mazappa dictionary

updated december 4 2012
new words:   heliopolitan, telepathetic, cataclyst, mazappa, scrunt

A

abashed  distressed and ill at ease; chagrined; disconcerted; embarrassed
abattoir  a slaughterhouse; something likened to a slaughterhouse (from French abattre to strike down)
abecedarian  (noun) one who teaches or studies the alphabet; (adj.) being arranged alphabetically; elementary or rudimentary
aberrant  deviating from the normal, usual, or expected; untrue to type
ab extra  (Latin for from outside) from without
abeyance  the condition of being temporarily suspended
abject  contemptible; base; miserable; wretched; humiliating; despicable
abjure  to renounce under oath; to recant solemnly; repudiate; to give up an action or practice
ablation  surgical excision or amputation of a body part or tissue; the erosive processes which reduce a glacier
ablative  a grammatical case indicating separation, direction away from, manner or agency; the object of certain verbs
ablution  a washing or cleansing of the body, especially as part of a religious rite; the liquid so used
abnegate  to give up (rights or a claim, for example); renounce; to deny (something) to oneself
abominable  unequivocally detestable; loathsome; thoroughly unpleasant or disagreeable
abrade  to wear down or rub away by friction; erode; to make weary through constant irritation
abridge  to reduce the length of (a written text); condense; to cut short; curtail
abrogate  to abolish, do away with, or annul, especially by authority
absolution  forgiveness; the formal release from sin, especially as given by a priest for sacrament of penance
abstemious  eating and drinking in moderation; sparingly used or consumed; restricted to bare necessities
abstruse  difficult to understand; esoteric; recondite; deep; profound
accession  the attainment of a dignity or rank; something that has been acquired or added; an acquisition
accoutrements  ancillary items of equipment or dress
acculturation  the process of altering a society; modifying a primitive culture by contact with an advanced one; see inculturation
accursed  abominable; hateful; being under a curse; doomed
acerbic  sour or bitter, as in taste, character, or tone
acidulous  slightly sour in taste or in manner; sour
acme  the highest point, as of perfection
acolyte  an attendant; follower; a person who assists a priest in a religious service
acquiesce  (noun acquiescence) to consent or comply passively or without protest
acrimonious  bitter and sharp in language or tone; rancorous
acronym  a word formed from the initial letters of a name, or by combining parts of words, e.g. radar
acumen  keenness of insight or judgment
adage  a saying that sets forth a general truth and that has gained credence through long use
adamant  a stone once believed to be impenetrable in its hardness; an extremely hard substance; stubbornly unyielding
adamantine  unyielding; inflexible; having the hardness or luster of a diamond; made of or resembling adamant
adept  (noun) a highly skilled person; an expert; (adj.) a highly skilled person, an expert
ad feminam  appealing to irrelevant personal considerations concerning women, especially prejudices against them
ad hoc  (Latin for to this ) for a specific purpose, case, or situation; e.g. an ad hoc committee
ad hominem  appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason
adipose  of, relating to, or composed of animal fat; fatty; the fat found in adipose tissue
adjunct  one attached to another in a subordinate position or relationship
adjure  to command or enjoin solemnly, as under oath; to appeal to or entreat earnestly
ad libitum  (ad lib) at the discretion of the performer (used chiefly as a direction giving license to alter a theatrical part)
adulatory  (verb adulate) to praise excessively or fawningly
adumbrate  to give a sketchy outline of; to prefigure indistinctly; foreshadow; to disclose partially or guardedly
adventitious  not inherent but added extrinsically; Biology: of or belonging to a structure that develops in an unusual place
adverse  acting or serving to oppose; antagonistic; moving in an opposite or opposing direction
aegis  protection; sponsorship; patronage; Greek Mythology: the shield or breastplate of Zeus [EEEjis]
aerie  the nest of a bird, such as an eagle, built on a cliff or other high place; a stronghold perched on a height
aerobic  involving or improving oxygen consumption by the body; living or occurring only in the presence of oxygen
aesthete  (also spelled esthete) one who develops a superior appreciation of the beautiful, especially in art
affable  easy and pleasant to speak to; approachable; gentle and gracious
affectation  artificial behaviour adopted to impress others
affray  a noisy quarrel or brawl; conflict
agape  in a state of wonder or amazement, as with the mouth wide open; wide open
agent provocateur  a person employed to associate with suspected persons to incite them to commit punishable acts
aggrandize  to increase the scope of; extend; to make greater in power, influence, stature, or reputation
aggrieve  (verb) to distress; afflict; to inflict an injury or injuries on
aggrieved  (adj.) feeling distress or affliction; treated wrongly; offended
agitprop  communist-oriented political propaganda disseminated through literature, drama, art, or music
agon  a conflict, especially between the protagonist and antagonist in a work of literature or (Greek) drama
agonistic  striving to overcome in argument; combative; struggling to achieve effect; strained and contrived
agronomy  scientific agriculture; application of soil and plant sciences to soil management and crop production
aka  (also a.k.a. or AKA) an acronym for also known as; an alias
akimbo  in or into a position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward
alacrity  cheerful willingness; eagerness; speed or quickness; celerity
albeit  although (Middle English although it be)
alchemy  a seemingly magical power or process of transmuting
alcove  a recess or partly enclosed extension connected to or forming part of a room
al dente  cooked enough to be firm but not soft (Italian al to the + dente tooth)
alfresco  in the fresh air; outdoors
algorithm  a step-by-step problem-solving procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of steps
alimentary  concerned with food, nutrition, or digestion; providing nourishment
alliteration  the repetition of the same consonant sounds or of different vowel sounds at the beginning of words
allopathy  method of treating disease with remedies that produce effects different from those caused by the disease
allusion  an instance of indirect reference; the act of alluding (to make an indirect reference)
alluvium  (adj. alluvial) sediment deposited by flowing water, as in a riverbed, flood plain, or delta; also called alluvion
alma mater  the school, college, or university that one has attended; the anthem of an institution of higher learning
alto  a low, female singing voice; the range between soprano and tenor
amanuensis  one who is employed to take dictation or to copy manuscript (as Samuel Beckett did for James Joyce)
ambit  an external boundary; a circuit; sphere or scope; range
ambuscade  an ambush; to attack suddenly and without warning from a concealed place
amorphous  lacking definite form; shapeless; of no particular type; anomalous; lacking organization; formless
amortize  to write off an expenditure by prorating over time; to liquidate a debt by installment payments
anachronism  someone existing or something happening in other than the chronological, proper, or historical order
anadromous  migrating up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh water; e.g. West Coast salmon
anaerobic  an organism, such as a bacterium, that can live in the absence of atmospheric oxygen; opposite of aerobic
analgesic  a medication that reduces or eliminates pain
anarchism  rejection of all forms of coercive control and authority; doctrine to abolish all forms of government
anathema  one who is intensely disliked; an object of extreme dislike; a formal ecclesiastical ban or curse
ancien régime  a former sociopolitical system; pre-1789 French revolution era
androgen  a steroid hormone, such as testosterone or androsterone, related to masculine characteristics
anhedonia  an incapacity for experiencing happiness; e.g. Woody Allen's anhedonia; see hedonic
anima  the true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the persona; the unconscious feminine side of the male
animadversion  strong criticism; a critical or censorious remark
animism  the attribution of conscious life to natural objects or to nature itself
animus  an attitude that informs one's actions; a feeling of animosity; unconscious masculine side of the female
anodyne  a medicine that relieves pain; a soothing or comforting agent (Greek anodunos free from pain)
anomaly  deviation from the normal order, form, or rule; something unusual, irregular, or abnormal
ante  the stake that each participant must put up (and risk losing) before being included in the game
antebellum  belonging to the period before a war, especially the American Civil War (Latin ante before bellum war)
anterior  placed before or in front; occurring before in time; earlier
anteroom  an outer room that opens into another room, often used as a waiting room
anthropic  of or relating to human beings or the era of human life
anthropocentric  interpreting reality in terms of human values and experiences
anthropomorphic  the attribution of human characteristics to non-human beings or things
antic  (adj.) ludicrously odd; fantastic; e.g. an antic session
antigen  a substance that when introduced into the body stimulates the production of an antibody
antipathy  a strong feeling of aversion or repugnance; enmity; an object of aversion
antiphon  a devotional composition sung responsively as part of a liturgy; a short liturgical text chanted or sung; a response; a reply
antipode  a direct or diametrical opposite; any two places on diametrically opposite sides of the earth
antiquarian  of or relating to the study or collecting of antiquities or old or rare books
antisepsis  destruction of disease-causing microorganisms to prevent infection
aphorism  a tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage; a brief statement of a principle
Aphrodite  the Greek goddess of love and beauty; also called Cytherea
aplomb  self-confident assurance; poise
apnea  temporary absence or cessation of breathing (related to snoring)
apocryphal  erroneous; fictitious; of questionable authorship or authenticity
apogee  the farthest or highest point; the apex; the point an orbiting satellite (e.g. the Moon) is farthest from earth
apoplectic  extremely angry; furious; exhibiting symptoms associated with apoplexy
apoplexy  sudden impairment of neurological function, especially that resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage; a stroke
apostasy  (noun apostate) abandonment of one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause
apothecary  one that prepares and sells drugs and other medicines; a pharmacist
apothegm  a terse, witty, instructive saying; a maxim [AP uh them]
apotheosis  deification; exaltation to a divine rank or stature; an exalted or glorified ideal
Appaloosa  a breed of saddle horse developed in the northwest, characteristically having a spotted rump
apparition  a ghostly figure; a specter; a sudden unusual sight
appellant  one that appeals a court decision; of or relating to an appeal
appellation  a name, title, or designation; the act of naming
apposition  a placing side by side or next to each other; a grammatical construct using two nouns, e.g. the painter Klee
approbation  approval; sanction; acceptance
appurtenances  something added to another, more important thing; an appendage; equipment used for a specific task
apropos  being at once opportune and to the point; relevant; by the way; incidentally; with regard to; concerning
aqueduct  a pipe or channel designed to transport water from a remote source, usually by gravity
aquifer  an underground bed or layer of earth, gravel, or porous stone that yields water
arabesque  an intricate or elaborate pattern or design; a ballet position; a whimsical music composition for the piano
arbiter  one chosen or appointed to judge or decide a disputed issue; one who has the power to judge or ordain at will
arcane  known or understood by only a few; difficult to explain or understand
arch  chief; principal; mischievous; roguish, e.g. an arch glance
architectonic  having qualities, such as design and structure, that are characteristic of architecture
architrave  lowermost part of an entablature in classical architecture that rests directly on top of a column; epistyle
ardent  characterized by warmth of passion, emotion, or desire; glowing; fiery; burning
argillite  a metamorphic rock, intermediate between shale and slate, that does not possess true slaty cleavage
aristotelean  a person whose thinking and methods tend to be empirical, scientific, or commonsensical
arras  a wall hanging; a tapestry; a curtain or a wall hanging, especially one of Flemish origin
arrogate  to take or claim for oneself without right; to ascribe on behalf of another in an unwarranted manner
arroyo  deep gully cut by an intermittent stream; a dry gulch; a brook; a creek
artful  skillful; clever; sly; ingenious; crafty; tricky; cunning; deceitful
artifact  a structure or substance not normally present but produced by an external agent or action
artifice  an artful or crafty expedient; a stratagem; subtle but base deception; trickery; cleverness or skill; ingenuity
artless  without cunning or deceit; ingenuous; natural; simple; lacking art; crude; lacking skill
ascendancy  superiority or decisive advantage; domination
ascetic  leading a life of self-discipline and self-denial, especially for spiritual improvement
asperity  harshness of manner; ill temper or irritability; roughness or harshness, as of surface, sound, climate
assholistic  something that is excessively new-age
assiduous  constant in application or attention; diligent; unceasing; persistent
assignation  an appointment for a meeting between lovers; a tryst; engagement
associative  (mathematics) independent of the grouping of elements; for example, a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c
assuage  to make (something burdensome or painful) less intense or severe; to pacify or calm
astringent  harsh; severe; tending to draw together or tighten living tissue
astute  having or showing shrewdness and discernment, especially with respect to one's own concerns
atavistic  the return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence; a throwback (genetically)
ataxia  loss of the ability to coordinate muscular movement
atelier  a workshop or studio, especially for an artist or a designer (Old French astelier carpenter's shop)
atrium  a usually skylighted central area, often containing plants, in some modern buildings
au courant  informed on current affairs; up-to-date; fully familiar; knowledgeable
auctorial  of or relating to an author [oak TOR eal]
audacity  bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention
augur  an ancient Roman religious official who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens
augury  the art, ability, or practice of auguring; divination; a sign of something coming; an omen
august  inspiring awe or reverence; majestic
auscultation  the act of listening; in medicine the act of listening for sounds made by internal organs to aid in diagnosis
auspicious  favorable; propitious; successful; prosperous
australopithecine  extinct humanlike primates of the genus Australopithecus found in southeast Africa
auteur  a filmmaker who exercises creative control over his or her works and has a strong personal style
autochthon  one of the earliest known inhabitants of a place; an aborigine; an indigenous plant or animal [oh TALK thun]
auto-da-fé  public announcement of the sentences imposed on persons tried by the Inquisition; the burning of a heretic at the stake
autodidact  a self-taught person (from Greek autodidaktos self-taught) see didactic
autogiro  an aircraft powered by a conventional propeller with lift provided by a freewheeling, horizontal rotor
avaricious  immoderately desirous of wealth or gain; greedy
avatar  a temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity; the incarnation of a Hindu deity
avoirdupois  weight or heaviness, especially of a person; a system of weights based on a pound containing 16 ounces
avow  to acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly; confess; acknowledge; to state positively; assert
avuncular  regarded as being similar to an uncle, especially in benevolence
azure  a light purplish blue; the blue sky

B

babushka  a Russian head scarf, folded triangularly and tied under the chin
bacchanal  a drunken or riotous celebration; a reveler; ancient Roman festival in honor of Bacchus
badinage  light, playful banter
bafflegab  gobbledegook (baffle + gab)
bagnio  a brothel; a prison for slaves in Asian countries; a public bathhouse in Italy or Turkey
baguette  a small, narrow loaf of French bread; a gem cut in a narrow rectangle; a narrow, convex molding
bailiwick  a person's specific area of interest, skill, field, or authority; the office or district of a bailiff
baleful  portending evil; ominous; sinister; harmful or malignant in intent or effect
balmy  mild and pleasant; having the quality or fragrance of balm; soothing; (slang) eccentric in behavior
balustrade  a rail and the row of balusters or posts that support it, as along the front of a gallery
banal  drearily commonplace and often predictable; trite
bane  (adj. baneful) a cause of death, destruction, or ruin; fatal injury or ruin; a deadly poison
banter  good-humored, playful conversation; to exchange mildly teasing remarks
bard  a poet, especially a lyric poet; one of an ancient Celtic order of minstrel poets
baronial  suited for or befitting a baron; stately and grand
baroque  marked by rich and sometimes bizarre or incongruous ornamentation; ornate
bastinado  a beating with a stick or cudgel, especially on the soles of the feet; a stick or cudgel
bathetic  characterized by bathos; sentimental; affectedly or extravagantly emotional
bathos  a ludicrously abrupt transition from lofty to commonplace; insincere or grossly sentimental pathos
battlement  a parapet on top of a wall with indentations for defense or decoration
battle royal  an intense altercation; a battle involving many combatants; a fight to the finish
Bauhaus  a 20th-century school of design influenced by industrial fabrication and manufacturing techniques
beaux-arts  the fine arts (French beau fine + art art)
befog  to cause confusion in; muddle; to cover or obscure with or as if with fog
befool  to make a fool of; to hoodwink; deceive
befuddle  to confuse; perplex; to stupefy with or as if with alcoholic drink
behest  an authoritative command; an urgent request
belabor  to attack with blows; hit, beat, or whip; to assail verbally; to discuss repeatedly or at length; harp on
bel canto  a style of operatic singing characterized by rich tonal lyricism and brilliant display of vocal technique
beleaguer  to harass; beset; to surround with troops; besiege
belie  to misrepresent or disguise; show to be false; to frustrate or disappoint; leave unfulfilled
belles-lettres  literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content
bellicose  warlike; pugnacious; aggressively hostile; belligerent; quarrelsome
belligerent  aggressively hostile; waging war (Latin belligerare to wage war)
bemused  confused; stupefied; bewildered; so lost in thought as to be unaware of one’s surroundings
benediction  an invocation of divine blessing, usually at the end of a church service; a blessing
beneficence  the state or quality of being kind, charitable, or beneficial; a charitable act or gift
benighted  overtaken by night or darkness; being in a state of moral or intellectual darkness; unenlightened
benumb  to make numb, especially by cold; to make inactive; dull
bereave  (verb) to leave desolate or alone, especially by death
bereaved  (adj.) suffering the loss of a loved one; (noun) one of those bereaved
bereft  (verb) bereaved; (adj.) deprived of something; lacking something needed or expected
besotted  to muddle or stupefy, especially with liquor
bête noire  one that is particularly disliked or that is to be avoided (French for black beast)
beyond the pale  beyond the limits of what is safe or accepted
bibulous  given to convivial often excessive drinking
bicameral  composed of or based on two legislative chambers or branches
biddy  a hen, a fowl; a woman, especially a garrulous old one (a nickname for Bridget)
bidet  a fixture similar in design to a toilet that is straddled for bathing the genitals and the posterior parts
bier  a stand on which a corpse or a coffin containing a corpse is placed before burial
bifurcate  to divide or separate into two parts or branches
bildungsroman  a novel whose principal subject is the moral, psychological, and intellectual development of a youth
bilious  irascible; pertaining to liver/gallbladder problems; irritable; peevish
biota  the combined flora and fauna of a region (from Greek bios life)
blandish  (noun blandishment ) to coax by flattery or wheedling; cajole (contrast with brandish)
blasé  uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence; unconcerned; nonchalant; very sophisticated
blasphemous  impiously irreverent; profane
blazon  to adorn or embellish with or as if with a coat of arms
blithe  cheerful; carefree; lighthearted; festive; jocund; mirthful; debonair; sprightly; gleeful; jolly; gay
blitzkrieg  a swift, sudden military offensive, usually by combined air and mobile land forces (German lightning war)
blowsy  (also blowzy) having a coarsely ruddy and bloated appearance; disheveled and frowzy; unkempt
blustering  to speak noisily and boastfully; a violent wind storm
bodacious  remarkable; prodigious; audacious; gutsy (possible roots: bold + audacious)
bodice  the fitted part of a dress that extends from the waist to the shoulder; a woman's laced outer garment
boffo  extremely successful; great
bohemian  a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior
boilerplate  inconsequential, formulaic, or stereotypical language; journalistic material, such as syndicated features
boisterous  rough and stormy; violent; loud, noisy, and lacking in restraint or discipline
bombast  grandiloquent and pompous speech or writing
bona fide  (adj.) made or carried out in good faith; sincere; authentic; genuine
bona fides  (noun)  information serving to guarantee a person's good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials
bonhomie  a pleasant and affable disposition; geniality
boreal  of or relating to the north; northern; coniferous forest areas of the northern North Temperate Zone
bourgeois  held to be preoccupied with respectability, conformity, and material values (French burgeis citizen of a town)
bourgeoisie  in Marxist theory, the social group opposed to the proletariat in the class struggle; the middle class
bovine  sluggish, dull, and stolid; resembling a ruminant mammal such as an ox, cow, or buffalo
bowdlerize  to expurgate (a book, for example) prudishly
braggadocio  a braggart; empty or pretentious bragging; a swaggering, cocky manner
brandish  to wave or flourish (a weapon, for example) menacingly; to display ostentatiously; see blandish
bravo  (interjective) used to express approval, especially of a performance; (noun) a villain, especially a hired killer
bravura  a showy manner or display; Music: brilliant technique or style in performance (from Italian bravo wild, excellent)
brazen  marked by flagrant and insolent audacity; having a loud, usually harsh, resonant sound; made of brass
brevet  a commission promoting a military officer in rank without an increase in pay
bridle  (verb) to show anger or resentment; take offense
brio  vigor; vivacity (Italian, from Spanish brio or Provençal briu , both of Celtic origin)
brogue  a strong dialectal accent, especially a strong Irish accent (probably from the brogue shoes worn by peasants)
bromide  a commonplace remark or notion; a platitude; a cliché
brougham  a closed four-wheeled carriage with an open driver's seat in front [BROO um, BRO um]
brou-ha-ha  an uproar; a hubbub
bruit  to spread news of; to make (information) generally known; to repeat [broot]
bucolic  pastoral; rustic; of or pertaining to the countryside; rural; characteristic of shepherds or flocks
bullion  gold or silver considered with respect to quantity rather than value
bumpf  printed matter, such as pamphlets, forms, especially of an official nature and deemed of little interest or importance
bumptious  crudely or loudly assertive; pushy
bunco  a swindle or a confidence game (probably from Spanish banca card game, and Italian banca bank)
burgeon  to put forth new buds, leaves, or greenery; sprout; to begin to grow or blossom; to grow and flourish
burnt sienna  a dark reddish orange; a reddish-brown pigment prepared by calcining raw sienna
buxom  healthily plump and ample figured; full-bosomed (archaic: lively, vivacious) (obsolete: obedient, yielding, pliant)

C

cabal  a conspiratorial group of plotters or intriguers; a secret scheme or plot
cabalistic  having a secret or hidden meaning
cabriolet  an automobile with a folding top; a convertible coupe; 2-wheeled, 1-horse carriage, 2 seats, folding top
cachet  a mark or a quality, as of distinction, individuality, or authenticity; seal on a document or letter
cachexia  weight loss, wasting of muscle, loss of appetite, and general debility (occurs during a chronic disease)
cad  an unprincipled, ungentlemanly man
cadge  to beg or get by begging (Middle English cadgear)
cadre  a tightly knit group of zealots who are active in advancing the interests of a revolutionary party
caduceus  a winged staff with two serpents twined around it, carried by Hermes; symbol of the medical profession
calamity  an event that brings terrible loss, lasting distress, or severe affliction; a disaster
calculus  a system or method of calculation or analysis using a special symbolic notation
calico  a coarse, brightly printed cloth; an animal, e.g. a cat having a mottled coat of white with red and black
calliope  a musical instrument fitted with steam whistles and played from a keyboard
callow  lacking adult maturity or experience; immature
calumny  slander; a maliciously false and injurious statement; scandal; libel
cameo  a gem or shell carved with a profile cut in raised relief; a brief, vivid portrayal or depiction
canard  an unfounded or false, deliberately misleading story; a short, winglike control structure of an aircraft
cannonade  a harsh verbal or physical attack; an extended, usually heavy discharge of artillery
canon  an ecclesiastical or secular law, rule, or code of law; an established principle
cant  monotonous talk filled with platitudes; hypocritically pious language; whining speech; specialized jargon
cantankerous  ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable; difficult to handle
capacious  capable of containing a large quantity; spacious or roomy
Cape Flattery  a headland of northwest Washington at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca
capricious  inclination to change one’s mind impulsively or unaccountably
captious  inclined to find fault; intended to entrap, confuse, or perplex; fond of taking exception
carapace  a protective, shell-like covering likened to that of a turtle or crustacean
Caravaggio  Michelangelo; Italian baroque painter; works marked by intense realism and revolutionary use of light
caravansary  an inn built around a large court for accommodating caravans at night in the Near or Far East
caravel  small, light sailing ship with 2 or 3 masts and lateen sails used by Spanish/Portuguese in the 15th/16th century
carbuncle  a painful localized bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue with pussy openings
careerism  pursuit of professional advancement as one's chief or sole aim
carpe diem  seize the day; seize the pleasures of the moment without thought for the future [carpay dee em]
carpetbagger  a Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War for political or financial advantage
carte blanche  unrestricted power to act at one's own discretion; unconditional authority
carvel-planked  a boat built with the hull planks lying flush or edge to edge rather than overlapping
caryatid  a supporting column sculptured in the form of a draped female figure
castrato  a male singer castrated before puberty so as to retain a soprano or alto voice
cataclysm  a violent upheaval that causes great destruction or brings about a fundamental change
cataclyst   a person who precipitates a cataclysmic event without being involved in or changed by the consequences
catacomb  an underground cemetery consisting of chambers or tunnels with recesses for graves
catalyst   somthing that precipitates a process or event without being involved in or changed by the consequences
cataract  a large or high waterfall; a great downpour; a deluge; opacity of the lens of the eye
catechism  a manual or book giving basic instruction in a subject, usually by rote or repetition; e.g. Christianity
caterwaul  to cry or screech like a cat in heat; to make a shrill, discordant sound; to have a noisy argument
catharsis  a release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit
cathartic  inducing catharsis; purgative; an agent for purging the bowels, especially a laxative
catherine wheel  Saint Catherine of Alexandria (died 307 A.D.) was condemned to be tortured on a wheel
cathexis  concentration of emotional energy on an object or idea
catholic  of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive; including or concerning all humankind; universal
cause célèbre  an issue arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate; a celebrated legal case [koze sayLEBra]
cauterize  to burn or sear with a cautery; to deaden, as to feelings or moral scruples; callous
cautery  an instrument used to destroy abnormal tissue by burning, searing, or scarring
cavalier  haughty; disdainful; carefree and gay; offhand
caveat  a warning or caution
caveat emptor  buyer beware; the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying
cavil  to find fault unnecessarily; raise trivial objections; to quibble about; detect petty flaws in; to carp
cayuse  a horse, especially an Indian pony; comes from the name of the Cayuse people in the Pacific Northwest
celerity  swiftness of action or motion; speed
cenotaph  a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere (from Greek kenotaphion empty tomb)
Cenozoic  the latest era of geologic time and modern continents with the diversification of mammals, birds, and plants
censorious  tending to or expressing censure; highly critical
centrifugal  moving or directed away from a center or axis
centripetal  moving or directed toward a center or axis
cerebration  to use the power of reason; think
certitide  the state of being certain; complete assurance; confidence; something that is assured or unfailing
cerulean  (color) azure; sky-blue
cetacean  any of various aquatic, chiefly marine mammals, including the whales, dolphins, and porpoises
cetaceapocentric  interpreting reality exclusively in terms of killer whale values and experience
chaconne  slow stately dance of the 18th century or the music for it (variations of a reiterated harmonic pattern)
chaff  to make fun of in a good-natured way; to engage in playful teasing
chapbook  a small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts
chary  very cautious; wary; not giving or expending freely; sparing (Middle English chari careful, sorrowful)
chatelaine  the mistress of a castle or of a large, fashionable household
chattel  Law: an article of personal, movable property; a slave
chautauqua  movement of adult education, offering a range of cultural, religious, and recreational activies; founded in 1874
chauvinism  prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind; fanatical patriotism
chestnut  an old, frequently repeated joke, story, or song; a reddish-brown horse; an edible nut
chevron  a V-shaped pattern; a military insignia worn on the sleeve consisting of stripes meeting at an angle
chiaroscuro  the technique of using light, dark, and shade in pictorial representation
chic  conforming to the current fashion; stylish; adopting or setting current fashions and styles; sophisticated
chicanery  deception by trickery or sophistry; a trick; a subterfuge
chi-chi  ostentatiously stylish; deliberately chic (French origin)
chignon  a roll or knot of hair worn at the back of the head or especially at the nape of the neck [sheen yon]
chilblain  an inflammation with itchy irritation on the hands, feet, or ears, resulting from exposure to moist cold
chimera  an imaginary monster made up of grotesquely disparate parts
chintz  a printed and glazed cotton fabric, usually of bright colors
chippy  a chipping sparrow; sounding like a bird; a woman prostitute
choleric  easily angered; bad-tempered; showing or expressing anger
chthonian  of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underworld (from Greek khthonios of the earth)
churl  a rude, surly, boorish person; a miserly person (archaic: a medieval peasant)
churlish  boorish or vulgar; having a bad disposition; surly
chutzpah  utter nerve; effrontery (Yiddish) [HOOTSpah]
ciao  used to express greeting or farewell (Italian) [chow]
Cimmerian  very dark or gloomy; one of a mythical people described by Homer as inhabiting a land of perpetual darkness
circadian  relating to or exhibiting approximately 24-hour periodicity
Circe  a goddess who turned Odysseus's men into swine but later gave him directions home [sir see]
circumlocution  the use of unnecessarily wordy and indirect language; evasion in speech or writing; a roundabout expression
circumspect  heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent (Middle English)
clamber  to climb with difficulty, especially on all fours; scramble; a difficult, awkward climb
clambering  of or relating to a plant, often one without tendrils, that sprawls or climbs
clandestine  kept or done in secret, often in order to conceal an illicit or improper purpose [clan DES tin]
clangor  a loud racket; a din; a clang or repeated clanging
clavicle  one of the bones of the pectoral girdle in many vertebrates; collarbone
clement  mild; inclined to be lenient or merciful; see inclement
clerestory  an upper portion of a wall containing windows for supplying natural light to a building; e.g. a church [CLEARstawry]
climacteric  a critical period in a person's life when major changes in health or fortune take place; e.g. menopause
cloisonné  enamelware in which the surface decoration is formed by different colors separated by thin strips of metal
cloy  to cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant; surfeit
cobble  to put together clumsily; bungle; to make or mend (boots or shoes)
coccyx  a small triangular bone at the base of the spinal column in humans and tailless apes; tailbone [cock siks]
cockamamie  trifling; nearly valueless; ludicrous; nonsensical
coda  a passage at the end of a movement or composition that brings it to a formal close
codify  to reduce to a code; to arrange or systematize
codswallop  nonsense; rubbish (origin unknown)
cogent  appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing
cogitation  thoughtful consideration; meditation; a serious thought; a carefully considered reflection
cognate  related by blood; having a common ancestor; related in origin, e.g. words in related languages descended from the same root
cognomen  a family name; a surname; a name, especially a descriptive nickname or epithet acquired over a period of time
cognoscenti  a person with superior, usually specialized knowledge or highly refined taste; a connoisseur (Italian)
cogsugginfugger  expletive favored by Alex Rose
colitis  an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the colon
collate  to assemble in proper numerical/logical sequence; examine and compare to note points of disagreement
collateral  security for a loan; of a secondary nature; subordinate, e.g. collateral damage in a bombing raid
collocate  to place together or in proper order; arrange side by side
collocation  an arrangement or juxtaposition, especially of linguistic elements, such as words; the act of collocating
collude  to act together secretly to achieve a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose; conspire
collusion  a secret agreement between two parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose; conspiracy
colonnade  a series of columns placed at regular intervals; a structure composed of regularly spaced columns
coloratura  florid, ornamental vocal trills and runs; a singer, especially a soprano, specializing in such trills and runs
comely  pleasing and wholesome in appearance; attractive; suitable; seemly
commensurate  corresponding in size or degree; proportionate; of the same size, extent, or duration as another
commingle  to become blended; to cause to blend together; mix
commiserate  to feel or express sorrow or pity for; sympathize with
commissar  an official of the Communist Party in charge of political indoctrination and the enforcement of party loyalty
commissary  a cafeteria in a film or television studio; a person to whom a special duty is given by a higher authority
commode  a movable stand or cupboard containing a washbowl; a chair enclosing a chamber pot; a toilet
commodious  spacious; roomy (archaic: suitable or handy)
commonweal  the public good or welfare (archaic: a commonwealth or republic)
commutative  (mathematics) independent of order; for example, a x b = b x a
complacent  contented to a fault; self-satisfied and unconcerned; eager to please
complicit  associated with or participating in a questionable act or a crime
compos mentis  of sound mind; sane (Latin compos having mastery of + mentis mind)
comptroller  an officer who audits accounts and supervises the financial affairs of a corporation or government body
compunction  a strong uneasiness caused by a sense of guilt; sting of conscience/pang of doubt aroused by prospect of wrongdoing
Conceptualism  art concerned with the intellectual engagement of the viewer through an idea, not the art object itself
concision  the state or quality of being concise (archaic: a cutting apart or off)
conclave  a secret or confidential meeting; the meeting held to elect a new pope
concubine  a woman contracted to a man as a secondary wife, often having few legal rights and low social status
condescending  displaying a patronizingly superior attitude
condign  deserved; adequate; e.g. condign censure
conflagration  a large, destructive fire; the visible signs of combustion (Latin conflagrare to burn up)
conflate  to bring together; meld or fuse; to combine (two variant texts, for example) into one whole
confound  to fail to distinguish; mix up; to cause to become confused or perplexed
confrere  a fellow member of a fraternity or profession; a colleague
congeners  a member of the same kind, class, or group; organisms belonging to the same taxonomic genus
congenital  being an essential characteristic as if by nature; inherent; innate; existing at or before birth
conjugal  of or relating to marriage or the relationship of spouses
conscience  conformity to one’s own sense of right conduct (Latin conscire to know wrong)
Constructivism  nonrepresentational modern art (Moscow 1920) using industrial materials such as glass, metal, plastic
consumption  a progressive wasting of body tissue; pulmonary tuberculosis (no longer in scientific use)
contend  to strive in opposition or against difficulties; to compete, as in a race; vie; to maintain or assert
contingency  the condition of being dependent on chance; uncertainty; something incidental to something else
contingent  possible; liable to occur but not certain; conditional; accidental; a quota; a representative group
contrail  a visible trail of condensed water vapor or ice crystals sometimes forming in the wake of an aircraft
contraindication  a factor that renders the administration of a drug or carrying out a medical procedure inadvisable
contrapposto  the position of a figure in painting in which the hips and legs are turned in a different direction from the head
contretemps  an inopportune occurrence; an unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things (French against time)
contrite  repentant; penitent; expressing or inclined to express an apology
contrition  sincere remorse for wrongdoing; repentance
controvert  to raise arguments against; voice opposition to
contumacious  obstinately disobedient or rebellious; insubordinate
contumely  rudeness or contempt arising from arrogance; insolence; an insolent or arrogant remark or act
convivial  fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable; merry; festive
convoluted  intricate; complicated; having numerous overlapping coils or folds
copacetic  excellent; first-rate (origin unknown: possibly southern Black, jazz term, Cajun, or Yiddish)
coppice  a copse maintained by periodic cutting or pruning to encourage suckering [COPpiss]
coprophilia  an abnormal, often obsessive interest in excrement, especially the use of feces for sexual excitement
copse  a thicket of small trees or shrubs; a coppice
coquette  a woman who makes teasing sexual or romantic overtures; a flirt (French, feminine of coquet, flirtatious man)
coquitlam  means "stinking of fish slime" in the Halq’emeylem native language
cordon sanitaire  a barrier designed to prevent a disease or other undesirable condition from spreading
cornice  a horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building or wall; molding between walls and ceiling
corpulent  excessively fat
corpus  a large collection of specialized writing; in anatomy, the main part of an organ
corroborate  to support or confirm (other evidence)
corrosive  gradually destructive; steadily harmful; spitefully sarcastic
corsair  a pirate, especially along the Barbary Coast; a swift pirate ship, often operating with official sanction
coruscate  to give forth flashes of light; sparkle and glitter; to exhibit sparkling virtuosity
cosset  to pamper; a pet, especially a pet lamb (from Middle English cotsete cottage-dweller)
coterie  a small group with common interests who associate frequently
countenance  appearance, especially the expression of the face; support or approval (obsolete: bearing or demeanor)
coup d'état  the sudden overthrow of a government by a small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority
courtesan  prostitute for wealthy or important men
courtier  one who seeks favor, especially by insincere flattery or obsequious behavior; attendant at a court
couture  the business of designing, making, and selling highly fashionable, usually custom-made womens clothing
couturier  an establishment engaged in couture; one who designs for or owns such an establishment
covenant  a binding agreement; a compact; in the Bible, God's promise to the human race
coverlet  a bedspread
covey  a small flock or group, as of birds or persons
coxcomb  a conceited dandy; a fop (obsolete: a jester's cap, a cockscomb) (from Middle English cokkes comb)
coy  shy, especially affectedly so; given to flirting; reticent or reserved in manner; demure
cracker  used as a disparaging term for a poor white person of the rural, especially southeast United States
crapulence  sickness caused by excessive eating or drinking; excessive indulgence; intemperance
craven  characterized by abject fear; cowardly
crèche  a representation of the Nativity, usually with statues or figurines; a hospital for foundlings; a day nursery [kresh]
credence  acceptance as true or valid; belief; claim to acceptance; trustworthiness; recommendation; credentials
credible  believable; plausible; trustworthy; reliable
credulity  a disposition to believe too readily
credulous  gullible; tending to believe too readily; easily convinced
crenellated  indented; notched; having battlements; a crenelated wall (related to cranny, from Old French cran notch)
crepuscular  of or like twilight; active at twilight (like certain insects)
Crimea  a region and peninsula of southern European USSR on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov
crocodile tears  an insincere display of grief; false tears (crocodiles weep either to attract a victim or when eating one)
crone  an ugly, withered old woman; a hag (French carogne, carrion, cantankerous woman)
crucible  a vessel made of a refractory substance such as graphite or porcelain, used for melting materials at high temperatures
crucible  a place, or time characterized by the confluence of powerful intellectual, social, or political forces
cruelfiction  James Joyce claimed to be bound to the cross of his own cruelfiction
cruft  (also kruft) extraneous messy additions; unimportant filler; see kludge
cryobiology  the study of the effects of very low temperatures on living organisms
cryogenics  of or relating to low temperatures
cryonics  the process of freezing and storing the body of a deceased person to try to bring back to life later
crypt  an underground vault or chamber, especially one beneath a church that is used as a burial place
cullion  a contemptible fellow; a rascal (Middle English coilon testicle)
culpable  deserving of blame or censure as being wrong, evil, improper, or injurious; blameworthy
cummerbund  a broad sash, especially one that is pleated lengthwise and worn as an article of formal dress or dinner jacket
cuneiform  characters formed by the arrangement of small wedge-shaped elements and used in ancient Sumerian text
cupola  a domed roof or ceiling; a small structure surmounting a roof
curmudgeon  an ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions
curragh  Irish boat; a small, rounded boat of waterproof material stretched over a wicker or wooden frame
curriculum vitae  (Latin the race or course of life) a summary of one's education, professional history, and job qualifications
curry favor  to seek or gain favor by fawning or flattery
cursive  having the successive letters joined together; a type style that imitates handwriting
cusp  a point or pointed end; a transitional point or time, as between two astrological signs

D

dago  used as a disparaging term for an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Portuguese
dandle  to move (a small child) up and down on the knees or in the arms in a playful way
dauphin  the eldest son of the king of France from 1349 to 1830; used as a title for such a nobleman
deaccession  to remove and sell works of art from a museum's collection in order to purchase other works of art
dealydangly  appropriate euphemism for the penis
debauchee  a person who habitually indulges in debauchery or dissipation; a libertine
debauchery  extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures; dissipation; debaucheries: orgies
debilitate  to sap the strength or energy of; enervate
decamp  to depart secretly or suddenly; to depart from a camp or camping ground
declaim  to speak loudly and with rhetorical effect; to speak with artificial passion and poor reasoning
declamation  a recitation delivered as an exercise in rhetoric or elocution; vehement oratory
déclassé  lacking high station or birth; of inferior social status; lowered in class, rank, or social position
deconstruction  textual meaning is found only in the various virtual texts constructed by readers in their search for meaning
decorous  marked by decorum; proper
decorum  conformity to social conventions; propriety
decrepit  weakened, worn out, impaired, or broken down by old age, illness, or hard use
de facto  in reality or fact; actual; actually exercising power though not legally or officially established (Latin from fact)
defenestrate  to throw out of a window; see fenestration
deference  submission or courteous yielding to the opinion, wishes, or judgment of another; courteous respect
defibrillate  to stop the fibrillation of (a heart) and restore normal contractions through the use of drugs or an electric shock
degauss  to neutralize the magnetic field of (a ship, for example); to erase information from a magnetic disk
deign  to condescend to give or grant; to descend to a level considered inappropriate to one’s dignity; stoop
deism  the belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it
deleterious  having a harmful effect; injurious
delirium tremens  an acute, sometimes fatal episode of delirium usually caused by withdrawal or abstinence from alcohol
demagogue  a leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace
demimonde  a group whose respectability is dubious or whose success is marginal; a class of women kept by wealthy lovers
demonic  motivated by a spiritual force or genius; inspired; befitting a demon; fiendish
demotic  of or relating to the common people; popular; modern Greek based on colloquial use; Egyptian hieratics
dendrochronology  the study of climate changes and past events by comparing the annual growth rings of trees or old timber
dénouement  the final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot; the outcome of a sequence of events
depenistration  to remove the penis with a kitchen utensil (synonyn to bobbitt)
deracinate  to pull out by the roots; uproot; to displace from one's native or accustomed environment
dereference  Computer Science: to access the contents of a memory location given only its address (a pointer to it)
de rigueur  required by the current fashion or custom; socially obligatory (French of strictness)
derisive  mocking; jeering laughter; ridicule
dervish  one that possesses abundant, often frenzied energy; a member of any of various Moslem ascetic orders
deshabille  the state of being partially or very casually dressed; casual or lounging attire; an intentionally careless manner
desiccate  to make dry, dull, or lifeless; to become dry; dry out
desultory  progressing aimlessly from one thing to another; digressing; random; not methodical; disconnected
detritus  disintegrated or eroded matter; accumulated material; debris; loose fragments worn away from rock
deus ex machina  a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation
deuteragonist  the character second in importance to the protagonist in classical Greek drama
dewlap  a fold or pendulous bit of loose skin hanging from the neck of certain animals; e.g. wattle of a bird
dexterous  skillful in the use of the hands; having mental skill or adroitness
dharma  individual conduct in conformity with the principle or law that orders the universe (Buddhism)
dialectic  the art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments; Marx: change through conflict
diaphanous  of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent; characterized by delicacy of form; vague or insubstantial
diaspora  a dispersion of an originally homogeneous people; Jews outside Palestine or modern Israel
diatonic  of or using only the eight tones of a standard major or minor scale without chromatic deviations
diatribe  a bitter and abusive attack or denunciation
didactic  intended to teach or morally instruct often excessively; moralistic; preachy
diffident  lacking self-confidence; timid; hesitant to assert self
dilatory  intended to delay; tending to postpone or delay; proceeding at a rate less than usual or desired
dilettante  a dabbler in an art or a field of knowledge; an amateur; a lover of the fine arts; a connoisseur
diluvial  of, relating to, or produced by a flood
dipsomania  an uncontrollable craving for alcohol
disaffect  to cause to lose affection or loyalty; estrange
disapprobation  moral disapproval; condemnation
discomfit  to make uneasy or perplexed; disconcert; embarrass; to thwart the plans of; frustrate
disconsolate  seeming beyond consolation; extremely dejected; cheerless; gloomy
discursive  covering a wide field of subjects; rambling; proceeding to a conclusion via reason rather than intuition
dishabille  the state of being partially or very casually dressed; an intentionally careless manner [dis ah BEEL]
disingenuous  crafty; not straightforward; having secret motives; insincere; not candid
disparate  fundamentally distinct or different in kind; entirely dissimilar
disquisition  a formal discourse on a subject, often in writing
disrepute  damage to or loss of reputation; disgrace
dissemble  to disguise the real nature of; to simulate; feign
dissidence  disagreement over opinion or belief; dissent
dissipate  to spend or expend intemperately or wastefully; to cause to lose irreversibly; disperse
dissolute  lacking in moral restraint; wanton
dissonance  discord; lack of harmony or agreement; harsh musical tones suggesting unrelieved tension
distal  anatomically located far from a point of reference, such as an origin or a point of attachment
dither  a state of indecisive agitation; to be nervously irresolute in acting or doing
ditsy  eccentrically scatterbrained or inane
diurnal  relating to or occurring in a 24-hour period; daily; occurring or active during the daytime rather than at night
diva  an operatic prima donna (Latin for goddess)
divagation  to wander or drift about; to ramble; digress
divination  foretelling future events or revealing occult knowledge by means of an alleged supernatural agency
docent  a lecturer or tour guide in a museum or cathedral; a university lecturer but not a regular faculty member
doff  to take off; remove; to tip or remove (one's hat) in salutation; to put aside; discard
dog-and-pony show  an elaborate, circus-like presentation orchestrated to gain approval, as for a policy or product
dog-ear  a turned-down corner of a page in a book; to make worn or shabby from overuse
doggerel  crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature
doleful  filled with or expressing grief; mournful; sad; causing grief
dolorous  anguish; sorrowful; sad; mournful; distressing; painful
donnybrook  an uproar; a free-for-all; from the Donnybrook fair, a suburb of Dublin, and noted for its brawls
doppelganger  a ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshly counterpart (German double goer)
dotage  a deterioration of mental faculties; senility
dote  to show excessive love or fondness
doughty  marked by stouthearted courage
dowdy  lacking stylishness or neatness; shabby; old-fashioned; antiquated; frumpy; e.g. a dowdy gray outfit
doyenne  a woman who is the eldest or senior member of a group
dragoon  to subjugate or persecute by imposition of troops; to compel by violent measures or threats; coerce
dramaturgy  the art of the theater, especially the writing of plays
draw  a small natural depression that water drains into; a shallow gully
dreadnought  a heavily armed battleship; a large steel string guitar
dreck  trash, especially inferior merchandise (German Dreck)
dromedary  an Arabian one-humped domestic camel used as a beast of burden in northern Africa and western Asia
dross  worthless, commonplace, or trivial matter; a waste product or an impurity
dudgeon  a sullen, angry, or indignant humor; e.g. slamming the door, Aunt March drove off in high dudgeon (Louisa May Alcott)
dulcet  pleasing to the ear; melodious; having a soothing, agreeable quality (archaic: sweet to the taste)
duplicitous  given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech
duplicity  deliberate deceptiveness; deceitfulness; hypocritical; cunning; double-dealing
dura mater  the tough fibrous membrane covering the brain, spinal cord, and inner skull surface (Latin for hard mother)
dweeb  a subservient person; a flunky; a despised person
dynamics  branch of mechanics concerned with the effects of (usually) external forces on the motion of bodies
dysgenesis  defective or abnormal development of an organ, especially of the gonads
dyslexia  a learning disorder marked by impairment of the ability to recognize and comprehend written words
dysmenorrhea  painful menstruation
dyspepsia  disturbed digestion; indigestion
dystopia  an imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad

E

ebullient  (noun eboulliancy) zestfully enthusiastic; boiling or seeming to boil; bubbling
éclat  great brilliance, as of performance or achievement; conspicuous success; great acclamation; applause
eclectic  selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles
ectopia  an abnormal location or position of an organ or a body part, occurring congenitally or as the result of injury
ecumenical  of worldwide scope or applicability; universal; of or relating to the worldwide Christian church
ecumenism  a movement seeking to achieve worldwide Christian unity
edema  an excessive accumulation of serous fluid in tissue spaces or a body cavity; swelling in plants
edification  intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement (from Middle English edifien to instruct spiritually)
edify  to instruct so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement (Latin to build)
effete  exhausted of vitality or effectiveness; worn-out; decadent; feeble; lacking vigor or force of character
efficacy  power or capacity to produce a desired effect; effectiveness
effigy  a crude figure or dummy representing a hated person or group; a likeness or image, especially of a person
effluvium  (plural effluvia) byproduct; waste; the odorous fumes given off by decaying matter; an impalpable emanation
effrontery  brazen boldness; presumptuousness; temerity; chutzpah
effusive  unrestrained in emotional expression
e.g.  for example (Latin exempli gratia for the sake of example)
egalitarianism  affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, and civil rights for all
egregious  conspicuously bad or offensive; flagrant; outrageous [eh gree jus]
eisegesis  the interpretation of a text (for example, the bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas; see exegesis
elegiac  pertaining to an elegy; expressing sorrow; mournful
elegy  mournful poem, especially lamenting the dead
emaciate  to make or become extremely thin, especially as a result of starvation
emancipate  to free from bondage, oppression, or restraint; liberate
emasculate  to castrate; to deprive of strength or vigor; weaken
embankment  a mound of earth or stone built to hold back water or to support a roadway
embattled  prepared or fortified for battle or engaged in battle; beset with attackers, criticism, or controversy
emend  to improve (a text) by critical editing
emeritus  retired but retaining an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement
emetic  causing vomiting; an agent that causes vomiting
émigré  one who has left a native country, especially for political reasons
eminent domain  the right of a government to appropriate private property for public use, usually with compensation
empirical  relying on or derived from observation or experiment; guided by practical experience and not theory
empyrean  highest reaches of heaven; firmament; the abode of God and the angels; paradise (Greek empurios fiery)
encaustic  a paint or painting consisting of pigment mixed with beeswax and fixed with heat after its application
encomium  warm, glowing praise; a formal expression of praise; a tribute
endemic  prevalent in or peculiar to a particular locality, region, or people; native to a certain region
endgame  the final stage of an extended process or course of events; the final stage of a chess game
endogamy  marriage within a particular group in accordance with custom or law; Botany: fertilization resulting from pollination
enervate  to deprive of strength or vitality; weaken
enfant terrible  one whose startlingly unconventional behavior or ideas are a source of embarrassment or dismay to others
engender  to bring into existence; give rise to; to procreate; propagate; to come into existence; originate
enigmatic  puzzling; inexplicable; ambiguous
enmity  deep-seated, often mutual hatred
ennui  boredom; listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest [ON-wee]
enology  (also oenology) the study of wine and the making of wine; viticulture
entablature  upper section of a classical building, resting on the columns and constituting the architrave, frieze, and cornice
enteric  of, relating to, or being within the intestine
entreaty  an earnest request or petition; a plea
entomology  the scientific study of insects
entropy  a measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system, or of the loss of info in a transmitted message
envenom  to make poisonous or noxious; to embitter
envoi  (also envoy) the concluding portion of a prose work or a play; a gov’t representative sent on a special mission
enwreathe  to surround with or as if with a wreath
ephemera  printed matter of passing interest; also plural of ephemeron
ephemeral  lasting for a markedly brief time; a markedly short-lived thing
ephemeron  a short-lived thing
epicene  belonging to or having the characteristics of both the male and the female; effeminate; unmanly; neuter
epicentre  a focal point; the point of the earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake
epicure  person with refined taste especially in food and wine; person devoted to sensuous pleasure and luxurious living
epicycle  a circle whose circumference rolls along the circumference of a fixed circle; Ptolemy kludge for geocentricity theory
epidural  (noun) an injection into the epidural space of the spine; (adj.) located on or over the dura mater
epigraphy  the study of inscriptions; decipherment, especially of ancient inscriptions
epigram  a short, witty poem expressing a single thought or observation; a concise, clever, paradoxical saying
epilogue  a short addition or concluding section at the end of a literary work, often dealing with the future of its characters
epiphany  a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something; a sudden intuitive realization
epistolary  of or associated with letters or the writing of letters; being in the form of a letter
epitaph  an inscription on a tombstone or a brief literary piece commemorating a deceased person
epithet  a term used to characterize a person or thing; an abusive or contemptuous word or phrase
epoch  a period of history, especially one considered remarkable or noteworthy; a unit of geologic time less than a Period
epochal  highly significant or important; momentous; without parallel
eponym  a person whose name is thought to be the source of the name of something, such as a city, country, era
equanimity  the quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure
equine  of, relating to, or characteristic of a horse
equinox  either of the two times during a year when the sun crosses the equator (the length of day and night are equal)
equitation  the art and practice of riding a horse (Latin equitare to ride horseback)
eremite  a recluse or hermit, especially a religious recluse
ergo  (Latin) consequently; therefore; hence
ergonomic  the applied science of equipment design intended to reduce operator fatigue and discomfort
ersatz  substitute; artificial; synthetic substance of inferior quality
erstwhile  (adverb) in the past; at a former time; formerly; (adj.) former; e.g. our erstwhile companions
eructation  the act or an instance of belching (Latin eructare to belch)
erudition  extensive learning; scholarship
eschatology  the branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind
eschew  to avoid; shun; to stay away from
escutcheon  a shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms; an ornamental or protective plate, as for a keyhole
esthete  (also spelled aesthete) one who develops a superior appreciation of the beautiful, especially in art
estrange  to make hostile, unsympathetic, or indifferent; alienate
estrus  the periodic state of sexual excitement in the female of most mammals, excluding human beings
estuary  the part of the wide lower course of a river where its current is met by the tides
etc.  and other unspecified things of the same class; and so forth (Latin et and + cetera the rest)
ethicist  a specialist in ethics (the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or members of a profession)
ethnohistory  the scientific study of the development of human cultures; e.g. by analysis of archaeological findings
ethnology  the science that analyzes and compares human cultures, as in social structure, language, religion
ethology  the scientific study of animal behavior, especially as it occurs in a natural environment
ethos  the disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, or culture
etiology  the study of causes or origins; assignment of a cause, an origin, or a reason for something
etymology  the origin, historical development, and ancestry of a linguistic form
eugenics  the study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding
eulogy  tribute honoring a person or thing often just deceased
euphemism  the act or example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for a harsh, blunt, or offensive one
euphonious  pleasing or agreeable to the ear
euphuism  affected elegance of language; literary style, 16th-17th centuries, elaborate alliteration, antitheses, and similes
eurythmics  the art of interpreting musical compositions by rhythmical, free-style bodily movement
evanescent  vanishing or likely to vanish like vapor; transient
eviscerate  to remove the entrails of; disembowel; to take away a vital or essential part of
exacerbate  to increase the severity, violence, or bitterness of
exalted  elevated in rank, character, or status; lofty; sublime; noble; exaggerated; inflated
excarnate  divested of flesh or of a human body; the opposite of incarnate
ex cathedra  the authority derived from one's office or position
excelsior  slender, curved wood shavings used especially for packing (originally a trade name)
excoriate  to tear or wear off the skin of; abrade; to censure strongly; denounce
excrescence  a normal or abnormal outgrowth or enlargement, such as a wart, fingernail, or beard
exculpatory  acting or tending to exculpate (clear of guilt or blame)
execrable  detestable; abhorrent; extremely inferior [EK sih cra bal]
executant  one who performs or carries out, especially a skilled performer
exegesis  critical explanation or analysis of a text, especially the Bible [ek suh JE sis]
exemplary  worthy of imitation; commendable; serving as a model; serving as an illustration; typical
exigency  the state or quality of requiring much effort or immediate action; a pressing or urgent situation; crisis
exogamy  the custom of marrying outside the tribe, family, clan, or other social unit
expeditious  acting or done with speed and efficiency
expiation  to atone or make amends for or make reparation for
explicate  to make clear the meaning of; explain
expurgate  to remove erroneous, vulgar, obscene, or otherwise objectionable material from a book (for example)
extant  still in existence; not destroyed, lost, or extinct; e.g. Homo Sapiens is the only extant hominid

F

Fabian  Fabian Society; committed to gradual rather than revolutionary means for spreading socialist principles
facetious  playfully jocular; humorous; intended to excite laughter or amusement
facile  arrived at without due care, effort, or examination; superficial
factitious  produced artificially rather than by a natural process; lacking authenticity or genuineness
factoid  unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often publicity related
factotum  an employee or assistant who serves in a wide range of capacities
fagarino  an Italian homosexual
fait accompli  an accomplished, presumably irreversible deed or fact (French fact accomplished)
fallacious  deceptive in appearance or meaning; based on fallacy
fallacy  a false idea, notion, belief, or argument
fallow  plowed but left unseeded during a growing season; characterized by inactivity
fantastico  an extremely bizarre person; a ridiculously fantastic individual
farouche  fierce; wild; exhibiting withdrawn temperament and shyness coupled with an air of sullen fey charm
farrago  (also farago) an assortment or a medley; a conglomeration
farrow  a litter of pigs; to give birth to a litter of pigs
fatling  a young animal, such as a lamb or calf, fattened for slaughter
fatuity  smug stupidity; utter foolishness; something that is utterly stupid or silly
fatuous  complacently foolish; inane; vacantly silly vacuously, smugly, and unconsciously foolish; delusive; unreal
faute de mieux  for lack of something better (French lack of better)
fauvism  an early 20th-century French movement in painting marked by the use of bold, distorted forms and vivid colors
faux  artificial; fake
faux-naïf  marked by a false show of innocent simplicity [faux nayEEF]
faux pas  a social blunder (French false step)
fealty  faithfulness or devotion to a person, a cause, or duties; the fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord
febrile  of or having a fever; e.g. James Dean's febrile twitching acting style
feckless  lacking purpose or vitality, ineffective, careless, irresponsible
feculent  full of foul or impure matter; fecal
fecund  capable of producing offspring or vegetation; fruitful; marked by intellectual productivity
felicitate  to offer congratulations to (archaic: to make happy)
felicitous  well chosen; apt; having an agreeable manner or style
felicity  great happiness; bliss; an appropriate and pleasing manner or style
feline  suggestive of a cat, as in suppleness or stealthiness; so slow, deliberate, secret as to be unobserved
fenestration  the design and placement of windows in a building; an opening in the surface of a structure or membrane
feral  revert from a domesticated to an untamed state; wild; savage
ferment  (noun) a state of agitation or of turbulent change or development
fervid  marked by great passion or zeal; extremely hot; burning
festoon  (noun) a string or garland, as of leaves or flowers, suspended in a loop or curve between two points
fetid  having an offensive odor
fetlock  projection above and behind the hoof of a horse or hooved animal
fetter  a chain or shackle for the ankles or feet; something that serves to restrict; a restraint
fetterments  unnecessary or restrictive accouterments
fettle  proper or sound condition; mental or emotional state; spirits; e.g. in fine fettle
feuilletons  the part of a European newspaper devoted to light fiction, reviews; a light, popular work of fiction [foo ya TON]
fey  having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairylike quality; appearing as if under a spell
fiat  an arbitrary order or decree; authorization or sanction; e.g. by government fiat
fibrillation  fine, rapid twitching of individual muscle fibers with little or no movement of the muscle as a whole
fictive  of, relating to, or able to engage in imaginative invention or fiction; not genuine; sham
fiduciary  of or relating to a holding of something in trust for another; held in trust
filial  of, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter; having or assuming the relationship of offspring to parent
filiopietistic  of or relating to an often immoderate reverence for forebears or tradition
finagle  to obtain or achieve by indirect, usually deceitful methods; to cheat; swindle
fin de siécle  end of the century; end of an era
finesse  to handle with a deceptive or evasive strategy; skillful, subtle handling of a situation
firebrand  a person who stirs up trouble or kindles a revolt
firmament  the sky; the vault or expanse of the heavens
fizzbo  a realtor’s petulant, derogatory term for ‘For Sale By Owner’ (FSBO) transactions
flag  (antonym of unflagging) to decline in vigor, strength, or interest; to hang limply; droop; see unflagging
flagellate  to whip or flog; scourge; to punish or impel as if by whipping
flagrante delicto  in the very act; red-handed
flan  a tart with a filling of custard, fruit, or cheese; dessert of firm, smooth custard with caramel syrup
flaneur  an aimless person; a man-about-town; an intellectual trifler; a layabout asshole; a professional lounger
flapdoodle  foolish talk; nonsense; e.g. a Preston Manning speech
flatliner  a business term for an idea or product that shows no sign of life
flatulence  the presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract; self-importance; pomposity
flibbertigibbet  a silly, scatterbrained, or garrulous person
flimflam  nonsense; humbug; a deception; a swindle
flume  an open artificial channel or chute carrying a stream of water, as for furnishing power or conveying logs
flyspeck diddly  something of very little consequence
foment  to stir up, arouse; to induce or elicit (a reaction or emotion)
font  a source of abundance; basin for holy or baptismal water
fop  a man who is preoccupied with and often vain about his clothes and manners; a dandy
foray  a venture or an initial attempt, especially outside one's usual area; a sudden raid or military advance
foreploy  the male tactic of misrepresenting yourself in order to mate with females
forsooth  in truth; indeed (Old English sooth truth or reality)
foundling  a deserted or abandoned child of unknown parentage
fractious  inclined to make trouble; unruly; having a peevish nature; cranky
frag  to wound or kill (a fellow soldier) by throwing a grenade or similar explosive at the victim
fraught  filled with a specified element or elements; marked by distress; upsetting; fully provided
freemasonry  spontaneous fellowship and sympathy among a number of people; institutions, precepts, and rites of the Freemasons
fresco  the art of painting on fresh, moist plaster with pigments dissolved in water; a painting done in this way
frieze  a plain or decorated horizontal part of an entablature between the architrave and cornice
frisson  a moment of intense excitement; a shudder (French friçon a trembling; Latin frigere to be cold)
fugue  pathological amnesiac condition in which one is conscious of one's actions but has no recollection later
fuliginous  sooty; colored by or as if by soot
fulminate  to issue a thunderous verbal attack or denunciation; to explode or detonate
fulsome  offensively flattering or insincere; unctuous; affectedly and self-servingly earnest; abundant; copious
funicular  operated or moved by a cable; of, relating to, or resembling a rope or cord; a cable railway on a steep incline
furlong  unit for measuring distance, equal to 1/8 mile (201 meters) (Old English furh furrow + lang long)
furtive  characterized by stealth; surreptitious; expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty
fuselage  the central body of an aircraft, to which the wings and tail assembly are attached
fusillade  a discharge from firearms, fired simultaneously or in rapid succession; a rapid outburst or barrage
fustian  pretentious speech or writing; pompous language; bombastic; ranting
fustigate  to beat with a club; cudgel; to criticize harshly

G

gadfly  a persistent, irritating critic; a nuisance; one that acts as a provocative stimulus; a goad
gaga  silly; crazy; completely absorbed, infatuated, or excited; senile; doddering
galvanize  to arouse to awareness or action; spur; to stimulate or shock with an electric current; coat with zinc
gambol  to leap about playfully; frolic
gamete  a reproductive cell; a mature sperm or egg capable of fusing with a gamete of the opposite sex
gamine  a homeless girl who roams about the streets; an urchin; a girl or woman of impish appeal [ga meen]
gandy dancer  a railroad worker; an itinerant laborer (origin unknown)
gantry  a mount for a traveling crane consisting of a large bridgelike frame designed to move along tracks
gaol  British variant of jail
garland  a wreath or festoon; a mark of honor or tribute; an accolade; an anthology, as of ballads or poems
garret  a room on the top floor of a house, typically under a pitched roof; an attic (French garite watchtower)
garrotte  strangulation; a cord or wire used for strangling; old method of Spanish execution using an iron collar
garrulous  habitually talkative; chatty, or loquacious; tiresomely talkative; wordy and rambling
gazetteer  a geographic dictionary or index (archaic: a writer for a gazette or a journalist)
genre  a type or class; a category of artistic composition, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content
gentrification  the restoration or upgrading of deteriorated urban property by the middle class (displacing lower class)
genuflect  to touch one knee to the floor or ground, as in worship; to be servilely respectful or deferential; grovel
geodesic  (mathematics) the shortest line between two points on any mathematically defined surface
geodesy  the geologic science of the size and shape of the earth
geomancy  divination by means of lines and figures or by geographic features; divination by signs from the earth
germane  being both pertinent and fitting; relevant
gerrymander  to divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections
gesso  a preparation of plaster of Paris and glue used as a base for low relief or as a surface for painting
gewgaw  a decorative trinket; a bauble
gibber  to prattle and chatter unintelligibly; unintelligible or foolish talk (probably back-formed from gibberish)
gibbous  characterized by convexity; protuberant; having a hump; humpbacked
gidget  a group of adolescent girls, as in a gaggle of geese
gimcrack  a cheap and showy object of little or no use; a gewgaw; cheap and tasteless; gaudy
glabrous  having no hairs, projections, or pubescence; smooth
glitterati  highly fashionable celebrities; the smart set
gloaming  twilight; dusk (Old English)
glottis  the opening between the vocal cords at the upper part of the larynx; the vocal apparatus of the larynx
gnomes  one of a fabled race of dwarflike creatures who live underground and guard treasure hoards [nome]
gnomic  marked by aphorisms; aphoristic; e.g. gnomic verse, a gnomic style
gobbledegook  unclear, wordy jargon (imitative of the gobbling of a turkey)
goiter  an enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a swelling at the front of the neck (iodine deficiency)
gonif  (also ganef or ganof) a thief, scoundrel, or rascal (Yiddish/Hebrew origin)
gonzo  an exaggerated, subjective, bizarre, self-indulgent style of journalism; bizarre; unconventional
Gorgon  a woman regarded as ugly or terrifying; woman with snakes for hair and eyes that turn the beholder to stone
gormandize  to eat or devour food gluttonously; gorge
gormless  (British expression) lacking intelligence and vitality; dull
gott im himmel  (German) god in heaven; good christ; holy shit
gouaches  a method of painting with opaque watercolors mixed with a preparation of gum [gwash or gooASH]
gourmand  a lover of good food; gourmet; a gluttonous eater; one who enjoys food in great quantities
gout  disturbance of metabolism occurring predominantly in males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints
goy  a disparaging term for one who is not a Jew
gracile  (noun gracility) gracefully slender; graceful (from Latin gracilis)
Grand Guignol  drama that emphasizes the horrifying or the macabre (also a theatre in Paris) [grawn geeNYOL]
grandiloquence  pompous or bombastic eloquence; speaking loftily
gratuitous  unnecessary or unwarranted; unjustified; given or received without cost or obligation; free; unearned
Great Basin  a large area of the US southwest where no water drains to the ocean; includes most of Nevada and parts of UT, ID, CA, & OR
grievous  causing grief, pain, or anguish; serious or dire; grave; e.g. grievous angel
grift  money made dishonestly, as in a swindle; a swindle or confidence game
grisaille  a style of monochromatic painting in shades of gray, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture [griZIE]
grunge  filth; dirt; one that is dirty, inferior, obnoxious, or boring (back-formation from grungy)
gubernatorial  of or relating to a governor
guileless  free of guile; artless; naive
guinea  a disparaging term for an Italian or a person of Italian descent
gurney  a metal stretcher with wheeled legs, used for transporting patients
gustatory  of or relating to the sense of taste

H

habitué  a person who frequents a particular place offering a specific pleasurable activity [ha BITCH oo eh]
hagiography  biography of saints; a worshipful or idealizing biography
hair shirt  a coarse haircloth garment worn next to the skin by religious ascetics as penance
halation  an area of glow or spreading of light around a bright object on a television screen or a photographic image
halcyon  calm and peaceful; tranquil; prosperous; golden; mythical bird (kingfisher)
harangue  tirade; a long, pompous, blustering, or scolding speech
harbinger  one that indicates or foreshadows what is to come; a forerunner
harlequin  a buffoon of the commedia dell'arte, traditionally presented in a mask and parti-colored tights; a clown; a buffoon
Harpy  Greek Mythology: monster with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail, wings, and talons of a bird
harridan  a woman regarded as scolding and vicious (from French haridelle, gaunt woman, old horse, nag)
harum-scarum  lacking a sense of responsibility; reckless; with abandon; recklessly (French hare to frighten + scare)
haute couture  the creation of exclusive fashions for women; the fashions created or the top designers
haute cuisine  elaborate or skillfully prepared food, especially that of France
hauteur  haughtiness in bearing and attitude; arrogance (French haut high)
hearth  the floor of a fireplace, usually extending into a room and paved with brick, flagstone, or cement
hector  (verb) to intimidate or dominate in a blustering way; to behave like a bully; swagger; (noun) a bully
hedonic  of, relating to, or marked by pleasure or hedonism (from Greek hedonikos pleasure) see anhedonia
hegemony  predominance of one state over all others [he GEM ony]
heifer  a young female cow, especially one that has not yet given birth to a calf or been mated
heinous  grossly wicked or abominable
heliopolitan   a citizen of the heliopolis, considered by ancient greeks to be the center of universe; around a helioploitan the sun revolves
heliotherapy  medical therapy involving exposure to sunlight
heliotrope  any of various plants that turn toward the sun (Greek helio sun tropos turn); color: light violet to reddish purple
helter-skelter  in disorderly haste; confusedly; pell-mell; turmoil; confusion; haphazardly
hematoma  a localized swelling filled with blood resulting from a break in a blood vessel
heraldry  a branch of knowledge dealing with the history and description of armorial bearings and their accessories
herbivore  an animal that feeds chiefly on plants
herky-jerky  spasmodic, irregular, and unpredictable, as in movement or manner (reduplication of jerky)
hermaphrodite  one having the reproductive organs and many of the secondary sex characteristics of both sexes
hermeneutics  the science and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text
hermetic  completely sealed, insulated against or resistant to outside influences
herpetologist  the branch of zoology that deals with reptiles and amphibians
heterodox  not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma
heterogeneous  consisting of dissimilar elements or parts; not homogeneous
hiatus  a gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity
hidebound  stubbornly prejudiced, narrow-minded, or inflexible
hieratic  extremely formal or stylized, as in a work of art; of or associated with sacred persons; sacerdotal [highuhRATic]
higgledy-piggledy  in utter disorder or confusion
highbinder  a corrupt politician; a member of a Chinese-American secret society of paid assassins and blackmailers
highfalutin  pompous or pretentious (possible origin: from verb flute, high-fluting as in a comical indictment)
hinterland  the land directly adjacent to and inland from a coast; a region remote from urban areas; backcountry
hippodrome  an arena for equestrian shows; a stadium with an oval course for horse/chariot races in ancient Greece/Rome
hirsute  covered with hair; hairy (Botany: covered with stiff or coarse hairs)
historicize  to make or make appear historical; to use historical details or materials
hoary  gray or white with or as if with age; so old as to inspire veneration; ancient
hocus pocus  (origin) mocking pronunciation of hoc set corpus meun (Latin this is my body) spoken by Catholic priests during service
Hollywooden  a real stinker of a movie with full Hollywood excess; e.g. Robin Hood starring Kevin Kostner
holophrastic  polysynthetic; expressing a complex of ideas in a single word or in a fixed phrase
homeboy  a male friend or acquaintance from one's hometown or neighborhood; a fellow gang member
homiletics  the art of preaching; singular: relating to or of the nature of a homily
homily  a tedious moralizing lecture or admonition; a sermon on a practical (not a theological) matter
hominid  a primate of the family of which Homo Sapiens is the only extant species
hominoid  of or belonging to the superfamily which includes apes and human beings
homo habilis  an extinct hominid; the first one to make tools; lived 1.5 to 2 million years ago
homologous  corresponding or similar in position, value, structure, or function
honorarium  payment given to a professional for services for which fees are not legally or traditionally required
honorific  a title, phrase, or grammatical form conveying respect, used especially when addressing a social superior
hors de combat  out of action; disabled
horsey  large and clumsy; of, relating to, or resembling horses or a horse; devoted to horses and equitation
hubba-hubba  used to express approval, pleasure, or excitement
hubris  overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance (Greek excessive pride)
husband  (verb) to use sparingly or economically; conserve; e.g. husband one's energy
huzzah  (interjective) used to express joy, encouragement, or triumph; (noun) a cheer
hydrology  scientific study of properties, distribution, and effects of water on the earth's surface and atmosphere
hydrophobia  an abnormal fear of water; rabies
hyperbola  a plane curve formed by the intersection of a plane with both halves of a right circular cone
hyperbole  intentional exaggerated statement often used as a figure of speech
hypoxia  deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching body tissues

I

ichor  Greek Mythology: the rarefied fluid said to run in the veins of the gods; discharge from a wound or ulcer
ichthyology  the branch of zoology that deals with the study of fishes [ik thee OL uh gee]
iconoclast  one who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions
iconography  a set of specified or traditional symbolic forms associated with the subject or theme of a stylized work of art
ideograph  (also ideogram) to pictorially represent an idea without words; e.g. the No Smoking symbol
ideologue  an advocate of a particular ideology, especially an official exponent of that ideology
idolatrous  given to blind or excessive devotion to something
ignoble  not having a noble character or purpose; dishonorable; common; not of the nobility
ignominious  despicable; degrading; humiliating; characterized by dishonor
ignominy  great personal dishonor or humiliation; shameful or disgraceful action, conduct, or character [IG nuh miny]
ilk  type or kind
imbroglio  a difficult or intricate situation; an entanglement; a confused or complicated disagreement
immemorial  reaching beyond the limits of memory, tradition, or recorded history
immolate  to kill as a sacrifice; to kill (oneself) by fire; to destroy
immure  to confine within or as if within walls; imprison; to build or entomb into a wall
immutable  not subject or susceptible to change
impasto  the application of thick layers of pigment to a canvas or other surface in painting
impecunious  lacking money; penniless
impenitent  not penitent; unrepentant
imperious  arrogantly domineering or overbearing; dictatorial; urgent; pressing (obsolete: regal; imperial)
imperturbable  unshakably calm and collected
impervious  incapable of being penetrated; incapable of being affected; see pervious
implacable  not capable of being pacified, appeased, or altered
impolitic  not wise or expedient; see politic
importunate  troublesomely urgent or persistent in requesting; pressingly entreating [imPORchuh nit]
imposture  the act or instance of engaging in deception under an assumed name or identity
impresario  one who sponsors or produces entertainment; the director of an opera company; a manager or producer
imprimatur  official approval or license to print or publish, especially under conditions of censorship; sanction [impruhMAYtoor]
Impressionism  a style of painting originating in France during the 1870's; concentration on the immediate visual impression
improvisatory  made up without preparation; improvised; of or relating to improvisation
impudence  (adverb impudicious) the quality of being offensively bold; offensively bold behavior
impunity  exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm
in camera  in secret; privately; Law: in private with a judge rather than in open court
incarnadine  (adj.) flesh-colored, blood-red; (verb) to make incarnadine, especially to redden
incarnate  invested with bodily nature and form; embodied in human form; personified; the opposite of excarnate
incendiary  causing or capable of causing fire; tending to inflame; inflammatory
inchoate  incipient; in an initial or early stage
incipient  beginning to exist or appear
incivility  the quality or condition of being uncivil, discourteous, or rude
inclement  stormy; showing no clemency; unmerciful; see clement
inconsolable  impossible or difficult to console; despondent
incontrovertible  impossible to dispute; unquestionable
incorrigible  incapable of being corrected or reformed; firmly rooted; difficult or impossible to control or manage
increpit  weakened, worn out, impaired, or broken down by virtue of genetic legacy
incubus  an evil spirit believed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with women as they sleep; a nightmare
inculcate  to instill; to teach or impress by frequent urging or repetition
inculturation  to drink large quantities of liquor in honor of the indigenous peoples’ response to the white man; see acculturation
indefatigable  incapable or seemingly incapable of being fatigued; tireless
indenture  a contract binding one party into the service of another for a specified term
indigenous  originating and growing or living in an area or environment; intrinsic; innate; native
indigent  experiencing want or need; impoverished; a needy or destitute person
individuation  (Jung) integration and unification of the self through the resolution of successive layers of psychological conflict
indolent  habitually lazy; disinclined to work; a disposition to avoid exertion
indurate  to make hard; harden; to inure, as to hardship or ridicule; to make callous or obdurate
inebriate  to make drunk; intoxicate; to exhilarate or stupefy as if with alcohol; an intoxicated person
ineffable  incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable; not to be uttered; taboo
ineluctable  inevitable; not to be avoided, overcome, or escaped
inestimable  of immeasurable value or worth; invaluable; impossible to estimate or compute; incalculable
inexorable  not capable of being persuaded by entreaty; relentless; firmly, often unreasonably immovable
infamy  evil fame or reputation; an evil or criminal act that is publicly known
infernal  of or relating to a lower world of the dead; of or relating to hell; fiendish; diabolical; abominable
infidel  one who doubts or rejects a particular doctrine, system, or principle; one who has no religious beliefs
inflection  alteration in pitch or tone of the voice; an alternation of the form of a word by adding affixes
infrastructure  the basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society
ingénue  an artless, innocent girl or young woman; an actress playing such a role (Latin ingenuus ingenuous)
ingenuous  without sophistication; artless; candid; straightforward; see disingenuous
inglorious  dishonorable; shameful; not glorious
inimical  harmful; adverse; unfriendly; hostile; in opposition; unfavorable
inimitable  defying imitation; matchless
innumerate  unfamiliar with mathematical concepts and methods; a person unfamiliar with mathematical concepts
inscrutable  enigmatic; difficult to understand or fathom; obscure; mysterious
insensate  lacking sensation or awareness; inanimate; unconscious; lacking sensibility; unfeeling
insigne  (also insignia , Latin plural) a badge of office, rank, membership, or nationality; an emblem
insipid  lacking flavor or zest; not tasty; lacking excitement, stimulation, spirit, originality, or interest; dull
in situ  in the original position (Latin in place)
insoluble  difficult or impossible to solve or explain; insolvable; cannot be dissolved
insouciant  marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant
in stir  in prison (slang, origin unknown)
insular  isolated; narrow-minded; limited; parochial; provincial
insurgent  one that revolts against civil authority; a member of a political party who rebels against its leadership
intemperate  not temperate or moderate; excessive, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages
interdict  to confront and halt the activities, advance, or entry of; (noun) a prohibition by court order
interlocutor  someone who takes part in a conversation, often formally or officially
interminable  tiresomely long; endless; having no apparent limit; wearisome
internecine  mutually destructive conflict within a group; deadly to both sides
internist  a physician specializing in internal medicine
interregnum  the interval of time between the end of a sovereign's reign and the accession of a successor
interstice  a space, especially a small or narrow one, between things or parts
intervale  a tract of low-lying land, especially along a river (New England word)
intimate  (verb) to make known subtly and indirectly; to announce; proclaim
intractable  difficult to manage or govern; stubborn
intransigent  uncompromising; refusing to moderate an extreme position
intrepid  resolutely courageous; fearless; brave; heroic
inure  to habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection; accustom
inveigh  to give vent to angry disapproval; protest vehemently (Latin invehi to attack with words)
inveigle  to win over by coaxing, flattery, or artful talk; to obtain by cajolery
inverness  a long, loose overcoat with a detachable cape having a round collar
investiture  the act or formal ceremony of conferring the authority and symbols of a high office; an adornment or a cover
inveterate  firmly and long established; deep-rooted; persisting in an ingrained habit; habitual; chronic
invidious  tending to rouse ill will, animosity, or resentment; containing or implying a slight; envious
invigilate  to supervise an exam
in vino veritas  (Latin) truth in wine
inviolable  secure from violation or profanation; impregnable to assault or trespass; invincible
involute  intricate; complex; to return to a normal or former condition; to curl inward
iota  the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet; a very small amount; a bit
ipso facto  by the fact itself; by that very fact (Latin ipse itself + factum fact)
ipso jure  by the law itself (Latin)
irascible  easily angered; prone to temper tantrums
ire  anger; wrath
irony  incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs
irreconcilable  incapable of being reconciled; incompatible; incongruous
irrefragable  impossible to refute or controvert; indisputable
irremediable  irreparable; incurable
irreparable  impossible to repair, rectify, or amend
irresolute  unsure of how to act or proceed; undecided; lacking in resolution; indecisive
irrevocable  impossible to retract or revoke
ithyphallic  having the penis erect, used of graphic and sculptural representations; lascivious; salacious

J

jackanapes  a conceited or impudent person; a mischievous child (Middle English nickname for Jack Napis)
jag  a bout of drinking or drug use; a period of overindulgence in an activity; a spree; a binge; a tear
jape  (verb) to joke or quip, to make sport of; (noun) a joke or quip (from Old French japer to yap, chatter, nag) [jaype]
jejune  childish; immature; not interesting; insubstantial; puerile; lacking in nutrition [jah JOON]
jeremiad  a literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom
jerrybuild  to build shoddily, flimsily, and cheaply
jeté  a leap in ballet in which one leg is extended forward and the other backward
jihad  a Moslem holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels; a crusade or struggle
jingoism  extreme nationalism characterized especially by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism
jocular  characterized by joking; given to joking
jocund  blithe; cheerful; merry; gay
journeyman  an experienced and competent but undistinguished worker; a post-apprenticeship qualified worker
jubilee  a specially celebrated anniversary, especially a 50th anniversary; an occasion of joyful celebration
judicious  having or exhibiting sound judgment; prudent (does not mean plentiful)
juggernaut  a massive advancing force or object that crushes anything in its path
juju  an object used as a fetish, charm, or an amulet in West Africa; the supernatural power ascribed to it

K

kachina  deified ancestral spirit of the Pueblo Indians; a carved doll in the costume of a particular spirit
katzenjammer  a state of depression or bewilderment; a hangover; a loud noise (German katze cat + jammer wailing)
keen  (noun) a loud, wailing lament for the dead; (verb) to wail in lamentation, especially for the dead
kibbutz  a collective farm or settlement in modern Israel
kibitz  to look on and offer unwanted, usually meddlesome advice to others; to chat; converse
kibosh  a checking or restraining element; e.g. put the kibosh on a poorly conceived plan
kideo  video or TV for kids (kid + (vid)eo); also kidvid and kidcom (kid + (sit)com)
kike  disparaging term for a Jew
kilter  good condition; proper form
kinematics  branch of mechanics that studies the motion of bodies but ignores mass and forces acting on it; see dynamics
kismet  fate; fortune (Turkish, from Persian qismat, from Arabic qismah)
kitsch  art or artwork characterized by sentimental, often pretentious bad taste
kleptomania  an obsessive impulse to steal regardless of economic need
klezmer  a traditionally itinerant Jewish folk musician of eastern Europe performing in a small band at weddings
kludge  a usually workable but makeshift and inelegant system, modification, solution, or repair
klutz  a person regarded as stupid or clumsy (Yiddish)
kow tow  the act of kneeling and touching the forehead to the ground; an obsequious act; to show servile deference
kudos  acclaim or prestige in recognition of achievement
kvetch  to complain persistently and whiningly; a chronic, whining complainer (Yiddish)

L

labile  open to change; adaptable; Chemistry: constantly undergoing or likely to undergo change; unstable
labret  an ornament inserted into a perforation in the lip
lachrymose  weeping or inclined to weep; tearful; causing or tending to cause tears
lackadaisical  lacking spirit, liveliness, or interest; languid
laconic  terse; sparing of words; brief to the point of curtness
lacuna  an empty space or a missing part; a cavity, space, or depression, especially in a bone
lacustrine  of or relating to lakes; living or growing in or along the edges of lakes [la KUS trin]
la-di-da  affectedly genteel; pretentious (perhaps onomatopoetically imitative of affected speech)
laity  nonprofessionals; lay people of a religious group as opposed to its clergy
Lakota  the largest and westernmost of the Sioux peoples, made up of seven groups (Oglala, Hunkpapa, etc.)
lambent  flickering lightly over or on a surface; effortlessly light or brilliant; having a gentle glow; luminous
languid  lacking energy or vitality; showing little or no spirit or animation; listless; lacking vigor or force
languor  a dreamy, lazy mood or quality; lack of physical or mental energy; oppressive quiet or stillness
lateen  Nautical: rigged with a triangular sail hung on a long yard that is attached at an angle to the top of a short mast
lapidary  working with precious stones; marked by conciseness, precision, refinement of expression; e.g. lapidary prose
largesse  generosity of spirit or attitude; liberality in bestowing gifts, especially in a lofty or condescending manner
lascivious  exciting sexual desires; salacious; given to or expressing lust; lecherous
lassitude  a state or feeling of weariness, diminished energy, or listlessness; lethargy
laudanum  a tincture of opium, formerly used as a drug
leaven  an element, influence, or agent that works subtly to lighten, enliven, or modify a whole; catalyst
lechery  excessive indulgence in sexual activity; lewdness
lector  a person who reads aloud certain of the scriptural passages used in a church service; school lecturer
leitmotif  (also leitmotiv) a dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel (or musical passage)
leonine  of, relating to, or characteristic of a lion
lepidopterist  an entomologist specializing in the study of butterflies and moths
leviathan  something unusually large of its kind, especially a ship; a very large animal, especially a whale
lewd  preoccupied with sex and sexual desire; lustful; obscene; indecent (obsolete: wicked)
lexicography  the process or work of writing or compiling a dictionary
lexicon  a stock of terms used in a particular profession, subject, or style; a vocabulary
libertarian  one who believes in freedom of action and thought; one who believes in free will
libertine  one who acts without moral restraint; one who defies established religious precepts; a freethinker
licentious  lacking moral discipline or ignoring legal restraint, especially in sexual conduct; no regard for rules
ligation  the act of binding or of applying a ligature; the state of being bound; something that binds
ligature  a thread, wire, or cord used in surgery to close vessels or tie off ducts; group of musical notes intended as a unit
lightsome  providing light; luminous; light, nimble, or graceful in movement; cheerful; frivolous; silly
Limbo  the abode of just or innocent souls excluded from the beatific vision but not condemned to further punishment
limelight  an early type of stage light in which lime was heated to incandescence producing brilliant illumination
limn  to describe; to depict by painting or drawing; to represent
limpid  characterized by transparent clearness; calm and untroubled; serene; easily intelligible; clear; pellucid
limousine liberal  a politically liberal person insulated from the vicissitudes of life by wealth
linchpin  a central cohesive element; locking pin inserted in a shaft or axle, to prevent a wheel from slipping off
lingua franca  a medium of communication between peoples of different languages
litany  a repetitive or incantatory recital; a liturgical prayer with fixed responses by a congregation
lithe  readily bent; supple; marked by effortless grace
liturgy  a prescribed form or set of forms for public Christian ceremonies; ritual; sacrament of the Eucharist
livery  a distinctive uniform worn by male servants of a household; the boarding and care of horses for a fee
livid  ashen or pallid; extremely angry; furious; discolored, as from a bruise; black-and-blue
locum tenens  a person, especially a physician or cleric, who substitutes temporarily for another
locution  a word, phrase, or expression used by a particular person or group; style of speaking; phraseology
loll  ( lolling) to move, stand, or recline in an indolent or relaxed manner; to hang or droop laxly
lollapalooza  something outstanding of its kind (origin unknown)
lollygag  to waste time by puttering aimlessly; dawdle
lookey-loo  curiosity seekers of lurid material; e.g. Hollywood drive-by tours of Nicole Simpson’s home
loquacious  very talkative; garrulous
louche  of questionable taste or morality
lubricious  having a slippery or smooth quality; shifty or tricky; lewd; wanton; sexually stimulating; salacious
lucid  easily understood; intelligible; mentally sound; sane or rational; translucent or transparent
lucre  money or profits (often a pejorative term); lucrative is derived from lucre
lugubrious  mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree
lui-même  him also; me also; as it is for you, so it is for me as well (French)
luminescence  the emission of light that does not derive energy from the temperature of the emitting body
lumpen  dispossessed people cut off from the class with which they are identified; boorish or unenlightened
lumpenproletariat  the lowest, most degraded stratum of the proletariat who lack class consciousness (criminals, vagrants etc.)
lupine  characteristic of or resembling a wolf; rapacious; ravenous (from Latin lupus wolf)
lurid  horrible; gruesome; stressing violence or sensational elements; shockingly repellent; hideous; grisly
lush  luxurious; opulent; extremely pleasing to the senses; overelaborate or extravagant, e.g. lush rhetoric
lycanthropy  (also licanthropia) in folklore, the magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a (were)wolf
lyceum  a hall in which lectures or concerts are presented; an organization sponsoring them

M

macabre  suggesting the horror of death and decay; gruesome (from Old French Danse Macabre dance of death)
machination  a crafty scheme or cunning design for the accomplishment of a sinister end; the act of plotting
machismo  a strong sense of masculinity stressing physical courage, virility, domination of women, and aggressiveness
maelstrom  a violent or turbulent situation; a large violent whirlpool (Dutch malen to grind + stroom stream)
maenad  Greek Mythology: a woman member of the orgiastic cult of Dionysus; a frenzied woman
magnanimous  generous and noble, especially in forgiving
magniloquent  lofty and extravagant in speech; grandiloquent
magnum opus  a great work, especially a literary or artistic masterpiece
maillot  a coarsely knitted, stretchable jersey fabric; a pair of ballet/gymnastic tights of such fabric [mayo]
majordomo  the head steward or butler in the household of a sovereign or great noble; one who manages affairs of another
maladroit  marked by a lack of adroitness; inept; awkward; an inept person
malapropism  ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound
malefactor  one that has committed a crime; a criminal; an evildoer [MAL uh factor]
malefic  having or exerting a malignant influence; evil; malicious
maleficent  harmful or evil in intent or effect
malevolent  having or exhibiting ill will; wishing harm to others; malicious; having an evil or harmful influence
malfeasant  misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official
malodorous  having a bad odor; foul
Mammon  material wealth regarded as having an evil influence; riches personified as a false god in the Bible
mandarin  a high-ranking public official such as an assistant deputy minister (from the Sanskrit for toady)
Manichaeism  dualistic philosophy dividing the world between good and evil; regarding matter as evil and mind as intrinsically good
manifest  clearly apparent to the sight or understanding; obvious; to show plainly; evident
Manifest Destiny  19th-century doctrine that the US had the right and duty to expand throughout North America
manifold  of many and diverse kinds; having many features or forms; a pipe with several connected openings
mano a mano  a face-to-face confrontation or competitive struggle; a bullfight in which two rival matadors take turns
manqué  (adj.) unfulfilled or frustrated in the realization of one's ambitions or capabilities; e.g. an artist manqué [mong KAY]
mansard  a roof with two slopes on all 4 sides, the lower slope almost vertical and the upper almost horizontal
manse  a cleric's house and land, especially the residence of a Presbyterian minister; a large, stately residence
mantic  of, relating to, or having the power of divination; prophetic (Greek mantikos from mantis seer)
maquette  a usually small model of an intended work, such as a sculpture or piece of architecture
maroon Cletis Stanley illegitimate offspring of famous people
martinet  an obsessively rigid disciplinarian ruling over a small or largely imaginary kingdom
matron  a married woman or a widow, especially a mother of dignity, mature age, established social position
maven  a person (of either sex) who has special knowledge or experience; an expert (Yiddish and Hebrew origins)
mawkish  excessively and objectionably sentimental; sickening or insipid in taste
mazappa   legendary group of poor itinerant poets and musicians; north american gypsies
mea culpa  an acknowledgment of a personal error or fault
medusa  the tentacled, usually bell-shaped, free-swimming sexual stage in the life cycle of a coelenterate (jellyfish)
Medusa  Greek Mythology: the Gorgon who was killed by Perseus; see Gorgon
melioration  the linguistic process by which a word grows more elevated in meaning or more positive in connotation
mellifluous  flowing with sweetness or honey; smooth and sweet
memoriousness  having a good memory, mindful of; memorable
mendacity  a lie; a falsehood; untruthfulness
mendicant  a beggar, depending on alms for a living; practicing begging; a friar forbidden to own property
mensch  a person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose (Yiddish)
mens rea  criminal intent (Latin for guilty mind)
mercantilism  political economy in Europe after feudalism; i.e. bullion accumulation, colonization, merchant marine
mercurial  quick and changeable in temperament; volatile; eloquence; shrewdness; swiftness; thievishness
meretricious  attracting attention in a vulgar manner; plausible but false or insincere; specious (Latin of prostitutes)
meritocracy  a system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement
meshuga  crazy; senseless (Yiddish)
mesomorphic  a state of matter intermediate between liquid and crystal; a robust, muscular body build
metastasis  secondary cancerous growth formed by transmission of cancerous cells from a primary growth
métier  work or activity for which a person is particularly suited; one's specialty; forte; an occupation or profession
mettle  courage and fortitude; spirit; inherent quality of character and temperament
mewl  to cry weakly; whimper
miasma  a poisonous atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and putrid matter and cause disease
mici zibi  means "large river" in Chippewa native language; Mississippi river name derived from it
mick  disparaging term for an Irish person
microcosm  a small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution or configuration
micturate  to urinate (from Latin micturire to want to urinate)
midden  a dunghill or refuse heap
millenarian  of or relating to a thousand, especially to a thousand years; one who believes the millennium will occur
mimesis  the imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world, especially human actions, in literature and art
Minimalism  art that emphasizes extreme simplification of form, objectivity, and anonymity of style
minion  an obsequious follower; a sycophant; a subordinate official; one who is highly esteemed or favored; a darling
minutiae  (singular minutia) a small or trivial detail [mi NOO sha]
misanthrope  one who hates or mistrusts humankind
miscegenation  a mixture of different races; sexual relations or marriage involving persons of different races
miscreant  an evildoer; a villain; an infidel; a heretic
mise en scène  the arrangement of performers and properties on a stage for a theatrical production (French putting on stage)
missal  a prayer book, especially Catholic prayers and responses for celebrating the Mass throughout the year
missive  a written message
mistral  a dry, cold northerly wind that blows in squalls toward the Mediterranean coast of southern France
mobocracy  the mass of common people as the source of political control (coined by Frank Lloyd Wright)
modicum  a small, moderate, or token amount
modus operandi  a method of operating or functioning; a person's manner of working
modus vivendi  a manner of living; a way of life; temporary agreement between contending parties pending final settlement
moil  to toil; slave; to churn about continuously (from Middle English moillen to soften by wetting)
mollify  to calm in temper or feeling; soothe; to lessen in intensity; temper; to reduce the rigidity of; soften
monolith  a large block of stone (or suggestive of one), as in immovability, massiveness, or uniformity
monomania  pathological obsession or enthusiasm for one idea or subject, as in paranoia
moot  (noun) a hypothetical case argued by law students as an exercise; (verb) to discuss or debate; to broach
mordant  biting; sarcastic; cutting; caustic; incisive; trenchant
morganatic  a legal marriage between a person of royal or noble birth and a partner of lower rank, with no partner inheritance
moribund  at the point of death
mote  a very small particle; a speck (archaic: may or might) (Middle English)
motile  moving or having the power to move spontaneously
mot juste  exactly the right word or expression (French for word right)
moue  a small grimace; a pout [moo]
moulder  (also molder) to crumble to dust; disintegrate; to cause to crumble
mountebank  peddler of quack remedies; impostor; swindler; a flamboyant charlatan
muesli  a mixture of usually untoasted rolled oats and dried fruit, often used as a breakfast cereal (German origin)
mufti  civilian dress, especially when worn by one who normally wears a uniform; a Moslem scholar
mulrooned  the abandonment of a country after being crippled by its leader
multifarious  having great variety; diverse; versatile
multipartite  divided into many parts; involving more than two nations or parties; multilateral
mummer  a masked or costumed merrymaker, especially at a festival; one who acts or plays in a pantomime
munificent  very liberal in giving; generous; showing great generosity
mustang  a small, hardy wild horse of the North American plains, descended from Arabian horses brought by Spanish
mutable  capable of or subject to change or alteration; prone to frequent change; inconstant
mutatis mutandis  the necessary changes having been made; having substituted new terms (Latin to change)
mythomania  a compulsion to embroider the truth, engage in exaggeration, or tell lies

N

nacre  mother-of-pearl; the pearly internal layer of certain mollusk shells, used to make decorative objects [NAYker]
nacreous cloud  a cloud resembling a cirrus, showing iridescent coloration when the sun is several degrees below the horizon
nadir  the lowest point
naif  (a variant of naive) lacking worldliness and sophistication; artless; simple and credulous as a child; ingenuous
narcoleptic  a disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep
nascent  coming into existence; emerging
nativity  birth, especially the conditions or circumstances of being born
nebbish  a person regarded as weak-willed or timid (Yiddish)
necropolis   a cemetery, especially a large and elaborate one belonging to an ancient city
née  used to indicate the maiden name of a married woman; formerly known as; Mrs. Mary Parks, née Case
nefarious  infamous by way of being extremely wicked
nemesis  an unbeatable rival, avenger, one that is the cause of retributive justice or vengeance
Neolithic  the cultural period beginning around 10,000 BC; agriculture and polished stone implements developed
nephritic  of or relating to the kidneys; renal
ne plus ultra  the highest point, as of excellence or achievement; the ultimate (Latin for no more beyond)
nepotism  favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as in business
nest egg  placing an egg in a hen's nest to induce her to lay more eggs; a small amount of gifted money acts as an incentive to save
neuralgia  sharp, severe paroxysmal pain extending along a nerve or group of nerves
neurasthenia  neurotic disorder characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, generalized aches and pains
nexus  a means of connection; a link or tie; a connected series or group; the core or center
Nez Perce  Indian tribe inhabiting the lower Snake River and its tributaries in western Idaho (pierced nose)
nihilism  an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence; a doctrine holding that all values are baseless
nimrod  a hunter (slang, a nerd, an obtuse moron)
noblesse oblige  benevolent, honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank
noisome  offensive to the point of arousing disgust; foul; harmful or dangerous
nolo contendere  an admission of guilt subject to punishment but permits denial of the alleged facts in other proceedings
nom de guerre  a pseudonym (French war name)
nom de plume  pen name; pseudonym used by a writer
nonplus  to bewilder; perplex; to leave speechless or without a ready response; baffle; confound; stump
non sequitur  a statement that does not follow from what preceded it
nosegay  a small bunch of flowers; bouquet
nostrum  a favorite but untested remedy for problems or evils; a quack remedy
nota bene  abbreviated as N.B. (Latin note well) used to direct attention to something particularly important
nova ex veteris  (Latin) the new must be born out of the old
nubile  a young woman ready for marriage; of a marriageable age or condition; sexually mature and attractive
nudnik  an obtuse, boring, or bothersome person; a pest (from Yiddish nudne boring)
nugatory  of little or no importance; trifling; having no force; invalid; vain (Latin nugator trifler)
numen  a spirit believed by animists to inhabit certain natural phenomena or objects; creative energy; genius
numinous  spiritually elevated; sublime; filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence
nuptial  of or relating to marriage or the wedding ceremony, or occurring during the mating season
nyctophobia  an abnormal fear of the night or darkness

O

obdurate  hardened in wrongdoing or wickedness; stubbornly impenitent; not giving in to persuasion; intractable
obfuscate  to make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand; to render indistinct or dim; darken
obsequious  servilely compliant; fawning
obstreperous  noisily and stubbornly defiant; aggressively boisterous; offensively loud and insistent
obtrude  to impose (oneself or one's ideas) on others with undue insistence or without invitation; to thrust out
obtuse  lacking quickness of perception or intellect; not sharp, pointed, or acute in form; blunt
ocellated  having spots; having or resembling an ocellus or ocelli (Latin ocellatus having little eyes)
ocellus  a marking that resembles an eye, as on the tail feathers of a male peacock; an eyespot (plural: ocelli)
ochre  orange yellow color; earthy iron oxides occurring in yellow, brown, or red and used as pigments
octoroon  a person whose ancestry is one-eighth Black
ocular  pertaining to the eye; visual
odoriferous  having or giving off an odor (note: there is no such word as odiferous)
odorous  having a distinctive odor (odor can be pleasant or unpleasant)
odyssey  an extended adventurous voyage or trip; an intellectual or spiritual quest
oenology  (also enology) the study of wine and the making of wine; viticulture
oeuvre  a work of art; the sum of the lifework of an artist (from French uevre work, Latin opus work)
officious  marked by excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services or advice to others; informal; unofficial
oleaginous  falsely or smugly earnest; unctuous; of or relating to oil
oligarchy  government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families
omnivorous  eating both animal and vegetable foods; taking in everything available; e.g. an inquiring, omnivorous mind
oncology  the branch of medicine dealing with the development, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tumors
onomastics  the study of the origins and forms of proper names or terms used in specialized fields
onomatopoeia  the use of words such as buzz to imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to
ontogeny  the origin and development of an individual organism from embryo to adult; also called ontogenesis; see phylogeny
ontology  the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being; the study of thingness
oology  branch of ornithology dealing with bird’s eggs
ophthalmology  the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, functions, pathology, and treatment of the eye
opine  to hold or state as an opinion
opprobrious  expressing contemptuous scorn; shameful; infamous; worthy of severe disapproval
opus  a creative work, especially a musical composition numbered to designate the order of a composer's works
ordain  to prearrange unalterably; predestine; dictate; decree or enact; to invest with ministerial authority
orogeny  the process of mountain formation, especially by a folding and faulting of the earth's crust
orotund  full in sound; sonorous; pompous and bombastic
Orphic  relating to the philosophy set forth in poems of Orpheus; capable of casting a spell; entrancing; mystic or occult
orthoepy  the study of the pronunciation of words; the customary pronunciation of words; correctness of diction
orthogonal  relating to or composed of right angles; a logically independent dimension or phenomenon
orthography  the art or study of spelling; a method of representing a language or its sounds by letters and diacritics
orthotics  the use of specialized mechanical devices to support or supplement weakened or abnormal joints or limbs
osmosis  a gradual, often unconscious process of assimilation or absorption; diffusion of fluid thru a membrane
ostensible  outwardly apparent; seeming; professed
ostentation  pretentious or excessive display of wealth or knowledge
otology  the branch of medicine that deals with the structure, function, and pathology of the ear
outré  highly unconventional; eccentric or bizarre [oo TRAY]
overarching  extending over or throughout; forming an arch overhead or above
overweening  presumptuously arrogant; overbearing; excessive; immoderate
ovine  of, relating to, or characteristic of sheep; sheeplike
oviparous  producing eggs that hatch outside the body
oxymoron  a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, e.g. a deafening silence

P

paean  a song of joyful praise or exultation [PEE on]
pagan  one who is not a Christian, Moslem, or Jew; heathen; a hedonist; one who has no religion
palaver  (noun) idle chatter; talk intended to charm or beguile; (verb) to flatter or cajole, to chatter idly [puhLAHver]
palazzo  a large, splendid residence or public building, such as a palace or museum [pa LAT so]
paleography  the study and scholarly interpretation of ancient written documents
paleontology  the study of the forms of life in prehistoric or geologic times thru the fossils of plants, animals, etc.
palimpsest  a manuscript with earlier writing overwritten but still legible; an object, a place, or an area that reflects its history
palisades  a line of lofty, steep cliffs, usually along a river; a fence of pales forming a barrier or fortification
pallid  lacking in radiance or vitality; dull; having an abnormally pale or wan complexion
pallor  extreme or unnatural paleness
palmy  prosperous; flourishing; of or relating to palm trees
palpable  capable of being handled, touched, or felt; tangible; easily perceived; obvious; can be felt by palpating
palpate  to examine or explore by touching (an organ or area of the body), usually as a diagnostic aid
panache  dash; verve; a bunch of feathers or a plume, especially on a helmet (Italian pinnacchio plume)
pandemic  widespread; general; Medicine: epidemic over a wide geographic area
panegyric  formal eulogistic composition intended as a public compliment; elaborate praise or laudation; encomium
Panglossian  blindly or naively optimistic; after Pangloss, an optimist in Candide, a satire by Voltaire
panne  a special finish for velvet and satin that produces a high luster (French a soft cloth)
panoply  a splendid or striking array; ceremonial attire with all accessories; something that covers and protects
pansexual  exhibiting or suggesting a sexuality that has many different forms, objects, and outlets
pantheism  the belief that God and nature are one; belief in and worship of all gods
pantheon  a group of persons most highly regarded for contributions to a field or an endeavor; all gods of a people
paparazzi  freelance photographers who doggedly pursues celebrities to take candid pictures to sell
paradisal  (adj.) a place of ideal beauty or loveliness
paragon  a model of excellence or perfection of a kind; a peerless example
paramour  lover, especially in an illicit relationship (literary term)
parapet  a low wall or railing, as along the edge of a roof or balcony; an embankment protecting soldiers
pariah  a social outcast; a member of a low caste of agricultural and domestic workers in southern India
parley  a discussion or conference, especially between opponents or with enemies
parochial  narrow in scope; provincial; of, pertaining to, or supported by a church parish
paroxysm  a sudden outburst of emotion or action; a spasm or fit; a convulsion
parricide  the murdering of one's father, mother, or other near relative; one who commits such a murder
parsimony  stinginess; extreme or excessive frugality; sagacious paring of the extraneous
parthenogenesis  a form of reproduction in which an unfertilized egg develops into a new individual (common among insects)
partisan  a fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea
parturition  the act or process of giving birth; childbirth
parvenu  a person who has suddenly risen to a higher social and economic class and has not yet gained acceptance
pasha  used formerly as a title for military and civil officers, especially in Turkey and northern Africa
pastern  the part of a horse’s foot between the fetlock and the hoof
pastiche  a dramatic, literary, or musical piece openly imitating (or satirizing) previous works of other artists
paterfamilias  a man who is the head of a household or the father of a family
paternalistic  to treat in a superficial fatherly manner; provide for needs without tolerating independence
pathology  a departure or deviation from a normal condition; the scientific study of the nature and cause of disease
pathos  quality that arouses pity, sympathy, tenderness, sorrow
patina  the sheen on any surface or a change in appearance produced by age and long-standing use
patisserie  a bakery specializing in French pastry
patois  a regional dialect, especially one without a literary tradition; a creole; nonstandard speech; special jargon of a group; cant
patrician  a person of refined upbringing, manners, and tastes; a member of an aristocracy; an aristocrat
peccadillo  a small sin or fault
peckerdillo  a peccadillo peculiar to Bill Clinton (from The Economist)
peckish  ill-tempered; irritable; British: somewhat hungry
pedagogical  of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy; characterized by pedantic formality
pedagogy  the art or profession of teaching; preparatory training or instruction
pedantic  to stress trivial rules or details of learning; one who parades his learning
pederast  a man who has a sexual relationship with a boy (Greek paid child + erastes lover); see pedophile
pedicure  cosmetic care of the feet and toenails
pedigree  a list of the ancestors of a purebred animal (Middle English pe de grue foot of crane, resembles chart)
pedophile  an adult who is sexually attracted to a child or children; see pederast
peevish  irritable; querulous; contrary; fractious
peignoir  a woman's loose-fitting dressing gown [pain whar]
pejorative  disparaging; belittling; a disparaging or belittling word or expression
pelf  wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired
pellucid  admitting the passage of light; transparent or translucent; transparently clear in style or meaning
penchant  a strong inclination; liking
penitent  feeling or expressing remorse for one's misdeeds or sins; see impenitent
penultimate  next to last
penumbra  a partial shadow, as in an eclipse, between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination
penury  extreme want or poverty; destitution; extreme dearth; barrenness or insufficiency
perambulate  to walk about; roam or stroll; to walk through; to inspect (an area) on foot
perdure  to last permanently; endure (adjective: perdurable, extremely durable; permanent)
peregrination  to travel from place to place
peremptory  putting an end to all debate or action; not allowing contradiction or refusal; offensively self-assured
perfidy  deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; the act or an instance of treachery
perforce  by necessity; by force of circumstance
perfunctory  done routinely and with little interest or care; acting with indifference; showing little interest or care
pergola  a passageway of columns supporting a roof of trelliswork on which climbing plants are trained to grow
peripatetic  carried on while walking from place to place
peripeteia  a sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work [pear uh puh TEEah]
periwig  a wig, especially a peruk; see peruke
permutation  a complete change; a transformation; a specific ordered arrangement of the elements of a set
pernicious  destructive; deadly; causing insidious harm or ruin; fatal
perquisite  something claimed as an exclusive right; a payment or profit received in addition to a regular wage or salary
peroration  speaking at great length, often in a grandiloquent manner; declamation
perpetrate  to be responsible for; commit; e.g. to perpetrate a crime
perspicacity  acuteness of perception, discernment, or understanding
pertinacious  holding tenaciously to a purpose, belief, opinion, or course of action; stubbornly or perversely persistent; obstinate
peruke  a wig worn by men in the 17th and 18th centuries; a periwig (Old French perruque head of hair) [pah RUKE]
pervious  open to passage or entrance; permeable; open to arguments, ideas, or change; approachable; see impervious
petard  a small bell-shaped bomb used to breach a gate or wall; a loud firecracker
petit four  a small, square-cut, frosted and decorated piece of pound cake or sponge cake
petulant  unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish; contemptuous in speech or behavior
phalanx  a compact or close-knit body of people; medieval infantry carrying overlapping shields and long spears
phantasm  something apparently seen but having no physical reality; a phantom or an apparition; also called phantasma
phantasmagoria  a fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as seen in dreams, fever, or art
pheromones  a chemical secreted by an animal, especially an insect, that influences others of the same species
philogyny  love or fondness of women
philology  literary study or classical scholarship; the study of linguistic change over time in language
phlebitis  inflammation of a vein
phlegmatic  having or suggesting a calm, sluggish temperament; unemotional; lacking energy and vitality
phylogeny  the evolutionary development and history of a species or higher taxonomic grouping of organisms; see ontogeny
physiognomy  the art of judging human character from facial features; facial features, especially when revealing character
picaresque  of or involving clever rogues or adventurers
picayune  of little value or importance; paltry; petty; mean; trivial
piebald  spotted or patched, especially in black and white
pied-à-terre  a secondary or temporary place of lodging (French for foot to or on ground)
pietism  stress on the emotional and personal aspects of religion; affected or exaggerated piety
piety  a position held conventionally or hypocritically, usually both; the state or quality of being pious
piffle  foolish or futile talk or ideas; nonsense; to talk or act in a feeble or futile way (origin unknown)
pillory  (verb) to expose to ridicule and abuse; to put in a pillory (stocks) as punishment
piquant  pleasantly pungent or tart in taste; spicy; appealingly provocative; charming; interesting; attractive
pique  to cause to feel resentment or indignation; to provoke; arouse; to pride oneself (French to prick)
piscine  of, relating to, or characteristic of a fish or fishes
pish  interjective used to express disdain
pithy  precisely meaningful; forceful and brief; e.g. a pithy comment
placate  to allay the anger of, especially by making concessions; appease
Platonic  speculative or theoretical; a characteristic of Plato’s philosophy
plebeian  unrefined or coarse in nature or manner; common or vulgar; common people of ancient Rome; commoners
plenary  complete in all respects; unlimited or full; fully attended by all qualified members
plenitude  an ample amount or quantity; an abundance; the condition of being full, ample, or complete
pleurisy  inflammation of the membranous sacs that enclose the lungs
plinth  a block or slab on which a pedestal, column, or statue is placed; a square base, as for a vase
plosive  a sound produced by complete closure of the oral passage and release accompanied by a burst of air; e.g. the letter P
plummy  choice; desirable; exceedingly or affectedly mellow and rich
plutocracy  a government or state in which the wealthy rule; a wealthy class that controls a government
pneumatic  of, operated by, or filled with air or another gas; of or relating to the soul or pneuma (vital spirit)
pogrom  an organized massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews (Russian)
poignant  profoundly moving; touching; piercing; incisive; neat, skillful, and to the point [POIN yant]
polemic  a controversy, argument, or refutation
polemics  the art or practice of argumentation or controversy
politesse  courteous formality; politeness
politic  using or marked by prudence, expedience, and shrewdness; artful; suave; crafty; cunning; see impolitic
polity  the form of government of a nation, a state, a church, or an organization
polychrome  made, decorated in, or having many or various colors
polyglot  a person having a speaking, reading, or writing knowledge of several languages
polygyny  the condition or practice of having more than one wife at one time
polymath  a person of great and varied learning
polymorphism  the occurrence of different forms or types in individual organisms, independent of sexual variations
polysynthetic  relating to a language (e.g. Eskimo, Mohawk) with words that express complex and varied meanings
poofter  a flagrantly homosexual man with exaggerated sissified mannerisms
poohbah  an irreverent, dismissive term for a high-ranking person or official
popinjay  a vain, talkative person
porcine  of or resembling swine or a pig
portent  omen; an indication of something about to occur; something amazing or marvelous
portentous  pretentiously weighty; pompous; forboding; full of unspecifiable significance; exciting wonder and awe
portico  a porch or walkway with a roof supported by columns, often leading to the entrance of a building
portmanteau  a large leather suitcase that opens into two hinged compartments
poseur  one who affects an attitude, especially to impress others
posteriority   making an ass of oneself for the sake of posterity
post-modern  art, architecture, etc. that reacts against modernist principles by reintroducing traditional or classical style
potable  fit to drink; a beverage, especially an alcoholic beverage
pot au feu  a French dish of boiled meats and vegetables
pother  a commotion; a disturbance; a state of nervous activity; a fuss; a cloud of smoke or dust that chokes
potpourri  a combination of incongruous things; a miscellaneous anthology or collection
praetor  an elected magistrate of ancient Rome having approximately the same functions as a consul [PREE tur]
praetorian  of or relating to a praetor; venal; corruptible [pree TOR ee un]
Pragmatism  Philosophy (W. James): the meaning of an idea/proposition lies in its observable practical consequences
prandial  of or relating to a meal
prate  to talk idly and at length; chatter; empty, foolish, or trivial talk; idle chatter
pratfall  to fall on your ass for comic effect; a humiliating error, failure, or defeat
prattle  to talk idly or meaninglessly; babble; childish or meaningless sounds
precept  maxim; a rule or principle imposing a standard of action or conduct
preciosity  extreme meticulousness or over-refinement, as in language, taste, or style
precocious  manifesting or characterized by unusually early development or maturity, especially in mental aptitude
predation  the capturing of prey as a means of maintaining life; the act or practice of plundering or marauding
predicate  (verb) to base or establish; to affirm as an attribute or quality
predilection  a partiality or disposition in favor of something; a preference; a bias; a leaning; a propensity
preempt  to appropriate, seize, or take for oneself before others; to take the place of; displace; to have predominance over
preemption  the right to purchase something before others; e.g. right to purchase public land granted to prior homesteaders
preemptive  undertaken or initiated to deter or prevent an anticipated, usually unpleasant situation or occurrence
presage  to indicate or warn of in advance; portend; a feeling or an intuition of what is going to occur
prescience  knowledge of actions or events before they occur; foresight
presentiment  a sense that something is about to occur; a premonition; to feel beforehand (Latin prae pre sentire to feel)
prestidigitation  manual skill and dexterity in the execution of tricks; sleight of hand
pretentious  demanding distinction or merit; making an extravagant outward show
preternatural  out of or being beyond the normal course of nature; surpassing or differing from the natural
prevarication  to stray from or evade the truth; equivocate
priapic  of, relating to, or resembling a phallus; phallic; relating to or overly concerned with masculinity
priapus  a representation of a phallus; Priapus was the Greek/Roman mythology god of procreation
prima donna  a temperamental, conceited person; the leading woman soloist in an opera company
prima facie  true, authentic, or adequate at first sight; evident without proof or reasoning; obvious
primate  an ape or a priest
primatologist  the branch of zoology that deals with the study of primates
primogeniture  the state of being the first-born or eldest child of the same parents
principal  (noun) one who holds a position of presiding rank, especially the head of an elementary school or high school
principal  (adj.) most important, influential, or significant; primary, dominant
principle  (noun) a broad and basic rule or truth; law, theorem, fundamental
privation  lack of the basic necessities or comforts of life; an act, condition, or result of deprivation or loss
probity  complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness
pro bono  done without compensation for the public good
proclivity  natural inclination; propensity; natural tendency towards something discreditable
procrustean  exhibiting merciless disregard for individual differences or special circumstances (Greek Procrustes)
proctor  a dormitory and examination supervisor in a school; (verb) to supervise (an examination)
prodigal  rashly or wastefully extravagant; giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse
prodigious  impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous; extraordinary; marvelous
proffer  to offer for acceptance; tender; offer
profligate  recklessly wasteful or extravagant; completely given over to self-indulgence and vice; dissolute
pro forma  done as a formality; perfunctory; provided in advance to prescribe form or describe items (Latin for the sake of form)
progenitor  an originator of a line of descent; a precursor; an originator; a founder; a direct ancestor
prognosis  a forecast or prediction; a prediction of the probable course and outcome of a disease
prolepsis  the anachronistic representation of something as existing before its proper or historical time
proletariat  the class of poor industrial wage earners who must earn their living by selling their labor
prolix  wordy and tedious; verbose; using or containing an excessive number of words
promethean  boldly creative; defiantly original; relating to or suggestive of Greek god Prometheus
Prometheus  a Titan who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humankind
promontory  a high ridge of land or rock jutting out into a body of water; a headland
promulgate  to make known or put into effect by public declaration, as a decree or law; announce; broadcast
propensity  an innate or natural inclination; bent
propinquity  proximity; nearness; kinship; similarity in nature
propitious  auspicious; favorable; beneficial; advantageous; salutary
proprietary  exclusively owned, made, and sold by one holding a trademark or patent
propriety  conformity to the prevailing rules and conventions
proprioception  the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body
prorate  to divide, distribute, or assess proportionately; settle affairs on the basis of proportional distribution
prosaic  matter-of-fact; lacking in imagination or interest; dull; unromantic; ordinary
proscenium  the area of a modern theater that is located between the curtain and the orchestra
proscribe  to denounce or condemn; to prohibit; forbid; to publish the name of (a person) as outlawed
prosecute  to pursue an undertaking until completion; follow to the very end; to carry on, engage in, or practice
proselyte  a new convert to a doctrine or religion
proselytize  to induce someone to convert to one's own religious faith or political party or to espouse one's doctrine
prosody  the study of the metrical structure of verse; a particular system of versification
prosthesis  an artificial device used to replace a missing body part, such as a limb, an eye, or a heart valve
protean  readily taking on varied shapes, forms, or meanings; exhibiting considerable variety or diversity
Proteus  Greek Mythology: a sea god who could change his shape at will
protégé  one whose welfare or career is promoted by an influential person
protuberant  swelling outward; bulging
provincial  limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered
proviso  a clause in a document making a qualification, condition, or restriction
proximal  Anatomy: nearer to a point of reference such as an origin, a point of attachment, or the midline of the body
proxy  the authority to act for another; a person authorized to act for another; an agent or a substitute
prurient  inordinately interested in matters of sex; lascivious
pudendum  the human external genitalia, especially of a woman; plural: pudenda
puerile  of or characteristic of a child, especially in immaturity; juvenile; immature; childish
pugnacious  combative; having a quarrelsome disposition
pukka  genuine; authentic; superior; first-class (Hindi pakka cooked, ripe) [PUCK uh]
punctilious  strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct; precise; scrupulous
pundit  a learned or authoritative person noted for wisdom, knowledge, and judgement; sage; savant
pungent  affecting the organs of taste or smell with a sharp, acrid sensation; penetrating, biting, or caustic; pointed
punitive  inflicting or aiming to inflict punishment; punishing
purblind  having poor vision; nearly or partly blind; slow in understanding or discernment; dull (Middle English pure blind)
purgatory  a place or condition of expiation, suffering, or remorse; a state of temporary punishment
purport  to have or present the often false appearance of being or intending; profess
purulent  containing, discharging, or causing the production of pus
purview  the extent or range of function, power, or competence; range of vision, comprehension, or experience
pusillanimous  lacking courage; cowardly
putative  generally regarded as such; supposed (Latin putare to prune, think)
putsch  a sudden attempt by a group to overthrow a government [puhch]
putz  a fool; an idiot; a penis (Yiddish)
pyorrhea  purulent inflammation of the gums and tooth sockets, often leading to loosening of the teeth
pyric  of, relating to, or resulting from burning
pyrite  a brass-colored mineral (FeS2); fool’s gold
pyroclastic  composed chiefly of rock fragments of volcanic origin
pyrotechnics  a brilliant display, as of rhetoric or wit, or of virtuosity in the performing arts; a fireworks display
pyrrhic  a metrical foot having two short or unaccented syllables
Pyrrhic victory  a victory that is offset by staggering losses

Q

querulous  given to complaining; peevish; expressing a complaint or grievance; grumbling
quiddity  the real nature of a thing; the essence; a hairsplitting distinction; a quibble (Latin quid what)
quid pro quo  an equal exchange or substitution
quinine  a bitter, colorless, powder or alkaloid derived from cinchona bark and used in medicine to treat malaria
quixotic  caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; impractical and idealistic
quotidian  everyday; commonplace; recurring daily, used especially of attacks of malaria

R

Rabelais  French humanist and writer (1500’s) of satirical attacks on medieval scholasticism and superstition
Rabelaisian  characterized by coarse humor, exuberant learning, or bold caricature
rabid  raging; uncontrollable; extremely zealous or enthusiastic; of or affected by rabies
raconteur  one who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit (French raconter to relate)
radix  Biology: a root or point of origin; Mathematics: the base of a system of numbers, e.g. base 10 or base 2
raffish  cheaply or showily vulgar in appearance or nature; tawdry; carefree or fun-loving unconventionality
rag  (verb) to tease or taunt; to berate; scold; (British) to play a joke on
ragout  mixture, mélange
raison d'être  reason or justification for existing (French reason of to be)
rake  an immoral or dissolute person; a libertine
rambunctious  boisterous and disorderly (possible origins: robust and rumble)
rancor  bitter, long-lasting resentment; deep-seated ill will; enmity (from Middle English rancid smell)
rapacious  taking by force; plundering; greedy; ravenous; subsisting on live prey
rapscallion  a rascal; a scamp
rap sheet  a police arrest record
raptor  a bird of prey (Latin rapere to seize)
recalcitrant  marked by stubborn resistance to and defiance of authority or guidance
recherché  uncommon; rare; exquisite; overrefined; forced; pretentious; overblown
recidivism  a tendency to lapse into a previous pattern of behavior, especially a tendency to return to criminal habits
recluse  a person who withdraws from the world to live in seclusion and often in solitude
recombinant  formed by or showing recombination; organism or cell in which genetic recombination has taken place
recombination  the natural formation in offspring of genetic combinations not present in parents
recompense  to award compensation to; amends made, as for damage or loss; payment in return for a service
recondite  not easily understood; abstruse; concealed; hidden; concerned with or treating something obscure
rectitude  moral uprightness; righteousness; the quality or condition of being correct in judgment or straight
recurse  an algorithmic strategy that solves a problem by breaking it down into similar but smaller elements
recuse  to disqualify or seek to disqualify from participation in a decision on grounds such as prejudice or personal involvement
redact  (noun redactor) to draw up or frame (a proclamation, for example); to make ready for publication; edit or revise
redemption  salvation from sin through Jesus's sacrifice
redolent  having or emitting a pleasant odor; scented; suggestive; reminiscent
redoubt  (noun) a small, often temporary defensive fortification; a protected place of refuge or defense
redoubtable  (adj.) awesome; formidable; worthy of respect or honor; commanding respect or reverence
redux  brought back; returned; used postpositively (placed after or suffixed to another word)
refectory  a room where meals are served, especially in a college or other institution
refractory  obstinately resistant to authority, control, or treatment; tenaciously unwilling to yield
refulgent  shining radiantly; resplendent (Latin refulgere to flash back)
regatta  a boat race or a series of boat races (Italian)
regenerate  to reform spiritually or morally; to give new life or energy to; revitalize
remedial  intended to correct something, especially a deficiency; serving to cure
remonstrate  to say or plead in protest, objection, or reproof
renascence  a new birth or life; a rebirth; a cultural revival; a renaissance
reparation  the act or process of making amends; something done or paid to make amends; compensation
repatriate  to restore or return to the country of birth, citizenship, or origin
reprise  a recurrence or resumption of an action; a repetition or return to a musical phrase or verse
residual  a residue; remainder; payment to a TV performer for reruns
res ipsa loquitur  the thing speaks for itself (Latin)
resolute  firm or determined; unwavering
respite  a usually short interval of rest or relief; temporary suspension of a death sentence; a reprieve
resplendent  splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant (Latin resplendere to shine brightly)
restive  uneasily impatient under restriction, opposition, criticism, or delay; resisting or difficult to control
resuscitate  to restore consciousness, vigor, or life to; to regain consciousness (Latin resuscitare to stir up)
reticent  inclined to keep one's thoughts, feelings, and personal affairs to oneself; reluctant; unwilling; restrained
retrench  to cut down; reduce; to remove, delete, or omit; to curtail expenses; economize
retro  a fashion, decor, design, or style reminiscent of things past; relating to, or reminiscent of things past
retrograde  moving or tending backward; reverting to an inferior condition; to decline; deteriorate
retroussé  turned up at the end, used of the nose (from French retrousser to turn back)
revanche  the act of retaliating; revenge; a usually political policy intended to regain lost territory or standing
revenant  one that returns after a lengthy absence; one who returns after death
reverberatory  produced or operating by reverberation; deflected or diverted, as flame or heat, onto material being treated
revisionism  advocacy of the revision of an accepted view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events
revivify  to impart new life, energy, or spirit to
rhapsody  excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling in speech or music; a state of elated bliss; ecstasy
rheum  (adj. rheumy) a watery or thin mucous discharge from the eyes or nose
rhinoplasty  plastic surgery of the nose
riposte  a retaliatory action, maneuver, or retort; to retort quickly
riprap  a loose assemblage of broken stones erected in water or on soft ground as a foundation
risible  capable of laughing or inclined to laugh; causing laughter; funny
riven  to rend or tear apart; to break into pieces, as by a blow; cleave or split asunder
rodomontade  pretentious boasting or bragging; bluster; see bombast
rococo  a very ornate style of speech or writing; style of art (French 18th century) marked by elaborate ornamentation
roil  turbid; to make muddy or cloudy by stirring up sediment; to irritate or vex
roister  to engage in boisterous merrymaking; revel noisily; to behave in a blustering manner; swagger
roman à clef  a novel in which actual persons, places, or events are depicted in fictional guise (French novel with key)
Roman candle  a cylindrical firework that emits balls of fire and a shower of sparks
roseate  rose-colored; cheerful or bright; optimistic
roster  a list, especially of names; a list of active military personnel (word origin: a gridiron upon which one roasts meat)
rote  a memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention, comprehension; mechanical routine
rotunda  a circular building, especially one with a dome; a large area with a high ceiling, as in a hotel lobby
roué  a lecherous, dissipated man (French rouer to break on a wheel, i.e. the deserved punishment) [roo EH]
Rube Goldberg  a contrivance that brings about by complicated means what could have been accomplished simply
rubric  an authoritative rule or direction; a class, category, or title; a book heading in decorative red lettering
rueful  inspiring pity or compassion; causing, feeling, or expressing sorrow or regret
rufous  (a color) strong yellowish pink to moderate orange; reddish
ruminant  mammals such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, etc., who rechew partially digested food (a cud)
ruminate  to turn a matter over and over in the mind; to ponder; to reflect on over and over again; to chew cud
rune  a poem or an incantation of mysterious significance, especially a magic charm; a magic alphabet symbol
ruse  a crafty stratagem; a subterfuge

S

sabbatarian  one who observes Saturday as the Sabbath, as in Judaism
sabine  a member of an ancient people of central Italy, conquered and assimilated by the Romans in 290 B.C.
sacerdotal  of or relating to priests or the priesthood; priestly
sacerdotalism  the belief that priests act as mediators between God and human beings
sacrament  a visible form of invisible grace, especially the rites instituted by Jesus to confer sanctifying grace
sacrosanct  regarded as sacred and inviolable (Latin sacrosanctus consecrated with religious ceremonies)
sagacious  shrewd and wise; having or showing keen discernment, sound judgment, and farsightedness
salacious  lewd; bawdy; lustful; lascivious; appealing to or stimulating sexual desire
salient  strikingly conspicuous; prominent; readily attracting notice; springing or jumping (salient tree toads)
sallow  of a sickly yellowish hue or complexion
salon des refusés  parlour of denial
salubrious  conducive or favorable to health or well-being
salutary  beneficial; wholesome; effecting or designed to effect an improvement; remedial
samizdat  the secret publication and distribution of government-banned literature in the Soviet Union; underground press
samovar  a Russian metal urn with a chimney, a vertical compartment for hot charcoal, and a spigot, to boil water for tea
samsara  the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth (Sanskrit samsarah course of life)
sanctimonious  feigning piety or righteousness
sangfroid  coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances; equanimity (French for blood-cold)
sanguine  optimistic; cheerful; dwelling on hopeful aspects; ruddy, as the complexion [SANG gwin]
sapphic  of or relating to the Greek poet Sappho; of or relating to lesbianism
Sappho  Greek lyric poet; one of the greatest poets of antiquity although only fragments of her romantic lyrics survive
sarabande  a stately court dance of the 17th and 18th centuries, in slow triple time; the music for this dance
sarcophagus  a stone coffin, often inscribed or decorated with sculpture, and located above ground
sardonic  scornfully mocking; disdainfully or bitterly sneering; sarcastic
sartorial  of or relating to a tailor, tailoring, or tailored clothing
sassafras  a deciduous eastern North American tree having aromatic bark, leaves, and branches
saturnalia  a celebration marked by unrestrained revelry and often licentiousness; an orgy
Saturnalia  the ancient Roman seven-day festival of Saturn, which began on December 17
saturnine  melancholy or sullen; having or marked by a tendency to be bitter or sardonic; Saturn in astrology
saurian  any of various reptiles which includes lizards and in former classifications, crocodiles and dinosaurs
savoir-faire  the ability to say or do the right or graceful thing (from French savoir to know how + faire to do)
scabrous  rough; harsh; bordering on indelicacy or impropriety
scalar  having only magnitude; used of numbers or quantities
scamp  a rogue; a rascal; a mischievous youngster
scat  excrement, especially of an animal; dung; jazz singing in which improvised, nonsense syllables are sung
scatology  obscene language or literature, especially dealing pruriently or humorously with excrement and excretory functions
schlemiel  a habitual bungler; a dolt (Yiddish)
schlep  to move slowly or laboriously; to carry clumsily or with difficulty (Yiddish)
schlock  something, such as merchandise or literature, that is inferior or shoddy (Yiddish)
schlub  a schmo, a schmuck (Yiddish)
schmaltz  excessively sentimental art or music; maudlin sentimentality; liquid chicken fat (Yiddish)
schmeer  a number of things that go together; an agregate (Yiddish) e.g. the whole schmeer
schmitten  love at first sight (Yiddish)
schmo  a person regarded as stupid or obnoxious; schmuck (Yiddish)
schmooze  to talk casually; chat; unctuous social interaction (Yiddish)
schmuck  a person regarded as clumsy or stupid; an oaf (Yiddish)
schnockered  (also shnockered) falling down drunk; pissed (Yiddish)
schnook  a stupid or easily victimized person; a dupe (Yiddish)
Schopenhauer  Arthur; German philosopher who believed that the will to live is fundamental and yields only suffering
scion  a descendant or an heir
screed  a long, monotonous harangue or piece of writing
scrim  a transparent fabric used as a drop in the theater to create special effects of lights or atmosphere
scrunt   aging male slattern; insult between N. American males, play on the word cunt when used as same by British intellectual class; first spotted in the essay, Graveyard Blues, by Canadian writer Alexander G. Rose, 1998
scruples  an uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action
scry  (short for descry) to see or predict the future by means of a crystal ball [ss CRY]
scud  to run or skim along swiftly and easily; wind-driven clouds, mist, or rain
scurrilous  vulgar; abusive; using indecent or abusive language
scuttlebutt  gossip; rumor (Nautical: a fountain or cask on a ship used to hold the day’s supply of drinking water)
sebaceous  of, relating to, or resembling fat or sebum; fatty; secreting fat or sebum
sebum  the semifluid secretion of the sebaceous glands, consisting chiefly of fat, keratin, and cellular material
seconded  Chiefly British: to transfer (a military officer, for example) temporarily
sedition  conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state; insurrection; rebellion
segue  to move smoothly and unhesitatingly from one state, condition, situation, or element to another
semblance  the barest trace; a likeness; resemblance; an outward or token appearance
seminal  highly influential in an original way; constituting or providing a basis for further development
sensorium  the entire sensory system of the body; the part of the brain that coordinates all sensory stimuli
sententious  terse and energetic in expression; pithy; abounding in aphorisms; given to pompous moralizing
sentient  having sense perception; conscious; experiencing sensation or feeling
septum  a thin partition or membrane that divides two cavities or soft masses of tissue in an organism
sepulchral  of or relating to a burial vault or a receptacle for sacred relics; suggestive of the grave; funereal
sepulchre  a burial vault; a receptacle for sacred relics, especially in an altar
sequester  to cause to withdraw into seclusion; to remove or set apart; segregate; isolate
serape  a long blanketlike shawl, often brightly colored and fringed at the ends, worn by Mexican men
seraph  (adj. seraphic) a celestial being having three pairs of wings; one of the first order of angels
serendipity  the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident (coined by Horace Walpole in 1754)
seriatim  (Latin) one after another; in a series
serpentine  snakelike; sinuous; meandering; twisting; tortuous; subtly sly and tempting
servile  slavish in character; abjectly submissive
sesquipedalian  (noun) a long word; (adj.) given to the use of long words; long and ponderous; polysyllabic
sgraffito  decoration produced on pottery or ceramic by scratching through a surface of plaster or glazing
shebeen  an unlicensed drinking establishment, especially in Ireland
shenanigans  a deceitful trick; an underhand act; a playful or mischievous act; a prank; mischief (origin unknown)
shibboleth  a word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a commonplace saying or idea
shiksa  a disparaging term for a non-Jewish girl or woman (Yiddish)
shingles  an acute viral infection characterized by inflammation of the sensory ganglia of certain spinal or cranial nerves
shite and onions  James Joyce’s favorite expression
shogun  the hereditary commander of the Japanese army who until 1867 exercised absolute rule
shtick  a characteristic attribute, talent, or trait helpful in securing recognition or attention or to entertain
sibilant  of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of S or SH
siblicide  the act of murdering one’s sibling
sic  used to indicate that a surprising or paradoxical word, phrase, or fact is not a mistake; to be read as is
sienna  a special clay containing iron and manganese oxides, used as a pigment for oil and watercolor painting
simian  relating to, characteristic of, or resembling an ape or a monkey
similitude  similarity; resemblance; one closely resembling another; a counterpart; a perceptible likeness
simpatico  compatible; attractive; pleasing (Italian)
simper  an affected, knowing smile; to smile in an insincere, knowing way; smirk
simpleton  a person who is felt to be deficient in judgment, good sense, or intelligence; a fool (as in surname Chesterton)
sinecure  a position or an office that requires little or no work but provides a salary
sine qua non  an essential element or condition; e.g. the perfect cake is the sine qua non of the carefully planned modern wedding
Sinology  the study of Chinese language, literature, or civilization
sinuous  characterized by many curves or turns; winding; characterized by supple and lithe movements; devious
Sisyphean  endlessly laborious or futile; Greek Mythology: of or relating to Sisyphus
Sisyphus  a cruel king condemned forever to roll a huge stone up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again
skedaddle  (also skidaddle) to leave hastily; flee
skylark  an Old World lark having brownish plumage and noted for its singing while in flight; to play actively and boisterously; frolic
slattern  an untidy, dirty woman; slovenly
slaver  to slobber; drool; to behave in an obsequious manner; fawn; senseless and effusive talk; drivel
slavish  like or befitting a slave; servile; showing no originality; obsequious; submissive; subservient
slipshod  marked by carelessness; sloppy or slovenly; slovenly in appearance; shabby or seedy
slough  to be cast off or shed; come off; to discard as undesirable or unfavorable; get rid of [sluf]
slough  a depression or hollow, usually filled with deep mud or mire [sloo]
slovenly  untidy, as in dress or appearance; marked by negligence; slipshod; sloppy
smarmy  hypocritically, complacently, or effusively earnest; unctuous; sleek
snafu  a chaotic or confused situation; origin: acronym for SituationNormalAllFuckedUp
sobriquet  (also soubriquet) an affectionate or humorous nickname; an assumed name
solar plexus  the pit of the stomach; the large network of sympathetic nerves and ganglia behind the stomach
solicitous  anxious or concerned; full of desire; eager; given to anxious care and often hovering attentiveness
solicitude  showing care; concern; the state of being solicitous
somatic  of, relating to, or affecting the body, especially as distinguished from the mind; corporeal or physical
son et lumière  a theatrical entertainment presented at night in a historic, usually outdoor setting, using sound and light
sophism  a seemingly reasonable argument that is actually invalid; deceptive or fallacious argumentation
sophistry  plausible but faulty or misleading argumentation; see specious
sophomore  a second-year student in a U.S. college (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior)
sophomoric  exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment; of or characteristic of a sophomore [saw fuh MOR ic]
soporific  inducing or tending to induce sleep; drowsy; a drug or other substance that induces sleep
soprano  the highest singing voice of a woman or young boy
sorrel  a brownish orange to light brown color; a sorrel-colored horse or other animal; tawny
sotto voce  in soft tones, as not to be overheard; in an undertone (Italian sotto under + voce voice)
spatchcock  a dressed and split chicken for roasting or broiling on a spit
spavin  a bony enlargement of the hock of a horse associated with strain
spavined  marked by damage, deterioration, or ruin; afflicted with spavin
specious  having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious; deceptively attractive; see sophistry
specter  a ghostly apparition; a phantom; a haunting or disturbing image or prospect
spic  a disparaging term for a Hispanic person
spiel  a lengthy, usually extravagant speech or argument intended to persuade (German, from Yiddish shpil)
spindrift  windblown sea spray; also called spoondrift
spirochete  any of various slender, spiral, motile bacteria many of which are pathogenic, causing syphilis etc.
splendiferous  splendid (from Latin splendorifer)
splenetic  affected or marked by ill humor or irritability
sportive  playful; frolicsome; relating to or interested in sports (archaic: amorous or wanton)
squib  a brief satirical or witty piece of writing, speech, or newspaper/magazine article, such as a lampoon
staid  characterized by sedate dignity and often a strait-laced sense of propriety; fixed; permanent
stellar  outstanding; principal; of or relating to stars or a star performer
stentorian  extremely loud or strong voice
stertorous  harsh sound; snoring
stinted  frugal or sparing; limit or restrict as in amount or number; see unstinting
stodgy  dull, unimaginative, and commonplace; prim or pompous; stuffy; solidly built; stocky
stoic  seemingly indifferent to or unaffected by pleasure or pain
stolid  having or revealing little emotion or sensibility; impassive; without emotion or interest
strabismus  an eye disease where the eyes cannot be simultaneously focused on the same object
stratagem  a clever, often underhand scheme for achieving an objective; artifice
strategic  intended to destroy the military potential of an enemy; e.g. strategic bombing; see tactical
stricture  something that restrains or restricts; an adverse criticism
strumpet  a prostitute (Middle English)
stultify  to render useless or ineffectual; cripple; to cause to appear stupid, inconsistent, or ridiculous
stupefy  to dull the senses of; to amaze; astonish (Latin stupere to be stunned)
Sturm und Drang  turmoil; ferment; literary movement depicting struggles of an emotional individual against conventional society
stygian  gloomy and dark; infernal; hellish; of or relating to the river Styx (from Latin Stygius, Greek Stugios)
styrene  a colorless oily liquid; the monomer for polystyrene
subaltern  lower in position or rank; secondary; a subordinate
sublimate  to modify the natural expression of instinctual impulses (especially sexual ones) in a socially acceptable manner
sublime  characterized by nobility; majestic; of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth; inspiring awe
suborn  to induce (a person) to commit an unlawful or evil act or to commit perjury (Latin subornare secretly to equip)
sub rosa  in secret; privately or confidentially
subtext  the implicit meaning or theme of a literary text or the underlying personality of a dramatic character
succor  relief, assistance, or help in time of distress
suffrage  the right or privilege of voting; the franchise; the exercise of such a right
sui generis  unique; individual; being the only example of its kind
sui juris  capable of managing one's own affairs
sullen  showing a brooding ill humor or silent resentment; morose; gloomy; somber
sully  to mar the cleanness or luster of; soil or stain; to defile; taint
sultry  sensual; voluptuous; very humid and hot; extremely hot; torrid
summa cum laude  with the greatest honor; used to express the highest academic distinction (Latin for with highest praise)
summarily  performed speedily and without ceremony; presenting the substance in a condensed form; concisely
sumptuary  regulating or limiting personal expenditures; regulating commercial or real-estate activities
sumptuous  of a size or splendor suggesting great expense; lavish
sunder  to break or wrench apart; sever; to break into parts
sundry  various; miscellaneous
supercilious  characterized by haughty scorn; disdainful; overly convinced of one’s own superiority and importance
supernumerary  exceeding a fixed, prescribed, or standard number; extra; superfluous
supine  lying on back; lethargic; passive; sluggish; mentally or morally inactive
supplicant  one who supplicates; a suppliant
supplicate  to ask for humbly or earnestly, as by praying; to make a humble entreaty to; beseech
suppurate  to form or discharge pus
surfeit  an excessive amount; to feed or supply to excess, satiety, or disgust
surmise  to infer with little evidence; guess; conjecture (Latin supermittere to throw on)
surrealism  express the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter
surreptitious  obtained, done, or made by clandestine or stealthy means; acting with or marked by stealth
suss  to infer or discover; figure out; to size up; study
susurration  a soft, whispering or rustling sound; a murmur (onomatopoeic origin)
suzerain  a nation that controls another nation in international affairs but allows it domestic sovereignty
swain  a country lad, especially a young shepherd; a beau (Middle English, young man, servant)
swale  a low tract of land, especially when moist or marshy
swarthy  having a dark complexion or color
swoon  to faint; to be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy; a state of ecstasy or rapture
sybaritic  characterized by or devoted to pleasure and luxury as a lifestyle
sycophant  toady; a servile and self-serving flatterer of important persons
syllabus  an outline or a summary of the main points of a text, lecture, or course of study
syllogism  a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion
sylph  a slim, graceful woman or girl; elemental, soulless beings that were believed to inhabit the air
sylvan  relating to or characteristic of woods or forest regions; one that lives in or frequents the woods
symbiosis  a relationship of mutual benefit or dependence (Greek for companionship)
syncretism  reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion
syndicalism  a radical political movement; advocates bringing industry and government under the control of labor unions
synesthesia  a condition in which one type of stimulation (e.g. hearing) evokes the sensation of another (e.g. seeing colors)

T

tabula rasa  the mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience; the unformed mind in philosophy of John Locke
taciturn  habitually silent; uncommunicative; reserved in speech
tactical  military or naval operations that are smaller and of less long-term significance than strategic operations; see strategic
tallow  hard fat obtained from parts of the bodies of cattle, sheep, or horses, and used in candles, soap, etc.
taupe  a brownish gray color [tope]
tectonic  relating to, causing, or resulting from structural deformation of the earth's crust
telepathetic   the ability to send negativity without word or gesture
telephony  the transmission of sound between distant stations, especially by radio or telephone
temenos  a shell or protective encasing in which the psyche develops
temerity  foolhardy disregard of danger; recklessness; audacity
tenable  capable of being maintained in argument; rationally defensible; capable of being held against assault
tendentious  marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan; e.g. a tendentious account of the recent elections
tenderloin  a city district notorious for vice and graft; the tenderest cut of meat
tenebrous  dark and gloomy; e.g. a tenebrous Canadian beer parlour
tenor  the highest natural adult male voice
tenter  a framework on which milled cloth is stretched for drying without shrinkage
tenterhooks  (on tenterhooks) a state of uneasiness, suspense, or anxiety; a hooked nail for securing cloth on a tenter
tergiversate  to use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate; to change sides; apostatize
terpsichorean  of or relating to dancing, a dancer; from Terpsichore in Greek Mythology, the Muse of dancing and choral singing
terra cotta  a hard, semifired, waterproof ceramic clay used in pottery and building construction
terra incognita  an unknown land; an unexplored region; a new or unexplored field of knowledge
terricolous  living on or in the ground; e.g. terricolous worms
tessellate  to form into a mosaic pattern (Latin tessella a small cube)
tetchy  peevish; testy
theodicy  a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil
Theosophy  the beliefs of a religious sect founded in NYC in 1875 incorporating Buddhism and Brahmanism
The Rules  a rigorous yet malleable set of drinking/driving etiquette rules practiced in the Cariboo region of British Columbia
thrall  servitude; one in bondage; enslaved
timorous  full of apprehensiveness; timid
tincture  a trace or vestige; a quality that colors, pervades, or distinguishes; a coloring or dyeing substance; a pigment
tippler  a gentleman of the wino persuasion; a refined sot; an inebriate
tirade  a long angry or violent speech, usually of a censorious or denunciatory nature; a diatribe
titan  a person of colossal size, strength, or achievement (Greek mythology: giants who tried to rule heaven)
titillate  to excite another, especially in a superficial, pleasurable manner; to stimulate by touching lightly
Tocqueville  Alexis de; French politician, traveler, historian; wrote Democracy in America about US in 1830’s
toff  an elegantly dressed young man, often having exaggerated or affected manners
tondo  a round painting, relief, or similar work of art
tony  marked by an expensive, luxurious, or exclusive manner or quality
toolywagger  euphemism for the penis (source: E. Jean Carroll’s biography of Hunter S. Thompson)
topiary  of or characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals
torpid  not active; sluggish; slow; lethargic; apathetic; dull
torpor  a state of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility; lethargy; apathy; dormant hibernation
torte  a rich cake made with many eggs and little flour and usually containing chopped nuts
tortuous  having or marked by repeated turns or bends; winding or twisting; circuitous; devious; complex
torturous  twisted; strained; of, relating to, or causing torture
tour de force  a feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty
tour de Mickeys  to travel widely, freely, and aimlessly by automobile in the USA in search of Mickey’s Big Mouth beer
tout  to solicit customers, votes, or patronage, especially in a brazen way; to promote or praise energetically
trammel  (noun) something that restricts activity, expression, or progress; a restraint
transfix  to fix fast; impale with a pointed weapon; to render motionless, as with terror, amazement, or awe
travois  a frame slung between trailing poles and pulled by a dog or horse; used by Plains Indians as a conveyance for goods
treacle  cloying speech or sentiment; molasses; a medicinal compound formerly used as an antidote for poison
tremulous  marked by trembling, quivering, or shaking; timid or fearful; timorous
trenchant  keen; incisive; forceful; effective; sharp; penetrating; vigorous
trepan  a rock-boring tool used in mining for sinking shafts; to trap; ensnare; a trick or snare; a trickster
trepidation  a state of alarm or dread; apprehension; an involuntary trembling or quivering
triage  sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment
tribade  (adj. tribadism) a lesbian
tribology  science of the mechanisms of friction, lubrication, and wear of interacting surfaces in relative motion
trifecta  a system of betting in which the bettor must pick the first three winners in the correct sequence
triptych  a work consisting of three painted or carved panels that are hinged together; hinged Roman tablet
troglodyte  a person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish; prehistoric cave-dweller
troika  a Russian carriage drawn by a team of three horses abreast; an association or a group of three
trollop  a woman regarded as slovenly or untidy; a slattern; a strumpet
trompe l'oeil  a style of painting that gives an illusion of photographic reality (French to deceive the eye) [trompe LOY]
trope  the figurative use of a word or an expression, as metaphor or hyperbole
trophy-sex  having sex with someone because they are important or famous
truculent  disposed to fight; pugnacious; expressing bitter opposition; scathing; fierce; violent; destructive
truffle  edible fungi that grow underground near the roots of trees and are valued as a delicacy; chocolate confections
tryst  an agreement, as between lovers, to meet at a certain time and place
tumescent  a swelling or enlarging
tummler  one, such as a social director or an entertainer, who encourages guest or audience participation (Yiddish)
tumultuous  the din and commotion of a great crowd; agitation of the mind or emotions
turbid  having sediment stirred up or suspended; heavy; dark; dense (like smoke); muddy; roiled
turgid  swollen or distended; excessively grand in style or language; bombastic; overblown; inflated
turpitude  depravity; baseness; a base act
turth  twists or derivations of the consensus reality commonly used to provide sentient beings with a sense of wellbeing and security
tutelage  the capacity or activity of a guardian; guardianship; the capacity or activity of a tutor; instruction or teaching
twaddle  to talk foolishly; prate; foolish, trivial, or idle talk or chatter
twee  overly precious or nice; precious and inoffensive; useless knickknacks; fluff

U

ululate  to howl, wail, or lament loudly
umbrage  offense; resentment; something that affords shade; a vague or indistinct indication; a hint
unalloyed  complete; unqualified; not in mixture with other metals; pure
unconscionable  not restrained by conscience; unscrupulous; beyond prudence or reason; excessive
uncontroverted  unable to raise arguments against or voice opposition to; see controvert
unctuous  greasy; oily; marked by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness or courtesy
unflagging  not flagging; untiring; tireless; see flag
ungulate  having hoofs; resembling hoofs; hooflike; an ungulate mammal, horses, cattle, deer, swine, elephants
unregenerate  not spiritually renewed or reformed; not repentant; sinful; dissolute; stubborn
unrequited  not reciprocated or returned in kind
unruly  difficult or impossible to discipline, control, or rule (Middle English un - not + reuli - easy to govern)
unstinting  bestowed liberally; see stinted
untenable  being such that defense, maintenance, occupation, or habitation is impossible
untrammeled  not limited or restricted; unrestrained
upbraid  to reprove sharply; scold; chide; admonish
Upper East Side  fashionable part of Manhattan east of 5th Avenue and Central Park, between 57th and 96th Streets
ursine  of or characteristic of bears or a bear
usury  the practice of lending money and charging interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate
Utah coffee  any campfire coffee with an 80 proof additive. Often used to fend off the morning pleasantries of neighbouring campers
uxorial  of a wife; regarded as befitting a wife
uxoricide  the killing of a wife by her husband; a man who kills his wife (from Latin uxor wife); wife-a-cide
uxorious  excessively submissive or devoted to one's wife (as alleged of James Joyce re: Nora Barnacle)

V

vainglorious  excessive pride and vanity; vain and ostentatious display
vacuous  lacking intelligence; stupid; devoid of substance or meaning; inane; devoid of expression; vacant
vamp  an unscrupulous, seductive woman who uses her sex appeal to entrap and exploit men (also a verb)
variegated  distinguished or characterized by variety; diversified; varicolored
vascular  of, characterized by, or containing vessels that carry or circulate fluids through the body of an animal or a plant
vassal  a person who held land from a feudal lord and received protection in return for homage and allegiance
vehement  characterized by forcefulness of expression or intensity of emotion or conviction; fervid; full of vigor or energy
veldt  (also veld) any of the open grazing areas of southern Africa
velocipede  any of several early bicycles having pedals attached to the front wheel; a tricycle
venal  corrupt; corruptible; susceptible to bribery
venality  susceptibility to bribery or corruption, as in the use of a position of trust for dishonest gain
venerable  commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position; worthy of reverence
venerate  to regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference; revere
venial  easily excused or forgiven; pardonable; Roman Catholic: minor, hence warranting only temporal punishment
veracious  honest; truthful; accurate; precise
verbification  the modern propensity for turning nouns into verbs
verbigeration  obsessive repetition of meaningless words and phrases, especially as a symptom of mental illness
verdant  green with vegetation; covered with green growth; lacking experience or sophistication; naive
veridical  truthful; veracious; coinciding with fact or reality; genuine or real
verisimilitude  the quality of appearing to be true or real; something that has the appearance of being true or real
vernacular  the native language of a region as distinct from literary language; the idiom of a profession or trade
vernal  characteristic of or resembling spring; fresh and young; youthful (Latin for spring)
vernal equinox  March 21 when the sun crosses the equator marking the beginning of spring; length of day and night are equal
vertiginous  turning about an axis; revolving or whirling; inclined to change quickly; unstable; affected by vertigo; dizzy
vertigo  the sensation of dizziness; an instance of such a sensation; a confused, disoriented state of mind
vestige  (adj. vestigial) a visible trace, evidence, or sign of something that no longer exists or appears
Via Dolorosa  a difficult course or experience; Jesus's route from Pilate's judgment hall to Calvary
viaduct  a series of spans or arches used to carry a road or railroad over a wide valley or over other roads or railroads
viatic  of or relating to traveling, a road, or a way (from Latin via road)
vichyssoise  a thick, creamy potato soup flavored with leeks and onions, usually served cold
vicissitudes  the quality of being changeable; mutability; changing circumstances; life’s ups and downs
vilify  to make vicious and defamatory statements about; malign
vinous  of, relating to, or made with wine; affected or caused by the consumption of wine
virago  a woman regarded as noisy, scolding, or domineering; a large, strong, courageous woman [vuhRAYgo]
virulent  extremely infectious, malignant, or poisonous; bitterly hostile or antagonistic; intensely obnoxious
visage  the face or facial expression of a person; countenance; appearance; aspect
viscera  the internal organs of the body, especially in the abdomen and thorax
visceral  of, situated in, or affecting the viscera; intensely emotional; intuitive; instinctual not intellectual
Visigoths  invaded Roman Empire in 4th century A.D; set up a monarchy in France and Spain, lasted to 8th century
vitalism  doctrine that life arises from a nonmaterial vital principle and cannot be explained only as physical phenomena
vitiate  to reduce the value or impair the quality of; to corrupt morally; debase; to make ineffective; invalidate
vitreous  of, relating to, resembling, or having the nature of glass; glassy; of or relating to the vitreous humor
vitrine  a glass-paneled cabinet or case for displaying articles such as china, objects d'art, or fine merchandise [veeTREEN]
vitriol  vituperative feeling or expression; sulfuric acid or metal sulphates
vituperate  to rail against abusively; berate
viviparously  Zoology: giving birth to living offspring that develop within the mother's body; most mammals are viviparous
vivisection  the act or practice of cutting into or injuring living animals, especially for scientific research
voir dire  a preliminary examination of prospective jurors or witnesses under oath to determine their competence or suitability
vole  any of various rodents resembling rats or mice but having a shorter tail and limbs and a heavier body
volte-face  a reversal, as in policy; an about-face
voluble  marked by a ready flow of speech; fluent; talkative; turning easily on an axis; rotating
voracious  consuming or eager to consume great amounts of food; ravenous; insatiable appetite for something
votive  given or dedicated in fulfillment of a vow or pledge; expressing or symbolizing a wish, desire, or vow
vox populi  popular opinion or sentiment (Latin voice + people)

W

wag  a humorous or droll person; a wit
wainscot  a facing or paneling, usually of wood, applied to the walls of a room
wan  suggestive or indicative of weariness, illness, or unhappiness; melancholy; unnaturally pale
wanton  immoral; unchaste; lewd; maliciously cruel; merciless; sensual; extravagant; excessive; unrestrained
wasichu  derogatory Lakota Sioux name for the white man
wassail  a salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of good will at a festivity
wastrel  one who wastes, especially one who wastes money; a profligate; an idler or a loafer
watershed  a critical point that marks a division or a change of course; a turning point
wax  to increase gradually in size, number, strength, or intensity
wazoo  the anus
wheedle  to persuade or attempt to persuade by flattery or guile; cajole; to obtain through flattery or guile
whiffle  to move or think erratically; vacillate; to blow in fitful gusts; to whistle lightly
whippersnapper  a person regarded as insignificant and pretentious
whipsaw  (verb) to defeat or best in two ways at once; (noun) a narrow two-person crosscut saw
wile  (adj. wily) a stratagem intended to deceive or ensnare; a disarming or seductive manner; trickery; cunning
windjammer  a large sailing ship
windrow  a row, as of leaves or snow, heaped up by the wind; a long row of cut hay or grain left to dry in a field
winsome  winning; charming, often in a childlike or naive way
withered  shriveled, shrunken, or faded from or as if from loss of moisture or sustenance; to lose freshness
wizened  shriveled or dried up; withered
wraith  an apparition of a living person that appears as a portent just before that person's death
wunderkind  a person of remarkable talent or ability who achieves great success or acclaim at an early age; a child prodigy

X

Xanadu  an idyllic, beautiful place; from a place in Kubla Khan a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Xanthippe  Greek woman, the wife of Socrates, she is traditionally described as shrewish and scolding [zan THI pee]
xenophile  a person attracted to that which is foreign, especially to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures
xenophobia  a person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign people
xerophyte  a plant adapted to living in a dry, arid habitat; a desert plant

Y

yakuza  a Japanese gangster; a loose alliance of Japanese criminal organizations and illegal enterprises
yellow rain  droppings from the air in southeast Asia; the excrement of wild honeybees contaminated by a fungal toxin
yenta  a person, especially a woman, who is regarded as meddlesome or gossipy (Yiddish)
yeoman  an attendant, a servant, or a lesser official in a royal or noble household; a diligent, dependable worker
Yiddish  the language historically of Ashkenazic Jews of Central and Eastern Europe (Medieval German origin)
yobbo  (also called yob) a rowdy, destructive youth; a hooligan or ruffian (yob is boy spelled backwards)

Z

zaftig  full-bosomed; having a full, shapely figure (Yiddish zaftik juicy)
zeal  enthusiastic devotion to a cause, an ideal, or a goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance; passion
Zealot  a member of a Jewish movement of the first century A.D. that fought against Roman rule in Palestine
zealous  filled with or motivated by zeal; fervent
zeitgeist  the spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation
zenith  the point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer; the point of culmination; the peak
ziggurat  an ancient temple tower having the form of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories; e.g. in 2000 BC Sumer
zloty  a basic unit of currency in Poland
zoot suit  a man's suit popular during the early 1940's; a long coat with wide lapels and heavily padded, wide shoulders