SAT 2016




Images 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)

Images 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.

Images 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.

Images carping (adj)

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!

Images 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)

Images 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.

Images 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)

Images 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

Synonym: traditionalist

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)

Images contempt (n)

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.

Images cynic (n)

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)

Images demeaning (adj)

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)

Images 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)

Images depraved (adj)

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)

Images derision (n)

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.

Images 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.

Images dogmatic (adj)

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.

Images 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)

Images 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)

Images inane (adj)

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)

Images 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)

Images mundane (adj) mundus world

dull and uninteresting : She wanted to escape her mundane existence.

Synonyms: humdrum, monotonous, prosaic

Images 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.

Images repudiate (v)

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)

Images skeptical (adj)

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.