My Favorite Way to Learn Vocabulary for the GRE (updated)
1400+ GRE Vocabulary Cartoons Flashcards
The app is by far the easiest way to study my vocab words. The funny cartoons and mnemonics will help you remember the words, and there's a spaced repetition algorithm to make your studying more efficient and effective.
Plus, it's free -- and ad-free!
Let's Learn Some GRE Vocab!
Hi! My name is Vince Kotchian, and I've been a full-time tutor since 2008. I’m going to show you how to learn as many words as possible before you take the GRE.
On this page you'll find 161 word roots and over 1300 GRE vocabulary words, based on the book GRE Vocab Capacity that I co-wrote with fellow GRE tutor Brian McElroy.
Below, you'll find definitions, example sentences, clever mnemonics to help you remember the words. I'll also briefly describe the best way to study vocabulary: spaced repetition.
Before I begin, here are 3 related GRE resources:
1. If you want to read everything I have to say about how to learn GRE vocabulary, check out my FREE GRE vocab e-book.
2. My free GRE study plans have lots of other tips to help you organize your GRE prep.
3. And if you're not really in the mood to dive into studying right now, my funny vocab cartoons on Instagram are a fun way to ease into it.
Want to go straight to the vocab words for a particular letter? Just click on the letter you want to jump to below.
How to Study GRE Vocabulary
Spaced repetition, when studying vocab, will help you learn words more efficiently than just flipping through flashcards. If you review a word too soon, your brain doesn’t engage as much since you still remember its definition. Study it too late, and the definition has faded completely. The ideal time to study a word is when you’re jussst starting to forget it, to rebuild the memory stronger than the first time… kind of like a muscle growing stronger through weight training. So if you're studying a word today, it might make sense to review it 3 days from now - i.e., when you're starting to forget it - and then review it again 6 days after that day, since it'll take you longer to start to forget it as you continue to learn it.
GRE Root Vocabulary Words
Learning word roots is helpful for GRE vocabulary, because if you come across a word you've never studied, you might at least recognize its root - and that might be good enough to take an educated guess at its meaning.
Think: amoral - without morality.
ab: away or apart from.
Think: abnormal - away from being normal.
ac: sharp; biting.
Think: acid - something that can chemically burn.
ad: toward or near.
Think: adjacent - next to.
ag: to do.
Think: agent - something that acts.
Think: alien - something foreign.
Think: amour - a love affair.
amb: to walk.
Think: amble - to walk slowly.
Think: ambidextrous - able to use both hands.
Think: animate - to give life to.
Think: antechamber - the entryway before the main room.
Think: anthropology - the study of man.
Think: antifreeze - chemical used against freezing.
Think: aptitude - ability.
arch: the biggest.
Think: archenemy - the biggest enemy.
Think: autonomy - independence of the self.
be: to have.
Think: befriend - to become friends with.
Think: belligerent - warlike.
Think: benefit - an advantage.
Think: bisexual - having both male and female sexuality.
Think: abbreviate - to shorten.
cand: to burn.
Think: captain - a leader.
Think: cardiac - of the heart.
Think: carnivore - a meat-eating animal.
Think: chronology - sequence of events.
Think: circumference - the distance around a circle.
cis: to cut.
claim: to declare or shout.
Think: exclaim - to shout out.
cli: to lean.
Think: recline - to lean back.
Think: collaborate - to work together.
cre: to grow.
cred: to believe.
Think: credibility - believability.
Think: cryptic - having an unclear or hidden meaning.
Think: culprit - one who is guilty.
Think: defame - to take away the fame of (through slander).
Think: democracy - rule by the people.
dict: to say.
Think: diction - choice of words.
Think: dignity - worthiness.
Think: disarm - to take away an armament (like a gun).
dac: to teach.
Think: didactic - intended to teach.
Think: dogma - established beliefs.
Think: orthodox - adhering to established opinion.
Think: condolences - sympathy for another’s suffering.
don: to give.
Think: dubious - doubtful.
duct: to lead.
Think: orchestra conductor.
dys: faulty or broken.
Think: centennial - a 100th anniversary.
Think: epidermis - the layer of the skin on the dermis.
err: to wander.
Think: eulogy - a praising speech.
extra: outside of.
Think: extraterrestrial - outside of Earth.
fac: to make.
fer: to bring.
ferv: to burn.
Think: fervor - passion.
Think: fidelity - faithfulness.
flam: to burn.
flex: to bend.
flict: to hit.
Think: conflict - fighting.
flu: to flow.
Think: foreshadow - to hint at the future.
frac: to break.
fus: to pour.
Think: blood transfusion - transferring blood into someone.
Think: gender - sex.
Think: Grand Canyon.
Think: congregrate - to group together.
hes: to stick.
Think: heterosexual - sexual with a sex different than one’s own.
Think: homosexual - sexual with one’s own sex.
Think: A hyperactive little kid.
Think: hypothermia – body temperature below normal.
Think: interstate highway.
Think: intravenous - within a vein.
ject: to throw.
junct: to join.
lect: to choose.
Think: manual labor.
mit: to send.
Think: amorphous - without shape.
Think: immortal - without death.
Think: novice - a beginner.
Think: omnipotent - all powerful.
Think: panoramic - taking in all the scenery.
Think: disparity - difference.
para: next to.
Think: pediatrician - child doctor.
pen: to pay.
Think: compensation - payment.
pend: to hang.
pet: to strive.
Think: bibliophile - one who loves books.
plac: to please.
Think: placate - to calm down or appease.
ple: to fill.
pos: to place.
port: to carry.
Think: posthumous - after death.
prehend: to get.
pro: a lot.
Think: profuse - large in quantity.
prob: to test.
pug: to fight.
Think: pugilist - a boxer.
punct: to prick.
quis: to search for.
Think: inquisitive - seeking knowledge.
rid: to laugh.
rog: to ask.
Think: interrogate - to question intensely.
sci: to know.
scribe: to write.
seq: to follow.
sens: to be aware.
sol: to loosen.
spec: to look.
sta: to be still.
Think: static - still.
Think: supersonic - faster than sound.
Think: tacit - understood without words.
tain: to hold.
tens: to stretch.
Think: atheist - without belief in God.
tort: to twist.
Think: contort - to bend severely.
tract: to pull.
ut: to use.
Think: viable - able to survive.
vid: to see.
vok: to call.
Think: invoke - to summon.
vol: to wish.
Think: voluntary - of one’s own wish.
GRE Vocab Words With Flashcards
Below, you'll find all 1300 of my GRE vocabulary words with definitions, example sentences, and funny mnemonics to help you remember what the words mean. I've separated the words by letter, in alphabetical order.
abase (verb): to humiliate or degrade. “uh BASE”
Think: give up a base.
When you’re making out with someone, if you give up a base too quickly, then you just abase yourself.
abashed (adjective): embarrassed. “uh BASHED”
Think: Bashful the dwarf.
When Snow White kisses him, Bashful gets so abashed that he blushes.
abate (verb): to reduce. “uh BATE”
It may be annoying to have to mail it in, but the rebate on the new cell phone will abate its cost.
aberration (noun): an exception or departure from the norm. “ah (rhymes with “nah”) burr A shun”
Think: a bare Asian.
Seeing a bare Asian would be an aberration – most people in Asia wear clothes.
abeyance (noun): temporary inactivity; suspension. “uh BAY ants”
Think: “obey” ends.
When our lieutenant’s command to obey ends, our work plans are held in abeyance because we’re lazy.
abhor (verb): to hate. “ab WHORE”
Daria abhors the tube-top-wearing blonde who stole her boyfriend and refers to her as an "ab-whore".
abject (adjective): miserable; wretched. “ab-JEKT”
If she rejects my marriage proposal, I’ll be abject, with nothing to live for.
abnegate (verb): to give up something; to deny oneself something. “ab nuh GATE”
Think: abs negated.
If you abnegate food, the fat covering your abs will get negated.
abomination (noun): something awful. “uh BOM in A shun”
Think: bomb a nation.
It is an abomination to bomb a nation: civilians get killed.
aboriginal (adjective): existing since the beginning. “AB or IDGE in ul”
In Australia, the original natives are the Aborigines - they are aboriginal since they were its first inhabitants.
abort (verb): to end prematurely. “uh BORT”
An abortion can abort a pregnancy.
abound (verb): to be numerous. “uh BOUND”
Kangaroos abound in Australia; they’re abundant, bouncing around wherever you look.
abrasive (adjective): causing irritation. “Uh BRAY sive”
Think: braying donkey.
Adopting a homeless donkey seemed great until I realized it would wake me up every morning with its abrasive braying.
abridge (verb): to shorten. “uh BRIJ”
Think: a bridge.
A bridge would abridge my commute, which involves driving around the canyon.
abrogate (verb): to get rid of; to abolish. “AB roh gate”
Think: a broken gate.
After my 120 lb. Mastiff decided to abrogate the barrier to the kitchen and eat from the garbage, we were left with a broken gate.
absolute (adjective) complete and total. “ab so LUTE”
Think: Absolut Vodka.
The reason Absolut Vodka is more expensive than most brands is its superior purity; it is literally absolute vodka.
absolve (verb): to free from guilt; to forgive. “ub SOLVE”
Catholics believe that confessing to a priest will dissolve their guilt and absolve them from sin.
abstemious (adjective): sparing; moderate. “ab STEM ee us”
The health teacher knew that if he told students to be abstemious, some of them would still get pregnant, so he urged them to practice abstinence .
abstruse (adjective): hard to comprehend. “ab STROOS”
Think: abstract and confusing.
The abstract strudel directions will confuse the new cook because they are abstruse.
abysmal (adjective): awful. “uh BIZ mull”
When I had food poisoning, my stomach felt so abysmal that I had to drink a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
accede (verb): to express approval for; to give into. “uh SEED”
Since we all accede to the plan to seed the garden, it looks like we're agreed.
accolade (noun): an expression of praise. “AK oh lade”
I received many accolades for my service, but my favorite was the gift of a brand-new Cadillac Escalade.
accretion (noun): growth via a gradual buildup. “uh CREE shun”
Think: creeps up on.
Gaining weight creeps up on a lot of people since they don’t notice the slow accretion of fat.
accumulate (verb): to gradually increase. “Ah KYOOM you late”
Think: cumulus clouds.
We better pack up this picnic and leave - those cumulus clouds are accumulating and I think there’s gonna be a thunderstorm soon.
acerbic (adjective): harsh; biting. “uh SIR bick”
On American Idol, Simon Cowell’s criticism was acerbic to the point of being acidic.
acme (noun): the highest point of something “ACK me”
In high school, I was plagued by acne: the acme of my nose was often a giant zit.
acquisitive (adjective): eager to acquire and possess; greedy. “uh QUIZ zit tive”
Think: a squid visited.
An acquisitive squid visited my house and wrapped his arms around all of my valuable Chinese porcelain.
acrimonious (adjective): bitter. “ak rih MOAN ee us”
Think: a crime on us.
Committing a crime on us makes us acrimonious.
acumen (noun): insightfulness. “AK you min”
Think: accurate men.
In business, accurate men usually have acumen.
adamant (adjective): stubborn; unyielding. “AD uh mint”
Think: Adam…damn it!
God was adamant that Adam not return to the Garden of Eden: “I said no, damn it!"
adept (adjective): very skilled. “uh DEPPED”
Mountain lions can adapt to almost any climate and environment; they’re adept at survival.
adequate (adj): appropriate; good enough. “AD uh quit”
Think: had to quit.
I had to quit at mile 15 of my marathon, but now that I think about it, 15 miles is plenty adequate for a solid workout.
adhere (verb): to stick to something. “ad HERE”
The adhesive on the Band-Aid made it adhere to my finger.
admonished (verb): warned to do what's best. “ad MON isht”
Think: add Monistat.
"Add Monistat to your body if you're suffering from a vaginal yeast infection," the ad admonished.
adorned (adjective): decorated. “uh DORNED”
Think: add ornaments.
If you adore Christmas, then you probably enjoy adorning your home by adding ornaments to your tree.
adroit (adjective): skillful. “uh DROIT” (rhymes with “Detroit”)
Think: a Droid.
A Droid is an adroit cell phone since it can do so much.
adulation (noun): excessive admiration. “ad joo LAY shun”
Think: adult adoration.
The grown adult’s adoration of role-playing video games could only be called adulation.
adulterate (verb): to corrupt; to make impure. “uh DULT er ate”
In The Bible, God said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." because an affair will adulterate a marriage.
adversary (noun): an enemy or rival. “AD ver sare ee”
Israel faces more adversity than most countries; it is nearly completely bordered with adversaries.
advocate (noun:) supporter, ally. “AD voh kit”
Think: I voted.
I voted in the election, proving I’m an advocate of our democracy.
aegis (noun): protection. “EE gis”
Think: egg us
Go ahead, try to egg us - our house has the aegis of the police, since my dad’s a cop.
aesthetic (adjective): relating to beauty. “es THE tick” (rhymes with “pathetic”)
Think: athletic body.
If you're athletic, then you're likely to have a body that is aesthetically pleasing.
affable (adjective): friendly. “AFF uh bull”
Since they want tourists to feed them, zoo giraffes are so affable that it's laughable.
affectation (noun): an artificial way of behaving. “aff eck TAY shun”
Think: a fake fiction.
Madonna's phony English accent is an affectation; it is a fake fiction.
affiliated (adjective): related to, intertwined. “uh FILL ee ate ed”
Think: Philly I ate.
When I went to Philly I ate a cheesesteak, because cheesesteaks are affiliated with Philadelphia.
affront (noun): an insult or offense. “uh FRONT”
Think: afro in front.
I have a huge afro, so if I sit in front of people at a movie, they often take it as an affront.
aggrandized (verb): made greater; enhanced. “uh GRAND ized”
Think: a grand-sized.
I aggrandized my social status by throwing a lavish party - it gave me a grand-sized reputation.
aghast (adjective): struck by fear or amazement. “uh GASSED”
Think: a ghost.
I was aghast when I looked in the mirror and saw a ghost standing next to me.
alacrity (noun): cheerful promptness. “uh LACK crih tee”
Electricity has alacrity, since it only takes a millisecond for the light to come on after I flip the switch.
algorithm (noun): a mathematical formula or procedure. “AL guh rhythm”
Think: Al Gore’s rhythm.
It's an inconvenient truth that, on the dance floor, Al Gore's rhythm is as dull and predictable as a computer algorithm.
alleviate (verb): to soothe or lessen the severity of. “uh LEAVE ee ate”
Allison’s headache was so bad that she took four Aleve pills to alleviate the pain.
allusion (noun): an indirect reference. “al LEW shun”
Think: A lewd sin.
“Adjusting the antenna” is one of the funnier allusions to what some might consider a lewd sin.
altruistic (adjective): unselfish concern for others. “al true IST ick”
Think: always true stick.
My wingman is altruistic: he’s always true to me and will stick by my side when I hit on chicks - even if he’s not interested in any of them.
amalgamate (verb): unify; join parts into a whole. “uh MAL gum ate”
After breaking the vase, Malcolm used gum to amalgamate the pieces back together.
ambiguity (noun): The state of being unclear or ambiguous. “am big YOU it ee”
Think: a big “U” for undecided.
When it came time to indicate her political party on the ballot, Virginia checked neither a big “D” for Democrat, nor a big “R” for Republican, but instead, a big “U” for undecided due to her ambiguity.
ambivalence (noun): contradictory feelings toward something. “am BIV ull ents”
Think: valence electron.
The valence electron was ambivalent about which electrons he wanted to pair off with. According to his mother, he was unsure and afraid of commitment.
ameliorated (verb): made better. “uh MEAL ee or ate id”
Think: Emilio rated.
Emilio rated my pasta as a 10 out of 10, which ameliorated my fear that I had ruined it.
amenable (adjective): willing; cooperative. “uh MEN uh BULL”
After she shouted "amen!", I was able to tell that she was amenable to my plan.
amicable (adjective): friendly. “AM ick uh bull”
When Amy reminded me that her hammock was able to hold two people, I knew that she was amicable .
amortize (verb): to gradually pay off or reduce. “am MORT eyes”
Think: a mortgage.
Unless you have a ton of money, when you buy a house, you probably amortize the loan with a mortgage.
ample (adjective): enough or more than enough. “AM pull”
With about $200 billion in cash reserves (in 2015), Apple has ample resources.
anachronism (noun): something belonging to a different time period. “an NACK ron is im”
Think: inaccurate chronology.
The movie has something inaccurate about its chronology: a caveman wearing a watch - a huge anachronism.
analogue (noun): something similar. “an al LOG”
Think: Analog vs. Digital.
My audiophile cousin swears that analog is way better than digital, but to me they sound pretty similar .
anathema (noun): something hated; a curse. “uh NATH em uh”
Think: a nasty enema.
If a patient is constipated, then a nasty enema may follow, which can be anathema for the nurse.
animosity (noun): hatred; hostility. “an ih MOSS ih tee”
Think: enemy city.
During the war, I accidentally parachuted into the enemy city and was met with animosity.
annotation (noun): a comment or note on a literary work. “ann oh TAY shun”
Think: a notation.
There are lots of annotations in my copy of Hamlet; I made a notation every time I needed to define an unfamiliar term.
annul (verb): to cancel. “ann ULL”
Think: null set.
In mathematics, the null set means “a set that contains nothing.” If you annul (cancel) your marriage, you end it.
anodyne (noun): a pain-reliever. “ann oh DINE”
Think: am not dying.
I have the flu, but my doctor-prescribed anodyne finally has made me feel like I am not dying.
anomaly (noun): something unusual. “uh NOM uh lee”
Think: abnormally knobby knee.
I have an abnormally knobby knee; my doctor tells me it’s an anomaly.
antedate (verb): to come before. “AN tuh date”
Think: auntie ante- (before) date.
Chances are that your auntie has a birth date that antedates yours.
antediluvian (adjective): ancient; primitive. “ann tee die LOUVE ee in”
Only someone with antediluvian views on sex would be anti-dildo-lovin'.
antipode (noun): the exact opposite. “ANN tih pode”
The North Pole is the antipode to the South Pole - you might say they're "anti-poles ."
antithesis (noun): opposite. “ann TITH uh sis”
You got a "D" on your essay because your examples argued for the antithesis of your introduction's thesis.
apace (adverb): quickly. “uh PACE”
Think: keep pace.
The Indy 500 racer's pit crew changed his tires apace so he could keep pace with the leaders.
apartheid (noun): the policy of separating groups based on race. “uh PAR thighed”
Think: apart to hide.
In South Africa, apartheid kept blacks apart to hide them from racist whites.
aplomb (noun): confidence. “uh PLOM”
Think: the bomb.
If you have aplomb, you think you're the bomb.
apocryphal (adjective): of doubtful truthfulness. “uh POCK rih full”
Think: apocalypse predictions.
The prediction that the apocalypse would happen in 2012 turned out to be apocryphal.
apoplectic (adjective): enraged. “ah puh PLEK tick”
Think: Apu epileptic.
In the Simpsons, when Nelson robbed his Kwik-E-Mart, Apu shook with apoplectic rage as if he was having an epileptic seizure.
apostle (noun): a supporter. “uh PAH sill”
Think: A posse.
The famous rapper was known to roll deep with his many apostles – his posse, that is.
apothegm (noun): a short, wise remark. “APP uh THEM”
Think: pocket the gem.
"Pocket the gem!" is a good apothegm to remember if you’re training to be a jewelry store robber.
apotheosis (noun): a perfect example. “uh POTH ee oh sis”
Think: a potent thesis.
My professor said he gave me only A in the class because my paper was the apotheosis of a persuasive essay: it had a potent thesis.
appease (verb): to soothe, satisfy or pacify. “uh PEAS”
Think: please with peas.
I appease and please my baby daughter by hiding her peas inside of her mashed potatoes.
apportion (verb): to divide and distribute. “uh POOR shun”
Think: a portion.
If you want a portion of lunch, go ask the lunch lady - she apportions it to everyone.
apposite (adjective): appropriate. “APP uh sit”
Think: a positive site.
Wikipedia is a positive site because it’s apposite for all kinds of research.
approbation (noun): approval; praise. “app pro BAY shun”
Think: approve probation.
Maybe the best approbation I ever received was when the judge finally approved me for probation.
apropos (adjective): relevant. “app pro POH”
It’s apropos and appropriate that we’re talking about posing because I was just discovered and contracted to be a model!
arbitrary (adjective): done without reason; random. “ARE bit TRARE ee”
Think: varies a bit.
When I order a pizza, the amount of toppings I get often seems pretty arbitrary – it always varies a bit.
arcane (adjective): mysterious; known only to a few. “are CANE”
Think: Ark of the Covenant.
Indiana Jones understood the arcane Ark of the Covenant; the Nazis did not, which is why they perished.
arch (adjective): sassy. “arch”
Think: arched eyebrow.
Her playful, arch comment made me arch my eyebrow.
archaic (adjective): no longer current; outdated. “are KAY ick”
Think: arch age.
I knew you time-traveled here from the Roman Empire because your archaic expressions sound like you’re from the arch age.
arduous (adjective): strenuous; difficult. “ARE joo us”
Think: hard for us.
Clearing out that hoarder’s house is arduous; it’s hard for us because he kept every piece of junk mail he ever received.
arid (adjective): very dry. “AIR rid”
Think: Arrid Extra Dry.
“Get a little closer; don't be shy! Get a little closer, with Arrid Extra Dry deodorant (which keeps your armpits arid)!”
arrogate (verb): to unrightfully take or claim. “ARE uh gate”
Think: a rogue ate.
My liege – a rogue ate my rations – may I have more since he arrogated what was rightfully mine?
articulate (adjective): using clear, expressive language. “are TICK you lit”
Oscar Wilde was so articulate that his conversational speech could be used as a newspaper article without any editing.
artifice (noun): deception; trickery. “ART ih fiss”
In The Hunger Games, Effie Trinket tries to win people over with artifice, but it doesn’t work because her sweetness is so artificial .
artless (adjective): simple; without cunning. “ART less”
Think: art-less flirting.
Flirting is an art I use less than most people; it’s definitely pretty artless when I just go up to a girl and tell her I like her.
ascendancy (noun): governing or controlling influence. “Uh SEND and see”.
Think: ascend and see.
In battles, armies strive to take hills: ascending to higher ground makes it easier to see one’s enemy and leads to tactical ascendancy.
ascetic (adjective): practicing self-denial. “uh SET ick”
Think: asset? ick!
The ascetic Buddhist monk, when offered the chance to take money or another asset, said “ick!”
ashen (adjective): very pale. “ASH in”
When he saw the ghost, his complexion became so ashen that his face was the color of ash.
askew (adjective): slanted to one side. “uh SKEW”
Your picture is askew because the earthquake skewed it from hanging evenly.
asperity (noun): bad temper. “ass PEAR it ee”
Think: a spear in me.
I have asperity because I have a spear in me – can you blame me?
aspersion (noun): a false claim intended to harm. “ass SPUR shun”
Think: asp poison.
Her aspersions about what I did last night felt like asp poison.
aspiration (noun): a hope or ambition. “asp ear A shun”
Think: as a pirate.
As a pirate, I’ll be able to fulfill my aspiration of sailing the high seas and robbing the rich.
assail (verb): to attack violently. “ass SALE”
Think: ass sail.
Come at me, bro: if I assail you, I'll make your ass sail out the window.
assiduous (adjective): hardworking; dedicated. “ass SID you us”
Think: assist us.
Assiduous Sid worked his ass off to assist us.
assuage: (verb): to make less severe. “uh SWAJ”
astray: (adj): away from the correct path; into error. “ass TRAY”
Think: a stray dog.
A stray dog has gone astray from its family.
astute (adjective): clever. “ass TOOT”
Think: SAT student.
I had an SAT student named Stu who was so astute that he got a 1600 on the SAT.
attenuate (verb): to reduce. “at TEN you ate”
Think: ten to eight.
If you go from ten drinks a week to eight drinks a week, then you’ve attenuated your number of beverages.
audacious (adjective): fearlessly bold; arrogantly bold. “awe DAY shus”
Think: awed us.
Walking up to Obama and swiping his pen as he was about to sign the bill was so audacious that it awed us.
augment (verb): to increase the size of or to improve. “awwg MEANT”
Think: Aug. meant.
The arrival of Aug. meant that the colonists could augment their food storage by harvesting maize.
august (adjective): majestic. “awe GUST”
Think: Augustus Caesar.
Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, was so august that they named a month after him.
auspicious (adjective): favorable. “awe SPISH us”
Think: suspicious I’m awesome.
Dude, the chances she'll go out with me are auspicious or "awe-spicious" because I'm suspicious that I'm awesome .
austere (adjective): plain; strict; serious; cold. “awe STEER”
Think: Austria stern.
Life among the Alps in Austria is stern and austere - it's hard to party when there's a wind chill of -20.
authoritative (adjective): having impressive knowledge about a subject; confident. “Auth OR it tay tive”.
The reason we can speak authoritatively about GRE Vocab Capacity is that we wrote it: we’re the authors.
automaton (noun): one who acts in a robotic way. “awe tah mah tahn” (rhymes with “on”)
Working on assembly line where automation has replaced creativity can make you feel like an automaton.
autonomous (adjective): operating independently. “awe tahn nom us”
Think: Auto no mo’ us.
With the advent of self-driving autos like the Google car, the cars won’t be needing us no mo’.
avaricious (adjective): greedy. “ave uh RISH us”
Think: have our riches.
My boy band and I don't trust you as an agent - you're avaricious and just want to have our riches.
aver (verb): to state confidently; to declare. “uh VAIR”
After I verify that the blood sample from the crime scene matches your DNA, I’ll aver that you are the killer.
aversion (noun): A tendency to avoid or dislike. “uh VER shun”
Think: cover versions.
I have an aversion to cover versions of songs – I almost always prefer the original tune.
avuncular (adjective): like an uncle. “uh VUNK you lure”
The avuncular professor was like an uncle to him, dispensing well-intentioned advice.
badger (verb): to annoy or pester. “BAD jur”
Think: bad jerk.
Good jerks can get laughs, but a bad jerk will just badger you with his attempts at humor.
baleful (adjective): threatening harm. “BALE full”
Think: Christian Bale.
I’m not a big Christian Bale fan – he always has that baleful look on his face, like he wants to start a fight with you.
banal (adjective): unoriginal. “buh NALL”
Think: ban all.
The banal librarian thought there were enough books already and wanted to ban all the new ones.
base (adjective): not honest or good; having low quality or value. (rhymes with “face”)
I live in my mom’s basement, but I don’t list that on my OkCupid profile: there’s an unfortunate stereotype that people who live in basements tend to be base.
battery (noun): a large group of similar things. “BAT er ee”
Think: batter - y.
I thought that my first mix of cupcake batter tasted a little too batter-y, so I put it through a battery of taste tests before baking my final batch.
bauble (noun): a small, inexpensive piece of jewelry or toy. “BAW bull”
The bauble that my favorite baseball player gave me was a bobblehead of himself.
baying (verb): shouting. “BAY ing”
Think: Michael Bay movie.
Even though I was in the other room, I could tell my roommates were watching a Michael Bay movie, like Transformers, because of all the baying from the T.V.
beatific (adjective): extremely happy. “bee TIH fick”
Think: beautiful! terrific!
If you feel beatific, you probably walk around exclaiming, “beautiful! terrific!” all day.
beatify (verb): to bless; to make happy. “BEE tih fie”
Think: beautiful home = happiness.
The makeover will beautify your home and beatify your family.
becalm (verb): to make motionless; to soothe. “buh KAHM”
Think: be calm!
When my 3-year-old is running around causing havoc, I usually whisper “be calm!” to becalm him.
bedlam (noun): a state of uproar and confusion. “BED lum”
Think: bed lamb.
It was complete bedlam when I entered my hotel room and saw that the bed had a lamb sleeping in it.
beguile (verb): to trick. “buh GILE” (rhymes with “dial”)
Think: be gullible.
Be gullible, and you'll be easy to beguile.
behemoth (noun): something huge. “buh HE mith”
Think: beast mammoth.
One really large beast was the woolly mammoth, a behemoth that lived during the Ice Age.
beleaguered (adjective): weary, tired, bothered.“bee LEE gerd”
Think: B - Leaguer.
“I’m sick and tired of being a B-leaguer instead of an A-Leaguer,” said the B-movie actor.
belied (verb): contradicted. “buh LIED”
The used car salesman's smooth manner was belied by his sweaty handshake and made me think, "He lied!”
belittle (verb): to put down; to disparage. “bee LITTLE”
Think: be little.
When you say “Good boy!” and pat me on head, you belittle me and make me feel as if I be little.
bellicose (adjective): warlike; inclined to fight. “BELL ih kose”
Think: belly bellow.
“ARRGHH!” When I heard the beast’s belly bellow, I knew it was bellicose.
bemoan (verb): to mourn over; to express grief for. “bee MOAN”
I be moanin’ about the new laws restricting what we can smoke - my friends bemoan the legislation, too.
beneficence (noun): the quality of being kind or charitable. “buh NIF uh sense”
Think: benefit sent.
Through the beneficence of musicians like Paul McCartney and Sting, the benefit concert sent millions of dollars to starving children.
benign (adjective): harmless. “Bee NINE”
Think: be nice.
It would be nice if the lump on my arm is benign instead of cancerous.
bereft (adjective): deprived or robbed of something. “bee REFT”
Think: he left.
After he left her at the altar and crushed her dreams, she felt completely bereft.
beseech (verb): to beg or ask. “bee SEACH”
Forget fancy language – the best way to beseech someone is to screech at him.
bifurcated (verb): split in two. “BY fur kated”
Think: by forking.
By forking, the road bifurcated into the popular road and the road less traveled by.
bilious (adjective): bad-tempered. “BILL ee iss”
Think: bully us.
We goth kids are only bilious because the jocks like to bully us.
blase (adjective): apathetic; unconcerned. “blah SAY”
Think: blah say.
I'm a rock star, so I'm blase and "blah blah blah" is all I say even when blazingly hot girls try to talk to me.
blithe (adjective): happy, casual, unconcerned. “blythe”
He just glides through life – he’s so blithe.
bloviated (verb): was wordy/windy when speaking. “BLOW vee ate ed”
Think: blow hot air.
In Harry Potter, Gilderoy Lockhart bloviated; he would blow a lot of hot air without much meaning.
bludgeon (verb): to hit forcefully. “BLUJ in”
In Quidditch, the Bludgers are 10-inch, black, iron balls that fly around and sometimes bludgeon players.
bonhomie (noun): a pleasant and friendly mood. “bahn nom EE”
Think: abundance of homies.
When I have an abundance of homies, I have bonhomie.
boon (noun): a benefit. “boon”
One boon of booing is that it unites an audience in mutual unappreciation.
boor (noun): a crude person with rude, clumsy manners. “boar”
Think: boar manners.
The boor had table manners like a wild boar and ate directly off the plate with his mouth.
bootless (adjective): useless. “BOOT less”
A booty-less pirate is probably a bootless pirate.
bowdlerize (verb): to cut out all the offensive parts of a book. “BOWED lure eyes”
Originally, they would bowdlerize Huckleberry Finn so much that they might as well have let boulders roll over the book and tear out half the pages.
bravado (noun): a false show of bravery; swagger. “bruh VAH doe”
Think: brave avocado.
Though its trash-talking seemed brave, the avocado and its bravado didn’t scare me, since I knew it was just a piece of fruit.
brazen (adjective): shamelessly bold. “BRAY zen”
Blazin’ up a joint during class is certainly brazen, but it’ll get you expelled 100 out of 100 times.
brevity (noun): shortness of duration. “BREV it ee”
I know your speech is brief but abbreviate it even more - this professor actually awards points for brevity.
bromide (noun): a cliché or tired saying. “BRO myed”
Think: bro lied.
My bro on the lacrosse team told me to "give 110 percent," but the next day my math teacher told me that was impossible. Bro lied in his bromide .
brusque (adjective): abrupt; curt; harsh. “brusk”
Think: brushed off.
I tried to make friends with the club's bouncer, but he was brusque and brushed me off.
bucolic (adjective): rustic; rural. “byoo CAA lick”
Think: blue collar.
I’m just a bucolic broccoli farmer - a blue collar worker - I don’t understand what those suits are talking about!
bugbear (noun): something to fear. “BUG bear”
Think: bug a bear.
If you bug a bear, you'll soon have a very serious bugbear.
bulwark (adjective): a strong support or protection. “BOOL work”
Think: bull work.
In a bullfighting arena, the barrier to protect the spectators from the bull better work; it has to be a bulwark .
bumptious (adjective): assertive in a loud, arrogant way. “BUMP shus”
Think: bump us.
You’re the type of guy who would push past us in a crowd and bump us and not say you’re sorry – you’re bumptious.
bungle (verb): to screw up. “BUNG gull”
I bungled the job so many times that they started calling me a “bunghole”.
buoyant (adjective): happy; confident. “BOY ent”
If you hear someone yell “boo-yah!” then you can bet she’s feeling buoyant.
burdensome (adjective): oppressive; causing difficulty or worry. “BIRD den sum”
Think: bird dim sum.
The decor of this Chinese restaurant is nice, except for the giant vulture circling our table. The burdensome feeling that bird gives me makes it hard for me to enjoy my dim sum.
burgeoning (adjective): growing. “BURJ un ing”
If you eat too many burgers, your waistline will be burgeoning.
buttress (noun): a support. “BUT ress”
Think: butt rest.
The stone column is both a buttress and a butt rest for tired people to lean against.
bygone (adjective): past. “BY gone”
Think: bye gone.
The bygone days of my childhood are days I’ve said bye to cause they’re gone.
byzantine (adjective): devious; complicated. “BIZ in teen”
Think: busy ant.
Only the busy ant will be able to make its way through the byzantine maze you've created.
cache (noun): a secure storage place or something in that place. “kah SHAY”
Think: cash hiding place.
The drug dealer kept his cash in a cache under the bed - he didn't trust banks.
cacophony (noun): a harsh, unharmonious sound. “kuh KAW fun ee”
Think: cough symphony.
The sounds from the tuberculosis ward were a cacophony - an unpleasant cough symphony.
cadge (verb): to beg or get via begging. “cadj”
Think: locked in a cage.
If you’re locked in a cage, you’ll cadge for food and water.
cajole (verb): to coax. “ka JOLE”
Think: cage hole.
At the vet, I have to cajole my cat out of the cage hole so he can get examined.
calamitous (adjective): related to a terrible event. “ka LAM it us”
Think: calamari vomit.
It's calamitous when you eat undercooked calamari, become vomitous, and puke on your date.
callous (adjective): unsympathetic; hard-hearted. “KAL us”
The callous dictator thought nothing of executing his rivals; he must have had a callus on his soul.
callow (adjective): inexperienced; immature. “KAL owe”
Popping her gum while reading Cosmo, the callow teenager was shallow only because she hadn’t seen much of the world yet.
calumnious (adjective): slanderous, defamatory, an untrue statement intended to injure one's reputation. "kuh-LUM-nee-us"
Think: gossip column.
The author of the famous gossip column was less concerned with provoking lawsuits through his calumnious statements than he was with attracting hordes of readers through salacious headlines.
camaraderie (noun): togetherness. “com uh ROD er ee”
The Russian camera factory workers shared a sense of camaraderie, calling each other comrades.
canard (noun): a false report or rumor. “cuh NARD”
There’s a widespread canard that Qatar bribed FIFA to host the World Cup.
canny (adjective): clever. “CAN knee”
Think: can knee.
I’m canny because I can use my knee to drive my car when I need both hands for something else.
canonize (verb): to make a saint (literal) or to put someone beyond reproach (figurative). “CAN nun eyes”
Think: can on ice.
In order to properly canonize St. Patrick, one must keep a beer can on ice at all times.
capacious (adjective): spacious. “ka PAY shus”
Think: Batman’s cape is spacious.
Batman is a big guy, so his cape is spacious and capacious.
capitulate (verb): to surrender. “ka PIT chew late”
Think: capsized? it’s too late.
Once your boat has capsized, it's too late to think about winning the race: capitulate and just try not to drown.
capricious (adjective): impulsive; done without forethought. “ka PRISH us”
Think: capri pants.
Jenny made the capricious decision to buy five pairs of capri pants, which she later regretted when they went out of style.
captious (adjective): overly critical. “CAP shus”
Think: red CAPS.
Our English teacher is captious: our papers come back with lots of red writing that’s in all CAPS.
cardinal (adjective): of main importance. “KAR din ull”
Think: cardinal bird.
You'd think the bright red male cardinal (noun) was the most cardinal (adjective) bird because of its vivid color.
caricatured (verb): distorted, often comically. “Care ick cah chured”
Think: cartoon character.
Check out any political cartoon character and you’ll see someone caricatured: any cartoon of Trump will have enormous hair.
castigate (verb): to criticize severely. “KAS tig ate”
The worst way for a Mafia boss to castigate someone is to castrate him.
caterwaul (verb): to cry or to complain loudly. “CAT tur wall”
Think: cat in wall.
If there’s a cat in your wall it will probably caterwaul since it wants to get out.
causal (adjective): relating to the cause of something or causing something. “KAW zul”
There is a causal link between laziness and poor grades; being lazy causes less studying and therefore lower marks. (Don’t confuse causal with casual).
celerity (noun): quickness. “suh lear it ee”
After Cee Lo switched to an all-celery diet, he lost 30 pounds and his ability to accelerate increased, as did his celerity.
censure (verb): to criticize harshly. “SEN sure”
If you really wanted to censure your rival’s editorial you could just censor it completely.
cerebral (adjective): intellectual. “suh REE brul”
Einstein was so cerebral that they studied the cerebrum of his brain after he died.
chagrin (noun): distress caused by disappointment. “shuh GRIN”
Think: chuggin’ tragic.
You won't believe this, but to my chagrin, Chad is chuggin' a bottle of mouthwash right now – this is a tragic date.
champion (verb): to fight for. “CHAM pee in”
Think: champion (noun).
If you champion (verb) that turtle in the turtle race and cheer for her really loudly, it’s more likely she’ll become the champion (noun).
chary (adjective): very cautious. “cherry”
My brothers were always pulling my chair away as I was about to sit down, so now I’m chary, or chair-wary .
chicanery (noun): trickery. “shi CAN er ee"
Your frat brother’s feigned interest in that cute girl's paintings was clearly chicanery; his motive was "chick-gain-ery".
choleric (adjective): irritable. “CALL er ick”
I'd be choleric too if someone’s fecal matter made me get cholera.
chronological (adjective): ordered by time. “kron oh LAH ji kull”
Think: chron = time.
The Houston Chronicle is a newspaper that, like any good journal, reports events in chronological order. All its reporters wear chronometers (watches) to keep track of their deadlines.
churlish (adjective): rude; difficult. “CHURL ish”
Think: church lush.
The church lush usually showed up to mass stumbling drunk, inviting us to call him churlish.
cinematic (adjective): suggestive of a movie. “Sin im AT tick”
The video you shot on your iPhone is cinematic enough to be shown in a cinema.
circuitous (adjective): roundabout; not direct. “sir KYOO it us”
The crooked cabdriver took a circuitous route; his path was circuit-ish to increase the fare.
circumscribed (adjective): restricted. “SIR kum skribed”
Think: circumference scribe.
The evil scribe drew a magical circumference around our campsite, which circumscribed our movement to that circle.
circumspect (adjective): cautious. “sir kum SPECT”
Think: circle inspect.
When you rent a car, walk in a circle to inspect it for dents; if you’re not circumspect now, they may charge you later.
circumvents (verb): avoids; gets around something. “sir kum VENTS”
Think: circumference vents.
She circumvents the guards by crawling around the enemy base's circumference through the vents.
clairvoyant (adjective): able to see the future. “clare VOY int”
Think: clear voyage.
My trusted psychic, Miss Cleo, assured me that rowing a boat from California to Hawaii would work out just fine. "I see a clear voyage in your future," said the clairvoyant woman.
clandestine (adjective): secret. “klan DEST in”
Think: clan of destiny.
Because we’re the clan of destiny, we have to keep our meetings clandestine – otherwise, the empire will kill us all.
clangorous (adjective): loud; noisy. “KLAYNG er us”
The disinterested 3rd graders in the school band clanged on their instruments as hard as they could, producing a clangorous racket.
clemency (noun): mercy. “KLEM in see”
Think: Clemens mercy.
The pitcher Roger Clemens was shown mercy by the jury and found not guilty - an act of clemency, since he was accused of taking steroids.
climatic (adjective): pertaining to climate and weather.
Due to global warming, climatic events such as hurricanes and floods have been much more dramatic in recent years. (Don’t confuse with “climactic”, which refers to the climax of a work of art.)
climax (noun): the most intense, exciting, or important part of something. “CLY max”
Think: climb ax.
The climax of our ascent of Mt. Everest was definitely reaching the summit; our climb ax enabled us to scramble up the final few feet.
cloying (adjective): gross because it's too much. “KLOY ing”
Always talking baby-talk to each other, the couple was so annoying that they were cloying.
coalesce (verb): to unite into a whole. “koh uh LESS”
Think: coal essence.
Coal, in essence, is just carbon – if you squeeze it hard enough it will coalesce into a diamond.
The mother dog would coddle and cuddle her puppy so much that I thought it would never learn to fend for itself.
coerced (verb): forced. “co URSED”
Think: cooperate by force.
I didn't want to leave the bar, but the bouncer coerced me to cooperate by using force.
coeval (adjective): existing at the same time, contemporary. “Coh EE vill”
Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, three of history’s most evil rulers, were coeval because they all lived during the same era.
cognizant (adjective): aware; informed. “KOG nih zent”
If you're cognizant of our theory, you must recognize where our solution came from.
coherence (noun): the quality of being understandable. “Co HERE ents”
Think: can hear it.
Public Speaking 101 taught me that the first rule of coherence when giving a speech is speaking loudly - make sure your audience can hear it.
cohesive (adjective): holding together well. “co HEESE ive”
A cohesive argument holds together even when attacked – as if it’s strengthened by an adhesive.
cohort (noun): a friend or companion. “KOH hort (rhymes with “short”)”
My cohort and I are so close that it feels more like we’re co-hearts.
coin (verb): to invent a new word or phrase. “KOIN”
Think: coin (noun).
Just as the U.S. mint molds metal into a new coin (noun), so we can coin (verb) new expressions.
collusion (noun): the process of working together to deceive, often illegally by businesses. “cuh LUGE un”
When the world’s two main exporters of oil decided to create the co-illusion of scarcity when there was none, the media accused them of price gouging and collusion .
commensurate (adjective): equal or proportionate. “kuh MEN sur it”
Think: co-measure it.
Our estimates of the carbon content of this dinosaur bone will be commensurate if we co-measure it.
commiserate (verb): to sympathize with. “co MISS ur ate”
Think: misery loves company.
Come commiserate with us - misery loves company.
companionable (adjective): sociable; friendly. “kum PAN yin uh bull”
Most dogs are companionable and love people; that’s why they’re so able to be companions.
complicit (adjective): involved in a crime. “kum PLISS it”
Though I robbed the bank and my accomplice just drove me there, he was considered complicit by the law.
composure (noun): calmness. “kum POSE ure”
Think: composer’s calm pose.
Even though he was performing his music for kings and queens, the composer’s calm pose showed his composure.
compunction (noun): regret, remorse. “com PUNK shun”
Think: punctured balloon.
I felt compunction after accidentally puncturing the child’s birthday balloon and making him cry.
concession (noun): admitting partial or total defeat. “kuhn SESH in”
After it became apparent that my opponent would win the election, my concession speech was basically just a confession that I lost.
concoct (verb): to make; to invent to deceive. “kuhn COCKED”
Think: con cocked
I’ve concocted a safer plan – we’ll con the bank teller by showing her a cocked (but unloaded) pistol.
concomitant (adjective): accompanying, especially in a less important way. “con COM it ent”
Think: can come with it.
Drinking too much carries the concomitant risk of depression that can come with it.
concord (noun): harmony. “CON kord”
We all concurred that we should go into the grape jelly business, so it’s no surprise that our company is enjoying a feeling of concord.
concupiscence (noun): strong desire, esp. sexual desire. “con KYOOP uh sense”
Think: Cupid’s essence.
If you have concupiscence, you have Cupid's essence running through your veins.
condign (adjective): deserved; appropriate. “con DINE”
Think: can dig.
I can dig the murderer's conviction because it was condign.
condones (verb): allows something that is bad. “con DONES”
Think: con done.
The con done it because the lazy warden condones misbehavin’.
conferred (verb): given to. “kuhn FURD”
Think: fur coat.
My great-grandmother’s fur coat was conferred to me in her will.
confiscate (verb): to take something away. “KAHN fiss kate”
Think: can frisk.
If I can frisk you and feel that you’re carrying a weapon, then I’ll confiscate it.
conflagration (noun): a fire. “con FLUH gray shun”
Think: burning flag nation.
There is a debate about the flag in our nation - is it legal to use the Stars and Stripes for a conflagration ?
conflate (verb): to confuse. “con FLATE”
Think: con inflated.
The con artist inflated the value of the racehorse by grooming it, making me conflate sleek appearance with speed.
confound (verb): to confuse (a person) or mix up (a thing), or as an exclamation (“confounded” only). “kun FOUND”
Think: can’t find.
I can’t find my keys anywhere and I’m confounded as to where they may be. Where the heck are my confounded keys?
conglomerate (verb): to gather into a whole. “kuhn GLAH merr it”
Think: can gobble it.
My cookie got smashed into a thousand pieces – I’ll have to conglomerate them so I can gobble it.
conniving (verb): secretly plotting to do bad things. “cun NIVE ing”
Think: mean girls’ knives.
Mean girls act nice, but don't be conned: they're conniving to stick knives in your back.
connoisseur (noun): an expert; one who knows the subtleties of a subject. “con iss URE”
Think: can know sir.
When it comes to breakdancing, call me “can know sir” because I’m a connoisseur of the art.
conscientious (adjective): driven by the urge to do what's right; careful. “con she ENT shus”
Conscientious people usually are driven to do good deeds by their consciences.
conspicuous (adjective): noticeable. “kun SPICK you us”
Think: can pick on us.
Since you’re new at this school, here’s a tip: don’t wear anything conspicuous. If the jocks see us wearing anything that stands out, they can pick on us more easily.
consternation (noun): confusion; agitation; dismay. “con ster NAY shun”
Think: concerned nation.
On 9/11/01, a concerned nation stood in consternation watching the aftermath of terrorism.
contumacious (adjective): stubbornly disobedient; rebellious. “con too MAY shus”
Think: contrary tummy.
I have a contrary tummy – it’s contumacious and gives me indigestion if I try to eat spicy food.
conundrum (noun): a difficult problem. “con NUN drum”
Think: nun drum.
Building a nun drum is a conundrum because nuns don't like loud noises.
conversant (adjective): familiar with. “con VERSE int”
Think: converse it.
If you’re conversant with something, you can converse about it intelligently.
copious (adjective): plentiful. “KOPE ee us”
Think: copy us.
If the zombie apocalypse happens and we survive, let’s hope cloning can copy us and make humans more copious.
cordial (adjective): affectionate. “KORD jull”
Think: cordial (noun).
The alcohol in the cordial (noun) made me act more cordial (adjective).
cordon (verb): to enclose, either to restrict or to protect. “KORD un”
Think: cord on.
Cordon off that area by tying a cord on and around all the trees so people know it’s off limits.
corroborate (verb): to support with evidence. “kuh ROB er ate”
When robbing a bank, use a co-robber who will corroborate your story.
cosmopolitan (adjective): sophisticated. “kos muh POL it in”
After reading the dating advice in Cosmo, the 14-year-old thought she was quite cosmopolitan.
covert (adjective): not openly shown. “co VIRT”
The CIA agent was on a covert mission, so he covered his true identity.
cowed (adjective): intimidated. “COWD”
The bully was at heart a coward: as soon as I stood up to him he was cowed into silence.
craven (adjective): cowardly. “KRAY vin”
Think: Wes Craven.
My craven roommate refused to go to the Wes Craven movie – it was way too scary for her.
credence (adjective): belief. “KREED ints”
Think: Creed is.
If you tell me that Creed is your favorite band, then I won’t give any credence to your musical judgements.
credulous (adjective): too ready to believe things. “KREDGE uh liss”
Think: cradle us.
When we are young children and our parents cradle us, we tend to be quite credulous – we believe anything they tell us (just ask Santa).
crepuscular (adjective): related to twilight. “cru PUS q lur”
Think: creepy muscular.
In the movie Twilight, creepy, muscular vampires prowl during the crepuscular hours of the evening.
crestfallen (adjective): dejected; depressed. “CREST fall en”
Think: Crest fallen.
When I saw that my Crest toothpaste had fallen off my brush into the sink, I was crestfallen since that was a waste of perfectly good toothpaste.
cryptic (adjective): having an unclear or hidden meaning. “KRYP tick”
Scrawled in blood on the wall of the mummy’s crypt, the cryptic hieroglyphics both confused and frightened us.
cull (verb): to select; to get rid of what’s unneeded. “KUHL”
We’re in a famine, so we need to cull the herd and kill the sick cattle.
culminate (verb): to reach a point of highest development. “CULL min ate”
Think: coal mine diamond.
I remember the old days, when you were just a lump of coal in the mine with everybody else. Now, thousands of years of pressure from the Earth’s crust have culminated in you becoming a diamond!
culpable (adjective): deserving blame. “KULP uh bull”
Unsurprisingly, the cop thought the culprit he had arrested was culpable.
cumbersome (adjective): awkward due to large size. “KUM bir some”
It felt cumbersome to walk down the beach with a gigantic cucumber down the front of my Speedo.
cunning (adjective): cleverly forethought, often in a tricky or deceptive way. “KUN ing”
Think: cunning kung-fu.
In my opinion, the best kind of kung-fu is cunning kung-fu, where you seek to defeat your opponent through deception instead of just physical skill.
cupidity (noun): greedy desire for. “cue PID it ee”
After being shot by Cupid's arrow, Sarah developed such cupidity for her valentine that she called him daily.
curmudgeon (noun): a grumpy old man. “kur MUDGE in”
Think: curse mud.
Only a curmudgeon would curse the mud in the garden on this sunny spring day.
cursory (adjective): hasty; superficial. “CURSE uh ree”
Think: curse sorry.
I only gave my rental car a cursory inspection, which led me to curse and be sorry later when I noticed a huge dent.
curtail (verb): to lessen. “kur TAIL”
Think: cut off your tail.
If you really want to win this lizard beauty pageant, you've got to be shorter. curtail your length - cut off your tail .
cynical (adjective): believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest. “SIN ick ull”
Think: sin ick.
I used to be optimistic, but now that I’m older and more cynical, I expect that, given the chance, most people will take whatever they want even if they have to sin. Ick!
daunt (verb): to intimidate or discourage. “DAUNT”
My mean old aunt Mildred would often daunt me when I was younger by screaming, “don’t!” whenever I got too loud.
dearth (noun): lack. “DEARTH”
Think: dead earth.
Due to the dead earth of our farmland, there will be a dearth of food this winter.
debacle (noun): a complete disaster. “duh BAHK ul”
Think: da bottle.
I’m an alcoholic, so when I hit da bottle, the night usually becomes a debacle.
debased (adjective): lowered in value or reputation. “dee BASED”
Milk chocolate is a crime against the cacao bean. Confectioners start off with a base of pure dark chocolate, but then they debase it by adding milk powder and tons of sugar.
debauchery (noun): extreme indulgence in pleasure. “duh BOTCH er ee”
Think: the bachelor party.
During the bachelor party, the wolf pack in The Hangover participated in some serious debauchery .
debilitate (verb): to weaken. “duh BILL it ate”
Think: decrease ability.
Cancer will often debilitate its victims and can decrease their ability to be active.
decadent (adjective): decaying; self-indulgent. “DEK uh dent”
In WALL-E, the decadent passengers of the spaceship have decayed into overweight, lazy, passive lumps.
decimate (verb): to destroy a large part of. “DESS uh mate”
Think: decimal remains.
At the start of our campaign, all of our soldiers were healthy, but attacks and disease have decimated the ranks so that only a decimal remains alive.
declaimed (verb): spoke loudly and self-importantly. “dee CLAIMED”
Think: “I declare!”
"Well, I declare!" the Southern belle declaimed.
decorous (adjective): well-behaved. “DECK or us”
Think: the chorus.
Kids in the chorus are usually not rebels - they’re often decorous.
decrepit (adjective): worn-out; run-down. “duh CREP it”
Think: scrap it.
Your decrepit old car looks like crap; you should scrap it.
decried (verb): expressed strong disapproval about. “duh CRIED”
After my boss decried my work in front of everyone, I went home and cried.
defamatory (adjective): something that hurts someone's reputation. “duh FAM ih tory”
The defamatory Enquirer story will "de-fame" that actor; he'll lose his fame.
defenestrate (verb): to quickly throw out. “duh FEN eh strate”
Think: defense demonstrate.
If you defenestrate a burglar through a plate-glass window, your home defense is demonstrated.
defunct (adjective): no longer existing. “duh FUNKED”
When I can fly in my dreams, the law of gravity seems to be defunct, like it has been "de-functioned".
degenerate (verb, adjective) verb: to move backward or decay, adjective: decayed. “duh JENN er it”
Think: Jenner ate my dust.
1976 Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner ate my dust when I challenged her to a footrace; I guess that her speed has degenerated with age.
delectable (adjective): delightful; delicious. “duh LECT uh bull”
Think: delicious electable.
Ryan Gosling should run for president since most women think he's delectable and delicious enough to be electable .
deleterious (adjective): harmful. “duh luh TEER ee us”
Using that old computer could be deleterious to your grade since it randomly deletes files.
delimit (verb): to determine the limit, boundary or extent of something. “dee LIM it”
Think: determine limit.
Partying until 3 am with your friends is a great way to determine your limits, but the next-morning hangover might lead you delimit your alcohol intake the next time you go out.
delineate (verb): to outline; to describe in detail. “Dee LIN ee ate”
Think: the line.
The strip of masking tape I put down is the line that clearly delineates the two halves of this dorm room - keep your stuff on your side!
demagogue (noun): a leader who gains power by trickery. “dem a GOG”
The cult was led by a demagogue; he manipulated followers into thinking he was a demigod.
demarcate (verb): to define; to set apart. “de MARK ate”
Think: mark it.
If you want to demarcate your side of the dorm room, mark it with a long piece of masking tape.
demean (verb): to lower in character, status, or reputation.“dee MEAN”
Thanks to the jocks’ demeaning comments to him, the new kid went home after his first day at our school and told his mom that we’re all mean .
demeanor (noun): one’s appearance and behavior. “duh ME ner”
Think: meaner personality.
Not only has my ambition diminished with age, but so has my demeanor: I used to have a meaner personality.
demotic (adjective): popular; common. “duh MOTT ick”
Obama uses demotic language in his speeches to seem more democratic.
demur (verb): to object. “duh MURE”
Though no one has spoken up yet, the murmur from the class suggests they demur to my idea that they do more homework.
denigrate (verb): to attack the reputation of or to put down. “DEN ih grate”
Think: deny I’m great.
If you deny I'm great, you denigrate me.
denizen (noun): inhabitant; one who is often at a place. “DEN uh zen”
Think: den citizen.
One of the denizens of the caves in my woods is a black bear - he's a bear den citizen.
denuded (verb): stripped bare. “duh NOOD id”
Loggers denuded the forested rise, felling trees and trampling undergrowth until it was just an nude hill of earth.
depiction (noun): a representation. “Dee PICK shun”
Think: the picture.
The picture I drew of myself in kindergarten was a crude depiction of a human being: my self-portrait had no torso.
deplete (verb): to use up. “duh PLEET”
Depleted uranium has had some of its radioactivity deleted.
deplore (verb): to hate. “duh PLORE (rhymes with “floor”)”
Think: deep lore.
I deplore (hate) when my uncle likes to tell that campfire ghost story like it’s part of some deep lore that goes back generations: the truth is that he’s just repeating the plot of his favorite horror movie.
depredate (verb): to take by force; to ravage; to ruin. “DEH pruh date”
The predators in the forest will depredate your village’s livestock if you don’t build a really good fence and get guard dogs.
deride (verb): to make fun of. “duh RIDE”
Think: Dee’s ride.
We all deride Dee's ride - it's a brown 1987 Buick with ghetto rims.
derivative (adjective): lacking originality. “duh RIH vuh tiv”
Think: derivative relatives.
My father likes to claim that his recipes are unique, but the truth is that he learned everything he knows about cooking from Aunt Jean. In other words, his recipes are derivative of his relative .
descry (verb): to catch sight of; to discover. “dih SCRY”
Ok, now that I descry the iceberg that we’re sailing towards, I can describe it to you.
desecrate (verb): to violate something sacred. “DEH suh krate”
If you peed on an altar, you would desecrate it, or “de-sacred” it - it would no longer be sacred.
desiccated (adjective): dried out. “DEH si kate id”
Think: desert sick.
The desert made me sick because the dry heat desiccated my body.
despoiled (verb): stripped of value. “duh SPOILED”
Desperate for oil, the U.S. drilled in Alaska and despoiled the land, and act which spoiled it for future generations.
despot (noun): an all-powerful ruler. “DES put”
History has shown us that despots - like Kim Jong Il -are often despicable human beings.
desuetude (noun): disuse. “DES wuh tude”
Think: disuse attitude.
The unnecessary security guard at the knitting store had an air of lazy desuetude about him - kind of a disuse attitude.
deteriorate (verb): to worsen over time. “duh TIER ee or eight”
Think: the terrier ate.
He’s really cute, but the terrier ate all the sofa cushions while we were gone – he’s really making our decor deteriorate!
devoid (adjective): completely lacking. “duh VOID”
Think: the void.
The void of deep space is devoid of air, warmth, or life.
devolve (verb): to become less advanced over time. “duh VAHLV”
Think: the Volvo.
When I bought the Volvo in 1988, it was state-of-the-art, but since then it has slowly devolved into a hunk of junk.
devout (adjective): deeply religious or loyal. “duh VOUT (rhymes with “out”)”
I’d say I’m devout – I have devoted my entire life to studying the bible.
dexterity (adjective): skill; good coordination. “dex TERR it ee”
The fictional serial killer Dexter has a grisly dexterity about the way he kills people.
diabolical (adjective): devilish. “dia BALL ih cull”
Think: die abolish.
Your law that makes cigarettes part of school lunches is diabolical and will cause children to die... abolish it!
diaphanous (adjective): so flimsy as to be see-through. “die APH in us”
Think: Diana’s fan.
Princess Diana's delicate rice-paper fan was diaphanous.
diatribe (noun): an angry speech. “DIE a tribe”
Think: die tribe.
I didn't understand the words of his diatribe, but I guessed the native said I'd die from his tribe killing me.
dichotomy (noun): two-part, polarity, contrast. “die KOTT uh me”
Think: Thy cot, oh my.
Thy cot, oh my – it’s so comfortable when I’m sleeping in it, but my back hurts so much when I get up.
didactic (adjective): designed to teach. “die DAKT ick”
Think: dictionary tactic.
The definitions in a dictionary use the tactic of explaining words clearly in order to be didactic.
diffident (adjective): timid. “DIFF uh dent”
Think: difficult dentures.
I’m diffident when in public because I’m self-conscious about how weird my difficult dentures look.
digression (noun): a departure from the main topic. “duh GRESH in”
Think: Dig Russians.
“Have I ever mentioned to you that I dig White Russians?” said Lebowski, trying to change the subject when confronted about Bunny’s failed rescue.
dilatory (adjective): tending to procrastinate. “DILL a tor ee”
Think: delay later.
The dilatory gator liked to delay things until later.
dilettante (noun): a dabbler; one with superficial knowledge of an area. “DILL uh taunt”
The dilettante’s knowledge of the subject was, understandably, diluted.
dilute (verb): to lessen the concentration of. “duh LOOT”
Think: dilution is the solution.
If your drink is too strong, then dilution is the solution: just add ice!
dint (noun): force; power. “DINT”
Think: Hulk’s dent.
The Incredible Hulk made a dent in the car by dint of his enormous strength.
dire (adjective): desparate. “DAHYER (rhymes with “fire”)”
If you are afraid that you might die, then the situation is dire.
discomfit (verb): to embarrass or confuse. “dis KUM fit”
Realizing one's suit had been replaced with a too-tight Speedo would discomfort and discomfit anyone.
disconcert (verb): to confuse or frustrate. “dis KUN sirt”
Think: diss the concert.
To liven up recitals, I disconcert the musicians by dissing the concert.
discreet (adjective): having or showing self-restraint and good judgment. “dis KREET”
Think: this secrET.
I’m pregnant - but please, be discreET and keep this secrET - if my parents find out, they’ll kill me.
discrepancy (noun): a difference, divergence, or disagreement. “dis KREP in see”
Think: this crepe vs. Nancy’s.
There seems to be a large discrepancy between the size this crepe of mine and that of Nancy’s... I wonder whether she took a bite of mine while I wasn’t looking.
discrete (adjective): individually distinct; separate. “dis KREET”
The Greek island of Crete is discrete because it doesn’t touch any other land.
discriminate (verb): to notice subtle variations. “dis KRIM in ate”
Think: one meaning is criminal; one is neutral.
Discriminate (verb), so you'll know when "discriminate" is about prejudice and when it's about noticing.
disgruntled (adjective): displeased. “dis GRUNT ulled”
The fat warthog grunted to show he was disgruntled with his small dinner.
dismantle (verb): to take apart or destroy. “Dis MAN till”
Think: Mickey Mantle.
A 16-time baseball All-Star, Mickey Mantle often dismantled opposing teams with his brilliant hitting.
dismissive (adjective): showing rejection and contempt for. “dis MISS ive”
When she sings “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen is dismissive because she dismissed all the other boys who tried to chase her.
disparage (verb): to insult or put down. “dis PARRIAGE (rhymes with “marriage”)
Think: despair and rage.
He felt despair and rage because the rapper liked to diss and disparage him.
disparate (adjective): distinct; different. “DISS per it”
Think: This parrot vs. that pirate.
This parrot is disparate (different) from that pirate on whose shoulder it is sitting. They are disparate species, after all...even if they do look a bit alike.
dispassionate (adjective): not passionate / interested. “diss PASH in it”
Think: not passionate.
Dis = not, so dispassionate = not passionate (not interested).
dispatch (noun): speed; efficiency. “DIS patch”
If you want a job as a dispatcher - using the radio to direct police - you'd better have dispatch.
displacing (verb): removing from the usual place. “Dis place”
Think: dis place to dat place.
Don’t think of your demotion as me displacing you - I’m just moving your desk from dis place to dat place.
disputatious (adjective): inclined to argue. “dis pyoo TAY shus”
After being pulled over, the disputatious lawyer unwisely disputed the accuracy of the cop's radar gun.
dissemble (verb): to mislead, hide or conceal. “dis EM bull”
Think: disassemble gun.
The terrorist tried to dissemble his plan by disassembling his gun before trying to smuggle it through airport security.
disseminated (verb): spread out. “dis EM in nate id”
Think: diss 'em, Nate.
His dad advised to “diss ‘em, Nate”, so Nate disseminated flyers all over the school that criticized his opponents in the election.
distension (noun): swelling. “dis TEN shun”
A belly showing distension after a huge meal might be because the person has weak abs with no muscle tension.
dither (verb): to stress out from indecision. “DITH ur”
Think: ditz do either.
You’re such a ditz – you’d do either and it’s making you dither.
diurnal (adjective): daily; of the daytime. “die URN ul”
Think: The urinal.
My use of the urinal is diurnal – I pee every day.
divergent (adjective): moving in different directions. “duh VERJE int”
Think: Two roads diverged.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” begins the famous Robert Frost Poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
divisive (adjective): creating disunity. “di VIE sive”
Yoko Ono had a divisive effect on The Beatles, dividing the group into two parts.
docile (adjective): Calm, even-tempered. “DOSS ill”
The docile doctor remained calm even though his patient was clinging to life by a thread.
doctrinaire (noun): rigid and dogmatic. “DOCK trih NAIR (rhymes with “hair”)”
Think: Doctorate in Air.
I once met an academic with a Doctorate (Ph.D) in Air, and I asked him whether oxygen molecules always travel in pairs. “Yes, they do,” he said, “...with zero exceptions.”
doggedness (noun): stubborn determination. “DOG ed ness”
The fighter's doggedness, even after he was knocked down, was like that of a fearless Bulldog.
doggerel (noun): poorly written verse. “DOG ur ul”
Think: dog verse.
Most Valentine's Day card poems are such doggerel that it seems as though dogs wrote the verse.
dogmatic (adjective): stubborn; inflexible. “dog MATICK”
Think: dog bath.
My dog automatically becomes dogmatic if you try to give him a bath, since he hates water.
dolorous (adjective): sad; mournful. “DOLL ur us”
Think: Dolores’s doldrums.
I’d be dolorous and in the doldrums too if my name were Dolores.
dormant (adjective): temporarily inactive. “DOOR munt”
If you work as a doorman, you know that most of the time you’re just standing there, dormant.
dour (adjective): gloomy; stern. “DOUR”
The teacher's dour expression made her pupils feel sour.
draconian (adjective): cruelly strict. “druh KONY en”
Think: Draco Malfoy.
If Draco Malfoy had taught the Gryffindor students, I'm sure he would have been a draconian instructor.
droll (adjective): funny. “DROLL”
Think: roll (with laughter).
Droll humor makes me roll with laughter.
dubious (adjective): doubtful. “DOO bee us”
Think: dubious doob.
That is a dubious doob, my friend – it looks like oregano if you ask me.
dupe (verb): to trick. “DOOP”
A dope is easy to dupe.
duplicitous (adjective): deceptive. “due PLISS it us”
Politicians try to make everyone like them, but their two-faced duplicate-ness is duplicitous.
dwindle (verb): to gradually become smaller. “DWIN dull”
Our excitement at exploring the cave quickly turned to fear when we saw that our candle had burned low, dwindling into a stub that wouldn’t last for long.
dyspeptic (adjective): grumpy. “diss PEP tick”
This Pepto-Bismol will prevent indigestion and the resulting dyspeptic mood.
ebullient (adjective): excitedly enthusiastic. “uh BOOL ee int”
Think: Red Bull.
After I chugged a giant Red Bull, I felt extremely ebullient.
eclectic (adjective): varied. “ek LEK tick”
Think: selection collection.
If your musical tastes are eclectic, I can probably name any style selection and you'll say it’s in your collection .
effaced (verb): made less visible. “uh FACED”
On old nickels, Thomas Jefferson's face is often effaced to the point of almost being erased.
effete (adjective): without strength or vitality; weak; soft. “uh FET”
The former athlete became effete and feeble from years of just sitting on the couch.
efficacious (adjective): effective. “eff ick A (sounds like the letter) shus”
If you have senioritis, a brief vacation is an efficacious way to increase your effectiveness.
efflorescence (noun): blossoming. “eff lerr REH since”
Efflorescence is all around me – I’m a florist.
effluvium (noun): an invisible, often harmful, vapor. “uh FLOOVE lee um”
The effluvium coming from the flu patient’s mouth infected the nurse.
effrontery (noun): shameless boldness. “uh FRONT ur ree”
Think: fronting homies.
What’s with these homies dissin’ my girl? Why do they gotta front? (Because they have effrontery , Weezer.)
effusive (adjective): extremely expressive. “uh FYUSE ive”
Imagine if Nicki Minaj was your grandma? She's so effusive she'd make a fuss over your every accomplishment.
egalitarian (adjective): based on the belief in human equality. “ee gal ih TAIR ee in”
Think: equal eagle.
In the U.S., our egalitarian belief that all men are created equal is symbolized by the bald eagle.
egregious (adjective): bad in an obvious way. “uh GREE jis”
Her saying that she had to wash her hamster was such an egregious and outrageous excuse that it made me say "Jesus!"
eldritch (adjective): weird; eerie. “el DRISH”
The elf-witch Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings was eldritch because of her ability to speak inside our heads.
emancipate (verb): to free. “eh MAN sih payt”
Think: Emancipation Proclamation.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free .”
embellish (verb): to decorate. “em BELL ish”
Hanging little bells all over your home is one (weird) way to embellish it.
embroiled (verb): in a difficult situation. “em BROY uled”
Think: on broil.
I was embroiled in a dangerous situation when I got locked in an oven set on "broil".
embryonic (adjective): in an early stage. “em bree ON ick”
It's pretty obvious that a human embryo is embryonic when compared to an adult human.
eminent (adjective): respected, famous, well-known. “EM ih nint”
If asked to name the most eminent white rapper, I wouldn’t think twice: Eminem is an easy choice. (Sorry Macklemore.)
emollient (adjective): soothing. “uh MOLE ee int”
Listening to emo music has an emollient effect on my emotions because it’s so sensitive.
emphatic (adjective): forceful. “em FAT ick”
When I yell at people, I emphasize every word to be more emphatic about my demands.
empirical (adjective): observed, firsthand. “em PEER ih cuhl”
If you’re claiming that there was a miracle here, then I would like to see some empirical evidence that it happened.
encomium (noun): praise. “en COH mi um”
Think: in Comic-Con.
In Comic-Con, the entertainment convention, nerds give
encomium to the latest comic-book movies.
encompass (verb): to include. “en KUM pess”
Use this compass to draw a circle around the things you want to encompass.
encroaching (verb): gradually invading one's rights or property. “en KROACH ing”
My apartment's roaches are encroaching upon my space: they now occupy the kitchen.
enervating (adjective): tiring. “EN ur vating”
Renovating their kitchen by themselves not only got on the couple's nerves, but also was extremely enervating.
enigmatic (adjective): mysterious, unpredictable. “en igg MAT ick”
Think: dark matter.
Dark matter comprises most of the universe but remains enigmatic to scientists.
enmity (noun): hatred. “EN mit ee”
I have enmity for my enemy - what else would you expect?
ennui (noun): dissatisfaction resulting from boredom. “ON we”
Think: ennui there yet?
Take a seven-year-old on a long car ride, and you’ll hear the ennui in his voice when he repeatedly asks, “ennui there yet?”
entitled (adjective): pompous, conceited. “en TIGHT ild”
Think: N possible titles.
If your name begins with “Count,” “Duke,” “Prince” or any other of N possible titles, then you’re probably entitled .
entreat (verb): to plead. “en TREAT”
Think: in retreat.
In retreat, the fleeing general entreated us to spare his soldiers’ lives.
ephemeral (adjective): fleeting; short-lived. “Eh FEM er ul”
Think: FM for all.
Since satellite radio is ten times better than normal radio, the days of FM for all are ephemeral.
epitome: adjective, the purest or best example of something. “uh PIT uh me”
Think: epic tome
When it comes to classic literature, "Moby Dick" is the epitome of an epic tome.
equivocal (adjective): intentionally unclear. “uh QUIV oh cull”
Think: equally vocal.
The equivocal politician was equally vocal about both sides of the issue.
eradicate (verb): to wipe out. “ee RAD ih kate”
You can radiate food to eradicate the bacteria in it.
ersatz (adjective): being an artificial and inferior substitute. “AIR sotts”
Think: Er, Saltz?
When I tried using Saltz by Pfitzer (TM) instead of actual table salt, I found it to be an inferior substitute .
erstwhile (adjective): former. “ERST while”
Think: Hearse after a while.
It’s important to prepare for the future, but also to live for the moment. One must remember that our lives will eventually become our erstwhile lives, because we’re all destined for the hearse after a while.
erudite (adjective): knowledgeable (from studying). “ERR ooh dite”
Think: he read it.
My English professor is so erudite: every time I bring up a great book I don’t think he knows about, it turns out that he read it.
eschew (verb): to avoid. “us CHOO”
Eschew people who say "ah-choo!" unless you want to catch their colds.
esoteric (adjective): known by only a few people. “ess oh TERR (rhymes with “err”) ick”
Think: isolated terrific.
Einstein’s esoteric knowledge isolated him from most of his peers since his acumen was so terrific .
espouse (verb): to support or to give loyalty to. “ess POUZE”
Chances are that you will espouse your spouse - you married her, so you probably have her back.
espy (verb): to glimpse; to catch sight of. “uh SPY”
Think: I spy.
I spy something blue - do you espy it, too?
estimable (adjective): worthy. “ESS tim uh ble”
If someone is estimable they are "esteem-able", i.e., they're deserving of your positive regard.
estranged (verb): separated in a negative way. “uh STRANGED”
Gotye's estranged girlfriend cut him out and treated him like a stranger and it felt so rough.
ethereal (adjective): delicate; heavenly; insubstantial. “uh THEER ee ul”
Think: other than real.
My God, Joyce - your meringue cookies are ethereal - so light, so delicious - they must be something other than real .
etiolated (verb): made pale; weakened. “EE tea uh late id”
Keeping my goldfish in the bleach-containing toilet tank violated his trust and etiolated him so much that he turned white.
euphemism (noun): an inoffensive term used in place of an offensive one. “YOOF ih mism”
Think: use feminism.
Use feminism if you’re a guy and want to create a euphemism for PMS – otherwise you might get yourself killed.
evanescent (adjective): fleeting; lasting only briefly. “eh van ESS sint”
Think: vanish scent.
The cologne’s fragrance will vanish soon; its scent is evanescent.
evinced (verb): revealed. “uh VINSED”
Vince evinced the villain by providing evidence.
exacerbated (verb): made more severe; aggravated. “eggs ZASS er bait id”
I’m exasperated - not only did you get us lost in the woods, but you also exacerbated the situation by dropping our phone in that swamp.
exact (verb): to take. “egg ZACKT”
Think: Exacto knife.
I’m going to exact my share of the cookie with an Exacto knife.
exacting (adjective): requiring strict attention to detail. “egg ZAKT ing”
Our exacting architecture professor demanded that our model be drawn exactly to scale.
exaggerate (verb): to overestimate or underestimate, stretch the truth or hyperbolize. “eks ADGE urr ate”
Think: ex’s age rate.
My ex likes to exaggerate his age rate in the reverse direction: last year he told people he was 39, but now he’s claiming that he’s 38.
excise (verb): to take or cut out. “eck SIZE”
During liposuction, doctors excise fat – your current size will be an ex-size and you’ll be skinny.
excoriated (verb): strongly condemned. “ex KOR ee ate id”
Simon Cowell’s criticism on American Idol excoriated the contestant – she felt as if she’d been scoured by a rough dish pad.
exculpated (verb): freed from blame. “ex CULL pate id”
If you commit a crime but have a clever lawyer, you'll be exculpated and be an "ex-culprit".
execrable (adjective): detestable; awful. “ex eh CRUH bull”
Your unfunny jokes about excrement are execrable – they’re shit.
exigent (adjective): requiring immediate and/or significant action. “EX ih gent”
Think: exit gent.
When there’s an exigent problem, Clark Kent becomes an exit gent and returns as Superman.
exodus (noun): the departure of many people. “EX uh duss”
Think: exit us!
During the Syrian civil war, there was a mass exodus of refugees who must have been thinking, “exit us!”
exorbitant (adjective): excessive. “ex ORB it int”
Think: extra for orbit.
The fancy space hotel charged exorbitant fees due to the extra costs needed to orbit the earth.
expatiate (verb): to speak or write about in detail. “ex PAY she ate”
Think: paid she ate = food critic.
Sarah loved to eat and to write, so she decided that she watned to expatiate as a food critic and get paid when she ate.
expatriate (noun): one who has moved to a foreign country. “ex PAY tree ate”
We said our expatriate friend was an anti-American ex-patriot since he moved to France.
expedient (adjective): helpful in a practical way. “ex PEED ee int”
To be speedy, I booked my flight on Expedia.com; it was more expedient than calling the airline.
explicate (verb): to explain, analyze, or develop an idea. “EX plih kate”
Think: looks like “explain”.
To explain is to make explicit, or explicate.
exponent (noun): a supporter of something. “EX poe nint”
Upon Romney's nomination, McCain became his exponent for the greater good of the GOP and therefore was his ex-opponent.
expunge (verb): to get rid of. “ex PUNJ”
Think: ex with sponge.
The best way to make a spill an “ex-spill” is to use a sponge to expunge the mess.
expurgate (verb): to cleanse. “EX per gate”
By the time they were done expurgating the “offensive” parts from Huckleberry Finn, there was almost nothing left; they purged almost everything.
extant (adjective): present or existing (opposite of extinct). “EX tint”
Think: existing ant.
Since he was about to get stepped on, "I exist!" exclaimed the ant to the elephant.
extemporaneous (adjective): done without preparation. “ex tem per RAIN ee us”
Think: ex= without, tempo= time.
If you don’t have time to prepare, then your speech will have to be extemporaneous.
extenuating (adjective): less serious due to a partial excuse. “ex TEN you ate ing”
I got an extension on my paper because there were extenuating circumstances – I got trampled by an elephant.
extirpate (verb): to get rid of completely. “EK stir pate”
If you have pests in your house that you want to extirpate, call someone who will exterminate them.
extol (verb): to praise highly. “ek STOLL”
I extol this highway because it used to charge a toll, but now it’s an ex-toll road.
extraneous (adjective): not important. “eks TRAIN ee us”
Think: extra strain.
Just give me the facts, ma’am. All these extraneous details are putting an extra strain on my memory.
extrapolate (verb) to infer, conclude or draw a conclusion based on another observation or fact. “eks TRAP oh late”
Think: Extra police = we’ll be late
Due to the fact that there are extra police on the highway today, and traffic is at a standstill, I’m guessing that there was a big accident. Hence, I can extrapolate that we’ll be late to work today.
exult: verb, to show great happiness. “eggs ult
Think: ultimate ex
I exulted in the fact that my ex still plays ultimate Frisbee with me, since ultimate has always been my one true love.
fabricate (verb): to make up in order to deceive. “FAB rick ate”
Think: fabric background.
The movie set background was fabricated, woven from fabric to resemble a mountain range.
facetious (adjective): playfully funny. “fa SEE shus”
Think: face “E”.
The facetious comedian made us smile so much that our faces looked like we were constantly saying “E”. (try it!)
fallible (adjective): capable of making an error. “FAL (rhymes with “pal”) ih bull”
Jenkins! The rookie agent you picked is fallible – for him, the mission is extremely fail-able.
fanatic (adjective): full of extreme enthusiasm. “fuh NAT ick”
Think: fan lunatic.
The fanatic Green Bay Packers fan - a lunatic - painted his face green and wore a cheesehead hat every day of the year.
farce (noun): a comical, unrealistic, mocking display or show. “FARSE”
I know your play is a farce because of how many times the characters fart.
fastidious (adjective): having very picky standards. “fuh STID ee us”
Think: fast to tidy up.
My roommate is fastidious about cleaning; she gets mad if I am not fast to tidy up the apartment.
fatuous (adjective): lazily foolish. “fat SHOE us”
Think: fat ass.
If you’re fatuous about nutrition, you might end up with a fat ass.
fawning (verb) kissing up to. “FON ing”
Think: fawn (baby deer).
The little fawn's only hope to get the bear to spare its life was by using fawning behavior.
feckless (adjective): weak; worthless; irresponsible. “FEK liss”
Think: F in class.
If you get an F in class, your study habits were probably feckless.
fecund (adjective): fruitful; inventive. “FEE kund”
Think: feces under.
Spreading manure, i.e., feces, under your crops as fertilizer will make your harvest fecund.
feign (verb): to fake. “FAYN (rhymes with “rain”)”
Here’s the plan: we feign illness by pretending to faint as soon as the final exam begins so we won’t have to take it.
felicity (noun): happiness. “fu LISS it ee”
Think: feline city.
If you're a cat person, then a feline city would bring you great felicity. Meow.
ferret (verb): to bring to light; to uncover. “FERR it”
Think: ferret (the animal).
If you keep a ferret as a pet, it will ferret out all your lost earrings since they can crawl under anything.
fervor (noun): passion. “FURR ver”
The lovers’ fervor for each other was so great that their skin felt fever-hot.
festoon (verb): to decorate. “feh STOON”
The harvest moon festival is coming! Time to festoon the barn for the big dance!
fetid (adjective): bad-smelling. “FED id”
Feet are often fetid.
fiasco (noun): a disaster. “fee ASS koh”
Smuggling that flask into the football game was a fiasco; we got kicked out in the first quarter.
filial (adjective): like a son or daughter. “FIL ee ul”
It was the son's filial duty to care for his dying mother since he was affiliated with her by blood.
fillip (noun): stimulus, impetus, flick. “PHIL ipp”
Think: fill up my tank.
If you could please fill up my tank of gas, then that would be a fillip to my transportation abilities.
finagled (verb): obtained, often through trickery or indirect methods. “fih NAY gulled”
Think: finagle a bagel.
Even though I had lost my wallet, I finagled a bagel from the bagel lady by claiming I had invented cream cheese.
finicky (adjective): difficult to please. “FIN ick ee”
The princess was nit-picky – she was so finicky that she refused to sleep on the mattress with a pea under it.
fitful (adjective): irregular; intermittent. “FIT full”
Our new baby only sleeps fitfully – the night seems full of his crying fits.
flagrant (adjective): shockingly bad. “FLAY grint”
Think: fragrant vagrant.
No matter what your feelings towards homeless people are, you can’t deny that man is a fragrant vagrant - his B.O. is so bad it’s flagrant .
fleeting (adjective): short-lived. “FLEET ing”
My stay in the village was by necessity fleeting: a dragon attacked, and I had to flee.
flippant (adjective): lacking respect or seriousness. “FLIP int”
Think: flip off.
If you're flippant, you probably flip people off on a regular basis.
florid (adjective): overly decorated; reddish. “FLOR id”
The 12-year-old girl’s room was flowered with hundreds of red-hued decorations - her style was florid.
flotsam (noun): floating debris. “FLOT sim”
After the Titanic sank, Rose was able to survive by climbing onto a piece of floating flotsam from the wreckage.
flounder (verb): to act clumsily or ineffectively. “FLOUN dir”
Think: flop under.
Bad dancers flounder (verb) through clubs like flounders (noun) that flop under the seat of the boat once they’re caught.
flourish (verb): to thrive. “FLERR ish”
My flowers always flourish, because I have 20 years experience as a florist.
flouted (verb): treated without respect. “FLOUT id”
Think: flung out.
The rebel flouted the rules so badly that he flung them out the window.
fluctuate (verb): to change or go back and forth. “FLUCK chew ate”
Sometimes customers have flocked to our restaurant, and other times we are half empty: demand seems to fluctuate.
flummoxed (adjective): confused. “FLUM ixed”
Think: flume ox.
At the water park, I was completely flummoxed when, in the flume ride, I saw an ox swimming along.
foible (noun): a minor weakness of character. “FOY bull”
Your plan to take over the world is foil-able because you have many foibles.
foment (verb): to encourage the growth of. “FOH ment”
Think: form it!
In Star Wars, Princess Leia fomented the Rebel group by telling the Rebels to “form it!”
forage (verb, noun) v: to search for food, n: food, a search. “FORE ige”
Think: for aged cheese.
Being French, I have been foraging our supermarkets and farmer’s markets far and wide for aged cheese that reminds me of home.
forbearance (noun): patience; tolerance. “four BEAR ints”
Think: bear tolerance.
I'm usually harsh on people who borrow my money, but for bears I have more tolerance and practice forbearance since they scare me.
foreground (verb): to highlight. “FOUR ground”
Think: foreground (noun).
That boy is magic! Foreground (verb) his talent by making sure he's in the foreground (noun) of the stage!
forestall (verb): to delay, hinder, or prevent. “four STALL”
Think: for stall.
The booby traps I surrounded my fort with will forestall invaders – they’re for stalling.
formidable (adjective): serious, respectable, worthy. “FOR mid ih bull”
The cliff face was formidable; it seemed to forbid us from even attempting to climb.
fortitude (noun): strength. “FORT ih tude”
The Bulgarian weightlifter's mental fortitude during training gave him a body that looked like a fortress.
fortuitous (adjective): lucky. “for TWO it iss”
Think: fortunate for us.
It was fortuitous and fortunate for us that the polar bear we encountered had just eaten a seal and was too full to eat us.
fracas (noun): a noisy brawl. “FRAH kiss”
Think: frat ruckus.
The frat brothers often caused a ruckus by getting into a drunken fracas.
fractious (adjective): cranky. “FRAK shis”
Think: fracture us.
The fractious football player is best avoided: if his team loses, he gets mad enough to fracture us.
fraternize (verb): to be friendly with. “FRAH turn eyes”
We frat brothers fraternize with all the freshman chicks so they'll come to our parties.
frenetic (adjective): wildly excited or active. “fruh NET ick”
Think: frenzy of energy.
Have you ever watched a Pug play? It’s frenetic - like a chubby little frenzy of energy.
froward (adjective): stubbornly disobedient. “FRO werd”
I try to straighten my hair but it’s froward - after a few hours, it’s a fro again.
frugal (adjective): thrifty; inclined to save money. “FROO gull”
Think: fructose corn syrup gal.
I’m too frugal to use healthy sweeteners - I’m a high-fructose corn syrup gal.
fruition (noun): a productive result. “froo ISH un”
Think: grow fruit.
My plans to grow my own oranges came to fruition when my orange tree produced fruit.
fudge (verb): to fake or falsify. “FUDJ”
Think: “oh, fudge!”
If the salesperson fudges the facts about the used car you buy, you’ll be saying “oh, fudge!” later when it breaks down.
fulsome (adjective): abundant, sometimes disgustingly so. “FULL some”
Think: full of some.
In the U.S., we are full of some crops - for instance, corn here is so fulsome that we put it in nearly every food product.
funereal (adjective): like a funeral. “fyoo NERR ee ul”
Your gothic style is so funereal it looks as though you're headed to a funeral instead of the mall.
furor (noun): an outburst of rage or excitement. “FURE rir”
The governor's use of the Fuhrer’s (Hitler's) image in an ad made many furious and created a political furor.
furtive (adjective): done by stealth. “FIR tive”
Think: furtive fart.
Watch out for that kid - he will fart in class but it's so furtive that he never gets blamed.
gadfly (noun): someone who annoys by being very critical. “GAD fly”
Think: egad, fly!
Brad is such a gadfly about my outfits that I want to say “Egad, fly!” and hit him with a flyswatter.
gaffe (noun): a social mistake. “GAFF”
It’s definitely a gaffe to bring your pet giraffe to the party - everyone will laugh.
gainsay (verb): to deny. “GAIN say”
Think: against say.
Those who gainsay us are against what we say.
gallant (adjective): courageous; noble. “GAL int”
Think: galloping knight.
She’s still single because she’s waiting for a gallant knight to come galloping in on his horse and sweep her away.
gambit (noun): a move made to try to gain an advantage. “GAM bit”
Think: gamble it.
When you play chess, sometimes you have to gamble it and use a gambit by sacrificing a piece for a better position.
gamboled (verb): danced around happily; frolicked. “GAM bulled”
Think: game ball.
After she scored three goals and led the team to victory, the coach awarded her the game ball and she gamboled all over the place.
garble (verb): to make hard to understand. “GAR bull”
A bad connection can garble a voicemail to the point that the message just sounds like someone mid-gargle.
gargantuan (adjective): enormous. “gar (rhymes with “far”) GAN shoo-in”
The gargantuan orangutan was so gigantic that it needed a special enclosure at the zoo.
garrulous (adjective): talkative, chatty, prone to discussing trivial things. “GARE rule luss”
Think: girls rule us.
The reason those girls rule us is that they have a talent for being garrulous – we can barely get a word in during conversation.
gauche (adjective): awkward. “GOSH”
Think: go douche.
The gauche thing about Summer's Eve commercials is that they're basically telling you to go douche.
gaudy (adjective): flashy in a tasteless way. “GODDY”
Think: gawd ugly.
The rapper's inch-thick gold chain was so gaudy that even his fans said, "gawd that's ugly!"
genial (adjective): good-natured. “JEAN ee ul”
If you sign up to be a genie and to grant people wishes, you’re probably by nature genial.
germane (adjective): relevant; appropriate; fitting. “jer MAIN”
Think: yer main.
Enough digressions! Stick to yer main point; unless your remarks are germane, I get distracted.
germinate (verb): to grow or to cause to grow. “JERM in ate”
Think: germ in Nate.
After entering his nose, the germ in Nate was able to germinate into a cold because he was so run down.
ghastly (adjective): horrid. “GASSED lee”
Looking in the mirror and seeing a ghostly figure behind me was ghastly.
gild (verb): to make attractive, often deceptively. “GILLED”
I’m a terrible painter, so instead I usually gild my vases with gold so they look okay.
glacial (adjective): slow and/or cold. “GLAY shull”
My answer had a glacial (slow) pace, and the interviewer gave me a glacial (cold) look that made me feel like I was on a glacier .
glancing (adjective): indirect. “GLANSE ing”
Think: glance (verb).
The knight only glanced sideways at his opponent; as a result, his lance’s blow was glancing and didn’t inflict any damage.
glaring (adjective): obvious; harshly bright. “GLARE ing”
My resume had such a glaring typo that my interviewer just sat there and glared at me until I left.
glowered (verb): looked at with anger. “GLAH werd”
Think: glow RRR.
The scary, frowning jack-o'-lantern glowered at us - its glow seemed to say "RRRRRRRR!"
glut (noun): too much of something. “GLUT”
Since my dog is a glutton for dog treats, I have a glut of Snausages in my house.
goosebumps (noun): small bumps on the skin caused by fear or excitement. “Goose bumps”
Think: goose bumps.
Pluck the feathers off the skin of a goose, and you’ll see the same little bumps that appear on your forearms when you get scared.
gossamer (adjective): delicate; flimsy. “GAWS a murr”
Think: goose feather.
Wafting through the air, the goose feather was gossamer and felt soft to the touch when it landed on my palm.
grandiloquent (adjective): loud; colorful; egotistical. “gran DILL oh quent”
Think: grand eloquent.
If you're grandiloquent, you’re grand and eloquent with your speech so everyone notices you.
grandiose (adjective): affecting grandness by showing off or exaggerating. “GRAN dee ose”
Think: grand ideas.
I have a lot of grand ideas: for example, my grandiose plan to jump the Grand Canyon with my rocket car.
grandstand (verb): to show off. “GRAND stand”
If you’re doing a handstand, it’s probably to grandstand for an audience.
grasping (adjective): excessively greedy. “GRASP ing”
Think: Mr. Burns’ grasping.
The Simpsons' Mr. Burns is a grasping (adjective) tycoon who is always grasping (verb) at any new source of profit.
grating (adjective): irritating. “GREAT ing”
Reading Facebook election posts is grating; I'd almost rather rub a cheese grater on myself.
gravitas (noun): powerful seriousness. “GROV it oss”
As the judge entered, his gravitas was like gravity, drawing everyone's eyes to him and silencing the room.
gregarious (adjective): social. “gruh GAIR ee us”
If you're gregarious, you like to congregate with others whenever possible.
grisly (adjective): horrific; disgusting. “GRIS lee”
Think: grizzly death.
If you piss off a grizzly bear, it may give you a grisly death.
grouse (verb): to complain. “GRAHWSE (rhymes with “house”)”
Oscar the Grouch likes to grouse about everyone else on Sesame Street.
grovel (verb): to act like an unworthy servant by crawling or lowering oneself. “GRAH vuhl”
Grovel to Her Majesty by putting your face in the gravel, slave!
gumption (noun): drive; initiative. “GUMP shun”
Think: Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump showed gumption by playing football, co-founding a shrimp business, and running across the country.
guttural (adjective): strange and unpleasant sounding. “GUT ur ul”
Think: gutter roar.
You'd have the guttural gutter roar of a homeless man if you spent the night sleeping in the gutter.
hackneyed (adjective): trite or overused. “HACK need”
Think: hacked knees.
The veteran soccer player had hacked knees; his knees were hackneyed from overuse.
haggard (adjective): worn-out looking. “HAH gerd”
After months of partying with little sleep, Lindsay Lohan began to look haggard and worried people would think she was an old hag.
halcyon (adjective): happy; peaceful; prosperous. “HAL see yon”
Think: hell’s she on?
In her halcyon years, people would ask "What the hell's she on?" because she was constantly happy.
hallowed (adjective): sacred. “HAL owed”
The cemetery where saints are buried is so hallowed it's practically "halo-ed".
hapless (adjective): unlucky. “HAP less”
Think: happy less.
The hapless are often happy less because of their rotten luck.
haptic (adjective): related to the sense of touch. “HAP tick”
Think: half ticked.
I am only half ticked off that my haptic senses are fading with age, since my resistance to pain has also increased.
harangue (noun): a ranting lecture. “huh RANG”
Think: her ears rang.
Her ears rang so much after the loud harangue that she joked she'd rather hang than listen to it again.
harbinger (noun): something that shows what will happen in the future. “har BINJ er”
The superstitious woman thought the black cat crossing her path was a harbinger of bad luck and a bringer of misfortune.
hardscrabble (adjective): involving struggle and hard work. “HARD skrab bull”
Think: hard and scrappy scrabble champ.
Despite her hardscrabble upbringing, Lucinda was a hard and scrappy scrabble champ; she excelled not because of her genius, but through hard work and a superior will to win.
harmonious (adjective): free from disagreement; forming a pleasing whole. “Har MOAN ee us”
Think: harp money.
Playing the harp brings me as much money as it does because the way I play is so harmonious.
harried (adjective): harassed. “HAH (rhymes with “NAH”) reed”
Being harried by your teacher and hurried to finish your test - just because you’re the last one in the room - is terrible.
harrow (verb): to torment or greatly distress. “HAH (rhymes with “NAH”) rowed”
Think: hair arrow.
Not two days after I’d grown the perfect afro, my friend decided to harrow me by shooting me in the hair with an arrow .
haughty (adjective): proud in a way that looks down on others. “HOT ee”
Think: stuck-up hottie.
Unfortunately, that senior class hottie is usually haughty when you talk to her.
headlong (adjective): done without adequate thinking; rash. “HEAD long”
If you dived headfirst into a shallow pool, it would be a headlong decision.
hector (verb): to bully or harass. “HEK tir”
I tried to hector the comedian by heckling him, but he made fun of me, so I stopped.
hegemony (noun): dominance. “HEJ uh moany”
Think: huge money.
The country with huge amounts of money enjoyed hegemony over its neighbors because it could afford an immense army.
heinous (adjective): wicked; hateable. “HAIN us”
I called you an anus because of your heinous deeds – you cheated on me!
herald (noun, verb) n: messenger, indicator, omen v: to signal the arrival of. “HAIR uhld”
Think: Harold the Herald.
“Harold the Herald” would be a great name for a psychic who heralds the future... if people had more capacious vocabularies.
hermetic (adjective): protected from outside influence. “her MET ick”
The hermit lived in a hermetic cave that was only reachable via a treacherous mountain path.
heterodox (adjective): unorthodox; unconventional. “HETT er oh docks”
Think: hetero = different.
If you are heterosexual, then you prefer the opposite (different) sex. If you are heterodox, then you prefer an unconventional (different ) lifestyle and/or philosophy.
heterogeneous (adjective): made of dissimilar parts. “heh te-ro JEAN ee-us”
Heterosexual sex is more heterogeneous than homosexual sex since it involves a wider variety of body parts.
heyday (noun): one's best time period. “HAY day”
Think: hey day.
During my heyday, when I was the starting quarterback and had a 4.0, all the girls said hey to me every day .
hiatus (noun): an interruption or break. “hi A (sounds like the letter A) tus”
The Hawaiian Hyatt ad urged us to take a hiatus from work to stay at its luxurious hotel for a few days.
hidebound (adjective): inflexible; ultra-conservative. “HIDE bound”
The hidebound extremists were bound in animal hides and unsurprisingly were against gay marriage.
histrionic (adjective): overly emotional for effect. “hiss tree ON ick”
Her hysterical laughter was designed to get attention and was therefore histrionic.
hodgepodge (noun): a jumble of different things. “HAHJ pahj”
If your garage is anything like mine, it’s a hodgepodge of tools, old papers, junk, and who knows what else.
holistic (adjective): dealing with something as a whole. “ho LIST ick”
Think: whole list.
Holistic medicine treats the whole list of body issues instead of just addressing one symptom.
homespun (adjective): simple; unpretentious. “home SPUN”
Think: home spun.
Her clothes are pretty homespun, but then again, they actually are home spun - her mom weaves them at home on a loom.
homogeneous (adjective): having the same composition throughout. “huh MOJ in us”
Think: homogenized milk.
Milk is homogenized to mix in the cream and make a homogeneous liquid.
hortatory (adjective): intended to urge action. “HORT uh tore ee”
Think: horror story.
The horror story about the spread of Ebola had a hortatory effect on us; we began washing our hands after touching anything.
hubris (noun): excessive pride or self-confidence. “HYU bris”
Think: huge breasts.
If a girl gets implants and suddenly has huge breasts, she may develop hubris from all the male attention.
humbuggery (noun): nonsense; rubbish. “hum BUG ur ee”
Think: bah, humbug!
Ebenezer Scrooge said, "bah, humbug!" so much because he thought Christmas was humbuggery.
humdrum (adjective): boring. “HUM drum”
Think: hums and drums.
That was a humdrum band – it was just one guy who would hum and another guy beating a drum.
husbandry (noun): careful management. “HUZ bun dree”
In the 1950s, a woman's husband usually practiced husbandry of their finances.
iconoclast (noun): someone who goes against society. “eye KON oh klast”
The iconoclast had beliefs that clashed with most people's views.
ideological (adjective): related to belief, sometimes at the expense of the practical. “eye dee uh LODGE ih cuhl”
The ideological candidate refused to compromise on his ideas about what was right, winning some support but ultimately losing to his more practical opponent.
idyllic (adjective): pleasingly, naturally simple. “eye DILL ick”
The idyllic forest grove, with its sunbeams, babbling brook, and butterflies, seemed an ideal campsite.
idiosyncrasy (noun): a weird trait. “id ee oh SIN kra see”
Think: ‘N SYNC-cracy.
I might seem idiotic to suggest an 'N SYNC-cracy where 'N SYNC rules our nation, but it's just my idiosyncrasy .
ignominy (noun): deep disgrace. “IG no min-ee”
Think: ignored many.
Joe Paterno ignored many of the crimes that were being committed at Penn State; his legacy is now one of ignominy.
illiberal (adjective): narrow-minded. “ill LIB ur ul”
Think: ill liberal.
Unlike his fellow open-minded Democrats, Jack was so illiberal that people thought he must be a mentally ill liberal.
illusory (adjective): not real. “ill LOO sir ree”
The mirage of an oasis in the desert was an illusion; it was therefore illusory.
imbroglio (noun): complicated situation. “im BRO glee oh”
Think: igloo bro!
I knew my friend was in an imbroglio after getting the text, "I just woke up and I'm in an igloo, bro!"
imminent (adjective): about to happen. “IMM un nent”
Think: in a moment.
The evil-looking storm clouds told us a downpour was imminent – it would happen in a moment.
immure (verb): to enclose or imprison. “imm YOUR”
Think: in manure.
We never should have tried to drive through this cow pasture: our car is immured in manure.
immutable (noun): unchangeable. “im MUTE uh bull”
They poured radioactive chemicals on me to try to make me into a mutant, but it was impossible: I’m immutable, so I’m im-mutate-able .
impassive (adjective): unemotional. “im PASS ive”
Think: I’m passive.
I’m passive, and I remained impassive so the bully who stole my Dippin’ Dots wouldn’t hit me.
impeccable (adjective): flawless. “im PECK uh bull”
Due to the impeccable net you covered my apple tree with, the crows can’t get at the fruit – it’s im-peckable.
impecunious (adjective): poor. “imm peh Q nee us”
Think: I’m pecking (pecuniary = related to money).
I’m so impecunious that, at dinnertime, I’m pecking at the ground like a chicken to look for bugs to eat.
impeded (verb): blocked. “im PEED id”
As I walked across the fruited plain, a buffalo stampede impeded my progress.
imperative (adjective): very important. “imm PEAR uh tiv”
Think: I’m parenting!
I’m parenting here, and I expect respect! Of course it’s imperative that you clean your room!
imperious (adjective): dominant in a kingly way. “im PEER ee us”
When we went out to dinner with the emperor, he was so imperious that he ordered all of our meals.
imperturbable (adjective): unable to be upset or excited; calm. “im purr TUR buh bull”
Think: im (not) disturbable.
A phone rang as I swung at the golf ball, but my imperturbable nature kept me from being disturbed and slicing the shot.
impetuous (adjective): impulsive; spontaneous. “im PET chew iss”
Think: impatient us.
Impatient people like us make impetuous decisions like betting on horses with cool names without researching them first.
impetus (noun): driving force, incentive, stimulus. “IMM pet us”
Think: pet us.
As dogs, our impetus to obey commands is that people will pet us as a reward.
impenetrable (adjective): unable to be penetrated (literal), unable to be understood or overcome (metaphorical). “im PEN it truh bull”
In order to win the pennant for his team, the manager tried to make sure that his gameplan was impenetrable to the opposing team.
impinge (verb): to trespass on one’s freedoms. “im PINJ”
Think: I’m pinched.
I’m pinched on the butt every time I go to that biker bar – it impinges on my dignity.
implacable (adjective): unable to be satisfied or pleased. “im PLAK uh bull”
My dental hygenist was implacable; no matter how much I brushed and flossed, she kept telling me that my mouth was full of plaque.
implication (noun): a conclusion, hint, suggestion, connection or insinuation (not directly stated). “ihm (rhymes with “him”) plih KAY shun”
Think: implying = suggesting.
When Mike’s date told him that she was tired and it was late, implying that was that it was time to go home, the implication was obvious to everyone but him. “OK, want to get some coffee then?” he asked cluelessly.
implicit (adjective): suggested but not directly expressed. “im PLISS it”
It became implicit that the evening was over when my date implied that if she didn’t leave now she would be too tired to work the next day.
imploring (verb): begging. “Im PLOR ing”
Think: I’m poor.
I implore you to lend me a few bucks since I’m poor.
importune (verb): to nag; to persistently insist. “im por TOON”
Think: “I’m poor” tune.
The homeless man at the end of my block always importunes us for money with his little “I’m poor” tune.
impregnable (adjective): unconquerable; impenetrable. “im PREG nuh bull”
Think: impossible to get pregnant.
Impregnable metal chastity belts in the Middle Ages made it impossible for women who wore them to get pregnant.
imprimatur (noun): official approval. “im prim a TURE”
In Game of Thrones, a king conveys his imprimatur with an imprint of his crest on a scroll's wax seal.
impromptu (adjective): without preparation. “im PROMPT ooh”
If you forget your lines, I'm not going to prompt you, so just improvise and make some impromptu remarks.
impudence (noun): rudeness. “IM pew dense”
Think: in puberty.
Give those 12-year-olds a break. They’re still in puberty - that’s why they’re so impudent to the substitute teacher.
impugn (verb): to attack verbally. “im PYOON”
Think: imply ugly.
Your insults impugn me; they imply ugly things.
inalienable (adjective): impossible to take away or give up. “In ALIEN uh bull”
Think: in (not) alien.
You say I’m an illegal alien, but I have a green card that gives me the inalienable right to live in the U.S.
inane (adjective): lacking meaning; silly. “in AIN (rhymes with “gain”)”
Saying you "like stuff" to describe your interests is inane, and it might make people think you're insane.
incandescent (adjective): bright; brilliant. “in can DESS sent”
Think: candle sent.
The candle sent incandescent light throughout the tomb, revealing a sleeping vampire.
incensed (adjective): extremely angry. “in SENSED”
If you're incensed, smoke may be wafting off of your head as if you were a giant stick of burning incense (noun).
incessant (adjective): never-ending, constant. “in SESS int”
Think: cease = to stop
To cease is to stop (i.e, cease and desist), so if something is incessant, then it is never-ending. For example, when I was in college, I listened to Bob Dylan’s “Basement Tapes” incessantly .
inchoate (adjective): incomplete; formless. “in COH it”
Think: inches of chow.
The pile of chow on the hungry man’s Thanksgiving dinner place was eight inches high -- and created an inchoate blob of food.
incipient (adjective): beginning. “in SIP ee ent”
Think: sippy cup.
When your child’s toddlerhood is incipient (beginning), it helps to have a good sippy cup to minimize the number of spills.
incisive (adjective): sharp; direct. “in SICE ive”
Luckily, the surgeon was incisive - she only had seconds to make an incision before the patient's appendix burst.
incoherent (adjective): unclear. “in co HERE ent”
Think: I couldn’t hear it.
Your slurred voicemail to me at 2:30 A.M. was incoherent - I couldn’t hear it.
incorporate (verb): to include or take in. “in KOR poor ate”
Think: carp I ate.
I don’t eat much seafood, but after all that delicious carp I ate at the cookout, I think I should start incorporating more fish into my diet.
incorrigible (adjective): unable to be reformed. “in CORE ij uh bull”
Despite his teachers’ best efforts to make him sit still, the hyperactive little boy seemed incorrigible and in-correctable.
inculcate (verb): to teach by constant repetition and warning. “IN cull kate”
Think: in cult.
In the cult of Scientology, they inculcated Tom Cruise until he was brainwashed.
incumbent (adjective): not optional; obligatory. “in COME bent”
Think: income bent.
If your income is bent in the direction of a half-million dollars a year or more, then it is incumbent upon you to make sure to donate some of your money to worthy causes.
indefatigable (adjective): tireless, persistent. “in duh FAT ig uh bull”
Because of his indefatigable work ethic, Michael Phelps is nearly in-defeatable in the pool.
indictment (noun): a criticism or accusation. “in DAHYT (rhymes with “night”) ment
Think: dictaphone meant.
The fact that the defendant had illegally used a dictaphone to record private conversations with her employer, which she later shared online, meant that there were grounds for an indictment by the court.
indigenous (adjective): native to an area. “in DIJIN us”
Think: Indian dig in U.S.
The archaeologist found arrowheads during her Indian dig in the U.S. and concluded that Native Americans were indigenous to the area.
indignant (adjective): offended or angered by perceived unfair treatment. “in DIG nint”
Think: ain't diggin' it!
When I was passed over for the promotion at work, I was indignant. I told my boss, "I ain't diggin' it!"
indomitable (adjective): unconquerable. “in DOM it a bull”
Spain's national soccer team is so good that they're indomitable or "in-dominate-able" - they're unable to be dominated.
industrious (adjective): hard-working. “in DUSS tree us”
Think: maids dusting.
Succeeding in the cleaning industry means only hiring industrious maids who are really good at dusting.
ineffable (adjective): that which cannot be described in words. “in EFF uh bull”
There’s a word beginning with “F” that you’re not supposed to say, so if you can’t describe something, it’s ineffable - like that word is “in-F-able”.
ineluctable (adjective): inevitable, bound to happen, certain. “in ee LUCKED a bull”
It is ineluctable that a sex scandal on the eve of the election would render the candidate unelectable.
inestimable (adjective): too great to calculate. “in EST imm uh bull”
If something is inestimable, it’s in-estimate-able – you can’t estimate it.
inexorable (adjective): unstoppable. “in EX ur a bull”
The fighter's inexorable rise made it impossible to cross his name off the contender list; he was "in-x-out-able".
infinitesimal (adjective): incredibly tiny. “in fin ih TESS ih mull”
Think: infinitely small.
Electrons are pretty much infinitely small - they’re so infinitesimal that observing them changes them.
influx (noun): the arrival of many things or people. “IN flucks”
Think: in flood.
The influx of college students to Boston every September is like a flood.
ingenious (adjective): extremely clever. “in JEAN yiss”
Think: genie genius.
The genie granted me one wish, which I used to wish for unlimited wishes. “You’re a genius!” he said. I know, I know.
ingenuous (adjective): completely sincere; naive. “in JEN you us”
Think: genius without the “I” is no genius at all.
The young actress, being an innocent ingenue, was too ingenuous to realize the director was trying to seduce her.
ingrained (adjective): deeply worked into something. “in GRAYND”
Think: in grain.
Pesticides sprayed on wheat will become ingrained into the grain.
ingratiate (verb): to make someone like you. “in GRAY she ate”
Think: gratitude grated.
The new guy’s excessive gratitude grated and seemed like an attempt to ingratiate himself to us.
inimical (adjective): unfriendly; hostile. “in IM ih kull”
Of course the other beauty contestant hid your lipstick! She’s your enemy; it’s no surprise she’ll be inimical.
inimitable (adjective): not capable of being imitated. “in IM it a bull”
Michelangelo's art is inimitable and in-imitate-able; it has a magic that cannot be reproduced.
innate (adjective): existing since birth; inherent. “in NATE”
Think: in natal.
The ability of a spider to spin a web is not learned but innate; it’s in it even in the natal stage before being born.
innocuous (adjective): harmless. “in NOCK you us”
My dog will bark at you once you come in but it’s innocent - he’s innocuous.
inordinate (adjective): exceeding reasonable limits. “in ORD in it”
Think: not ordinary.
Joey Chestnut consumed an inordinate number of hot dogs; it's not ordinary that he ate 62 of them.
Inscrutable (adjective): impossible to understand or interpret. “In SCREW tah bull”
Think: in screw table.
If I told you “in a table, there’s a screw”, you’d understand me, but if I said “in a screw, there’s a table ”, I’d no doubt be inscrutable to you.
insinuate (verb): to hint or imply; to subtly introduce. “in SIN you ate”
Think: in sin you ate.
Pop culture insinuates that all women should be skinny, as if to say “in sin you ate that piece of cake”.
insipid (adjective): bland; dull. “in SIP id”
Think: in sippy.
FYI: if your drinks are served in sippy cups, you're probably a baby - that's why they feed you insipid, mushy foods.
insolence: noun, rudeness, insensitivity. “IN suh lince”
Think: in silence
To punish me for my insolence, my kindergarten teacher forced me to sit in the corner in silence.
insular (adjective): narrow-minded. “IN suh lur”
The hermit’s outlook was so insular because his cave insulated him from the rest of the world.
integrate (verb): to unite into a whole. “IN teh great”
The new interstate highway will integrate our town with the one in the next state since travel between the two will be easier.
interloper (noun): one who intrudes. “in tir LOPE ur”
Think: interrupt elope.
The interloper interrupted them from eloping when the priest said, "Speak now or forever hold your peace."
intimate (verb): to hint at. “IN tim it”
Think: intimate apparel.
I like my girlfriend’s intimate (adjective) apparel because it intimates (verb) at the shape of her body without looking slutty.
intrepid (adjective): extremely brave. “in TREP id”
Think: entrap it!
Instead of running from the attacking polar bear, our intrepid guide handed us nets, shouting, “entrap it!”
intrinsic (adjective): inherent. “in TRIN zik”
Having similar personalities is something that is comes naturally for most identical twins; it’s intrinsic.
intrusive (adjective): causing disruption or annoyance by being unwelcome. “in TRUE sive”
We all found it to be intrusive when an intruder interrupted our Christmas morning by breaking into our house and stealing presents from under the tree.
inundated (adjective): flooded. “IN un date id”
Think: nuns date.
After the church allowed nuns to date, they inundated Match.com.
inveigh (verb): to protest or complain bitterly. “in VAY”
Think: weigh in.
When a person with a German accent weighs in on a topic which upsets him, he is inveighing.
inveigle (verb): to entice, lure (a person), acquire or win (a thing) through deception or flattery. "in-VAY-gull"
Think: inveigle a bagel.
I was able to inveigle a bagel by impressing the bagel store owner with my fluent Polish.
invidious (adjective): causing envy. “in VID ee us”
I knew marrying a supermodel would make my friends envious – it’s unfortunately an invidious thing to do.
inviolate (adjective): pure; intact. “in VIE oh let”
The virgin tract of rainforest was inviolate; it had not yet been violated by greedy loggers.
irascible (adjective): easily angered. “ir RASS ih bull”
Think: irritable rascal.
My grandfather is an irritable old rascal; he’s so irascible that he yells at every waiter we ever get.
irk (verb): to annoy. “ERRK”
Of course he irks you – he’s a jerk!
ironic (adjective): the opposite of what one would expect. “Eye RON ick”
Think: “Hi, Ron” = ick.
Ron’s internal dialogue: “It’s ironic that when that girl I’ve been crushing on finally said “Hi, Ron,” I just then started to lose interest in her. Sometimes I disgust myself with my self-sabotaging ways. Ick .”
irresolute (adjective): not firm or determined. ”ear REZ oh loot”
Think: error in resolutions.
Looking back to January, I made an error in making New Year’s resolutions; I’m too irresolute to accomplish anything besides playing video games.
jargon (noun): specialized language used by a particular group of people. “JAR gun”
Think: Jar Jar Binks.
Part of the problem with Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks was the confusing jargon he used when talking to Anakin Skywalker.
jejune (adjective): dull; juvenile. “jih JOON”
My frat brothers' fart jokes are so jejune that you could almost call them juvenile or “jejune-venile”.
jettison (verb): to get rid of or to reject something. “Jet ih son”
Think: jet engine.
After the jet engine failed, the pilot jettisoned fuel so the plane would be light enough to make it to the airport.
jingoism (noun): extreme nationalism, belligerent foreign policy. “JIN go ism”
The British man’s jingoism went so far as to make him campaign for the Beatles’ Ringo Starr to rule the free world.
jocose (adjective): given to joking. “juh KOSE”
Think: joke coach.
It was no surprise that the jocose high school student grew up to be a joke coach.
judicious (adjective): having good judgment. “joo DISH us”
The Beatles' song "Hey Jude" says to be judicious, to use good judgment, and to "let her into your heart".
juggernaut (noun): something very powerful. “JUG ur not”
That juggler tied that huge knot by juggling six balls of yarn - it’ll be a juggernaut to untie.
juvenescence (noun): the state of being youthful or growing young. “JOOV in ess ense”
Think: juvenile adolescent.
Creating juvenescence by partying in Vegas for his 40th birthday made the man feel like a juvenile adolescent again.
juxtapose (verb): to contrast. “JUCKS tuh pohz”
Cliff Huxtable – Bill Cosby’s warm, good-natured character on The Cosby Show – was juxtaposed with his real-life persona after he was accused of rape on multiple occasions.
kindle (verb): to start; to stir up. “KIN dull”
You can’t just light a log on fire - to kindle the campfire, you need some kindling: twigs, paper, dried grass, etc.
kindred (adjective): closely related. “KIN drid”
I’m so kind to you because we’re kindred spirits.
kismet (noun): fate. “KISS met”
Think: kiss met.
I knew it was kismet that I'd marry her because we kissed as soon as we met each other.
kowtow (verb): to kiss up to. “COW TOWE (rhymes with “ow”)
Think: cow toes.
If you want to kowtow to a farmer, bow and offer to give a pedicure to his cow's toes.
lachrymose (adjective): tearful; mournful. “lack ri MOSE”
Think: lack Christmas.
If you lack Christmas presents, I don't blame you for being lachrymose.
lackadaisical (adjective): without energy or spirit. “lack a DAYS ih cull”
Think: like a daze.
Lackadaisical people are lazy, like a daze has come over them.
laconic (adjective): using few words. “luh CON ick”
Think: lacking kick.
His personality was lacking kick; he was so laconic that he barely even said hello to us.
lampoon (verb): to mock or satirize. “lam POON”
Think: laugh harpoon.
The Onion lampooned Kanye so skillfully that its article was like a laugh harpoon.
languid (adjective): lazy; lacking energy. “lan GWID”
Think: laying squid.
The laying squid was languid because it just lay on the bottom of the ocean all day.
largess (noun): generosity. “large ESS”
Due to his wealthy parents' largess and the large-ness of their generosity, the college student lived pretty large and drove a Ferrari.
lassitude (noun): tiredness; laziness. “LASS ih tude”
Think: lazy attitude.
Your lassitude is caused by your lazy attitude and your belief that Lassie will come save you if you need help.
latent (adjective): existing but unseen or inactive. “LAY tent”
Think: lay tent.
You claim to like hiking, but your desire must be latent since you just lay in the tent when we camp.
laudable (adjective): worthy of praise. “LOD ih bull”
Something that's laudable is applaudable.
lax (adjective): loose; not strict. “LACKS”
His diet plan was lax because he lacks the discipline to avoid junk food.
legerdemain (noun): sleight of hand; a display of skill. “leh jer da-MANE”
Think: Ledger’s domain.
Heath Ledger's domain was the silver screen; his acting legerdemain captivated audiences.
lenient (adjective): forgiving, not strict. “LEEN ee ent”
Think: loan lent.
My bank is really lenient – I have terrible credit, but I asked for a loan and they lent one to me.
levity (noun): lightheartedness. “LEV ih tee”
The comedian's levity put us in such a good mood that our spirits felt as if they were levitating.
licentious (adjective): lacking restraint. “lie SEN shus”
Flappers were thought to be licentious, since they acted as if they had a license to do whatever they wanted.
lionized (verb): treated with great interest. “LIE un ized”
The cute little meerkat was so lionized by the zoo's visitors that he felt like a lion.
listless (adjective): having little interest or energy. “LIST liss”
If you've never made a to-do list, you're list-less and probably listless.
logorrhea (noun): excessive wordiness. “log uh REE uh”
I thought a long speech would help my grade, but my teacher said my logorrhea was like verbal diarrhea.
loquacious (adjective): very talkative. “luh QUAY shus”
Think: quack quack.
The loquacious duck just wouldn’t shut up: “quack quack, I’m a duck, quack quack, blah blah blah.”
lovelorn (adjective): without love. “LOVE lorn”
Think: love torn.
After his wife died in an accident, the man felt lovelorn, as though he'd had his love torn from him.
lucid (adjective): clear; intelligible. “LOO sid”
Think: Luz = light in Spanish.
I’m not fully lucid in the morning until the sun rises and the lug (light) comes through the window – I can’t think clearly while it’s still dark outside because I’m still in dreamland.
lucre (noun): money; profit. “LOO kurr”
When you put in the years of training necessary to secure a lucrative career, lucre is your reward.
ludicrous (adjective): ridiculous. “LOOD ih kris”
Think: Ludacris ridiculous.
The rapper Ludacris is known for his ridiculous, ludicrous lines like “I got hoes in different area codes.”
lugubrious (adjective): mournful or gloomy. “luh GOO bree us”
Think: lug Brian.
I became lugubrious when I realized I would have to lug the unconscious Brian up the stairs.
lumber (verb): to move with clumsiness. “LUM bir”
Think: lumber (noun).
Frankenstein would lumber (verb) around as if his limbs were made of lumber (noun).
luminary (noun): one regarded for his brilliant achievements. “LOOM in airy”
It would take a luminary like Stephen Hawking to illuminate quantum physics for me.
lurid (adjective): sensational; shocking. “LURR id”
Think: lure in.
The strip club’s lurid neon silhouette of a naked woman was designed to lure in lonely gentlemen.
macabre (adjective): gruesome; horrible. “muh COBB”
The massacre of the tourists by jungle cannibals was truly macabre.
macerate (verb): to weaken, break down, or make soft. “MAH sir ate”
Spraying a mugger in the face with mace (tear gas) will hopefully macerate him.
machination (noun): a crafty scheme. “MOCK in ae shun”
Think: machine nation.
I don't trust C-3PO and R2D2; I bet they have machinations designed to create a machine nation in which we are slaves.
maelstrom (noun): something violently powerful; a whirlpool. “MALE strum”
Think: mail storm.
Spam emails flock to my inbox like a maelstrom; reading the mail storm would suck up all my time.
magisterial (adjective): having strong authority; kingly. “mah gist STEER ee ul”
If people are greeting you by saying "Your Majesty", you're probably looking magisterial – wear that outfit again!
magnanimous (adjective): generous. “mag NAN ih muss”
Think: magnet for animals.
The “Feed the Birds” lady in Mary Poppins was a magnet for animals because she was so magnanimous to them.
magnate (noun): a powerful or influential person. “MAG nate”
Think: chick magnet.
You’d be a chick magnet, too, if you were an oil magnate like me.
makeshift (adjective): serving as a temporary substitute. “MAKE shift”
Think: break shift, make shift.
If you break the shift gears on your bike, then you might have to improvise something makeshift until you can get to a repair shop.
malevolent (adjective): evil. “muh LEV uh lent”
Think: violent male.
Malevolent criminals are usually violent males; most serial killers are men.
malfeasance (noun): misdeed, violation. “mal FEE zance”
Think: mal=bad, fleas.
The fleas and ants in my house commit malfeasances daily; I think of them as mal (bad) fleas / ants.
malign (verb): to speak evil of. “muh LINE”
The evil witch not only maligned her enemies but also cast spells designed to give them malignant tumors.
malinger (verb): to fake sickness to avoid working. “muh LIN gur”
Those who malinger often linger in bed, pretending to have the flu.
malleable (adjective): able to be shaped. “MAL ee uh bull”
24-karat gold is so malleable that you can dent it with a wooden hammer - it’s “mallet-able.”
manacle (verb): to restrain. “MAN uh cuhl”
Think: man shackle.
These military rules manacle us just as surely as if they’d put man shackles on our wrists.
mandate (noun): an order or command. “MAN date”
The captain's mandate was obviously mandatory – so swab the deck!
manifold (adjective): diverse; varied. “MAN ih fold”
Think: many folds.
The surface of the brain is manifold because it has many folds.
marginal (adjective): very limited. “MARGE in ul”
I only had marginal success in deciphering the ancient manuscript because the only legible parts were the margins.
marshal (verb): to gather and organize. “MAR shul”
Think: fire marshal.
The fire marshal’s job is to marshal the volunteer firemen if there’s a fire alarm.
maudlin (adjective): overly sentimental. “MAWD lin”
Think: Maude’s violin.
Maude played emotional violin music every time she made an entrance, so we called her maudlin.
mawkish (adjective): overly sentimental. “MOCK ish”
Think: Ma’s awkward kiss.
Ma is awkward because she has to kiss us every time we leave the house - she’s mawkish.
meager (adjective): very small; inadequate. “MEE grr”
Think: me grr.
These meager portions on this pirate ship make me grr.
meddle (verb): to become involved with another’s affairs. “MED uhl”
It’s annoying when you meddle with us – you always jump into the middle of any quarrel we have.
meld (verb): to merge; to blend. “MELD”
If your ice cream cup is half vanilla, half chocolate and it melts, the flavors will meld.
mellifluous (adjective): having a sweet, smooth, rich flow. “muh LIFF flu iss”
Think: melody flow.
Adele’s mellifluous voice lets a melody flow from her lips like honey.
melodramatic (adjective): overly dramatic. “MEH low druh MATT ick”
Think: dramatic melody.
It’s melodramatic to hire a violinist to follow you around and play a dramatic melody when you enter a room.
mendacity (noun): dishonesty. “men DAH sit ee”
Think: mend the city
The former mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci, promised that he would mend the city and its underhanded ways, but his mendacity became apparent when he himself was arrested for corruption.
mendicant (noun): a beggar. “MEND ih kint”
Think: mend? I can’t!
If you tell a mendicant to sew up the holes in his clothes, he’d probably say, “mend? I can’t! They’re about to fall apart.”
menial (adjective): a task suitable to a servant. “MEAN ee ul”
Think: me kneel.
Tasks that make me kneel, like scrubbing the floor, are aptly called menial.
mercenary (adjective): motivated by money. “MURR sin erry”
I knew the merchant’s compliments were insincere since he was clearly mercenary.
mercurial (adjective): having rapidly changing moods. “murr CURE ee ul”
Marie Curie was notorious for her mercurial moods, which revolved as fast as the planet Mercury.
meretricious (adjective): falsely attractive. “merr (rhymes with “err”) uh TRISH us”
Think: merit tricks us.
The sparkle of pyrite, or fool’s gold, is meretricious because its merit tricks us into thinking it’s a precious stone.
meterological (adj): pertaining to weather patters. “Me tee or oh loj ih cull”
Think: meteor logical.
Because it’s unlikely that meteorlogical events could have killed every living dinosaur, a meteor striking Earth’s surface is a more logical explanation for their extinction.
meticulous (adjective): extremely detail-conscious. “Meh TICK u luss”
Think: ticks on us.
Hiking in the woods is fun, but we need to be meticulous when checking our skin to make sure that there aren’t any Lyme-disease-carrying ticks on us.
mettle (noun): strength; stamina. “MET ul”
Think: made of metal.
In Gladiator, Russell Crowe was so full of mettle he might have been made of metal .
miasma (noun): an unhealthy atmosphere. “mi AS muh”
Think: my asthma.
The smog in Los Angeles is a miasma that worsens my asthma.
microcosm (noun): a small thing representing a larger thing. “MY crow kos um”
The glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling are a microcosm of the universe - they're a "micro cosmos.”
milieu (noun): setting or environment. “mill YOU”
Think: my loo.
I prefer to use my loo in my own milieu - other people's bathrooms are gross!
milquetoast (noun): a timid person. “MILK toast”
Think: Milhouse / milky toast.
Milhouse is a milquetoast - he's about as tough as a piece of soggy, milky toast, since Bart Simpson bosses him around.
mimetic (adjective): something that imitates or mimics. “mih MET ick”
Think: mimes mimic.
You may think mimes are annoying, but their mimetic abilities are pretty cool when they mimic what it would look like to be trapped in a glass box.
minatory (adjective): threatening. “MIN a tor ee”
The minotaur, a creature that is half-man and half-bull, is minatory by nature.
minion (noun): a servant; a follower. “MIN yun”
In Austin Powers, Mini-Me is Dr. Evil's minion; he is a mini-one of Dr. Evil.
misanthrope (noun): one who hates people. “MISS en throwpe”
Think: mistake to be an anthropologist.
It's a huge mistake to be an anthropologist and study people all day long if you're a misanthrope.
miscreant (noun): a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law. “MISS kree int”
Think: mistake of creation.
The harsh judge believed the miscreant was a mistake of creation.
miserly (adjective): stingy or cheap with money. “MY zir lee”
Think: miserable Scrooge.
Scrooge was miserable at making friends because he was too miserly to ever chip in for the dinner tab.
misnomer (noun): a wrong or inappropriate name. “miss NO murr”
“The Battle of Bunker Hill” is a misnomer: it mis-names the battle, which was actually fought on the nearby Breed’s Hill.
mitigate (verb): to lessen or make less severe. “MITT ih gate”
Think: mitt gate.
The thief wore oven mitts to climb the spiked gate of the mansion to mitigate the pain in his hands.
modicum (noun): a small amount. “MODD ih kum”
Think: modest amount.
My pet mouse is cheap to feed because a modicum, or modest amount, of food will fill up his little belly.
modish (adjective): fashionable. “MODE ish”
Modish brands like Burberry and Prada are model-ish because only models seem to actually wear them.
monastic (adjective): strict; secluded; austere. “muh NAST ick”
If you’re a monk and you live in a monastery, your life is probably monastic – no partying for you.
morass (noun): a situation that makes you stuck. “muh RASS”
Don’t tailgate a molasses truck - if you run into it and it spills on you, you’ll be in a morass.
morbid (adjective): obsessed with or overly focused on death. “MORE bid”
Think: more bit (bite the bullet).
If you’re more obsessed with biting the bullet than most, then you are probably a morbid person.
mordant (adjective): bitingly harsh, often in a funny way. “MORE dint”
Those evil creatures who live in Mordor are especially fond of mordant jokes.
mores (noun): customary rules and standards. “MORES (rhymes with “snores”)”
Our society’s mores include morals like helping others who are less fortunate.
moribund (adjective): dying. “MORE ih bunned”
Think: morbid end.
If someone is moribund, they’re probably headed toward a morbid end, i.e., death.
morose: (adjective): gloomy. “muh ROWSE (rhymes with “ghost”)”
Think: no rose.
“The Bachelor” contestant was morose because after the ceremony was over she still had no rose.
motile (adjective): having the ability to move. “MOH till”
Now that my one-year-old can walk, he’s so motile that I have to be really mobile just to catch up to him.
motley (adjective): made up of several different parts. “MOT lee”
Think: Motley Crue.
The band Motley Crue has a motley history of parties, drugs, and other types of craziness.
multifaceted (adjective): having many aspects or parts. “Mull tee FASS ih ted”
Think: multi (many) facets.
Multifaceted diamonds sparkle because light reflects off of their many facets.
mundane (adjective): commonplace. “MUN dane”
Asking someone if they have a “case of the Mondays” is such a mundane saying that it’s not funny anymore.
munificent (adjective): generous or giving. “moon IF uh sint”
Think: money sent.
The money sent to us by our grandparents every year makes us consider them to be munificent.
myopic (adjective): shortsighted. “my OP ick”
Think: my old pic.
Putting my old pic on Match.com was myopic; in person, people said I was older than they'd thought I'd be.
myriad (noun): a large number. “MERE (rhymes with “here”) ee id”
Think: merry ads.
The myriad of merry ads during the holidays tries to persuade people to spend money on presents.
nadir (noun): the lowest point. “NAY dur”
A dude’s nads are literally the nadir of his reproductive system.
naïveté (noun): lack of experience, wisdom or judgement. “nye eve uh TAY”
Think: Adam and Eve.
Some people take the creation parable of Adam and Eve literally, but as a scientist, I attribute that to naïveté.
nascent (adj): coming into existence; new. “NAH sint”
Think: new car scent.
I jumped into the nascent BMW while it was still on the assembly line and breathed in the best new car scent I’ve ever smelled.
nebulous (adjective): vague. “NEB yule us”
The Horsehead Nebula is so many light-years away that we only have a nebulous idea of what it's like.
neophyte (noun): a beginner. “ne YO fight”
Think: Neo fight.
When Neo has his first fight with an agent in The Matrix, he is a neophyte and gets his ass kicked.
nepotism (noun): unfairly hiring family. “NEP oh TIS um”
Think: nephew favoritism.
They said I practiced nephew favoritism and accused me of nepotism when I promoted my 22-year-old nephew to vice president of the company.
nettle (verb): to irritate. “NET ul”
Poking someone with a needle is a quick way to nettle him.
newfangled (adj): new, often needlessly so. “nu FANG ulled”
Think: new tangled.
This newfangled yo-yo is so new to me that it’s tangled around my entire body.
noisome (adjective): stinky. “NOICE um”
Think: nose poison.
The boys’ locker room is noisome; going in there is like taking nose poison.
non sequitur (n): something unrelated. “non SECK quit ur”
Think: not sequence.
Bringing up koala bears after my girlfriend asked me about our relationship was a non sequitur; it was not in the right sequence .
nonchalant (adjective): acting casual or disinterested. “non shuh LAUNT (rhymes with “flaunt”)”
I’m nonchalant when I ask out a girl; it’s really a non-challenge for me since I’ve got so much game.
nondescript (adjective): plain. “non duh SCRIPPED”
Think: no description.
The little desert island was so nondescript that it had no description in our guidebook.
nonpareil (adjective): having no equal. “non pear ELL”
Think: no parallel.
The master parachutist had nonpareil skill; he truly had no parallel in the parachuting field.
nonplussed (adj): bewildered or confused. “non PLUSSED”
Think: no plus.
The calculator you loaned me made me nonplussed during the test because it had no plus button.
nontrivial (adjective): not unimportant. “non TRIV ee ul”
Most of the questions they ask during trivia night at the bar are rather trivial if you ask me...but my pop-culture-loving roommate finds them nontrivial .
normative (adjective): prescribing a standard or model. “NORM a tive”
Are you normal? If you said, “yes”, then are you buying into someone else’s normative rules of behavior?
nostalgia (noun): a bittersweet longing for the past. “nuh STAL guh”
Think: nose tampon.
My nostalgia for my glory days got so bad that I had to use a nose tampon for my constant sniffles.
nostrum (noun): a questionable medicine or remedy. “NAH strum”
Think: nostril rum.
The Simpsons' Dr. Nick's nostrum was nostril rum - rum meant to be snorted to clear the sinuses.
notorious (adjective): famous for being bad. “no TORY us”
Think: Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G. got away with calling himself notorious since he sold crack as a youth.
novel (adjective): strikingly new. “NAW vul”
When I was an internet novice, the idea of email was novel to me.
novitiate (noun): a beginner. “no VISHY it”
Think: novice initiate.
The novitiate is a novice frat brother, so they’ll initiate him by making him run around campus wearing a thong.
noxious (adjective): harmful. “NOCK shus”
Burning plastic releases noxious fumes that are toxic to living things.
nuance (noun): a subtle or slight distinction. “NEW aunts (rhymes with “flaunts”)”
Think: new ants.
Forgive me for not picking up on the nuance of today’s experiment - I couldn’t tell it had new ants compared to yesterday’s - ants all look the same to me.
nugatory (adjective): unimportant. “NOOG a-tory”
Think: negative nuggets.
Eating chicken nuggets is nugatory for good health; their health benefits could be said to be negative.
obdurate (adj): hardened; stubbornly persistent. “ob DUR it “
Think: obstacle durable.
That 10-ton boulder you blocked my front door with is an obstacle that’s durable - I tried to push it, but it’s obdurate .
obeisance (n): a gesture to show respect. “oh BEY since”
Think: obey stance.
When the natives bowed to the conqueror in obeisance, it was like an "obey stance".
obfuscated (verb): made unclear. “awb fusk KATED”
Think: obstacles confused.
The professor barely spoke English: the obstacles his speech created confused us and obfuscated his message.
objectionable (adjective): undesirable; offensive. “Obb JECT shin a bull”
Objection, your honor! The plantiff’s attorney just mooned me - behavior which is clearly objectionable.
objective (adjective): not influenced by personal perspective. “ob JECT ive”
It’s easy to have an objective opinion about an object like a rock – there’s not much debate about what a rock is.
objurgation (noun): a harsh reprimand or criticism. “ob jur GAY shun”
Think: failed obligation.
When I got married I took on the obligation to be faithful, so I wasn’t surprised when my wife gave me a severe objurgation after I cheated on her.
obloquy (noun): harshly critical statements; being discredited. “OB la quee”
Think: lob queries.
The prosecutor kept lobbing queries at the witness in an attempt to discredit him through obloquy.
obsequious (adj): too eager to help or obey. “ob SEE quee us”
Think: obscene kiss ass.
I can’t believe that obsequious guy got the promotion – he’s just an obscene kiss ass.
obstinate (adjective): stubborn. “OB stin-nit”
Think: obstacle in it.
The obstinate horse behaved as though there was an obstacle to movement in it.
obstreperous (adjective): stubbornly resistant to control; noisy. “ob STREP er-us”
The bacteria that cause strep throat are so obstreperous that many people take antibiotics for the condition.
obtrusive (adjective): noticeable in an unwelcome way. “obb TRUE sive”
You’re right – I’m not really listening to you. But it’s because there’s an O.B.T. (Orange B aboon Tarantula) under the table that keeps trying to crawl up my leg in an obtrusive way.
occluded (adjective): closed up; blocked. “awk LEWDED”
Think: Octomom cluttered.
Octomom cluttered the hospital's nursery with her eight babies and occluded it so no other infants were admitted.
odious (adj): arousing or deserving hatred. “OH dee-us”
Think: odorous onions.
Only eating onions is odious because they make one's breath so odorous.
officious (adjective): bossy. “oh FISH us”
Think: vicious official.
The official was vicious enough to measure every fish we caught with a ruler to make sure it was legal.
offset (verb): to have the opposite effect; to balance. “off SET”
Think: offs it.
Seeing a beautiful woman light up a cigarette offsets my interest in her; it effectively offs it since smoking is gross.
ogle (verb): to stare at in a way that shows excessive desire. “OH gull”
Half of my Google searches are for swimsuit models since I like to ogle them.
omission (noun): something not done or missed. “oh MISSION”
My Oscar speech was marred by my omission of my agent; I can’t believe I missed thanking him.
omniscient (adjective): all-knowing. “om NISH ent”
Think: owns his science.
I'm not surprised to hear that Jesus got an A in AP Chem; he owns his science classes because he's omniscient.
onus (noun): burden; obligation. “OWN us”
Think: on us.
Since we broke the vase, the onus is on us to pay for it.
opaque (adjective): something that is cloudy, blurry, or difficult to understand. “oh PAKE”
Think: an opaque lake.
If you don’t want to get sick, then I don’t recommend swimming in an opaque lake.
openhanded (adjective): generous. “OH pen HAN ded”
Think: open your hand.
To be openhanded, open your hand and share what you have with others instead of keeping it clenched in your fist.
opine (verb): to hold or state as an opinion. “OH pine”
If you opine about the election on Facebook, everyone gets to hear your opinion whether they like it or not.
opportune (adjective): well-timed. “ah por TUNE”
It's opportune that I got picked for this singing opportunity because a genie just granted my wish to sing perfectly.
opprobrium (noun): public disgrace. “oh PRO bree-um”
Think: Oprah opposes.
Sometimes, Oprah brings people she opposes on her show to cause them opprobrium - it's like "Oprah -brium".
opulent (adj): very expensive and comfortable. “OPP you lent”
I just ordered one thousand opals from the jeweler – I want my new office to be opulent.
ornate (adjective): elaborately or excessively decorated. “or NATE”
Ornaments covered every inch of the Christmas tree due to the decorator’s ornate style.
orthodox (adj): conventional; traditional. “orth oh DOCKS”
Look for an orthodox orthodontist; you don't want someone getting creative with your teeth.
oscillate (verb): to vary; to go back and forth. “AW sill ate”
On MTV’s The Osbornes, Ozzy oscillates between sanity and insanity.
ossified (verb): became hard or inflexible. “AW sih fied”
The Velociraptor's bones could bend slightly, but after death, they ossified and turned into fossils.
ostentatious (adjective): showy; pretentious; boastful. “aw sten TAY shus”
Think: ostrich stunt.
That ostrich stunt - when you showed up at the prom riding one like a horse - was ostentatious.
ostracized (verb): excluded. “AW struh-sized”
That poor kid is ostrich-sized – he’ll be ostracized as soon as he starts high school.
outmoded (adjective): out of date. “out MO ded”
Think: Apple Pie a la mode.
Apple pie a la mode (with vanilla ice cream on top) is a tasty but out-of-date dessert: I can see someone ordering it at a 1950s diner.
outstrip (verb): to outrun or to exceed. “out STRIP”
To be fair, that stripper gets more tips than you because her pole-dancing skills outstrip yours.
overshadow (verb): to be more important than. “oh ver SHAH dow”
Think: shadow over.
Hanging out with LeBron is rough; not only do his skills overshadow mine on the court, but he’s so tall that even his shadow towers over me.
overweening (adjective): arrogant. “oh ver WEEN ing”
The young actor's demands were so overweening that the movie crew started calling him a weenie behind his back.
pacific (adjective): soothing. “pa SIF ick”
The infant’s pacifier had a pacific effect, and she was soon asleep.
painstaking (adjective): very careful. “PAINS taking”
Think: taking pains.
Taking pains to not infect the patient means being painstaking when you wash your hands before surgery.
palatable (adjective): tasty. “PAL it ah-bull”
Think: pal at table.
Having my pal at the table for dinner seems to make the food more palatable since I’m in a good mood.
palatial (adjective): magnificent. “puh LAY shull”
The palatial resort, with luxurious amenities and gourmet food, was like a palace.
palimpsest (noun): something with multiple layers, changes, or meanings. “PA lim sest”
Think: pa’s lamp set.
Pa’s lamp set was more than just a bunch of lamps: it was also a piece of modern art with multiple shades of meaning.
pall (noun): something that covers; a feeling of gloom. “Paul”
Looking back, it was a mistake to invite the pallbearers to our party. As soon as they entered, carrying that coffin, a pall settled over the room.
palliate (verb): to reduce the severity of. “PAL ee ate”
Think: pill I ate.
The prescription pill I ate should palliate my depression.
pallid (adjective): lacking color. “PAL id”
After playing video games in his mother's basement all winter, Al was so pale his friends described him as pallid.
panacea (noun): a cure-all. “pan uh SEE uh”
Think: pan of Vitamin C.
The hippie advised me that eating a pan of vitamin C is a panacea for illness.
pander: (verb): to appeal to someone's desire for selfish reasons. “PAN dur”
Think: panda logo.
The American company that used a panda as its logo was accused of pandering to the Chinese market.
pangs (noun): sharp feelings of pain. “Pangs”
I read The Hunger Games for six hours, but then had to stop because of the pains from my own hunger pangs .
panned (verb): sharply criticized. “Panned”
Think: frying pan.
My first movie got panned so badly by critics that they might as well have hit me with a frying pan.
paradigm (noun): an example used as a pattern or model. “par uh DIME”
Think: pair of dimes.
Those two girls are a pair of dimes since they’re both 10s – they’re paradigms for how to look hot.
paragon (noun): a model of excellence. “PAR uh GONE”
If you're looking for a paragon in The Lord of the Rings, choose Aragorn : he became the king.
pariah (noun): an outcast. “purr I uh”
Think: Mariah’s anthem.
Mariah Carey became a pariah after butchering the national anthem in front of 80,000 fans.
parley (verb): to talk. “PAR lee”
If you're going to parley with someone you like, eat some parsley - it's good for your breath.
parochial (adjective): narrow-minded. “purr RO key-ul”
Think: parish yokel.
Our church is led by a parish yokel who is so parochial that he believes women should be barefoot and pregnant.
parody (noun): a mocking or satirical imitation. “par uh DEE”
Pro tip: a good way to make fun of someone is to repeat what he just said in a squawky parrot-y voice, to parody him.
paroxysm: (noun): an attack, spasm, or outburst. “par ROX cism”
Think: paradox spasm.
If you drink ocean water, you’ll have a paroxysm – it’s a paradox that it’s water but it causes spasms if you swallow it.
parsimonious (adjective): stingy. “par si MOAN nee us”
Think: parsley money.
My dad was so parsimonious he’d give us parsley money instead of lunch money.
partiality (noun): an (often unfair) liking or bias toward something. “Par she AL it ee”
If anyone is having trouble deciding what to get me for my birthday this year, I have a partiality toward Porsches.
partisan (adjective): biased toward one side. “PART ih-sun”
Think: Party’s son.
The chairman of the Democratic Party's son was understandably partisan about politics.
pastiche (noun): an imitation; something made of many things. “pass TICHE”
Think: paste each.
If you copy Wikipedia and paste each entry into your paper, it will be a pastiche.
pathos (noun): a quality that evokes feelings of sadness or pity. “PATH owes
Think: sympathy ohhhs.
Your painting of a starving puppy has so much pathos that it always gets sympathy “ohhhs” from viewers.
patois (noun): the speech/slang used by a certain group. “pa TWAH”
Think: patio speech.
Patio speech during barbecues is more likely to contain patois than speech in the office.
paucity (noun): lack of. “PAW city”
Think: poor city.
In the poor city, there was a paucity of resources.
pedantic (adjective): teacherly; overly fussy. “peh DAN tick”
Think: Dan ticked me off.
Dan ticked me off when he was being overly pedantic, explaining every facet of his computer to me as if I were a child.
pedestrian (adjective): dull; ordinary. “peh DEST ree en”
Think: pedestrian (noun).
You're pedestrian (adjective) because you're a pedestrian (noun) – cool kids drive to school.
peevish (adjective): irritable; whiny; bratty. “PEE vish”
Think: pet peeve.
In the Harry Potter books, Peeves is a peevish ghost in Hogwarts whose pet peeve is happy students - so he tattletales on them.
penchant (noun): a liking for something. “PEN shent”
Think: pendant enchant.
If a girl wears a low hanging pendant to enchant the boys, they’ll soon have a penchant for her.
pendulous (adjective): hanging loosely; sagging. “PEN dew luss”
As the naked old lady danced, her pendulous breasts swung back and forth like the pendulums of grandfather clocks.
penitent (adjective): being sorry for one's actions. “PEN ih tent”
The beggar's sign read, "repent! Do penance for your sins! Only the penitent will see God!"
penurious (adjective): stingy. “peh NUR y us”
Think: penny furious.
The penny tip made the waiter furious; the customer must have been penurious.
penury (noun): severe poverty. “PEN ur y”
The court's penalty was so large that the defendant suffered from penury to the point of only owning one penny.
peons (noun): lower-class workers used by someone of a superior class. “PEE ins”
The nobleman so little respected his peons that he would pee on them.
peregrinate (verb): to journey or travel from place to place. “PERR (rhymes with “err”) ih grin ate”
Think: peregrin falcon.
The fastest member of the animal kingdom is the peregrin falcon; it exceeds 200 m.p.h. while diving and can peregrinate speedily.
peremptory (adjective): bossy, prone to cutting others off. “puh REMP tuh ree”
The Emperor pre-empted Luke's replies so much that even Darth Vader called him peremptory.
perennial (adjective): constant; persistent; recurring. “purr ANY ul”
Think: per annual.
Per the annual tradition, it’s time to start the perennial search for the next American Idol.
perfidy (noun): treachery; treason. “PURR-FIH-dee”
Think: perforated fidelity.
When I realized my friend spread rumors about me, I felt like he had perforated fidelity because of his perfidy.
perfunctory (adj): showing little interest. “purr FUNKED ur y”
Think: per function problem.
I know I won’t get them right, so I only spend a perfunctory amount of time per function problem.
peripatetic (adjective): wandering; traveling; constantly moving from place to place. “Peh ruh puh TET ick”
The mouse in my house is peripatetic since I’m constantly hearing the pitter-patter of his little feet in the walls.
peripheral (adjective): off to the side, external, related, tangential. “purr RIFF ur-ull”
Think: Perry Farrell.
Perry Farrell, the eccentric founder of Lollapalooza, has never made into the musical mainstream; he seems to prefer the peripheral genres.
permeated (verb): spread through; penetrated. “PERM y ated”
Think: perm he ate.
The perm he ate will permeate his stomach lining and prove it’s stupid to eat human hair.
permutation (noun): a transformation or rearrangement. “PERM you TAY shun”
A radioactive spider bite caused a permutation of Peter Parker’s genes and caused his mutation into Spiderman.
pernicious (adjective): destructive; deadly. “per NISH iss (rhymes with “kiss”)”
Think: piranhas vicious.
Piranhas are vicious; lingering in waters they inhabit can be pernicious.
perquisites (noun): privileges or bonuses. “PER quiz its”
Hey suckahs - now that I’m CEO, I enjoy perquisites like a company helicopter and a gold wastebasket - perks you’ll never have.
personified (verb): to be the perfect example of something; to represent a thing as a person. “Purr SAHN if eyed”
Look up “greatness” in the dictionary and the person in the picture is me; I’m greatness personified.
perspicacious (adjective): sharp; clever. “purse puh-KAY shiss (rhymes with “kiss”)”
Think: perspective for the aces.
A perspicacious poker player uses her clear perspective to know who has the aces.
pertinacious (adjective): stubbornly persistent. “purr tin aey shuss”
Think: persistent and tenacious.
My pertinacious defender was both persistent and tenacious; I had no open shots.
perturb (verb): to disturb greatly. “purr TURB”
Think: disturbed by turds.
The turds your dog leaves on my beautiful lawn not only disturb me - they perturb me.
pervasive (adjective): widespread, prevalent, omnipresent. “purr VAY sive (rhymes with “give”)”
Think: perv invasive.
That perv is so invasive – his inappropriate touching is pervasive and goes way over the line.
perverse (adjective): bad; wrong; corrupt. “purr VERSE”
Perverts like Peeping Toms are perverse; they should be locked up.
petulant (adjective): rude; irritable. “PETCH you lent”
Think: petty aunt.
My petty aunt is always whining about something or holding a grudge; she’s petulant.
phlegmatic (adjective): sluggish; unresponsive. “Fleg MATIC”
When I had the flu, I had so much phlegm clogging my respiratory system that I was completely phlegmatic.
physiological (adjective): related to the body. “fizz y yo LOG ih cull”
I knew I wasn't just imagining I was ill because my physiological symptom, a fever of 103, was physical.
picaresque (adjective): about someone's adventures. “pick a RESK”
Your novel is like Wall-E because of your hero's journey; it's both picaresque and Pixar-esque .
picayune (adjective): unimportant; small-minded. “pick a YUNE”
Think: picky one.
The picayune bridezilla was quite the picky one, worrying about every single detail of her wedding.
picturesque (adjective): lovely. “pick sure ESK”
The Grand Canyon at sunrise is so picturesque that you can't help but take pictures.
piebald (adjective): many-colored; varied. “PIE bulled”
The horse's coat was piebald, pebbled with blotches of so many colors that it looked like pies were thrown at it.
pilfer (verb): to steal. “PILL fur”
Think: pill for.
Here’s an idea: we break into the pharmacy and pilfer pills for resale to drug addicts.
pillory (verb): to publicly and harshly criticize. “PILL ur y”
Republicans love to pillory Hillary Clinton.
pinnacle (noun): the highest point of something. “PIN a cull”
Pinocchio is the story of Geppetto, a woodworker, whose pinnacle of achievement is carving a wooden boy (Pinocchio) who can move and talk.
pioneering (adj): earliest; original. “PIE-oh NEAR-ing”
Lewis and Clark, the pioneers that led the first American expedition to the Pacific coast, were pioneering explorers.
piquant (adjective): pleasantly spicy or tangy. “PEEK ent”
Think: pickled ant.
I never thought I’d like eating pickled ant, but it’s surprisingly piquant.
pitfall (noun): drawback. “PIT fall”
Think: pit fall.
We prepared for lots of dangers before our jungle trek, but funnily enough, our biggest pitfall was an actual pit fall.
pith (noun): the essential or central part. “PITH (rhymes with “with”)”
If you’re a peach tree, the pith of your fruit is the pit, since that’s how you’ll reproduce.
pittance (noun): a very small amount. “PIT ints”
Think: pit ants.
Pit ants are known for eating even the pittance of fruit that clings to discarded peach pits.
pivotal (adjective): important, key. “PIV it ul”
Think: pivot foot
In basketball, knowing how to effectively use your pivot foot is pivotal to your success in the low post. Just ask Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon or Kevin McHale.
placate (verb): to pacify or satisfy an angry or difficult person. “PLAY kate”
Think: play Kate.
In order to placate my attention-loving sister, I told her that she could play Kate Winslet’s lead characer in our theater’s adaptation of Titanic.
plaintive (adjective): melancholy. “PLANE tive (rhymes with “give”)”
When I hear the plaintive cry of a seagull, it always sounds like a complaint about the bird's woes or travails.
platitude (noun): an overused expression. “PLAT (rhymes with “bat”) ih tude”
Think: blah attitude.
Dude, she’s giving you that blah attitude cause your pickup line was a platitude.
platonic (adjective): not related to romance or sex. “Pluh TAWN ick”
Think: Plato date.
If you only talk to your date about the philosopher Plato, you'll end up as her platonic friend.
plaudits (noun): approval. “PLAUD its”
Think: applaud it.
If you want to give plaudits to his work, applaud it.
plausible (adjective): apparently true. “PLAWS ih bull”
When the magician sawed the lady in half, it looked so plausible that it was applause-able.
plebeian (adjective): common; low-class. “PLEE be in”
Think: fleas be in.
I don't stay in plebeian motels 'cause fleas be in 'em.
plenipotentiary (adjective): fully empowered. “Plen a po TENT cha ry”
Think: plenty of potency.
If Romney wins the election, he will be plenipotentiary; being president will give him plenty of potency .
pluck (noun): courage; spirit. “PLUK”
Think: pluck a feather.
You showed pluck by attempting to pluck a feather from a live ostrich; too bad it decided to peck you in the eye.
plutocracy (noun): government controlled by the wealthy. “plue TOCK ra see”
Think: Pluto vacation home.
Hearing about the senator's vacation home on Pluto made me realize we're in a plutocracy.
polarize (verb): to separate into two conflicting or opposite positions. “PO la rise”
Think: Earth’s poles.
Democrats and Republicans are so polarized that I’m surprised they don’t stay at the North and South Poles to keep as far apart as they can.
polemic (noun): a harsh attack against a principle. “po LEM ick”
Think: politician at a mic.
Put a politician at a mic, and you’ll soon hear polemic as he attacks his opponent’s policies.
politesse (noun): politeness. “paw lit ESS”
French maids are trained to show politeness at all times; their politesse is without equal.
politic (adjective): shrewd; wise. “PAW lit ick”
After reading The Prince by Machiavelli, the politician became much more politic and cleverly defeated his opponent.
pomp (noun): ceremony and showy display. “PAWMP”
The bodybuilder was all about pomp; before he went to the beach, he worked out to get a pump to show off his muscles.
ponderous (adjective): heavy; dull. “PON dur us”
If a subject in school makes you ponder it for long periods of time, it could just be that it’s ponderous and is either heavy, or dull, or both.
portentous (adjective): foreshadowing something bad; trying to seem important. “Poor TENT shis”
Think: important tent.
It’s important that we set up our tent; those thunderclouds look portentous.
poseur (noun): one who pretends to be something he is not. “po ZERR (rhymes with “err”)”
The poseur pretended to be interested in literature to impress girls, but he was exposed as a poser who didn’t even know who Shakespeare was.
posit (verb): to assume to be true; to suggest. “PAUSE it”
Positive about her findings, the scientist finally agreed to posit the existence of extraterrestrial life in a journal article.
posthumous (adjective): after death. “PAWST (rhymes with “lost”) hyu miss”
It’s a small comfort to be posthumously awarded a medal – you’re post-human at that point, i.e., dead.
pragmatic (adjective): practical. “prag MATICK”
Think: practical automatic.
To be practical, buy an automatic car instead of a stick shift - it’s more pragmatic for city driving.
prattle (noun): meaningless talk. “PRAT ul”
Think: baby rattle.
Her prattle about reality TV was as exciting as listening to a baby shake its rattle.
precarious (adjective): dangerously unstable. “pruh CARE y us”
Think: preach carefulness.
Preach carefulness to people who are standing on precarious rock ledges.
precocious (adjective): very talented at a young age. “pruh CO shus”
Sadie was precocious at piano pre-coaching; she taught herself to play Mozart at the age of two.
precursor (noun): something that came before another thing. “PRE kur sir”
When you’re typing, the word you just typed is literally pre-cursor; it’s before the cursor and is thus a precursor to it.
predilection (noun): a preference. “pre dih LECT shun”
Think: predicted direction.
Google predicted the direction of my search when I typed “how to find” by showing “how to find love”, because it knows people have a predilection to seek romance.
premonition (noun): hunch, intuition. “preh mo NISH UN”
I knew you were going to say that! I had a premonition pre (before) you mentioned it.
prescient (adjective): seeing the future; well-planned and thought out. “PRESS y ent”
Think: knowing about present you sent.
Since I’m prescient, I already know what’s in the present you sent me.
pretext (noun): a fake excuse. “PRE text”
Think: pee text.
She pretends to have to pee and leaves on the pretext of using the restroom so she can text without getting caught.
prevarication (noun): a lie. “pruh VARE uh kay shun”
Pre-verification, your story about getting chased by a bear was believable, but your friend just confirmed the animal was a squirrel, exposing your prevarication.
primed (adjective): ready. "PRYMED"
Think: primed for prime time.
When a television news anchor has paid her dues, you might say that she’s primed for prime time.
primordial (adjective): original; existing since the beginning. “Pry MORDY ul”
Think: primary order.
The Big Bang is primordial because it has the primary position in the order of events.
pristine (adjective): pure. “prih STEEN”
Listerine mouthwash tastes bad but it kills bacteria and makes your mouth pristine.
proclivity (noun): a tendency, inclination, or predisposition toward a particular activity. “pro CLIVE ih tee”
Think: pro-cliff tee
I’m guessing that the guy with the pro-mountain climbing t-shirt has a proclivity for extreme sports, since he climbs cliffs .
prodigal (adj): wasteful. “PROD ih gull”
Think: Prada gal.
The Prada gal was prodigal: she spent all her money on designer clothes.
prodigious (adjective): impressively large; extraordinary. “prah DIJ us”
The child prodigy could multiply prodigious numbers in his head.
profane (adjective): sacrilegious; vulgar; improper. “proh FAIN”
Using profanity in church is obviously profane.
profligacy (noun): reckless wastefulness. “prah FLIG a-see”
Think: profits fling.
If your profits fling out the window, you're probably following a course of profligacy.
profound (adjective): deep. “pro FOUND”
Think: professor found.
My professor found the cure for cancer because his decades of study gave him a profound understanding of the disease.
profuse (adjective): plentiful; abundant. “pro FYOOS”
Think: professors use.
Professors use books with a profuse amount of information to make reading assignments take forever.
progenitors (noun): direct ancestors. “pro JEN ih ters (rhymes with “hers”)”
Think: produced from genitals.
You were produced from the genitals of your progenitors.
prognosticate (verb): to predict. “Prog NAWS tih-kate”
Think: professional knows.
Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who prognosticates whether winter will last for six more weeks, is obviously a professional that knows the future.
proliferate (verb): to grow or multiply quickly. “pro LIFF ur ate”
The pro-life-rate of births is higher than the pro-choice rate; pro-life people proliferate because they don’t get abortions.
prolific (adjective): abundantly productive. “pro LIFF ick”
That state is anti-abortion, and they’re prolific baby-makers because of their pro-life-ic stance on the subject.
prolix (adjective): too long / wordy. “PRO licks”
After writing dozens of 1000+ page books, the prolific author was often criticized for his prolix writing style.
prominent (adjective): well-known; standing out. “PRAH min int”
Think: Prom King.
The Prom King is usually not the shy boy that no one knows; he’s often a prominent, popular kid.
promulgate (verb): to make known. “PROM ul gate”
Think: promote mullet.
The hillbilly hairstylist would often promote mullets by promulgating about them to new clients.
pronounced (adjective): noticeable. “pruh NOUNCED”
Think: pronounced (verb).
My British friend enunciates very loudly and distinctly; his pronunciation is quite pronounced.
propagate (verb): breed, grow, promote, publicize. “PROP a gate”
Think: proper gait.
The first step to propagating your DNA is to cultivate the proper gait: in other words, you have to learn how to look good while walking.
propensity (noun): a tendency, inclination, or predisposition toward a particular activity. “pro PEN si-tee”
Think: vaporizer pen.
The newest generation of smokers has a propensity to use vaporizer pens since they’re purported to be safer than traditional cigarettes, but experts aren’t sure whether they actually are less harmful.
prophetic (adjective): that which foretells the future. “prah FET ick”
In the bible, Jesus is considered to be a prophet because many of his prophetic claims actually happened - like predicting that Peter would deny him three times.
propitious (adjective): favorable; promising. “pro PISH us”
Think: prop it up.
In "A Charlie Brown Christmas", Linus thought the little tree was propitious, so he decided to prop it up.
propriety (noun): the quality of being proper or appropriate. “pro PRY it y”
For the sake of propriety, use proper manners and eat your salad with the salad fork, not the dinner fork.
prosaic (adjective): dull or boring. “pro SAY ick”
Think: pros say ick.
I was going to watch the new Adam Sandler movie, but the movie critic pros say, “ick - the film is prosaic ”.
protean (adjective): varied; versatile. “PRO tee-in”
Since they can be formed from a vast number of combinations of 500 different amino acids, proteins are protean.
providential (adjective): favorable, fortunate, timely. “prah vih DEN shull”
Think: Pro-V Dental.
The friendly representative from Pro-V Dental insurance company helped me create a policy just one week before I accidentally chipped my tooth. It was quite providential . (providence = fate)
provincial (adjective): narrow-minded. “prah VIN shull”
If you never leave your Canadian province, your worldview will probably be somewhat provincial.
prowess (noun): exceptional bravery and/or skill. “PROW (rhymes with “how”) ess”
Think: prowl lioness.
While on the prowl, the lioness displayed her prowess by bringing down a woolly mammoth.
proximity (noun): closeness. “prock SIM ih tee”
Approximately means "close to"; proximity means closeness.
prudent (adjective): wise. “PROO dent”
Think: prude student.
In high school, prude students are prudent, since it's not a great idea to be 16 and pregnant.
puerile (adjective): childish. “PURE ul”
The high school freshman’s puerile sense of humor was typical of a boy who was going through puberty.
pugnacious (adjective): wanting to fight. “pug NAY shus”
Think: Pug nation.
Imagine how pugnacious a Pug nation would be - those little dogs definitely would be fighting all the time.
pulchritude (noun): beauty. “PULK rih tude”
Think: poll: Christ, dude.
She had so much pulchritude that the most common response about her looks in the bros' poll was just, "Christ , dude!"
punctilious (adjective): marked by following the rules strictly. “punk TILL y-us”
The teacher's pet was both punctilious and punctual, but most wanted to punch him.
pungent (adjective): strongly scented. “PUN jent”
Think: punch scent.
The boxer's body odor was so pungent it was like getting hit by a punch of scent.
punitive (adjective): involving punishment. “PYOON ih tive (rhymes with “give”)”
The punitive damages in the O.J. Simpson murder case were clearly designed to punish the defendant.
purist (noun): traditionalist, literalist. “PURE rissed”
Think: pure wrist.
I’m a purist, so I don’t think you need a fancy set of titanium golf clubs to be a good golfer: a good golf swing is pure wrist and hips.
pusillanimous (adjective): cowardly. “pyoo suh LAN ih-muss”
The pussycat is an animal that is pusillanimous when scared - hence the expression “scaredy-cat”.
putrid (adjective): foul or rotten. “PYOO trid”
The dead mouse smelled so putrid that I almost puked while getting rid of it.
quagmire (noun): a difficult situation. “KWAG mire (rhymes with “fire”)”
Think: quicksand mire.
Quicksand can mire you if you step in it, and the more you struggle, the worse the quagmire becomes.
quail (verb): to pull back in fear. “kwale”
Think: quail (the bird).
I feel bad for quail (noun) - those poor birds quail (verb) as soon as they see people because they’re often hunted for sport.
quandary (noun): a situation that makes you confused about what to do. “kwan duh rye”
I’m wandering around aimlessly because I’m in a quandary about where to go next.
quash (verb): to completely stop from happening. “kwash”
The best way to quash an invasion of ants in your kitchen is simple: squash them.
querulous (adjective): whiny; complaining. “KWER uh luss”
Think: quarrel us.
We'd invite you over more, but you're so querulous that you always end up in a quarrel with us!
quiescent (adjective): at rest. “KWEE ess ent”
The hibernating bear was both quiet and quiescent.
quintessential (adjective): the most typical; the purest. “kwin teh SEN shull”
Watching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is essential to get the quintessential Boston experience.
quixotic (adjective): idealistic; impractical. “kwicks OT ick”
Think: quick exotic.
It's quixotic to think that you should earn some quick cash by becoming an exotic dancer.
quizzical (adjective): questioning; teasing. “KWIZ ih cull”
When I started asking my date about the periodic table, her quizzical expression seemed to be quizzing me about why I’d brought up such an awkward topic.
quotidian (adjective): daily. “kwoh TID (rhymes with “did”) y-en”
The meter maid met her daily quota of parking tickets by her quotidian patrolling of the streets.
raconteur (noun): a good storyteller. “rack on TURR”
Jack White named one of his bands The raconteurs because they were so good at recounting stories via song.
ragamuffin (noun): a dirty, poor person or child. “RAG a muffin”
Think: rags on muffin.
The rags on your little muffin make him look like a ragamuffin - shop at Baby Gap next time.
raiment (noun): clothing. “RAY ment”
Think: rain meant.
In the nudist colony, a forecast of rain meant they'd actually have to don some raiment.
ramification (noun): the result of an action or decision. “RAM if a CAY shun”
Think: Dodge Ram.
One ramification of trading in my Prius for a Dodge Ram is that I am spending a lot more money on gas.
rampant (adjective): widespread; uncontrolled. “RAM pent”
If you're dumb enough to take bath salts, the destruction after your rampage will be rampant.
rancorous (adjective): hateful. “RAN kur us”
Think: Star Wars rancor.
In Return Of The Jedi, the rancor under Jabba The Hutt's palace is undoubtedly rancorous for having been imprisoned.
rankled (verb): irritated. “RAN kulled”
Tim Gunn told the “Project Runway” contestant to "make it work", so the wrinkled dress she made rankled him.
rapacious (adjective): greedy; predatory; ravenous. “ruh PAY shus”
Think: rapes us.
The rapacious new tax law takes so much of our earnings that it effectively rapes us.
rapt (adjective): completely interested. “RAPPED”
The audience was held rapt by the master violinist’s performance; they were completely wrapped up in it.
rapturous (adjective): full of wonderful feelings; ecstatic. “RAP shur us”
Think: raptor saw us.
The raptor saw us being lowered into his cage and felt rapturous since he was hungry.
rarefied (adjective): lofty; reserved only for a select few. “RARE uh fied”
Think: rare find.
The truffle your pig dug up is a rare find, peasant - you dare not eat such a rarefied delicacy - save it for his Majesty.
rash (adjective): hasty; incautious. “RASH”
Think: rash (noun).
If you make the rash (adjective) decision to have unprotected sex with that NBA player, you might get a rash (noun).
raucous (adjective): noisy; disorderly. “RAW kus”
Think: rocks us.
The Beastie Boys' raucous track, "Fight For Your Right to Party", rocks us.
raze (verb): to completely destroy. “RAZE”
Think: rays blaze.
The powerful laser's rays are making a blaze that will raze the old building to make room for the new one.
readily (adjective): with preparation / enthusiasm. “RED il-ly”
If you are ready to answer a question, then you can answer it readily.
realization (noun): the making of something into reality. “Real liz a shun”
Think: real Z nation.
After a grueling, 15-year guerrilla war against the ruling forces of Rhodesia and its conservative white minority, the nation of Zimbabwe officially became independent in 1980, the realization of a longtime dream for independence.
reap (verb): to gather or obtain. “REEP”
Think: Grim Reaper.
If there’s a knock on the door and you see the Grim Reaper through the peephole, don’t answer: he has come to reap your life.
rebuttal (noun): a response. “re BUTT ul”
After I lectured the college sophomore about the dangers of binge drinking, his rebuttal was to moon me – he showed me his butt.
recalcitrant (adjective): difficult to manage or change. “ruh CAL sih trant”
Think: calc rant.
The calc worksheet made Alex rant because it was so recalcitrant.
recant (verb): to formally deny a former position. “RE cant”
Think: really I can’t.
I know I said I would move to Canada if we elected Obama, but really I can’t, so I recant that statement.
recapitulated (verb): summarized. “RE kuh PIT u lated”
His recap of the news nicely recapitulated the day's events.
recidivist (noun): someone who relapsed into crime. “ruh SID uh vist”
Think: Sid's division.
Sid had two sides to his personality: the law-abiding side and the recidivist.
reclusive (adjective): characterized by hiding and avoiding society. “ruh CLUE sive”
Think: brown recluse.
Luckily for us, the deadly poisonous brown recluse spider is reclusive.
recondite (adjective): not easily understood. “REH cun dite”
Think: reckoned it.
I couldn’t understand my professor’s recondite lecture, but I reckoned it had something to do with the fourth dimension.
recrudescent (adjective): reactivating. “reh kru DES sent”
Think: recruits sent.
The conflict in Afghanistan must be recrudescent since more recruits are sent there daily.
rectitude (noun): extreme integrity. “RECK tih tude”
Think: correct attitude.
Since he was a church rector, Paul considered the correct attitude to be rectitude.
redouble (verb): to greatly increase the size or amount of something. “re DUB ull”
Football practice was brutal today! Coach made us double our efforts, but then that wasn’t enough for him, so we had to redouble them.
redress: to set right. “ruh DRESS”
Think: re-dress Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga's fashion choices are so wrong that the only way to redress her style is to literally re-dress her.
reductive (adjective): related to making something smaller or simpler. “ruh DUCT ihve”
Reductive Spark Notes reduce brilliant works of literature into basic summaries.
redundant (adjective): needlessly repetitive. “ruh DUN dent”
Duh... that has already been done well - it will be redundant if you decide it needs to be redone.
refracted (verb): distorted or changed from an initial direction. “re FRAK tid”
Think: reflected fractured.
The prism refracted the white light and reflected it, fractured, into a rainbow of colors.
refractory (adjective): stubborn; unmanageable. “ruh FRAK turry”
The refractory athlete insisted on playing despite his broken toe; unsurprisingly, he re-fractured it.
refulgent (adjective): brightly shining. “ruh FOOL jent”
Think: refuels it.
The campfire gets refulgent after he refuels it.
refute (verb): to speak against or disprove. “ruh FYOOT”
My dog refutes my argument that he needs a bath by adamantly refusing to get in the tub.
rejuvenated (verb): gave new life to. “ruh JUVE in ated”
His plans for the new year rejuvenated the middle-aged man so much that he felt like a juvenile again.
relinquish (verb): to give up to or return to. “ruh LEN quish”
Think: release anguish.
When I went to prison, I had to relinquish my baby boy to social services which gave me release anguish.
relish (verb): to enjoy; to savor. “REH lish”
I relish (verb) eating hot dogs with relish (noun) because they taste delish.
remedial (adjective): intended to correct at a basic level. “ruh MEED y ul”
If you are terrible at math, the only remedy might be to take a remedial arithmetic class.
reminiscent (adjective): similar to, evoking. “rem (rhymes with “gem”) in IS int”
Think: remind scent.
The smell of baking bread is reminiscent of my youth; the scent reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen.
remiss (adjective): careless. “ruh MISS”
If you are remiss in your study technique, you'll miss the point the first time you read then re-miss it the 2nd time.
remunerated (verb): compensated or paid for. “ruh MOON ur ated”
It cost me $300 to remove the rat from my apartment, but my landlord remunerated / "re-moneyed" me.
renowned (adjective): famous in a good way. “ruh NOUNED”
Renowned celebrities are often known in their era then re-known on reality T.V. shows several years later.
repertoire (noun): “bag of tricks,” canon. “ryep uh TWAR”
When I followed the Grateful Dead around for a summer, I realized their repertoire was finite; their set list repeated most of the time.
replete (adjective): full. “ruh PLEET”
Think: replace completely.
Replace your energy completely after your workout so your body stays replete with energy.
reprehensible (adjective): deserving blame. “rep ree HEN sih bull”
Think: pretend hens.
Heyyy... you sold me pretend hens instead of real ones - that’s reprehensible.
reprobate (adjective): evil. “REP roh bait”
Think: re-probed it.
The aliens who gave Cartman an anal probe on “South Park” would be even more reprobate if they re-probed it.
reprove (verb): to gently criticize or correct. “reh PROVE”
Think: reps at the gym.
Some bodybuilder types can’t help but reprove everyone else’s technique while they doing reps at the gym.
repudiate (verb): to refuse to accept; to reject. “ruh PYOO dee ate”
Think: refuse poo I ate.
If I were to eat poo, my stomach would refuse the poo I ate and repudiate it by vomiting uncontrollably.
repugnant (adjective): gross. “ruh PUG nent”
Although some people think Pugs' upturned faces and wheezing are cute, many find the breed to be repugnant.
requisite (adjective): necessary. “RECK wiz it”
Think: requires it.
If you fail English, your school requires it to be re-taken; it’s requisite that you have four years of English.
resigned (adjective): reluctantly accepting of a bad situation. “ruh ZINED”
After being implicated in Watergate, Nixon was resigned and offered his resignation from office.
resilient (adjective): sturdy; flexible. “ruh ZILL y ent”
Think: Brazil nut.
Have you ever tried to crack open a Brazil nut? Their shells are resilient!
resolute (adjective): firmly determined. “rez oh LOOT”
It's no use to make a New Year's resolution if you're not resolute enough to follow through with it.
resonant (adjective): creating sonic vibrations (literal), connecting on a deep level (metaphorical). “REZ uh nent”
Think: resin on it.
Not only is Nina Simone’s voice literally resonant, with a booming force that can stun a live crowd, but it is also figuratively resonant in that she is able to form a deep connection with her audience. Simone can sing or with as much grace or grit as the occasion requires, with the ability to take her usual tone and sprinkle some resin on it.
respite (adjective): a short rest. “RESS pit”
Think: rest it.
Don't overwork your respiratory system; if you take a respite and rest it, your lungs will thank you.
resplendent (adjective): shining brilliantly. “re SPLEN dint”
Cinderella was resplendent in a sequined, white ball gown; she looked absolutely splendid.
restitution (noun): the act of making up for something bad. “rest ih TOO shun”
Think: rest of tuition.
My college's restitution for allowing prostitution was paying the rest of our tuition.
restive (adjective): restless; fidgety. “rest ive (rhymes with “give”)”
Think: rest on stove.
Good luck taking a rest on a stove - you’ll feel too restive to sleep because you’ll worry it will turn on.
resurgence (noun): a comeback. “ruh SURGE ince”
When LL Cool J said, "Don't call it a comeback", he meant that his re-surging to the top wasn't a resurgence.
reticent (adjective): reserved; quiet. “RET uh sent”
Think: ready but hesitant.
If you have to recite a speech and you're technically ready but hesitant, you might be reticent.
retiring (adjective): shy. “re TIRE ing”
Think: retire from parties.
The shy girl was so retiring that she decided that she would retire from going to parties.
retrenchment (noun): a reduction. “ruh TRENCH ment”
Think: return to trench.
For a WWI soldier, a retrenchment of the attack plans meant he could return to his trench and lay low for a while.
retrospection (noun): the act of thinking about the past. “reh tro SPEC shun”
Retrospection about the 1980s is a retro-inspection that can lead to wearing neon clothes and leg warmers.
revamp (verb): to revise, improve, or make over. “re VAMP”
Think: return as a vampire.
If you’re sucked dry by a vampire, don’t worry - you’ll die, but then be revamped as a strong, new member of the undead.
revanche (noun): revenge. “RE van shay”
Motivated by revenge, the French monarch ordered her general to take revanche on those who had captured the island.
reverberate (verb): to echo. “ruh VERB er ate”
I yodeled in the empty concert hall, and the echoes reverberated and re-vibrated as they bounced off the walls.
reverent (adjective): having deep respect for. “REV ur ent”
During church, the reverend reminded them to be reverent to Jesus.
revile (verb): to abuse verbally. “ruh VILE”
Think: evil, vile.
My disillusionment with the army began when I tripped, causing the drill sergeant to revile me with the most evil, vile insults I’ve ever heard.
revulsion (noun): disgust. “ruh VUL shun”
Think: revolt and shun.
When the king barfed then ate the barf, I felt such revulsion that I wanted to revolt and shun him.
rhapsodize (verb): to enthusiastically praise. “RAP sa dyes”
The rapper Sisqo felt so much rapture when looking at women wearing thongs that he rhapsodized about them in “The Thong Song”.
rhetorical (adjective): hypothetical, related to rhetoric (communication style). “rhuh TORE ih cull”
Think: Slick Rick’s rhetoric.
Rapper Slick Rick is a smooth talker; in other words, he has slick rhetoric.
rickety (adjective): weak. “RIK it y”
Rickets, a disease that weakens the bones, makes its sufferers rickety.
rift (noun): a break or split. “RIFT”
The rift in our friendship was so deep that it felt as though our bond had been ripped.
riposte (noun): a comeback. “rih PAWST”
Think: rip post.
After being mocked, the blogger would rip into his critic’s post with a brutal riposte.
risible (adjective): funny; inclined to laugh. “RIZ uh bull”
Think: get a rise.
If you like to get a rise out of people by being a class clown, you're probably risible.
risque (adjective): almost improper or indecent. “riss K”
Making a risque joke the first time you meet your girlfriend's parents is risky.
robust (adjective): healthy; strong; rich; full. “roh BUST”
Humans wouldn't last long on Mars due to the extreme cold - we sent robots since they're more robust.
rotund (adjective): round; full; plump. “roh TUND”
Think: round tummy.
Your pet hippo’s tummy has grown so rotund that it's literally round at this point.
row (noun): a disagreement. “ROW (rhymes with “plow”)”
The row between the two boys started with growling: “rrrr!” and was quickly followed by an “ow !” as one punched the other.
rudimentary (adjective): basic; primitive. “rude ih MENT uh ry”
Think: rude elementary.
Rude elementary school kids are impolite only because their knowledge of social graces is rudimentary.
ruffian (noun): a brutal person. “RUFFY en”
The club hired a ruffian as a bouncer because he was strong enough to be rough with misbehaving drunks.
ruminate (verb): to carefully reflect on. “ROOM in ate”
Think: Ramen marinate.
To ruminate means to think about something for at least as long as it takes your Top Ramen to marinate.
saccharine (adjective): sweet in a fake way. “SACK a rin”
The beauty contestant's personality was so saccharine that there must have been Sweet and Low (saccharin) in her veins.
sacrosanct (adjective): holy. “SACK ro SANKED”
Think: sacred sanctuary.
The temple was a sacred sanctuary and was declared sacrosanct to protect it from real estate developers.
salacious (adjective): appealing to sexual desire. “suh LA shus”
All the girls read Fifty Shades of Gray because the salacious details make them salivate .
salient (adjective): very important or noticeable. “SAY lee ent”
If you’re dehydrated, getting saline into your bloodstream is your most salient concern.
salubrious (adjective): good for your health. “Sal OOH bree us”
The kale smoothie I just drank was so salubrious that my stomach would salute me if it could.
salutary (adjective): beneficial. “SAL (rhymes with “pal”) u tary”
Sal’s cooking has such a salutary effect on me that I salute him.
sangfroid (noun): coolness and composure. “sang FRWA (it’s a French word)”
Think: sang frog.
“You don’t scare me!” sang the frog when he saw the fox - he had sangfroid in spades.
sanguine (adjective): optimistic. “SAN gwin”
Think: Penguin sang win.
The penguin sang that he would win; he was sanguine.
sap (verb): to weaken. “SAP”
Think: tree sap.
Cutting your initials into a tree can sap (verb) its vitality because it will make the sap (noun) leak out.
sapid (adjective): flavorful. “SAP id”
Think: maple sap.
We make maple syrup from the sap of maple trees because their sap is naturally sapid.
sapient (adjective): wise. “SAP y ent”
Think: Homo sapiens.
Be proud that you're a member of Homo sapiens; you're more sapient than any other animal on the planet.
sardonic (adjective): mocking (in a mean way). “sar DON ick”
Think: sarcastic sardines.
When the seniors saw I ate sardines for lunch every day, they made sardonic, sarcastic comments.
sashayed (verb): strutted or walked in a showy or flashy way. “sah SHAYED”
Think: Miss America sash.
Miss America sashayed across the stage, showing off her first-place sash.
satiated (adjective): satisfied. “SAY she ated”
Think: say she ate.
If you say she ate, she must be satiated.
scanty (adjective): barely sufficient; minimal. “SKAN tee”
Think: scanty panty.
Thong underwear is basically just a really scanty panty.
scapegoat (noun): one that takes the blame. “SKAPE goat”
Think: escaped goat.
Even though the dog ate some of the vegetables in the garden, the escaped goat became the scapegoat.
scathing (adjective): sharply critical. “SKAY thing”
Getting killed by the Grim Reaper’s sharp, hooked scythe is as about as scathing a criticism as one can get.
schadenfreude (noun): enjoyment from others' troubles. “SHA den froy dah”
Think: shady Freud.
If your psychologist giggles about your divorce he has schadenfreude and is a shady Freud.
schism (noun): a separation into opposing groups; a divide. “skism”
The schizophrenic patient underwent a schism that gave him multiple personalities.
scintillating (adjective): sparkling; brilliant. “SIN tull ating”
Her sequined shirt was so scintillating that I had to squint to see it.
sclerotic (adjective): rigid; reluctant to adapt or compromise. “sclear OTT ick”
When plaque builds up inside someone’s arteries, he can develop arthosclerosis – a dangerous condition in which those blood vessels become sclerotic .
scofflaw (noun): a contemptuous law-breaker. “SKOF law”
Think: scoff at the law.
A scofflaw will scoff at the law he just broke since he has no respect for it.
scotch (verb): to put a sudden end to; to injure. “Skotch”
Well, the boss just scotched our plan to bring our cats to work, so scratch that idea.
scrupulous (adjective): having integrity, or being exact. “SKRUP u luss”
Think: scrape the poop.
If you are scrupulous, you will scrape your dog's poop off my lawn.
scrutinize (verb): to examine carefully. “SKROO tin eyes”
Think: desire to screw in eyes.
I’m an 18-year-old cheerleader - when a dirty old man scrutinizes me, I see the desire to screw in his eyes .
scuffle (noun): a brief fight. “SKUFF ul”
The scuffle was no big deal, but I did scuff my new pair of shoes.
scurrilous (adjective): obscenely abusive. “SKURR a lus”
Think: scurvy curses.
After the pirate developed scurvy, his curses became even more scurrilous.
scuttle (verb): to destroy; to scrap. “SKUT ul”
Think: it’s cut.
Scuttle the launch of that Space Shuttle! It's cut from the space program as of 2011.
secretes (verb): forms and gives off. “suh CREETS”
Think: secret sea creature.
The octopus is a sea creature that stays secret when it secretes an inky cloud.
sectarian (adjective): narrow-minded. “sek TEAR y-en”
Sectarian views are shallow because they only consider one sector of the whole issue.
secular (adjective): not related to the spiritual or religious. “SEK u lur”
Think: sex u later.
“If ur religious, I am not interested, but if ur secular I might want to sex you later,” said the poorly written Tinder profile.
sedentary (adjective): inactive; lazy. “suh DENT a ry”
Think: sofa dent.
Sedentary people make sofa dents because they sit on the cushions for hours at a time.
sedulous (adjective): careful; hardworking; diligent. “SED u lus”
Think: schedule us.
Our sedulous hairstylist is always able to schedule us since she's so efficient.
segue (noun): a transition. “seg WAY”
A good way to make sure your friends go along with your conversational segue is to barge in riding a Segway.
self-styled (adjective): self-proclaimed. “Self-sty-ulled”
Think: selfie style.
The Kardashians are self-styled experts on fashion as evidenced by how many selfies they take of their style .
semblance (noun): an outward appearance; an image. “sem BLENSE”
The lie fooled me because it had the semblance of honesty, a slight resemblance to the truth.
seminal (adjective): important; original. “SEM in ul”
If a book is seminal, you're probably gonna have to read it in your freshman year literature seminar.
sententious (adjective): using quotable or preachy sayings. “sen TEN shus”
The Reverend Jesse Jackson is sententious because many people quote his sentences.
sentient (adjective): having sense perception; conscious. “SENTY ent”
Think: sensed it.
I knew the alien life form was sentient after I pricked it with a pin and it moved: it sensed it.
sequacious (adjective): something that imitates another's idea. “suh QUAY shus”
Your movie is so sequacious of mine that it feels like a sequel.
serendipity (noun): luck. “ser en DIP ih tee”
Think: Sara ended pity.
After winning the lottery, Sara ended her pity toward herself because of her amazing serendipity.
servile (adjective): submissive. “sir VILE”
The servant was so servile that he wouldn't make eye contact.
sham (noun): a trick that deceives. “SHAM”
Your story about being a doctor is a sham...shame on you!
shard (noun): a broken piece of something fragile. “SHARD”
Be careful of the shard of glass on the floor; it's really sharp.
shelve (verb): to put aside or postpone. “SHELVE”
I shleved my plan to sabotage my rival and put my notes for it back on the shelf once I learned I got the promotion.
shirk (verb): to avoid a duty. “SHIRK”
If the beach lifeguard shirks his duties, then you might want to keep a look out for sharks.
showy (adjective): designed to attract attention. “SHOWY”
Donald Trump’s showy, gold-plated toilet was clearly designed to show off his wealth.
shrewd (adjective): clever. “SHROOD”
The shrewd attorney sued as many people as she could; she knew her superior knowledge of the law would make her win.
simper (verb): to smile in a silly way. “SIMPER”
Think: smile chimp.
Have you ever seen a smile on a chimp? They simper in a way that cracks me up.
simulacrum (noun): an image or representation of something. “sim u LAY crum”
Coachella audiences saw a simulacrum of Tupac: a hologram that was an incredible simulation of him.
sinuous (adjective): having many curves. “SIN u is”
Think: sine wave.
Unsurprisingly, if you graph a sine wave on your calculator it's going to look sinuous.
skittish (adjective): restless; easily frightened. “SKIT ish”
After I ate a 54 oz. bag of Skittles by myself, the sugar high made me skittish.
skulduggery (noun): tricky or sneaky behavior. “skul DUG er y”
Think: skull he dug.
The skull he dug up from the local cemetery proved he was a witch doctor who practiced skulduggery.
skulk (verb): to hide or be stealthy. “SKULK”
Think: skunks lurk.
Skunks lurk and skulk until it’s dark enough for them to eat from your garbage cans.
slake (verb): to quench or satisfy. “SLAKE”
If you're a zebra, you probably can't operate a water fountain: slake your thirst at the lake.
slander (noun): a false statement intended to hurt someone’s reputation. “SLAN der”
Think: slammed her.
To try to steal voters from Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump repeatedly slammed her in interviews, figuring that enough slander against her might make voters forget how deplorable he was.
slatternly (adjective): untidy or promiscuous. “SLA tern ly”
If you want to say she's slutty but use a bit more flattery, call her slatternly.
slipshod (adjective): careless; sloppy. “SLIP shod”
Think: slip shoddy.
I slip when I walk on your shoddy living room floor because its construction is really slipshod.
slothful (adjective): lazy. “SLOTH ful”
My pet sloth is too slothful to move even when he’s really hungry.
slovenly (adjective): untidy; sloppy. “SLOV en lee”
Charlie Brown’s friends make fun of Pig-Pen because of his sloppy, slovenly appearance.
sojourn (noun): a temporary stay. “SO jern”
If you journey somewhere, it’s probably for a sojourn unless you bought a one-way ticket.
solecism (noun): a blunder. “SO luh sism”
Think: sole is in.
If you put your foot in your mouth - like if you ask a woman her age - it's a solecism - your sole is in your mouth.
solicitous (adjective): concerned for. “so LISS it us”
Think: solely listened to us.
I knew the man was solicitous because he solely listened to us.
solidarity (adjective): unity, agreement, mutual support. “Solid AIR ity”
Think: solid dare.
Normally, I’m not one to accept a dare, but due to our solid friendship and solidarity, I will accept your challenge to run a marathon for charity.
solipsistic (adjective): being extremely self-centered. “sah lip SIS tick”
Think: sold lipstick.
The model whose image sold lipstick became solipsistic due to all the compliments she received.
somnolent (adjective): sleepy. “SAWM nuh lint”
If you have insomnia you're probably somnolent from lack of sleep.
sonorous (adjective): having a deep, rich sound. “SAWN er us”
Think: Tyranno-sonorous rex.
Tyrannosaurus rex had a sonorous roar that could be heard for miles.
sophistry (noun): deceptive reasoning. “SO fis tree”
Think: sophisticated trickery.
Sophocles’ sophistry was so sophisticated that his trickery made his character Oedipus kill his dad and marry his mom.
sophomoric (adjective): immature. “sof uh MOR ick”
Sophomores act moronic since they’re immature and are more sophomoric than seniors.
soporific (adjective): causing sleep. “sop or IF ick”
That boring movie is perfect for our slumber party - it's sleepover-ific because it's soporific.
sordid (adjective): filthy; foul; morally degraded. “SORE did”
Think: sorry I did.
If you are a normal person with a conscience and you do something sordid, you’ll be thinking, “sorry I did that” before long.
soupcon (noun): a little bit. “SOUP sawn”
Think: soup can.
After surviving the apocalypse, we only had a soupcon of food left: in fact, we only had one Campbell's soup can.
sovereign (adjective): independent. “SAW vern”
If you’re sovereign, you reign over your world and no one else does.
sparing (adjective): not using or giving a lot of something. “Spare ing”
Think: spare ring.
I’m a sparing guy, so when I proposed to my girlfriend, I asked her if she had a spare ring I could use as the engagement ring.
sparse (adjective): simple, unadorned, austere. “SPARSE”
When I saw how simple her apartment was, sparks flew: I have always been attracted to minimalism.
specious (adjective): seeming true but actually false. “SPEE shus”
Think: suspicious McLovin.
It’s understandable the cashier in Superbad is suspicious when she sees Fogell’s specious license that identifies him as “McLovin”.
spendthrift (noun): someone who spends wastefully. “SPEND thrift”
Think: spend before thrift.
Spendthrift means someone for whom spending comes before being thrifty.
splenetic (adjective): bad-tempered. “spluh NET ick”
Think: spleen anger.
In medieval times, people thought anger came from one's spleen; "splenetic" was coined to describe an angry person.
spurious (adjective): false. “SPUR y us”
Think: spur curious.
His spur-of-the-moment explanation made me curious whether his story was spurious.
squalid (adjective): filthy. “SQUA lid”
Think: squat lid.
If the bathroom stall is squalid, squat over the lid when you pee.
squelch (verb): to crush or silence. “SKWELSH”
Think: squash and squish.
Squelch the ant uprising! Squash them! Squish them!
stalwart (adjective): loyal; strong supporter. “STAL wert”
Think: tall war hero.
George Washington was a tall war hero and all-around stalwart: he was a strong, loyal supporter of the American Revolution.
stanch (verb): to stop the flowing of. “STANCH”
I thought my ‘stache was sexy, but in fact it stanched the flow of all females to my bedroom.
staple (noun): something commonly used; an essential. “STA pull”
At IHOP, maple syrup is a staple since they serve about a billion pancakes a year.
statuesque (adjective): attractively tall. “stah choo ESK”
Think: statue Esquire.
I wanted to make a statue of the Esquire model because she was so statuesque.
staunch (adjective): firm; true; strong. “STONCH”
Think: stay unchanged.
I’m a staunch supporter of Justin Bieber, so my support for him will stay unchanged even if he does something really stupid.
steadfast (adjective): loyal; immovable. “STEAD fast”
Think: stayed fastened.
The fallen soldier's dog was so steadfast that it stayed fastened to the ground near his grave.
stigmas (noun): marks of shame. “STIG mas”
Think: Stick-mas instead of Christmas.
One of our stigmas growing up was that we celebrated “Stick-mas” instead of Christmas – we were too poor for any presents but sticks.
stilted (adjective): overly formal; stiff. “STILL tid”
The soldier's manner of walking was so stilted that it looked like his legs were actually wooden stilts.
stolid (adjective): unemotional. “STOW lid”
The stolid butler was solid and expressionless; he never broke down and cried.
storied (adjective): having an interesting/celebrated history. “STOH reed”
The most interesting man in the world's storied history makes people tell his stories.
stratagem (noun): a clever scheme. “STRAT a gem”
Think: strategy gem.
The general's battlefield strategy was such a gem that most historians call it a stratagem.
streamlined (adjective): simplified; modernized. “STREAM lined”
Think: stream line.
The streamlined shape of a trout lets it swim through even a rushing stream in a straight line.
strenuous: (adjective): requiring lots of energy. “STREN u us”
Think: strain on us.
The strenuous hike up Mt. Whitney was a strain on us.
stricture (noun): a restraint; a criticism. “STRICT sure”
The tourniquet around my arm stopped me from bleeding to death, but the stricture restricted any circulation and they almost had to amputate my limb.
strident (adjective): harsh; loud. “STRI dent”
Stridex commercials are as strident as the salicylic acid in the pads, in an effort to hold teens’ interest.
stringent (adjective): strict. “STRIN jent”
Think: strict gent.
Our architecture professor is a strict gent: he’s so stringent that if your drawing has any eraser marks, he’ll dock you a full letter grade.
stultify (verb): to make ineffective. “STULT ih fy”
Think: stupid dolt.
If you stultify yourself by punching yourself in the skull, you'll become a stupid dolt.
stupefied (adjective): stunned. “STOOP uh fyed”
Hermione cast the stupefy spell on Crabbe, who became so stupefied that he looked stupid.
subjective (adjective): personal; unaffected by the outside world. “sub JEKT ive”
Think: king’s subject.
His Majesty considers me to be his subject and his subjective opinion is that I’m a peasant even though I’m of noble birth.
sublime (adjective): awesome. “sub LIME”
Think: the band “Sublime”.
The band Sublime has spawned several cover bands, a good sign that it made sublime music.
subsequent (adjective): following, next. “SUB suh kwent”
Think: sub-sequence = next in the sequence.
A subsequence is the next occurrence in a sequence: that which follows.
subsidy (noun): government aid to keep a price low. “SUB sih dee”
Think: sub city.
In order to prevent itself from becoming a sub-city in the wake of its bankruptcy, the city of Detroit had to rely on subsidies from the federal government.
substantiate (verb): to support with proof or evidence. “sub STANCH ee ate”
You won’t be able to substantiate your claim that I ate your lunch without evidence that has more substance.
subversive (adjective): seeking to undermine or disturb. “sub VERSE ive”
Think: subversive verses.
The political poet was detained by government officials for her "subversive verses."
subvert (verb): to weaken or ruin. “sub VERT”
Think: sub hurt.
Captain: the torpedo from that sub hurt our ship and subverted our morale.
succor (noun): aid. “SUCK er”
If you’re starving and stranded in a snowstorm, hopefully your succor will include some sort of supper.
succumb (verb): to give in to a superior force. “suh KUM”
Think: suck under.
Do not succumb to the deadly pull of the quicksand or it will suck you under.
sullen (adjective): sad, gloomy, resentful. “SULL en”
The barber gave me a mullet – that’s why I’m so sullen.
superficial (adjective): on the surface. “soup er FISH ul”
Think: super official website.
The shiny new website for the family restaurant looked super official, but the truth was that it was starving for customers: so far, the success of the business was only superficial .
supplant (verb): replace. “suh PLANT”
Think: up plant.
After you pull up a plant out of the soil, you should supplant it with another one to help preserve the environment.
surly (adjective): in a foul mood, ill-tempered. “SUR ly”
The school bully gave me a swirly (he stuck my head in a toilet and flushed it) – that’s why I’m surly.
surmise (verb): to guess. “sur MISE”
Since a police report will only summarize what happened, one usually has to surmise the actual events of a crime.
surpassing (adjective): really, really great. “sur PASS ing”
Think: super pass.
If you’re super at running, you’ll pass everyone due to your surpassing speed.
surreptitious (adjective): sneaky or stealthy. “sur ep TISH us”
Reptiles like snakes are good at camouflage because they’re surreptitious.
susceptible (adjective): easily affected or influenced by something. “suh SEPT ih bull”
I’m susceptible to pranks because I’m so suggest-able – I’ll follow any suggestion.
swathe (noun, verb) a cover or wrap / to cover or wrap. “SWAYTHE”
Think: swat the (mosquitos).
When camping near standing water, I would rather swathe myself in mosquito repellent than swat the pesky pests away all day.
sybarite (noun): one devoted to pleasure. “SIB a right”
Think: sit at a bar.
If you go sit at a bar every night to watch sports and drink beer, you might be a sybarite.
sycophant (noun): one who flatters for self gain. “SICK a fent”
Think: sick of elephant.
The animals were sick of the elephant because he was a sycophant who kissed up to the zookeeper.
synergy (noun): combined action that produces mutually helpful results. “SIN ur gee”
Think: ‘N SYNC energy.
By forming a boy band and using synergy, ‘N SYNC created more energy than they would had they all gone solo.
synoptic (adjective): giving a summary. “sin OP tick”
The synoptic nature of SparkNotes provides a synopsis of a novel's plot at the expense of the novel's beauty.
syntax (noun): linguistics, use of language. “SIN tax”
Think: sin tax.
The conservative legislature once tried to impose a “sin tax” on all gay marriages, but was forced to change its syntax due to a lawsuit from the ACLU.
taciturn (adjective): not talkative. “TASS it turn”
Think: takes his turn.
If she's passive and taciturn at the debate and just politely takes her turn when speaking, she'll never win.
tangible (adjective): able to be touched. “TAN jib ul”
If you can dance the tango with someone – if she’s tango-ble – then she’s perforce tangible .
taxonomic (adjective): related to the process of categorization. “Taks oh NOM ik”
Think: taxes are not my thing.
Because I am a creative type, doing my taxes each year, along with all the requisite classifications and categorizations of various personal and business expenses, is a taxonomic activity that is clearly not my thing. Time to hire an accountant.
temerity (noun): recklessness. “tuh MERR (rhymes with “err”) uh tee”
Think: team error.
If you have temerity, maybe you should join team error because I bet you make a lot of mistakes.
temperance (noun): moderation. “TEM per ence”
Think: temper ants.
At the picnic, I didn't lose my temper over the ants, because I possess the quality of temperance.
tempestuous (adjective): stormy. “tem PEST you us”
Our hot tempers make us have a tempestuous relationship.
temporal (adjective): relating to time. “TEM puh rull”
Technically, diamonds aren't forever; in a temporal sense, they're only temporary and will turn to dust one day.
tenable (adjective): able to be defended; workable. “TEN uh bull”
Think: ten able.
The scientist's theory was tenable because it was “ten-able”, worthy of being rated a 10 out of 10.
tendentious (adjective): biased. “ten DEN shus”
Don’t let him judge the beauty contest: he’s tendentious and has a tendency to vote for the contestants that flirt with him the most.
tensile (adjective): related to tension. “TENSE I’ll”
Think: dense tile.
The tensile strength of that dense old tile on the kitchen counter is quite impressive, which is why I’ve been having such a hard time removing it during renovations.
tenuous (adjective): lacking substance or strength. “TEN you us”
At the debate, the tentative speaker's argument was unsurprisingly judged to be tenuous.
tepid (adjective): lukewarm, apathetic. “TEH pid”
Think: “tap it” = tap the tepid keg.
“Should I tap this keg now?” asked the overzealous fraternity brother. “Um, sure, I guess you could tap it” was my tepid response: it was full of tepid beer.
terse (adjective): brief and abrupt. “TURSE”
Think: terse verse.
Haikus are verses / That are as terse as the lives / Of gentle fruit flies.
timorous (adjective): fearful. “TIM uh riss”
Think: timid of us.
Tim felt timid around us since he was timorous.
tirade (noun): a long angry speech. “TIE raid”
Think: tired of rage.
If someone gives you a tirade, you’ll probably be tired of the rage after a few minutes.
titular (adjective): relating to a title. “TITCH u lur”
The titular character in Harry Potter is Harry Potter because his name is also the title of the book.
tonic (noun): something helpful. “TAWN ick”
Think: gin and tonic.
Drinking a gin and tonic before my speech was a tonic for my anxiety.
toothsome (adjective): tasty; appealing. “TOOTH some”
Think: tooth some.
The food looked so toothsome that I wanted to give my tooth some.
torpid (adjective): sluggish. “TOR pid”
Think: tar pit.
Once I walked into the sticky tar pit, my pace became torpid.
tortuous (adjective): winding. “TOR tyoo us”
The streets of Boston are so tortuous that you have to drive at tortoise’s speed.
totalitarian (adjective): relating to a government with total power. “TOE tal (rhymes with “gal”) ih TEAR y en”
Think: total power.
Our totalitarian dictator uses his total power to make us eat Total cereal daily - he's a control freak.
touted (verb): praised publicly. “TOUT ed”
Guinness Stout is highly touted; I know this because the guy drinking it next to me shouted its praises in my ear.
tranquil (adjective): calm. “TRAN quil”
Taking NyQuil before bed made me so tranquil that I slept for 12 hours.
transgression (noun): a violation of a rule. “TRANS gression”
Think: trans aggression.
Some states have passed laws that make using a bathroom different than your biological gender a transgression due to fear of trans aggression.
transitory (adjective): existing only briefly. “TRANS ih tory”
Think: transit story.
I found romance on the subway, but alas, our love was transitory: it was a public transit story that only lasted until her stop.
treacly (adjective): overly sweet or sentimental. “TREAK (rhymes with leak) lee”
Think: trickle-y tears.
The scene with a homeless puppy is so treacly it seems designed to make tears trickle down one's face.
tremulous (adjective): fearful. “TREM you luss”
I felt so tremulous when I saw a shark swim underneath me that I began to tremble.
trepidation (noun): fear. “treh pid AY shun”
The haunted house filled me with trepidation; I feared a trap would be sprung on me at any moment.
trifling (adjective): unimportant, inconsequential. “TRY fling”
Think: rifling through drawers.
If shadowy henchmen are rifling through your drawers for some reason, then it’s probably more than a trifling matter.
truculent (adjective): ready to fight. “TRUCK you lent”
Think: truce you lent.
The armies should write their own peace treaty, because they're still truculent after that truce you lent them.
truncated (adjective): shortened. “TRUN kated”
Think: trunk ate.
The elephant's trunk ate so many branches that the tree was truncated.
tumid (adjective): swollen. “TYOO mid”
The cancer patient's large tumor caused his abdomen to be tumid.
tumultuous (adjective): disorderly; like a riot. “tuh MULT you us”
Think: tumbled us.
The mosh pit was so tumultuous that it tumbled us around like a dryer.
turbid (adjective): stirred up and made unclear or muddy. “TURR (rhymes with “purr”) bid”
Think: tar bed.
The lake became turbid when storms disturbed particles from the tar bed underneath its waters.
turgid (adjective): swollen. “TURR (rhymes with “purr”) jid”
Think: turkey in.
After Thanksgiving dinner, my belly was so turgid that it looked like I had eaten the whole turkey.
turpitude (noun): vile or immoral behavior. “TURP ih tude”
Think: turd attitude.
His turd attitude made him engage in turpitude.
ubiquitous (adjective): existing everywhere. “ooh BICK quit us”
Think: you big Quidditch.
You big Quidditch fans have made the Harry Potter sport ubiquitous on college campuses.
umbrage (noun): offense; annoyance. “UM bridge”
Think: umbrella rage.
Someone who takes umbrage at his umbrella probably felt rage when it broke during a storm.
unadorned (adjective): plain. “un uh DORNED”
Since your girlfriend’s hand has no ring and is unadorned, I assume she’s unadored: if you like it then you should put a ring on it.
unassuming (adjective): modest. “un uh SOOM ing”
The millionaire's unassuming car definitely didn't make us assume he was wealthy.
unbridled (adjective): not restrained. “un BRIDE ulled (rhymes with “culled”)”
After I took off my horse's bridle, he became so unbridled that I had no control over him.
unconscionable (adjective): unreasonable; not guided by conscience. “un CON shin uh bull”
It would be unconscionable to leave your two-year-old alone at home - you’d have to have no conscience - an “un-conscience”.
unconventional (adjective): not typical. “Un con VENT shin ull”
Think: Republican Convention.
The most unconventional thing about the Republican Convention was its candidate, Donald Trump.
unctuous (adjective): smooth in a fake way. “UNK shis”
Pepe Le Pew, the smooth-talking, playboy skunk, acts unctuous to charm the ladies.
uncultivated (adjective): not grown or used, (of a person) not refined. “Un KULT iv ate id”
Think: cult avoided.
Because of his simple, uncultivated nature, he was, somewhat ironically, able to avoid the siren call of the radical cult that was full of “intelligent” people from his town.
undermine (verb): to weaken in a sneaky way. “UN der mine”
Think: under mine.
Under the ground lay a land mine designed to undermine the army's advance.
underscore (verb): to highlight. “UN der score”
Think: to score = to write.
To score a composition is to write a composition; to underscore something on a piece of paper, you write under it (underline).
understated (adjective): downplayed; made to seem less than it actually is. “UN der stated”
“I have no complaints” is an understated way to respond if you’re wealthy and asked how much money you make; it’s an understatement .
undulate (verb): to move in a smooth, wavelike way. “UN dyoo late”
Think: undo lace.
You’ll definitely turn your lover on if you undo your lace lingerie while slowly undulating your body.
uniform (adjective): always the same. “YOON if orm”
Think: Army uniform.
Throughout the U.S., the uniform (noun) that Army soldiers wear is uniform (adjective).
unkempt (adjective): untidy. “un KEMT”
Think: un-kept hair.
If you had just kept up with your personal hygiene, your hair wouldn’t be so unkempt and birds wouldn’t have nested in it.
unpretentiousness (noun): the state of being unassuming, modest, or natural. “Un pree TEN shish niss”
Think: un-pretend us Ness.
Ness did not try to pretend to be more glamorous or important than she truly was around us; hence, we found her personality refreshing and unpretentious .
unpropitious (adjective): unfavorable, not a good sign or omen. “Un pruh PISH us”.
Think: un propped.
Grandpa’s crutches prop him up; it’s unpropitious that they’re lost, since he’s now un-propped and might fall.
unruly (adjective): difficult to discipline or manage. “un RULE y”
My two-year-old is unruly; he is un-rule-able and says “No!” to me every time I tell him to do something.
unsavory (adjective): unpleasant, esp. morally unpleasant. “un SAVE or y”
The icky memory of the unsavory used car salesman was not one I wanted to save or savor.
untenable (adjective): not workable, indefensible, weak, shaky. “un TEN uh bull”
Think: un tent-able.
If you are stuck in the woods during a rainstorm, and your tent is un tent-able, then you’ve got an untenable situation on your hands.
untoward (adjective): improper; troublesome. “un TOE ward”
The beach's dangerous undertow was untoward, dragging the girl underwater and loosening her bikini.
unwieldy (adjective): awkward; cumbersome. “un WEILD (rhymes with “field”) y”
Think: unable to wield.
The ogre dropped his giant club and I picked it up, but it was too unwieldy to wield against him in battle.
upbraided (verb): criticized severely. “up BRAID ed”
Think: upside braid.
The hippie upbraided me so much that I was afraid she was going to slap me upside the head with her giant braid .
urbane (adjective): sophisticated; polite and polished. “ur BAIN”
The farmboy moved to a hip urban city and became so urbane that he threw away his straw hat.
usurious (adjective): a rip-off. “you SIR y us”
Think: u serious?
I know that I have bad credit, but the usurious rate on my credit card made me say “U serious?”
usurp (verb): to illegally take by force. “ooh SURP”
Think: u slurp.
I know you're an anteater, but if you usurp my ant farm and u slurp up my ants, I'll be really angry.
utilitarian (adjective): useful. “you till-it TEAR y-en”
The military likes to buy utilitarian tools that can be utilized for many different tasks.
utopian (adjective): of a perfect society, ideal. “you TOPE y-en”
Think: You Tokin’.
In an utopian world, you could be tokin’ all the time, but that doesn’t really work out in real life unless your name is Snoop Dog.
vacuous (adjective): stupid. “VACK you us”
The beauty pageant contestant's answer was so vacuous that the judges thought her brain had been vacuumed out of her head.
vainglorious (adjective): boastful. “vane GLOR y us”
The evil queen in Snow White is vainglorious - because she's vain and thinks she's glorious.
vanquished (adjective): defeated. “Van KWISHT”
Think: van squished.
If a van squished the ant crossing the road, then you could say that the ant has been vanquished.
vapid (adjective): dull; air-headed. “VAH pid”
All vapor and no substance, MTV is so vapid that it makes me want to take a nap.
variegated (adjective): varied. “VAH ree GAIT (rhymes with “wait”) ed”
The autumn leaves in Vermont are known for their variegated colors; last year, they varied from red to yellow to orange.
vaunted (adjective): widely praised. “VON ted”
Think: vaulted well.
The gymnast vaulted so well that she was vaunted by the judges.
vehement (adjective): strongly emotional. “VE huh ment”
Think: he meant it.
His warning was so vehement that we knew he meant it.
venal (adjective): corrupt or corruptible. “VEE nil”
Think: venereal disease.
Nuns with venereal disease are, most likely, venal: they broke their oaths of chastity.
veracious (adjective): full of truth (veracity). “vur A shus”
If you can verify something, then it is veracious (truthful). (Not to be confused with “voracious”)
verbose (adjective): wordy. “vur BOES (rhymes with “toes”)”
Think: verb boss.
They call me a verb boss since I am verbose and know a zillion different words.
verboten (adjective): forbidden. “fur BO tin”
Think: verb eatin’.
In North Korea, verb eatin' - instead of speaking one's mind - is common since many topics are verboten.
verisimilar (adjective): seeming to be true. “VEH ree sim il er”
Think: very similar.
The conman's verisimilar story almost tricked me since it was very similar to the truth.
vernacular (noun): the way a certain group uses language. “ver NACK u ler”
Think: verb knack.
Once you develop a knack for the way we use verbs, you’ll have become familiar with our vernacular .
vertiginous (adjective): dizzy or producing dizziness. “ver TIJ en is”
Standing on the edge of the skyscraper made me feel really vertiginous because I have vertigo.
vestige (noun): last remains. “VEST idge (rhymes with “fridge”)”
The explosion blew off most of my three-piece suit – the only vestige left was the vest.
vex (verb): to annoy. “VEKS”
In Harry Potter, casting a hex, or spell designed to cause pain, on someone will definitely vex him.
vicarious (adjective): felt by imagining the experience of another. “vie CARE y us”
The bi-curious woman preferred to keep her fantasy vicarious, so she just watched.
vigilant (adjective): watchful; alert. “VIJ i lent”
If you want some street justice, hire a vigilante - they are vigilant by nature.
vilify (verb): to speak ill of. “VILL if-i”
The dumpee decided to vilify her ex-boyfriend so the other girls would think he was a villain.
vindicate (verb): to prove correct; to free from blame. “VIN di kate”
Think: Vin indicated.
Judge Vincent indicated that the DNA evidence had fully vindicated the falsely accused defendant.
vindictive (adjective): wanting revenge. “ vin DICT ive”
Think: Vin Diesel.
Vin Diesel often plays vindictive characters since he has been typecast as a tough guy.
virtuoso (noun): someone highly skilled at something. “vurr tyoo OH so”
Think: virtues (oh so many).
Virtues? I have oh so many, because I’m a gosh-darned virtuoso.
virulent (adjective): infectious; harmful; hostile. “VIE roo lent”
The swine flu virus is so virulent that it can kill a previously healthy person.
viscous (adjective): syrupy. “VISS kiss”
Think: sticks to us.
The viscous Bisquick pancake batter sticks to us.
vitiate (verb): to impair or degrade. “VIH she ate”
Think: wish you ate.
If you eat Taco Bell, it will vitiate your stomach and make you wish you ate something else.
vitriolic (adjective): full of hatred. “vit ri OL ic”
Think: vitriolic alcoholic.
Some people are just plain mean when they drink; there is nothing worse than a vitriolic alcoholic.
vituperated (verb): criticized harshly. “vie TOOP ur ated”
He was vituperated so badly that he felt like he had been bitten by a viper.
vivacious (adjective): lively. “viv A shus”
Think: Viva la Vida.
The Coldplay song “Viva la Vida” means “long live life” and makes me want to be vivacious.
vocation (noun): job. “vo KAY shun”
Think: afford a vacation.
If you want to afford a vacation get a vocation.
vociferous (adjective): loud. “vo SIF er us”
Think: voice for us.
The announcer's loud voice, for us, was too vociferous.
volatile (adjective): unstable, dangerous. “VOL uh tull”
Think: volcano isle.
This may look like a peaceful island, but it’s volatile – it’s a volcano isle that could still erupt.
volition (noun): a conscious choice. “vo LISH un”
No one forced him to volunteer for the mission; he did it of his own volition.
voluminous (adjective): large or numerous. “vo LUM in us”
Think: 18 volume diary.
I gave up on reading her diary after realizing how voluminous it was - it had 18 volumes!
voracious (adjective): having a huge appetite. “vo RAY shus”
Think: carnivore ate us.
The carnivore ate us because of its voracious appetite.
voyeur (noun): pervert, watcher, “Peeping Tom”. “vo YER”
Last night I caught a voyeur hanging out in the foyer (entrance) of my apartment building who was trying to spy into people’s windows. Joke’s on him: I was eating ice cream and wearing sweatpants.
waffle (verb): to go back and forth. “WAF ul”
Think: should I get waffles?
When I go out to brunch, I waffle (verb) between getting waffles (noun) and getting eggs.
wan (adjective): sick-looking. “WON”
Think: old Obi-Wan.
In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi looked wan even though he was a Jedi master because he was old.
wane (verb): to decrease in size, amount, length, or quantity. (rhymes with “pain”)
Think: Lil Wayne.
The rapper Lil Wayne is only 5’5”; some might think his height has waned, but he has been that little since high school.
wanting (adjective): lacking or absent. “ WONTING”
Think: wanting a boyfriend.
Wanting (verb) a boyfriend is normal if the romance in your life is wanting (adjective).
waspish (adjective): irritable. “WOSP ish”
The trouble with keeping them as pets is that wasps are almost always waspish – they’ll sting you if you look at them the wrong way.
watershed (noun): a turning point. “WAH ter shed”
Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal was a watershed for his public opinion and led to his resignation.
wax (verb): to increase; to grow. “WAKS”
Think: ear wax.
Thanks to your body’s glands, your sticky, orange-brown ear wax will wax daily even if you use Q-tips.
welter (verb): to be in turmoil; to get tossed around. “WEL turr”
When I surf, I welter in the waves and my board hits me; I come out covered in welts.
whet (verb): to sharpen; to make more intense. “WET”
Think: wet mouth.
If you’re starving and I show you a picture of a cheeseburger, it will whet your appetite and your mouth will water and get wet.
whimsical (adjective): playful; random; fanciful. “WIM sih kull”
The princess’s whimsical ideas included her sudden whim to travel to Antarctica.
willful (adjective): stubborn, insistent. “WILL full”
The willful horse was so will-full that he refused to be trained or ridden.
wily (adjective): clever; sly. “WHILE (rhymes with “trial”) y”
Think: Wile E. Coyote.
Wile E. Coyote was not quite wily enough to catch the Roadrunner despite his clever traps.
winnow (verb): to separate the useful from the not-useful. “WIN no”
Winnow the minnows from your catch of fish; they're too small to eat.
winsome (adjective): charming and pleasing. “WIN sum”
Think: win some hearts.
She'll probably win some hearts at the dance due to her winsome manner.
wistful (adjective): sadly wishing for. “WIST ful”
The “Forever Alone” meme guy feels wistful because he is still alone after weeks of being wishful for a girlfriend.
wizened (adjective): shrunken and wrinkled, usually due to age. “WI zend”
Wizards like Gandalf and Dumbledore are usually wizened since they’re really old.
wont (adjective): accustomed. “WONT”
It makes sense that you want to do things you are wont to doing, as opposed to trying risky new activities.
woo (verb): to seek or pursue romantically. “WOO”
If you spend all night watching sports and exclaiming “woo-hoo!” then your chances of wooing your date drop dramatically.
workmanlike (adjective): good but not great. “WORK mun like”
Think: workman’s design.
A workman will produce a workmanlike house design, but hire an architect if you want originality.
worldly (adjective): not spiritual; sophisticated; experienced. “WORLD lee”
Think: world traveler.
I’ve been all around the world and I, I, I, I can’t find my baby (but I’m worldly now).
wrongheaded (adjective): having ideas that are wrong. “RONG head ed”
Think: wrong foot.
I think that we may have gotten off on the wrong foot when I made that wrongheaded remark about your fashion choices.
wry (adjective): cleverly and/or ironically humorous. “RYE”
Think: PB&J on rye.
Surprising me by serving a PB&J sandwich on rye bread is a good example of my mother's wry humor.
zealous (adjective): passionate. “ZELL us”
Zoe was so zealous about her first boyfriend that she became jealous of every other girl he knew.
zenith (noun): the highest point. “ZEE nith”
Once you reach the zenith, everything else is beneath it.