reformist (supporting gradual change rather than revolution), formality (rigid observance of conventional rules), deformation (change of form; distortion)
sharp disgust for something deemed unworthy : Her contempt for Mr. Jones was so deep that she would not even acknowledge his presence.
Forms: contemptible = worthy of contempt, contemptuous = filled with contempt
Synonyms: scorn, disdain, derision, disparagement
Usage: See usage note at disdain in this section.
one who believes that humans are essentially selfish : Warren was such a cynic that he mistrusted every word of praise from his teachers.
Forms: cynical = distrustful of the goodwill of others, cynicism = belief that everyone is essentially selfish
Don’t confuse with: skeptic (one who doubts)
causing a loss of respect or dignity : The student protest did not elevate the debate, but instead reduced it to a demeaning travesty of intellectual discourse.
Synonyms: degrading, abject
Don’t confuse with: demeanor (general bearing or behavior)
denounce (v) de- down + nuntiare declare
publicly declare as bad or evil : She was denounced for making a racist slur.
Forms: denunciation = the act of denouncing
Synonyms: censure, revile, malign
Root family: [de-] decadent (excessively self-indulgent), derivative (imitative of someone else’s work), deplore (to express strong disapproval), detract (reduce the value of something), debase (reduce in value), denigrate (criticize unfairly), deference (submission to the authority of another), condescend (to act superior to someone else)
Root family: [nunc, nounc] renounce (to give up or put aside publicly), announce (make a formal declaration), enunciate (state clearly), pronounce (sound a word in a particular way)
Don’t confuse with: renounce (to disavow)
immoral or wicked : The murderer showed depraved indifference to human life.
Form: depravity = moral corruption
Synonyms: corrupt, degenerate, debased, nefarious, iniquitous
Don’t confuse with: deprived (denied of the benefit of something, particularly basic amenities and cultural advantages)
mockery; contemptuous ridicule : The derision Phil received in the locker room scarred him for life.
Forms: derisive = filled with derision, deride = express contempt for; ridicule
Synonyms: scorn, disdain, contempt, disparagement
Usage: See usage note at disdain in this section.
disdain (n) dis- not + dignus worthy
feeling that something or someone is unworthy : I could feel only disdain for Glen’s self-serving apology.
Synonyms: scorn, contempt, derision, disparagement
Root family: [dis-] disconcerting (unsettling), discredit (harm the reputation of something or someone), discernment (the ability to make fine distinctions), dispassionate (not influenced by strong emotions), disparate (very different; variegated), discrepancy (a lack of compatibility between facts or claims), disseminate (to cast widely), disperse (to spread or scatter), disputatious (argumentative), dispel (to drive away; to eliminate), diffident (lacking in self-confidence), diffuse (spread over a wide area)
Root family: [dign] dignify (to make worthy), indignant (angry about unjust treatment), deign (to do something that one considers beneath one’s dignity)
Usage: Disdain, contempt, derision, disparagement, and denigration are similar, but offer different shades of meaning. Disdain includes a feeling of social superiority; contempt includes a particularly acute disgust; derision suggests not just a contemptuous feeling but also an outright verbal attack; disparagement suggests a long-term campaign to bring someone or something down; and denigration involves unjustly harsh criticism.
proclaiming an inflexible adherence to religious or political principles : Some reporters spend too much time spouting dogmatic opinions rather than providing objective analysis.
Forms: dogma = rigid doctrines of a religion or philosophy, dogmatist = a dogmatic person
Synonyms: peremptory, imperious, doctrinaire
Don’t confuse with: pragmatic (concerned with practical, rather than idealistic, considerations)
Mnemonic: Imagine a robot dog (dog-a-matic) barking out political beliefs.
extol (v) ex- out + tol ring out
to praise enthusiastically : She extolled the technical beauty of Chopin’s etudes.
Synonyms: acclaim, exalt, eulogize
Don’t confuse with: exhort (to strongly encourage someone to do something)
futile (adj) futilis leaky (< fundere to pour)
doomed to fail; pointless : All attempts to defeat me are futile!
Form: futility = pointlessness
Root family: [fus, fund, found] confuse (to cause to become perplexed), confound (to fail to distinguish different elements), diffuse (spread over a wide area), fusion (the process of joining two things into a single entity), profuse (abundant), transfusion (a transfer, usually of blood, from one person or animal to another), refuse (to reject)
Don’t confuse with: utile (advantageous)
silly, stupid : I find most reality shows to be an inane waste of time.
Forms: inanity = a silly act, inaneness = the quality of being inane
Synonyms: fatuous, asinine, vapid, puerile
Don’t confuse with: insane (mentally ill)
irreverent (adj) ir- not + re- (intensive) + vereri to respect
showing no respect for things that are ordinarily given respect : The comedy troupe performed an irreverent sketch that thoroughly insulted the Vice President.
Form: reverent = very respectful
Synonyms: impudent, flippant, insolent
Root family: [ir-, in-, im-] insipid (flavorless), insuperable (impossible to overcome), inert (lacking vigor), interminable (unending), innocuous (harmless), ineffable (inexpressible in words), inscrutable (beyond understanding), impassive (unemotional), incongruous (not consistent with expectations)
Root family: [rever] reverend (a title for a member of the clergy), reverential (highly respectful)
Don’t confuse with: irrelevant (not appropriate to the matter at hand)
mundane (adj) mundus world
dull and uninteresting : She wanted to escape her mundane existence.
Synonyms: humdrum, monotonous, prosaic
punitive (adj) punire to punish
intended to punish : The court imposed punitive damages to discourage such reckless behavior in the future.
Form: impunity = exemption from punishment
Synonyms: retributive, disciplinary
Root family: [puni, peni] punish (to impose a penalty for an offense), penitence (remorse for an offense), penitentiary (prison), penalty (punishment), penal (related to prison or punishment)
Don’t confuse with: putative (generally considered to be)
Don’t confuse impunity with immunity (the ability to resist infection) or impugn (to attack as invalid)
Mnemonic: Punitive damages are those imposed on someone in court as a punishment to discourage behavior.
to refuse association with : I repudiate those governments that deny people equal protection under the law.
Form: repudiation = the act of repudiating something
Synonyms: renounce, abjure
Don’t confuse with: reputed (generally believed), reputation (the generally held value judgments about a person)
inclined to doubt; not easily convinced : I was skeptical of Dawn’s claim that she could talk to the dead.
Forms: skeptic = a skeptical person, skepticism = quality of being skeptical
Don’t confuse with: cynical (distrustful of others), septic (infected with bacteria)
Usage: Students commonly confuse skeptical with cynical, but they are very different words. Skeptical describes a questioning attitude toward claims, while cynical describes a negative attitude toward people.