ACQUIESCE (ak-wee-es): to accept, submit or comply quietly. Example: The bank robber demanded all of the customers’ wallets and they acquiesced.

ALLEGORY (al-le-gore-e): a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for truths about human life; a symbolic representation. Example: In the “Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion embody traditional American values. The Scarecrow symbolizes intelligence; the Tin Woodman symbolizes compassion and the Lion symbolizes bravery.

AMBIGUITY [am-bi-gyoo-i-tee]: inexactness; being open to more than one interpretation. Example: The ambiguity found in the interpretation of their lab results meant further studies needed to be completed.

ANATHEMA (uh-nath-uh-muh): a person or thing detested or loathed, or cursed to damnation or destruction. Example: Voldemort was an anathema to the world of Harry Potter.

ANGST (äNG(k)st): a feeling of dread, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity.  Example: His angst about heading back to school was compounded with the knowledge that he was going to have to study harder this semester to pass Science.

The ANTI-HERO: This character is heroic but not a “hero” as such. He or she could be anyone who doesn’t have a hero’s typical characteristics, like superpowers, awesome strength and great confidence. Instead, the character prevails despite all their weaknesses. Examples of Anti-Hero characters: Severus Snape in Harry Potter; Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby; Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.

ARCHETYPE (arc·uh·type): an original pattern or typical example of a certain thing or person. Example: The book is a perfect archetype of the mystery genre. In literature or art, a recurrent symbol or theme, a common character or situation that represents the universal patterns of human nature. Example: The Lord of the Flies has great archetypes of good and evil including ‘the hero,’ ‘the outcast,’ and ‘the quest.’

ARTICULATE (/ärˈtikyələt/): (adjective) having the ability to express oneself clearly and effectively; (verb) express an idea or feeling fluently and coherently. Example: My little brother must not have articulated his Christmas wish list clearly as he got a sweater from Grandma instead of the Lego set he wanted.

AVARICE (Av-a-rice): extreme greed for wealth or material gain. Example: Scrooge is a classic example of avarice, heartlessly coveting all of his wealth for himself when there is poverty all around him.

AVATAR (ave-a-tar): Most of you probably know the term avatar as an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, chat rooms, etc. However, the word originally meant the descent of a deity (god) to the earth, usually in the earthly form of a Hindu deity. Later, it referred to any incarnation in human form, and then to any embodiment (like a concept). Example: Kalki is the tenth avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, said to be the one to rejuvenate existence by ending the darkest and most destructive period. OR Mother Teresa has come to be regarded as an avatar of charity and taking care of the poor.

CACOPHONY (CA-COUGH-A-KNEE): a harsh, jarring sound; a chaotic mixture. Example: My brother’s band was a cacophony of instruments blaring. The cacophony of smells in the kitchen was making me nauseous.

CADRE (kä-,-drē): a group of trained personnel able to control, train or lead others of a larger organization. Example:  The cadre of technicians met to review the plans for their new robot invention.

CLICHE (cle-sha): a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. Example: I was trying to keep our destination a secret from my friend, but then my mom let the cat out of the bag.

COLLOQUIALISM (col·lo·qui·al·ism): Everyday speech; a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, usually used in ordinary conversation.  Example: “Chicken out” is a colloquialism for “to lose one’s nerve.”

DEUS EX MACHINA (dues x mock-e-na) – a plot device wherein an unexpected, sudden (usually unlikely) event saves a hopeless situation; Latin, meaning “god out of the machine,” like a divine intervention. Example: She didn’t know how she was going to get out of the situation when she suddenly awoke and realized it was all a dream.

DIDACTIC (di·dac·tic): intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive. Treating someone in a patronizing way. Example: While trying to capture the difficulties of her life growing up in poverty, the author was careful to be insightful, not didactic.

ELUCIDATE (ih-loo-si-deyt): to make clear; explain; clarify.  Example:  The conclusion of his science project will elucidate his theory.

ENMITY (en·mi·ty): the feeling of being actively opposed or wishing ill will to someone or something. Example: Dolores Umbridge’s enmity for all things not wholly human and her quest for power caused her to punish and humiliate others.

EPONYMOUS (e·pon·y·mous): Refers to the person, place, or thing that something else is named after. Example: Calvin Klein Inc. is an American fashion house founded by designer Calvin Klein.

ERUDITION (air-a-dish-in): the quality of having or showing great knowledge or learning; extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books. Example: The novel comprised of the great leader’s letters was an excellent work of erudition.

ESOTERIC (esəˈterik/): intended for or understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.  Example:  Samantha made an esoteric joke that only she and her best friend understood.

EUPHEMISM (yoo-fuh-miz-uhm): a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one thought to be too harsh, offensive or blunt. Example:  saying passed away instead of died

EXTRAPOLATE (ex·trap·o·late): to predict by projecting past experience or known data into an area not known or experienced to arrive at a speculative knowledge of the unknown area. Example: We can extrapolate the number of books the fifth graders at our school will read next year by looking at how many the grade level has read in previous years.

FACILE (fac·ile):  easily accomplished or attained, superficial, oversimplified. Example1: He was such a strong runner, he achieved a facile victory at the Championship meet.  2- The teacher told me my arguments in my term paper were too facile and to do more research.

GHOST WORD: “a word that has come into existence by error rather than by normal linguistic transmission, as through the mistaken reading of a manuscript, a scribal error, or a misprint.” Check out these ghost words; it’s just “momblishness.” .”

GREGARIOUS (gre·gar·i·ous): indicating a liking for companionship; sociable, fond of company.  Example: The girl was very popular in her class as she was gregarious and generous.

HABERDASHER (hab·er·dash·er): a dealer in men’s clothing and accessories; previously also used for dealer of hats or caps, or a seller of notions (sewing supplies). Example: Bobby from The Misfits works in a haberdasher, selling men’s ties. 

HEINOUS (hay-nus): shockingly evil, wicked. Example: The murder of Cedric Diggory was another of Lord Voldemort’s heinous crimes illustrating his little regard for the lives of others.

HUBRIS (hue-bris): excessive pride, arrogance, or self-confidence; (in Greek tragedy) defiance of the gods. Example: Achilles, Icarus, and Victor (from Frankenstein) are all examples of hubris in literature and mythology. 

HYPERBOLE (hy·per·bo·le): exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Example: I had a ton of homework!

INCONGRUOUS (in-con-grew-us): not in keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something; out of place; unsuitable. Example: Her footwear was incongruous with her elegant dress, but it was comfortable! 

INSIDIOUS (in·sid·i·ous): proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.  Sneaky, treacherous, crafty.  Example: There was an insidious onset of the flu that caused half of my class to be absent.

INTEGRITY (in·teg·ri·ty): the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  Example: Since the teacher trusted the student’s integrity, she allowed him to take the test at home because he was sick.

LEVITY (lev-i-te): the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect; excessive frivolity. Example: In an attempt at levity, he made a bad joke to lighten the mood after the fight.

LICENTIOUS (lī-ˈsen(t)-shəs): lacking legal or moral restraints; disregarding accepted rules. Example: Because of his licentious behavior, the boy was suspended from school.

LUCID (lu-cid): expressed clearly; easy to understand; clear thinking. Example: Her fever finally broke and she became lucid again, no longer babbling about monsters in her closet.

MACABRE (ma·ca·bre): disturbing and horrifying in its representation with death and injury; gruesome, dreadful.  Example: The house decorated for Halloween was a macabre scene of blood and zombies.

MACHINATION (maSHəˈnāSHən): a plot or scheme; conspiracy usually intended to accomplish an evil end.  Example: Snow White was wary of the Evil Queen’s machinations.

MALICIOUS (muh-lish-uh s): having or showing a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.  Example: Most villains have malicious intent toward the main character in a story. Maleficent’s curse on Aurora was a malicious act bestowing her displeasure at not being invited to the child’s Christening.

MEANDER (me-an-der): follow a winding course (of a river or road); wander aimlessly. Example: The scenic trail meandered through the peaceful woods, allowing us to encounter many animals at play.

MEGALOMANIAC (mega-lo-main-e-ack): a person who is obsessed with their own power, often with delusional thoughts of unlimited authority or influence. Example: Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick is a megalomaniac on a revenge mission.

MOMENTOUS (mōˈmen(t)əs): A decision or event of great importance or significance, especially in its bearing on the future. Example: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a momentous occasion.    Take the time to watch this powerful speech: 

OBSEQUIOUS (uh b-see-kwee-uh s):  being overly submissive or dutiful; showing servile deference or obedience.  Example: The rock star was constantly followed by obsequious assistants and fans.

PIVOTAL (ˈpivədl’):  of vital or critical importance in relation to the development or success of something else.  Example:  Last night’s game was pivotal to the Eagles’ success and participation in the Super Bowl.

POLYSEMY (pol-ee-see-mee): A word with more than one distinct meaning.  Example: We had a good time at the play. (meaning enjoyable/fun)  The ticket is good for any showtime. (meaning valid/ acceptable).

PONTIFICATE (pänˈtifiˌkāt/): to speak or express opinions in a self-important way or arrogant tone, usually for a long time. Example: It was annoying that my teacher started to pontificate on my writing errors before she even read my paper.

PROFOUND (pro·found): (of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense. Example:  The Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win had a profound effect on the team’s fans, who celebrated a win they’ve long dreamed for.

PUERILE (pure-ile): childishly silly and trivial. Example: The teacher told the high school student that such a puerile excuse as “the dog ate my homework” would not be tolerated.

TENACIOUS (təˈnāSHəs) – tending to keep a firm hold of something; clinging or adhering closely. “a tenacious grip”; not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action; determined. Example: Katniss Everdeen’s tenacious actions against the Capitol help her survive the Hunger Games.

TORRENT (tor·rent): a strong and fast-moving stream of water or other liquid; an overwhelming, continuous outpouring of words, feelings, thoughts or sounds. Example: The rain is pouring down in torrents today.  His actions unleashed a torrent of criticism from the press.

TROPE (trōp): a storytelling device describing situations the audience will recognize; a common or overused theme or device, not necessarily a cliché. Example: “Everyone is a suspect” and “Hidden in Plain Sight” are two types of tropes used in Mystery novels.

TURBULENCE (ter-bu-lens): violent or unsteady movement of air or water; conflict; confusion.  Example: “The plane shook as it entered some turbulence.” “A strike in Illinois caused turbulence that led Congress to pass an act making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.”

UMBRAGE (um-bridge): offense or annoyance. Example: She took umbrage at the way she was represented in her friend’s story.

UNDULATE (un·du·late): move with a smooth wavelike motion; have a wavy form or surface. Example: The flag undulated in the breeze.

VICARIOUS (vi·car·i·ous): experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person. Example: Since her mom wouldn’t let her go to the concert, she had to experience it vicariously through her friends’ pictures and stories.

VIVACIOUS (vīˈvāSHəs): lively in temper, attractively energetic and enthusiastic. Example: EarthGirl from Story Thieves is a vivacious character, exemplified in her selfless, encouraging personality.

ZEALOT (zeal·ot): marked by passionate support for a person, cause, or ideal; showing eager desire in going for a goal.  Example:  She was such a zealot of Harry Potter that she spent all of her allowance on the new book instead of buying a birthday present for her brother.