• embellish (v) bellus beautiful

to make a story more interesting by fabricating or exaggerating entertaining details; to decorate; Paul always embellishes his stories with false intrigue.

Form: embellishment = a decorative detail; a detail added to a story to make it more entertaining

Synonyms: festoon, gild, embroider

  • eradicate (v) e- out + radix root

to eliminate completely : By the 1960s, the Polk vaccine had virtually eradicated polio in North America.

Form: eradicable = capable of being completely destroyed

Root family: [radic] radical (affecting fundamental change), radish (a pungent edible root)

Synonyms: annihilate, abolish

  • hyperbole (n) hyper above, beyond

exaggeration for persuasive effect: The author's claim that there was a “literacy crisis” in America was dismissed as hyperbole.

Form: hyperbolic = exaggerated

Root family: [hyper] hyperactive (excessively active), hyperventilate (to breathe too quickly)

Don't confuse with: hyperbola (a two-part geometric curve).

Mnemonic: It's interesting to note that three of the “conic sections” you may have studied in math class—the ellipse, the hyperbola, and the parabola—correspond to three literary terms:

  • ellipsis (elleipein to leave out) = the omission of language from a quotation or of words that are implied in a sentence, or the symbol (...) indicating such an omission
  • hyperbole (huperbole excess) = exaggerated comments
  • parable (parabola comparison) = a story used to illustrate a moral lesson

The names of the curves are derived from their “eccentricities”: a conic with an eccentricity less than 1 is “deficient,” hence the name “ellipse”; a conic with an eccentricity greater than 1 is “excessive,” hence the name “hyperbola”; and a conic with an eccentricity of exactly 1 is “comparable,” hence the name “parabola.”

  • indulgent (adj)

excessively generous or lenient : Her mother was strict, but her grandmother was indulgent.

Forms: indulge (in) = allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of, indulgence = an act of indulging

Don't confuse with: indolent (lazy)

  • superfluous (adj) super above + fluere to flow

unnecessary, excessive : After a week of celebrations, the anniversary ball seemed superfluous.

Form: superfluity = an excessive amount

Root family: [super] insuperable (impossible to overcome), superlative (of the highest degree or quality), superficial (on the surface only), supercilious (haughty and pompous)

Root family: [flu] fluent (able to flow freely; easily conversant in a language or field), affluent (wealthy), confluence (a place where two things flow together)

  • unstinting (adj)

without reservations; given liberally : She was unstinting in her support for animal rights.

Form: stint = to give only sparingly

Synonyms: unsparing, magnanimous, munificent, profuse

Mnemonic: The verbs stint, stump and stunt (to retard the progress of, as in Smoking stunts your growth.) derive from the same Germanic root. So one who is unstinting does not have a stunted sense of generosity.