Alphabetical Order Down
abjure \ab-JUR\, transitive verb:
1. To renounce under oath.
2. To renounce or reject solemnly; to recant; to reject;
3. To abstain from; to shun.
A few years earlier Galileo had been forced by the
Inquisition to abjure, on his knees, his heretical views
that the Earth moves around the Sun.
abominate \uh-BOM-uh-nayt\, transitive verb:
To hate in the highest degree; to detest intensely; to loathe;
I had no wish to study or learn anything, and as for Latin,
I abominated it.
abscond \ab-SKOND\, intransitive verb:
To depart secretly; to steal away and hide oneself -- used
especially of persons who withdraw to avoid arrest or
adamant \AD-uh-muhnt\, adjective:
Not capable of being swayed by pleas, appeals, or reason; not
susceptible to persuasion; unyielding.
affray \uh-FRAY\, noun:
A tumultuous assault or quarrel; a brawl.
agitprop \AJ-it-prop\, noun:
Propaganda, especially pro-communist political propaganda
disseminated through literature, drama, music, or art.
apogee \AP-uh-jee\, noun:
1. The point in the orbit of the moon or of an artificial
satellite that is at the greatest distance from the center of
2. The farthest or highest point; culmination.
apposite \AP-uh-zit\, adjective:
Being of striking appropriateness and relevance; very
arrogate \AIR-uh-gayt\, transitive verb:
1. To claim or seize without right or justification; to
2. To claim on behalf of another; to ascribe.
aspersion \uh-SPUR-zhuhn; -shuhn\, noun:
1. A damaging or derogatory remark; slander.
2. The act of defaming or slandering.
3. A sprinkling with water, especially in religious
asseverate \uh-SEV-uh-rayt\, transitive verb:
To affirm or declare positively or earnestly.
"But of course it is!" asseverates Herman Woodlife.
autochthonous \aw-TOCK-thuh-nuhs\, adjective:
1. Aboriginal; indigenous; native.
2. Formed or originating in the place where found.
For cultures are not monoliths. They are fragmentary,
patchworks of autochthonous and foreign elements.
bedizen \bih-DY-zuhn\, transitive verb:
To dress or adorn in gaudy manner.
beholden \bih-HOHL-duhn\, adjective:
Obliged; bound in gratitude; indebted.
bilious \BIL-yuhs\, adjective:
1. Of or pertaining to bile.
2. Marked by an excess secretion of bile.
3. Pertaining to, characterized by, or affected by gastric
distress caused by a disorder of the liver.
4. Appearing as if affected by such a disorder.
5. Resembling bile, especially in color.
6. Of a peevish disposition; ill-tempered.
Most arresting of all, his normally gray elephant hide has
changed to a bilious shade of green.
blandishment \BLAN-dish-muhnt\, noun:
Speech or action that flatters and tends to coax, entice, or
persuade; allurement -- often used in the plural.
bombinate \BOM-buh-nayt\, intransitive verb:
To buzz; to hum; to drone.
He is often drunk. His head hurts. Snatches of
conversation, remembered precepts, prefigured cries of
terror bombinate about his skull.
bonhomie \bah-nuh-MEE\, noun:
Good nature; pleasant and easy manner.
That bonhomie which won the hearts of all who knew him.
bowdlerize \BODE-luh-rise; BOWD-\, transitive verb:
1. To remove or modify the parts (of a book, for example)
2. To modify, as by shortening, simplifying, or distorting in
style or content.
The president did not call for bowdlerizing all
entertainment, but stressed keeping unsuitable material
away from the eyes of children.
brio \BREE-oh\, noun:
Enthusiastic vigor; vivacity; liveliness; spirit.
judgment was no doubt
affected by all the wine we'd
consumed, I remember being
elated by our performance that night:
our inspired spur-of-the-moment dialogue, the
cavalcade \kav-uhl-KAYD; KAV-uhl-kayd\, noun:
1. A procession of riders or horse-drawn carriages.
2. Any procession.
3. A sequence; a series.
celerity \suh-LAIR-uh-tee\, noun:
Rapidity of motion or action; quickness; swiftness.
claque \KLACK\, noun:
1. A group hired to applaud at a performance.
2. A group of fawning admirers.
clemency \KLEM-uhn-see\, noun:
1. Disposition to forgive and spare, as offenders; mercy.
2. An act or instance of mercy or leniency.
3. Mildness, especially of weather.
He put in a strong plea for clemency, begging the king to
spare the alchemist's life.
collude \kuh-LOOD\, intransitive verb:
To act in concert; to conspire; to plot.
comport \kum-PORT\, transitive verb:
To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner.
intransitive verb: To be fitting; to accord; to agree -- usually followed by 'with'.
condign \kuhn-DINE; KON-dine\, adjective:
to the fault or crime; deserved; adequate.
In a story as old as the
Greeks, overweening pride brought
conflate \kuhn-FLAYT\, transitive verb:
1. To bring together; to fuse together; to join or meld.
2. To combine (as two readings of a text) into one whole.
Scott Reynolds's creepy debut feature [film] conflates the
and the past with ingenious use of flashbacks.
contravene \kon-truh-VEEN\, transitive verb:
1. To act or be counter to; to violate.
2. To oppose in argument; to contradict.
cosset \KOSS-it\, transitive verb:
To treat as a pet; to treat with excessive indulgence; to
countervail \kown-tur-VAYL\, transitive verb:
1. To act against with equal force, power, or effect; to
2. To compensate for; to offset; to furnish or serve as an
demagogue \DEM-uh-gog\, noun:
1. A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals
to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
2. A leader of the common people in ancient times.
depredation \dep-ruh-DAY-shun\, noun:
1. An act of plundering or despoiling; a raid.
2. [Plural] Destructive operations; ravages.
. . . the depredations of pirates and privateers on the
descry \dih-SKRY\, transitive verb:
1. To catch sight of, especially something distant or obscure;
2. To discover by observation; to detect.
On a clear day, if there was no sun, you could descry (but
barely) the ships roving out at anchor in Herne Bay and
count their masts.
desideratum \dih-sid-uh-RAY-tum; -RAH-\, noun; plural desiderata:
Something desired or considered necessary.
desuetude \DES-wih-tood, -tyood\, noun:
The cessation of use; discontinuance of practice or custom;
detritus \dih-TRY-tuhs\, noun; plural detritus:
1. Loose material that is worn away from rocks.
2. Hence, any fragments separated from the body to which they
belonged; any product of disintegration; debris.
discursive \dis-KUR-siv\, adjective:
1. Passing from one topic to another; ranging over a wide
field; digressive; rambling.
2. Utilizing, marked by, or based on analytical reasoning --
contrasted with intuitive.
dissolute \DIS-uh-loot\, adjective:
Loose in morals and conduct; marked by indulgence in sensual
pleasures or vices.
doula \DOO-luh\, noun:
A woman who assists during childbirth labor and provides
support to the mother, her child and the family after
ebullient \ih-BUL-yuhnt\, adjective:
1. Overflowing with enthusiasm or excitement; high-spirited.
2. Boiling up or over.
enervate \EN-ur-vayt\, transitive verb:
1. To deprive of vigor, force, or strength; to render feeble;
2. To reduce the moral or mental vigor of.
Beatriz de Ahumada soldiered on to produce nine more
children, a tour of duty that left her enervated and worn.
exculpate \EK-skuhl-payt; ek-SKUHL-payt\, transitive verb:
To clear from alleged fault or guilt; to prove to be
guiltless; to relieve of blame; to acquit.
Each member is determined to exculpate himself, to lay the
erudite \AIR-yuh-dyt; -uh-dyt\, adjective:
Characterized by extensive reading or knowledge; learned.
evanescent \ev-uh-NES-unt\, adjective:
Liable to vanish or pass away like vapor; fleeting.
excrescence \ik-SKRESS-uhn(t)s\, noun:
1. Something (especially something abnormal) growing out from
2. A disfiguring or unwanted mark, part, or addition.
exigent \EK-suh-juhnt\, adjective:
1. Requiring immediate aid or action; pressing; critical.
2. Requiring much effort or expense; demanding; exacting.
exiguous \ig-ZIG-yoo-us\, adjective: Extremely scanty; meager.
They are entering the market, setting up stalls on snowy
streets, moonlighting to supplement exiguous incomes.
expatiate \ek-SPAY-shee-ayt\, intransitive verb:
1. To speak or write at length or in considerable detail.
2. To move about freely; to wander.
extant \EK-stunt; ek-STANT\, adjective:
Still existing; not destroyed, lost, or extinct.
extempore \ik-STEM-puh-ree\, adverb:
Without premeditation or preparation; on the spur of the
extricate \EK-struh-kayt\, transitive verb:
To free or release from a difficulty or entanglement; to get free; to disengage.
Sean introduced himself and then extricated his hand from
Ronan's persistent grasp in order to show him the photo.
faineant \fay-nay-AWN\, adjective:
Doing nothing or given to doing nothing; idle; lazy.
farrago \fuh-RAH-go; fuh-RAY-go\, noun; plural farragoes:
A confused mixture; an assortment; a medley.
fiat \FEE-uht; -at; -aht; FY-uht; -at\, noun:
1. An arbitrary or authoritative command or order.
2. Formal or official authorization or sanction.
firmament \FUR-muh-muhnt\, noun:
1. The region of the air; the sky; the heavens.
2. The field or sphere of an interest or activity
But to judge by the twinkling summer stars that filled the
firmament, the dawn was still far off.
forlorn \fur-LORN; for-\, adjective:
1. Sad and lonely because deserted, abandoned, or lost.
2. Bereft; forsaken.
3. Wretched or pitiful in appearance or condition.
4. Almost hopeless; desperate.
Henry had felt guilty at abandoning his sister; he had
married not once but twice, leaving Rose forlorn.
foundling \FOWND-ling\, noun:
A deserted or abandoned infant; a child found without a parent
Some of her desires were more altruistic: she wanted to
"send Phyllis to school for a year, take Auntie May for a
winter in the Isle of Pines," and "raise foundlings."
friable \FRY-uh-buhl\, adjective:
Easily crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder.
frisson \free-SOHN\, noun: A moment of intense excitement; a shudder; an emotional thrill.
When we think a story hasn't been invented, there's an extra frisson in reading it.
fugacious \fyoo-GAY-shuhs\, adjective: Lasting but a short time; fleeting.
The fugacious nature of life and time.
furbelow \FUR-buh-low\, noun:
1. A pleated or gathered flounce on a woman's garment; a ruffle.
2. Something showy or superfluous; a bit of showy
galumph \guh-LUHM(P)F\, intransitive verb:
To move in a clumsy manner or with a heavy tread.
Then he climbed up the little iron ladder that led to the wharf's cap, placed me once more upon his shoulders and galumphed off again.
gambol \GAM-buhl\, intransitive verb:
To dance and skip about in play; to frolic.
gelid \JEL-id\, adjective:
Extremely cold; icy.
The weather is gelid on a recent Thursday night--so uninviting that it's hard to imagine anyone venturing out.
gravitas \GRAV-uh-tahs\, noun:
High seriousness (as in a person's bearing or in the treatment
of a subject).
hauteur \haw-TUR; (h)oh-\, noun:
Haughty manner, spirit, or bearing; haughtiness; arrogance
heterodox \HET-uh-ruh-doks\, adjective:
1. Contrary to or differing from some acknowledged standard,
especially in church doctrine or dogma; unorthodox.
2. Holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines.
incipient \in-SIP-ee-uhnt\, adjective:
Beginning to exist or appear.
incontrovertible \in-kon-truh-VUR-tuh-buhl\, adjective:
Too clear or certain to admit of dispute; indisputable;
indolent \IN-duh-luhnt\, adjective:
1. Avoiding labor and exertion; habitually idle; lazy;
2. Conducive to or encouraging laziness or inactivity.
3. Causing little or no pain.
4. Slow to heal, develop, or grow.
We worked very hard--at least Iris did; I was more
indomitable \in-DOM-ih-tuh-buhl\, adjective:
Incapable of being subdued or overcome; unconquerable.
ineluctable \in-ih-LUCK-tuh-buhl\, adjective:
Impossible to avoid or evade; inevitable.
irascible \ih-RASS-uh-buhl\, adjective:
Prone to anger; easily provoked to anger; hot-tempered.
The lawyer described his client as an irascible eighty-two-year-old eccentric who alternated between spinning fascinating tales about her past and cussing him out.
jocund \JOCK-uhnd; JOH-kuhnd\, adjective:
Full of or expressing high-spirited merriment; light-hearted; mirthful.
His careless manners and jocund repartees might well seem incompatible with
lachrymose \LAK-ruh-mohs\, adjective:
1. Given to shedding tears; suffused with tears; tearful.
2. Causing or tending to cause tears.
At the farewell party on the boat, Joyce was surrounded by
a lachrymose family.
lenity \LEN-uh-tee\, noun:
The state or quality of being lenient; mildness; gentleness of
The criminal suspect is pressured by remorse or hope of
lenity or sheer despair to fess up.
levity \LEV-uh-tee\, noun:
1. Lightness of manner or speech, especially when
inappropriate or excessive; frivolity.
2. Lack of steadiness or constancy; changeableness.
lissom, also lissome \LISS-uhm\, adjective:
1. Limber; supple; flexible.
2. Light and quick in action; nimble; agile; active.
Raphaelle Boitel moves with the lissom, contortionist
plastique of a snake-woman.
logorrhea \law-guh-REE-uh\, noun:
Excessive talkativeness or wordiness.
loquacious \loh-KWAY-shuhs\, adjective:
1. Very talkative.
2. Full of excessive talk; wordy.
malapropos \mal-ap-ruh-POH\, adjective:
Unseasonable; unsuitable; inappropriate.
malediction \mal-uh-DIK-shun\, noun:
A curse or execration.
maudlin \MAWD-lin\, adjective:
Tearfully or excessively sentimental.
mellifluous \muh-LIF-loo-us\, adjective:
Flowing as with honey; flowing sweetly or smoothly; as, a
The balladeer whose mellifluous voice serenaded two
generations of lovers.
mendacious \men-DAY-shuhs\, adjective:
1. Given to deception or falsehood; lying; untruthful; as, a
2. False; untrue; as, a mendacious statement.
mien \MEEN\, noun:
1. Manner or bearing, especially as expressive of mood,
attitude, or personality; demeanor.
2. Aspect; appearance.
myrmidon \MUR-muh-don; -dun\, noun:
1. [Capitalized] A member of a warlike Thessalian people who
followed Achilles on the expedition against Troy.
2. A loyal follower, especially one who executes orderswithout question, protest, or pity.
nescience \NESH-uhn(t)s; NESH-ee-uhn(t)s\, noun:
Lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.
nefarious \nuh-FAIR-ee-us\, adjective:
Wicked in the extreme; iniquitous.
nimiety \nih-MY-uh-tee\, noun:
The state of being too much; excess.
What a nimiety of ... riches have we here! I am quite
nonagenarian \non-uh-juh-NAIR-ee-uhn; no-nuh-\, noun:
A ninety year old person; someone whose age is in the
obloquy \OB-luh-kwee\, noun:
1. Strongly condemnatory or abusive language or utterance.
2. The condition of disgrace suffered as a result of public
blame, abuse, or condemnation; ill repute.
peccadillo \peck-uh-DIL-oh\, noun:
A slight offense; a petty fault.
No peccadillo is too trivial: we learn that the mogul once
blew his top because his laundry came back starched
(" 'Fluff and fold!' he screamed").
pecuniary \pih-KYOO-nee-air-ee\, adjective:
1. Relating to money; monetary.
2. Consisting of money.
3. Requiring payment of money.
pellucid \puh-LOO-sid\, adjective:
1. Transparent; clear; not opaque.
2. Easily understandable.
perforce \pur-FORS\, adverb:
By necessity; by force of circumstance.
perfunctory \pur-FUNGK-tuh-ree\, adjective:
1. Done merely to carry out a duty; performed mechanically or
2. Lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm; indifferent.
The city's moderate hotels, however, tend to offer minimal
comforts, perfunctory service and dreary decor.
philomath \FIL-uh-math\, noun:
A lover of learning; a scholar.
It is precisely for the philomaths that universities ought to cater.
philter \FIL-tur\, noun:
1. A potion or charm supposed to cause the person taking it to
fall in love.
2. A potion or charm believed to have magic power.
plenary \PLEE-nuh-ree; PLEN-uh-ree\, adjective:
1. Full in all respects; complete; absolute; as, plenary
2. Fully attended by all qualified members.
Judges like to quote a 1936 Supreme Court opinion that
spoke of "the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of
the President as the sole organ of the Federal Government
in the field of international relations."
pleonasm \PLEE-uh-naz-uhm\, noun:
1. The use of more words than are necessary to express an
idea; as, "I saw it with my own eyes."
2. An instance or example of pleonasm.
3. A superfluous word or expression.
polyglot \POL-ee-glot\, adjective:
1. Containing or made up of several languages.
2. Writing, speaking, or versed in many languages.
One who speaks several languages.
postprandial \post-PRAN-dee-uhl\, adjective:
Happening or done after a meal.
potable \POE-tuh-buhl\, adjective:
Fit to drink; suitable for drinking; drinkable.
prink \PRINGK\, transitive verb:
To dress up; to deck for show.
probity \PRO-buh-tee\, noun:
Complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness.
proclivity \pro-KLIV-uh-tee\, noun:
A natural inclination; predisposition.
prolix \pro-LIKS; PRO-liks\, adjective:
1. Extending to a great length; unnecessarily long; wordy.
2. Tending to speak or write at excessive length.
pronunciamento \pro-nun-see-uh-MEN-toe\, noun:
1. A proclamation or manifesto; a formal announcement or
2. A pronouncement.
propitious \pruh-PISH-uhs\, adjective:
1. Presenting favorable circumstances or conditions.
2. Favorably inclined; gracious; benevolent.
protean \PRO-tee-un; pro-TEE-un\, adjective:
Displaying considerable variety or diversity.
Readily assuming different shapes or forms.
ceaselessly protean in these years, usually
conventional but always
developing convention, twisting it, replacing it.
puerile \PYOO-uhr-uhl; PYOOR-uhl\, adjective:
Displaying or suggesting a lack of maturity; juvenile; childish.
pusillanimous \pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-muhs\, adjective:
Lacking in courage and resolution; contemptibly fearful; cowardly.
putsch \PUCH ('u' as in 'push')\, noun:
(Sometimes capitalized) A secretly planned and suddenly
executed attempt to overthrow a government.
Hitler operated from Munich where he enjoyed a fair degree
of support, and it was here that his Putsch took place in
an effort to seize power in Bavaria.
quondam \KWAHN-duhm; KWAHN-dam\, adjective:
Having been formerly; former; sometime.
A quondam flower child, she spent seven years at the Royal
College of Art, before becoming a lecturer at Edinburgh School of Art.
quotidian \kwoh-TID-ee-uhn\, adjective:
1. Occurring or returning daily; as, a quotidian fever.2. Of an everyday character; ordinary; commonplace.
raconteur \rack-on-TUR\, noun:
One who excels in telling stories and anecdotes.
An excellent raconteur, he had a varied stock of stories
and enjoyed the joke just as much when it was on himself as
he did when it was on some one else.
ratiocination \rash-ee-ah-suh-NAY-shun; rash-ee-oh-\, noun:
The process of reasoning.
For all their vaunted powers of ratiocination, grand
masters of chess tend to be a skittery lot.
recalcitrant \rih-KAL-sih-truhnt\, adjective:
resistant to and defiant of authority or restraint.
redoubt \rih-DOWT\, noun:
1. A small and usually temporary defensive fortification.
2. A defended position or protective barrier.
3. A secure place of refuge or defense; a stronghold.
refractory \rih-FRAK-tuh-ree\, adjective:
1. Stubbornly disobedient; unmanageable.
2. Resisting ordinary treatment or cure.
3. Difficult to melt or work; capable of enduring high
reticent \RET-ih-suhnt\, adjective:
1. Inclined to keep silent; reserved; uncommunicative.
2. Restrained or reserved in style.
3. Reluctant; unwilling.
roister \ROY-stur\, intransitive verb:
1. To engage in boisterous merrymaking; to revel; to carouse.
2. To bluster; to swagger.
salad days, noun:
A time of youthful inexperience, innocence, or indiscretion.
Those were his salad days, and he thought they might last forever.
salubrious \suh-LOO-bree-us\, adjective:
Favorable to health; promoting health; healthful.
sang-froid, also sangfroid \sang-FRWAH\, noun:
Freedom from agitation or excitement of mind; coolness in
trying circumstances; calmness.
sentient \SEN-shee-uhnt; -tee-; -shuhnt\, adjective:
1. Capable of perceiving by the senses; conscious.
2. Experiencing sensation or feeling.
I can remember very vividly the first time I became aware
of my existence; how for the first time I realised that I was
a sentient human being in a perceptible world.
seriatim \sir-ee-AY-tim; -AT-im\, adverb:
In a series; one after another.
sinecure \SY-nih-kyur; SIN-ih-\, noun:
An office or position that requires or involves little or no
responsibility, work, or active service.
I was fortunate to receive the. . . offer, which in practical terms was a sinecure.
somnolent \SOM-nuh-luhnt\, adjective:
1. Sleepy; drowsy; inclined to sleep.
2. Tending to cause sleepiness or drowsiness.
spoonerism \SPOO-nuh-riz-uhm\, noun:
The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of
sunder \SUN-dur\, transitive verb:
break apart; to separate; to divide; to sever.
To become parted, disunited, or severed.
surreptitious \sur-up-TISH-us; suh-rep-\, adjective:
1. Done, made, or gotten by stealth.
2. Acting with or marked by stealth.
susurration \soo-suh-RAY-shun\, noun:
A whispering sound; a soft murmur.
. . . the soft susurration of the wind through a stand of
sybarite \SIB-uh-ryt\, noun:
A person devoted to luxury and pleasure.
taciturn \TAS-uh-turn\, adjective:
Habitually silent; not inclined to talk.
temerarious \tem-uh-RAIR-ee-us\, adjective:
Recklessly or presumptuously daring; rash.
tintinnabulation \tin-tih-nab-yuh-LAY-shuhn\, noun:
A tinkling sound, as of a bell or bells.
traduce \truh-DOOS; -DYOOS\, transitive verb:
To expose to contempt or shame by means of false statements or
misrepresentation; to represent as blamable; to vilify.
tyro \TY-roh\, noun:
A beginner in learning; a novice.
unctuous \UNGK-choo-us\, adjective:
1. Of the nature or quality of an unguent or ointment; fatty;
2. Having a smooth, greasy feel, as certain minerals.
3. Insincerely or excessively suave or ingratiating in manner
or speech; marked by a false or smug earnestness or
A warmed, crusty French roll arrives split, lightly smeared
with unctuous chopped liver.
varicolored \VER-ih-kuh-lurd\, adjective:
Having a variety of colors; of various colors.
Where a bottleneck of sky showed between the hills, dark
and light clouds lay in alternating layers like varicolored
liquid that would not mix.
vociferous \voh-SIF-uhr-uhs\, adjective:
Making a loud outcry; clamorous; noisy.
Claudio has work to do and I have a vociferous son demanding a story.
voluble \VOL-yuh-buhl\, adjective:
1. Characterized by a ready flow of speech.
2. Easily rolling or turning; rotating.
3. (Botany) Having the power or habit of turning or twining.
volte-face \vawlt-FAHS; vawl-tuh-\, noun:
An about-face; a reversal, as in policy or opinion.