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.

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.

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.”

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.