THE LANGUAGE OF IDEAS: VOCABULARY FOR SAT EVIDENCE-BASED READING
8 THE LANGUAGE OF CARE AND RESTRAINT
to make a situation better : The recent highway improvements have done much to ameliorate many of commuters’ biggest concerns.
Don’t confuse with: emancipate (to free from bondage)
Usage: See usage note at mitigate in section 17.
Mnemonic: Imagine Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh who finally gets a cake after he thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday. The cake is a meal Eeyore ate which ameliorated his depression.
to make something unpleasant less intense : The news story was intended to sensationalize the epidemic rather than assuage people’s fears about it.
Synonyms: mitigate, palliate, attenuate, allay, ameliorate
Don’t confuse with: dissuade (to persuade someone not to do something)
Usage: See usage note at mitigate in section 17.
curtail (v) curtus short
to cut back; to impose a restriction on an activity : The library committee decided to curtail its expenses until it balanced its budget.
Synonyms: pare, retrench, curb
Root family: [curt] curt (rudely abrupt)
Mnemonic: If you cut off the tail of a beaver, it will really curtail its abilities.
equanimity (n) equa same + anima spirit, mind
evenness of temper : During the lockdown drill, our teacher’s equanimity helped assuage the fears of several students.
Synonyms: composure, imperturbability, sangfroid, equability
Root family: [equa, equi-] equilateral (having equal sides), equilibrium (a state of balance between opposing forces or trends)
Root family: [anim] magnanimous (generous), pusillanimous (cowardly)
Don’t confuse with: equity (fairness)
showing great attention to details, particularly in matters of cleanliness : Julia is fastidious about her food, making sure that the vegetables never touch the meat on her plate.
Forms: fastidiousness = the quality of being fastidious
Synonyms: scrupulous, meticulous, punctilious
Usage: See usage note at scrupulous in this section.
impassive (adj) in- not + passivus suffered
unemotional; calm : Despite all the turmoil, Randall was able to remain impassive.
Form: impassivity = a state of calmness and restraint from emotion
Synonyms: stoic, dispassionate, forbearing, phlegmatic, stolid
Root family: [in-, im-] insipid (flavorless), insuperable (impossible to overcome), inert (lacking vigor), interminable (unending), indefatigable (untiring), inscrutable (beyond understanding), incongruous (not consistent with expectations)
Don’t confuse with: impassioned (passionate), impasse (deadlock; point beyond which passage is impossible)
Mnemonic/Usage: Strangely, impassive and passive are closer to being synonyms than antonyms. As they are most commonly used, both suggest a lack of activity or emotion. To make things even more confusing, the similar-sounding words passionate and impassioned, while also seeming to be opposites of each other, actually both mean “full of emotion,” essentially the opposite of impassive or passive. If this distinction is vexing for you, remember that a sieve lets things pass through, so the –sive words, passive and impassive, describe someone who lets things pass easily, without getting too emotional about them.
showing finicky attention to details and precision : A meticulous baker, she often measures her ingredients twice before combining any of them.
Form: meticulousness = attention to details and precision
Synonyms: scrupulous, fastidious, punctilious
Usage: See usage note at scrupulous in this section.
calm and unconcerned, often inappropriately so : My lab partner took a nonchalant approach to the experiment and almost caused a dangerous explosion.
Form: nonchalance = lack of concern or enthusiasm
Synonyms: blithe, blasé, dispassionate, apathetic, indifferent, insouciant
Usage: A nonchalant person is usually putting on airs, but a blithe person is innocently unself-conscious. One who is blasé has usually become jaded to the point of indifference. One who is dispassionate is adopting a neutral attitude in order to render an objective judgment. One who isapathetic typically has neither airs, innocence, nor judicious motive.
parsimony (n) parcere to be sparing
extreme reluctance to spend money, use unnecessary language, or expend resources : Mastering the art of haiku requires mastering the art of parsimony.
Form: parsimonious (adj) = extremely reluctant to spend money, use unnecessary language, or expend resources
placid (adj) placere to please
 (of a person or animal) calm and unexcitable : I chose to ride the most placid horse.
 (of a place) calm and peaceful : The chateau was a placid retreat from the city.
Forms: placidity (n) = calmness; peacefulness
Root family: [plac] placate, implacable (unable to be pleased), complacent
Don’t confuse with: passive (permitting things to happen without resistance or involvement), platitude (a trite proverb)
to renovate; to restore to good condition : David studied for weeks to refurbish his conversational Italian before traveling to Rome.
Don’t confuse with: refurnish (to restock with furniture)
rejuvenate (v) juvenis young
to restore the vitality of : She felt rejuvenated after her trip to the mountains.
Root family: [juven] juvenile (immature)
reticent (adj) re- (intensive) + tacere to be silent
unwilling to speak or express one’s feelings : When the conversation turned to her college years, Sheila became uncharacteristically reticent.
Forms: reticence = unwillingness to speak or reveal one’s feelings or thoughts
Root family: [tice, tace] tacit (unspoken, but understood, as a tacit agreement), taciturn (quiet and reserved)
Usage: Do not confuse reticent with reluctant. For instance, He was reticent to talk about his experiences is redundant. The correct phrasing is He was reluctant to talk about his experiences or He was reticent about his experiences.
 diligent and attentive to details : George is a scrupulous researcher.
Synonyms: meticulous, fastidious
 concerned with moral correctness : He is too scrupulous to consider cheating on his taxes.
Forms: scruples = concerns about moral rectitude, unscrupulous = lacking in moral character
Don’t confuse with: scrutinize (to examine closely)
Usage: Scrupulous, meticulous, fastidious, and punctilious are nearly synonymous, but each offers a different shade of meaning. Scrupulous suggests an exactitude combined with high moral standards; meticulous suggests a finicky precision, often but not necessarily about trivial things; fastidious suggests a precision born of a compulsive neatness; and punctilious suggests an extreme attention to rules, such as etiquette.
Mnemonic: Think of the most precise and detailed-oriented person you know (or the most moral person you know) pulling on a screw.
sedate (adj) sedere to sit
calm, to the point of being dull : Small-town life was too sedate for Maia.
Forms: sedate (v) = to calm or put to sleep with drugs, sedative = a drug used to sedate
Root family: [sed, sid] sedentary, dissident (one who opposes official policy), assiduous (hardworking), insidious (subtly dangerous), preside (to sit in a position of authority), reside (to live in a particular location), sediment (material that settles to the bottom of a liquid or body of water, particularly a river)
Don’t confuse with: sedition (incitement to rebellion)
enduring hardship without complaint : William remained stoic throughout the funeral.
Form: stoicism = the belief that emotions are the enemy of reason
Synonyms: dispassionate, forbearing, phlegmatic, stolid, impassive
Don’t confuse stoicism with solecism (an error in grammar or usage, particularly a tactless one) or solipsism (the belief that nothing exists except for oneself)
Mnemonic: Stoicism was a Hellenic school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium (and which met at the “painted porch”—Stoa Poikile—from which the school got its name) who taught that emotions were incompatible with reasoning and so cultivated a systematic detachment.
succinct (adj) cingere to cinch, as with a belt
expressed clearly and concisely : The documentary was prefaced with a succinct description of the 15-year study it chronicled.
Form: succinctness = the quality of being brief and to the point
Root family: [cinc] cinch (to gird with a belt), precinct (an administrative district)
Mnemonic: The connection between succinct and precinct comes in the idea of “cinching” or “encircling” (cingere = to cinch or encircle). When you make something more succinct, you make it “smaller and tighter” much as cinching a girdle around your waist would make you smaller and tighter. A precinct is a well-defined (or well “encircled”) district.
temperance (n) temperare to restrain
self-control with regard to consumption : After years of gluttonous behavior, he has learned remarkable temperance.
Forms: temper = to moderate or act as a moderating force, temperate = showing moderation, intemperate = lacking self-control
Root family: [temper] temperature (degree of heat), temperament (disposition or degree of personal restraint)
Don’t confuse the tempe- words that derive from temperare (to restrain) with the tempo- words that derive from tempus (time), like extemporaneous, temporize (to delay making a decision), and contemporary ((adj) modern; (n) one who lives during the same time period as another).
Mnemonic: The Temperance Movement in the 19th century was designed to curb excessive consumption of alcohol and ultimately led to the Prohibition Era.
To avoid confusing the cognate words temperance, temperament, and temperature, notice how they are all related to the root word temperare (to restrain): temperance is essentially one’s “ability to restrain oneself”; temperament refers to much the same thing but has been generalized to encompass emotional dispositions in general; temperature was originally a synonym of temperament but lent its sense of “degree of emotional heat” to the scientific term for “degree of physical heat.”
vigilant (adj) vigil awake
watchful for danger or difficulties : We must remain vigilant against tyranny.
Form: vigilance = watchfulness
Synonyms: circumspect, wary, leery
Root family: [vigil] vigilante (one who takes the law into his or her own hands); vigil (a prayerful period in the night)
Forms: dispute = a heated argument, disputant = a person involved in a heated argument, disputation = the art of debate
Root family: [dis-] disconcerting (unsettling), disdain (feeling that something is unworthy), discredit (harm the reputation of something or someone), diffident (lacking in self-confidence)
Root family: [put] compute (to calculate), reputation (social standing), impute (to attribute)