- allude (v) ad- to + ludere to play
to hint at indirectly : Many of the Harry Potter novels allude to events that occurred in previous books.
Form: allusion = an indirect reference
Root family: [ad-] aspire (to strive for a lofty goal), adhere (stick fast (to)), advocate (to provide vocal support for), acquiesce (to comply reluctantly), annul (to declare invalid)
Root family: [lud, lus] collusion (a secret understanding that has a harmful purpose), delude (to make someone believe something that is not true), illusion (something that gives a false impression of reality), ludicrous (foolish and ridiculous) Don't confuse with: elude (to avoid a pursuer skillfully)
Don't confuse allusion with illusion (a false idea or perception)
- analogy (n)
a correspondence between two things based on structural similarity : To explain the behavior of a magnetic field, our physics professor used the analogy of a field of wheat.
Forms: analogous = similar in terms of general structure, analog = something that is regarded as structurally similar to another thing
Don't confuse with: apology (argument for a particular position)
- anecdote (n)
a short amusing or informative story : My grandfather told many funny anecdotes about life on a submarine.
Form: anecdotal = pertaining to or deriving from an anecdote
Don't confuse with: antidote (a medicine taken to counteract a poison)
- anthology (n) anthos flower + logia collection
a published collection of writings : Several of the poems in the anthology were chosen for national awards. Synonym: chrestomathy (an instructive collection of passages)
Don't confuse with: anthropology (the study of human cultures)
- bombastic (adj)
(pertaining to speech) pompous and blustery, with little meaning : Some cable news shows have replaced reputable journalists with bombastic blowhards.
Form: bombast = pompous, blustery speech
Synonyms: pompous, turgid, orotund
- coherent (adj) co- together + haerere to stick
- clear, rational and consistent : David could not construct a coherent sentence, so we couldn't understand his point.
- forming a united whole : The several tribes joined to form a coherent fighting force.
Forms: coherence = the quality of being clear and rational; the quality of forming a whole, incoherent = unclear or irrational; lacking coherence Synonym: cohesive
Root family: [con-, co-, com-, col-] conformist (one who conscientiously complies with the standards of a group, conventional (according to common practice), consensus (general agreement), conspire (to plot together), coalesce (to come together), confluence (a place at which two things merge)
Root family: [her, hes] adhesive (glue-like substance), cohesive (forming a united whole), inherent (existing as an inseparable attribute), adherent (a faithful believer in a particular practice or philosophy)
Usage: Coherent and cohesive derive from the same roots and are synonyms as long as they are used to mean “forming a whole.” However, coherent is more commonly used to mean “clear, rational and consistent,” whereas cohesive is the preferred adjective for describing things that form a whole.
- colloquial (adj) co- together + loqui to talk
pertaining to informal, conversational speech : The teacher said that my essay was well reasoned, but that I should avoid colloquial terms like “totally” in a formal paper.
Forms: colloquy = casual conversation, colloquialism = a word or phrase commonly heard in casual, but not formal, conversation Synonym: vernacular
Root family: [loqu, locu] loquacious (talkative), eloquent (well-spoken), circumlocutory (inclined to speak evasively), obloquy (verbal abuse)
Mnemonic: A fancy word for casual conversation is colloquy (co- together + loqui to talk), so colloquial language is the language you use when talking to friends, but not when giving a formal speech or writing a formal essay.
- derivative (adj) de- down + rivus stream
imitative of someone else's work and therefore unoriginal : The judges suggested that Daria's version of the song was too derivative and suggested that she try to make it more original.
Root family: [de-] decadent (excessively self-indulgent), deplore (to express strong disapproval), denounce (declare as bad), detract (reduce the value of something), debase (reduce in value), denigrate (criticize unfairly), deference (submission to the authority of another), condescend (to act superior to someone else)
Root family: [riv] river (a large stream), arrival (coming)
- eclectic (adj) ex- out + legere to choose
deriving from a variety of sources : Ted has very eclectic tastes in music, ranging from country to jazz to reggae.
Root family: [lect] elect (to choose by voting), select (to choose carefully), delectable (very tasty)
Don't confuse with: electric (powered by electricity), ecstatic (extremely happy)
- eloquent (adj) loqui to talk
articulate and well spoken : The jury was clearly persuaded by the attorney's eloquent summary.
Form: eloquence = fluency in speaking or writing
Root family: [loqu, locu] loquacious (talkative), colloquial (conversational), circumlocutory (inclined to speak evasively), obloquy (verbal abuse)
Don't confuse with: elegant (graceful and stylish)
Mnemonic: Avoid confusing eloquent and elegant by focusing on the root loqu, meaning “talk.” A dress can be elegant, but it certainly can't be eloquent because it can't talk.
- epilogue (n) epi- upon, in addition + logos words
a section at the end of a novel or play that explains the conclusion : The epilogue explained that the protagonist never remarried. Root family: [epi-] epigram (a pithy saying), epidemic (a widespread disease)
Root family: [log] eulogy (a praising speech, usually for a deceased person)
Don't confuse with: monologue (a long speech in a play)
- evocative (adj) e- out + vocare to call
tending to draw out strong feelings, ideas, or sensations : Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical novels are as evocative as they are disorienting.
Forms: evoke = to draw out an idea, emotion, or sensation; to elicit, evocation = the process of bringing a feeling or idea into the conscious mind
Root family: [e-, ex-] extol (to praise highly), extemporaneous (without planning), exuberant (filled with liveliness and energy), elusive (difficult to catch or achieve), exorbitant (excessive)
Root family: [voc, vok] advocate (to speak out for), revoke (to take back), provocative (causing anger or annoyance), equivocate (to speak ambiguously and noncommittally)
Don't confuse with: provocative (causing anger or annoyance)
- irony (n)
a situation that directly contradicts expectations : Rose considered it a delicious irony that her accountant friend Teri miscalculated the waiter's tip so egregiously.
Form: ironic = contradicting expectations, often humorously
Don't confuse with: iron (a strong, hard, magnetic metal). Although irony can be used as an adjective to mean “like iron,” it is best to avoid this usage because of the confusion with the adjective, which has an entirely different origin.
Usage: It is common to confuse irony with interesting coincidence, but they are not the same thing. Dying on one's birthday may well be an interesting coincidence, but it is certainly not ironic, because death is no less expected on one's birthday than on any other day. Dramatic irony is a literary device in which the audience is aware of an important fact that is unknown to one or more of the characters in a play.
- laconic (adj) Laconia Sparta
inclined to use very few words : Harold was so laconic at parties that few knew that he was an articulate and celebrated writer. Synonyms: taciturn, reticent
Mnemonic: Sparta, the martial city-state of ancient Greece, was known for its disciplined warrior culture. Hence, spartan has come to mean “disciplined, austere, or strict.” From the Latin word for Sparta, Laconia, we get laconic, meaning “inclined to use very few words,” because Spartans, unlike the Athenians, who were educated in philosophy, poetry, and oration, were not considered particularly well spoken.
- lament (v)
to mourn or express deep regret : Our friends lamented the loss of our old playground. Forms: lamentable = regrettable, lamentation = a passionate expression of mourning Synonyms: rue, deplore
- loquacious (adj) loqui to talk
talkative; tending to chatter : Although Anita is well liked, she is a bit too loquacious to be a good listener. Form: loquacity = the quality of being loquacious
Synonyms: garrulous, voluble
Root family: colloquial (conversational), eloquent (well-spoken), circumlocutory (inclined to speak evasively)
- melodrama (n) melos music + drama
sensational drama designed to appeal to the emotions : I prefer realistic crime dramas to melodramas like soap operas. Form: melodramatic = excessively dramatic
Root family: [melo] melodious (tuneful)
- platitude (n)
an overused proverb : My father bored us with his platitudes about hard work and sacrifice.
Synonym: banality, bromide, inanity, cliche
Don't confuse with: platypus (a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal)
Mnemonic: Imagine a platypus with an attitude spouting inane platitudes like “Don't put all your eggs in one basket!”
- poignant (adj) pungere to prick
emotionally moving; keenly distressing : The climax of the movie was so poignant that virtually the entire audience was reduced to tears.
Form: poignancy = the quality of being emotionally moving
Synonyms: moving, affecting, plaintive
Root family: [punc, pung, poign] punctilious (scrupulously attentive to rules), punctual (on time), compunction (sharp feeling of guilt), puncture (to pierce), pungent (sharp tasting or smelling)
Don't confuse with: pugnacious
Mnemonic: Poignant derive from pungere (to prick) because sharp emotions often elicit a sharp physical sensation, like a poke in the stomach.
- satiric (adj)
employing humor, irony, or ridicule to poke fun at something : The skit was a satiric jab at the gridlocked congress.
Forms: satire = humor, irony, or ridicule used to poke fun at something, satirize = to poke fun at something with satire, satirical = satiric
Don't confuse satire with satyr (in Greek mythology, a lustful, drunken god with a horse's ears and tail)
- verbose (adj) verbum word
excessively wordy : Sadly, many academics cannot distinguish intelligent prose from that which is merely verbose.
Synonyms: prolix, discursive
Root family: [verb] verbatim (word for word), proverb (a pithy, well-known saying)