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AP English

Contents based on Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam 2008 Edition by The Princeton Review. This page only serves as a personal note for learning purposes, Not to be distributed for commercial purpose

  • Diction: word choice
  • Syntax: ordering of words in a sentence; describes sentence structure
    • manipulating syntax can enhance an author's meaning, tone, or point of view
  • Style: manner of expression; describes how the author uses language to get point across
    e.g. pedantic, scientific, emotive
  • Tone: attitude, mood, or sentiments revealed by the style; describes how the author seems to be feeling
    e.g. optimistic, ironic, playful
  • Point of view: stance revealed by the style and tone of the writing; expresses position on the topic discussed

Figurative Language

speech or writing that departs from literal meaning to achieve a special effect or meaning

  • Rhetoric: art of speaking or writing effectively
    • stylistic devices an author uses to appeal successfully to a specific audience
    • persuasive in nature
    • not meant to be taken literally
  • Imagery: figurative language that is used to convey a sensory perception (visual, auditory, olfactory scent, tactile touch, or gustatory taste
  • Hyperbole: overstatement or exaggeration, usually employed for comic effect
  • Understatement: presents the facts in a way that makes them appear much less significant
  • Simile: a comparison between two unlike objects, connected with a term such as like or as
  • Metaphor: a simile without a connecting term
    • Extended Metaphor: a metaphor that lasts for longer than just one phrase or sentence
  • Symbol: a word that represents something other than itself
  • Denotation: a word's primary or literal significance
  • Connotation: the vast range of other meanings
  • Oxymoron: an apparent contradiction of terms
    e.g. I advise you to make haste slowly.
  • Paradox: an apparent contradiction of ideas or statements
    e.g. The only way to overcome death is to die.
  • Personification: the figurative device in which inanimate objects or concepts are given human qualities
  • Rhetorical question: a question whose answer is obvious; do not need to be answered
    • attempt to prove something without actually presenting an argument
    • sometimes used as a form of irony 
      e.g. (no irony): With all the violence on TV today, is it any wonder kids bring guns to school?
      e.g. (with irony): Aren't AP exams great fun?
  • Bombast: language that is overly rhetorical (pompous), especially when considered in context
  • Pun: a play of words; plays on the multiple meanings of a word or replaces one word with another that is similar in sound but very different in meaning
  • Metonymy: one term is substituted for another term with which it is closely associated 
    e.g. The sailors drank a glass of hearty red (wine)
  • Synecdoche: characteristics substituted by associated terms to signify the whole 
    e.g. All hands (of everyone) on deck!
  • Theme: a general idea contained in a text; an idea that is developed
  • Aphorism: a concise, pithy statement of a opinion or a general truth
  • Malapropism: the unintentional use of a word that resembles the word intended but that has a very different meaning 
    e.g. The girl used a fire distinguisher (extinguisher) to put out the blaze.
  • Circumlocution: talking around a subject; talking around a word
    • using several words or a phrase in place of a specific word
    • often an effective means for communicating points of view
  • Euphemism: used to avoid employing an unpleasant or offensive term, usually for direct avoidance of words such as sex
  • Verbal irony: process of stating something but meaning the opposite of what is stated
    • Sarcasm: simply verbal irony used with the intent to injure
  • Situational irony: a situation that runs contrary to what was expected
  • Satire: portrayed in a way that is deliberately distorted to achieve comic effect

Vocabulary List

  • Talking
    • assertion a declaration or statement
    • clarity clearness in thought or expression
    • cogent convincing; reasonable
    • coherent logically connected
    • cohesive condition of sticking together
    • didactic intended to instruct
    • discourse verbal expression or exchange; conversation
    • eloquence the ability to speak vividly or persuasively
    • emphasize to give special attention to something, to stress
    • fluid easily flowing
    • implication the act of suggesting or hinting
    • lucid easily understood; clear
    • rhetoric the art of using language effectively and persuasively
  • Judge
    • arbiter a judge who decides a disputed issue
    • biased prejudiced
    • exculpate to free from guilt or blame
    • impartial not in favor of one side or the other, unbiased
    • incontrovertible not able to be denied or disputed
    • integrity trustworthiness; completeness
    • objectivity treating facts without influence from personal feelings or prejudices
    • penitent expressing remorse for one's misdeeds
    • plausible seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
    • substantiated supported with proof or evidence; verified
    • vindicated freed from blame
  • You're so Vain
    • condescending treating people as weak or inferior
    • contemptuous feeling hatred; scornful
    • despotic exercising absolute power; tyrannical
    • dictatorial domineering; oppressively overbearing
    • disdain n. contempt, scorn v. to regard or treat with contempt; to look down on
    • haughty arrogant; vainly proud
    • imperious arrogantly domineering or overbearing
    • patronizing treating in a condescending manner
  • When the Going Gets Tough
    • convoluted intricate; complex
    • cryptic difficult to comprehend
    • futile having no useful purpose; pointless
    • impede to slow the progress of
    • obscure (adj.) relatively unknown, (v.) to conceal or make indistinct
    • quandary a state of uncertainty or perplexity
  • I'm a Loser, Baby
    • indolent lazy
    • insipid uninteresting; unchallenging; lacking taste
    • listless lacking energy
    • torpor laziness; inactivity; dullness
  • Revolution
    • alienated removed or disassociated from (friends, family or homeland)
    • alliance a union of two or more groups
    • disparity inequality in age, rank, or degree; difference
    • servile submissive; like a servant
    • suppressed subdued; kept from being circulated
  • You Are so Beautiful
    • embellish to make beautiful by ornamenting; to decorate
    • florid describing flowery or elaborate speech
    • opulent exhibiting a display of great wealth
    • ornate elaborately decorated
    • ostentatious describing a showy or pretentious display
    • poignant profoundly moving; touching
  • Overkill
    • ebullience intense enthusiasm
    • effusive emotionally unrestrained; gushy
    • egregious conspicuously bad or offensive
    • flagrant extremely or deliberately shocking or noticeable
    • frenetic wildly excited or active; fanatic
    • gratuitous given freely; unearned; unwarranted gratuity
    • superfluous extra; unnecessary
  • It's Getting Better
    • alleviate to ease a pain or burden
    • asylum a place of retreat or security
    • auspicious favorable; promising
    • benevolent well-meaning; generous
    • benign kind and gentle
    • mollify to calm or soothe
    • reclamation the act of making something useful again
    • sanction to give official authorization or approval
  • Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
    • dubious doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
    • fabricated made; concocted to deceive
    • hypocrisy the practice of pretending to be something one is not; insincerity
    • slander false charges and malicious oral statements about someone
    • spurious not genuine
  • She's Crafty
    • astute shrewd; clever
    • clandestine secretive
    • coup a brilliantly executed plan
    • disingenuous not straightforward; crafty
    • ruse a crafty tick
    • stratagem a clever trick used to deceive or outwit
    • surreptitiously done by secretive means
    • wary on guard
    • wily cunning
  • Sittin' on the Fence
    • ambiguous open to more than one interpretation
    • ambivalent simultaneously having opposing feelings; uncertain
    • apathetic feeling or showing little emotion
    • arbitrary determined by impulse rather than reason
    • capricious impulsive and unpredictable
    • equivocate to avoid making a definite statement
    • indifferent not caring one way or the other
    • spontaneous unplanned; naturally occurring
    • whimsical subject to erratic behavior; unpredictable
  • Just a Little Bit
    • inconsequential unimportant
    • superficial concerned only with what is on the surface or obvious; shallow
    • tenuous having little substance or strength; shaky; unsure, weak; indolent professors with tenure
    • trivial of little importance or significance
  • I Will Survive
    • assiduous hard-working
    • compelling forceful; urgently demanding attention
    • diligent marked by painstaking effort; hard-working
    • dogged stubbornly persevering
    • endure to put up with; to survive a hardship
    • intrepid courageous; fearless
    • maverick one who is independent and resists adherence to a group
    • obdurate stubborn; inflexible
    • obstinate stubbornly adhering to an opinion or a course of action
    • proliferate to grow or increase rapidly
    • tenacity persistence
    • vitality energy; power to survive
  • Go with the Flow
    • assimilation to absorb, to make similar
    • consensus general argument
    • context circumstances of a situation; environment
    • derived copied or adapted from a source
    • incumbent imposed as a duty; obligatory
    • inevitable certain to happen; unavoidable
    • malleable easily shaped or formed; easily influenced
    • subdued to restrain; to hold back
  • Ways of Knowing
    • acquired developed or learned; not naturally occurring
    • conception the ability to form or understand an idea
    • conviction a fixed or strong belief
    • dogmatic stubbornly adhering to unproved beliefs
    • enlightening informative; contributing to one's awareness
    • impression a feeling or understanding resulting from an experience
    • intuition the power of knowing things without thinking; sharp insight
    • misconception an incorrect understanding or interpretation
    • perception awareness; insight
    • perspective point of view
    • profound having great depth or seriousness
  • Feeling at Home
    • inherent inborn, built-in
    • innate possessed from birth; inborn
    • inveterate long established; deep-rooted; habitual
    • omnipotent all-powerful
    • proximity closeness
  • On the Road Again
    • elusive difficult to capture, as in something actually fleeting
    • emigrate to leave one country or region and settle in another
    • transient passing away with time; passing from one place to another
    • transitory short-lived or temporary
  • Friendly
    • affable easy-going; friendly
    • amenable responsive; agreeable
    • camaraderie good will between friends
    • cordial friendly; sincere
    • facetious playfully humorous
    • impinge hinder; interfere with
    • lament express grief for; mourn
    • melancholy sadness; depression
    • sanction an economic or military measure put in place to punish another country
    • truncated shortened; cut off
  • I Write the Songs
    • aesthetic having to do with the appreciation of beauty
    • anthology a collection of literary pieces
    • contemporary current, modern; from the same time
    • dilettante one with an amateurish or superficial understanding of a field of knowledge
    • eclectic made up of a variety of sources or styles
    • excerpt a selected part of a passage or scene
    • genre describing a category or artistic endeavor
    • medley an assortment or a mixture, especially of musical pieces
    • mural a large painting applied directly to a wall or ceiling surface
    • narrative (adj.) characterized by the telling of a story, (n.) a story
    • parody an artistic work that imitates the style of another work for comic effect
    • realism artistic representation that aims for visual accuracy
    • virtuoso a tremendously skilled artist
  • Cool it Now
    • decorous proper; marked by good taste
    • equanimity the quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure
    • modest quiet or humble in manner or appearance
    • propriety appropriateness of behavior
    • prudent exercising good judgment or common sense
    • serene calm
    • staid unemotional; serious
    • stoic indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
  • If You can't Say Anything Nice
    • condemn to express strong disapproval of; denounce
    • discredit to cause to be doubted
    • disparage to speak of in a slighting way or negatively; to belittle
    • pejorative describing words or phrases that belittle or speak negatively of someone
    • plagiarism the act of passing off the ideas or writing of another as one's own
    • vilify to make vicious statements about
  • Nasty Boys
    • brusque rudely abrupt
    • caustic bitingly sarcastic or witty
    • fractious quarrelsome; unruly
    • incorrigible unable to be reformed
    • ingrate an ungrateful person
    • insolent insulting in manner or speech
    • notorious known widely and usually unfavorably; infamous
    • pugnacious combative; belligerent
    • reprehensible worthy of blame
  • Pure Evil
    • brittle easily broken when subjected to pressure
    • deleterious having a harmful effect; injurious
    • enmity mutual hatred or ill-will
    • heinous hatefully evil; abominable
    • malfeasance wrongdoing, misconduct
    • malice extreme ill-will or spite
    • putrid rotten
    • rancorous hateful; marked by deep-seated ill-will
    • toxic poisonous
  • Old School
    • archaic characteristics of an earlier period; old-fashioned
    • hackneyed worn out through overuse; trite
    • medieval referring to the Middle Ages; old-fashioned
    • obsolete no longer in use; old-fashioned
  • Boring
    • austere without decoration; strict
    • mediocrity the state of quality of being average; of moderate to low quality
    • mundane commonplace; ordinary
    • ponderous extremely dull
    • prosaic unimaginative; dull
    • sedentary not migratory; settled
  • Who Can It Be Now?
    • apprehension anxiety or fear about the future
    • harbinger something that indicates what is to come; a forerunner
    • ominous menacing; threatening
    • premonition a feeling about the future
    • timorous timid; fearful about the future
    • trepidation uncertainty; apprehension
  • New Sensation
    • innovative introducing something new
    • naive lacking sophistication
    • nascent coming into existence; emerging
    • novel strikingly new or unusual
    • novice a beginner
  • Straight Up
    • candor sincerity
    • frank open and sincere in expression; straight-forward
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire
    • arid describing a dry, rainless climate
    • conflagration a widespread fire
    • nocturnal of or occurring in the night
    • sonorous producing a deep or full sound
  • Full On
    • ample describing a large amount of something
    • comprehensive large in scope or content
    • copious plentiful; having a large quantity
    • permeated spread or flowing throughout
    • pervasive dispersed throughout
    • prodigious enormous
    • replete abundantly supplied
  • Respect
    • exemplary commendable; worthy of imitation
    • idealize to consider perfect
    • laudatory giving praise
    • paramount of chief concern or importance
    • venerated highly respected
    • catalog (v.) to make an itemized list of
    • facile done or achieved with little effort; easy(Lt.)
    • fastidious possessing careful attention to detail; difficult to please
    • hierarchy a group organized by rank
    • meticulous extremely careful and precise
    • pragmatic practical
    • solvent able to pay one's debts
  • Other Words
    • abstract not applied to actual objects
    • anachronism something out of place in time or sequence
    • anthropomorphism the attribution of human-like characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or forces of nature; similar to personification
    • antithesis direct opposite of something else
    • apology defense of an idea
    • apposition a grammar construction in which a noun 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 a perfect example; an original pattern or model
    • apparatus equipment; a group of machines
    • chiasmus 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."
    • gesticulating making gestures while speaking
    • hypothetical existing only as an assumption or speculation
    • lexicon a word book describing language with definitions; a dictionary
    • maxim a truism or pithy saying, a gnomic statement similar to a proverb
    • metonymy 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
    • oxymoron an apparent contradiction of terms
    • panegyric statement of high praise
    • paradigm an example or model
    • parallelism a grammar construction in which two identical syntactic constructions are used
      baking cakes for local charities and knitting socks for the homeless
    • period (periodic sentence) long, complex, grammatically correct sentence
    • pernicious causing great harm
    • phenomenon an unusual, observable event
    • propitious presenting favorable circumstances; auspicious
    • rational logical; motivated by reason rather than feeling
    • sardonic disdainfully or ironically humorous; harsh, bitter, or caustic
    • syllogism (syllogistic reasoning) a form of deductive reasoning: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion 
      Humans are mortal (major premise); She is human (minor premise); She is mortal (conclusion)
    • synecdoche 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
    • theoretical lacking application or practical application

Rhetorical Fallacies

  • Ad Hominem criticizes an idea by pointing out something out about the person who holds the idea, rather than directly addressing the actual merit of the idea
e.g. You're wrong because you're a jerk.
  • Argument from Authority agreement on writer's assumptions based on the authority of a famous person or entity
  • Appeal to Ignorance assumption that whatever has not been proven false must be true, or whatever has not been proven true must be false
  • Begging the Question a fallacious form of argument in which someone assumes that parts of what the person claims to be proving are proven facts
  • Hasty Generalization deliberately lead to a conclusion by providing insufficient, selective evidence
  • Non Sequitur doesn't follow; a statement that does not relate logically to what comes before it
  • False Dichotomy a consideration of only the two extremes when intermediate possibilities are present
  • Slippery Slope suggest dire(extreme) consequences from relatively minor causes
  • Faulty Causality setting up of a cause-and-effect relationship when none exists; no direct cause for an event that follows
  • Straw Man Argument an oversimplification of an opponent's argument to make it easier to attack
  • Sentimental Appeals a tactic which attempts to appeal to the hearts of readers, so that they forget to use their minds
  • Red Herring attempts to shift attention away from an important issue by introducing an issue that has no logical connection to the discussion
  • Scare Tactics frighten readers or listeners into agreeing with the speaker
  • Bandwagon Appeals peer pressure; encourages the listener to agree with a position because majority does
  • Dogmatismspeaker presumes that his/her beliefs are beyond question
  • Equivocation telling part of the truth, while deliberately hiding the entire truth; lying to omission
  • Faulty Analogy an illogical, misleading comparison between two things

Rhetorical Modes

  • Illustration using specific examples to illustrate an idea
  • Classification divide up in order to more easily analyze and explain
  • Comparison and Contrast similarities and differences; need to have enough commonalities
  • Analogy comparison used to explain others; explain things that are difficult to understand by comparing them with things that are easier to understand
  • Process Analysis used to explain either how to do something or how something was done
  • Cause and Effect explains why things should be or should have been done
  • Definition term that everyone understands
  • Description help make expository or argumentative writing lively and interesting
  • Narration a story in which pieces of information are arranged in chronological order
  • Induction a process in which specific examples are used to reach a general conclusion
  • Deduction use of a generalization to draw a conclusion about a specific case

SAT Vocabulary Lists

For LSAT preparation, I figured one of the first things to do is build up my vocabulary as I had failed to spend sufficient time acquiring new vocabulary while preparing for SAT or GRE. The following are based on lessons in Barron's Hot Words for SAT. The contents included in this wiki are solely for own academic practice, and accuracy of the contents including answers to the exercises cannot be guaranteed as well. Not to be distributed for commercial usage.

Using few words or being quiet

  • brevity briefness or conciseness in speech or writing
  • concise using few words in speaking or writing
  • laconic using few words in speech
  • pithy brief & full in meaning
  • quiescent quiet; inactive
  • reticent not talking much; reserved
  • succient concise; clearly & briefly stated
  • taciturn silent; close-mouthed
  • terse very concise


  • bombastic using language in a pompous, showy way
  • circumlocution speaking in circles; roundabout speech
  • colloquial pertaining to common everyday speech; conversational
  • diffuse spread out, not concise; wordy
  • digress to wander off from the subject or topic spoken about
  • eloquence artful ease with speaking; speech that can influence people's feelings
  • garrulous talkative; loquacious
  • grandiloquent using big and fancy words when speaking for the purpose of impressing others
  • loquacious very talkative; liking to talk; garrulous
  • prattle to speak on and on in a senseless and silly manner; to talk foolishly
  • ramble to talk on and on pointlessly, without clear direction
  • rant to talk very loudly, even wildly; rave
  • rhetorical relating to speech that is used to persuade or have some effect; insincere in expression
  • verbose using too many words; wordy; long-winded
  • voluble talking a great deal with ease; glib

Feeling superior

  • arrogant overbearing; proud; haughty
  • braggart one who boasts a great deal
  • complacent self-satisfied; smug
  • contemptuous lacking respect; scornful
  • disdainful full of bitter scorn and pride; aloof
  • egotistical excessively self-absorbed; very conceited(full of pride)
  • haughty having great pride in oneself and dislike for others
  • insolent boldly disrespectful in speech or behavior; rude
  • narcissistic having to do with extreme self-adoration and a felling of superiority to everyone
  • ostentatious having to do with showing off; pretentious
  • presumptuous too forward or bold; overstepping proper bounds
  • pretentious claiming or pretending increased importance; ostentatious; affectedly grand
  • supercilious looking down on others; proud and scornful
  • swagger to walk around in a proud, showy manner; to boast in a loud manner

Unoriginal, dull, played out

  • banal dull or stale because of overuse; trite; hackneyed
  • cliché an idea or expression that has become stale due to overuse
  • derivative unoriginal; taken from something already existing
  • hackneyed made commonplace by overuse; trite (n. hack, one who copies or imitates the work of others)
  • insipid lacking flavor or taste; unexciting
  • lackluster lacking vitality, energy, or brightness; boring
  • mundane commonplace; ordinary
  • platitude quality of being dull; an obvious remark uttered as if it were original
  • prosaic dull; commonplace
  • trite unoriginal and stale due to overuse
  • vapid lacking freshness and zest; flat; stale

Lessening pain, tension, and/or conflict

  • allay to lessen fear; to calm; to relieve pain
  • alleviate to lessen pain or discomfort
  • ameliorate to make better; to lessen pain, difficulty, or tension
  • appease to make tranquil or quite, especially by giving into another's demands; to pacify
  • assuage to alleviate; to lessen pain or conflict; pacify
  • conciliate to win a person over through special considerations or persuasive methods; reconcile
  • mediate to act as a go-between in settling conflicts or disputes between people or opposing sides
  • mitigate to make or become less severe; to lessen pain or damage
  • mollify to pacify, soothe, or appease; to make less severe or violent
  • pacify to calm; to make peaceful; to restore to a tranquil state
  • placate to make calm; to soothe
  • quell to pacify; to subdue; to quiet down

Friendly and agreeable

  • affable easy to talk to; easy to approach, friendly; kind; amiable
  • amiable friendly, kind
  • amicable showing goodwill; peaceable
  • congenial compatible; having kindred needs or tastes; sympathetic
  • convivial sociable, outgoing in a festive way, especially when pertaining to eating and drinking; fond of good company
  • cordial warm and friendly; amiable
  • gregarious sociable, outgoing
  • jocular liking to be with people, joke around with them and have fun
  • levity lightheartedness; gaiety; carefree diposition, particularly when not appropriate

Quarreling, fighting, and bitter feelings

  • animosity hatred; ill will
  • antagonism hatred or hostility
  • bellicose of a quarrelsome nature; eager to fight; warlike; belligerent
  • belligerent taking part in war or fighting; ready to fight
  • cantankerous bad-tempered; quarrelsome
  • captious made for the sake of quarreling; quibbling; (frequent criticism)
  • contentious quarrelsome; belligerent contemptuous: scornful
  • disputatious likely to dispute or argue
  • polemical inclined to argue or debate; controversial
  • predator one who takes advantage of another, exploits or feeds on another; a strong adversary or rival; con
  • pugnacious eager to fight; belligerent

Generosity in spending money or time, or showing concern for others

  • altruistic showing an unselfish concern for others
  • benevolent giving freely and easily to others; charitable; kind
  • largess generous giving
  • lavish generous in giving to others or in spending money
  • magnanimous generous in overlooking insult or injury by others; rising above pettiness
  • munificent very generous
  • philanthropic showing a desire to help others by giving gifts; charitable; humane
  • prodigal wasteful; lavish
  • squander to spend money (or time) in a wasteful, uncaring fashion

Cheapness or care with spending money

  • austere having great economy; showing self-control when it comes to foregoing luxuries and frills; stern in manner or appearance
  • avaricious greedy
  • frugal careful with money; thrifty; not prodigal or wasteful
  • mercenary greedy for self-gain; thinking only of money-making
  • miserly careful with how money is spent; thrifty
  • parsimonious overly thrifty or miserly
  • penurious stingy; relating to great poverty, destitution
  • thrifty showing care with how money and resources are spent or used; miserly

Problems, puzzlements, and disasters

  • adversity great trouble or difficulty
  • conflagration a huge fire, an inferno
  • confounding puzzling; baffling, bewildering, making perplexed
  • cryptic hidden; hard to understand; mysterious; obscure
  • debacle a failure or breakdown; a collapse that is often nonsensical
  • enigma a riddle or mystery; a puzzling or baffling matter or person
  • labyrinth a maze from which it is very hard to extricate(to free from constraint/difficulty) or free oneself
  • precarious dangerous or risky; uncertain
  • quagmire a difficult or troubling situation; a swampy ground, =bog, =mire
  • quandary a dilemma; a confusing or puzzling situation
  • turbulence great unrest; turmoil or disorder
  • turmoil a turbulent scenario or situation; tumult

Harmful or mean

  • baneful adj. causing ruin; harmful; pernicious
  • deleterious adj. harmful to one's health or overall welfare; pernicious
  • detrimental adj. harmful
  • devious adj. dishonest or deceptive; tricky
  • iniquitous adj. showing a lack of fairness; wicked; vicious
  • malicious adj. intending to hurt or harm another; spiteful
  • nefarious adj. very mean and wicked
  • odious adj. loathsome; evil; revolting in a disgusting way
  • ominous adj. pertaining to an evil omen; foreboding
  • pernicious adj. very destructive or harmful, usually in an inconspicuous and relentless way
  • rancorous adj. deeply hateful or spiteful; malicious
  • virulent adj. extremely poisonous; deadly; full of spiteful hatred

Criticizing, disapproving, or scolding

  • berate vb. to rebuke or scold in a harsh tone
  • carp vb. to find fault; to be critical
  • castigate vb. to scold or punish severely
  • censure vb. to criticize strongly
  • chastise vb. to punish or scold harshly
  • deprecate vb. to show mild disapproval
  • deride vb. to ridicule or make fun of; to scoff at
  • impugn vb. to oppose or attack someone or something as false or refutable
  • rebuff vb. to snub, to bluntly refuse
  • rebuke vb. to reprimand or scold sharply
  • reprove vb. to speak to in a disapproving manner; to scold
  • upbraid vb. to chide; to scold bitterly

Lacking interest or emotion

  • aloof adj. uninterested; showing no concern; emotionally removed or distant
  • apathetic adj. indifferent; showing no caring, interest, or concern; lacking emotion (without + feeling)
  • detached adj. aloof, indifferent
  • impassive adj. lacking emotion or drive (not + passionate)
  • indifferent adj. apathetic; showing little or no concern or care
  • listless adj. lacking interest in something, usually of illness, fatigue, or general sadness; spiritless (lifeless)
  • nonchalant adj. casual and indifferent; not showing any great concern or worry about something
  • phlegmatic adj. hard to get excited or emotional; calm; slow-moving
  • remote adj. emotionally distant and disinterested; aloof; uninvolved; distant, far away
  • stolid adj. lacking emotion or not showing any emotion; stoical

Lacking energy or movement

  • indolent adj. lazy; not wanting to do any work (idleness)
  • languor n. a weak or lifeless feeling (lingering)
  • lassitude n. a tired feeling, usually resulting from depression or too much work
  • lethargic adj. having little or no energy
  • sedentary adj. having to do with sitting around a lot
  • sluggish adj. slow and lazy (like a slug)
  • soporific adj. sleep-inducing; sleepy
  • stagnant adj. lacking movement or energy (tendency to stay)
  • torpid adj. lacking energy; relating to inactivity; feeling sluggish

Humility and obedience

  • compliant adj. yielding, submissive
  • fawning adj. gaining the favor of another by acting overly kind or by using flattery
  • obsequious adj. obeying or performing a service for someone in an overly attentive manner
  • servile adj. slave-like; very humble and submissive
  • slavish slave-like; overly humble; involving very hard work
  • submissive adj. voluntarily obeying another; humble
  • subordinate adj. inferior; lower in rank or status
  • subservient adj. obedient; obsequious
  • sycophant n. a self-server who tries to gain the favor of others through the use of flattery or by being overattentive
  • toady n. a flatterer; a sycophant

Enthusiasm and passion

  • ardent adj. full of passion and emotion
  • avid adj. showing enthusiasm; ardent
  • ebullient adj. filled with a bubbly excitement, as if boiling over with excitement
  • effervescent adj. lively; full of uplifted spirit; vivacious
  • exuberant adj. overflowing with vitality and good spirits
  • fanatical adj. full of great enthusiasm or devotion
  • fervent adj. filled with passion or intensity
  • impassioned adj. filled with passionate emotion
  • steadfast adj. loyal, resolutely or dutifully firm and determined
  • vivacious adj. attractively lively
  • vibrant adj. lively; full of vitality
  • zealous adj. filled with enthusiasm; fervent positive meaning, not to confuse with jealous

Being stubborn

  • adamant adj. unwilling to bend; unyielding
  • dogmatic adj. strongly opinionated; rigid; dictatorial
  • hidebound adj. strongly opinionated; narrow-mindedly stubborn
  • intractable adj. stubborn; hard to manage
  • obdurate adj. resistant to persuasion or softening; stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing
  • obstinate adj. stubborn; inflexible
  • recalcitrant adj. stubborn, disobedient; defiant
  • resolve n. firmness, determination
  • unwavering adj. firm and determined
  • unyielding adj. stubborn; inflexible
  • willful adj. stubborn


  • acoustics n. the quality of sound, pertaining to how it is heard based on the quality and structure of the room
  • cacophony n. lack of harmony; loud and unpleasant noise; a racket
  • clamor n. unpleasant sound; noise
  • din n./vb. ongoing loud sound; noise
  • discordant adj. lacking harmony or agreement
  • euphony n. pleasing sound
  • mellifluous adj. sweet and smooth sounding
  • raucous adj. coarse-sounding; loud and unruly
  • strident adj. shrill; high-pitched
  • vociferous adj. loud and noisy regarding one's own voice, especially shouting; demandingly clamorous

Praise and Respect

  • acclaim v. to express strong approval or praise; hail
  • accolade n. an award given as a sign of appreciation or respect
  • adulate v. to praise or flatter too greatly; fawn over
  • esteem v. to value highly; to have great regard for
  • eulogize v. to praise, as in a eulogy; to say good things about; to speak words in praise of someone at a funeral or mass
  • exalt v. to praise or glorify; to lift up in status, dignity(state of being worthy of honor), or power
  • extol v. to praise highly; laud
  • laud v. to praise; extol
  • panegyrize v. to praise a person or event in a formal speech or in writing; to praise highly
  • revere v. to regard highly with love and respect
  • venerate v. to feel or show deep respect for, especially due to age or tradition; to honor

More than enough

  • ample adj. abundant; plentiful; enough or more than enough
  • copious adj. abundant; much; plentiful
  • lavish adj. abundant; in excess
  • myriad adj./n. countless; a very large number
  • plethora n. excess; abundance
  • profuse adj. abundant; more than enough
  • prolific adj. abundant; producing a great deal; fertile
  • superfluous adj. overabundant; more than is needed; unnecessary
  • surfeit n. an oversupply

Food and hunger

  • abstemious adj. holding back from eating or drinking too much, on a diet
  • alimentary adj. relating to food and nourishment
    • alimentary canal: pathway along which food travels when it is eaten and from which solid wastes are expelled; includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and the anal canal.
  • culinary adj. having to do with cooking, preparing meals
  • delectable adj. delicious, delightful
  • emaciated adj. very, very thin due to lack of adequate food
  • epicurean adj. having to do with relishing the pleasure of eating and drinking (n. epicure)
  • glutton n. one who overindulges in food and drink
    • glut- : an oversupply or surplus
  • palatable adj. pleasing to the taste buds, palate
    • palate: the roof of the mouth
  • ravenous adj. very hungry; as raven
  • savory adj. tasty or good smelling
  • voracious adj. greedy; gluttonous; ravenous; insatiable

Being careful

  • chary adj. cautious; wary
  • circumspect adj. careful and cautious before acting; around+seeing
  • conscinentious adj. relating to doing what once knows is right (rightful); scrupulous
    • conscious: aware of and responding to surroudings, awake
  • exacting adj. requiring a great deal of care or effort; painstaking(thoroughness); being exact
  • gingerly adj. very carefully
  • heedful adj. paying careful attention to
  • meticulous adj. very careful; fussy(hard to please); finicky; fastidious(attentive, concerned about accuracy)
  • scrupulous adj. showing great care and honesty, based on personal belief of what is right and proper
    • scruple: a feeling of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality
  • vigilant adj. carefully alert and watchful
    • vigil: a night watch
  • wary adj. cautious; careful

Being Short-lived in Time or Place

  • ephemeral adj. lasting a short time; fleeting
  • evanescent adj. vanishing quickly; fleeting
  • fleeting adj. short-lived
  • itinerant adj. wandering about; tending to move around, travel
  • nomadic adj. wandering
  • peripatetic adj. moving or walking about; itinerant
  • transient adj. lasting for only a short time; temporary
  • transitory adj. fleeting
    • trans- movement across
  • volatile adj. explosive or changing very quickly

Old and New

The Old

  • antediluvian adj. very, very old; antiquated
  • antiquated adj. very old and no longer use; obsolete (antique)
  • antiquity n. ancient times
  • archaic adj. old; from a much earlier time; antiquated (archeology)
  • obsolete adj. old; outdated, no longer in use
  • relic n. a custom or object that has been around for a very, very long time

The New

  • contemporary adj. modern, new; relating to the same time period
  • inception n. the start, the beginning of something
  • innovation n. something new
  • novel adj. new
    • nova, neo, nou new
  • unprecedented adj. novel; unparallelized

Being Sneaky or Hardly Noticeable

  • clandestine adj. hidden; secret, concealed
  • covert adj. secret, hidden (covered)
  • furtive adj. sneaky (fugitive)
  • inconspicuous adj. hardly noticeable
    • conspicuous: standing out so as to be clearly visible
    • conspiracy: a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful
    • spic, spec see
  • sly adj. underhanded, furtive
  • stealthy adj. secretive, sly (steal)
    • stealth (aircraft): remain virtually undetectable on radar by using special materials and designs that either absorb or do not reflect radar waves
  • surreptitious adj. done or made in a secret, stealthy way
  • unobtrusive adj. inconspicuous; not easily noticed
    • obtrude: become noticeable in an intrusive/unwelcome way


  • adversary n. an opponent
  • advocate n. a supporter; proponent
  • artisan n. a person who is skillful with his or her hands
  • ascetic n. a person who refrains from indulging in earthly pleasures
  • charlatan n. a fraud; a quack or imposter
  • hedonist n. a person who lives for pleasure
  • orator n. a skillful public speaker
  • pariah n. a social outcast
  • raconteur n. a skillful storyteller; recount
  • skeptic n. a person who doubts
  • virtuoso n. a highly skilled performer, usually a musical performer

Things of Little Importance or Value

  • extraneous adj. not necessary; not an essential part; not relevant
  • frivolous adj. not having substance, a sense of importance, or seriousness; silly; trivial; trifling
  • incidental adj. less important; minor
  • inconsequential adj. irrelevant; of no significance; unimportant
  • irrelevant adj. not relating to the matter at hand
  • negligible adj. able or likely to be neglected or bypassed due to smallness or lack of importance
  • peripheral adj. only marginally connected to what is truly important; minor or incidental; at the edge of one's field of vision
  • petty adj. minor or trivial; small in quantity; paltry
  • superficial adj. lacking in depth or importance; on the surface
  • trifling adj. lacking significance; unimportant
  • trivial adj. unimportant; trifling; ordinary

Being Wise and Sharp-Minded

  • acute adj. keen-minded; sharp
  • astute adj. sharp-minded; very clever
  • discerning adj. able to judge people and situations clearly
  • erudite adj. wise due to much reading and studying; scholarly
  • incisive adj. decisive, keen and directly to the point
  • ingenious adj. very clever or inventive
  • judicious adj. showing wisdom in judging people and situations
  • perspicacious adj. using wise judgement; sharp-minded
  • prudent adj. careful, cautious, and wise
  • sagacious adj. wise
  • savvy adj. smart; informed
  • shrewd adj. insightful; clever

Sound/Look-alikes, but with different meanings

  • acrid adj. bitter, harsh
  • arid adj. dry, lacking water
  • aesthetic adj. having to do with artistic beauty
  • ascetic n. a person who refrains from indulging in earthly pleasures
  • atheistic adj. without a belief in any god
  • ambiguous adj. hard to understand; unclear; open to more than one interpretation
  • ambivalent adj. having conflicting feelings or opinions about something; unsure
  • coalesce vb. to have different opinions join together; fuse; converge
  • convalesce vb. to recover from an illness
  • delusion n. a false opinion or belief
  • allusion n. an indirect reference, often to a character or theme found in some work of literature
  • illusion n. something unreal that gives the appearance of being real; a misconception

More Tricky Twins and Triplets

  • imprudent adj. careless; rash
  • impudent adj. rude; disrespectful
  • indigenous adj. native
  • indigent adj. poor; impoverished
  • indignant adj. angry
  • intimate vb. to suggest; to hint at
  • intimidate vb. to frighten; to hint at
  • obscure adj. hard to understand; abstract
  • obtuse adj. stupid; not clear or precise
  • ponderable adj. important enough to require a lot of thought
  • ponderous adj. very heavy or bulky; dull or lifeless

Letters A to G

  • abridge vb. shorten
  • accessible adj. available; ready for use
  • antidote n. something that relieves or prevents; a remedy that counteracts the effects of poison antivirus
  • aspire vb. to work toward or to have a goal
  • autonomous adj. independent
  • bolster vb. to support; to strengthen
  • candor n. honesty, sincerity
  • cynical adj. believing that all others are motivated by self-interest
  • fastidious adj. very attentive to detail; fussy; meticulous; hard to please
  • gratify vb. to please or indulge gratitude

Letters H to P

  • hamper vb. to hinder; to prevent something from happening
  • hardy adj. healthy and strong; robust
  • homogeneous adj. of the same kind; alike; uniform
  • integrity n. holding firmly to values, such as honesty; completeness
  • intrepid adj. fearless
  • linger vb. to hang around; to stay
  • lofty adj. very high; towering; grand or noble
  • mock vb. to make fun of; to imitate
  • nurture vb. to care for, to nourish
  • opportunist n. a person who seeks self-gain, even at the expense of others, without regard to values or moral principles
  • proximity n. nearness

Letters Q to Z

  • querulous adj. whining; complaining
  • recount vb. to tell a story
  • rigor n. harshness; severity; strict adherence to standards
  • saturate vb. to wet or soak completely; to totally fill up
  • scrutinize vb. to read or look at very closely and carefully
  • surpass vb. to be better than; to excel
  • tentative adj. hesitant; not definite
  • thrive vb. to grow strong; to flourish
  • tranquility n. peacefulness; calmness
  • uniformity n. sameness
  • vilify vb. to slander or defame someone's name or reputation, villain
  • whimsical adj. fanciful

More Hot Words

  • aggregate n. a sum total or mixture
gregis- group or heard
  • audacious adj. very bold, confident, courageous
  • aviary n. an enclosed space for birds aviation
  • complementary adj. serving to complete another
  • debunk vb. to prove wrong or false debunk bed: to separate
  • discrepancy n. a difference, lack of compatibility
  • eclectic adj. taken from many different sources; collected and selected
  • excerpt n. a portion of a text or musical piece that is taken, or extracted, from the whole
  • glacial adj. very cold or very slow moving glacier

Even More Hot Words

  • insuperable adj. unable to be overcome; succumb
  • lithe adj. nimble and flexible; agile; supple; able to move quickly
  • misanthrope n. someone who dislikes all people
anthrop- man
  • pitfall n. an unseen danger, risk, or drawback
  • raze vb. to tear down; to destroy ant. raise
  • replete adj. filled-up; overflowing ant. deplete
  • respite n. period of inactivity; a lull; a reprieve; recess, rest
  • spurious adj. false; counterfeit; lacking logic; specious
  • vaporize vb. to turn to vapor, foam, or mist
  • innocuous adj. not harmful or offensive, innocent

Spied on Recent SATs

  • capricious adj. changeable; fickle; volatile; mercurial
n. caprice: a whim or fancy
  • diffident adj. lacking confidence in oneself; inclined to be shy; ant. confident
  • dilettante n. one who dabbles in the arts and sciences but is an expert in neither
  • egalitarian adj. pertaining to equal political, social, and economical rights for all mankind
  • heretic n. one who challenges societal and religious tradition; iconoclast
  • idiosyncratic adj. of or relating to strange or odd behavioral habits that are peculiar to the individual
  • insurgent n. a rebel; one who revolts against a government or political party; maverick; adj. rebellious
  • irrefutable adj. unable to be argued against; indisputable
  • melancholy adj. a feeling of sadness and gloominess
  • palpable adj. able to be touched or felt; tangible; material
  • pedantic adj. showy in one's learning; overly instructive
  • sardonic adj. scornful or bitter; sarcastic
  • variegated adj. having different patterns, colors, or appearance; dappled
  • viable adj. able to sustain life, practicality, or effectiveness

Literary Terms

  • allusion an indirect reference, often to a character or theme found in some work of literature
  • anecdote a short autobiographical account or snippet from someone's past, usually humorous
  • catharsis an emotional cleansing or release of emotional tensions, fears, or pity
  • euphemism a more pleasant word or phrase that replaces another which is too direct, distasteful, or offensive
e.g. use of "passed away" instead of "died"
  • hyperbole an exaggeration used to create an effect
  • irony an unexpected outcome or unanticipated twist of events presented in literature
  • metaphor a figurative device in which a direct comparison is made, without using like or as
e.g. your eyes are flawless diamonds
  • oxymoron contradictory terms, appearing side by side, used for rhetorical effect
e.g. jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, loving hate, heavy lightness, pretty ugly
  • parable a brief story, told or written in order to teach a moral lesson
  • parody a work that imitates the style of another literary work; may be mocking or amusing; short, humorous parodies can be called spoofs
  • pathos the quality of a piece of writing that evokes pity, sympathy, or some other strong emotional response in the reader
pathos - suffering in Greek, as in empathy, sympathy, pathetic
According to Aristotle, there are three strategies that are used in persuasive rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos.
  • prose writing that is not poetry or rhyming verse (e.g. a novel, play, or essay)
  • satire a literary work, often humorous, intended to ridicule the public figures, behaviors, or political situations presented or alluded to in the work
  • vignette a brief descriptive passage in writing

Clusters: Synonyms

  • High point - acme, apex, apogee, peak, pinnacle, summit, zenith
  • Low point - abyss, chasm, gorge, nadir
  • Prevent or frustrate a plan - baffle, deter, foil, hamper, hinder, impede, obstruct, preclude, stymie, thwart
  • Confuse - baffle, befuddle, bemuse, bewilder, confound, perplex
  • Erase, void, get rid of - abolish, abrogate, annihilate, annul, efface, eradicate, expunge, nullify, obliterate, vanquish, void
  • Beginner - amateur, apprentice, fledgling, neophyte, novice, rookie, tyro
  • Small amount or quantity - dearth, deplete, devoid, paucity, scarcity, sparse
  • Lie, avoid, or stretch the truth - embellish, embroider, equivocate, fabricate, prevaricate
  • Rest period or break - cessation, hiatus, lull, moratorium, reprieve, respite, siesta
  • Flexible - agile, elastic, limber, lithe, nimble, pliant, supple

More Tricky Twins

adept: skilled; competent
inept: unskilled; incompetent

amity: friendship; trust
enmity: hatred; bitter feeling

approbation: approval
opprobrium: shameful disgrace

avert: turn away
divert: amuse; entertain

bemoan: lament
bemuse: confuse; befuddle

capacious: spacious; having large capacity
rapacious: greedy; grasping

enervate: weaken
venerate: respect

effervescent: bubbly
evanescent: short-lived

flounder: flail uselessly or helplessly about, as if in quicksand
founder: fail; sink

hail: cheer for; acclaim
hale: healthy, inhale

impassive: apathetic; indifferent
impassioned: ardent, fervent

ingenious: creative
ingenuous: honest

innate: inborn
inane: senseless, silly
insane: having a mental disorder

invective: a vicious, verbal attack; tirade
inventive: creative; resourceful

lucid: clear; transparent
lurid: gruesome; violent

onus: a burden or responsibility
opus: a great work of music

paramount: of greater value
tantamount: of equal value

perquisite: a fringe benefit, frill
prerequisite: something required beforehand

picaresque: relating to adventure stories about rogues
picturesque: scenic

prodigal: wasteful
prodigious: very large

provincial: narrow-minded
providential: saving for future

seditious: rebellious
sedulous: hard-working, diligent

solicitude: concern
solitude: aloneness

temerity: reckless boldness
timidity: shyness

tonic: an invigorating drink
toxic: poisonous

voluble: talkative
voluminous: very large