THE LANGUAGE OF IDEAS: VOCABULARY FOR SAT EVIDENCE-BASED READING
17 THE LANGUAGE OF KINDNESS, FAVOR, AND BENEFIT
friendly and good-natured : Gena is so affable that she will surely make new friends at camp.
Form: affability = friendliness and good nature
Synonyms: amiable, genial, gregarious
Don’t confuse with: ineffable (unable to be described in words)
Mnemonic: An affable person is able to laugh easily (affable = laugh-able) which makes him or her very easy to like. But be careful not to confuse affable with laughable (ridiculous to the point of being amusing).
alleviate (v) ad- to + levare to lift
to make something, such as suffering, less severe : She regretted that she could not alleviate her friend’s pain.
Synonyms: mitigate, palliate, attenuate, allay, assuage
Root family: [ad-] allude (to hint at indirectly), aspire (to strive for a lofty goal), adhere (stick fast (to)), advocate (to provide vocal support for), acquiesce (to comply reluctantly)
Root family: [lev] levity (good-natured humor), elevate (to lift), relevant (raised to an important level), relieve (to lift a burden from another)
Don’t confuse with: abbreviate (to make shorter)
altruistic (adj) alter other
selfless; putting the concerns of others before one’s own : Only the most altruistic doctors can tolerate the hardships of running disease clinics in poor communities.
Form: altruism = the belief in or practice of putting the concern of others before one’s own
Root family: [alter] altercation (a noisy fight), alter (to change or cause to change), alternate (to occur in turn repeatedly, adulterate (to render (something) inferior, usually by adding something to it), alter ego (alternative personality)
Mnemonic: An altruistic person puts others (alter = other) before himself or herself, and is always true to the idea of charity.
amicable (adj) amicus friend
showing goodwill and a spirit of friendliness : I hope we can reach an amicable settlement.
Root family: [ami] amiable (friendly), inimical (antagonistic), enmity (hostility or active opposition)
Don’t confuse with: applicable (relevant or appropriate)
Usage: Although amicable and amiable derive from the same roots, amicable is more commonly used to describe friendly situations, while amiable is more commonly used to describe friendly people.
auspicious (adj) avis bird + specere to look
conducive to success; favorable to a positive outcome : The rainstorm did not provide an auspicious start to the wedding ceremony.
Form: inauspicious = not favorable
Synonyms: propitious, opportune, felicitous
Root family: [spic, spec] introspective (reflective), speculation (guess based on insufficient evidence), circumspect (cautious), inspect (to examine closely)
Don’t confuse with: suspicious (showing cautious distrust), vicious (cruel)
Mnemonic: Auspicious derives from the Latin avis (bird) and specere (to look) because in mid-16th-century Europe it was believed that observing particular birds in flight was a favorable sign in divination. From this meaning of “favorable omen,” we also get the word auspice, which means “patronage or support,” as in The study was conducted under the auspices of the Labor Board.
benefactor (n) bene good + facere to do or make
one who gives money to benefit a person or cause : The letter acknowledged the many benefactors who had helped the Arts Society stay afloat in trying economic times.
Synonyms: patron, sponsor
Root family: [ben, bon] beneficiary (one who receives a benefit), benevolent (kindly), benign (harmless)
Root family: [fac, fec, fic] facile (simplistic), munificent (generous)
Don’t confuse with: beneficiary (one who receives a benefit)
beneficiary (n) bene good + facere to do or make
one who receives a benefit : Wayne was the beneficiary of his friend’s generosity.
Root family: [ben, bon] benefactor (one who provides a benefit), benevolent (kindly), benign (harmless)
Root family: [fac, fec, fic] facile (simplistic), munificent (generous)
Don’t confuse with: benefactor (one who provides a benefit)
benevolent (adj) bene good + velle to wish
kindly; well meaning : She was a benevolent queen, attentive to the needs of all of her subjects.
Form: benevolence = kindness
Synonyms: altruistic, philanthropic, magnanimous
Root family: [ben, bon] beneficiary (one who receives a benefit), benefactor (one who provides a benefit)
Root family: [vol] malevolent (having evil intent), volition (free will), voluntary (performed by choice)
Mnemonic: English words containing vol can be confusing because they can derive from three different Latin roots: velle ((to wish) (from which we get malevolent (having evil intent) and benevolent), volare ((to fly) from which we get volatile and volley (to throw at a target)), or volvere((to roll) from which we get convoluted and revolution (a complete turn)).
benign (adj) bene good + genus born
gentle; causing no harm : Rather than rousing indignation, Senator Paulson’s concession speech was benign and gracious.
Synonyms: innocuous, anodyne
Root family: [ben, bon] beneficiary (one who receives a benefit), benevolent (kindly), benefactor (one who provides a benefit)
Don’t confuse with: benighted (in a woeful state of ignorance, literally “in the darkness of night”)
complement (v) or (n) com- (intensive) + plere to fill
 (v) to add to something to make it complete or perfect : The savory sautéed spinach complemented the rich and dense portobello mushroom to make the perfect side dish.
 (n) something that completes a whole : Calculus is an important complement to the study of physics.
Forms: complementary = acting to form a complete or perfect whole
Root family: [ple] deplete (to use the supply of), replete (filled to the fullest extent)
Don’t confuse with: compliment (to say something kind about someone else)
conciliatory (adj) concilium council
likely to appease or to bring people together in goodwill : The student exchange was intended as a conciliatory gesture between the formerly antagonistic countries.
Forms: conciliate = to appease or to gain goodwill, conciliation = the act of appeasing or gaining goodwill
Synonyms: appeasing, mollifying, placatory, propitiatory
Root family: [concilium] council (an advisory or legislative body)
Usage: See usage note at pacify in section 4.
Mnemonic: The verb conciliate derives from the Latin concilium, which means “an assembly or council.” If you know anything about how modern city councils work, you know that a lot of compromise and appeasement—a lot of conciliation—is often needed to get people from different backgrounds, temperaments, and political parties to work together.
decorum (n) decorus showing good taste
dignified and tasteful behavior : Please show some decorum while we are touring the palace.
Forms: decorous = in keeping with good taste and propriety, indecorum = lack of decorum, indecorous = lacking in decorum
Synonyms: propriety, etiquette, protocol
Root family: [deco, dec] decoration (ornamentation), decent (conforming to standards of appropriate behavior), decor (the furnishing and decoration of a home)
Don’t confuse with: decor (the furnishing and decoration of a home). To avoid confusing these, you might remember that the um in decorum is like the um in human; only humans can show decorum, while only homes have decor.
empathy (n) pathos feeling
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another : Dawn has a great empathy for fellow cancer survivors.
Forms: empathize = to understand and share the feelings of others, empathetic = able to empathize
Root family: [path] sympathy (feeling of sorrow for the misfortunes of another), pathology (the science of the causes and course of diseases), apathetic (lacking concern), antipathy (animosity)
eulogy (n) eu good + logos word
a praising speech, particularly for one who is deceased : Glen’s eulogy was touching yet humorous.
Form: eulogize = to recite or write a eulogy
Synonyms: accolade, paean, encomium
Root family: [eu] euthanasia (mercy killing), euphonious (pleasant sounding), euphoria (extreme happiness), euphemism (a mild term or phrase intended to replace a harsher one)
Don’t confuse eulogize with euthanize (to put a person or animal to death humanely)
euphemism (n) eu good + pheme speaking
a mild term or phrase intended to replace a harsh, embarrassing, or unpleasant one : Senators are adept at inserting euphemisms like “patriot” into the names of their bills to divert the public’s attention from the true nature of the laws.
Form: euphemistic = pertaining to the use of euphemisms; having the qualities of euphemism
Root family: [eu] euthanasia (mercy killing), euphonious (pleasant sounding), euphoria (extreme happiness), eulogy (a praising speech, usually for the deceased)
Root family: [phem] blasphemy (speaking profanely about holy things), dysphemism (a deliberately derogatory or unpleasant term or phrase), prophecy (significant prediction of the future)
Don’t confuse with: euphoria (extreme happiness)
innocuous (adj) in- not + nocuus harmful
not harmful or offensive : The interviewer asked only innocuous questions rather than probing into more interesting topics.
Synonyms: benign, anodyne
Root family: [in-, im-] insipid (flavorless), insuperable (impossible to overcome), inert (lacking vigor), interminable (unending), indefatigable (untiring), ineffable (inexpressible in words), inscrutable (beyond understanding), impassive (unemotional), incongruous (not consistent with expectations)
Root family: [nocu, noxi] innocent (not guilty), noxious (harmful), obnoxious (rudely unpleasant)
to make less serious or severe : The effects of hurricanes can be mitigated by the presence of a thriving barrier island system.
Forms: mitigating = serving to make less serious or severe, unmitigated = without redeeming qualities
Synonyms: palliate, attenuate, allay, assuage
Don’t confuse with: litigate (to file and execute a lawsuit), migrate (to move from one habitat to another, usually according to the season)
Usage: While pacify, placate, appease, propitiate, and conciliate all describe things done to people, words like palliate, mollify, and assuage generally apply to feelings, and words like mitigate and ameliorate can pertain to situations as well as feelings.
Mnemonic: Judges or juries often consider mitigating circumstances before sentencing someone who has been convicted of a crime. Assaulting someone who is perceived as a threat is not as serious as assaulting someone without provocation, so the threatening could be a mitigatingcircumstance that reduces the sentence for assault.
mollify (v) mollis soft
to appease someone’s anger or anxiety : The tax bill was taken off of the agenda to mollify the angry citizens.
Form: mollification = the process of appeasing anger or anxiety
Synonyms: propitiate, conciliate, placate, appease
Root family: [moll] emollient (an agent that softens skin), mollusk (an invertebrate with a soft unsegmented body, usually protected by a shell)
Don’t confuse with: mortify (to make to feel embarrassed or humiliated)
Usage: See usage note at pacify in section 4.
Mnemonic: Imagine someone you know named Molly trying to settle down an angry friend.
obliging (adj) ob- toward + ligare to bind
eager to help : The bellhops were very obliging to those who were good tippers.
Root family: [lig] ligament (a band of connective tissue), obligatory (mandatory; necessary to do), religion (belief in a supernatural power which obligates one to perform rituals)
Don’t confuse with: obligatory (mandatory; necessary to do)
Mnemonic: When you feel obliged to do something for something, you feel bound to do it (ob- to + ligare to bind). It is obligatory (mandatory; necessary to do). If you always feel bound to your responsibility to help others, you are obliging.
propriety (n) proprius one’s own
conformity to standards of proper behavior : As representatives of our school, we must conduct ourselves with the utmost propriety.
Form: impropriety = improper behavior
Root family: [prop] appropriate (adj) (proper of suitable to the circumstances); (v) (to take something that doesn’t belong to you for your own use, typically without the owner’s permission : The Spanish appropriated many of the discoveries of the Mayans as their own), proprietor (the legal owner of a business)
Don’t confuse with: proprietor (the legal owner of a business)
Mnemonic: Although proprietor and propriety are easily confused, they derive from different aspects of the root word proprius (one’s own). A proprietor is the legal owner of a small business, but propriety is the respect with which one treats one’s own family and tribe.
reciprocate (v) re- back + pro- forward
to respond to an action or gesture by doing something in kind : If you act kindly to strangers, they are likely to reciprocate.
Forms: reciprocal = done in return, reciprocity = the practice of acting with mutual benefit
Root family: [re-] recluse (a person who lives a solitary lifestyle), refute (to prove something false), revoke (to take back), renounce (to give up or put aside publicly), regress (to return to a less developed state)
Root family: [pro-] protracted (lasting longer than expected), prophecy (prediction), promote (further the progress of something; raise in rank), progeny (offspring)
refinement (n) finire to finish
 elegance in taste and manners : Jerrod has all the refinement one would expect of a world traveler.
 the process of bringing to a purer state : Crude oil must undergo refinement before it can be used as fuel.
Forms: refined = cultured and well-mannered, refine = to make more cultured, unrefined = uncultured or unimproved
Don’t confuse refine with define (to set forth the meaning of something).
solicitous (adj) citus set in motion
showing interest or concern : Lisa’s office mates became solicitous when they heard that her daughter was ill.
Forms: solicitude = care or concern for someone or something, solicit = to ask (someone) for something
Root family: [cit] excite (to elicit energetic feelings in someone; to energize something), incite (to encourage violence or illicit behavior), resuscitate (to bring back to life)
Usage: Many Americans assume that solicitous has a negative connotation because solicitations (requests for money or other donations) can be annoying. However, solicitude is not badgering but sincere concern. This meaning is conveyed more accurately in the British definition ofsolicitor as “an attorney who assists a client,” rather than the American definition of “one who requests donations.”
Don’t confuse with: solicitor (one who requests donations for charity; (in the U.K.) an attorney)
symbiosis (n) sym- together + bio life
a mutually beneficial relationship between different species : One example of symbiosis is the relationship between the clownfish and the sea anemone, whereby the clownfish receives protection from its enemies and the anemone receives food.
Form: symbiotic = characterized by symbiosis
Root family: [sym] sympathy (compassion), symmetry (a geometric correspondence among similar parts)
Root family: [bio] biology (the study of living things), biodegradable (able to decompose into nutrients for living things)
Don’t confuse with: symbolic (pertaining to the use of symbols)
tactful (adj) tactus sense of touch
showing sensitivity to the needs of others with difficult private issues : Jerry Springer rarely shows any desire to be tactful about his guests’ embarrassing personal problems.
Forms: tact = sensitivity to the needs of others with difficult private issues, tactless = utterly without tact
Synonyms: politic, discreet, judicious, decorous
Root family: [tang, tact, ting, tig, tag, teg] tactile (pertaining to the sense of touch), tangential (barely related to the topic), tangible (touchable), contact (to touch, or get in touch with), contagious (spreadable, as a disease, via close contact), contiguous (physically touching or bordering, as the contiguous 48 states), integrity (the quality of wholeness or wholesomeness; moral uprightness)
Don’t confuse with: tacky (showing poor taste)
utility (n) utilis useful
the state of being useful : When searching for a new car, the Kearns were clearly more interested in utility than beauty.
Form: utilitarian = designed to be useful rather than attractive; pragmatic, utile = advantageous, utilize = to use effectively
Don’t confuse with: futility (pointlessness)