• ambiguous (adj) ambi- both + agere to do

having more than one meaning or interpretation : In her poem, the meaning of the cloak is intentionally ambiguous.

Form: ambiguity = quality of having more than one interpretation

Synonym: equivocal

Root family: [ambi-, amphi-] ambidextrous (able to use both hands skillfully), ambivalent (having mixed feelings), amphib­ian (an animal that lives partially in water and partially on land), amphitheater (an outdoor theater with seats surrounding (on both sides of) the stage)

Don't confuse with: ambivalent (having mixed feelings)

  • anomaly (n)

something that deviates from the norm or expectation : Astronomers scan the night sky looking for anomalies such as radiation bursts or unusual planetary motions.

Form: anomalous = out of the norm

Synonyms: incongruity, aberration

Don't confuse with: animosity (strong hostility)

Don't confuse anomalous with anonymous (unnamed).

  • diversion (n) di- away + vertere to turn
  1. an entertaining activity to distract one from everyday concerns : In the mountains, our diversions include hiking, fishing, and reading.

Form: diverting = entertaining

  1. an action intended to distract someone : I will create a diversion while you sneak into the house.

Form: divert = to cause something, such as traffic or a river, to change course; to distract someone's attention from something Root family: [di-, dis-] discredit (harm the reputation of something or someone), dispassionate (not influenced by strong emo­tions), disparate (very different; variegated), discrepancy (a lack of compatibility between facts or claims), disseminate (to cast widely), disperse (to spread or scatter), disputatious (argumentative), diffident (lacking in self-confidence), diffuse (spread over a wide area)

Root family: [vers, vert] adversary (enemy), diverse (various), adverse (harmful), subvert (undermine), averse (opposed), versatile (adaptable to different functions)

Don't confuse with: diverse (various)

  • divulge (v) di- widely + vulgare to make public

to make widely known, particularly information that was previously kept private : I cannot divulge the information that was discussed in our private meeting.

Form: divulgence = the act of making something widely known

Root family: [dis-, di-] disparate (very different; variegated), discrepancy (a lack of compatibility between facts or claims), disperse (to spread or scatter), diffuse (spread over a wide area)

Root family: [vulg] vulgar (crude and unrefined)

Don't confuse divulgence with indulgence (an act of being excessively generous or lenient)

  • elusive (adj) e- out + ludere to play

difficult to catch, find, understand, or achieve : The snow leopard is one of nature's most beautiful yet elusive creatures, rarely seen by human eyes.

Form: elude = to evade capture or understanding

Synonyms: evasive, impalpable, intangible

Root family: [e-, ex-] extol (to praise highly), extemporaneous (without planning), exuberant (filled with liveliness and energy)

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), allusion (to hint at indirectly)

Don't confuse with: illusory (giving a false impression), allusive (providing or pertaining to an indirect hint)

  • empirical (adj)

pertaining to or based on observation or experience : Although string theory provides elegant mathematical solutions to many vexing problems in physics, it lacks any empirical evidence.

Form: empiricism = the belief that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience

Mnemonic: Imagine an empire in which everyone, especially the emperor, is a scientist, with telescopes on every rooftop and chemistry labs in every basement, where they constantly gather empirical data.

  • enigma (n)

someone or something that is difficult to understand : King Lear's motivation remains an enigma.

Form: enigmatic = difficult to understand

Synonyms: conundrum, quandary, riddle

  • idiosyncrasy (n) idios unique + syn with + krasis mixture

a mannerism or quirk peculiar to an individual : One of the stranger idiosyncrasies of professional athletes is their tendency to refer to themselves in the second or third person during interviews.

Form: idiosyncratic = quirky

Synonyms: quirk, peculiarity, eccentricity, mannerism, foible

Root family: [idio] idiom (a common phrase that has a nonliteral meaning, such as “at the end of your rope”), idiot (stupid person)

Don't confuse with: ideology (a system of ideals central to the political power of a group), iconoclast (one who attacks cherished beliefs), idiotic (stupid)

  • inscrutable (adj) in- not + scrutari to search

beyond understanding : I find quantum physics to be almost as inscrutable as the motivations of my girlfriend. Synonyms: enigmatic, abstruse

Root family: [in-, im-] insipid (flavorless), insuperable (impossible to overcome), inert (lacking vigor), interminable (unending), innocuous (harmless), indefatigable (untiring), ineffable (inexpressible in words), impassive (unemotional), incongruous (not consistent with expectations)

Root family: [scrut] scrutinize (to examine closely)

Don't confuse with: unscrupulous (showing no moral principles)

Mnemonic: Something that is inscrutable is un-scrutinize-able, that is, it's impossible to examine closely because it is beyond our understanding.

  • intrepid (adj) in- not + trepidus alarmed

fearless and adventurous : The intrepid explorers set out for the summit.

Root family: [in-, im-] insipid (flavorless), insuperable (impossible to overcome), inert (lacking vigor), interminable (unend­ing), innocuous (harmless), indefatigable (untiring), ineffable (inexpressible in words), inscrutable (beyond understanding), impassive (unemotional), incongruous (not consistent with expectations)

Root family: [trepid] trepidation (fear)

Synonyms: undaunted, stouthearted

Don't confuse with: insipid (flavorless; uninteresting)

Mnemonic: The aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a museum moored off of Manhattan, is an impressive ship that represents the fearlessness of the U.S. Navy.

  • nebulous (adj) nebula mist

vague; hazy; having the form of a cloud : The ghost appeared first as a nebulous near-human form.

Synonyms: amorphous, obscure

  • paradox (n) para- distinct from, beside + doxa teaching

a logically self-contradictory statement or state of affairs : It seemed to be a paradox that light could behave both as a wave and as a particle.

Root family: [para-] paralegal (a lawyer's assistant), parallel (next to and aligned with), paramedic (a first aid professional) Root family: [doc, dox] doctrinaire (seeking to impose rigid doctrine), orthodox (conforming strictly to traditional teachings), docile (compliant and easy to instruct)

Don't confuse with: paradigm (a worldview; a typical model or example)