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

ABDICATE (ab-di-kate): fail to fulfill or undertake a responsibility or duty; renounce ones throne. Example: In “the book thief,” Liesel’s mother abdicated responsibility for her children because she was poor and sickly.

AGGRANDIZE (ag-grand-ize): increase the power, status, reputation or wealth of. Example: The popular clique only cared to aggrandize themselves and didn’t care who they hurt in the process of gaining more power in the school.

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.

ANACHRONISTIC (a-nack-row-nis-tick): an error in chronology or timeline, belonging to a period other than that being portrayed, or appropriate to an earlier period. Example: In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act II, there were no mechanical clocks during Caesar’s time, though there were the time the play was written.
Brutus: Peace! count the clock.
Cassius: The clock has stricken three.

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.

BANAL (ba-nowl): lacking originality; Ex: The book’s plot was so banal, he could practically write the next page himself.

BIBLIOPHILE (bib-lee-o-file): someone who has a great love of and/or collects books. Example: The bibliophiles are very excited for summer vacation so they can get started on their huge stacks of ‘must read’ books.

BUCOLIC (bu-call-ic): relating to or typical of rural life; pleasant aspects of countryside. Ex: The bucolic village she grew up in was now immersed in strip-malls and townhouses.

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.

CALAMITY (ka-lam-it-e): a disaster, an event causing great and swift damage or distress. Example: The Easter Sunday explosions in Sri Lanka were a calamity that battered the small Christian community.

CHIMERA (kimir-a): an unrealistic idea; a hope unlikely to be fulfilled. In Greek mythology, a creature with the head of a lion, a body of a goat, and tail of a snake. Also, an imaginary monster made of odd parts. Example: In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, chimeras were classified as a very dangerous form of beast, with their mix of animal parts.

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.

CODDIWOMPLE (kod-e-wom-pel): to travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown or vague destination (stumble upon unexpected moments and memories) (English slang). Example: My Europe trip was a coddiwomple to have fun and see sights, but I ended up meeting someone who would become one of my best friends.

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.

DICHOTOMY (die-cot-o-me): a division of two mutually exclusive or contradictory groups, such as good and evil, or theory and practice. Example: The dichotomy of nature versus nurture is an ongoing debate.

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.

DIURNAL (die-ur-null): of or during the day; active in day/opposite of nocturnal. Example: Some animals, like domesticated dogs and cats, have changed from their natural nocturnal cycles to diurnal to match their human caretakers.

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.

EPHEMERAL (ef-em-er-roll): something that lasts a very short time; fleeting. Example: Her excitement at making the swim team was ephemeral when she heard about the tough workouts they would do.

EPIPHANY (a-pif-a-nee): A sudden discovery which reveals the essential meaning of something. In religion, a church festival observed Jan. 6th in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Example: My doctor’s warning about my health caused the epiphany to take an exercise class with a friend.

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.

ERUDITE (air-a-dite): having or showing great academic knowledge; Ex: When you use these vocabulary words, you show yourself to be an erudite person.

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 (fas·uhl):  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.

FACETIOUS: (fa-see-sh-us): deliberately joking inappropriately; flippant, glib.  Example: Sophie’s facetious attitude when her parents scolded her for being late only got her in more trouble.

FACTITIOUS (fak-tish-us): artificial, sham. Example: After she won the concert tickets, the popular girls lavished her with factitious friendliness, trying to get invited.

FORTUITOUS (four-too-it-us): happening by a lucky chance rather than planned; fortunate. Example: It was fortuitous that my teacher was absent and the test that I didn’t study for was postponed.

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. 

HALCYON (hal-see-in): calm and peaceful. Example: Walking in the woods is a halcyon experience for me.

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.

JUGGERNAUT (jug-er-naught): An overwhelming or unstoppable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path. Example: The Game of Thrones proved its juggernaut status once again by setting an all-time HBO ratings record.

KNAVE (nāv): a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel. Ex: Aidan is a knave who steals money from his family to buy cigarettes.

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.

LACUNA (luh-koo-na): a blank space or missing part; gap; missing part in a book or manuscript; a small cavity or pit, especially in bone. Example: When he wrote down the old stories passed down verbally through the generations of his family, he filled the lacuna from gaps in memory with his own prose.

LOQUACIOUS (low-kway-shuss): a very talkative person. Ex: Usually loquacious, the surprise party for Anna had her at a total loss for words.

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: 

NEOPHYTE (knee-o-fight): person who is new to a skill, activity, or belief. Ex: The first few students hooked up and flew down the zipline to show the neophytes how it was done.

OBFUSCATE (ahb-fuss-kate): to be confusing, unclear or ambiguous Example: The story followed no clear plot and only succeeded in obfuscating me.

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.

OLEAGINOUS (oo-lee-ah-jin-us): marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality; of or relating to oil(y). Example: My friends and I were walking to get ice cream but changed our direction when we saw the oleaginous man hanging out on the corner. 

PARACOSM (par-a-cas-um): a fantasy world invented in childhood, usually with a definite geography, history and language, that continues over a prolonged period of time, with a deeply felt relationship. Example: Many fantasy authors started with paracosms, such as Tolkien inventing languages in his childhood that led to the creation of his Middle-earth.

PITHY (pith-ee): brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression. Example: She paid careful attention in her Debate class and her comments were always pithy and to the point.

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 pontificated on my writing errors before she even read my paper.

PREHENSILE (pre-hen-sigh-uhl): adapted for seizing or grasping especially by wrapping around, usually of an animal’s limb or tail. Example: Monkeys have prehensile tails and elephants have prehensile trunks.

PREVARICATION (pre-var-ah-ka-tion): the deliberate act of deviating from the truth; being vague or skirting around the truth. Example: When his mom asked him if his spinach was all eaten, he said yes, a prevarication since the dog had actually eaten it.

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.

PROGNOSTICATION (prog-nos-ti-ka-tion): the action of forecasting or prophesying the future. Example: I hope my pessimistic prognostications about how hard my science test will be turns out wrong.

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.

PUGILISTIC (p-u-ja-lis-tic): related to boxing; wanting to fight or hit someone. Example: Everyone cleared the hallway when they saw the pugilistic boy coming, looking for revenge for the prank that was played on him.

QUERULOUS: habitually complaining. Example: I was glad my mom was out when I got home so I didn’t have to hear her querulous complaints about not keeping my room clean.

RAPACIOUS (rah-pay-shuss): excessively greedy; selfish extreme greed for wealth or material gain. Example: Her rapacious appetite to be the winner of the award caused her to cheat to ensure her win.

SELF-AGGRANDIZING (self a-grand-i-zing): promoting oneself as being powerful or important. Example: His self-aggrandizing talk frustrated his classmates, who had done most of the work on the class project.

SERENDIPITY (sar-en-dip-ote): finding agreeable things not sought for; unexpected good luck. Example: Though I dreaded another book report for Language Arts class, it was serendipity to discover one of my most favorite books as my assignment.

SHIBBOLETHS (shibbo-lith): a word, saying or belief used by a particular class or group of people and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning or outmoded. Example: Forget the shibboleths and political views and let’s examine the problem.

SOLILOQUY (so-lil-a-ka-we): an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play; interior monologue. Example: One famous example of a soliloquy is Juliet’s “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” speech from Romeo and Juliet. 

SUBLIMITY (sub-lim-it-e): grandeur, power or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe. Example: The sublimity of the scenery in Yosemite National Park has inspired many authors and poets.

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.

TROGLODYTE  (trog-la-die-te): old-fashioned hermit or member of prehistoric people who lived in caves. Example: Movie fans tour Southern Tunisia to see Star Wars set locations, especially the traditional Berber troglodyte dwellings at Matmata.

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.

VERNACULAR (ver· nack· you· lar) nonstandard or everyday language or dialect of a place, including slang/informal; characteristic of a period, place, or group (such as Roman architecture). Example: “Hey! Come merry dol! Derry dol! My hearties!” (from “The Fellowship of the Ring”)

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.

WALKABOUT: when someone needs to break away from the daily grind in hopes of finding their spiritual path. Ex: In Australian Aboriginal society, a Walkabout is a rite of passage which adolescent males live in the wilderness for up to six months to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood.

XENOPHOBIA (zen-o-fo-bee-a): a fear and hatred of foreigners or strangers. Ex: In a divided nation like South Africa, xenophobia is so public and attacks on foreigners so frequent, they don’t always even make the news.

YAFFLE (yaf-full): English slang meaning to eat or drink messily, or to talk incoherently; also another name for green woodpecker. Example: She retched at the sight of her brother yaffling his burger, emitting loud burps in between bites.

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.